How Do You Entertain Your Children? 

As a home educator, I spend alot of time with my daughter. We play, talk, research and do activities together, or go to classes, out on adventures and meet up with friends. Aside from the usual parenting duties, I view my role mainly as learning facilitator and to support her development in all areas. However, for the most part, I don’t see it as my job to entertain her per se. But of course there are times when I do need to keep her entertained for one reason or another, or rather help her to entertain herself! 

So how do parents choose to do this? Do you reach for a tablet, grab a book or get out board games? Or maybe you have a different approach? Rattan Direct are conducting a survey to find out more about how parents entertain their children. (Click here to complete the survey) 

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The survey asks questions such as which room in the house do your children spend the most and least amount of time; do they tend to hide out in their bedroom or do you all socialise in the living room together? Or perhaps they are most likely to be outside in the garden rather than in any room at all! 

What do you prefer to use as entertainment at home for your children; books, board games, gaming or TV? How about on car journeys? Do you struggle to entertain your children or not? And what are your thoughts on technology; is it a good way to entertain your children, do you think it is educational and do you think it affects their sleep?

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Personally I think technology can be educational and I think whether or not it affects sleep depends on the individual child. I do not personally use it as entertainment for Squiggle but that is down to our personal preferences and mainly due to her needs too. 

We are most often in the living room or the garden. She often grabs a book or magazine to look at, or chooses to do some drawing or writing as an independent activity if I am busy for a few minutes, whereas games tend to be something that we play together. If we are going on a journey, she takes some toys to play with in the car and listens to music.

activities at home, family fun, parenting, Rattan Direct, survey

The final questions ask about furniture; for example, what do you look for in new furniture now that you have children? For us, there are alot of factors to consider but cost is important and durable is an absolute must! 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this survey, leave your comments below!

*This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Rattan Direct.

Surprising (and not so surprising!) Ways That Couples Spend Valentines Day

Do you spend Valentines Day on a romantic date with your partner, or are you a Valentines ‘grinch’ who would rather forget it even exists? Do you plan months in advance, or go with the flow? And parents, do you reach for the phone to call the babysitter or do you include the entire family in the occasion? Read on to find out what these couples do…

Date Night At Home

A date night at home is a popular choice. Some couples, such as Angela from The Inspiration Edit, and Kate from Modern Mum, love to chill at home with a bottle and a movie with their partner. Katie from REOLife agrees, she also opts for a simple night in, doing some gaming together and watching a movie. As Angela says

“Chilling out is lovely, and just spending time together on an evening when we are usually so busy is a special thing to do.”

 

The Family Occasion

Devon Mama jokes that she just wants hubby to take the baby so she can sleep! But in reality they tend to cook a meal together and buy each other a card. This year that will extend to their little one too, to start his Valentines Day card collection early! Tracey from Witts in the Wild also likes to involve their daughter too…

“My husband usually buys flowers for both me and my daughter, and buys her a soft toy with a love heart, we decorate the table and the walls and have a themed dinner together making it special for the three of us.”

 

events, family fun, general life, special occasion, things to do, Valentines

The Couples- Only Night

Nomipalony on the other hand explains why Valentines Day is important couple-only time for them and they prefer to go out; they grab a babysitter and splash out on a fancy restaurant…

“We always celebrate valentines as both of our birthdays and anniversary are all in the same week, so we never end up celebrating our anniversary; so Valentines makes up for that in our house. It’s not about the kids at all for us, it’s mammy and daddy time so usually we will arrange for a babysitter and head to a really nice restaurant for a lovely meal and drinks. The past two years we have been to a Michelin starred restaurant for their tasting menu. We normally wouldn’t be able to justify the expense of that so its a real treat for us and we are both foodies so we love it.”

 

The Sentimentals

Many couples like to return to a spot that means somewhere to them as a couple personally; for example the place where they met, or proposed, or maybe even shared their first kiss! Laura from Oh So Mummy and her fiance, who go to the pub where they first met to reminisce. How cute!

 

The Mutual Interest/ Hobby Date

Some couples choose to spend the day or evening doing something that may not be typically romantic, but is a hobby or activity that they both enjoy doing together so is the perfect way to celebrate for them personally. For example, Kirsty from Life With Boys intends to spend Valentines Day at the Bingo, which is somewhere she enjoys going with her partner.

We’re 23 going on 80, plus who will ever turn down the chance to win the valentines jackpot….

 

The Surprise Date

Whether it is the same person who organises the date each time, or the pair take it in turns to arrange, some couples opt not to decide together and instead one person surprises the other. Such as Ed, who surprises Emma- Louise from Even Angels Fall each year with something different. He has made it tradition to choose something that is not considered typically romantic, but ironically this idea in itself has a rather unusual but romantic ring to it. She tells me:

We’ve been horse riding and to a shooting range so far. No idea what this year will be but looking forward to the surprise. It’s nice to do something not typically romantic on Valentine’s Day and it’s become our tradition.

 

Something Different

A day out is another nice way to enjoy Valentines Day. There are lots of possibilities, such as the zoo, or even a theme park for example. Beth from Twinderelmo agrees this is a great idea, this year they are going to the Harry Potter studios. Very romantic!

 

The Grinches

Jen and her fella are being somewhat more unromantic about Valentines Day this year; rather than their usual meal, he is going to football and she will be at at home watching TV with a cuppa! Trying to rivel them in the grinch stakes is Emma from Me and B Make Tea who will spend the evening blogging whilst her partner plays xbox! Now that is romance 😉 They are not alone though; many people view Valentines Day as an over-commercialised money-making exercise and choose to ignore the whole thing! Duvet day until it’s all over anyone?

 

So what type of Valentines Day couple are you?! I would love to know in the comments below!

Shut The Box (Game Review)

Squiggle was given Shut The Box game for Christmas as a stocking filler. We hadn’t heard of this particular game before, until very recently when I spotted it on a gift guide and thought it looked fun. I was right!

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Shut The Box is a lovely wooden dice game that also has good educational value. The aim of the game is to successfully get all the numbers down from 1-9 so you can ‘shut the box’. The simple version is to roll both of the dice and then flip down one or two numbers to match the total on the dice. If you are unable to put down one or two numbers then it moves to the next player’s turn. There are different versions too, I found other instructions by searching online. 

The game can be single player or played with any number of people and is suitable for all ages from approx 6+ years. This means it is great for some family fun together, but it is also handy that it can be played alone, as it is great for those moments when someone needs to occupy themselves for a few moments! The version we have is pocket size, which also makes it useful to take when travelling too. 

I like that it is a simple game, nothing fancy about it, but yet is still both fun and educational. It is fab for practising maths skills, such as calculating and number bonds. I also love wooden toys and games, so that’s a bonus too! 

Our verdict: big thumbs up!

You can be in with a chance of winning your own Shut The Box game by entering my prize giveaway via rafflecopter below. 

Competition ends at midnight on 31st January 2017. T&Cs apply.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This post contains an affiliate link.

A Quick Cuppa With… Kerry (Discovery Bubbas)

I am so excited to have the lovely Kerry of Discovery bubbas as my very first guest on this new series! Here she is, talking to us about being an ‘outside of the box’ thinker, her love of outdoors, and her future hopes…

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Welcome Kerry, and thanks for being my first guest 🙂 Tell me about yourself!

I am a mummy to one 2.5 year old girl and a wife to a musical and hard working man. I was a nursery nurse prior to having my little one, so I am qualified and experienced in childcare and early years education. I initially took up some nannying when my daughter was 11months old, which was lovely because I could take her with me and she became friends with the family’s own little girl. I stopped nannying because I was at the same time just developing my ideas and starting up my Discovery bubbas group- which is sensory, messy exploration and creative play sessions.

Sounds interesting! What inspired you to set these sessions up?

I decided to set up and run these type of sessions/class because I love it! All of that kind of play was my favourite thing to plan for and watch the children enjoy, and it is very beneficial to their development as it links in with many areas in the EYFS- EARLY YEARS FOUNDATION STAGE. 

Totally relate- we love creative activities and really value the importance of sensory activities/ messy play too! I’d love to hear more about your family and how you spend your time, when you’re not busy with Discovery bubbas of course!

As for my family life, my husband and I like to think of ourselves as ‘outside of the box thinkers’ – in tune with the wider picture of things, and we are quite compassionate people. If we could, we would live in an open space or wood and help animals and people who need it. I am very much into nature and natural ways of living and approaches to health, and I do try to use natural based products for home and on ourselves. I try to get outside every day with my daughter, even if it’s a quick play in the garden or park, but I do love a good walk and climb of the trees in the woods. My daughter has developed quite good balance from walking along fallen tree trunks. 🙂 

We love outdoors and nature here at Living Life Our Way… Where is your favourite outdoor place to visit?

Our favourite outdoor place to visit is Shenley Park, its just a lovely place to visit with the orchard and little wooded bit to walk through. Plus tea rooms for a bite to eat or drink, and a little animal area with rabbits, guinea pigs and chicken to look at, and feed if you want to. There’s also a walled garden which regularly runs events or can just be a nice quiet place to walk round and sit.

It sounds like somewhere we would love too, especially with the animals to feed! What’s your favourite animal and why?

We have 2 cats and I always have had cats since I was little, love them, they can be playful and affectionate but also they have their own personalities. I have also always loved Dolphins- not quite sure why I just think they are magnificent animals, so intelligent and kind and interesting to watch. 

It’s been lovely getting to know you! Anything else you want to tell us about yourself or Discovery bubbas before you go?

I am hoping to develop a range of busy bags, create, make and do craft kits, other ‘on the go’ activity kits, mini treasure/discovery baskets, STEAM challenge/activity kits and maybe more. 

Sounds exciting- we will watch this space! Thanks so much for taking part!

For more information about Discovery bubbas see their website or facebook page.

Kerry is also kindly giving away four free Discovery bubbas sessions to one lucky winner! Simply enter via rafflecopter below. 

T&Cs apply. Please also remember that the classes are for children from 6 months to 5 years old, and you need to be able to get to these Hertfordshire based sessions under your own steam – transport is not provided! Thank you and good luck 🙂 

5 Places in Hertfordshire to Visit For That Festive Feeling

Are you trying to find festive things to do with the kids that will get you all into that Christmas spirit? Here are five places to visit in Herts for some family fun that will leave you feeling wonderfully festive…

1. Willows Farm Santa Spectacular

We go to this Santa Spectacular event every year and it’s a fantastic day out. Not cheap but plenty of festive fun to be had! More information on my previous blog post here.

2. Notcutts, St Albans

Notcutts is a nice place to pop into on a tight schedule, because you don’t need much time to enjoy the festive magic yet is still well worth a visit if you are local, mainly for the giant dancing snowman! I have heard santa also visits on occasion, sometimes even for breakfast or tea with guests! (Event must be booked in advance). 

Notcutts, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Christmas, Santas Grotto, snowman

3. Ayletts Nurseries, St Albans

I have already written about this lovely local garden centre, because it was Christmassy enough to warrant its own separate post! Great festive atmosphere.

4. Van Hage Garden Centre, Great Amwell (nr Ware)

Again, Van Hage is so fabulously festive that it has a post of its very own! With an ice rink, grotto and wonderful Christmas displays, it is enough to take the scrooge out of anyone! 

5. Christmas Drive or Walk

Earlier in December, St Albans Christmas market would probably have taken this spot. But a Christmas walk or drive to see beautifully decorated houses is something that we all really enjoy and is a well-loved activity for many families. Our personal favourite is Beech Road in St Albans, who are raising money for Mount Venon Marie Curie Cancer Wing with their amazing display, but I’m reliably informed by Diary of an Unexpectant Mother that there are also brilliantly decorated houses on Brocket Road near Lemsford and lovely lights on Handside Lane in Welwyn Garden City. Amy from The Smallest of Things also suggests Blair Close in Hemel Hempstead too. Wherever you walk or drive, you are bound to spot plenty of festive sights! 

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And two more just outside of Hertfordshire…

Centre: MK (Milton Keynes)

There is an excellent Christmas event in Middleton Hall, which is situated within this large shopping centre. There is a carousel, train, snow globe and huge igloo which houses santa and his elves. The activities charge separately and aren’t cheap, but it does mean you can pick and choose, and it is a great treat. Plus, even if you skip any of the parts that cost and just have a general wander, it is still beautifully festive.

Crews Hill Garden Centres (Enfield)

If you aren’t familiar with this area, Crews Hill has a long row of garden centres. It’s a fab place for garden or outdoor enthusiasts at any time of year, but during Christmas it becomes a mini winter wonderland. Don’t miss Springtime nurseries, which is particularly festive! It has real reindeer, plus an indoor train ride to visit the grotto, an ice rink and a snow globe. 

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Do you have a favourite place to visit for that wonderful festive feeling? Please share yours with me in the comments section! 

Willows Farm Santa Spectacular (St Albans, Herts)

Santa Spectacular Willows Activity Farm is a great day out at any time of year. But Squiggle particularly loves their festive event Santa Spectacular, which runs daily from the last week of November until Christmas eve. There are a variety of seasonal activities on offer, such as ice skating, writing a letter to Santa, Festive Wood Ride, shows, making a cuddly toy, and of course an opportunity to meet the man himself! In addition, there are also some new activities for this year, including elf school, snowball shoot-out and a 3D film sleigh ride. We didn’t do anywhere near everything, but that is what is so nice about having so many options, families can pick and choose what they most want to do! 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

We visited on a weekday in November so it was fairly quiet. At the entrance we were greeted by an elf, which I’m sure many children would be delighted by! For a minority of children it might be slightly daunting to be approached on arrival, but the other elf and the lovely lady at the ticket kiosk were aware of this and discreetly addressed it by calling her over to give us some space. I must say I was really grateful for their help and support in starting our day off on the right foot! For most though, I’m sure it is a great welcome that adds to the festive atmosphere and magic of Christmas. 

Once in the farm, we headed to the magical ice rink first because this is one of Squiggle’s favourite activities to do there. When we arrived, it had just opened and was still empty so we had it to ourselves! Squiggle can no longer fit into over-the-shoe style skates so she wore proper ice skates for the first time, which she was very excited about. The rink is synthetic, which makes it less slippery than real ice, but the polar bear and penguin supports are handy for less experienced skaters of any age! 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Squiggle was keen to meet Santa so we made sure to fit that into our day next. We got very lucky and found it completely empty! This meant we were able to browse the cute Christmas scenes and displays on the way through to the grotto at our leisure then go straight in to see Father Christmas as soon as we were ready, with no queuing. 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

We had a quick chat with Santa in his wonderful homely grotto, then he presented Squiggle with a key to his magic toy shop (where they can choose any toy they want!) and the photographer took some photos. Squiggle then hurried excitedly to the toy shop, which is filled with a good selection of toys to suit a variety of interests and ages, where she promptly found a cuddly toy seal – that she had just told Santa was on her wish list! (What luck!!!) We also purchased a couple of the professional photos taken because own cameras are not allowed in the grotto. They certainly weren’t cheap but they are lovely photos!

Back outside, there was a meet and greet with a gorgeous real husky dog. This seemed like a good cue to go and make our own cuddly toy version, which included in the entrance price. This is also where you can write and post a letter to Father Christmas, but Squiggle opted to do this at home instead when she was less distracted!

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Dotted around Willows, both inside and out, are lots of festive displays that really add to the atmosphere. For example, this one is next to the ice rink by the entrance to the grotto.

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Aside from the festive fun, there are plenty of regular Willows Farm facilities available too. Squiggle let off some steam in the indoor soft play and outdoors too, including the fab new Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground that opened earlier this year. We also popped into the animal barn quickly to see the animals, including the reindeer.

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It was a fantastic day out that we all really enjoyed. For more information, and to save money by booking tickets online, check out the Willows Activity Farm website. We are feeling very festive after our visit, Merry Christmas everyone! 

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Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm (St Albans, Hertfordshire)

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground at Willows Farm in St Albans, Hertfordshire is a million pound plus development based on the famous Beatrix Potter characters and CBeebies animated series. It opened its doors in April 2016, the year that marks the 150th anniversary of author Beatrix Potter, who has captured our hearts and imaginations for over 100 years with her well-loved children’s tales. It is also the only one of its kind in the world, how exciting!

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, Beatrix Potter
There are different sections within Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground.

There are different sections within the Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, such as Mr McGregor’s Garden, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s kitchen and laundry area, Mr Bouncer’s Great Invention, Jeremy Fisher’s Musical Pond, Lily Bobtail’s Nature area, Benjamin Bunny’s Tree Top Adventures and of course Peter Rabbit’s Secret Treehouse too!

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, Beatrix PotterPeter Rabbit’s secret treehouse is set around a 100 year old ash tree.

I particularly love Jeremy Fisher’s Musical Pond with its lovely little range of interesting instruments. These are good for various age children I imagine, and they are a great sensory activity.

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Jeremy Fisher Musical pond

We haven’t ventured into Mrs Tiggy- Winkle’s area yet because Squiggle is usually too busy playing in the other areas but I have had a quick peek and it looks lovely, particularly for younger children. I wonder if the confined space of the indoor bit might get abit much for some SEND children during busier times but it did look like there were some great sensory activities in there too. We also haven’t explored Mr McGregor’s garden yet. This area includes opportunities for ‘heavy’ lifting of giant radish, which is another great sensory activity. It all looks like alot of fun!

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, Mr Bouncer Great Invention, interactive technology, Beatrix Potter
Mr Bouncer’s Great Invention

Mr Bouncer’s Great Invention is an interactive latest technology feature where children can play games about colours or calculations, and dance to music. It reminded me somewhat of a fancier version of the dance-off style arcade games or dance mats you can buy for use with consoles at home! It is a nice activity but it can be difficult during busier times if multiple children try to play on it at once. Also, the sound effects coming from here combined with the various other sound effects nearby is potentially overstimulating and I think could easily cause sensory overload for some (SEND) children. The activity itself is certainly a great game though if you have the chance to properly play it! 

One thing I feel could be improved is that it would be far better if the various interactive ‘noisy’ features were more spread out or if there were less of them. Ideally it would be useful if there was more control over them too! Obviously during busier periods this perhaps wouldn’t make much difference, as most likely everything would be in use for the majority of the time regardless, but during quieter times it would be really beneficial if the interactive features could be interacted with rather than automatically activated. For example, Benjamin bunny seems to ‘talk’ at you everytime you get close, as do various other things. I’m sure many SEND children would be much more comfortable if they could choose for this to happen and feel able to move about freely without inadvertently setting off noises around them. However, this does not stop Squiggle enjoying this fantastic playground! (Although I suspect it may do for some).

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Lily Bobtail’s Nature Area – Bug Hunting

Another part I especially love is Lily Bobtail’s Nature Area. I am not sure why this section, or the rest of the playground, isn’t actually made from more natural materials, rather than just made to ‘look’ that way. I assume this is due to durability and maintenence I would guess but I don’t know. Either way it does have a lovely natural vibe to it that I really like. Counting the rings on the old tree stump to discover the age of the tree is interesting!

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, Lily Bobtail's Nature Area, old tree stump, nature, Beatrix Potter
Lily Bobtail’s Nature Area – old tree stump

We haven’t caught any of the shows yet, although they are on at regular times daily, but we did meet both Peter Rabbit and Lily Bobtail (during two separate visits) which was a massive highlight for Squiggle; she loves character meet and greets! 

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, character meet and greet, Beatrix Potter
Meeting Peter Rabbit
Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, Lily Bobtail, character meet and greet, Beatrix Potter
Lily Bobtail hugs

In addition to the actual adventure playground itself, the Peter Rabbit theme continues in other parts of the farm too; including indoor imaginative play at Cotton-Tail Village and the outdoor assault course Peter Rabbit Woodland Trail.

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out
Peter Rabbit Woodland Trail

All in all, Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground certainly adds a brilliant new dimension to the overall Willows Farm experience! Entry into Peter Rabbit Adventure playground is included in the general ticket price for Willows Activity Farm, and the cost of this varies throughout the year. See website for further details, and book online to save! 

Christmas Craft Ideas For Festive Family Fun

Squiggle loves creative activities and asked me to find some Christmas themed ones for her to do. There are so many lovely ideas from fellow bloggers that I thought it would be nice to share a few here. These are some of our favourite festive craft ideas to try out this Christmas…

Check out the gorgeous handprint Christmas tree idea by Mum in the Mad House. Plus it’s also great for sensory seekers too! We also love this Christmas tree craft idea that we decided to try as part of our crafty playdate last Monday. It’s such a cool idea and works really well! For full instructions see Real Mum Review website.

creative, Christmas, crafts, festive fun

Sticky Mud and Belly Laughs blog has some great crafty ideas for lolly sticks, so if you have some lolly sticks then I suggest you pop over to their site and take a peek! We are going to get some then try out the activities soon, can’t wait!

We also had lots of fun doing this lovely snowman pom pom printing craft by Monkey and Mouse. It worked well with a range of ages at our little art group. As an alternative to waiting for the paint dry then drawing on snowman parts, we chose to cut out some of the bits from coloured paper and stick them on. Either approach looks adorable!

Creative, Christmas, crafts, festive fun

Also on the snowman theme is a cute cotton wool snowman card design by Dear Bear and Beany. This one would be particularly great for younger children, simple but effective, check it out. 

As always, I also had a look through Twinkl and found some beautiful mindfulness colouring pictures, as well as various fun educational activities too.

Squiggle is pleased that she now has a brilliant selection of Christmas printables to do over the festive season, as well as all these other wonderful crafts too! 

Review: Crayola Games – 3, 2, 1 Draw!

Squiggle loves getting creative, so we were delighted to be given the opportunity to review one of Crayola’s exciting new games. We were sent 3, 2, 1 Draw! which is a fun versatile game that can played in several ways. It retails at £9.99 rrp and is for 2-8 players, ages 6+ years.

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This game is part of the Crayola Games collection, which consists of three fast-paced games to test your creative skills. Like 3 2 1 Draw, Scribble Scramble is also aimed at ages 6+ and focuses on drawing, whilst Doodle Delirium is for children aged 8+ and includes both drawing and modelling challenges. All of them sound like hilarious family fun, just the sort of thing that would be great for Christmas gatherings, or at any other time of year!

3, 2, 1 Draw has an almost retro feel to it, reminiscent of etch-a-sketch style toys, but yet has it’s own unique style in that it has been made into a funky game. It comes with a wipe-clean screen, pen, sand timer, eraser and three dice. The timer fits neatly onto the end of the pen, which can be abit hard to see while you’re drawing with it, but it does mean less to juggle if you are playing on the move! And of course it can be removed from the pen if you’d rather put it down elsewhere like we did. Either way it’s a nice feature that gives you the option. The dice and eraser are stored in a little flip lid compartment at the top, which is really handy.

3 2 1 Draw, Crayola Draw, creative, drawing, game, review

There are various ways to play, based on the level of difficulty and length of game. In all versions, the aim of the game is to guess the drawing before the little sand timer runs out. You then just rub away the picture with the eraser and play again! The only thing I noticed is that the pen doesn’t wipe off with the eraser as easily as I would have thought. However, a damp tissue or cloth seemed to remedy that.

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Draw before the timer runs out, wipe away, play again!

The simple version allows the freedom to draw anything at all, whilst the rest of the team (or the other person, if playing as a two player game) tries to guess what it is before the sand timer runs out. Or roll the dice for a silly challenge to make the game harder, such as drawing with your eyes closed; which proved much harder than I thought, my doodle looked very abstract and impossible to guess!

You can also make the game even more difficult by rolling the category dice, or use the third dice to determine what letter the drawing should start with. Squiggle personally found the topic dice harder than the letter one because she doesn’t really watch TV. But this was no issue, we just didn’t really bother using that one, and chose to play with one of the other two instead. Still plenty of fun to be had!

Whilst it states on the box 2-8 players, it could also be played by an individual too. If playing alone, just race against the sand timer to finish your drawing before the time runs out! Squiggle likes using it just to doodle before the timer runs out.

The game definitely made us laugh and it turns out that Squiggle’s creative drawing skills are so much better than mine! (Not that I doubted that for a moment anyway!) I also particularly love how portable and compact it is, meaning it can be played on the go, as well as at home. It would be good for car or plane journeys, which is extremely useful; we all know how much more peaceful a journey can be when there are things to do! It’s a fun little game if you fancy something creative that doesn’t take too long.

More information about all of the games can be found on the Crayola site.

Disclaimer: I received this game free for the purpose of review, all opinions are my own.

Christmas: Ayletts Garden Centre, St Albans, Herts

We love visiting Ayletts garden centre at Christmas, they always make a wonderful effort with their displays and often add extra activities or competitions for children too. This year is no exception!

As you walk into the entrance, there is a very modest display with Christmas tree. But keep walking beyond that and the garden centre opens out into a lovely walk-through Christmas scene. Each year there is a different theme, usually featuring cute woodland characters.

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Walk-through Christmas scene.

Next to the entrance to the walk-through scene is a large snowman with a twist; turn the handle to make him come alive! It’s quite sweet and I like the retro style way it works, rather than it randomly going off when people walk past, which often gets annoying!

Grab yourself a pencil and paper to take part in their free competition. Find the ten letters hidden around the Christmas sections to make up a word, and have a go at naming the snowman too, then post it in the box before you leave.

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Squiggle doing the free festive competition.

There is also a collection for Age Concern as part of this display, so don’t forget to take a few coins to throw into the little ‘pond’ there!

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families, Age Concern
Squiggle throwing coins into the ‘pond’.

There is a large Christmas section in a separate building in the middle of the garden centre. They sell everything from confectionary to lights, to singing santas!

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Squiggle dancing with singing santa.
Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Miniature Christmas scenes.
Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Squiggle loves these statues!

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families

Ayletts is a family run business situated on a dual carriageway on the outskirts of St Albans. It has a large cafe, good disabled access and a good size car park. Next door to the garden centre is Partners Pet Supermarket, an independent pet store, and Maidenhead Aquatics, which has a small soft play area in the cafe and fish you can feed. It is well worth a visit if you are local and have up to a couple of hours to spare. Especially during the festive fun!