27-10-2014

Arlo’s Dinosaur Party

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dinosaur party

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This party was always going to be a low effort job. I had neither the time or inclination to put in hours of home-made theme preparation. Nor the money to go out and buy every single dinosaur themed party piece going.

When planning Arlo’s fourth birthday dinosaur party, we resolved to stick to the heart of what’s important when throwing a kid’s party, and that meant focussing on what the kids would most enjoy, and not what might make the most photogenic, well put-together theme for the Pinterest crowd.

The party bags

I wasn’t going to theme the party bags, I just wanted to keep it as cheap as possible, but I realised that including a couple of dino-themed items still kept the cost as cheap as planned. A 10p sheet of dinosaur stickers, a little dinosaur figurine from a budget mutlipack, a funsize box of smarties, paper bags and a home-made dinosaur stamp on a white circular label sticker to seal the bags – all in all, around 60p per head.

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The decorations

I wasn’t very inspired by any of the cheap plastic tablecovers I found online, but then I had the idea of covering the tables with brown paper (Although I should have gone for a longer roll – we had to double up!) which actually worked out cheaper than any tablecloths I’d found, and with loads left over to use for packaging and Christmas gift wrapping.

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I laid out crayons, dinosaur stamps and ink pads and encouraged the kids to go to town decorating the tables. We had loads of white label stickers left over after making up the party bags, so Sam came up with the ‘Make a Dinosaur sticker’ idea.

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Plates, napkins, and bunting were all by the same company because I loved the illustrations and the little dino facts on the napkins. (They do invitations, cups, centrepieces and all sorts of other things too if you want a fully cohesive dinosaur theme) Although I purchased most of my bits through an Amazon retailer as it worked out cheaper that way.

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The “Four” picture collage was something I made for Arlo’s actual birthday, to hang up on the wall behind his pile of presents on the table so he’d be greeted with a kind of celebration feature table when he woke up in the morning. But it served double time doing the same job at Arlo’s party, and he loves it so much he’s requested that it go up in on the wall in his room. Not bad money’s worth for an £8 print (Printed with Loxley, where I get most of my pro prints done).

We also brought a couple of dinosaur posters from home to put on the walls.

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The entertainment

Check out my party preparation post for the full lowdown on the entertainment, but there were a few extras that I haven’t mentioned already.

The big inflatable T-Rex came from ELC (Normally £25 but it was reduced to £15 and then we had a further discount code so the final cost was £10). We also bought a couple of cheap mini T-Rex’s from an Ebay seller, which, along with some white balloons, created a ‘Baby Dinosaurs hatching out of eggs’ feature, that was, naturally, decimated in seconds as soon as the party guests arrived.

There were plenty of dino games we could have put together involving the inflatables and the balloons, including using them as part of a dinosaur hunt, but in the end we decided not to bother, because Sam was watching the Palace match because the kids were having so much fun as it was, and because Arlo prefers free play.

We also had a surprise visit from two real-life dinosaurs.

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I panic bought some bubble guns from Tiger the day before the party when I realised it would be sunny and dry and we had no entertainment planned for the garden area of the place we’d hired.

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Arlo’s favourite toy at preschool, the Didicars, were a huge hit (and can be used by both adults and children). Moving the steering wheel propels the car forward without needing to use feet to push yourself along – it’s like a no-engine go kart, and a lot of fun in a big hall.

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If you are local to Croydon, Surrey, or South London and are looking for reliable and good value bouncy castle hire, I can recommend Kingies Castles, who were great with my repeated calls in the week leading up just to “double check” they were definitely going to show up on the day, great communication on the day of the event, and they also offered us the best rate too.

Food and drink

We kept this really simple – sandwiches, crisps, fruit, sausage rolls. The only themed part of it was the dinosaur sandwich shapes (made using this sandwich cutter), but it does waste a lot of bread and to be honest I’m not sure how much the kids really cared about their dinosaur shaped sandwiches in comparison to everything else dino-related that we had at the party. I mean, come on, nothing beats a giant inflatable T-rex that you can wrestle.

And we had yummy dinosaur brownies thanks to Auntie Zoe – the kids wasted NO time polishing these off.

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The kids had Capri Sun’s (the cheapest bulk buy we could find in the supermarkets) and little sports style water bottles – we chose these specifically as cups and jugs = Spillage carnage.

For the adults, there was popcorn, kettle chips, beer and prosecco.

The cake

With a very busy week leading up to the party, we knew the cake was going to be a supermarket job rather than a cool but labourious home-made effort. I assumed all the big supermarket names would have at least ONE dinosaur style party cake, but I was surprised to find only one option.

However, I really wasn’t keen on parting with £25 just for the sake of having the cake on-theme. So we DIYed it by using a standard Tesco’s chocolate cake and adding some dinosaur candles and a few of the leftover dinosaur play figurines from the party bags. £6 cake, job done.

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The verdict?

Arlo massively enjoyed his party this year, which made it all worth it. He totally got into the idea of throwing a party and he loved the process of inviting all of his friends and chosing his party songs. Plus, he LOVED being the first and last one on the bouncy castle.

Hiring a hall turned out to be not too much effort, although I am glad we stuck to our resolution to keep everything as simple as possible – this definitely made the set-up and clear up a lot easier.

The entertainment was just right – plenty enough to keep the children entertained at all times, but not too much that it was overwhelming or extremely costly.

And did we manage to stick to our original goal of keeping things simple and focussing on what the kids would find fun?

I think a 6 foot inflatable t-rex on a bouncy castle sums that up.

dinosaur party

26-10-2014

Dear South London mum

I wrote this reflecting, mainly, on my first year after having Arlo. I don’t really feel like this any more, but, as usual with most things, I find that it’s only once I’m out of that frame of mind that I’m able to evaluate past feelings and write about it.

south london mum

 

Dear South London Mum,

 I kind of got plonked in this situation rather unexpectedly, and I feel like I’m playing one big game of catch up.

Can you tell?

 I wonder whether you noticed my awkward shuffle when the NCT teacher describes our choice as “very unusual” for a London couple in their early twenties to decide to start a family.

 It shouldn’t be awkward. But I just want one area of my life where I don’t feel different. If I don’t quite fit in with most twenty-somethings my age, I want to try my best to feel I fit in as a new mum.

 But it’s difficult.

I don’t have a wedding to talk about. I don’t join in with the ‘How long did it take you to conceive / When did you decide to start trying’ conversations.

I don’t have anything to add with regards to house extensions or kitchen renovations. I don’t have the same dilemma about moving near to good schools before the application date.

You do a really great job of treating me the same as you, and I am so grateful for that. Perhaps you genuinely feel that we ARE similar, even though I feel like the biggest sore thumb around.

I don’t have regular salon-maintained hair. My clothes are all tired with holes in. I have one pair of shoes for winter (Converse) and one pair for summer (Birkenstocks). We aren’t searching for a childminder or a nursery so I can have a day off. I didn’t go anywhere this summer.

My main aim of every day is to spend zero pounds exactly. My town is a complete deadzone so we always have to travel out to do anything. In London traffic, that’s half an hour at least, and most of you live about an hour away. I feel irrationally guilty and angry if Arlo and I get caught short and end up having to buy lunch or a drink.

It feels shameful and stressful to be so unsettled financially.

Still, if I had more time and means to see you. I’d probably realise that we have more in common than I think. Or at least, we all have our own internal struggles. Perhaps we might even breach that tricky barrier of superficial conversation topics.

But I can’t afford to blow £15 a week on a cafe/soft play meet-up. There is no space to invite a group round to mine, there isn’t room for us all to sit down, and it’s really not a toddler-friendly set-up (And yes, I realise that sounds like a ridiculous excuse when there are two toddlers living there.)

I probably seem disconnected. I know I could be more sociable. But I am held back by my anxiety that you don’t really know what to say to a 25 year old mum (and vice versa), as you were living in a different world at that age.

I know that we all have our own niggles in adjusting to motherhood, and that it can be a lonely place for everyone. I know that age and money shouldn’t really matter, and I feel a little silly for even feeling that it creates even a small difference. But I do wonder if I would have found more like-minded parent friends had I started this whole parenthood thing around seven years later than I did.

Would I have felt just a little less lost?

I already feel that I’d quite like a do-over. To start this new stage with a lot more confidence and enthusiasm.

Above all, I just want to find my place again. But I’m not sure that anyone ever does in that first year or two of being a mum.

 

 

20-10-2014

Arlo at just turned four

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After a really pleasant summer, where Arlo was …really pleasant and just seemed to be enjoying life’s simplicities, we are back to non-stop moaning that leaves me questioning whether he does, actually, enjoy his life in general.

I wish I were exaggerating, but sadly, I am not. When I say non-stop, he’s constantly searching for something to moan about. When he doesn’t have anything to moan about, he moans about not having anything to moan about. I pick him up from preschool, I watch his demeanour change and the moans start as soon as he sees me. I thought four year olds were meant to be maxing out on the fun, but it seems the whinge button is jammed on ours. It’s so very hard to deal with day in day out on an hourly basis. Ignoring him riles him up, so I am constantly engaged in a conversation/battle with him, and that is exhausting too. A lot of the time, I feel like there is a really thin line between sanity and something else. And on top of that, I feel a sadness that he can’t just enjoy himself without at least an hour of moaning first, no matter the situation. He has always been a challenging one, our Arlo.

The negative out of the way, it’s not all bad. Arlo is such a smart talker, he makes me laugh on a daily basis. He is a proper fun person to chat with (when he’s in a good mood), and in the last half a year I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said to Sam that I’m really enjoying spending time with Arlo, more than ever before. When he’s not relentlessly moaning, he is just brilliant and I feel I could gush about him forever.

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His levels of pedantry, or just flat out needing to stick to the facts, have reached an all time high. The most recent example of this was his confusion at his birthday party, whenever someone said happy birthday to him. “People keep thinking it’s my birthday today. But they are wrong. It’s not my birthday”.

Arlo has always been a great talker, and I enjoy the insights into his mind now that he is fully able to explain them. According to Arlo, Neighbours is a real place where we can travel on a plane and demand the characters to explain important plot holes (he’s really adamant that he MUST do this, he needs answers), but when asked if he’d like to do the Swashbuckle assault cause, my question was met with very furrowed brows and the explanation that “the clouds are flat (2D), [therefore] it’s not a real place that we can visit”.

Arlo’s little obsessions continue. We’ve just moved on from dinosaurs to architecture. He is hugely interested in cities, interesting landmarks, and, mainly, tall buildings. Arlo LOVES the Shard, I actually have a whole separate post about that that I need to write soon.

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Although he gets frustrated that Rory always messes up his games, he continues to adore his little brother and is always genuinely delighted when Rory chooses to come and give Arlo a cuddle.

Arlo is still very routine-obsessed and everything continues to centre around food times, as I wrote about half a year ago. It’s another factor that, to me, seems to have a negative effect on his overall enjoyment of a day, and something I really wish he hadn’t decided to become so focussed on. If we are elsewhere during his usual snack time, he will fixate on that and refuse to drop it and go play until he has had his appointed snack. He recently spent the entire duration of a child’s birthday party refusing to do anything, because it was snack time. After the food was served, THEN he was ready to play, but of course by that point it was time to leave, so then I had another battle to deal with. It’s this sort of stuff that can be exhausting and disheartening to deal with on a daily basis.

Arlo turning four means it’s been over two years since he happily ate anything resembling a balanced meal. His diet is distinctly beige – bread, potatoes, pasta (all plain, no sauces), cheese, peanut butter and chocolate. He won’t touch fruit or veg. I’ve tried sneaking hidden veg into his meals, but he always gags straight away. Preschool have also been trying very hard with him, but after a year, they have now reached a point where they think it’s not a good idea to push him. Which is sort of the conclusion we have drawn too. We eat family meals, we make sure he knows he can help himself to anything on the table, we encourage and incentivise him to eat fruit and veg, but we don’t force it upon him.

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On the evening before his birthday, he suddenly burst into tears at the impending change in age. He thought he was going to grow massively overnight, and would be leaving preschool to start school straight away. He really is a bit of a worrier by nature, and I felt awful that he’d been storing up these anxieties ,without me picking up on it, until it reached boiling point. He was adamant that he didn’t want a birthday or any presents or cake, but the next morning, after some reassurance (“But am I REALLY four now, mama? I don’t look any bigger”), he was back to being excited again. This birthday wobble was a reminder that sometimes we need to tread carefully when the urge is to ramp up the excitement – Arlo certainly prefers a no-big-deal approach.

I’ve ended up making this more of a vent about some of the specific challenges we face at the moment, rather than it being a pure celebration of Arlo at four years old. The good things about Arlo at four years old far outweigh the challenging things, but it is the challenging factors that tend to occupy my brainspace.

He is so smart, his mind is so sharp, and I am so proud of him for the individual, funny, and engaged person that he is.

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He didn’t want to do a birthday photoshoot this year, so I didn’t push him. 

19-10-2014

Colourful ski style for children

Having never yet been anywhere near a pair of skis before, I can’t attest to actual clothing practicality on the slopes, but these are my colourful ski style for children picks from some of the most reliable names in the childrenswear game.

Hypothetically shop for children’s clothes? Yep, that’s a job for me.

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1. The Boden snowboard jacket was Arlo’s winter coat last year, and in fact, this year too, as the same coat still fits with plenty of grow room. There’s nothing that I don’t like about this coat – warm, waterproof, easy to wash, the hood doesn’t obstruct view when it’s up, and it’s longer at the back, which means no soggy bottoms.

2. I can never resist a bobble hat. Also comes in black. from Polarn O. Pyret.

3. These gloves are classic Molo (one pair in grown up size please).

4. With a love for bright colours and patterns, I’ve learnt that neutrals can also prove very useful, in a ‘less is more’ kind of way. The simple grey of these Polarn O. Pyret ski trousers acts as a great base for a rainbow of mismatched accessories.

5. These Polarn O. Pyret thermals are made from merino wool, which helps to regulate body temperature, keeping you warm when it’s cold, and cool when it’s hot. The teal colour is bright and modern – a far cry from the greying thermals I remember from my childhood.

6. Socks in cheerful colours – another item I’d quite like on my own wishlist. From Boden.

7. Colourful footwear, especially for boys, can be hard to find, let alone colourful specialist footwear. But never fear, Sorel are on the case with their warm and waterproof Yoot Pac children’s snow boots. 

Skiing or not, most of these items are a wardrobe necessity for British winter time. And you can never have too many bobble hats.

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I’ve written this blog post as my entry to the Mark Warner quarterly blog challenge

 

12-10-2014

Things to do for toddlers and preschoolers at Butlins Bognor Regis

 

 

 

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I know it probably sounds odd to regard a trip to Butlins as a peaceful break, but the kids were just so happy there, I’m on the verge of sticking the word ‘relaxing’ into this post. There was absolutely no boredom whatsoever, Rory was too busy to demand to be held all the time or hound me for milk all the time, and Arlo forgot to whinge (apart from the car journey there… HELL).

I don’t know whether this is a common parent thing, but I am SO eager to see my children happy. I LOVE seeing their little grinning faces, and I will literally consider going ANYWHERE that I think will bring them joy. Butlins falls under this category. It’s not a place I would have imagined myself going to on a family holiday, but now that I have a preschooler, and my life pretty much revolves around keeping him happy enough that he’s not causing me added stress, I could quite clearly see the appeal. Long gone are my ideas of a holiday being a chance for ME to unwind, I just want to have fun with my children whilst they are still young enough to want to have fun with me, and to see them happy. Happy children = happy parents is SO true for our family right now.

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In terms of making my children happy, Butlins did a perfect job. Arlo really thought Butlins was MAGICAL. A place where you LIVE, and it also has a fairground and some amazing play areas? AND live entertainment?! AND a cool swimming pool. AND you can ride your bike everywhere? And have pancakes for breakfast every day??

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Let’s just say that the journey on the way back was a LOT more peaceful, as I’d told him that we wouldn’t be going back to Butlins again if he moaned in the car. (This bribe is actually proving super useful for most aspects of life with an almost-four year old at the moment.)

As part of our role as Butlins Ambassadors, we review two Butlins resorts over the coming year. I plan to wait until after our second trip to write the full, nitty gritty, trip advisor style low-down. I know this will probably be most useful for families considering a Butlins holiday, and I feel I will have better cemented my opinion after two visits.

An in-depth review is not only important for readers, but also for the Butlins team, who are working in close contact with their blogger ambassadors this year (Us bloggers spent a day at Butlins HQ this month, and there are more meetings in the pipeline for 2015), and are looking to us to let them know our opinions on where their strengths lie, areas in which Butlins excel at providing family breaks, and most importantly, areas that could be improved upon and ideas for how to achieve this.

For now, I am going to tell you what we got up to during our three-day break, including what there is to do on-site at Butlins Bognor Regis AND off site in the nearby area for families with young children. This blog post will focus on things to do for toddlers and preschoolers at Butlins Bognor Regis. Stay tuned for a follow up post and video on our accommodation (we stayed in the gold apartments).

Friday

Although check-in at Butlins isn’t until 3pm on Friday (you are allowed to use the facilities on-site from 12pm), with Sam booking the whole day of work, we were keen to make a day of it, so we set off bright and early, stopping at Arundel Wetlands Centre for lunch and a potter.

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This visit was clearly Sam’s idea – I think I’ve written before about the Colin’s Bird Guide that HAS to accompany us on any holiday or trip, and the Wetland Centre was top of his wishlist for our time whilst staying at Butlins Bognor Regis.

The paths are buggy-friendly, and Arlo very much liked leading the way around the Wetlands – if you have children that like to explore, they should be happy here for an hour or so. On wet weather days, the cafe has huge floor to ceiling windows looking out over the Wetlands. We finished up our trip with a boat ride around the Wetlands, before getting back in the car to head over to Butlins for check-in. (The drive took us past Arundel Castle, which looked like another great place to explore. In fact, Arundel on the whole was looking very pretty and leafy and if we’d had more time, we would have loved to explore it further – one for next time).

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We spent Friday afternoon wandering around Butlins, acquainting the boys with their surroundings and the things on offer for them to do. We had our evening meal at The Diner – a 50s styled restaurant offering the usual burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes that you’d expect from a diner menu, with a jukebox and singing waiters/waitresses for added entertainment.

I can’t be bothered to have the added stress of a strict routine during holiday-mode, so the boys stayed up later than usual this evening playing in the arcade.

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Saturday

Saturday, I was to be on my own with the children for most of the day. When in the planning stages, we knew it was going to be tricky to fit in our Butlins trip this side of the year in between Sam’s work trips and my weekend family photoshoots. As it turned out, our only free weekend wasn’t even totally free, as Sam needed to head back to Selhurst for a very important Crystal Palace match. Ahem.

It did mean, however, that Sam got to test out the ease of travelling to Butlins via train from London (Verdict: Very simple. Direct train from Victoria, 10 minute walk from Bognor train station to the Butlins site, and just £17 for a last-minute day return.) Plus, faced with the task of entertaining the children on my own, I figured it was a much better option to be at Butlins, where entertainment is on tap, than at home, silently seething at yet another solo weekend day.

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As it turns out, Saturday was my favourite day of our trip (sorry Sam!). I’m not sure what it was exactly, but I think bit was a combination of being in a different place with loads to explore, and the effort of ‘finding things to keep us entertained’ was completely removed from my responsibility, and because I wasn’t doing my usual at-home juggling routine of working from my phone whilst attempting to parent, and generally making a hash of both roles until the bubble of stress rises to bursting point. We treated the day as an adventure, I dedicated all my attention to the boys, and we had a really lovely time.

After we waved goodbye to Sam, we headed down to Bognor Regis beach to enjoy a beautifully warm and sunny September morning. The beach is just a two-minute walk through the car park at the back of the Butlins complex. The boys enjoyed an hour playing with the pebbles on a wonderfully quiet and peaceful seafront (an out of season thing or maybe just a Bognor thing?)

We spontaneously hopped on a little train taking people up and down the promenade to Bognor Regis town (£1 return), which both boys loved. (Buggies won’t fit on the carriages but they let me fold ours down and put it in the hold at the back of the driver’s cab).

We arrived back on site in time to catch a mid morning show on the Skyline Pavilion stage – Mike the Knight – and Arlo did his rounds of the indoor fairground rides and soft play whilst Rory took a nap in the buggy.

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As Arlo frequently tells me that he doesn’t like “noisy things, and things that are real”, I wasn’t expecting him to get on with the live shows at Butlins. Arlo is usually very predictable in this respect, so it came as a massive but lovely surprise that he quickly became fond of the shows, adopting a self-initiated routine of checking back into the Skyline Pavilion after breakfast or an afternoon activity to catch a show, genuinely interested to see what was happening on stage. He was particularly taken with the Skyline Gang - Butlins own colourful cast of characters

We didn’t bother with any of the shows on the smaller stages that you had to pre-book and pay extra for, as I had initially assumed Arlo wouldn’t enjoy it and so it wouldn’t be worth doing. But I think that’s something we will potentially try on our next Butlins visit after seeing how interested Arlo became in watching the live shows whilst we were in Bognor.

We had a large window of time for an activity after lunch (Rather than attempt a sit-down restaurant meal by myself with two small children, we took a takeaway Burger King back to our apartment), so I decided to go all out on this solo-parenting experience and take two water hating non-swimmers to ‘Splash Waterworld’, the swimming pool complex at Butlins Bognor Regis.

The original plan had been to do swimming on Sunday, with Sam, as I didn’t think I would be allowed to take both children by myself (I’m used to our local pool ratio of one adult to one non-swimmer). But the guys at Splash Waterworld told me it wasn’t a problem, and I thought it would be a bit of a shame if we waited for our last opportunity to go (Sunday, as the pool is closed Monday mornings), only for Arlo to decide he REALLY LIKED swimming, but didn’t have time to go again.

So off we went, for what can only be described as an intense hour of Rory screaming hysterically as he clung to me (he really hates water), whilst Arlo refused to swim, but demanded that we all went on the really tall white slide, despite the landing being quite deep for a three-year old non-swimmer, and despite the fact that he would have to go down by himself whist I went down holding a hysterical Rory next to him. (Two older boys in the queue all did a rubbish job at persuading Arlo that it might not be the best idea. “It goes REALLY fast. You will go underwater and get water ALL over your face. I’m EIGHT and it’s really fast for me. That lifeguard will probably tell you you are too small” (The lifeguard said there wasn’t an age limit. Thanks lifeguard).

The boy hasn’t been near a swimming pool for about a year and had definitely forgotten every thing he’d learnt at swimming lessons when he was two. Needless to say, he wasn’t particularly thrilled with his experience, and refused to go back on the slide the next day despite the promise of Dada being there to hold him above the water. I TOLD YOU SO, ARLO.

Dinner at The Deck was also interesting with two children by myself. There’s always that conundrum at self-service places, do I leave them at the table, potentially out of sight, to go and get our food, or do I bring them all up with me, and struggling to carry multiple plates, drinks and a baby back to the table all at once? That being said, the provision of highchairs and children’s cutlery sets already at the tables is a thoughtful touch from Butlins that made that aspect of our meal that bit easier than it otherwise would have been.

(Reading this back, I’m not sure I’m doing a great job of retelling the lovely day that I remember in my head, but it really was a lovely time – these are just the general stresses of parenting that happen no matter what. Our day was still a lot more fun than a usual weekday at home.)

After dinner, Arlo wanted to wander over to the Skyline Pavilion to catch the 7.30pm show. The Saturday evening entertainment was a bit more grown up, a wrestling ring had been created in front of the main stage for a WWE night. I wasn’t sure how well this would go down with the kids, but Rory did a very amusing job of shaking his fists like an eager crowd participant, and after the first match, Arlo turned to me and said “This. Is. AWESOME”. So there we stayed until Sam returned, and then we headed back to our apartment to wrestle our own children into bed and watch X Factor – Sam loving the ease in which he could step out for a late night Burger King.

Butlins WWE

 

Sunday

Arlo and Rory had a run around the soft play and the indoor fairground rides again as soon as they opened at 9am, before Sam took Arlo for the aforementioned failed second swimming attempt when Splash Waterworld opened at 10am. Not wanting to subject Rory to the torment of swimming quite so soon again, he and I checked out the soft play and activity area for babies and young toddlers in the Skyline Pavilion, Billy’s Buddies, which was much more Rory’s kind of scene.

Although I probably wouldn’t opt for somewhere like Butlins if I just had Rory (the entertainment, ride heights, etc, is much better suited to Arlo’s age group and older – if you aren’t sure what age to take a trip, I’d say it’s definitely best to wait until your child is at least two, with three to six being the optimum age for the type of activities we did on our break), 16 month old Rory wasn’t left out by any means. He was in his element being able to roam free at Butlins – this is the first time in his life that Rory has had so much walking freedom, the whole complex is very toddler friendly and a lot of it is pedestrianised so it was very easy to let him have a run around.

Apuldram quayside crown and anchor

Eager for another off-site adventure, we opted for lunch at the Crown and Anchor by the quayside in Apuldram. Then it was back to Butlins in time for the last hour of fairground rides, another dinner at The Deck (Although we opted for a self-catered apartment, our dinners and breakfasts at The Deck were included as part of the premium dining package, which I will talk about more in my next post about accommodation), and a Skyline Gang show about cavemen and volcanoes on the main pavilion stage – which was a big hit with Arlo (It featured volcanoes, of course it was!)

By now, we were getting in a nice little routine of watching the shows from a table on the raised platform of the skyline pavilion cafe with a glass of wine from Bar Rosso. I have heard that, at times, it can be impossible to find a table unless you camp out at one all day, but I think our visit must have been at a non-busy time (low season in mid September after schools have gone back) because we never had any issue with queues or lack of seating, either in the skyline pavilion, any of the rides, or in The Deck or The Diner. In fact, the only real queue we saw during our stay was for the boat slide ride in Splash Waterworld.

little tikes town butlins

Monday morning was spent doing a last round of all the things Arlo loved most – the indoor soft play, the adventure playground outside The Beachcomber Inn, the fairground rides. We stumbled upon the Little Tikes Town, which my two absolutely loved. It wasn’t there over the weekend, but had been set up in advance of the midweek ‘Just for Tots‘ break.

We waved goodbye to Butlins (after a brief last-minute protest from Arlo as he realised the finality of leaving this place of wonders), and headed to West Wittering for lunch at the beachside cafe and a play on the sand before heading back to London.

west wittering

For an overall idea of the activities and entertainment suitable for toddlers and preschoolers, watch our holiday vlog below:

Contrary to my assumption, the children didn’t get horribly over-stimulated by the vast amount of entertainment at Butlins. There was something to engage them at every step, and they absolutely loved it, in a very easy-going way. In contrast, the couple of weeks following our Butlins break has seen the usual tantrums and whinges return. So I can only conclude that it’s a result of boredom and frustration with our home routine – something that Butlins helped us temporarily alleviate.

As I’m writing this post, I’m looking back on our Butlins break with great fondness – it was a special time where we were all open to having fun. I put down my phone. Arlo had no time to whinge. Rory got an abundance of new experiences, and Sam enjoyed spending some quality family time away from the distractions of work. And really, at this point in life, with two children under four, that’s all we wish for.

west wittering beach

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We are Butlins blogger ambassadors and our break was complimentary for review purposes.