Play Factor-e Manchester

You can tell how much you enjoy a place when you rewrite about your experiences in double quick time, and that is the case with the Play Factor-e. However, it was all a bit of an accident as we headed off for Heidi’s birthday wanting to take in the Albert Dock in Liverpool. However, it took us 90 minutes to get to Birch Services because of a crash on the M60, and so a new plan was quickly hatched, which took us to the Play Factor-e, 2 minutes away from the Trafford Centre.

It is safe to say that the only research was a quick Google search on the M60 but the pictures looked impressive, and it really is!

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Wow! The HUGE play area

The play centre looks brand new and as a result, it is clean and all the equipment is new and in good condition. The eye catching part is the huge climbing frame which is hard work to get to the top of, but all good fun nonetheless! It is quite easy to lose a child in there as there as loads of different levels/paths so you may need to follow or have a stern word beforehand!! There are the usual climbing frame bits and pieces for the little ones to tire themselves out on, including slides, rollers and all the rest…

The eye catching part is the huge slide going from top to bottom. Now, under 5’s cannot go on the slide, with due reason, and so if you have an over 5, I would test it out yourself first (purely for research obviously!) as it is blooming fast!! Apparently, it is the tallest standing indoor slide in Europe and perhaps a little too tall for me!!

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It even has a football pitch!

For the little ones, there is a separate toddler play area which is lovely, but within it is the star of the show for us, which is an interactive video game. This entertained Heidi for about an hour and it seemed popular with all the toddlers as they kept on coming in and out during the visit! It is housed in a bland “house” in the toddler section, but there is a projector showing interactive games on the floor (for example, playing a piano, popping balloons) and as they cycle through every couple of minutes, they don’t get too bored. I have only seen it in the Science Museum in London (read about London here) and even then, it was just 1 game, so this is pretty special. I have uploaded a short video onto my “Leedsdad’ Facebook page dated 30/6/2016

In terms of food, we had a bagel and a small pizza, which were quite nice and reasonably priced. The portion wasn’t huge but you probably wouldn’t want to go on the play area on a heavy stomach! The variety of food and drinks was quite diverse as well, especially on the sweet side of things.

Also, as it is a new venue, the toilets are decent and child/baby friendly with stools to help the little ones to reach the sink and the baby change room having a toilet in there as well. The security on the toddler section is pretty good, meaning that toddlers can’t get in and out of their section. There is also an exit button on the exit of the centre, as well as someone on the desk as you leave, so that aspect is really good as well.  Parking is also free and plentiful as well.

While it is probably a bit far for us Yorkshire folk to make the trip just to here, we did spend 2 1/2 hours in there (there are time restrictions during peak times) so it is clear that we had a good time, which meant for a very easy bedtime in the evening!! However, if you’re off to Manchester, the Trafford Centre or elsewhere within the Trafford Quays Leisure Village (for example ski-ing!), it is certainly a place to add onto the itinerary!

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Totfest – 12/6/2016

So for the second year in a row, we went down the M1 to Sheffield for the Little Sheffield Totfest event.

The beauty of taking boatloads of photos and reminiscing is that you play the game “I can’t believe that was a year ago!” and that was exactly what happened when I realised it was Totfest again!

In short, Totfest is an open air event just for toddlers, with lots of free activities, taster classes and mini attractions. Obviously, for us to drive an hour to go, it must be good!

There seemed to be more at this years’ Totfest, although it may have been to do with the torrential rain in the morning last year, although this year the rain waited until the afternoon!! The weather gods certainly don’t like this event!!!

However, for toddlers, there are loads of things to see and do and we easily spent a couple of hours at the event before being beaten by the weather.

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In terms of the activities, there were Alpacas, skunks and meerkats that the children were encouraged to stroke, as well as kiddie golf and a fire engine. There was also story telling for the older ones, but we never got round to it. Speaking of animals, there was a huge dancing and singing chicken – I have no idea why,  but it was entertaining nonetheless!!

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Giant singing chicken!!

There was also a couple of free play areas with garden toys so that the little ones could run about and be, you know, children.

However, the best part is the structured classes, in part because they are under cover!! Seriously though, it is really good to go to these classes to get a flavour of if they suit your child. We experienced Pyjama Drama last year and because of it, we joined soon after.

There always seems to be a mix of classes and while we obviously gave Baby Sensory a miss, we did Minimovez and as per usual, Heidi was at the front of the class, thinking that she knew all the answers and acting like the oldest in the class!!!! (A little embarrassing!) The class was really upbeat and fast moving and so it was ideal for those who had a bit of energy to burn off, and obviously, really good on their feet. It was so good, Heidi wanted to go to the next session, before flaking out halfway through, due to exhaustion!!

We also tried Baby Spanish, which is probably more suited for toddlers, as well as adults!! I think for us, this might be something for us to tackle when Heidi can concentrate a bit more and is happy to sit still – but this is the beauty of these taster sessions!

This event has become a highlight to go to each year now and given good weather, I am sure that it will grow and grow, especially as there isn’t anything similar in the region!


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Dadstastic! – 19/6/2016

Fathers Day 2016 was the inaugural Dadstastic event organised by Leeds Dads, headed up by Errol Murray, held at Leeds City Museum and I hope that it is the first of many more to come!

The event was celebrating all things “dad” but actually, very little was “dad” focused. It was child focused, which is exactly how it should be, and hopefully mums felt as welcome as dads.

The event was also celebrating all that is good about Leeds (and the surrounding area) in terms of children’s entertainment and activities. When you look around, and hopefully my blog backs this up, Leeds has some wonderful things for children to get involved in and it should be something the city is proud of.

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In fact, one bad thing about writing this is not being able to link everyone in who made it a success, so please use the comments section! Truth be told as well, we were there for 3 hours and didn’t get round to most of what was happening, which shows how much there was going on!

Our little plan initially took us to a Frozen singalong with Suzie Sparkles aka Elsa. Now, I am very lucky as we have never seen the film so we were at a slight disadvantage but Elsa was wonderful with the children, young and old, and the ample distribution of lollies also helps! Even pass the parcel was a success with no-one getting upset over not being able to win!!

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After that we had our face painted (well, Heidi, not me!) and whilst challenging them by asking for a ladybird, it looked lovely and even Anna seemed impressed!!! What was also good was the fact that there was a number of face painters so the queue wasn’t long!

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So after a quick lunch stop, we went to the fabulous Boomchikkaboom. I have written about the fabulous times we have had with Faye and Natalie on numerous occasions (for example here), but they are truly brilliant.  However, Heidi seems to have been going to too many of their events as she seems to want to run the class!! The class was so good, we had bubbles and foam, but we did find out foam and face paint don’t go well together!!

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Straight from there we headed off to the Northern School of Contemporary Dance class. This class was a bit too energetic for all the parents sat on the side, as we were all every tired at this point!!! The teacher, Sam, was really good at involving all of the children, be they 2 or 10. I thought that Heidi might be a bit too young, but in fact, it was ideal, except the fact that she can’t balance on 1 foot!!!

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That took us to the end of the event, except for a big group photo to finish. All in all, nearly 2,000 people were in the museum on Fathers Day, which is amazing, the cafe ran out of most food, and there was lots of happy yet tired faces leaving the museum at the end of the event.

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Obviously, if this event happens next  year, please support it. It is a wonderful event, set up by a great set of dads, with the support of local organisations.  I am pretty sure Leeds hasn’t got a similar event and that alone makes it special. The fact is was held on Fathers Day was the cherry on the cake!

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Crafty Kids – 18/6/2016

I will start this by saying that I am not arty at all. I can just about draw stick men. Just.

So after hearing about Crafty Kids elsewhere on the blogosphere, and with Fathers Day looming, I thought that we would pop down.

The set up is quite simple but really, really effective. There are 3 “arty” tables where you can paint, glue and colour in and then a load of toys around the edge of the room to keep the little ones entertained.

Given children’s ability to get bored easily, always start with the paints. After this they may go from Picasso to grumpy child, but at least you have your masterpiece drying off!!

I suffered this after the painting and the glueing tables with a bad case of not wanting to share the toys!!! The tantrums don’t happen often but this one was a beauty! As the room is small and intimate, we had to escape into the rest of the Mill complex so we could calm down a little!

We never did make it to the colouring table, but did attempt the painting once again whilst playing with play doh, water table and the dolls house, all of which were in really good condition and really safe etc!

Jessica is wonderful at adding the finishing touches to make the artwork look totally amazing and seems to know who has done what artwork and what tidying up needs doing up on them, but also giving excellent ideas to those of us who are not creative!!

So after an hour and 15 minutes, we finished and took our art home. In that time, we managed 4 paintings and a glued flag…all of varying quality, but full of love!! 😀
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If you were coming from afar, it might be a good idea to spend some time after in the Jelly Beans soft play area. I have never been (or is that “bean”?!) but I have heard good reports!

All in all, for £5 we made Fathers Day presents, got creative and didn’t make a mess of the house!!! That is one of the beauties of this place: you don’t have to set it all up for either a mess to occur or for it to be used for 5 minutes and for it to be a complete waste of time!!
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In terms of age ranges, actually, it is open to pretty much all ages of children and it is probably easier the smaller they are! Also, while there are aprons etc, it might be wise to wear clothes which you don’t mind getting dirty, as well as taking a spare set!

It’s really nice to see a newish business set up and provide a really good service and atmosphere for both adults and children, so go down and support it!!

JANUARY 2017 UPDATE: We went to Crafty Kids just before Christmas to make some Christmas presents and it was just as good as it was the first time we went!


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#YorkshireFamily with Yorkshire Tots

Grass Hoppers – Tong Garden Centre

We went to Grass Hoppers in May with friends and seeing as though it was the second time we have been, and it is a stones throw from our house, I thought that I would do a review.

If you haven’t been to Tong Garden Centre for a few years, it has really changed for the better under the new owners and the fact that I am writing about a children’s play area amongst a garden centre says something about its turnaround.

Grass Hoppers itself pretty much a completely outdoor play area with a traditional playground, water/sand area, huge bouncing pillow, low level climbing frame with zip wire and toy houses/climb on cars. They were also extending it when we were there so as you can tell, whilst there is a lot to do, there will be more!!

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The main problem is also the main strength of the place is its size and the number of activities that the little ones can go on. Given that I was with Heidi’s friends, I deliberately didn’t get involved and let her play with her friends, but that meant that it was difficult to keep the right amount of distance!

Obviously the range of toys speak for themselves, but given the fact that there is water and sand, I would recommend taking a change of clothes, as the children will gravitate towards there. However, when it is cold, it appears that they turn off the water – good move!!

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The toilets are within the play area and are of good quality (even though they are in a portacabin!) and the baby change toilet is pretty much ideal, which is really good to see.

There is a small tuck shop at the entrance to the play area and also a  restaurant within the garden centre which might come in handy as you will end up being there for much longer than you planned!!! They seem to be very keen for you not to eat food brought into the area, which is understandable.

Going back to the original comment about the size of the area, there doesn’t appear to be any controls stopping children from escaping back through the entrance and into the garden centre, so you do need to keep an eye on them and/or sit near the entrance.

As it is outside, be prepared for all weather as well. In our group, we had one of us in jumpers and one in shorts and a t-shirt so be prepared!!

All in all, it is a lovely venue with lots of good quality toys for the children to run about and get tired on, whilst being good value for money. Pretty much an ideal place to spend a morning!

 

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Fathers Day

It would be amiss for me not to make a special post on Fathers Day.

In truth, every day is Fathers Day. Every day I am responsible, care for and love the most precious little girl in the world, who in turn fills my world full of hope, laughter and play.

Being a Dad isn’t easy, I have written about that in the past. It will never be easy. However, the easy parts are when we are together, playing, laughing, teaching, cuddling.

The hard parts are when we are apart, or just about to be apart. Over the years, on the outside, this has got easier, but it still cuts me up on the inside. I am not afraid to admit that either. It shows that I care. It shows that I love. It shows that I love being a dad.

Have I improved as a dad over the years? I would argue that I was perfect already… Not because I am now better at doing plaits, playing at doctors or even looking after her.

I am a perfect dad because I love Heidi with all my heart, I always have and that will never change. Truth be told, that is the only thing you need to be a perfect parent. The rest will take care of itself.

Happy Fathers Day!!

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Sandcastle Water Park -9/6/2016

Daddy/daughter day went further afield this time as I had Heidi on a weekday during term-time and so we (well, me as Heidi is still 2!) to go to Blackpool for the day, with the hope of beating the crowds somewhat. Also, as Heidi loves her swimming I thought that it would be good to a large water park that neither of us had ever been to!

In terms of location, it is opposite the Pleasure Beach and we decided to park in the car park next to it as the forecast wasn’t that brilliant, which turned out to be a good decision, so I wasn’t carrying swimming items all day!

As we went in, the first think I realised was the coin-less locket. If you read this post (Swimming with a toddler!) you’ll know my loathing of money at swimming baths, so that was a good start. We found a changing room quite easily (getting dressed afterwards was a bit more difficult) and there were plenty of lockers to choose from. Also, when going into the changing rooms, it was nice and warm, which is a nice change!

So for the swimming itself, it is clearly a waterpark and so if you’re wanting to teach your child to swim, it won’t work for you. However, there are 2 main swimming areas, one with a wave machine at the top and bottom of the hour and one with a ravine and a couple of children’s slides going into it.

There are also a large number of slides for big kids and little kids to go on. For toddlers, there are probably 4 slides that they can go on – 2 with adults and 2 without. Obviously, the queues were non-existent for these, although being Heidi was quickly getting tired, she didn’t want to go on any of them!

There is also a “splash zone” where kids can climb up a staircase/tower and splash those below, which was good and the ravine was also good to go round a few times. In terms of the wave machine, non swimmers can’t go into the deep end, with good reason as it is powerful enough in the shallow end and so care needs to be taken.

2 hours absolutely flew by even though we only went on 1 slide and it was only the fact Heidi was getting tired stopped us from carrying on. If we were to go again, I would probably put some money on the wristband so we could go to the waterside cafe and have a rest/something to eat and drink and recharge the batteries.

The pricing is a difficult one for me as it is probably one of the best in the country and cheaper than the new one to be opened in Scarborough, except 3 year olds are charged a child’s price and they are clearly not going to last as long as older children. However, I fully understand the business reasoning. I suggest that you think about the price if you have a 3 or 4 year old.

However, compared to the Pleasure Beach over the road, it is a bargain and with old children, you could legitimately stay in all day