The Play Town – Stamford

Days out, Role Play

Trying to find things to keep a 4 year old and 2 year old entertained during the winter is a full time job so I’m always keen to try out any new activities for children that pop up in our local area. When I saw that The Play Town had opened near us at the end of last year I was super excited! I tried to book on a few times over the Christmas holidays but never managed to get a slot (entirely my fault as I was rather disorganised and kept trying to book to go on the same day rather than planning in advance) so was pleased when we finally had a date booked in to visit.

What’s There?

The Play Town is as the name suggests – set out like a real town with shop fronts, a road, a park and a building site (very similar to the CBeebies show Biggleton but minus Eamonn Holmes). I wish I had taken a photo of Hugo’s little face when we arrived because he was beside himself with excitement and didn’t know where to look first. It was hilarious!

To say we loved The Play Town would be an understatement! We had the best afternoon out that we’ve had in ages and were really impressed with the place. It’s spotlessly clean (a HUGE plus in my eyes. There is nothing I hate more than taking my children into a smelly,dirty toilet when they have no shoes on – gross). Whoever designed the place is very clever – it’s really easy to keep an eye on the kids when they run off and they are always within earshot. If you chose to sit in the cafe you would still be able to see and speak to them over a low wall. The buildings are fun, interactive and colourful. The resources are good quality and well looked after. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful and the cafe serves good tea, coffee, cakes, paninis and children’s’ lunch boxes.

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Here’s a quick rundown of the different play areas.

The Fire Station

They have a giant fire engine coming out of the wall that the children can drive (there’s more than one steering wheel to avoid arguments) and there are plenty of firefighter outfits to choose from. We spent quite a while playing in here and the children were running around the town in their outfits, pretending to put out fires in the other buildings.

The Supermarket

Complete with a huge selection on wooden groceries and also some real boxes and packets. There are also trolleys, tills and money. Much more fun than a trip to the real Morrisons (although to be fair most things are more enjoyable that doing a supermarket shop with two kids but hey…)

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The Cafe

The cafe area had everything you would find in a role play kitchen and more! Hugo popped on his apron and chef’s hat and was busy in the kitchen while Maggie and Nanna were the customers, enjoying an afternoon tea.

The Beauty Salon

I really loved this area as it gave me a much needed rest from having my hair pulled out by the kids for once! They have mannequin heads with long hair and a selections of brushes, tongs, straighteners and clips for the children to create different hairstyles. They can answer the phone on the reception desk and book customers in for a cut and colour.

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The Theatre

This was probably Hugo’s favourite area. There was a huge selection of fancy dress outfits, musical instruments and props for using on the stage. They even have a chandelier hanging above the stage which I thought was such a lovely touch.

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The Vet’s Surgery

Maggie loved this area, especially as some of the soft toys were the same as the ones she has at home. She washed the animals in the sink with the shower head, dried them, fed them, gave them medicine then put them into their cages for a sleep.

The Doctor’s Surgery

As always, I was the poor patient who had an appointment with Doctor Hugo and Doctor Maggie, probably the scariest doctors in world. I was poked, prodded and at one point hit in the eye with a stethoscope by my lovely daughter but was finally given the all clear, thank goodness. It sparked some interested conversations, with Hugo telling me at one point, “There’s something wrong with your skull, I have to take it off.” Eeek!

The Building Site

Maggie dressed up as a builder was one of the funniest and cutest sights I’ve seen in a while. It was worth going just for that! I was particularly impressed with how the children worked together in this area (it’s still quite rare to see them working cooperatively together on a task). Hugo loved the digger and was busy collecting the bricks from around the construction site and then putting them into the dump truck. He would then drive the truck over to Maggie and empty out the bricks for her to build a wall with them.

The Park

The central area is set up as a park with an icecream van, barbeque and picnic bench. There is a road circling it with push along cars and pushchairs with dollies in them. Maggie really loved working in the icecream van (possible future career?).

The Verdict

I can’t think of anything bad to say about the place! The whole place has been planned and put together perfectly. We loved our visit from start to finish and will definitely be returning. I urge other local parents and carers to pop along and see for yourselves.  We are so lucky here in Stamford to have so many wonderful places like this on our doorstep. Please support them!

I’ll finish by giving you a quote from the day which basically sums up the success of our visit…

Me: “So, did you like our trip to Play Town?”

Hugo: “Yes! I want to live there forever.”

Useful Information

The PlayTown

Unit 5
Meadowpark Ridge Industrial Estate
Essendine
Rutland
PE9 4LH

Click here to book

Telephone

01780 433531

Email

hello@theplaytown.co.uk

 

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Christmas gifts for kids (that are not toys)

Christmas, Gift Ideas, The environment

Christmas is such a wonderful time of year, especially when you have children. When you have a baby you imagine their little faces on Christmas morning as they open up their presents, beaming with joy at the new things that Father Christmas has brought them. However, although they may get a few things which they really appreciate, the reality of it is that you end up surrounded by mountains of ripped up wrapping paper and tonnes of plastic crap which is destined for landfill. We create an unbelievable amount of rubbish at this time of year – all you have to do is walk around town on the first bin day after Christmas to see how much we throw away. You can read some of the shocking statistics about Christmas waste here.

Since having children, my husband and I have always asked family members to stick to a rule of one gift per child for birthdays and one for Christmas (our kids’ birthdays are December and January so it all happens at once in our house!). However, that’s easier said than done when you have grandparents, aunties, uncles and friends who want to spoil them and we still end up with piles of toys cluttering up our house which don’t get played with. I recycle regularly by donating to local charity shops but it would make more sense to not buy it in the first place!

I’ve compiled a list of present ideas that doesn’t consist of a single toy. Sharing experiences and making memories is so much more important that giving them ‘stuff’. I hope you find the list really useful! Share it with friends and family if you want your living room to stay tidy this Christmas 🙂

  • Swimming lessons
  • Music lessons
  • A photo album of special memories
  • Art and craft supplies – Baker Ross have a whole section on their website dedicated to natural craft materials that are biodegradable
  • A camping trip
  • Ingredients for making cakes togethercakes
  • A personalised storyMy best friend bought my daughter a personalised book from Papier and it’s still one of our absolute favouritesPapier
  • A voucher for a family mealPlaces like Pizza Express are geared up for families and you can even use your Tesco vouchers to make it cheaper
  • A babysitting couponThis one is more of a gift for us parents but hey…
  • Train/bus ticketMy son loves going on the train and sees it as a real treat.
  • Block of classesDancing, music, drama, singing etc.
  • Day outZoo, sea life centre, farm.
  • Take them to a book shop and let them choose their own booksI’m a firm believer that kids can never have too many good quality books and that reading should be part of every day life.
  • Dressing up clothesI’m not talking about Elsa dresses. Take your children to a charity shop and let them choose real hats, scarves, feather boas, sunglasses. 
  • All the bits needed to make their own bird feeder or bug house
  • An annual membership – Burghley House is just up the road from us and yearly pass for the entire family is £40
  • Money for their bank accountSounds like an obvious one but they’ll thank you when they’re 18 and buying their first carpiggy
  • An afternoon at the bowling alley
  • A donation or sponsorshipWhen I was a kid my uncle ‘adopted’ an Orca whale for me. I loved receiving information in the post, sticking the photographs on my wall and learning all about whales (I still love them now!)

I hope you find these suggestions useful. I’d love to hear your ideas too!

Emma x

School Visits

Primary School

This week has marked a parenting milestone for our family; we have been on our first school visits in preparation for Hugo starting school next September. It’s something that evokes very mixed emotions in me. The teacher in me feels excited that he is going to learn so much, form important relationships and have new experiences. I am a qualified primary school teacher so I understand how important education is and the amazing benefits it will have. But the Mummy in me feels anxious and really sad that my boy is going to be leaving our little nest.

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After Hugo was born I had 9 months off then returned to teaching part time. When Maggie arrived 15 months later I left teaching completely and started up Mummy and the Bear so that I could be at home with the children full time and just work in the evenings when it suited me. I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve been able to stay at home with my children and (although they drive me bonkers at times) I really enjoy it. But September will mark the end of this special time and that makes me so sad. Soon my boy will be away from me 5 days a week and will start to build an extra part to his life which doesn’t involve me. Up until now I’ve taught him everything he knows, I’ve been there to cuddle him after every bump and scrape, I’ve cooked all of his meals and been there whenever he needs me. The thought of him being upset and me not being there to look after him makes me get a lump in my throat but I know that this is an important part of him starting to grow up and that I need to encourage independence and resilience so that one day he can go off into the big wide world on his own and succeed in life. It’s just that, right now, he seems very tiny and cute and I just want to snuggle him.

So, back to the school visits. My advice to all of you parents who are in the same boat as me would be to trust your instincts. In my experience, maternal instinct is rarely wrong (no offense to all the dads out there but I can’t comment on paternal instinct as I’m not a bloke!). Yes, OFSTED reports can tell you some important information about schools but I think that the ‘feel’ you get is more important. No one knows your children as well as you, don’t ever forget that. Don’t listen to other people’s opinions, just focus on your own. Clare from play group might rave about SATs results but they aren’t the be all and end all. During my teaching career, I’ve spent time in ‘Outstanding’ schools that I didn’t like at all and some ‘Requires Improvement’ schools that I’ve absolutely loved. You might like a school where the children have their heads down and are working quietly or you might prefer organised chaos where children are chatting enthusiastically while they work. Neither is right or wrong.

The most important thing for me personally is that school is a place where my children want to be. Imagine looking for a new job and knowing that you had to work in that same office for the next 7 years – you’d want it to be a nice place to be wouldn’t you? School needs to be somewhere children feel safe and confident but also somewhere that sparks their imaginations and makes them enthusiastic about learning. When I’m being shown around a school I try and put myself into a child’s shoes and look at the learning environment. Does it excite me? Does it look fun? How would I feel if I was in this classroom every single day?

Another thing at the front of my mind is how well the school will nurture my child’s emotional development. You might have the best SATs result in the county but if my child doesn’t feel safe, secure and nurtured then they won’t be learning anything effectively so the exam results are completely irrelevant. This is where my motherly instinct really kicks in. Watching how the staff and children interact with each other tells you so much. I want my children to have teachers who will make them feel special and loved. I still remember my favourite teachers at school – they were all ones who took the time to really get to know me and knew me as an individual.

I thought it might be helpful to give you a list of things to ask or to look out for.

  • What are the school’s strengths? This is important if your child has a particular strength or need. Is this school the best one to support them?
  • How do they involve parents? It’s important that you are kept informed on what your child is doing at school, especially if you are working and can’t always pick them up or drop them off.
  • Look at displays – this will tell you a lot about what the children are learning and will show progress throughout the school. Are the children proud to show you their work? Does their work look challenging and interesting?
  • What extra curricular activities are available? This tells you a lot about the staff. Are they going the extra mile to provide interesting activities?
  • Do you have to pay for clubs? Some schools provide them all for free and others charge. This can work out quite expensive!
  • How do staff interact with children? Does everyone look happy? It sounds silly but teacher’s who are happy will be better at their jobs than those who are overworked and stressed. Staff turnover tells you a lot – if they have teachers who have been there for years and years then the chances are that it’s a nice place to work!
  • How does the school deal with behavioral problems or bullying?
  • How do they settle children at the start of the reception year? This can be  difficult time for some children (and parents. I will be the crazy mother crying at the gates on the first day of school)

So, we have one more visit left tomorrow and then it will be time to make our decision and get our application done. Then I will have 10 more months to enjoy having both of my noisy, chaotic and wonderful little children at home with me before this magical chapter of our lives comes to an end and it’s just me and little Maggie at home together for the first time. However, I must admit that I’m looking forward to having slightly less cleaning and tidying to do with only one little monster wrecking the house instead of two!

Good luck to all of you who are also visiting schools. I’d love to hear how you got on. What was the most important thing you were looking for? Did any of you have an idea about which school you liked but then completely change your opinions after a school visit? If you’ve already chosen, what made you pick that school?

Emma x