It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Well.. for us the Christmas season has OFFICIALLY started!!!!!!!! We were invited to go along to Thomas Land this weekend past and to experience Thomas Land at Christmas. I can say it was:
& THE KIDS HAD THE BEST DAY
Yep, it was brilliant.
As we entered Thomas Land, we immediately felt as if we had arrived “at Christmas”. The festivities were everywhere, from fun “Christmas Photo Shoot Ops” (pop into the Christmas Pudding – see video below), to Reindeer Thomas
A most spectacular Christmas tree – and once it started going dark, this tree turned into light and musical bonanza!
Of course there were all the rides – traditional like this oh so old but stunning merry go round – a new – we loved the tearaway trucks the best.
It was a cold day, I will admit, but it also meant, that Thomas Land was busy, but NOT CROWDED. It meant that we got to go on ALL OF THE RIDES and on many several times (I think we went 6 times on the tearaway trucks roller coaster and the kids’ squeals of delight where simply wonderful). We barely had to queue for any of them. Just the best way to explore a theme park.
We went ice skating, we visited the 4D cinema, we stopped for drinks and food and simply had the best day ever.
Then as the sun began to set, it was time for our turn with Santa…. we entered the magical castle to meet the big man himself.
A perfect end to a perfect day.
Actually.. I tell a fib.. after Santa – when Mum & Dad were shattered and ready to go – we went on another 4 rides …. and THEN we finally head home. Brilliant.
We did miss the fireworks – at 6pm (we left a 5.20pm) but having arrived at 10am, we simply exhausted from a day non stop on the go!
About 2 minutes after driving off… the kids were FAST ASLEEP all the way home!
Disclosure: we were invited along to a Press Day at Drayton Manor theme parks. Many thanks to the team. It was the best day out this Christmas!
And what better way to kick off the celebrations with a visit to Santa’s Grotto? We were invited along to come to Santa’s Grotto in South West London‘s Wimbledon Eddie Catz. Being a “play centre”, we were not sure what to expect from a Grotto at Eddie Catz, but were pleasantly surprised at quite how lovely an experience the kids had (excuse our slightly blurry photos, it was dark in there!!)
Tucked away in the corner of the hustle and bustle of the play centre… is a small sign and post box pointing the way.
The kids waited patiently (whilst munching cookies and sipping hot chocolate) for their turn to go in.
They were met by super friendly elves, that quickly put them at ease, as the them down and gotten writing the all important letters to Santa. Surrounded by snowy pine trees and deer, the kids got to work.
Next they got to make some magical Reindeer Food – with strict instructions to sprinkle in the garden on Christmas Eve.
The kids seemed to really enjoy this part of the visit and I would say it certainly makes it stand out a little from “other grotto visits”.
We finally arrived “at the big moment and went in to see Santa himself. A beautifully decorated room with a wonderfully jolly Santa awaited us. The kids turned shy (but in a good way) and respectfully approached Santa. My daughter had made him a special card and carefully handed it over.
We then had some photographs taken and the children received a lovely little plush toy. I received the momento photos (lovely!) and then we went off for a play. Well, a cappuccino for me, Darling, and a play for the kids.
All in all a wonderful experience an a grotto worth visiting – find out more on London’s Santa Grotto and book before they fill up!
Last year (and we never go around to sharing this then), Pip Squeak’s Reception class – so lots of 4 & 5yrs olds – classed as Preschoolers in the rest of the world – made these WONDERFUL WONDERFUL little Christmas treats as part of their Young Enterprising scheme. The made them and sold them at school. Profits went to charity. The best bit about this young enterprising scheme, is that officially Reception is not a part of it, they are too young.. whilst the rest of the school gets organised activities… but you know, that never stops a real entrepreneur, now does it?!
I am digressing. The kids made adorable Rice Crispy Christmas Puddings:
As they did these in school.. I can’t give you the exact quantities.. but I can give you what they used.
Rice Crispies Christmas Puds – Ingredients
Marzipan Christmas Shapes*
If you can get marizpan shapes – by your own fondant and icing and colour it green and red. (We like using the Sugarflair Brand (UK Readers) and you if you are form the US get it here – affiliate links)
Rice Crispies Christmas Puds – Method
1) Melt your chocolate in a big bowl in the microwave. Keep an eye on it, so as to not overheat it, as that ruins chocolate.
2) Mix in the rice crispies, keep adding until you have a good mix, that doesn’t look too “wet”. And spoon into the cupcake cases.
3) Prepare your Holly & Berries – if you have shop bought ones, this is an easy step. If you don’t, then use your fondant and colour it green and red. Cut simple holly shapes (don’t try and get all the detail, just a simple green leave will do) and make red little balls.
4) Now melt your white chocolate – again carefully in the microwave.
5) Add a spoon of white chocolate to each cake and pop your holly decoration on top.
Sooo with us being in FULL Christmas Baking mode…. we are making all sorts from Vanilla Kipferl to Gingerbread Men. We ALSO love to read lots of Christmas books at this time of year (we have a number of “Christmas books” list for you to check out – one set here, and another set here, with our favourite Christmas Movies here)… but today’s topic of excitement, are these GINGERBREAD MAN BOOKS. Who knew that there were SO MANY different ones. Lots of fun reading to keep you busy through December. Simply Wonderful.
I have popped them all into one handy (affiliate) “list”, as well as included some quirky Gingerbread men products for you to take a peak at, just click on the links below for full info.
So.. here we go.. a fab list of Gingerbread Man themed books!
I have vivid memories of playing board games with my family on Sunday afternoons. It was a great time to come together, play some games and while away some lazy hours, whilst doing something together. Now, with a family of my own and children who are just getting old enough to play board games (they are 5yrs and 7yrs), I am keen to “stock up” on a set of different games for us all to enjoy together. Here, I list my favourite from years gone bye! You will probably recognise a number of them and I would LOVE to HEAR from you, what YOUR favourite games were as a child!
These board games would also come in VERY handy for that long long night that is New Year’s Eve! So stock up now and be READY. (Check out these New Year’s Eve Crafts & Activities if you are interested too! And these New Year’s Eve Traditions from around the world **crack me up**).
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience!
I have shared a set of games for older kids, as well as younger ones. Some to play with 2 players and some to play with more. Hopefully something for everyone, with any skill or ability!
Yes, no article about family board games would be complete without Monopoly. Most definitely a worth game to start with and I am sure top of people’s minds when you are asked about which games you know and play. A timeless classic for sure and available in so many different versions. The aim of the game – is to move around the board, buying “land” and building property.
I confess to being terrible at spelling (I am sure you have noticed throughout all of my blogs! Ha!). But for some reason, I still very much enjoyed playing scrabble, I rarely won, but I think I got the satisfaction from doing well in enough in an area that was my “weakness”. And no doubt this was good for helping me develop my vocabulary and and spelling! But that is me. Many people enjoy the crossword type challenge that this game brings!
Oh what was it about this game that we ALL enjoyed? Was it the fact that you had to little cars with pink and blue pegs, that represented yourself and your “spouse”, that you got to add “kids to the car” as the game continued? Or was it that you got to experience “life” with adventures and work? Great feature of this game, is that you can make it “shorter or longer”, depending on how much time you have to play.
Another game that I have fond memories and that also come in lots of different additions to suit you and your family – from junior versions, through to master mind versions. I sometimes suspect that my parents liked this game, as we would always beat them at all the others. Ha!
An article about family games would not be the same without a sharing a Game Compendium of sorts! There are LOTS of sets out there – mini sets, big sets, delux sets. Wooden sets, travel sets, plastic sets. Whatever takes your fancy. What is important is these oh so traditional games – chess, checkers, backgammon, cards, dominoes amongst others. Though we love the “modern classics” such as Monopoly and Cluedo above, I am keen for my kids to learn these traditional games too – they have been around for years and years and have stood the test of time. They are challenging and make you think and they are fun. The great things about Compendiums, is that they come in one box, but contain so many different games. Something to have in any family store cupboard!
PS I am pretty certain that “Ludo” was also called “Sorry” in my hey day…..
US Readers –
Who doesn’t love a game of UNO – bright, colourful and simple to learn this is a card game of generations. I used to play a version of this with an “ordinary deck” of cards, but there is something attractive about UNO. This set of cards, makes it super easy for younger kids to pick up and learn and introduce them to the wonderful world of card playing. I still enjoy this game as an adult!
I am ashamed to say, that we do not have this game YET!!! Eventhough this is another game I loved as a child. A two player game, the aim is to get “four in a row”. It is great for a quick 10minutes here or there.. or play it for hours over and over again. We have told Santa that we NEED it this year!
I shared “Who is it Here”, simply because, I enjoy the graphics on this particular version, but Guess Who essentially it is. A 2 player game of logic and deduction and asking the right questions to figure out “who” has been picked. Again this game comes in a 1000 variations.. from Moshi Monsters through to superheros!
Another two player game that I used to love – Mastermind – the aim of the game is to work out the sequence of colours that you opponent has chosen. Your opponent gives you an indication of what you have right or wrong and getting those grey cells ticking you too can break the code!
If Scrabble always took far too long for you, you would probably enjoy Boggle – the principle is similar, but the pace if fast and furious. You have 3 minutes to make as many word combinations as possible.