A family of 5 with a zest for life

How I'm Saving for a trip to Alton Towers with OhMyDosh

*This is a collaborative post & contains referral links

After our trip to Florida last year, my children have been nagging me constantly to visit a 'proper' theme park with white-knuckle rides this year. I think we've narrowed it down to either Alton Towers or Blackpool Pleasure Beach. There's no denying that these sorts of attractions and I'll definitely be looking for various offers nearer the time but I think it pays to start saving for this kind of day out early. With this in mind, I have signed up to OhMyDosh which is an easy to use site, designed to help make you money online. I really believe that having a specific goal in mind works well when using these sorts of sites so I've set myself a goal of earning £50 to put in our Alton Towers fund by the end of July. 

How I'm Saving for a trip to Alton Towers with OhMyDosh

How to Earn Money Online with OhMyDosh

It really could not be easier to open an account. Simply head over to the OhMyDosh website here and sign up. It's FREE to do so and your account will immediately be credited with your first 50p for doing so. You then earn money by completing a variety of online tasks. Cash will generally take 1-2 months to be credited to your account and once you've reached £10, it will be paid out to you via PayPal. I've found the website to be super easy to navigate and very easy to use. There are a number of ways you can earn money, all from the comfort of your sofa. Here are a few of my favourites:

1 - No Spend

These offers allow you to earn money online with no spend from yourself. Current offers range from claiming a free O2 sim card and earning £2.50 to earning £5.00 for signing up for a FREE trial to Amazon Prime. Instructions for how to earn your commission really are super clear. 

2 - Competitions 

I love entering competitions online anyway, so being rewarded for doing so with an extra cash incentive is very appealing to me. At the moment, you can earn anything from 34p - £6 simply for entering a competition and prizes range from a year's shopping at Asda to an Audi Car and £10,000 cash. 

3 - Surveys

In my early twenties, I used to spend a lot of time completing surveys and would earn around £50 every few months. If you have some spare time, completing surveys in return for cash really is a quick and easy way to earn some extra cash online. Current surveys are paying out anything from 31p - £3.32 online when completed via OhMyDosh and if you're opinionated like me, it's nice to know your voice is being listened to.

4 - Save Money

Being paid to save money sounds like a no-brainer to me! This section of the OhMyDosh website allows you to earn up to £20 simply for finding the best utility deal through a company such as USwitch or the National Energy Helpline. 

5 - Shopping & Trials 

If you're interested in trying something new, there are a variety of trials available to sign up to via OhMyDosh with the added incentive of earning extra cash. There are lots of big-name brands to choose from including Sky Cinema, Amazon, Gousto and Audiobooks. I've signed up for a 30 day trial of Which! magazine and earned £7.50 in the process - it's always something I've fancied doing and it's something I've found useful for researching a new cooker purchase. 

There are also opportunities to shop online and earn commission through OhMyDosh. Again, there are a fair few options and current deals that have caught my eye include earning £4.45 when you sign up to Cineworld Unlimited and the chance to earn £2.25 when buying a personalised children's gift. 

6 - Refer Friends 

If you've signed up to OhMyDosh and are enjoying earning cash online, it's quick and easy to refer your friends via your account with a special link they can use to sign up. They'll earn a £1 welcome bonus (50p for signing up and 50p for confirming their email address) if they use your link (here is my referral link if you fancy signing up yourself). You'll earn £5 for every friend you refer that earns over £10.

Top Tips for using OhMyDosh 

1 - I recommend signing up using a dedicated email address. Sometimes when you complete surveys or enter competitions online, your inbox can suffer because of it! I like to keep a dedicated email address for entering giveaways and completing surveys and check it daily for new offers ect.... it just keeps everything in one place and keeps my inbox in order. 

2 - Make sure you read the terms and conditions clearly. I love that the T&Cs are super clear to read via OhMyDosh and there's no hidden or tiny small print to read - it is all perfectly clear what you are signing up to and what you need to do to earn your ££. Sometimes you need to complete a free trial, other times, you may need to sign up to something for a year. Just make sure you always know what you're signing up for before you agree. Sometimes you may need to cancel a free trial before it ends to prevent being charged. Make sure you make a note in your diary to do this. 

3 - Don't buy anything you don't need. Sites like OhMyDosh are perfect if you're purchasing something you need or are treating yourself by something new but don't be tempted to buy something just for the sake of it to earn some extra cash. Common sense applies! 

4 - There are a few sign-up offers for online betting accounts. Something to be aware of if this is something you don't wish to join. There is a dedicated section to these types of links and it's pretty easy to avoid. 

5- Check out 'hot' and 'new offers regularly or sign up to the OhMyDosh mailing list to receive alerts. Once you're acquainted with the site, the OhMyDosh 'new' and 'hot' offers are the first place to head and check out brand new or popular deals that you won't want to miss out on. 

I've already managed to earn £10 using OhMyDosh and that was just through signing up, completing one survey and signing up to a Which! trial. I am confident I'll reach my £50 target in no time. Alton Towers, here we come! 

Earn your first £1 by signing up to try OhMyDosh here. Let me know what you'd like to earn and save money towards in the comments. 

Pin Me For Later 
How I'm Saving for a trip to Alton Towers with OhMyDosh


10 Reasons The Principal Hotel Manchester is Perfect for Families with Older Children

During our recent trip to Manchester, we decided to book a last minute overnight stay at The Principal Hotel. I'd read good things over on Steph's blog here and as Jack wasn't joining us for this trip and we were travelling as a family of 4, I wanted to make the most of our trip and book into a hotel which is something we don't often get to do as so many hotels don't offer rooms that are suitable for families of 5 at a reasonable cost.

Our stay was booked at the very last minute and on a very busy Saturday in Manchester. As well as St Patrick's Day, the Six Nations Rugby was taking place and Man U were playing at home. Most decent hotels were coming up at £400-£500 per night for the 4 of us and there was only one Premier Inn left which was out of the city centre and would set us back £149 room only. Yikes! The Principal Hotel was coming up at £199 which included breakfast and seemed like a very good deal so I booked asap. We booked using a kids stay and eat for free offer. We absolutely loved our stay at The Principal Hotel and would definitely recommend to other families. Here's why we loved it so much:

1 - Location

The Principal Hotel is located just across the road from Oxford Road Train Station. Our train from Newcastle actually stopped at this station which is super convenient. We decided to get off the train at Picadilly on this occasion though (quicker for getting to Legoland) and there is a FREE Metro Shuttle bus which transfers passengers between stations (we used Green route 2). You don't need to pre-book these shuttles, simply hop on and off.

The location of the hotel is perfect for families - there's an Archie's Shake and Waffles shop across the road from the hotel and Dog Bowl is just around the corner which is a tex-mex restaurant and trendy bowling alley allowing kids on-site until 7pm. We walked to the Museum of Science and Industry from the hotel and it was a quick and easy route which was well-signposted and took around 15 minutes on foot with kids. Not bad.

2 - Trendy yet child-friendly bar

Refuge by Volta is one of the best hotel bars I've seen in a while! It is super stylish with amazing food, fantastic cocktails AND a there was a live DJ playing funk and soul classics on Saturday night. Kids are welcome until 9pm and there's a little sidebar joined onto the Winter Garden room with table football and a pool table which will keep them entertained. Our bedroom was overlooking the bar's beautiful outdoor courtyard and we could hear the live DJ from our room a little. The noise stopped at 11pm on Saturday so it wasn't exactly too bad (we were all still awake watching a movie anyway) and I expected a bit of noise staying in a city centre but if you have younger kids who need silence in order to sleep, it might be worth asking for a quieter room in the hotel which I am sure can be arranged.

3 - Spacious Rooms with smart TVs and free WiFi

We booked a standard guest room and were kindly upgraded to a deluxe room. The reason given on check-in was because they realised we'd travelled quite a distance and had two children with us so thought we'd appreciate the extra space which was a nice touch. Most rooms sleep up to 4 adults and we had more than enough space. We really appreciated lots of nice touches such as a large smart TV which we used to snuggle up and watch a movie together on Saturday night, Elemis toiletries which I'm sure most teens will appreciate, free WiFi which required no password and was super easy to connect and you are given access to over 100 complimentary online magazines and newspapers in your room which I think is a fab idea and would love to see more hotels offering this service.

4 - An in-room tuck box 

All rooms are provided with a complimentary in-room tuck box filled with treats such as Tyrells crisps, chocolate biscuits and even drumstick lollipops. Ours didn't last two minutes and Harry and Heidi loved these extra treats. There's also a 'corner shop' in the hotel lobby selling lots of treats for kids and grown-ups alike.

5 - Fantastic breakfast

Who doesn't love a hotel breakfast? We were really impressed with The Principal Manchester's offering. We were seated in the Winter Garden room which is such a beautiful setting and really helped our day to get off to the best start. Harry and Heidi were over the moon when they were offered a big mug of hot chocolate as us grown-ups were provided with coffee. Perfect for a chilly winter's morning and it really made them feel included. The hotel breakfast is buffet-service and there was lots to choose from including cooked items, pastries, cereals and fruits/yoghurts. Everything was of very good quality and I especially recommend the Lemon and Poppyseed muffins.

6 - In-room fridge

Our bedroom was practical as well as stylish and we really appreciated an in-room fridge which was perfect for keeping the kids' drinks cool (and storing our beer!).

7 - Fantastic offers for families and loyalty programme 

The Principal Hotel Manchester offers lots of fantastic deals for families and we were able to take advantage of a kids eat and stay for free deal which really kept the cost down. They also offer a fantastic 'Applause' loyalty programme which is free to sign up and includes lots of fantastic perks such as 10% off your stay when you book direct, £5 to spend in the bar, restaurant or room service every time you stay, late check out and speedy check-in and check-out. These are all well thought out perks that are actually really useful and definitely enhance your stay and encourage you to book direct again.

8 - Extra treats to ensure kids are welcome

Children aged under 11 are supposed to receive a Percy the Fox cuddly toy, Hetty the bath frog, YoYo bear snack and a fluffy bathrobe (to borrow) now I'm not sure if this was down to the fact that we were upgraded at the last minute or whatever but we weren't provided with these on our visit. I am sure if I'd phoned reception they would have obliged but I'm the type of person who never likes to make a fuss. Heidi would have been over the moon with a fox cuddly toy (she is cuddly toy obsessed) and I'm sure this is just an oversight and she'll receive one on our next visit. Teens aged 12-15 are welcomed with their own retro sweet box and can of pop and babies will receive a cot on request, baby bath products plus complimentary warm milk via room service.

9 - Children's menu and Churros via room service

We tried to book into the hotel's Refuge by Volta restaurant but unfortunately, it was fully booked. If you'd like to dine here, I'd highly recommend booking in advance. We were super tired after exploring Manchester and it was -2 degrees and snowing outside so we weren't keen on venturing out. There are lots of restaurants in the vicinity but we decided to order room service and watch Saturday Night Takeaway and a movie in our room instead. Room service was very reasonable and catered well for families - Harry ordered a child's burger and chips followed by Churros, Heidi ordered a child's portion of tomato pasta and churros, Steve went for Lamb Shwarma with an extra portion of chips and I ordered a cheese and ham toastie which was served with chips. All of this was delivered to our room within 30 minutes of ordering and was all super tasty. It only set us back £32 including our £5 Applause member discount which we thought was a steal. The food was all delicious and we all cleared our plates. I loved that the staff brought the kids' churros to our room around 20 minutes after our mains had been delivered so they were still nice and hot - a lovely touch.

10 - Cookies on check out

During check out, guests are offered a complimentary homemade cookie which really put a smile of Harry and Heidi's face and left us with a positive lasting impression of the hotel.

I have well and truly been converted to The Principal Hotel brand. After posting a few pics across Social Media a few people have been in touch and highly recommended their hotels in Edinburgh and York so I'd definitely like to check these out at some point in the future too. The hotel is super stylish yet warm and welcoming too and all of the staff we encountered really went that extra mile to make sure our stay was a positive one and really included Harry and Heidi too. I've had a quick look again at hotel rates and some dates are definitely more expensive than others but I say if you can find a good deal like we did, you should 100% book a stay with your children and you won't be disappointed.

Disclosure: We paid for our own stay. 

Pin Me For Later
10 Reasons The Principal Hotel Manchester is Perfect for Families with Older Children


10 Signs You Are Now Parenting a Tween (+ Molly Brown London Giveaway)

*This is a collaboration with Molly Brown London

My lovely Heidi turns 9 next month and I know it's cliche to say this but it's like the last decade has flown by in the blink of an eye. Yet it also feels like the days of snuggling up on the sofa watching In the Night Garden were a million years ago. I really try hard not to dwell too much on losing my babies as they grow up and want to focus on the fun and challenges that the next phase of parenting involves. Heidi is a quiet, fun, sensible girl with a strong will who loves to play sports and embraces every challenge. Today I thought I'd record 10 signs I've spotted that she's turning into a Tween. 

10 Signs You Are Now Parenting a Tween (+ Molly Brown London Giveaway)

1 - They'll continuously ask for sleepovers

Heidi has slept over at her grandparent's house but has yet to enjoy her first proper sleepover with her friends. It's something that she continuously asks me about and I'm sure the other parents in Heidi's class feel the same. She's only in year 4 and if I remember rightly, my first sleepover with friends didn't happen until I was in year 6. After discussing it with another mam at school, I've decided to let her have a pyjama party from 5:30pm - 8:30pm for her birthday this year and if the girls are sensible enough, then that will give the green light for a proper sleepover next year. I'd love some advice on this though - when did you let your daughter attend her first sleepover party?

2 - Spongebob is replaced with I Am Frankie & YouTube

Heidi's favourite TV show always used to be Spongebob but over the past 6 months, she's switched from watching cartoons and now chooses Tween dramas such as I Am Frankie instead. The plus side of these changing tastes is that Heidi now watches quite a bit of TV with myself, Steve and Harry. We love watching The Chase, Casualty and Saturday Night Takeaway together. I've also introduced Heidi to a couple of my favourite Tween movies and a few months ago we watched Legally Blonde and Titanic together which was lovely.

3 - Your mobile phone bill increases

Heidi and Harry both have their own phones now (we gave them our old ones when we upgraded). For a while they were happy with sim-free but now that Heidi likes to text her friends ect..... we top the kids' mobiles up once a month. It's only an extra £25 every month between the two of them - but it's enough to make me notice.

4 - A little bit of cheekiness creeps in as they push the boundaries

I know this is to be expected but Heidi has always been a very well behaved child (unlike her brothers) but recently I've noticed she is trying to push the boundaries a little bit. It's nothing too bad and I doubt outsiders that don't know her would even realise but there has definitely been a subtle change in her behaviour as she starts to gain a little more independence and know her own mind.

5 - Toys are replaced with clothes and jewellery

Remember when your children would circle the Smyths or Argos catalogue or ask for every single toy that was advertised on Nick Jnr? Well that is now a thing of the past and has been replaced with a love of clothes and jewellery. We could spend hours shopping together now and if I ever need to pop into a shop to buy something, I can guarantee you'll find Heidi checking out the bags, jewellery and accessories.

6 - Their bedroom needs a makeover

I love Heidi's bedroom but it is rather on the childish side with bright pink curtains and Shopkins/My Little Pony bedding. Heidi definitely needs a more grown-up space now and we'll be decorating her bedroom as part of her birthday present this year.

7 - They use words you don't understand 

Heidi and Harry take great delight in talking about the latest craze that's sweeping through school and laughing that I don't know what they're on about. It's like they have their own secret language at times!

8 - Walking home holding hands is a thing of the past 

The days of walking home hand in hand with both Heidi and Jack seems to be a thing of the past now. Jack still likes to hold my hand (for now) but Heidi prefers to just use me as someone to dump her bags on and will then run off and walk home with her friends. Sob!

9 - You can't keep up with their social life 

If you thought the pre-school years were bad, just wait until your children are older! Heidi has swimming lessons, golf lessons and endless plans to visit friends after school. It's a struggle trying to keep up.

10 - They'll take pride in their appearance 

Heidi always puts together her own outfits and styles her own hair these days - I swear she is better at it than me! I guess we have all those YouTube videos she watches to thank for that.

Celebrating the Tween years with Molly Brown London 

Molly Brown London is a British brand that creates classic keepsake jewellery for children. Their birthday gifts for girls start at just £12.50 and their range is perfectly placed to make a memorable birthday gift for Heidi this year. I have selected this Dream Star Bracelet to gift Heidi on her 9th birthday next month and I just know she's going to love it. The piece features an adjustable chain that can be resized as she grows and as it's such a classic design, I know she's going to treasure it throughout her tweens, teens and beyond. I really want to celebrate this next phase of Heidi's life and a gift from Molly Brown London feels like the perfect way to mark Heidi's birthday this year.

What really sets Molly Brown London apart from other brands, is their absolutely gorgeous packaging which really does set this gift apart and give it the wow factor. I can't wait to see Heidi open this! I know she's going to love it and it will really let her know how special she is to us. Heidi's birthday is at the end of April - I'll share some photos of Heidi wearing her new bracelet across Social Media then.

Molly Brown London Giveaway 

Molly Brown London has kindly provided us with a Dream Star Bracelet to giveaway to one lucky reader. The bracelet will arrive beautifully packaged just like ours and will make a wonderful gift to a special tween in your life. Simply enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!


10 Child-friendly places to take the kids for fish and chips this Good Friday

I just love going out for fish and chips with the kids on Good Friday and it's a tradition we've taken part in for as long as we can remember. Over the years, we've tried various places across the North East and all of the fish and chips mentioned in this post have been personally tried and tested by either us as a family or my friends. Let me know if you have any favourites we've missed that we should try.

10 Family-friendly places to take the kids for fish and chips in North East England this Good Friday

If the weather is nice, we like to grab a takeaway and enjoy our fish and chips on the beach. If you'd like to do this, my top tip is to get to your chosen takeaway as soon as they open as queues on Good Friday really build up quite quickly! Personally, I prefer to book a restaurant these days as it stops us having to deal with bored kids in a queue and it's warmer too! We tend to take part in a National Trust Egg Hunt or a walk along the coast afterwards.

1 - Evan's Bistro, Whitley Bay

Evan's Bistro in Whitley Bay are hosting a special Good Friday event this year. Diners can enjoy a hand-battered Cod fillet served with homemade chips and tartar sauce for just £7.50. Children aren't forgotten either and fish goujons, chips and peas plus a drink and ice cream will set you back just £4.95. The restaurant has it's own children's snug filled with games and toys so it's perfect for families looking for a relaxed lunch or dinner after a walk along the coast. Find out more here and call 0191 252 6532 to book.

Fish and Chips - Evan's Bistro 

2 - Colman's Seafood Temple, South Shields 

Colman's Seafood Temple is the only place on this list I haven't visited personally. My good friend Katie Jane speaks very highly of this place though and is a frequent visitor. I trust Katie's judgement (check out Katie's review here) and we're planning on finally visiting Colman's Seafood Temple in South Shields in the Easter Holidays so I'll update this post with my own thoughts once I've visited. Prime Cod and chips will set you back £9.75 and children's meals are priced at £5.25 including a drink and ice cream. There's so much to do in South Shields after your meal from Ocean Beach Pleasure Park to Dunes Soft Play or a walk along the beach. Find out more here and call 0191 511 1349 to book.

Fish and Chips - Colman's Seafood Temple | Credit | Katie Jane Online 

3 - Black Horse Beamish

We booked the Black Horse Beamish pub for Fish and Chips a few years ago and were really impressed. The restaurant is light and airy, the staff attentive and the food was delicious too. There's a play park in the beer garden for the kids if the weather plays ball too. Fish and Chips are a little on the pricey side here at £14.95 for a full portion or £9.95 for a half portion but worth it for a treat. Children's meals are reasonable at £4.95 for a main, dessert and drink. Black Horse Beamish is well located for a trip to Tanfield Railway or Beamish Museum.  Find out more here and call 01207 232 569 to book.

Fish and Chips - Black Horse Beamish

4 - Marshalls, Tynemouth

Marshalls on Tynemouth Front Street is a bit of a North East institution and there are always queues on Good Friday but they are 1000% worth it. You can choose to dine in their traditional cafe or take out and enjoy overlooking Kind Edward's Bay. Find out more here.

Fish and Chips - Marshall's Tynemouth

5 - Pantrinis, Whitley Bay

Pantrinis in Whitley Bay is a fantastic option if you're looking for traditional fish and chips by the sea. Diners can eat in (recommended) or take-away. Meals are very reasonably priced too. Find out more here.

Fish and Chips - Pantrinis Whitley Bay

6 - Longsands Fish Kitchen, Tynemouth

Longsands Fish Kitchen in Tynemouth is award-winning and I can certainly see why. You can dine in (recommended) or take away. I adore their crispy squid and fish and chips with curry sauce - yum! Cod and chips will set you back just £9.95 when dining in and £5.95 for kids (with ice cream). Find out more here and call 0191 272 8552 to book.

10 Family-friendly places to take the kids for fish and chips in North East England this Good Friday
Fish and Chips - Longsands Fish Kitchen

7 - Coastline, Blyth 
You can order traditional fish and chips or stonebaked pizzas from Coastline Blyth. It's another restaurant where you can choose to dine in as we did this winter or take away. Coastline is perfectly located for a walk along the prom and there are two big parks right outside and an ice cream parlour on site too - perfect for families. The Coastline Special with all the trimmings including a cup of tea is £11.50 and kids meals are £3.90 including chips and a drink.

Fish and Chips - Coastline Blyth 

8 - The Harbour Fish Bar, Amble 
The Harbour Fish Bar in Amble is one of our go-to places when staying in our family caravan at Cresswell. The fish and chips from here are always authentic and perfect to eat in the car overlooking the harbour (and to avoid those pesky seagulls). Find out more here. 

10 Family-friendly places to take the kids for fish and chips in North East England this Good Friday
Fish and Chips - The Harbour Bar, Amble 

9 - The Little Fishy, Quayside Seaside  
The Little Fishy will be settled into their new summer home on the Quayside Seaside in time for Good Friday. This year's Quayside Seaside is going to feature a playground for children aged 3-7 years as well as buckets and spades, lots of sand and striped deckchairs for the grown-ups. It will be a perfect choice if the weather is warm and sunny. Fish is a little different here - sourced from North Shields Fish Quay, covered in Panko Breadcrumbs and fried in Rapeseed oil. Find out more here.

Fish and Chips - The Little Fishy

10 - Bells Fish and Chips Restaurant, Durham 

Bells Fish and Chips Restaurant in Durham City Centre has a real quality feel about it and is a lovely place to visit for a treat. Children are made to feel very welcome in the restaurant and we loved their kid's packs last year. You can choose to dine in or takeaway. Cod, chips, tartar sauce and bread and butter is less than a tenner and children's meals are £6.45 including ice cream. Find out more here and call 0191 3848974 to book.

10 Family-friendly places to take the kids for fish and chips in North East England this Good Friday
Fish and Chips - Bells Fish Restaurant Durham

I'd love to hear where you'll be heading for Fish and Chips this Good Friday. 


How my parenting style has changed through the years

*This is a collaborative post

I remember during my first pregnancy with Harry, I had very clear ideas about what sort of parent I'd be. I read lots of baby books and was sure I'd be pretty strict and live by routine. Gina Ford's Potty Training in a Week and Contented Baby books were my bibles (they were all the rage back in 2006) and I was super strict with Harry's routine. I even had a rota for Steve and I to share night feeds and had set nap times that could not be changed for anything. This is probably how many new mums of my age acted with their firstborn and when I look back at myself now I can't help but smile at how different I am now.

How my parenting style has changed through the years

The kind of parent I am these days is very different to how I was back in 2006. I am so much more relaxed and confident now and know to trust in my own instincts. I've just taken this fun quiz to find out what type of mum I am and it turns out I'm an 'Organic Mum' which I think describes me to a T. 

We really try and encourage Harry, Heidi and Jack to be free thinkers and open-minded so I'm really pleased that this came out in the quiz. I'm also a huge believer in learning through experience and strongly believe in never hiding emotions or the truth from my children.  I honestly can't believe how accurate the quiz results are and how it has perfectly summed my parenting personality. 

Parenting through the years 

Looking back over the years, my parenting style has definitely changed and I think if I'd taken this quiz a few months after each baby was born, the result would have been very different each time.

Harry - 2006

With Harry I worried about so much as it was all new to be. I remember waking him up in the middle of the night to change his nappy! Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I remember I'd not let a mobile phone near him at all and used to make people take them into another room if they were near Harry and had a super strict routine. This worked well for us as first-time parents and when Harry was the only thing we had to think about and very much the centre of our world. It kind of worked in our favour as Harry was sleeping through and in a really good routine by around 8 weeks old.

Heidi - 2009 

I was technically unemployed after being made redundant during pregnancy when Heidi was born and my mam was a stay-at-home foster carer so we spent a lot of time together. Because I already had Harry to take to nursery, I was a lot more chilled with Heidi as she just had to fit into our routine. I definitely wasn't so strict but at the same time, we had to be up and out of the house at 8:15am every day so I was also a lot more organised with Heidi. When Heidi was born, it's when our love of days out really started as being cooped up in a 2 bedroom flat with two small children was not the best. As Heidi was born in April, we spent a lot of the time out and about and I was a lot less worried as a parent and more confident in my abilities and would take my babies everywhere and anywhere.

Jack - 2010 

My parenting style with Jack couldn't have been any different to my style with Harry. By the time baby number three came along I was super laid back and chilled and I am still that way now. We celebrated Christmas and moved house to Cramlington all within a week of Jack being born so he kind of had no choice but to just fit in. There was definitely no Gina Ford routine with Jack and I switched to baby-led weaning instead of purees which fitted into our busy family life a lot easier. A lack of routine with Jack did mean that he took a lot longer to sleep through - I think it was around 13 months for him to reach this milestone. But I didn't mind as I knew he'd get there.

These days, I am very much a free-range parent to Harry, Heidi and Jack now and actively encourage them to take responsibility for themselves and to take risks. I really want them to grow up to love adventures, try new things and knowing how to do things for themselves. I'm not a strict parent but we do have clear boundaries and rules at home (eg no playing on electronic devices until the kids have completed their homework, chores and reading with no exceptions) and I try and plan lots of family time and days out together as I really believe that lots of family time and seeing the world together does the kids so much good. I never thought this would be the type of parent I'd end up being - I really thought I'd love routine, and very much be a helicopter parent. It's weird how things turn out!

What do you think? Has your parenting style changed over the years? Why not take this quiz and let me know your results. 


What to do when it rains in North East England | 20 places to visit with kids - all accessible via public transport

Living in the North East, you can always count on one thing - you're never too far from a rain shower. It doesn't matter what season it is, there's always going to be rain at some point. Sometimes we like to embrace the rain, pop on our wellies and go out for a walk and other times we like to hibernate and have a day at home baking and watching movies. There are times when I can't stand to be in the house a second longer - especially during those weekends where it rains non-stop so today I thought I'd share 20 places to visit with the kids when it rains and they're all accessible via public transport too. Let us know in the comments if there's anywhere you'd add to the list.

What to do when it rains in North East England | 20 places to visit with kids - all accessible via Public Transport

1 - Discovery Museum, Newcastle 

The Discovery Museum is a free-to-visit attraction in Newcastle City Centre. There's lots for families to enjoy from the Newcastle Story exhibition where you can walk through the toon through the decades to lots of fun interactive and temporary exhibitions too.

2 - The Family Activity Centre, Royal Quays 

The Family Activity Centre is a fantastic place for kids to let off some steam. From basketball to cargo nets, ninja warrior, bouncy castles, trampolines and battle beams - there's loads to do. There's a nice mezzanine cafe area where grown-ups can enjoy a coffee and watch the action too.

3 - The Word, South Shields 

The Word in South Shields is a fantastic FREE attraction just by South Shields Market Place and Ferry Terminal. There are permanent engaging exhibitions, hands-on fun with tablets around the building, glorious views of the Mouth of the Tyne (with binoculars you can try), lots and lots of books to read, interactive displays and regular additional activities too. Don't miss the LEGO Metro Train at the entrance.

4 - South Shields Museum 

South Shields Museum is a fantastic free-to-visit Museum in the heart of the town. Just a short walk from the metro station, you'll find interesting permanent and temporary exhibitions and special events. Don't miss the history of South Tyneside and Creature Corner featuring live reptiles and small animals.

5 - Blue Reef Aquarium, Tynemouth

From Rays to Clownfish, Otters, Seals and Marmasets, there's a lot to see and do at Blue Reef Aquarium and you can come and go as you please throughout the day - perfect for ducking inside if you're visiting the beach during a day of sunshine and showers. There are regular animal talks and feeds throughout the day - don't miss the sharks!

6 - Great North Museum, Newcastle 

The Great North Museum is a free-to-visit attraction in the heart of Newcastle. Permanent exhibitions include a real Mummy, a replica of Hadrian's Wall, Ancient Greeks and Fossils. There are changing temporary exhibitions on the top floor providing a new reason to visit plus a Planetarium and a fantastic free/low-cost events programme.

7 - Clip n Climb Concordia, Cramlington 

Clip n Climb in Concordia Leisure Centre in Cramlington features dozens of climbing challenges and experiences. No previous experience is required as a full training and safety briefing is provided. Tackle the Lightning Crack, take on your friends and challenge them to a head to head race or try the Leap of Faith. There's a bowling alley, soft play and swimming pool in the centre too if you want to make a day of it. 

8 - Sunderland Museum Winter Gardens 

Visit Wallace the Lion, the first Nissan Car to be produced in Sunderland and take in the ship-building galleries in the museum before enjoying over 2000 plants in Sunderland Winter Gardens. 

9 - Life Science Centre, Newcastle 

There's always something going on at Life Science Centre for all ages and its location is perfect if you're travelling by train or metro. From the experiment and curiosity zone to science shows and a planetarium. It's difficult to get bored here!

10 - Mr Mulligan's Space Golf, Newcastle

A bit of rain doesn't stop the crazy golf at Mr Mulligan's as it's all indoors. Choose from three Space themed Golf adventures (or try them all). Mr Mulligan's is right next to the Gate so perfect to combine with a cinema trip or a bite to eat.

11 - Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle 

The Tyneside Cinema is the last operating News Theatre still operating as a Cinema today. This independent cinema runs lots of events for families from a popular egg and spoon club at their bar cafe in the holidays (complete with classic cartoons) to Bringing in Baby Screenings and a Children's Film Club. 

  • How to get there: Via Bus or Metro (Haymarket or Monument)
  • Cost: From £5
  • Find out more here: www.tynesidecinema.co.uk

12 - Wet n Wild, Royal Quays

Swimming is a fab choice for a rainy day and Wet n Wild with its flumes, slides, lazy rivers and wave pools is somewhere you can definitely spend the full day and get your money's worth. 

  • How to get there: Via Bus (Go North East 19)
  • Cost: From £6.95
  • Find out more here: www.wetnwild.co.uk

13 - Dunes Soft Play and Bowling, South Shields 

The Dunes in South Shields is an indoor complex featuring lots of fun. There's a giant 5-level soft play, bowling alleys, arcade, bar and popular Sunday Carvery. Lots to keep children of all ages entertained.

14 - Baltic and Sage, Newcastle  

The Baltic and the Sage on Gateshead Quays are both free to visit and next door to each other so perfect to combine on a rainy day in the toon. Kids will love exploring the various galleries and exhibits at the Baltic and the fantastic views from the viewing platform and lifts. The Sage is home to a nice little cafe and small play area that's free to use too.

15 - Bailiffgate Museum, Alnwick

You'll find Bailiffgate Museum in the heart of Alnwick. There are toy and local history exhibitions as well as regular special events and activities too.

16 - Seven Stories, Newcastle

Seven Stories is the National Centre for Children's Books and something we are so lucky to have on our doorstep here in the North East. The seven-story building is packed with hands-on exhibitions based on children's books, lots of books and interactive activities, craft areas, storytelling sessions, dress-up opportunities and plenty of opportunities to discover new books.

17 - Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend 

Segedunum Roman Fort is super easy to get to via Public Transport as it is right next door to both Wallsend Bus and Metro Station. Inside you'll find lots of Roman facts and hands-on fun. There's a fantastic viewing tower with glorious views over the Tyne and fort. The entrance fee is definitely worth a visit.

18 - Thought Foundation, Gateshead

The Thought Foundation in Birtly, Gateshead is a place where creativity and play are both encouraged and nurtured. There are galleries and exhibitions, a calendar of special events, a play zone and imagination station for ages 0-5 years, a fab community cafe serving healthy food and a gift shop selling unique and beautiful items. The Thought Foundation is a lovely place to provoke thought and inspire.

19 - Barter Books, Alnwick

Barter Books is one of the UK's largest second-hand bookshops and a fantastic place to hide away on a rainy day. Enjoy a hot chocolate and biscuits by the roaring fire or something more substantial in the station cafe, browse the vast collection of children's books, barter your old books for new and watch as a toy train travels around the ceiling. 

20 - Lane 7, Newcastle 

Lane 7 is our favourite bowling alley in the North East. It's trendy and also home to crazy golf, ping pong and karaoke too so lots to fill your day! The food is cracking too. 

Let me know if you have any places to add to my list 

Pin Me For Later 
What to do when it rains in North East England | 20 places to visit with kids - all accessible via Public Transport


A 3 hour lunch stop at Fountains Abbey with kids

Fountains Abbey is somewhere I have wanted to visit in forever. It's conveniently located not far from the A1 near Lightwater Valley and Ripon and is only about a 1 hour 20-minute drive from home for us but despite many plans for us to visit, we just never got around to it or something would come up!

A 3 hour lunch stop at Fountains Abbey with kids

Fountains Abbey is halfway between our home and Darwin Forest in Derbyshire so during our recent trip there, it felt like the perfect stop-off for lunch on the way home. Fountains Abbey is free to visit if you're a National Trust member as we are and there is plentiful free parking on site.

With three starving kids, we headed straight to the on-site restaurant for lunch. I think Steve is the only person over the age of 30 who does not appreciate a National Trust Tearoom. He honestly hates them! He doesn't moan about much but if I mention lunch and National Trust in the same breath he will normally twist his face. Apparently, a lot of their food is 'samey', pre-made and overpriced. I guess he kind of has a point but I think the delicious homemade cakes more than make up for it. The restaurant at Fountains Abbey actually received Steve's seal of approval as he tucked into a proper Yorkshire Pork Pie. Jack and I enjoyed the homemade sausage rolls too and everyone else devoured a couple of sandwiches, homemade chocolate brownies and crisps. At £29 for the 5 of us, I didn't think it was too bad at all. If I was visiting in the summer though I'd definitely pack a picnic as there are so many picnic spots in the grounds.

After lunch we walked past a play park but decided to give this a miss today as it was just supposed to be a flying visit. We'll definitely pop in next time. Before long, the Abbey was in sight and it really took my breath away. It is HUGE and in really good condition considering it was built in the 12th century.

My pictures just don't do the abbey justice. We ventured inside and there are so many rooms and ruins to explore, we barely touched the surface. There's a beautiful riverside walk from the abbey too and the banks were lined with snowdrops.

We left the Abbey behind in search of the Water Gardens and by this point it had decided to rain. Booo! Jack pointed out lots of different types of trees and there's lots of wonderful nature to admire as you walk. The water gardens are so peaceful and lovely to walk around. I can't wait to revisit when the sky is blue and the flowers are in bloom.

From the water gardens, we continued up to the deer park. I had no idea there was a deer park here! I think Studley Gardens (& deer park) and Fountains Abbey are actually two different National Trust properties next to each other. The kids were getting pretty tired by this point but I was determined to continue on so we hiked up a hill and then walked around the deer park trying our very best to spot some deer. We weren't in luck today but maybe next time. The views of the country park were beautiful.

The walk got a little weird here as we had to exit the deer park via a gate and then walk along a path outside of the grounds and next to a main road to bring us back to Fountains Abbey car park. By this point the kids were wrecked but I was still feeling raring to go and loved all of the country air we'd enjoyed.

We spent around 40 minutes in the restaurant and a couple of hours walking around the estate - we still barely scratched the surface and really can't wait to re-visit this summer for the full day with a picnic.

Let me know if you've visited Fountains Abbey and if you've enjoyed a walk around the estate with kids. 

Pin Me For Later 
A 3 hour lunch stop at Fountains Abbey with kids

© North East Family Fun | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Designed by pipdig