The top five places to get free drinks in a child friendly environment.

Taking your child out most days can get very expensive. it is therefore always good when you can get something for free. Especially somewhere where your child feels comfortable and enjoys. Most of these free drinks entail joining a loyalty reward scheme, but all bar one are free to join.
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  • Waitrose:With the My Waitrose loyalty card you can get a free cup of tea or coffee every day. This is especially good in Waitrose stores that have a cafe as you can give your child their lunch/snack whilst you have a drink (and maybe a cake or sandwich if you want to spend some money). The card also gives you additional benefits such as a free newspaper, to read with your drink, when you spend £5 in store on weekdays or £10 at weekends. You can check for your nearest store and join the programme online here.
  • Toddler groups: I have 3 local toddler groups that I attend regularly. Not only are they great for the kids it’s also a great way of getting to know local parents. One group charges £1.50, another £2 and the third, which is church run, is free but asks for donations. the two paid ones run for about an hour and a half and they give free snacks to the children. The church one runs for an hour and don’t offer child specific snacks, but have biscuits which both adults and children can have. All of them offer  free tea and coffee and usually biscuits as well. This is great value compared to going to say a soft play which is much more expensive and don’t offer the routine of familiar faces.
  • IKEA: With the Ikea family card, which is free to join, you get unlimited free tea and coffees during weekdays (I wouldn’t want to take a child to Ikea at the weekend anyway) as well as discounts of food. A 6 piece breakfast comes in at £1.50 with the card which is amazing value considering the drink is free as well. They are also very child friendly with a play area withing the restaurant. The last time my daughter went she also loved going to the children’s showroom, where she was exploring ther beds and play tents that they had on display. For over 3 year olds they also have a creche where you can leave your child for an hour. To join Ikea family and/or to find your local store click here.
  • Dobbies Garden Centres: Although not technically free as it’s a paid membership it is very good value and my daughter loves walking around looking at the plants and indoor displays and especially the aquarium. To join the Garden Club costs £10, but you receive 2 vouchers to use each month, so 24 in total. As drinks are about £2.50 you effectively get £50 worth of drinks for £10. The restaurants are also very spacious and have a little play area. Also you get rewarded on money spent at the garden centre as well as 10% of plants so if you buy £100 worth of plants you will actually get a discount of £10, which is your membership fee as well as a £2 voucher in your annual statement. To find your local store and/or to join click here.
  • John Lewis: When we joined the My John Lewis reward programme we got several vouchers for a free drink and cake. This was always gratefully received. I have heard that John Lewis are changing their reward scheme so you might not get these vouchers. However it is free to join so is probably worth doing if you have a local store. To find out more and/or to join click here.
  • O2 priority: A bonus one for O2 customers. If you have an 02 phone you can get a free cup of coffee every Tuesday at Cafe Nero. If you like your coffee, and are not with O2, it might even be worth getting a free 02 pay as you go sim for an old phone to get this reward. To find out more click here.

What do you think of my suggestions? Can you think of any more, then let me know.

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My top ten books for under twos

Below are my top ten books for under twos. Based on the reading habits of  my soon to be 2 year old. Having said that she pretty much loves all books and often what she likes can change from one day to the next. However the below are some of her most loved ones.

 

 This is a great book that my daughter just loves reading. In fact she has a few other Rod campbell books, which she also really likes, but this one is probably her favourite.

Postman bear is written by the creators of the Gruffalo and is a great lift the flap book. My eldest has two others in the series “tales of Acorn Wood” they are Fox’s Socks and Hide and Seek Pig. Both of which i can heartily recommend as well.

This is probably the first story book we read to her, when she was younger, as part of her bedtime routine. She wanted it to be read to her for months on end and she really loved it.

What the ladybird heard is a great story and my daughter loved finding the hidden ladybird on each page. However she quickly memorized all the locations and really enjoys pointing to it straight away with a big smile on her face. This book also teaches them about farm animals and the noises they make.

She absolutely loves this book, however unsupervised she did manage to tear out all the pop-up pieces so we have had to source a replacement as it’s not that easy to find anymore. Although there are some other Mr Croc books that she loves just as much, which are still available.

This is the first Peppa Pig book that my daughter got and she absolutely loves it. She loves it for being a book and not through the television show as she has never watched television yet. She now also enjoys Peppas Washing Day especially the bit about getting muddy.

Being Dutch Miffy is an iconic children’s book character and so we have got quiet a few of the books. She currently absolutely loves this one. Probably as we took her to the beach over the christmas break and that is still fresh in her mind.

Another classic book, but one that she loves. She especially loves recognizing and pointing at all the different food items.

 This book is all about potty training so we gave it to our daughter at the same time as we brought out the potty. It’s an ideal and fun way of teaching her about the function of a potty. She did start sitting on the potty shortly afterwards, but after an interrupted and extended christmas visit to see family the potty hasn’t really come back out again.

This is a recent addition from one of the christmas events at a local toddler group. She really enjoys it though especially getting to the last page.

 

Our daughter is a real book worm and we have tons of other books, which she will happily read, the above ones are probably the ones that have been read the most though.

Has anyone got any other unmissable books for under two’s? Also now she is turning two in 10 days time can anyone recommend some books for the next stage up?

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The top 5 free things to do with a toddler outside the house.

Entertaining a toddler can be an expensive business, classes and outings soon add up so it’s great when you can find some free things to do. Below is a list of some of my favourites.

 

Museums are a great place to visit with young children, especially during the week when most older children are in school. They can be both   educational and fun. We live fairly close to Tring and love going to the Natural History Museum there. It makes for a great trip out and can be done whatever the weather.

  • Playgrounds     
    Copyright, Ctd 2005

    Copyright,Chris Darling

    Playgrounds are lots of fun for little ones. In the spring, summer and autumn we visit our local one almost daily. Even in winter we try and go a few times a week. To mix it up and to keep things fresh for both of us, I try and take my daughter to playgrounds in other surrounding villages. That way she gets a new experience.

  • Classes in your local Sure start Centre 
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    Sure Start Centres are excellent services run on a non-profit basis, with trained family support workers. They aim to have two universal services a week which mean anyone can attend. In addition they have other classes/sessions, which you might be able to attend if you fall into the specific target group, which is set by each centre individually. Most services should be free. For more information go to the Childrens Centre Website.

  • Play dates

    Copyright, Madgerly

    Copyright, Madgerly

Play dates are a great for both the parents and the children. The children learn socialising skills and how to play with/near each other. They also  learn how to share which is very important. For the adults it is great to have some adult conversation and also to share child raising experiences.  We try and have play dates for our daughters as often as we can.

  • Annual Pass
    Copyright, Paul Albertella

    Copyright, Paul Albertella

    Although technically not free an annual pass is a one off purchase or you can ask for one as a present. Once you have one you can use it for free entry as many times as you like. Last year we had an annual pass for Woburn Safari Park and we used to go most weeks.  We didn’t do the drive through safari that much as our daughter couldn’t see out of the car that well. However we did the walking safari and made good use of the indoor soft play area on rainy days. Whenever we were stuck for something to do the safari park always came to the rescue. Alot of places do annual passes and if you want to go a lot then it is well worth getting one.

 

Have I missed anything out? What would make your top 5?

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