The Natural History Museum at Tring: a great day out.

We really needed to get out of the house today so we decided to go to the Natural History Museum at Tring.

Giant Sloth Natural History Museum Tring

Now if your only experience of a Natural History Museum is in London and you think we’re brave for taking a two year old and four month old out to the Natural History Museum then you are mistaken. Tring is nothing like the size of the Natural History Museum in London nor as busy. That makes it an ideal place to take young children.

What is it?

The Natural History Museum at Tring is basically a building that contains three floors of stuffed animals and some other exhibits. Today, for example, they also exhibited photos from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

The below photo is what greets you as you enter the main display area.

 

Polar Bear Natural History museum Tring

 

This is an imposing sight for a young child, but they love it. Other animals on display on the ground floor include big cats, monkeys and gorillas and lots of birds.

On the second floor they have lots of fish and insects as well as zebra, elephants and giraffe.

On the top floor they have antelope and deer, sea mammals, snakes and domestic dogs.

All in all it’s a very varied display of animals. In fact, it is one of the largest collection of animals that has ever been put together by a private individual, Sir Walter Rothschild. It’s basically a zoo where all the animals are really close and and stationary. This makes it much easier to see all the detail.

Handy things to know

  • Parking: There is a small car park attached to the museum. However, whenever we’ve been it’s always been full. There is usually on street parking available in side roads not too far from the museum.
  • Entry Costs: The museum has free entry for everyone. Although there are sometimes some activities and exhibitions for which there is a charge.
  • Facilities: There is a small gift shop and a cafe. However, the latter is only open at weekends and during school holidays. At other times, there are drinks and snack machines available and you can use the cafe facilities for packed lunches. There are numerous places to eat in Tring should you not wish to bring a packed lunch. There is also a Marks and Spencers nearby if you want to buy sandwiches.
  • Opening Times: Monday to Saturday the Museum is open 10.00 till 17.00 and on Sunday it is open 14.00 till 17.00. The museum is closed 24-26th of December.
  • School parties: It can be a little bit busy with school parties, there were three today. However you can always find quiet spaces to enjoy the exhibits.
  • Activities: The museum organises various activities. For example on Thursday the 12th of February they are organising a bird feeder workshop for under fives at a cost of £1.50 On Wednesday the 18th of February  they are doing a free den building activity in the adjacent Tring Park for over fives.
  • More information: For more information I suggest you go to their website here.

Conclusion

I would whole heartily recommend a trip to the Natural History Museum in Tring- even though my daughter said the below monkey looked like Daddy! I hope she meant the howler monkey in the foreground and not the mandrill’s bottom in the background.Howler Monkey Natural History Museum Tring

 

The List

From cot to toddler bed, the jury is still out.

So after our daughter turned two on Tuesday my wife and I decided yesterday that it was time to take the plunge and get her into a proper bed. So we decided to take the side down from her cot and give her a pillow and duvet instead of a sleeping bag. The picture below is how we presented it to our daughter.

big girls bed

 Initial reaction

My daughters reaction to it was great she was so happy to have a big girls bed. She got a bit over excited and decided to put every cuddly toy in the bed. The picture below is what her bed looked like when she was putting her toys in. 20150131_120843

 

However she did do really well yesterday with both her nap and at nighttime. She settled really quickly and didn’t get out of the bed at all. Which was really good and unexpected. It could just be that she forgot that she could now get out of the bed herself.

Jury still out

However the jury is still out as to how it will develop over the next few weeks. Today for example she didn’t have a nap and was running around her room. However another explanation for that could be that her uncle came to visit and only arrived half an hour before her nap time so she might have been too excited to sleep. This evening it took her a while to settle, but again that could have been over tiredness. The threat of putting the side back on her bed didn’t work. She did eventually settle and manged to tuck herself in under the duvet.

Exciting few weeks

Hopefully within the next few weeks she’ll settle down and enjoy the new found freedom she has with a proper bed. It will be a major step from baby to toddler/child if she can successfully adapt to sleeping in her new bed. I’ll let you know how we get on. It would also be great to hear your stories of making the change from cot to bed.

Car insurance tip for new stay at home parents. I saved £300!!

When you decide to become a stay at home parent the distance you drive and the use of your car can change quite drastically. So this year when I received my renewal quote from the RAC. I called them up to let them know of my change in circumstances. Only three changes were made.

 

 

 

 

The changes

  • The mileage went down from around 25,000 a year to about 7,000 a year
  • The car is no longer used for commuting
  • My “job” title changed from clerical to stay at home parent.

The result

 

 

 

After informing my insurance company of these changes the price fell from £588 to £280 a year. I don’t know which of these changes had the most effect on the huge drop, but I do know it was well worth it.

What I could have done differently

I could have used a comparison website such as Confused.com, however as I have had a recent claim it would have been more difficult to go through that process. I could also have looked at changing earlier in the year and getting a cheaper deal then, even if it meant paying a penalty for early cancellation of the existing policy, it could still have saved me money.

Conclusion

It is definitely worth checking changes to your car insurance premium when your driving habits change. Not only could it save you money, but if you don’t there is a chance that your car insurance will be invalidated when you try and make a claim.

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.
cup-of-coffee-455423_1280

  • 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.

The List

Things to do with two under two in the first year.

This post has been inspired by the following blog posts on One man and His Sprog and Mummy on a budget, which have lists for things to do for an under three and an under two year old.

So my list comprises of things that I want to do this year. Just before my eldest turns three and just after my youngest turns one.

This list is a work in progress, but so far I have the following goals. Some will be a family affair whilst others will be just for me and the kids.
Untitled

  1. Take them both swimming: Although I’ve been swimming with my eldest swimming with both of them will be a new experience. I’ll only be able to do this with my wife as we need to supervise a child each.
  2. Go out for a meal as a family of four: It will be nice to see them enjoy a meal outside the house. Our eldest should be able to eat from the restaurant menu, but we’ll still need to bring food for our youngest.
  3. Survive a work week without mummy: I think the first week after my wife goes back to work will be very difficult for the whole family as we adjust to the change in lifestyle.
  4. Go for a picnic: It will be great to enjoy an outdoor picnic once the weather warms up.
  5. Put them both on the swings at the same time: And more generally take them both to the playground. Our eldest loves going and is very independent, but still needs supervision when using the climbing frame. Hopefully she’ll improve lots over the coming months so I don’t have to worry about her quite as much.
  6. Build a snowman: We had a very brief flurry of snow on boxing day and my eldest daughter was engrossed. Unfortunately it had disappeared by morning so we couldn’t build a snowman. So here’s to hoping we get some more snow this year as I think my eldest would really love to build a snowman.
  7. wearing-oldhat-mittens
  8. Get more than 6 hours sleep in one go: As I’m writing this I’m suffering from sleep deprivation. The youngest is up most of the night with probable teething symptoms, although she also had her 3rd injection this week. During the day the eldest is very active and the result is two very tired parents.
  9. Have a romantic meal out for two: We have done this to some extent over the christmas break, however we were risking it as our youngest is exclusively breastfed and we didn’t really feel at ease and stayed within five minutes of home. We semi rushed our food, we didn’t wolf it down, but did ask the restaurant to bring the courses out quickly after each other as we were dreading a call from the babysitter saying she had an inconsolable baby. Hopefully later on in the year we should be able to enjoy a more relaxed evening out.
  10. Be on time to all planned events in a week: Getting two ready, especially one that is being breastfed and has no feeding routine is extremely difficult. We often find ourselves late for playgroups and play dates. Hopefully one week this year we will mange to get to them all on time.
  11. Attend the local music festival: This one hopefully shouldn’t be too difficult as it’s right outside our house. Last year my wife was heavily pregnant so didn’t really get to enjoy it. Hopefully this year we will be able to enjoy it as a family of four.

 

The list is a work in progress, but it is good to have some goals. I am also finding it hard to make goals that are relevant to both girls. As although we have two under two and there is only a 19 month difference at this age that is a huge difference. They are both at completely different stages in their lives. However it is good to have some ideas of what we can do together as a family.

I would love to hear other suggestions of things I can do this year with a soon to be two year old and a current four month old.

 

 

Ikea and the local garden centre, good places to explore

Our eldest daughter has really got the drawing, more like scribbling, bug at the moment. That’s pretty much all she wants to do. After her nap yesterday she spent the rest of the afternoon drawing Father Christmas, Snowmen and trees.

This morning she started of again so we decided we needed to get out of the house. It’s not that we don’t like her drawing, we actually really love the fact that she likes doing it. However she’s forever trying to get us to join in and it does become really tiring especially with a 4 month old in the house as well.

We decided to go to Ikea and look at some rugs so our daughters have a nice cozy place to lie down and relax. We also looked at duvets as our eldest daughter is getting ready to move from a cot to a toddler bed. Our daughter loved pushing her Postman Pat soft toy in her buggy all around Ikea. She especially liked going up and down the escalators. Whilst in the rug section of the store our eldest decided to get a sheepskin rug put it on the floor and lie on it. As that was what she had been doing at a relatives house. It was pretty cute, although other customers had to divert their trolleys to get round her.

We do have to be extremely vigilant as our eldest is pretty fearless and will be off like a shot going in the complete opposite direction than you want her too. She usually does this with a big smile as she knows she’s being a cheeky monkey. When it was time to get in the car she decided to throw a bit of a tantrum and it took a while to get her secure in her car seat. Luckily her younger sister slept throughout the whole trip.

After Ikea we decided to go to our local garden centre for a drink and some lunch. Packed lunch that is as we are on a budget. We had a quick bite to eat and then I took my daughter for a walk to look at some plants and the fish at the aquarium, whilst my wife topped up our youngest with some milk. Our eldest loved walking round the garden centre and was especially excited to see all the fish.

After another getting in the car tantrum it was time for a one and a half hour nap and then some drawing before dinner, bath and bedtime.

Tomorrow we are hoping to attend a local toddler group and then in the afternoon our youngest has got her third set of immunisations. Fingers crossed she doesn’t have a bad reaction to them.