Friday, 24 September 2010

Visit Chester Zoo for Less

By Jessica Bourne

With the recession still rearing its ugly head many families have had to cut back on luxuries such as family days out. Wouldn’t it be great if you could save money when taking the kids out…well now you can! There are thousands of vouchers and discount codes on offer to save you money at top UK attractions. Many of these include the UK's best family attractions such as theme parks, zoos, safari parks and museums. The offers available do vary but you can get 2 for 1 on admissions or kids go free. Keep an eye out for vouchers to use on your day out as well, you can save 20% in cafes or get some good deals on activities that cost extra. So next time you are thinking about taking the kids out search online for vouchers to use in your area and see how much you can save.

Moneysupermarket.com are currently offering a 3 for 2 on admissions Chester Zoo voucher. Chester zoo is proud to be the UK's number one zoo and is home to over 400 species of animals several of which are endangered. The zoo has plenty to see and do, stretching over 110 acres and containing over 7000 animals.

Keep an eye out for one of the zoos latest additions, a baby elephant born on 18th July named Nyan:

New Baby Elephant Chester Zoo
New Baby Elephant at Chester Zoo by Paolo Camera on Flickr



The zoo is a great educational and fun day out that gives children the chance to see exotic animals up close. A very popular experience at the zoo is the bat forest; here you walk through a darkened forest containing over 400 bats many of which are flying around! This is not one for the faint hearted and may not be suitable for young children. Butterfly journey is one of the largest butterfly houses in the UK and contains over 30 species of butterfly some from as far afield as Thailand. The butterfly journey is a tropical environment and contains beautiful tropical plants as well as butterflies.

The zoo is open all year round and often host events such as Encounter Days where you get up close to spiders, snakes and bats, or the Vets Experience which offers you a peek behind the scenes of the zoo and the chance to experience the work the vets do. One of the zoo's most popular events is their Frost Fair, which runs from 10th to 31st December and is the perfect day out to get you in the festive mood.

Chester zoo has so much to offer it is not surprising it is the UK's most visited zoo with over 1.4 million visitors every year, so why not take advantage of this great offer and take the kids for a fun filled day out.

Click here to claim your 3 for 2 admission voucher for Chester Zoo


- Jessica Bourne is a member of the Moneysupermarket.com voucher team

Monday, 20 September 2010

Free Family Entertainment - what did you do this summer?


When I was little, our first assignment of the new school year was always the “My Summer Holidays” essay. My compositions always featured things like catching tadpoles in the local pond and watching them sprout legs, trying the “Devil’s Dip” trail on my brother’s hand-me-down BMX, or having a water balloon fight with my brothers and step-dad. I have particularly fond memories of going on a long-distance scavenger hunt in the depths of rural Ontario, looking for things like “a Brown-Eyed Susan with one petal missing”.

It struck me that the things I remember most weren’t just the carefully planned outings that my parents had saved up for… my memories are full of these little moments of spontaneous fun in our every day lives. They didn’t need to spend a fortune – they had only to say “Let’s get the sprinkler out” and we’d be grinning all day.

We'd like you to tell us (and other mums and dads) about the best value free family entertainment you’ve enjoyed over this summer holiday. Just use the comments box below, or post something on our Facebook page. If you’re a blogger, just do your thing, give us a mention, and paste the link to your blog post below.
Here’s one from MumVersusKids -

This summer we packed the car and drove down to Middleton-on-Sea to enjoy a long weekend with some friends and their two kids. Now I know what you’re thinking, the English seaside isn’t quite the south of France, and four days with four children under nine doesn’t exactly sound like a walk in the park. Not least because two of them refused to even dip a single toe in the water.

Something amazing happened though – the change of scene made even a trip to the local playground or corner shop feel exciting. Back at the cottage, the kids found a small “hill”. It was man-made, part of the little green space separating our cottage from the sea. It took three long strides to reach the top, and two strides down the other side. A foot-wide ridge ran along the top. Now to an adult, this may not seem like much, but the children were drawn to it and the four of them ran back and forth along the “ridge” single file giggling. 

One of the Dads joined in and initiated a game of Silly Walks, getting them to traverse the ridge galloping sideways, hopping, tiptoeing, or shuffling backwards. And so ensued an entire afternoon of free family entertainment, peals of laughter ringing through the air and the crashing sea in the background. 

Our Free Family Entertainment challenge has been sponsored by Pizza Hut, who are running a Kids Eat Free* promotion until January 9 2011. They are also offering all of their customers some incredible deals on family activities including holidays, theme parks, zoos and even SCUBA lessons. On the bottom of any Pizza Hut Restaurant receipt you will find an offer code. Simply enter this code at http://www.pizzahut.co.uk/familyadventures to claim your vouchers.

* For every adult main course or adult lunchtime buffet purchased, an accompanying child can choose from either a FREE 2 course kids meal (includes a drink) or a FREE kids lunchtime buffet (includes pizza, pasta and salad). Find more details about the offer at http://bit.ly/a1DhgJ


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Friday, 17 September 2010

Prize worth £15,000 up for grabs - is this competition too good to be true?

Yes, you read it right, and no we didn't accidentally add an extra zero. See for yourselves, and click the image below to enter the competition...


Ah, yes, to enter you do need to place an order with Boden, but their Autumn collection is gorgeous, and you will have no trouble finding something you love... and you can take advantage of their 10% off sale. Have a look around mini Boden - they have the cutest little knee-patch trousers for £16 and some sweet duffel coats for about £21, and if you're buying a present for your friend's new baby, click here for deliciously cute outfit ideas.

We wish you all the best of luck with the competition (although we will be wishing ourselves luck as well!) - what a wonderful way to give your children a taste for history and incredible architecture. 


Good luck!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

ReallyKidFriendly's "Family Dates" in the Autumn edition of Baby London Magazine

In case you haven't yet heard us shouting it from the rooftops, we are honoured to be writing for this fabulous new glossy "lifestyle" magazine for London parents with babies and toddlers. Here's a little taste of the current issue - you can get your own copy delivered to your door for £10 per year by subscribing on their site, or register with Baby London for access to the full digital version.



For the next issue we'll be doing a Top 10 for Babies & Toddlers in London as well as a selection of dates for family activities and events between November 15th and February 14th. If you have any suggestions please add them below!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Bippityboppity boo – a touch of Disney magic is sprinkled over Milton Keynes

by Naomi MacKay

I’ve just been touched by the sparkly magic of Disney – and I didn’t have to get the train to Paris, or a plane to Florida. No, I just hopped in the car and drove up the A5 to Milton Keynes.

The Milton Keynes shopping centre is the location for the very first new Disney Store to open in England (Belfast and Aberdeen stores have already opened).

I can hear you muttering – yes I can. “Hmm, just another shop, so what’s the big deal?” The deal, if you’re any bit keen on Disney (and I must profess here to an unhealthy obsession with Tigger at this point), is that the nice folk at Disney are hoping that their new innovation will bring a real ‘experience’ to the store.

Whether you’re reminded of that much-loved family holiday to one of the Disney parks, or indeed, whether this is the closest your family might ever get to being at one, you should go home feeling a bit of that Disney magic.

So what’s new?
“Experience” is definitely the watchword for the new Disney Stores. Each morning, the store will have an opening ceremony, with a special giant lock, a giant key and one lucky child chosen to open the store. The chosen child also gets to take away a souvenir key to remind them of their day.

Inside the store, you’ll hear the same kind of ambient music you hear as you wander round the parks, and be greeted by ‘trees’ that act as projection screens, showing Disney characters, the seasons (watch out for the falling leaves in autumn) and even times of the day. They turn dark blue and are covered in sparkly stars during the closing ceremony (more about that later).

Little girls in particular will love the magical castle, through whose gateway you enter to be greeted by a (of course) magical mirror. Wave the princess wands on sale and the mirror shows the appropriate princess, along with a clip from her film. Toddlers have their own area too, with age-appropriate merchandise and a magical hidey hole with buttons to press and wheels to turn.

The aim is for visitors to follow the sparkly path through to the back of the store where the theatre lies. It has the sort of screen you usually find in the Disney store, but this has an added twist. An interactive screen allows children to flick through and find their favourite film or song and have it played on the screen.


The theatre will also be the venue for a number of children’s events, including animation workshops, storytelling – and the Imagination parade. All the children taking part get a character mask (which they can keep as a souvenir), learn a little dance step and then take part in the grand parade through the store watched by guests and parents. All events are free, include a free souvenir, and will last around 10-15 minutes, so not so long that they will take out a large chunk of your shopping trip, but a welcome break for kids and parents alike. The day’s events will be displayed on a giant screen in the window of the store – expect a couple on most days, with more on weekends and in school holidays.


Disney’s staff (or Cast Members as they are called) have also been briefed to help make the store experience as personal as possible. So, if you have a birthday or other special occasion, let them know. The big screen can display the birthday child’s name and everyone will sing and they’ll get a birthday badge to take home.

And don’t forget to look up. Around the top of the wall is a skyline featuring a number of Disney characters in silhouette. Nab a cast member and tell them that your child is, for instance, a huge fan of Tinkerbell – lo and behold she appears in the sky!

All these technological marvels are controlled by a smartphone-sized device and a specially commissioned programme. This enables Cast Members to control all the special effects, the screen and the music to create the desired effect.

If you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to get the kids out of the shop, fear not. At the end of the day, a special closing ceremony is held, just like in the parks. The lights dim, the trees sparkle and a moon shines on the big screen, then reveals Mickey and Minnie sitting on it, before the store says goodnight.

Milton Keynes new Disney store opens tomorrow (Sept 15th, 2010) with a grand opening being held on Saturday Sept 25, when Mickey and Minnie will appear, along with Paige O’Hara (the voice of Belle in Beauty and the Beast).

A new Oxford Street store is set to open next spring.



Naomi MacKay is a freelance writer and editor who works for a number of parenting titles, as well as technology and gardening magazines. She also works with businesses to raise their profile by working on their website content and presentation, email newsletters, press releases and more. She has a four-year-old son who has just gone into reception class – don’t even get her started on the schools application process!
www.naomimackay.co.uk
Blogging at:
http://impracticalparenting.wordpress.com
http://diggingthedirt.wordpress.com

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Gorgeous website by RL makes for a wonderful shopping experience!

Creative storytelling and stunningly beautiful web design makes for a wonderful shopping experience on the Ralph Lauren website. Rather than the standard online clothing shop format, RL invites you into a charming picture book with watercolour illustrations, narrated by Harry Connick Jr (ahh...).

A very real Hudson swings from a watercolour tree branch through clever design magic
 
Through some sort of web design magic, there are photos and video clips woven into the watercolour paintings, with gorgeous children running around in even more gorgeous clothes. In terms of showing off RL's new collection, it does a better job than any fashion show, and you will feel compelled to click on the members of the RL Gang to look through their wardrobes.

 

We definitely recommend a look around the site, if only to enjoy the experience and wonder how the children manage to run around picking apples and not get scrapes on their knees and leaves in their hair.

We should warn you that some of the prices listed on the site will make your eyes water... saying that, there are some really lovely, and affordable, baby clothes and children's clothing in the sale. Perfect for a christening present or a friend's new baby.