Review: Total Ninja (toddler session) 

I’ve noticed a few Groupon offers for a place called Total Ninja in Trafford Park. Given Boy1s obessesion with obstacle courses etc, I checked out the website. OMG a genuine Ninja Warrior style obstacle course. In Manchester (screams). 

Then through a random Facebook group I discovered they have launched weekday toddler sessions, so just had to check it out with Boy2. 

So yesterday we rocked up just before the start time of 11am and there was quite a queue, so much so that we didn’t get into the venue til 1115 – meaning I had to try and entertain an excited toddler for 15minutes – not easy. But the friendly manager did explain that on a first visit, customers need to register and they are hoping to have an online system up and running soon. So whilst it was frustrating, I let him off just for being informative and friendly. Customer service goes a long way in my book. 

Once we were registered and had our wristbands, we entered the Ninja Academy. 


Walk through and there’s a table for kids (or parents more likely) to rest their tired legs. There’s also a good number of lockers – the usual £1 style – to lock up your stuff so you don’t have to lug a massive change bag around. That’s also why I have very few pics. Sorry!! 

Dumped our stuff ready to get stuck in and OMG (yes, twice in one post) it was bloody brilliant! 

Climing walks, balance beams, rope swings, soft pits, all in miniature – perfect for kids. Boy 2 is VERY active so this was perfect for him. Being able to attempt to climb a sopping wall, without fear of breaking his neck if he fell, was just heaven for him! 


What’s great is that whilst this area is usually for over 5s the toddler sessions are strictly for under 5s, so there’s no fear of a hyperactive long limbed 8 year old bombing on to your toddler. 
They can run around freely, but you do need to walk around with them a) because the lighting is a little dark and the obstacles do block your line of sight and b) some of the pits under the obstacles are a little deep for a toddler to climb out of unaided. 

Due to the long wait times the friendly manager extended the session to 1215 so we got pretty much the full hour (again a massive tick in my book ✅). 

Once they were all ninjad out we headed upstairs to the cafe. Pleasant surprise not to see a load of deep fried beige stuff, but noodles, tempura and Asian inspired salads or soups, keeping with the Japanese theme. We went for the rice noodle chicken box £5.95.

A few snags here as they’d run out of teriyaki sauce and some of the veg, plus it was a looong wait, not great when trying to feed tired and hungry toddlers. But I’ll put this down to teething problems because when it finally arrived it was a good size portion, freshly cooked and tasted good. Like I said, a nice change from fish fingers and chips at soft play! Hopefully once they’ve got a good idea of customer numbers, they’ll have plenty of stock in and enough staff to cook it! 

There isn’t a separate children’s menu, which would have been nice, but the portion we had was fine for us to share. Not sure Boy1 or the hubster would have been happy to split though! 

All in all it was a great morning out. Definitely gets the thumbs up from me and Boy2. So much so I’ve already purchased a Groupon voucher to bring Boy1 and 3 friends at the end of the month for his birthday and the hubster is doing the adult course in a few weeks with some friends! 💪🏿 I’ll be sure to post my reviews – and some pics – then! 

For any active families in and around Manchester, I definitely see this becoming a regular haunt. 

Rating 4.5/5


We paid £2 for the toddler session at Total Ninja, currently running weekdays 11-12

To find out more visit http://www.totalninja.co.uk

Or for the latest offers check out Groupon (correct at time of publishing) 

Review: Apple Jacks Adventure Park

Day 3 of my Easter week off, the random mini heatwave is well and truly over and we’ve already done a farm trip and chilling/movie day. So what else do we do when it’s blustery with April showers? Yep, head outdoors! #ILiveWithBoys

I’d heard of Apple Jacks and seen a few offers on Groupon in the past but never got round to buying a ticket. With boys that somehow never feel the cold we thought today might be a good day to venture out as it would most likely be quiet. 

Based in Stretton, Warrington, Apple Jacks is a great place to spend a few hours if you need little ones to burn energy whilst avoiding the usual softplay hell that ensues during school holidays. 

There are plenty of activities included in your entry pierce of around £8. From a giant slide to zip wires, archery to roller skating, it certainly has plenty of things to keep them busy. The big boys particularly enjoyed the maze and the Eliminator, an ‘It’s a Knockout’ style bouncing/boxing challenge…

Boy2 was quite disappointed that he couldn’t go on the giant, nearly vertical, slide or zip wire, but he was perfectly happy in the ball pit and miniature soft play. 


For just £1 a go he also joined Boy1 and his pal on the go karts. The rides only last a few minutes but you can’t  really complain for a pound. Word of advice though, don’t go for the karts closest to the entrance. There’s a larger track to the back of the site. 😉


My personal highlights were the pig race (yes, you read that right) and watching Boy2 attempt to roller skate with the big boys. I was pleasantly surprised they had skates small enough for his little toddler feet. He only lasted a few minutes, but he gets an A for effort 😊


Having to entertain 9 year olds can be tough. They are at that point where they feel confident to just run off from one activity to another, which can be hard to keep up when you have a toddler in tow. What’s great about this place is that it isn’t too big or crowded, so you feel a little easier letting them jog off together. They can’t really go too far, but I did make them promise to stick together at all times. 

Staff were also very friendly, letting me head back to the car to drop off the buggy once I’d realised Boy2 was in his element running and around with no intention of sitting down. 

Foodwise, there’s a small kiosk selling burgers, hotdogs, chips, jacket potatoes and sandwiches. Nothing too fancy but decent enough and not too expensive. But if you are on a budget, there’s plenty of space for picnics. 

All in all, we had a great morning and the cold didnt impact their time at all! I’m not sure I’d venture that way with just a two year old as he was restricted in the number of activities he could do, but if you’re looking for a decent trip for 6 year olds and above, definitely put this on your list. 

We’ll certainly be back. 

Apple Jacks Adventure Park is £8 per person, under 4s are free and so is parking! 

Rating: 4.5/5

Five reasons why half term is the worst school holiday 

Ok – this might sound a bit extreme but I’m starting to come to the conclusion that I’m not a fan of half term. I understand why it’s great for kids to have a break from school and the various activities they are involved in, but I don’t think I enjoy half term. 

  1. It’s too short. By the time you get into the swing of things, you have to start planning for returning to school/work
  2. Same goes for kids’ sleeping patterns. They have a few days of late nights and lazy mornings, then before you know it you’re having to nag them to get to bed on time again in preparation for school. 
  3. There’s nothing that everyone is looking forward to. Yes, some people have holidays booked, but collectively there’s no big event that everyone awaits. The festivities of Christmas, indulgence of Easter or just the long, lazy sunny days of summer (or a big holiday if you’re lucky). They bring some excitement and anticipation and make great conversation starters. 
  4. You want to rest, but you don’t want to ‘waste it’ because it’s so short. So you are in a constant state of confusion and uncertainty about what to do with your time: relax or go out. 
  5. If you do decide to spend money on days out, you feel like you’ve spent a fortune in a very short amount of time and return to work tired, unrested and broke 

Maybe schools should consider making it 10 days, so moaning mothers like me would have as much to complain about. Maybe after more than 8 years of parenting I still haven’t cracked the half term balance. Or maybe I should just get back to enjoy the short week with my boys 😉

Life lessons from 48 hours in a theme park

During our France trip we spent two days in the “Magical Kingdom” in Paris. It’s been fun. Still deciding if I should write a review (I loved it!). Before I do that, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve observed​ and learned about life, just from our short time there…

  • Children can move quickly if they want to – tell your child they’ve got 10 minutes to get to the other side of the park before they miss the slot on a Buzz Lightyear ride and just check out the speed they develop. Think about that next time their dawdling in Tescos
  • Children can be patient when they want – we waited 90 minutes for one ride! That’s about the length of a Disney animated film!! Regardless of the fact he hated the ride and cried when he finally got off, it reminded me that finding your child’s motivation is really important. I sound like a cheesy management training guide, but knowing what motivates someone can really help to drive them towards a goal
  • Fast food is still king – yes I know it’s a holiday destination and we should all have a ‘treat’, but the amount of burgers, chip and sugary snacks available in modern life is worrying. It was actually difficult to find anything that resembled a vegetable, apart from in the expensive restaurants 
  • Islamaphobia is real – sad but very true. I’m a people watcher. I love looking at people in a queue, wondering what their story is, conjuring up some exciting journey that has brought us to the same point. But I couldn’t help but notice the number of extended glances aimed towards people  of a certain skin tone or women wearing headscarves. Isn’t it sad that we can’t just let people enjoy their days out? Do I want my sons to grow up in a world where people so blatantly give fearful or even disgusted looks to people because of their race or religion? 
  • We are selfie obsessed – they are everywhere!! From young girls to ‘wannabe cool’ dads. I worry that people aren’t really soaking up the environment around them and missing beautiful sights, just so they can perfect a pout
  • Languages are important – I love languages. I sometimes regret not pursuing a career that let me use my degree level Spanish. I don’t think everyone needs to learn them to this level, but just having a basic appreciation for host language can break barriers. Seeing the smiles on people’s faces as my son uttered a mancunian “merci”, was lovely. One of my favourite quotes from Nelson Mandela says, 

    If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

    In times of ignorance and intolerance, this couldn’t be more true

  • Family time is important – even with the sugar highs (and lows), spending small fortunes on fatty foods and tat, you can’t get much better than family time. No work emails, no chores, no gadgets, nothing to rush back for. Just a chance to talk, laugh, play and really enjoy each other’s company. Even moody teenagers were laughing with parents and siblings!! Whether it’s going abroad or staying at home with a board game, this is what really makes a difference to little ones – blocking out other influences and just enjoying time as a family. We just can’t let modern life let us think otherwise 

XX 

Holiday prep, or lack of

I finished work today and won’t return for 17 days (yay!) as we are heading off on our road trip to France tomorrow. I should be excited, relaxed, but I’m not. Why? Because holiday prep with kids is so different. The boys are sorted, I started early….

  • New ‘holiday clothes’ bought – I still don’t know why we do this. My children look presentable most of the time, yet for holidays we want them to look photo-shoot ready
  • Sandals bought
  • Passport photos done – I’m sure they get more and more expensive every year. Apart from passports, what elser do people use these tiny photos for?
  • Passports ordered in advance
  • European Health Insurance card ordered for Boy2 – Thankfully these last a good few years so none of us will need new ones for a while. These are really important (I learned this during a fateful night in Ayia Napa many years ago. I’ll spare you the details, but believe me I’ll never regret taking the five minutes to complete the form. And now they are online!
  • Drinks and snacks sorted
  • Toys and activities for the road trip
  • Bought new contents for my make shift first aid kit: plasters, calpol, allergy medicines
  • Printed off the all-important Disneyland tickets 

It’s 1030pm, but I’m not sorted. I still need to:

  • Pack holiday clothes (I only treated myself to two new items after spending a small fortune on the  boys)
  • Try on said holiday clothes and pray to the holiday gods they still fit
  • Download a couple of books to read
  • Paint my nails
  • Clean the kitchen (I hate coming back to a dirty kitchen, it just kills your holiday vibe) 
  • Write a list for my mother re feeding the fish etc 

I guess even after eight years of being a mother I still haven’t admitted to myself that before the holiday ‘relaxation’ comes the stress and panic. It’s all about getting the little ones sorted before I can give myself a thought. 

Ah well, it’s all worth it. Bring on the early start! 

Getting Crafty with ToucanBox

I’m not the ‘craftiest’ of mothers, I’ll be honest. I always liked the idea of spending rainy afternoons creating various pieces of art with my kids, with some music playing in the background, laughing and joking etc…

That rarely happens. I hate mess! We do have craft box and umpteen toilet role tubes, so every now and then we will get crafty, when Boy1 has some inspiration, because I can never think of anything.

So I got very excited when I heard about Toucan Box. It seems as though you can get everything through a regular subscription box these days, food, cosmetics, cocktails (yes, I know!!) and now crafts.

The blurb

ToucanBox is a flexible subscription service offering mini craft ‘projects’ for children aged 3-8 years. According to the site, the boxes mean parents ” can spend less time trawling through toy stores and more time making mini masterpieces with your budding masterminds.”

How it works

When you sign up, you are asked to privide your children’s names, ages etc and even answer a personality quiz, so that their boxes can be tailored. This is a great touch and gives you confidence they’ll like what arrives.

A fortnightly subscription costs from £3.95 + another £1 p&p. Bigger boxes cost more, of course.

The activity

The box arrived fairly quickly in a lovely turquoise box, addressed to Boy1, which instantly got him excited.

Eastern 100%
Inside our parcel

We opened it up to find our project was a dinosaur tail and mask. Lovely animated cards with clear instructions.

It came with enough tape and sticky bits. The only thing we needed was a pair of scissors. Thankfully, this particular activity needed very little adult supervision, which meant I could get on with the ironing.

Boy1 found the instructions fairly easy to follow and it took him about 20min to complete.

After a bit of peeling and sticking, followed by some cutting, we had our tail and mask.

 

The Verdict

I really do like the idea of ToucanBox. It provides the inspiration along with the materials. I believe in other boxes they even provide glue, so its very convenient. I like the fact my son was able to get on with it whilst I was ironing, rather than him being glued to a screen.

Boy 1 really enjoyed it. It’s not the kind of thing he would usually make (sword/marble-run/boardgame), so the surprise element was fun. Plus he felt a sense of achievement in completing it himself.

I’d say for £10 a month it is a bit pricey for me, because we aren’t that crafty. Part of me would rather spend £10 in B&M Bargains on lots of random craft items, which I know would last for ages. But it is a nice treat and for a child/family that struggles to come with ideas, this does provide some inspiration. I know Boy1 has already started to think of other things he could make.

Definitely worth giving it a try, so sign up for your free trial here: https://www.toucanbox.com/freesample

Remember summer holidays are just around the corner…

 

Rating: 4/5

Schools out…whenever

Last week, pretty much every newspaper, news channel, parenting blog and the like covered the landmark ruling, pretty much allowing parents to take their kids out of school for holidays during term time.

Whilst I agree with the argument that it should be a parent’s decision to take their child out if they have been attending school ‘regularly’, I can’t help but think this is just one big first world problem. I come from a country where hundreds of people are desperate to get an education. Children get excited about the idea of going to school and learning. Parents send their children hundreds of miles away, to stay with family or even boarding school, to give them the opportunity of an education.

Yet, here we are, complaining because we want to save a few hundred pounds on an all inclusive to Mallorca. Is this really a case worthy of the High Court? Is our world so perfect that this is the issue we have to protest?

Now, I get that people want to go on family holidays, but don’t use the excuse of ‘family bonding’ to justify it. We rarely went abroad as a child. We visited parks, museums, played games etc and guess what, I’m still very close to my mother. Isn’t it a little bit insulting to poorer families by saying you can only bond with your children when you’re abroad?

Then people argue that they children can ‘learn so much more’ on holiday’. Let’s be honest, you and I both know that most family holidays are an excuse to have lie ins, lay about in the sun, eat as much as you want and crack open the sangria at midday without being judged. Nothing wrong with that, in fact, it’s a great way to live for a week or two. But let’s not use education as a cover up for our need to just get away.

My worry with this whole argument isn’t about whether children should be permitted to take time out of school (although the 13 weeks they already get seems like plenty) or what they do when they are away. It is really about the example we are setting for children. We spend so much time teaching them about following rules and listening to their teachers, but now we are saying ‘follow the rules unless it is more convenient not to.’ I’m not saying children should become sheep and blindly abide by rules regardless. But shouldn’t they be encouraged to question, challenge and debate, instead of just ignoring the rules that don’t suit them?

The parents that have taken their children on term time holidays have done so in full knowledge that their school rules didn’t allow it and they would be fined. But they still went ahead. Why? Because it was convenient, in most cases financially. How can you distinguish this rule breaking from others, when talking to a 7 year old. I know I couldn’t!

I know I sound old now, but many young people are growing up with a sense of ‘entitlement’. They want what they want, when they want. We see too many cases of disregard for others, purely for their own benefit. Is this something else that we are just handing to them?

If you can’t afford something, don’t buy it. Sure you can complain about holiday companies, but is it really their issue? Plenty of products get cheaper when they are out of season. And what about the families that still wouldn’t be able to afford a holiday even if there was some price capping?

All that will happen now is we’ll see in an influx of parents taking their children on holiday during term time, causing more frustration for teachers and the pupils left behind. During this time, the government will be looking at ways to tighten up the rules and make it more difficult to take any time off at all, during term, regardless of the reason.

So whilst I might praise this ‘hero dad’ for sticking by his guns, I have a horrible feeling it might not be the happy ending we all hoped for.

xx