Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Ladybird Tuesday - The Motor Car

How it Works...The Motor Car is another book in Series 654, the How It Works series. My copy was published in 1982 but this book was originally published in 1965 so mine must be an updated version. You can take a look inside the original version here - The Motor Car.

I recently looked at How it Works...The Computer, and this book is an equal match in terms of complexity. I'm really not sure that the books in this series are aimed at children, they really do go into an astonishingly high level of detail! In fact I found out that this book was used by Thames Valley Police driving school as a general guide and is still asked for today by driving schools.

Vintage Ladybird The Motor Car

How it Works - The Motor Car throws you straight in to a description of the motor car with a complicated, labelled diagram of an engine. Each individual part of the engine is then examined in further detail with more diagrams and description. Perhaps I should have read this book before I started learning to drive, as I had very little idea of how a car actually works.

How it Works The Motor Car

I learned a lot from reading through this book. Some of the sections are rather difficult to follow, and you do need to concentrate. You also need to read it through from start to finish, you can't just dip in and out as all the information is closely related!

Ladybird book How it Works The Motor Car

Although the book is quite old now, I'm guessing that a lot of the basics are still relevant today. Some things have moved on a lot though - a page on safety at the end of the book shows a car with no air bags throughout, and a back seat without seatbelts or head rests. The main safety features pointed out are those which are intended to prevent an accident in the first place, like good handling and visibility. 

The book was also published well before computers were used in cars, which I think nowadays are probably even more important than the mechanical elements of the car. There is some speculation about future advances in the world of motor cars, for example a micro processor which selects the gears of the car automatically to save fuel, but generally the author of the book doesn't seem to foresee much change in the future of motoring.

I'm joining in with Ladybird Tuesday at Being Mrs C. You can see all my previous Ladybird Tuesday posts here.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Greenwood Forest Park, Gwynedd, Snowdonia

Greenwood Forest Park review

On our recent holiday to Snowdonia we spent a fantastic day at Greenwood Forest Park. The park is located on the edge of Snowdonia National Park and was an easy trip from our base near Caernarfon. It is set in 17 acres of woodland, and has an excellent mix of attractions and activities for the whole family.

We arrived as the park opened, and headed first for the Green Dragon Rollercoaster. It's a speedy ride, and is the world's only people powered rollercoaster. Before riding you board a lift which is carried down by the weight of the people in it and used to raise the rollercoaster carriage up to the top of the track. Then you climb up again to board the carriage, and the weight of the riders pushes the carriage along and down the track at quite a pace. Mia was just too small for the ride, but there was a sandpit close by which kept her busy while we took turns to ride with Harry.

Another human powered ride is the Jungle Boats ride. You (by which I mean the adults in the party, the younger children can sit back and enjoy!) need to move the boat along the river by yourself, either by paddling or by hauling yourself along on hanging ropes. What a great idea!

Greenwood Forest Park jungle boat ride

We also expended plenty of energy on the MoonKarts, where you can pedal around a short, partially uphill track. Older children can power their own kart, and younger children can be driven around by a parent.

Greenwood Forest Park karts ride

I was really impressed with the Little Forest PlayBarn. Although at three, Mia was at the top of the age range for this area, she was still entertained here for some time while Harry was trying out the Archery. It was really nice to see that there were activities here to occupy younger toddlers and even babies, with a separate sensory area and an area with musical and animal noise buttons to press.

Greenwood Forest Park baby soft play area

I drew the short straw when it came to the Barefoot Walk. I wasn't keen, but the children were desperate to do it and Ram wouldn't, so we took off our shoes, rolled up our trousers, and waded into the icy water that began the walk. Among other things we walked across paths made of stones, fossils, mud, straw and chippings, most of them freezing cold. The children enjoyed it very much, but I must admit that I was relieved to wash my feet and put my warm socks and shoes back on at the end! It was definitely good to try something different though.

A massive hit with the children was the Giant Jumper, a huge inflatable pillow for under 12s to jump about on. It took the children a while to work out how to climb up it, but once on it they didn't want to come off! It was getting busy so the operator was running timed sessions, but the queue was small enough that they could head round to the back of the queue and get in again straightaway with the next group.

Greenwood Forest Park giant jumper review

Another huge hit was the Great Green Run, a 70 metre sledge run, and the longest in North Wales. You ride it in a sledge, and you really do speed along. We all loved this, although I have no pictures because we were all riding it together! The children also liked the Little Green Run, a smaller version which they could go round and round by themselves, there was never really much of a wait.

Greenwood Forest Park play areas

There are lots of outdoor play areas for children of all ages. We also enjoyed a wild area at the top of the park where you could have a go at Den Building, with all the materials that you need ready to build with, and plenty of dens left behind by other visitors that you could play in and rebuild to your own design. On the top of the hill at the Snowdon View Point you have a magnificient view across Snowdonia with a clear view of Snowdon. 

Greenwood Forest Park play area

We also enjoyed two of the shows in the Forest Theatre - Howard the Magician and Ricardo the Pirate (each were doing two shows on the day that we visited). There was plenty of seating in the mostly covered theatre, both shows were excellent, and the children were enthralled. Harry was really inspired by the magic tricks that he saw, he told us in the car on the way home that he wants to be a magician when he grows up, and before bed we were treated to his own magic show that he had put together himself!

A ticket to Greenwood Forest Park includes the vast majority of the activities in the park, but there are a few which cost extra. We paid £1 for the children to drive tractors around for a few minutes which they loved. You could quite easily manage without paying for any of the extra activities though.

Greenwood Forest Park tractor rides

There was so much to do at the park. We were there from opening until all the attractions had closed, and we could easily have stayed for longer. If you are local it's definitely worth thinking about a season ticket! We visited on a sunny August day in the summer holidays and we did have to queue for a few minutes at some of the attractions, particularly during the early afternoon, but nothing close to the sort of queues that you would experience at a larger theme park.

For a full family day out, I think that the entrance price represents excellent value for money, especially when compared to other attractions in the area. You can easily spend a whole day here as a family and not get bored. It is worth aiming to visit on a dry day if you can, as although there are indoor play areas and activities a great deal of the park is outside. We had a brilliant day!

We received a complimentary family pass to Greenwood Forest Park in exchange for this review. Admission prices vary seasonally, in peak season a family ticket (two adults and two children) costs £42.20.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

A visit to Caernarfon Castle

There has been a castle in Caernarfton since the late 11th Century, but in 1283 King Edward I began to replace it with the massive stone structure that still stands today. Situated by the sea and on the banks of the River Seiont, the castle is an imposing presence, with some fantastic views from the turrets.

Caernarfon Castle review

On our recent holiday in Snowdonia we spent a fun morning visiting the castle. There is no structured tour, instead you are free to roam around and explore. There is plenty to discover, with lots of stone spiral staircases leading up to the high turrets, and places to walk along the walls. It's not particularly pushchair accessible, but you can just leave your pushchair outside while you go inside.

Caernarfon Castle cannons

We also paid £1 for Harry to have a go at archery which he loved, he had the chance to shoot three arrows with plenty of help and he did pretty well. The knight helping out even said that he had a knack for it (although he probably says that to everyone!).

Caernarfon Castle archery

There are also a couple of permanent exhibitions in the castle. One about the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969 which took place at the castle was very interesting, and there is also a large exhibit about the Royal Welch Fusiliers.  

Caernarfon Castle ramparts

You do need to watch young children carefully while you are walking around, as the ground can be uneven and it does feel a bit precarious. If you want to see everything you also need to climb up a lot of spiral steps which are very steep and narrow, and because Mia wanted to be carried we had to miss out a few of the towers. Having said that, it still felt as though we had a very good look around.

Caernarfon Castle walls walk

After we had finished visiting the castle we went for a short walk into Caernarfon which is a pretty little town. Unfortunately we were rained away, but it's definitely worth a visit if you are at the castle.

We parked for the castle in a large car park by the waterfront at the rear of the castle which cost £5 for the day. There are six on street parking spaces right outside the castle where you can park for free for up to two hours, and there were spaces free here when we arrived first thing.

As we were leaving Caernarfon, we made a brief stop at Segontium Roman Fort which is free to visit with plenty of free on street parking outside. The visitor centre is only open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, but you are free to explore the fort yourself daily from 10am-4pm. If you want to learn more about the fort it's probably worth buying a guide book to take with you, as when the visitor centre is closed there isn't a great deal of information to help you interpret the site. But there are some stunning views from the fort and the foundation walls give you a good sense as to the size and scale of the original structures.

Segontium Roman Fort Caernarfon

We received a complimentary family ticket from Cadw to explore Caernarfon Castle. A family ticket costs £20.25. Segontium Roman Fort is free to visit.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Mixing up the play dough

We bought the children some new play dough at the weekend and I made a mistake. Instead of stashing it away, I left it out on display and Harry saw it. I'm very strict with our play dough, and I only open one pot at a time. If both children want to play with it and they have a different colour each, they sit at opposite ends of the table and there is no mixing. They are only allowed a second colour if all traces of the first are put away.

mixing up the play dough colours

Then this week I had a sudden realisation. Play dough is not that expensive. You can make your own very cheaply. The colours are designed to be mixed. Harry spends ages watching YouTube videos where people play with play dough sets and make all sorts of colourful creations. By only allowing one colour at a time I am stifling little imaginations. Furthermore, play dough will not be a part of this household forever. In a few short years there will no longer be any play dough in the house and I'll probably even miss it.

So I let Harry open up four whole pots of play dough and mix up the colours. I made sure that he understood that once the colours were mixed they wouldn't go back to how they were, and he didn't mind at all. So I watched through my fingers as he smooshed the colours together, copying models from suggestions on the packaging and coming up with his own designs.

Harry had a wonderful time. The world didn't end. He happily packed it all away himself ready for next time, and he was so proud of the things that he had made. And I was quite proud of myself too. So no more to play dough OCD!

Where do you stand on mixing up the play dough?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Exploring Snowdonia with Attractions of Snowdonia

Snowdonia scenery

This week we've been enjoying a short family holiday in Snowdonia. For one day of our holiday, we were invited by Attractions of Snowdonia to spend a day exploring some of the local places to visit. Attractions of Snowdonia is a group of 27 different attractions in the heart of North Wales, and they have recently enlisted Deri the Roaming Welsh Dragon as a mascot. We were sent our very own Deri Dragon cuddly toy to take with us on our day out.

These are the places that we chose to visit:

Sygun Copper Mine

Sygun Copper Mine entrance

Visiting Sygun Copper Mine gives you the opportunity to explore the workings of the old mine on a self-guided audiovisual tour. The mine was abandoned in 1903, and the tour gives you a glimpse into the life of a Victorian copper miner.

You enter the mine through a long tunnel cut into the hillside, and at various points on the tour you can stop and listen to information about what you are seeing, with a few dressed mannequins along the way to help bring it to life. The main tour has quite a few steps, which you can avoid, although this will considerably shorten your visit.

It was pretty dark and cold inside the mine and I wasn't sure how the children would take it, but luckily they were both fine, and we were all able to climb up the stairs with no problems. I enjoyed the flexibility of a self-guided tour, as we could move at our own pace through the different areas if something wasn't holding Mia's attention. Inside the mines you can see some of the equipment and learn about the mining process. There are also caves that you can look into where you can see stalactites and stalagmites that have formed.

At the end of the tour you emerge blinking from the hillside to some beautiful views and a lovely little walk back down to the entrance. There's also a small museum with various interesting fossils and other historical artifacts.

Sygun Copper Mine review

If you are visiting with young children, do be aware that there are several long flights of steep steps and that the ground inside the mine is uneven. Children really need to be old enough to walk through the mine themselves, and it's quite cold inside with lots of puddles. Also make sure that you wear the hard hats which are provided, because it's very easy to bump your head! But I'd definitely recommend a visit for curious children.

Llanberis Lake Railway

Llanberis Lake Railway review

If you want to see Snowdonia by rail you have several different options, even including a train ride to the actual top of Snowdon. For our visit we chose the Llanberis Lake Railway, because we liked the sound of the route around the lake and because the journey time - about an hour round trip - looked perfectly suited to our small children.

Gilfach Ddu station

From Sygun Copper Mine it was about a half hour drive to the railway. Because we were combining our visit with a trip to the National Slate Museum we parked in the large Gwynedd Council car park (£4 for the day) and began our journey at Gilfach Ddu station. From Gilfach Ddu the train takes you into Llanberis, where passengers can also board the train, and then you backtrack for the main part of your journey alongside the beautiful Padarn Lake. You travel to the end of the line before turning back. The train track runs right along the edge of the lake, and the scenery really is lovely. It was a rather grey day, but we still saw people out canoeing on the lake, and walking alongside the train track.

Lake Padarn Snodonia

On the return journey the train stops for a few minutes at Cei Llydan station, a pretty little stop where you can stay for longer if you like and catch a later train back. We visited on a rainy day and so we didn't stop for long, but because it was Bank Holiday week there was a Teddy Bear's Picnic activity taking place which was a lovely touch. Some of the staff were dressed up as bears, and all the children were given a voucher for a free picnic box filled with picnic food, which they very much enjoyed! The station was also decorated with bears, and a group of teddies enjoying a picnic on a bench.

If you have young children I'd definitely recommend a ride, the journey is a nice length for little ones and there is also plenty of opportunity to see the train in action as it moves from end to end of the train when it changes direction! If the weather had been nicer then we would definitely have stopped at Cei Llydan to eat a picnic, and enjoy the play area and the lovely setting.

National Slate Museum

National Slate Museum review

We finished our day with a visit to the National Slate Museum, located right next to Gilfach Ddu station and free to visit. Housed in the industrial engineering workshops for the former Dinorwig slate quarry, the museum tells the story of the Welsh slate industry, and is well worth a visit.

National Slate Museum Snowdonia

There was plenty to see. The children particularly enjoyed climbing up to see the huge Water Wheel - the largest on the British mainland - which was used to power a great number of machines including drills and lathes that operated in the different workshops. Harry was also fascinated to watch a huge chainsaw cutting through a large block of slate, and I liked visiting the reconstructed Quarrymen's Houses - four houses which have been rebuilt at the museum, with each furnished in a style that reflects a different period significant to the slate industry.

National Slate Museum playground

The rain held off for a quick trip to the playground at the museum, and then we ended our visit in the children's craft area where we paid £1 for Harry to decorate a piece of slate with pens and glittery stickers. It looks really good, and will make a lovely souvenir! There was also lots of colouring that children could do for free, and so Mia decorated a Welsh flag.

National Slate Museum crafting decorating slate

We had a great day exploring these family attractions in Snowdonia! Keep an eye out over the next few weeks as I will be writing about some of the other places that we have visited on our holiday in Wales.

In exchange for this review we received a Deri cuddly toy, and complimentary admission to the Sygun Copper Mine and the Llanberis Lake Railway. The National Slate Museum is free to visit.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ladybird Tuesday - The Postman and the Postal Service

The Postman and the Postal Service comes from Ladybird series 606B - People at Work and was published in 1965. It looks like a fascinating series, and I've already featured another book from the series - The Nurse. The books in this series are written in more approachable language than some of the more detailed Ladybird books, and would be great reading practice for children learning to read.

The book begins with a look at the very early days of the postal service, five hundred years ago, when the King's letters were carried by a special messenger in a bright red uniform, the very beginning of the Royal Mail. The book explains how the service gradually developed into a network of post boys, carrying other people's letters as well as the King's letters. They travelled by horseback, and every twenty miles or so was an inn where the post boys stopped to change their horses and eat. These inns because post-houses, the very first post offices. It's a really interesting history of the development of the postal service.

The second half of the book covers the postal service as it was when the book was published, beginning with the purchase of a stamp and ending with the postman delivering a letter to the door, with plenty of rich detail along the way about the way in which letters are sorted, transported and delivered. I know that it's a process that would fascinated children - I remember well a trip to the local sorting office when I was a child! Although these days the system must be a lot more mechanical and computerised, I would imagine that many of the basics are still pretty similar. 

I'm joining in with Ladybird Tuesday at Being Mrs C. You can see all my previous Ladybird Tuesday posts here.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A crafty day in London with the #drynitesmums

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along for a day of crafting by DryNites. I had a fantastic day of crafting with some like-minded bloggers.

#drynitesmums craft day in London

The venue was Tea and Crafting, a lovely place in Camden Town, appropriately described as a craft sanctuary. The room was beautifully decorated, with plenty of space for working but cosy enough for chatting.

Leading us in our crafting was Tamara Melvin, Great British Sewing Bee finalist. Tamara has been working with DryNites to create some craft projects which bring a grown up touch to childrens' bedrooms as they go through the bedwetting stage of development.

We were also joined by child psychologist Emma Kenny to chat to about any potty training or wetting issues that we might be having with our children. She emphasises that it's important not to continue to treat young children as babies, and instead of putting them to bed in a nappy you could consider using a more age-appropriate product like DryNites Pyjama Pants.

Tea and Crafting craft day

We had the opportunity to make two lovely crafts for our child's room - a bedside lamp using some old toys and a padded pinboard. The lamp is a way to help your child feel comforted at night when they see their familiar toys beside them, as well as being practical for night time toilet visits. The pin board can be used to store your child's mementoes and mark their learning stages, to help them recognise that they are growing up. Both crafts can also be made with your child's help, so that they feel a sense of achievement and pride in the finished product.

Lamp Base and Shade

Upcycled lampshade blue

For the lamp base we used a simple lamp which you can buy easily. I found a few old toys - a couple of cars and some plastic dinosaurs. Everything was sanded and then painted with Annie Sloan chalk paint - a few coats covered the items beautifully.

Painting a lamp shade base

While the paint was drying we decorated the shade. A piece of cardboard was cut to size, and then stars cut out with a craft knife. I chose some lovely spotty paper to put behind the stars before using a glue gun to stick it to the shade. Then I trimmed the edges with some blue ric rac. This was so easy to do, and I love the idea of your child helping to decorate the lamp shade, perhaps with stickers or their own drawings.

How to upcycle a lampshade and base

Padded Pin Board

How to make a padded pinboard

For the pin board, you need a piece of stretched canvas, some wadding or foam and a piece of fabric. I used a spotty pillow case that I bought in Asda, you could use any old fabric that you have around or perhaps some old clothing or sheets from your child's room. The fabric is stapled tightly around the wadding and the canvas. This was the first time I had used a staple gun and it was brilliant, I think I might well be adding one to my Christmas list!

Staple gun to make pinboard

Then we took some pieces of elastic and stretched them across the board in diagonal stripes, held in place with a split pin and decorated with some paper flowers. The stretchy elastic means that you can tuck away larger objects too, like small toys and keepsakes.

I was really pleased with both things I made, and it was so lovely to have the opportunity to sit down with some like minded people and really concentrate on what I was doing without any small interruptions! Then we finished the day with some delicious cupcakes!

Drynites cupcakes

In my fantastic goody bag among other things there was a lovely gift for the children - a Worry Eater . This little soft toy has a zip across his front, with the idea being that children write down their worries and zip them away. I think it's a lovely idea, you could keep him beside the bed and help your child write down things that are worrying them before they go to sleep. It also means that you can find out things that worry your child that you might have no idea about. I found out that Harry is worried about tornadoes and tsunamis thanks to a book we've been looking at, perhaps I need to think more carefully about our choice of bedtime reading!

Worry Eater toy for children

Also to take home was a gorgeous little mini bunting kit from Tea and Crafting, a lovely little project which I'm going to be taking away on holiday with me for some evening crafting!

Mini bunting craft kit

I also left with some DryNites products to try. Mia is potty trained during the day and she is still in nappies at night. But I do find that wearing nappies doesn't really work and she's often soggy in the mornings. That's because nappies are only really designed for the quantity produced by smaller children, and as they get older then need something a bit more substantial. The DryNites Pyjama Pants are designed for older children, and should work much better for her until she becomes dry at night. I also received some DryNites Bed Mats which I'm planning on taking with us when we go on holiday - at home we have a waterproof undersheet but I don't want to run the risk of Mia having an accident in a holiday bed, and they are so small and lightweight that we can easily take a pack along with us.

Drynites products

As well as the wonderful opportunity to spend the day crafting, I also received a goody bag and some DryNites products. Amazon link is affiliate.

Drynites Logo
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