Tuesday, 29 November 2011

5000 BLW Fans!

The "Baby Led Weaning - Let your babies feed themselves" Facebook page has now reached 5000 fans!

We never imagined when we started the page that it would be so successful and that we would reach so many people all around the world.

We originally started the page just after our own, now three year olds, had started baby led weaning. We were enjoying it so much that we wanted to share our experiences and hopefully help promote baby led weaning to others, who perhaps weren't aware of it. The success of the page has exceeded our all our expectations.

We feel so privileged to have influenced and helped so many people and that the page is often a first port of call for worried parents who need advice quickly. What I find particularly comforting, is that no matter what time of day, there is always somebody around to offer advice. As even though Jade and I are based in the UK, we have active members on every continent (except Antartica!).

We hope that the page continues to grow and helps and influences many more people in the coming months and years and that Baby Led Weaning becomes more common-place as we all help to spread the word.
Keep posting your positive stories and photos of your messy babies on the page as we love reading and seeing them!

Thank you all so very much. You have all helped to build the community and keep it going and we couldn't have done it without you.

Emma and Jade. xx


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Meals for BLW Babies and their Families

Lots of people ask for suggestions of meal ideas for their Baby Led Weaning babies. Lucinda has always eaten with me at the same mealtime and has enjoyed the same food as I have been eating. This is what makes Baby Led Weaning so easy and hassle-free. There is no need to think of and prepare separate meals. If a baby is able to feed himself then he is able to eat the same foods as you. Here I have compiled a selection of our favourite meals which we enjoy together. Lucinda has eaten all these types of meals since six months old, although they are easy to adapt if your baby and/or family has special dietary requirements or allergies. Quantities and measurements are not specific. Adjust accordingly, depending on how many people you are feeding!...

Risotto / Risotto Balls

Arborio rice
Vegetable stock
Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Start by preparing some vegetable stock. I just use an organic stock cube. Set aside in a jug. Melt approx 10-15g of butter in a saucepan. Add required amount of rice and stir into the butter. Then gradually add the stock to the rice, a little at a time. Let the rice soak up the stock before adding some more. Keep stirring regularly. Enough stock has been added when the rice is nice and sticky with a little bit of liquid left for a few minutes simmering. Add the peas. If making into risotto balls, "petit pois" are best. After a couple of minutes, add some cheese and stir through. Finally, add some freshly ground black pepper and stir again.
You can now either serve as risotto, make into risotto balls or separate and make half and half, etc. If making risotto balls, leave to cool for a few minutes (don't want to burn your fingers!), then take a small amount of the risotto and form into balls. I've made different sizes, anything between a Malteser size to a ping-pong ball size. Your baby may prefer differing sizes according to how developed their pincer grip is.
Risotto can either be served on its own or as an accompaniment. We sometimes have it with chicken.

Toast Pizzas

Chopped tomatoes, passata or tomato purée
Grated cheese
Black olives

Toast one side of bread under a grill. Turn over and lightly toast the other side. Remove from grill. Then spread passata evenly over the least toasted side, sprinkle on cheese and add a few olives. Return to grill and continue toasting until cheese has melted. Just fancy cheese on toast really, but very yummy!
I like mine with coleslaw.

Salmon and Philadelphia Tagliatelle

Tagliatelle (fresh or dried)
Salmon (fresh or tinned)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook tagliatelle as per instructions on pack. Drain the pan. Add salmon and a couple of large spoonfuls of Philadelphia. Stir through. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. This is also tasty with a bit of sweet chilli sauce stirred through. Can be served on it's own or with garlic bread.

Cheese and Beans Quesadilla

Tortillas (corn tortillas if available)
Light olive oil, or other cooking oil
Baked beans

Heat a small amount of oil in a large frying pan or wok. Place one tortilla flat in the pan. I find corn tortillas work better than flour tortillas as flour tortillas tend to go dry and flaky when cooked. I prefer the consistency of corn tortillas. As the tortilla is warming through, spoon on some baked beans. No need to heat first, straight from the tin is fine. Then place some grated or sliced cheese on top of the beans. Don't get the cheese and beans too close to the edge or it can get really messy! Place another tortilla on top and then carefully flip the whole lot over to cook the other tortilla. After another minute or so, carefully slide the quesadilla out of the pan onto a large plate or chopping board. Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing into wedges.

Chilli con Carne
(you could also substitute the meat for a selection of your favourite vegetables)

Lean minced beef
Cooking oil
Tomatoes (fresh or tinned)
Oxo cube (or similar stock)
Freshly boiled water
Tomato purée
Chilli Purée
Kidney beans
Mushrooms (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat some oil in a large pan or wok and fry the minced beef until browned. Chop the onion, add to the mince and fry together for a couple of minutes. Crumble in the Oxo cube. Add about half a pint of freshly boiled water, stir in the Oxo cube and then allow to simmer. While simmering, add the tomatoes, tomato purée, chilli purée, kidney beans and mushrooms. Stir well, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for another 10-15 minutes. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste, stir though again and serve with rice, jacket potato or wedges.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Let your children play

"Get down"
"Get off"
"Come here now"
"You're not allowed to do that"
"If you don't get down we'll go home"

...Why some people bother taking their children to playgrounds I do not know. They certainly don't take them there to play.

A recent example I have come across is…

At a soft play area I frequent with Lucinda, there is a ball pool with an air blowing device. The air blower is situated in the middle of an 18" high padded platform, in the middle of the ball pool. If you press a button it activates the blower so if you then put balls over it they levitate in the air.
This particular three year old boy had climbed onto the platform and was enjoying the air blowing up his trouser legs. When I saw him I thought how fun it looked and how much I'd also like to do that. When his mum saw him she said words to this effect - "Get down. You're not allowed on that". Child didn't get down so she then said "If you don't get down we're going straight home". Child still didn't get down so his dad then said "Two more minutes and then we're going", thinking he was helping but the mum disagreed and then said to him "No, not two more minutes. If he doesn't get down we're going home now". Dad said "Sorry" and wandered off! Mum then went and shouted to child "Come here now". Child then slowly made his way over to his mum who then crouched down in front of him, pointed her finger in his face and gave him a talking to. Lucinda was stood next to them, staring and giving this woman a dirty look while this was happening!

I would have been in disbelief but unfortunately I see similar occurences regularly. My thoughts on the incident are:

1. Why isn't he "allowed" on it? There are no signs to say it's forbidden to climb on the air blower. In my opinion, it is part of the play area. It is padded and it is not too high. It is the perfect opportunity for a young child to develop their climbing skills.

2. He had discovered that if he stood on it, the air blew up his trouser legs and that it was fun. It was a simple science experiment. He was learning. When his mum told him to get down, he was still mid-experiment and not ready to get down!

3. Not only did the mum try to blackmail the child into getting down by threatening him with going home if he didn't, she then didn't carry through her threat anyway because after she had shouted at him she let him go back into the play area and continue playing anyway.

4. The mum could not (or refused to) see things from her child's perspective. Where as I thought it looked fun and imagined how cool it would be to have air blowing up my trouser legs, this woman could only see a child breaking an imaginary rule.

Other recent examples are another young boy being told to get down from the bottom rung of a ladder on a playground climbing frame and a whole family of children being told to sit still and be quiet on a beach! Yes really - everyone else on the beach were also gobsmacked at that incident. And to make it worse, the mum said she was "going for a cigarette until they could behave" and left them in the care of their grandma who then also started shouting at them!

I know we all want our children to be safe but I think being over-cautious only serves to stifle our childrens' imagination, sense of adventure and ultimate ability to learn as much as possible from the world around them.
Play is the work of children. It's how they learn. Of course there will be situations where the child is genuinely putting themselves in danger but more often than not, childrens' adventurous play will result in no more than a couple of scratches and the odd bruise. Scratches and bruises are part of childhood.
If you're worried about them climbing too high and that they might fall, go stand behind them so if they do fall you'll be there to catch them. If they want to climb on something higher than you can reach, go up there with them! Having children is a great excuse to let your hair down and have a good play. Make the most of it. But most of all…

Please let your children play.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Review - Peppa Pig World

Peppa Pig World is a new part of Paultons Park, near Southampton. It opened in April this year and I have been looking forward to going since I first heard about it.
Lucinda loves Peppa Pig. In fact, it could well be bordering on an obsession, so what better way to fuel the obsession than spending a day completely immersed in all things pig?!

We had already booked a week in France so we decided to go to Peppa Pig World for the day on the way. It is too far to go for the day otherwise. We booked a short break package which included a night in a hotel and two days entry to the park for the price of one. So we set off late Thursday morning and arrived there at about 3pm. This allowed us a couple of hours there before it closed. Our full day at Peppa Pig World was planned for Friday. I'm glad we had time to go on Thursday afternoon because it gave us chance to go on a few rides, so we didn't have to queue as much on Friday, and it also allowed us to plan ahead for Friday - like taking a change of clothing for Lucinda so she could get wet in the "Muddy Puddles" area. On Thursday afternoon we went on Grandpa Pig's Train ride and Peppa's Balloon ride. We went in Peppa's house and Lucinda did some Peppa Pig colouring. We also had time to go on the teacups and watch the penguins in another area of the park.

Friday was very busy. I knew it would be as it was the last day of the school summer holidays, but it was the only day we could go due to fitting it around our week in France. It wasn't too bad though. We didn't have to queue for longer than about twenty minutes for any ride and Lucinda could just about manage that.

When we first got to Paultons Park on Friday morning, we started at the opposite end of the park to Peppa Pig World as we didn't want to miss out on the other attractions. So Lucinda went on a digger ride, some other roundabouts and we had a look around the bird gardens. After lunch, we headed back to Peppa Pig World.
First of all we went on the Windy Castle ride. This was my favourite ride as you're on it a long time and get excellent views over the whole of Peppa Pig World. Lucinda then went to play in Mr Potato's Playground before going to jump in "Muddy Puddles". Muddy Puddles is a water fountain area with big brown coloured splodges on the floor! We took her some spare knickers to wear, especially for this, as her swimming costumes were packed in the main suitcase to go to France, which was wedged tightly in the car boot! It was a hot day and the water was very refreshing. Lucinda loved running through the fountains and making water squirt between her toes. I wish I'd taken a change of clothing for myself however, as small children do not care that you are fully clothed when they squirt you! My trousers were soaking wet for hours - as was the money I had in my pocket.
After we'd got dried off (not including my trousers) we went to meet Peppa and George at an official meet and greet. Lucinda was very happy to stroke Peppa and George's noses. We then went in the gift shop for a few souvenirs before finishing off in George's Spaceship Playzone indoor play area.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Peppa Pig World - and the rest of Paultons Park. It is a family theme park, so although Peppa Pig World appeals to under 6's, the rides are suitable for babies and are still entertaining for older children. In the rest of the park are bigger rides, such as a log flume and a small rollercoaster, etc. There aren't any "white-knuckle" rides... but I wouldn't have gone on those anyway!
Friends with boys have asked me whether Peppa Pig World is suitable for them as they imagine it to be really girly - but it's not. There are plenty of George Pig, Grandpa Pig, etc, themed rides too. I recommend it to anyone whose children are under about eight years old, even if they're not as obsessed with Peppa Pig as my daughter, it would still be a fantastic day out.
As we were leaving, Lucinda asked if she could go to Peppa Pig World again next week. Unfortunately for her, we couldn't go again the week after but we will definitely be planning another trip there next summer.

Entry prices for Paultons Park can be found here... https://paultonspark.co.uk/prices


Sunday, 7 August 2011

Lucinda's Birth Story

Something I've kept meaning to get around to is writing Lucinda's birth story. So as my blog is getting established, I think now might be a good time. I've always thought that birth stories might be a bit like looking at other people's holiday photos - either you find them really boring or you find them interesting. I'm in the latter group. So for everyone else who likes a good read of a birth story, here is mine...

I had a completely trouble-free pregnancy. Never felt any different to usual. No symptoms - tiredness, morning sickness, heartburn etc. Bump didn't start to appear until about 28 weeks, when it came and went every so often, before it decided to stick around at about 32 weeks. People started noticing I looked pregnant then. Although, not everyone. My next-door neighbours didn't catch on until Lucinda was six days old!

20 week scan

I took after my mum pregnancy-wise. She always had tiny bumps and no symptoms. My mum is my inspiration for a lot of my birth and parenting choices. So it is for this reason that I only ever considered home birth. My elder brother and I were born at hospital. My middle brother should have been born at home but he was breech and the midwife had never assisted the delivery of a breech at home so she insisted my mum go to hospital. My younger brother and sister were born at home - and although I didn't witness these births I still felt part of them and was "listening in" on the events! I loved how my dad came to get me within minutes of the births so I could go meet my new brother and sister - particularly my sister as I really didn't want a 4th brother! I love the thought that a baby born at home has only ever been at home until you decide to take them out. But the thing that has always stuck in my mind is what my mum has said about home births. In her words "Home births don't hurt". So, with that thought engrained in my mind since being 5 years old, home birth was my only option!

So, at my booking appointment with the midwife she asked me where I would be having my baby. I said "At home". I could see her face light up. She was so pleased. She must have got so fed up of people saying "Dewsbury" or "Pontefract"! Only thing she said was that I needed to get to 37 weeks for a homebirth. That was my biggest worry at the time. My mum's pregnancies averaged 37 weeks, so if I was to take after my mum with short pregnancies, my baby might come too soon.

38 week bump

Well, 37 weeks came and went. As did 38, 39 and 40 weeks. Then 41 weeks. I couldn't believe I was having to worry about being hassled for induction! At 40+10 it was recommended I go to an appointment at the hospital to be monitored. They also pencilled in an induction (which I was never going to go through with!). They said, because I was planning a home birth, they would put the induction date forward from the usual 40+10 to 42 weeks. Giving me an extra 4 days to have my homebirth. As long as I went in for monitoring every day until then. The monitoring was a waste of time. I went for the first two evenings, everything was fine. When I turned up for the third appointment they said it didn't matter and sent me home again! So, I got to 42 weeks - and this is the good bit - they were two days off with my dating scan (I know when I conceived, my husband works away!) so when I went into labour naturally at 42+1 they thought I was only 41+6!

Labour started at 2.00am on Sunday morning. I decided I was in labour at 4.30am. I was unsure before then as I had had cramps at 2.00am for the two previous nights, which had lasted a couple of hours and then gone off again. But by 4.30am I realised I was probably in labour this time. I woke my husband to tell him which, in typical husband fashion, he wasn't very impressed with and kept whinging "Did you have to wake me up?"! I ran a bath but I didn't stay in long because there wasn't enough hot water, so I got out and whinging husband stuck a TENS machine on my back. We tried the whole timing the contractions thing but I was having one after another and they were merging together so other than there being 3 in about 10 minutes we couldn't be more specific. I told my husband to phone my mum. This was just after 5.00am. My mum arrived at about 5.30am and could tell I was in the later stages of labour, so she phoned the labour ward to tell them to call the midwives to come out. The two midwives arrived at about 6.30am and after a quick check, told me I was 10cm dilated. This surprised me as although the contractions were one after another, they only felt like a moderate period pain and a bit of back ache. The midwives also asked me when my waters had broken, to which I replied "I didn't know they had". So assumed they must have gone when I was in the bath.

So, the midwives told me to try pushing. I didn't actually have the urge to push though. But I pushed on each contraction for over an hour. Nothing seemed to be happening. I'd been upright, on my knees or on all fours throughout labour. I'd deliberately avoided laying on my back or reclining because I knew these were the worst possible positions and also because it was very uncomfortable to lay on my back because I was labouring in my back. Because I had back ache I thought my baby was posterior and thought that must be the reason why it was proving difficult to push out. I got up and went for a walk to the bathroom, then came back and tried again. The midwives recommended we call an ambulance and transfer to hospital, which I reluctantly agreed to. I really didn't want to go to hospital, it had never been part of my plan, but I didn't know why my baby wasn't coming and I got the feeling the midwives didn't either - which made me slightly uncomfortable.

The ambulance arrived at about 8.30am. I got in and I was fastened onto a stretcher. But because it was too uncomfortable to lay on my back, I laid on my side. Well, reclined on my side, leaning on one elbow and holding the gas and air in the other hand. I loved it, it was so funny clinging on while the ambulance went around roundabouts at great speed! When we got to the hospital, I was pushed up to the labour ward on the stretcher. They pushed the stretcher up to the side of a bed and asked me to climb onto the bed. Which I tried to do before saying "It'd help if you unfastened me!". So, I climbed onto the bed and they told me I'd need to lay on my back. But I couldn't tolerate laying on my back at all. It wasn't painful. I can't describe it. It was a strange feeling. But I just couldn't lay on my back. So I asked for meptid. I remembered that at parentcraft class my midwife had recommended meptid as it didn't make mother or baby drowsy like pethidine, but had a similar analgesic effects. So, after the shot of meptid I could lay on my back. A doctor came then, stuck a ventouse up me, pulled on it, it came unsuctioned and splattered her with blood - hahaha! So she had another go and suddenly, totally unexpected, my baby was placed on my tummy.... at 9.11am on the 21st December 2008.

My mum said "Are you going to have a look and see what it is?" (I thought it was a baby but she meant is it a boy or a girl?!) So I had a look and said "Bloody hell!". I couldn't believe she was a girl. I'd been convinced she was a boy. But I was very very happy. I had a little girl. She had her first breastfeed while the doctor was sewing me up - I assumed that it was standard procedure to cut before performing a ventouse delivery, unfortunately.

After she had been delivered I started to think about her positioning. The mark from the ventouse was on the side of her head. I imagined that she had been trying to come out with her head turned sideways and that must have been why I didn't have the urge to push - she couldn't have been fully engaged or wasn't putting any pressure on. About a year later I read about asynclitism. I had never heard of it at the time, but I am now convinced that she was asynclitic. I wish I had heard of it before but even then, I don't know whether I would have recognised it, because although something didn't feel quite right, it didn't hurt. It didn't feel like she was "stuck" as I imagine that to be painful. Maybe if it were to happen again I would realise and be able to try out some of the positions I've read about that can help baby engage properly. As it is, I never got my much looked forward to home birth with Lucinda.

But, after a bath and a couple of breastfeeds, we were on our way home. I was discharged after four hours as they knew I didn't want to be there. Oh, I forgot to mention that the husband sat in the corner reading a Haynes manual while I was giving birth, so he doesn't get much of a mention in my birth story! When we got home, we just had time for bacon sandwiches, and then after another breastfeed and a nappy change we went to my mum and dad's for tea. So it was a very eventful and busy day!

I'm sad that I didn't get the home birth I'd always imagined. I lay in bed and think about how Lucinda should have been born there. I imagine what it would have been like to have my family come to the house to see her that morning, instead of them going to the hospital. Every time I see the photo of Lucinda laid on an NHS towel I want to Photoshop the NHS logo out of the photo (must get around to that one day). It nags me that it says "Place of birth - Pontefract" on her birth certificate and passport, when it should say "Wakefield".

Less than two hours old. That NHS towel, grrr!

Hospital wasn't a particularly bad experience. I can't say that I'm traumatised by it. But it wasn't the experience I wanted. If I ever have another baby I really hope that everything goes to plan and I get the home birth I've always imagined. I don't feel like my life is complete without the experience of home birth. When my friends have a home birth I am so happy for them. Of course I'm happy when anyone has any kind of birth, but there's something about home birth that moves me. Next time....



Wednesday, 20 July 2011

How to make a cup of tea

There's nothing like a nice cup of tea - Well, when it's made properly that is!

Recently, I have been astounded by the number of people who can't do something as simple as making a cup of tea. I regularly turn down a cup of tea at work when certain people offer to make me one. There would be no point in them bothering as I just couldn't drink it. I really don't know how they manage to brew up such a vile tasting beverage.

There's nothing to it really. First of all you need to make sure you have some good quality teabags. I prefer Ringtons, although Yorkshire Tea will do if I run out and need to get some from a shop. Then, put one teabag in a cup or mug of your choice. Boil a kettle of water - and this is the crucial part - pour the water onto the teabag while it is still boiling. If it is even so much as a few seconds off the boil it will not brew the tea properly. Leave it to brew for atleast five minutes. When other people make me a cup of tea, I often have a fresh cup on my desk within a couple of minutes of my empty cup being taken away to be replenished. A good cup of tea takes time. It can't be rushed. Then, after the tea has brewed for atleast five minutes, remove the teabag and add milk and sugar to your requirements. Never put milk in the cup first as this prevents the tea brewing properly as it cools the water. If making a round of drinks, never stir a non-sugar cup of tea with a spoon which has just stirred sugar into another cup. This also renders the tea undrinkable as even the tiniest remnant of sugar can be tasted. Likewise, if you are making a mixed round of tea and coffee, never stir tea with the same spoon as you have just stirred coffee.

For those of you who aren't stereotypical British or Irish tea connoisseurs, you may not understand how important a skill making a cup of tea is. A cup of tea is a much looked forward to event and it has to "hit the spot". This can cause problems when travelling abroad. Many a time, my husband and I have tried to explain how we would like our tea to be made. An otherwise perfect hotel near Maranello, Italy, spoilt itself by it's lack of tea-making abilities. My husband explained that he would like them to put the teabags in the pot and then pour on the water while it was boiling before bringing the teapot to him with the teabags still in there, brewing. Could they manage this? No. They brought a teapot containing hot water and teabags separately.

My most recent international tea incident was at a McDonalds in France. We had gone to France for five days and in the last-minute rush to pack (as always!) we had somehow managed to forget a pack of Ringtons tea. My husband cannot survive without tea. I suggested that McDonalds would have tea and although they wouldn't make it properly because they never use boiling water, it would be better than no tea at all. Well, what a fiasco! I asked for "Thé". They gave me a fruit infusion. I said "Non, thé" and they then gave me a bottle of Lipton Ice. So I said "NON. THÉ NOIR!! CHAUD, S.V.P!" As you can tell, I was running out of patience! I was finally handed an English breakfast tea teabag. Result, I thought. But no. I took it to my husband who was waiting patiently with a, now, luke warm cup of water. He opened it but it had got damp and then dried out and was stuck to the inside of the packet. We gave up and left, going back to the hotel to brew up a teabag off the courtesy tray. And amazingly, we had actually been provided with a kettle in our hotel room - something which is usually lacking in foreign hotels. Hats off to the Best Western in Hardelot-Plage!

So, there we go. Just had to let off some tea making steam.

Footnote: I realise that some non-Brits can make tea properly and for those of you that can, I am in full admiration of you and you are a credit to your country! And maybe you could teach my colleagues something :-)


Friday, 15 July 2011

Summer Days Out

Lucinda and I love days out, especially in the summer. So here I have compiled a list and short description of some of our favourites.

Lotherton Hall
Leeds, West Yorkshire, England.

This is one of our most local attractions and one we frequent on a very regular basis.
Lotherton Hall is not quite a stately home but a very attractive property nonetheless. It stands in large grounds, consisting of gardens, a deer park, woodland, a bird garden, picnic area, adventure playground, cafe, gift shop, ice cream kiosk and a small childrens' funfair in the summer months.
It costs £3.60 per car for parking and the bird garden, adventure playground and all the grounds are included in the price. This makes for an excellent budget day out. Infact, if you don't arrive until mid-afternoon onwards you don't have to pay for parking, as I found out a couple of weeks ago.
Lucinda loves the bird garden. There are flamingoes, emus, exotic pheasants, Andean condors along with the more traditional ducks. There is plenty of seating and the walkways are flat and wide.
The adventure playground has a small toddler area as well as the larger climbing frame. The toddler area is excellent. It comprises of two bridges, a crawling tube, steps, rope ladder and a slide. There are also two baby swings.

Pugneys Country Park
Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England.

Another very local attraction to us.
Pugneys is a former quarry and open cast mine from which two lakes have been created. The main lake is used for boats, pedaloes, windsurfers, kayaks etc which can be hired along with any necessary equipment. There are also several clubs, based at the watersports centre, which meet regularly. The smaller lake is part of a nature reserve and there are a couple of bird hides, which Lucinda likes to take her little binoculars to!
The main lake is circled by a footpath, which is fully accessible to pushchairs and wheelchairs. The full walk is about a mile and a half long and takes a leisurely 40 minutes to complete. There are plenty of seats all the way around.
There is not so much a play area as a "tactile" area. There are some interesting contraptions with big plastic balls on to move along bars and there are some fences with holes in which ropes with a ball at each end pull through. Not the easiest things to describe! There is also a little bridge and a balance beam. Whatever they are, they have been designed with disabled people in mind and there are instructions on each piece of aparatus for ideas of ways to use them.
There is a cafe, ice cream van and picnic area. Although they did intend to start charging for parking a while ago, it is yet to materialise and there is a large black bin bag taped over the parking machine.

Tropical World
Leeds, West Yorkshire, England

Situated in Roundhay Park, Tropical World is an indoor attraction full of butterflies, ponds, waterfalls, birds, fish, terrapins, reptiles and meerkats. The meerkats have a recently renovated new home surrounded by large glass panels for easy viewing. It is also home to the largest collection of tropical plants outside of Kew Gardens.
It is not a particularly large place but it does have exterior gardens and an adjacent cafe and is on the edge of Roundhay Park - Also home to large expanses of lawns, woodlands, lakeside walks, restaurant, adventure playground, skate park, tennis courts and cricket ground.
Admission prices for Tropical World are £3.30 for adults, £2.20 for children aged 5-15 and under 5s are free. Free parking.

Sundown Adventure Land
Retford, Nottinghamshire, England

Sundown is a theme park especially for the under 10s. There are different themed areas, such as Nursery Rhyme Land where you can go in the Three Bears' cottage and the Monkey Mischief area where animated animals sing. There are two indoor soft play areas (one of which is possibly the biggest in the country) and several outdoor play areas, including one with a large sandpit. There are rides that the whole family can go on. There is a ride called Boozy Barrel which is a miniature "rapids" ride. There is a train and a tractor ride and also an all year round Santa ride. You can also follow the yellow brick road to find the Wizard of Oz, see Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall and see Cinderella and Prince Charming by the pumpkin carriage.
There are about three cafes and several picnic areas, along with grassy areas to put down a rug.
Sundown Adventure Land is a much looked forward to summer day out for us.
Admission prices are £10 each for anyone over the age of two or £7.50 each for disabled guests and their carers. £10 sounds a lot for a two or three year old but it is worth every penny. It is a fantastic day out for everyone. Free parking.

Park Hall Countryside Experience
Oswestry, Shropshire, England

We have visited Park Hall on a recent weekend at the in-laws, who live just over the border in Wales. I think it will become an annual summer day out when we are in the area as there is so much to do for all the family.
Lucinda would have been happy to spend all day in the soft-play area or on the pedal tractors or bouncy castles, but she also enjoyed the play houses with kitchens in, which were next to where we decided to have our picnic. There are lots of picnic tables and seating, both outside and under cover. There are a couple of rides - a ride in a trailer pulled by a tractor and a childrens' train, made out of barrels, which is also pulled by a tractor. There are a couple of outside play areas and Toylanders (childrens' Land Rovers) and a "Driving School" for older children (approx. 4yrs+).
There are lots of animals, including farm animals and also a small petting area with rabbits, guinea pigs and Shetland ponies. At certain times, a member of staff will supervise and put small animals on your lap for you to stroke. Lucinda loved stroking the rabbits and she also, later on, groomed a pony.
There is a Victorian School and a Welsh Guards museum and also a classic car collection.
Entrance prices are £6.95 for anyone over 2 years, or £6.45 for OAPs and disabled people.

Fota Wildlife Park
Cork, Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland

This is the best wildlife park I have ever been to. Situated on Fota Island just outside Cork city and home to all sorts of animals including giraffes, monkeys and capybaras. Many animals are roaming free, including llamas and wallabies, and they are very friendly and enjoy being stroked.
There are several play areas and seating around the park. There are also plenty of sheltered areas in case you catch an Irish shower! There are two cafes, a large picnic area and a gift shop.
Also on Fota Island is Fota House and Gardens. All attractions are served by a mainline rail station.
Entrance prices for the wildlife park are €14 for adults and €9 for children aged 3-15. Under 3s are free. Parking is €3 per private car and proceeds go towards the upkeep of Fota House and Gardens.