How To Make Your U.K. Family Break Ten Times Easier – Toy Box Tots

***I was kindly given a free toy box rental including delivery on our recent family short break and offered to write this review to describe it.***

Have you ever noticed that your children are much more interested in toys that aren’t theirs? Perhaps, like me, you have watched them obsess over a particular toy at toddler group, and bought one of their own only for it to be shunned within a week? Have you ever thought how great it would be if you could somehow lend a bunch of new toys every now and then and return them once your toddler gets bored with them? Enter Toy Box Tots! Toy Box Tots allows you to do just that. You can rent a box of age specific toys for your little one and send them back when you’re finished. But there’s so much more to this service than just renting toys.

how to make your break easier toy box tots

U.K. Family Breaks

We have been on a few weekend breaks this year as a family. As we’re saving for Disney World in 2019, we have made the most of weekends away here and there. I’ve taken my 8-year-old to Paris for the weekend, we’ve stayed in Cheltenham with Rich’s cousin and we’ve just got back from a weekend break in Center Parcs Longleat Forest.

I don’t know about you but whenever we go anywhere Rich packs his stuff and I pack for everyone else. Somehow it just seems to fall to me. After I’ve thought through the outfits for each day, packed some spare clothes and we’ve emptied the bins and gone through the fridge and grabbed our chargers, we’re just about to step out of the house and I remember toys. I grab a bag for life from the Narnia plastic bag cupboard and chuck a few toys in that I think my 2-year-old is most likely to want to play with.

It’s always a last minute grab and dash and I’m always trying to think of the smallest toy he gets the most play out of that could potentially be forgotten and left behind without the world ending. Toys are so bulky and guaranteed when we get there he’s not interested in the toy I picked anyway.

Toy Box Tots

I had a totally different experience on our most recent trip away to Center Parcs thanks to Toy Box Tots. With Toy Box Tots you can rent a box of toys for anything from 3 nights to 4 weeks or you can order an annual subscription to receive regular toy box deliveries throughout the year. The toy boxes are centred around a children’s book which you get to keep and each box is sorted by age. It also comes with a laminate with ideas on how to play with the toys in the box while linking them to the story.

I’m not over exaggerating when I say our box from Toy Box Tots was one of the main highlights of our holiday. It was there waiting for us when we arrived at our lodge in Center Parcs. This meant that after a long boring car drive my son could dive right in and get busy playing while we unpacked the car. All the toys were so well thought about and suited his age and development amazingly (I can tell it was packed by a parent!) It was full of toys he had never played with before or that we don’t own ourselves so it maintained his interest all weekend.

A Moment’s Peace

Those moments when we got back to the lodge after a busy morning out exploring, being able to sit down with a cup of tea while our 2 year old was happy playing were priceless. He loved the story we had with the box ‘King Cat’ and knowing there was a book in the box meant I didn’t have to remember to pack a bedtime story too.

Toy Box Tots
Toy Box

Packing the box up when we were leaving was really easy. There is an inventory sheet in there so you know you haven’t forgotten anything and the returns stickers are in there too.

No Hassle

I absolutely loved it and I will 100% be using Toy Box Tots for all our future U.K. breaks. It’s so much more than a box of toys. These are the main things I got from the Toy Box Tots rental:

  • Peaceful downtime at the lodge in between activities.
  • One less thing to have to think about packing.
  • Being able to trust that the toys are age appropriate.
  • Bonding while exploring the new story.
  • Being able to unload the car without worrying my toddler had discovered some new and exciting hazard I was not yet aware of.
  • Feeling like my 2-year-old had something on holiday that was specifically for him.
  • Discovering new ideas for play that we hadn’t tried yet (the play food).
  • Finding a new favourite kids book.
  • Hassle-free delivery and return.

I will definitely be renting a box from Toy Box Tots for our next U.K. adventure, wherever that may be. I think the idea is genius and a really helpful tool for parents and families.

If you have questions about what happens if you lose or damage a toy or if you would like to order your own box for your U.K. break you can do so here on the Toy Box Tots website. Let them know you saw it here on Kate Lili Blog!

11 year old from Newport wins national art competition

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Have you seen a giant macaw around lately? Don’t panic, it’s just 11 year-old Ayesha Tania’s winning entry to the BIC Kids Young Artist Award 2018. 

Bic kids young artist Newport

Competition

Ayesha’s beautiful drawing of a colourful macaw saw off 13 other regional finalist’s entries to bag the first prize via a public vote. Part of her prize for winning the BIC kids young artist award was to have her art work displayed on a huge billboard, along with a bespoke art party for her and her family and friends courtesy of BIC stationery. 

The competition ran from Aug 27th – Sep 9th 2018 and received over 1,000 entries from all across the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. A panel of judges then picked 14 finalists and those entries were opened to a public vote. Nearly 20,000 votes were cast and after being a finalist in the 2017 competition Ayesha was voted as the winner for 2018. 

Creativity

The BIC kids young artist award is designed to encourage kids aged 5-11yrs to get creative. One of the panel judges was illustrator Phil Corbett who said: 


“We’re thrilled to announce Ayesha as the 2018 winner of the BIC® KIDS Young Artist Award. Her macaw drawing is technically outstanding. The bird itself is so vibrant and realistic but the background is also extremely well put together. The fact that Ayesha was also a winner last year shows that she really does have huge amounts of artistic skill.”

Phil Corbett

Celebrate

Keep your eyes peeled because Ayesha’s macaw drawing has been displayed on a further selection of billboards since the end of September.

How exciting to have such a talented young artist in our midst right here in Newport -and what a fun prize! I bet Ayesha and her family are so excited to see her art work displayed on huge billboards. Well done to her. Keep a look out for the BIC kids young artist award next year and it could be your art work being displayed for all to see!

**I was gifted a stationery bundle from BIC stationery to tell you all about this young artist award. I thought it was a really lovely piece of news and particularly relevant to Kate Lili Blog as the winner is local to me and many of my readers.**

West Midland Safari Park – A Review

Staying in Cheltenham on our 2 night family break away, we were only an hour’s drive away from West Midland Safari Park. I have been actively avoiding zoos for a few years now because every time I go I just feel sad for the animals. Heroic, I know. However, we decided to give it try. My little boy is currently crazy about lions and we had a nice day when we took our eldest a few years ago.

It’s well worth planning ahead and booking your tickets online. This way, you can save as much as 35% off the full price tickets. West Midland Safari Park is well sign posted so it’s easy to find from the motorway and there’s loads of parking when you get there.

Getting In

We had our A-game on and we got there at (read not long after) park opening. There were no queues so we were able to drive straight up to a window and show our pre-printed tickets. We were advised that we would need to pick up our pre-booked fair ride tickets inside the park.

The parking attendants directed us to a parking space which was right by the toilets which was great. There is a huge and very visible modern toilet block in the car park. So you don’t have to queue to get in while desperate for the loo. Good news for parents of young children who have just driven a long time to get there. Or just me, because I’m always the one that needs to pee. The toilets in this block are modern and clean and there’s loads of them too. When we went in, it was very busy but we didn’t have to queue for a cubicle.

Safari

We went straight to the safari tour. The first animals are the rhino which are Rich’s favourite. We were lucky that when we visited the group had babies with them and they were really cute. I was able to placate my nagging inner voice by focusing on the fact that white rhino are endangered and under major threat of poaching.

West Midland Safari Park baby white rhino

Baby Rhino

West Midland Safari Park - Eland

Eland

Going on we met an Eland. I’ve never seen one of these animals before, a sort of cross between a deer and a cow. They are large animals with horns and they seemed very curious, but placid. I liked them.

We had bought a West Midland Safari Park guide book at the entrance (£5) which I would recommend because it has the names of all the animals in and little tid bit facts about them. Also the kids loved reading it to see what which animal was coming up next. We hadn’t been offered to buy animal food and we could see lots of people in cars ahead feeding the animals. We bought a box of animal feed when we went into the park for £3.50 and we went round the safari again to feed the animals at the end of our day.

The last admittance to the safari was at 6pm. We visited at the end of August in the summer holidays.

Hungry Lions

West Midland Safari Park - Lions

The male lions waiting for their cow.

The safari goes on through to see the lions and all the other dangerous animals but you can choose to bypass this part of the safari if you want to and it is clearly signposted. Some other animals we saw were cheetahs, African wild dogs (a very social animal apparently), and white lions.

There was a very long queue leading up to the lion enclosure. The guide book came in handy while we were waiting here. I read it and shouted out random animal facts which I pretended my family were interested in hearing. You could do the theme park first and maybe avoid these queues by doing the safari later in the day.

We saw a soft top convertible car being turned around as they weren’t allowed to go through to the lions part. The lions are freely running around the cars and it feels like the staff take security and safety very seriously. The lionesses were prowling the fence perimeter as they could see some cows on the other side. The staff were in their jeeps trying to move the cows along and block the lionesses view.

Feeding Giraffes

My favourite part of the safari was feeding the giraffes. I had no idea we would be able to do that. As you drive around a bend into the giraffe enclosure they are just suddenly there and they are huge!

West Midland Safari Park - Giraffe silhouetteWest Midland Safari Park

There was one -I reckon it was an elderly one- who had parked itself in a spot right by the exit so it could get food from every car that went out. It snotted on me! See the clip of it snotting on me on my facebook page here. My daughter who is 8 was most excited about feeding the deer and one of them stuck it’s head right inside the car on the baby’s side (he didn’t even have any food bless him) but he was brave and just looked at it.

The Park Part

West Midland Safari Park - sea lion

After the safari we made our way into the park and caught the sea lion show which was brilliant. Every seat in the auditorium has a good view, so don’t be put off if it looks busy. The keeper explained a bit about how they train the sea lions while showing us some of their skills.

After the sea lion show we walked around a little bit but we didn’t do most of the things there are to see. My daughter asked to have her face painted (it was £4 for a face painting and £7.50 with a pair of furry ears). When my 2yr/o saw his sister’s face paint he was that impressed he wanted his done too and he loved it! I asked the artist to just do a very quick version of the tiger for him and he went round roaring all day.

We walked through the night enclosure where there are free flying bats. So don’t go in that part if they freak you out because they do fly right by you. The lizard section was a bit disappointing. I’m not sure if I didn’t take enough time in there but I only saw some fruit beetles and ants.

Theme Park Rides for Kids

My daughter was so excited about going on the rides so we actually bypassed a lot to go straight to the little theme park they have there. You have to queue again at the ticket booths to get your wristbands for the rides and the staff ask you to show them the kids height on the measure pole they have by the tills and the staff have to put the wrist band on the kids too.

West Midland Safari Park kids rides

West Midland safari park has quite a few medium type rides so it was ideal for my 8yr/o because she got to try out a few rides that were bigger than the usual ones she gets to go on but they weren’t massive. We went on a log flume, a circle boat water ride thing, flying hippos, and the haunted house. There were even a few rides my little 2 yr/o could go on too which was great. We didn’t get too wet on the rides but I did see a few soaked people walking round. There is one of those big air dryers for £2 but it was out of service.

Dinosaurs

Some of the things I missed were:

  • Ice age – a walk-through around moving models of animals from the ice age.
  • Dinosaur land – same as above but with dinosaur models
  • Boj giggly park – toddler play park
  • African village – see the goats, meer cats and hippos
  • Lorikeet Landing – walk among flocks of lorikeets
  • Lemurs

West Midland Safari Park - meer cats

Insider Tips

You can also book vip experiences like being a keeper for the day. I’d recommend booking the safari bus guided tour (£6 pp) because the animals recognised the mini buses and went straight up to them for food. They seemed like they would have a good view point too and were able to drive over the grass, bypassing some of the queues.

By the time we’d finished going on rides Rich was warning me that his day-out-o-meter was almost at max and we were all getting a bit weary too. We stopped to grab some food before leaving. The pizza and chips in the fried chicken place is nice (pretty sure it was chicago town pizza) and we spent about £18 for us all to have food and drinks there. We went round the safari once more bypassing the lions and just going around the animals we could feed. I fed a camel and there are no signs but the safari staff announced on their loud hailer for people not to feed the camels so I stopped. I googled it when I got in and there are multiple stories of camels literally biting people’s heads clean off. So don’t feed the camels.

West Midland Safari Park - Camels

Don’t feed the camels!

Price/Expense

We got free entry on a return visit with our tickets until November and I’d love to go back. They also have special events on like Halloween nights and stuff that might be worth checking out. Our tickets for a family of four to West Midland Safari Park (2 adults, 1 child aged 8 and 1 child aged 2) came to £128.50. Under 3’s are free into the safari & park. That price included our wrist bands for the rides although I couldn’t book a wrist band for the rides online for our 2yr/old but still had to pay for him at the booth (£8 I think). I assume that this is so the staff could check his height. Guidebooks and animal feed are available to book ahead of your visit online too.

Woo hoo I hope you have a great family day out! It is a jam packed day so the West Midland Safari Park website is a must before you go. Pack sun cream and rain macs and prepare for a full on day.

This is not a sponsored review. I did not receive any goods or compensation from West Midland Safari Park to write it. I just wanted to record some of my memories of a great family day out and hopefully help anyone else thinking about going because it can work out expensive, but worth it I thought. Just feeding the giraffes was worth it. Let me know what you loved about West Midland Safari Park in the comments section below. Oh and if you want to see part one of our family break in Cheltenham you can watch the vid here. It’s not quite Paris, but it is very lovely. The video of our day at West Midland Safari Park is coming soon!  🙂

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West Midland Safari Park

 

Jurassic Kingdom-Bute Park Cardiff

We were kindly invited along to the press day at Jurassic Kingdom in Bute Park, Cardiff for a preview of the event. Off we set with every weather eventuality covered, wearing wellies and macs but with sun-cream in the backpack (and yes I used both, as is usual for South Wales really).

My little boy had dinosaurs on his coat and wellies which wasn’t intentional they are just everywhere when it comes to things for little boys. I parked in the long car park off North Road and Jurassic Kingdom was easy to find as we walked into the park.

There is no mistaking where the event is as you are greeted by an enormous T-Rex as you approach. It roars and moves, much to my kids’ delight. My little boy stopped to shout ‘Dinosaur, roar.’ at the top of his voice and off we went in.

Jurassic Kingdom T-Rex

 

The food stalls were not open today and the teams were still setting up ready for opening day tomorrow (Saturday 11th August 2018). The dinosaurs roars were really loud. Some were not yet switched on. We were happy to creep past a few silent ones.

The models are really very impressive. Close up you can see that no detail has been missed and they look as if they could be alive. My 2yr/o would agree I think as he got a little bit frightened at some of them. They move and roar. Some are set up into scenes like two raptors attacking a brontosaurus and one where a t-rex and another raptor were in a stand off as if about to fight (this one seemed particularly loud). One of my favourites was two raptors in a cage with their heads poking through the bent bars. It looked like a scene from the Jurassic World movie. I kept my eyes out for Chris Pratt just in case.

jurassic kingdom brontosaurus

There were so many different dinosaurs to see from all across different time periods I’m sure if you have a little dino buff they will be able to meet their favourite dinosaur here. I even spotted a couple of sea dinosaurs.

The stars of the show were the gigantic models. Of these we saw the T-Rex as we entered, a diplodocus, a brachiosaurus and a brontosaurus. They are absolutely huge! The size of them made it easier to imagine a time when they were around. There is an area at the back where there are some amazing looking trees and alongside the dinosaurs it does feel as if you are exploring through a Jurassic world.

Jurassic Kingdom

Jurassic Kingdom Cardiff

The models have added little features. Some of their eyes open and close while they move and some of them look to be breathing too. I imagine it will be quite exciting when it’s all fully open as lots of people walk past the models all at the same time it will sound amazing.

Although I didn’t see it, some other bloggers found a sand pit for little ones where they can excavate dinosaur bones and we found a shell the kids could sit in. Overall a great day out and something unique that the kids will remember for a long time to come.

It is a touring exhibition so don’t miss out!

Open August 11th-August 27th 2018 in Bute Park, Cardiff. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Adult ticket is £13 on the gate or £11.50 if you book in advance online. 2’s and under 2 go free. Children from age 3 tickets cost £11 at the gate or £9.50 when booked in advance online. You can currently use the code EARLYBIRD to get 20% off tickets. More info here: http://www.jurassickingdom.uk/cardiff/

The Ronald McDonald Cardiff House

Have you ever seen those boxes at the tills in McDonald’s and wondered what they are for? All the donations from them go to the Ronald McDonald House Charity. RMHC provide accommodation for families near to specialist children’s hospitals making it easier for families to be closer to their children when they are seriously ill.

I think there is a bit of a stigma attached to this particular charity because lots of people think that McDonald’s run it and could afford to fund it. RMHC is an independent charity whose biggest corporate supporter is McDonald’s. So, all those pennies in the boxes at the tills mean a lot.

Happy Birthday

I was kindly invited to their Cardiff house’s first birthday party celebrations. It was a great feel good community event, with lots of returning families as guests. There was loads of great stuff for the kids, all free and we had a lovely afternoon. I actually felt a little emotional as I recalled our family’s own journey in the early weeks of my baby’s life when he was in neonatal intensive care and I thought about what the families who use this charity could be going through.

The house is very impressive, a true home from home. Everything has been thought of in order to lift as much of the mental load as they can for the families that stay there. All the décor is a nice high quality and the design is thought out so that the place feels light and airy and modern. The rooms downstairs are accessible to anyone with limited mobility and one bedroom has a hoist that goes through to the bathroom. The downstairs kitchen is designed with access in mind with lowered counter worktops. The finer details are taken care of like a laundry room and household amenities like washing up liquid and shower gel.

Families

As much as the house has little details included the finer point of this charity is the person-centred approach they have. Over and above the design and mod cons is the needs of the families they serve. Volunteers and house staff facilitate parties for special occasions. Mother’s Day and Father’s day were both marked at the house last year with treats for the mum’s and dad’s like having a hairdresser visit. Birthdays are celebrated. They openly accept anyone who is part of the family’s support network to stay with them. They have waffle Wednesdays! Every Wednesday they hold a communal breakfast of waffles which everyone at the house has the option of joining in with.

Community

The house is open 365 days a year and there is no limit to the amount of time you can stay there. The hospital refers families to the house and it’s completely free to stay. The Cardiff house is right opposite the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital at the Heath, so families can feel as close as they can without sleeping in a chair on the ward.

RMHC understand that they need to build more than just a house, and they are building community. When you are going through the worst times of your life it’s a huge thing to feel part of a community.

I’m blown away by the thoughtfulness of the Ronald McDonald House Charity and I urge you to pop your 15p change into one of those boxes the next time you visit McDonald’s. Or you can donate here: https://www.rmhc.org.uk/donate/

Or if you prefer something more practical here is the Amazon wish list for the Cardiff house.

Thanks so much to RMHC for inviting us along to celebrate with you it was a lovely day and a great event, and a cause I’m proud to support.

RMHC Cardiff

Family Fun Day

Family Fun Day

The Tree House

Meeting Space Available For Hire

An Accessible Bedroom With Hoist