Oh, World Book Day. As an avid reader, the idea of an entire day dedicated to the wonder of reading and all things bookish fills me with absolute joy.  As a parent, the idea of trying to convince my son that he would much rather go to school dressed as a character from a classic piece of literature, rather than as a laser-gun wielding stormtrooper, fills me with something a lot less pleasant.

But alas, World Book Day is once again almost upon us and so we make plans and we discuss outfits and we try to write down a note big enough that I won’t forget what day school are celebrating and we might actually get it right this year!

I think that anything which inspires our children to read is a real winner.  I recently started a series on my blog for just that purpose; with ideas for how to encourage our children to read and age-appropriate book suggestions.  You don’t have to hang around here long to realise that books are a big part of our family life, so when PizzaExpress invited us down to our local restaurant to discover their new collaboration with World Book Day, the first of its kind, we were all on board.


We have visited PizzaExpress on a number of occasions as we know exactly what we will get.  Their restaurants are no-fuss, family-friendly places to eat out and there is a great selection of options on the children’s Piccolo menu, including lots of choice for those with additional dietary requirements.  As you might know, Eli has a gluten intolerance and we have to be careful about how much gluten he consumes so seeing the variety of dishes which were clearly marked as gluten-free was fantastic.  Having the staff pick up on that and come to check with us that all was okay, was an added bonus we appreciated.

We had booked a table so there were already World Book Day activity packs laid out when we arrived which the kids soon had their mitts on.  The PizzaExpress and World Book Day collaboration is running from 9th February to the 25th March and their mission is to ‘encourage kids to use their imagination and unleash their creativity through reading’.  

There are a number of different activities to keep children entertained whilst they wait for their meal including a bookmark colouring competition to win a year’s supply of books – now THAT is a prize worth winning.  You can find out more details and enter the competition here.

Both Meg and Eli had great fun designing their bookmarks, giving them the chance to be creative.  Eli came up with his own character ‘Doughie’ to feature on his and Meg went for a prettier option with all different types of flowers.

The Special Edition World Book Day ‘Dough Ball Times’ also comes with a £1 voucher which can be put towards a WBD book.  I loved that you didn’t just get the voucher but that there were suggestions of age appropriate books too.  We had fun spotting some of our favourites including The Day The Crayons Quit by Oliver Jeffers, Wonder by R J Palacio and Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

The activity pack also had fun book related facts on the back which Meg and Eli took great delight in sharing with us.  I was very impressed with the quality of the packs; they had clearly been well thought through and kept Meg and Eli very entertained whilst they were waiting for their Piccolo meals to arrive.

The staff at PizzaExpress were absolutely brilliant with the kids, engaging with them, and asking them questions such as who they were going to dress up as for World Book Day (oh if only they knew what a loaded question that was!) and discussing who they were going to be dressing as come March 1st. PizzaExpress is encouraging its team members to dress up as their favourite book characters, with customers able to vote for the ‘best-dressed’ PizzaExpress restaurant team.  I think we might have to pop back in on that day just to see who our local staff turn up as.

This is a collaborative post with Mumsnet and PizzaExpress
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February half term is always a funny one.  Even as a family who love to be outside I struggle a little with keeping the kids entertained.  There are only so many days which can be spent wading around in the mud, pretending that it isn’t grey and drizzling.  So when Gandeys offered us a family ticket to their circus at Aintree racecourse we just about snapped their hand off.

We had been to Gandeys Circus in Liverpool a couple of years ago so we knew roughly what to expect.  This year’s theme was The Greatest Showman and the circus was full of exciting acts such as The Cuban Flyers and Duo Torres.  It had all the great features of classic family entertainment; there were funny moments, heart in your mouth moments and real ‘wow’ moments as well.

There’s not much I can say without giving away too much of what you will see, but it is worth saying that Gandeys Circus has been entertaining families all over the world for a number of years and it is clear that they know what they are doing.  You get the full Big Top experience, complete with Ringmaster and for children there is plenty to delight.

I have to say that our family particularly enjoyed the interludes which featured Andrea Delbosq, Europe’s leading female clown, as James was chosen twice to take part and he loved it.  Well, the kids and I loved it, I’m not sure how happy he actually felt!  You can see him in action in our weekly round-up vlog here.

I like that the circus tried to carry the theme through into all of their acts and that there was a good variety of things to watch.  Not every act went exactly to plan but I felt that just made it more of an honest experience and you could really see how much effort each act and each person put in.  There were a few familiar faces from a couple of years ago but some new acts as well which we appreciated.

I had a couple of people ask me about the use of animals when I mentioned that we had been to the circus and I can say that Gandeys don’t use any animals in their acts so if that is something you are concerned about then you needn’t be here.

Gandeys perform all over the country; they will be in Liverpool until Sunday 25 February and then they will be in Knutsford between Thursday 1 and Sunday 4 March before moving on.

Overall I thought it was a very entertaining couple of hours and I think the prices are fair for what you get.  There was a good level of audience participation and both Meg and Eli were as impressed with the show and the acts.  Meg even walked away saying she would love to become an acrobat although given she is afraid of heights, I’m not too sure how much she has really thought it through!

*We were provided with a family ticket to Gandeys Circus for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.
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Usually when it comes to the last day of the month I enter into the age old cliché of wondering out loud how on earth it has come around already, but I don’t think I will be alone when I say that it felt like a real slog to get towards the end of January this year!  It’s probably the inevitable slump after the busyness and joy of Christmas and New Year but my the 31st felt like a long time coming.

January has been a bit of a funny one for us.  We went into 2018 thinking that things were going to be a whole lot quieter than 2017 but it really hasn’t been the case and I feel like we’ve bounced from one thing to the next with no room to come up for air.  I’ve been battling with my old friend anxiety just recently which I know comes from having no break and no head space.  I only ever start to feel the strains of anxiousness when things feel like they are spiralling out of my control so I’m hoping we can pull right back in February, put our heads down and just enjoy some chilled out time as a family.

Meg started at a new gymnastics class this month and it is going well so far.  We are hopeful that she will be pushed a little more here; as parents we are walking a fine line between recognising that she’s actually pretty good at gymnastics and we want her to achieve her fullest potential and not turning into those blindfolded pushy parents who believe that their kid is the best one to ever step up to the training mat.  I doubt that we will ever reach that point but I do also think that she is capable of achieving whatever she wants in the realm of gymnastics and we want to help her get there.

Despite feeling a little overwhelmed with everything that was going on, I had a fantastic reading month.  I feel like these colder months lend themselves well to reading because let’s face it, who is going to want to head out and brave the elements when they could just curl up with a good book instead?!

The colder months have also got me thinking ahead to the summer; I’m hoping that this year we will be able to find room in our finances for a holiday somewhere it is guaranteed to be warm but, of course, the house renovations come first so that is very much in the air.  We’d ideally like to go somewhere with sunshine and a swimming pool, a place we can disappear off the grid for a couple of weeks and not have to think about work, school or the house but we will have to cross our fingers and hope for that one.  It doesn’t mean I haven’t spent a large amount of time browsing online and dreaming though!

 

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February half term is by far one of the trickiest school holidays, in my opinion.  With Christmas out of the way and plenty of drizzly, grey days in sight, it can be tricky to keep the children occupied especially if you are stuck indoors and driving each other up the wall!

We are a family who loves to be outside in all weathers but even I can admit that sometimes it is too much, so having a list of fun, indoor activities you can enjoy is always handy.  If you are based in the North West then I threw this list together recently of places we have tried and tested.

One of the things I didn’t include, but which I perhaps should have as we have been before and thoroughly enjoyed it, is Gandeys Circus.  You can see our review from our previous trip here.  We have been invited to attend again this half term and I know Meg and Eli will be absolutely thrilled.  This year is a celebration of 250 years of the Circus with the theme The Greatest Showman and it promises to be a whole lot of fun.

‘Raising the bar sky-high and smashing expectations to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the creation of circus, THE GREATEST SHOWMEN will be staged in the fully-heated 1,500-seat Big Top, equipped with theatre-standard lighting and sound.

For the first time a galaxy of international stars – from Colombia, Cuba, Kenya, France, Portugal and the UK – are assembled in one glittering production proudly presented by HAYLEY and MARISKA, the fourth generation of the GANDEY family’s circus dynasty.
It is thrills and laughter all the way as Gandeys Circus takes to new heights a heritage of entertaining the entire family – from the youngest member to the oldest.’

There will be acts from all over the world and all the classic performances you would expect to see in a world class circus including wire walkers, acrobats, clowns, jugglers and plenty more.  Gandeys Circus is almost 100 years old and this year’s glittering spectacle will be hosted by the fourth generation of Gandeys.  We are very excited to be able to attend!

Best of all, not only did Gandeys get in touch and ask whether we wanted to go along and watch the show but they have also offered us a family ticket to giveaway to one of our readers.  Winning a free trip to the circus is definitely one way to keep the kids occupied over half term.  To enter, all you need to do is use the rafflecopter below.

The giveaway is for a family to ticket to the circus at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool but the winner can choose from any of the available dates. Best of luck, perhaps we will see you there!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We are being provided with complimentary review tickets.  All thoughts and opinions remain our own.
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In my post last Wednesday I talked about why I think it is important that we encourage our children to read and some tips on how we can raise readers.  Today I am going to begin a series of posts where I recommend some favourite books of ours for different age ranges, starting with board books which are great for babies.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I think it is important to start reading to your children from a very young age, incorporating it into your bedtime routine as soon as you are able.  We have always read to Meg and Eli and we read a variety of books from age appropriate books to those above their age range.

Board books are great because they are sturdier than paper books, usually very brightly coloured with interesting textures or features and the stories are generally the perfect length for little attention spans.

Today I am just going to concentrate on some of the board books we have read and loved over the past 8 years of our parenting journey:-

1. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

A classic lift-the-flap board book which I can remember from my own childhood (it was first published in 1982!) and one which I absolutely loved reading to both Meg and Eli.  The basis of the story is that the Zoo is sending the ‘perfect’ pet and children must lift the flap to see which animal has been sent next.  There are so many layers to this story from simply reading it through to practising and discovering animal sounds along the way.

 

2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Another absolute classic which I’m sure many parents will remember from way back when, The Hungry Caterpillar is a bright and exciting story about a caterpillar who eats his way through a monumental amount of food before creating a chrysalis and turning into a beautiful butterfly.

 

3. Ten Little… by Mike Brownlow

We came across the ‘Ten Little…’ series quite late but they are such good books that I have since bought them as presents for various friends and family members who have young children.  There is a whole host of different themed books from dinosaurs to pirates, princesses to monsters and they encourage counting and rhyming as well as just being a little bit on the silly side.

 

4. ‘That’s Not My…’ by Fiona Watt (Usborne)

These books have come under a little fire in recent year but I think they are pretty classic as board books go.  They use simple language, have different textures for children to touch and explore as they get a little older and come in a variety of themes so whatever your child is into, there will no doubt be a ‘That’s Not My…’ book to capture their interest.  The books work on the premise that the duck or puppy or tractor etc are not the right one because of different reasons until finally alighting on the correct one.  We have had a number of these books over the years and they were always enjoyed and well loved.

 

5. What The Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson is a name which you will see pop up a fair few times over the next week or so as she is undoutedly a favourite in this household.  From a very young age we have read her books to the kids with favourites being the likes of A Squash and a Squeeze, The Smartest Giant in Town and of course The Gruffalo.  What the Ladybird Heard is a lift the flap book which is brightly coloured and full of recognisable and much loved farmyard animals.

 

Of course there are many more books I could have chosen to include here but this is just a starter point.  Do let me know though if you have any recommendations or books you would include.  And pop back next Wednesday for my favourite books for children aged 4+.

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