Out and about

Digging the garden centre

A few short years ago visiting a garden centre would have been way down our list of fun places to hang out. For a start, we lived in a second floor flat back then. But lack of green space aside, our view, in the not-so-distant past, was that garden centres were places for folk who are (ahem) much older than us! The main exception to the rule being the annual festive foray to buy a Christmas tree.

20130803_155529 (480x640)Fast forward to life with a curious toddler and suddenly we’re seeing our local garden centres in a whole new light. Plus, I do think many of them have started to branch out (excuse the pun) and become far more family-friendly than I ever remember them being when I was a kid.

Suddenly, visiting a garden centre has become a fairly fool-proof, cheap and cheerful way to spend a few hours keeping Little Miss entertained. There’s loads for her to look at, favourites being ornamental animals of all shapes and sizes that she can pat and proudly say the names of. And, if she’s lucky, maybe some real ones to see in the pets and aquarium sections.

Even better, some of the best garden centres near us now have great soft play areas we can visit in return for a small donation to charity. In wet weather this can be a lifesaver! And to keep us parents happy, there’s the lure of a nice cup of tea or coffee and a slice of cake.

20131025_114925_resized_1It does also seem that garden centres are no longer just about selling plants. Most now have various areas of gifts, toys, books, clothes and often a farm-style shop of tasty treats to tempt us. And now Christmas is coming they are getting even more interesting, with some lovely winter wonderland themed displays and activities. The one we went to this week had so many fairy lights twinkling it was like a free baby sensory experience! It also had an ‘alternative’ nativity scene set up, with moving life-size animals (see picture, which doesn’t quite do it justice!). I say ‘alternative’ because as well as your standard Christmas story stable creatures it also featured penguins and a lion, which I’m pretty sure were not part of the traditional  line-up. But either way, Little Miss loved it.

Our favourite local garden centres include Old Barn Nursery & Garden Centre at Dial Post on the A24, Sussex, home to the scene above, and Hillier Garden Centre on the  A281 Brighton Road just outside of Horsham, home to the ornamental rabbits and guinea pigs in the first picture . Both are part of bigger chains with outlets in other parts of the UK too.

So, it seems we are officially garden centre converts. Strange how parenthood changes your perspective on so many things!

(NB: These views are my own, I’ve not been paid/bribed/asked by the garden centres mentioned to post this)

Categories: Out and about | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Loving the library

Library cardI grew up loving books and have been keen for my little one to do the same, so the library has been a bit of a hangout of ours since the early days. But actually it’s not just about the books. I’ve found local libraries to be a handy safe haven for us since Little Miss was tiny, especially if we’re out and about in a new town. There’s always something to keep her entertained, it’s free, warm and all-weather. And while she finds it fun, it also ticks the box of being good for her development. What’s not to love? I now spend far more time there than I ever did in my student days!

My new-found appreciation of libraries started when I was breastfeeding. I always used to seek one out when I needed a base for the day. Most towns have one and they can be generally be relied upon to provide shelter from the elements, a quiet place to feed (with an endless supply of reading material for mum) and somewhere to change the inevitable dirty nappy (with rarely a queue).

Now she’s a toddler we’re still loving it but nowadays, like everything, it’s a little less sedate!

Little Miss got her first library card at the grand old age of 12 weeks! (check out the cute card in this post’s photo). Admittedly this was because the NHS post-natal group we attended had a local librarian come along to promote its parent-friendly credentials and sign us all up there and then. And it worked a treat.

At our local library there are no late fines on baby library cards (within reason), always handy for when busy mummy forgets. And if pages do get a bit tatty from toddlers thumbing through that’s also OK too.

Little Miss loves wandering around, looking at books, sitting on the little chairs and climbing in the funky tunnel-seat thingy (not it’s technical name I’m sure!).

And, on top of everything else, a big bonus is the Baby Rhyme Time sessions. Round our way there are loads of activities, groups and classes vying for the parental pound, so it’s nice to find something completely free (especially now I’m only working part-time). Some sessions have also included freebie books to take home at the end from Bookstart.

So, I for one would like to give a big thumbs up to local libraries. Do you agree?

National Libraries Day UK logo

Categories: Baby bookworm, Out and about | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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