Archive | January, 2014

Ten top spots in Tyneside and Northumberland for babies and toddlers

30 Jan

A very brave friend of mine has two under two and it left me trying to remember what I did to stay sane in the winter when mine were that age? So I got thinking of my top 10. Any more tips?

1. Centre for Life: Sitting with a takeaway giant Starbucks while your littleone/s explore the under 5s area upstairs has to be the ultimate. From mini ready steady cook style kitchen to soft play and lego, they’ve got the lot.  There are also designated pre school days

2. Want to sit and chat and eat in peace without the stress of keeping your children sitting at the table? At Willow Farm pub near Cramlington you can work your way through a carvery or a slice of cake the size of your head whilst your little ones crawl around in the play area. Why spend your money on soft play when you can spend it on a roast? 😉 There’s even “cakeaway” in case you don’t get time for dessert…

3. There are all kinds of music classes for children, but this was one of my favourites: relaxed, informal, live guitar music, simple and always took us on an imaginative journey. twinned with a trip round the Discovery Museum made it a winning combo. A few steps away is also the Settle Down Cafe. It’s small so may not be the best option with big buggies, but it does have a little children’s corner

4. It was largely thanks to Heighley Gate garden centre just north of Morpeth off the A1 that I made it through the early stages of having two very young children. They may have sadly introduced a £1.50 levy for the soft plays and the lovely outdoor playpark has vanished, but nevertheless it’s hard to beat. There’s still the flowers, the animals, the fish and fountains and you can sit with baby while the older child plays in the small (and now quite quiet since the charge was introduced) soft plays (there are two, the second in a further outside building)

5.  Another freebie is the under 5s area at The Laing Gallery. Wear them out in the under 5s area so they fall asleep and you can take in some culture

6. This compact soft play was a favourite when I had younger children. It’s size means you never get that moment of panic when you think you can’t find them and they have been swallowed by the ball pool and there are areas designated for bables and toddlers

7. With fish, otters, seals, rays, sharks and monkeys, a trip to the Blue Reef Aquarium has always been a few hours well spent. As a single trip it is pretty pricey, but the annual passes are quite reasonable and mean you don’t feel under pressure to “get your money’s worth” and spend too long there

8. Free to the under 4s, at least it is only your own entry you have to pay for at Seven Stories. All the very high quality exhibitions are  very hands on, perfect for little explorers and interesting for adults too. Storytime in the attic seems to entertain children of all ages and there are special sessions for babies

9. Piccolo Music. Another of my favourite classes for kids. I always preferred the sound of real instruments to just a CD and the classes cover a wide age range which is handy when you have a baby and toddler.

10. Last and by no means least is the good old-fashioned toddler group. For less than the price of a latte  you can have unlimited tea, coffee and biscuits, healthy snacks for your kids, a moan to other mums while your kids have a play and even a round of the hokey cokey  at the end. A couple I can recommend are and



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