Things to do in the rain in Portsmouth

(1) Cinema

If you’ve been thinking of going to see one of the summer films – today is the day. As it’s school holidays,  Odeon have extended their film club Odeon Kids and there is a film on daily at the moment. The kids club costs just £2.50 per ticket adult or child, and this weeks offering is Postman Pat: The Movie. Today’s screening is on at 11 am – check the website for other days. From Friday 15th Odeon Kids will show Frozen: Sing Along.  If you prefer to go to Vue then they are showing The Lego Movie and Postman Pat: The Movie at 10 am today for just £1.75 a ticket. Kids AM continues midweek and will show Postman Pat: The Movie until Thursday.

If you wanted to see one of the new films – and I can recommend How to Train Your Dragon 2 having seen it yesterday, then do check to see whether you have any Tesco points going spare as they are currently offering you tickets to Odeon Cinemas (nearest one is Port Solent) for just £2.50 worth of Tesco Vouchers. You’ll need to exchange your vouchers by the 1st September 2014 but having done so your cinema codes will last for 6 months. The normal deal is £4.50 a ticket it’s worth grabbing this now.

(2) Soft Play

Yes I know, not original, or particularly imaginative, but if your children are climbing the walls at home, far better to take them somewhere where this is actually encouraged whilst you have a cup of tea.  Here’s a list of local soft play centres - maybe try one you haven’t been to before.

(3) Swimming

We’ve plenty of swimming pools locally, and if you have a Portsmouth City library card you can register your children to swim free at Mountbatten Leisure Centre or Charter Community Sports Centre subject to a one off admin fee of £3.15.  You’ll need to take proof of your address, your ID and your library card. If you fancy a trip further afield then Petersfield’s Taro Centre has a good pool with a slide and vortex – family swimming today is between 10 am and 2.3o pm – check their website for other times.

(4) Museums

We’ve an abundance of museums in Portsmouth, who all try hard to engage children – if you haven’t been for a while, today is the perfect day for it. Portsmouth City Museum and the Natural History Museum at Cumberland House are free, and if you’ve visited the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in the last year, and gift aided your ticket, then your ticket will still be valid for 12 months after your visit. The dockyard has plenty of extra summer holiday activities on for children. If you’ve been thinking of going, and want to buy a ticket, then you can currently get 25% off the usual price if you book online and they will last a year and also allow you to visit the Royal Marines Museum, The Royal Navy Submarine Museum and Explosion, Museum of Naval Firepower with a  complimentary waterbus taking you across the harbour to visit.

(5) You Tube – Teach yourself something

If your children haven’t yet mastered the art of making a loom band bracelet then have a look on You Tube where you will find literally hundreds of tutorials showing you how to do it. In fact, we’ve got one of our very own videos showing you how without the aid of a loom:

You could look up hair tutorials – this came in very handy for a Frozen party recently:

Or maybe get the facepaints out and practice some new designs:

Or any number of craft ideas. Don’t forget we also have a Pinterest page with lots of ideas on it.



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We review 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside

101What better time to review a book like 101 Things for Kids To Do Outside, than the summer holidays? Arriving a week into the break, when I was running out of ideas for less expensive entertainments, it was a very welcome arrival.

Award winning garden designer, blogger and mum of three young children Dawn Isaac has packed 101 Things For Children To Do Outside with games, projects, crafts, experiments and gardening inspiration to encourage your children to step away from their screens and get out in the fresh air. These ideas stem from Dawn’s perpetual mission to persuade her children to go outside, chronicled in her blog which features on the RHS family website. The horticultural advisor to popular tv program Mr Bloom’s Nursery, Dawn also runs family garden design courses in association with Mumsnet Academy.

The book offers quick 10 minute activities to full days of fun. From party games and treasure hunts to simple gardening projects, each project is simply explained and illustrated with colour photography.  The projects do not require specialist equipment and in many cases simply utilise what many households will have lying around. The activities are not strictly prescriptive, and if you don’t have exactly what is suggested, there is no reason why you can’t adapt and change using the book as inspiration.

As I was planning a trip to Queen Elizabeth Country Park last week, I took a look through the book and picked out three activities to try whilst we were there. We took two five year old girls and two nearly 2 year old boys with us.

(1) Take the Matchbox Challenge

The idea is to hold a miniature treasure hunt, filling your matchbox with as many things as you can find in 15 minutes and points are awarded per item. Problem No. 1  – I didn’t have any matchboxes. But, I liked the idea of the game and I thought it would appeal to my daughter who has magpie tendencies so, time to improvise. The only smallish containers I have are sandwich bags and these are duly doled out. We were walking from the visitor centre to a playground and picnic area at the top of a steep hill – something which would normally result in a lot of complaining on the way. Each child was told to collect as many things as they could fit in the bags (which really are only as big as my hand) and points would be awarded for each different item with duplicates only counting as one item. To my surprise, not only are the girls enthusiastic, the game kept them entertained all the way to the top and they were excited to find out who had won. I can see that the matchbox would have the additional challenge of having to be choosy about what you put in it due to size, since we had largish pieces of bark in the bags but the idea of the game worked very well and the adaptions didn’t spoil it in the least.


(2) Nature Rubbings

Ok, not a new game to me and not to you either I expect, but having the book handy and flicking thr0ugh as I was planning the trip did remind me to actually pack paper and crayons so we could do this – something I usually think of mid walk and regret not being better organised. This was a perfect activity as we got the flask out to make teas and kept them quiet whilst we all  got our breath back.

(3) Nature Signs

At this point, the attention spans of the girls wandered a bit and we lost them to the playground  and den building, so I didn’t actually get a chance to play this with them. They were however very obliging in fetching me sufficient sticks to make a few signs myself, which kept me amused for a bit whilst the toddlers slept and everyone else was off in the distance having fun climbing trees.


This is a game where you make a trail leaving signs using sticks and stones and the like.  This is a good activity if there are enough of you to make two teams or your children are old enough to follow your trail on their own.  In fact, I think a country park, forest or field is the ideal place for this activity as a trail around the garden (unless you are fortunate enough to have a large garden) is not going to be very difficult to follow.


There are plenty of other activities that I like the look of and a few that I have already tried  such as a pavement gallery – chalk pictures on the pavement or a patio. In particular I shall be trying out the giant bubbles activity, holding a snail race, making a pooter and a human sun dial. In fact, I almost don’t need children to do any of these things, because I am pretty sure they will keep me entertained for hours, let alone them.  Next year, when I plant my garden I will be getting the children to help me with a few of the gardening projects and I can see this book becoming extremely well thumbed.

The book contains ideas for any time of year, ideal for our unpredictable weather and you don’t need to have a garden as many of these activities can be done just as well if not better in your local park. At £14.99 it’s considerably cheaper than a trip to the local theme park and will keep on giving long after you buy it.

Finally, a note on the age range – if you have young children, as I do (20 months) then they won’t be able to do many of the activities themselves (although I can think of several off the top of my head that they could such as the pavement gallery and water painting), but they will derive a lot of enjoyment out of watching you and older siblings doing them and helping you to do them so really I would say this book is for toddlers and up.



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Fishbourne Roman Palace

Fishbourne Roman Palace 1Today we visited Fishbourne Roman Palace, just on the outskirts of Chichester, an easy drive from Portsmouth. Here you will find the largest collection of in-situ mosaic floors in Britain, laid around AD75-80, making them some of the oldest in the country. The attraction has a small museum, the main hall containing the mosaics, a recreated  formal Roman garden, Collections Discovery Centre and a café.

From the moment we arrived we were impressed by the friendly and knowledgeable staff. We were directed to all the child friendly exhibits and told where to find baby changing facilities.  Later on they were also extremely helpful in re-filling our children’s water bottles; I really can’t praise them enough.

The museum itself is small, but informative, and has plenty of child friendly interactive exhibits and games both of which kept my two children entertained. I took my son (20 months) and daughter (5) who each got something from the visit. The most popular by far of these were a chance to build a roman road, matching symbols with gods, dressing up and colouring. The museum has a lovely collection of roman clothes for children to dress up in and admire themselves in the mirror.

On hand was a member of staff dressed in costume explaining to visitors about Roman baths and giving them an opportunity to examine some exhibits more closely. Throughout our time at the museum, there were several talks and guided tours. Outside, spotted on our way in, was a Centurion putting a large group through their paces, on the grassed area near to the Collections Discovery Centre. The Collections Discovery Centre is home to all of the archaeological material discovered during the excavation of the Palace in the 1960s together with some of The Novium (Chichester District Museum) collection. You can arrange a guided tour of these collections by asking at reception. Not for us with such young children, but no doubt if you had older children this would be fascinating.

Lunch was a picnic in the grassed picnic area next to two grassed hillocks which I later discovered are the original spoil heaps from the excavations necessary to reveal the mosaic floors.  The children spent quite some time expending energy running up and down these. There is a café on site offering reasonably priced light snacks and cakes if you prefer not to bother with packed lunches. The toilets are clean and there is a baby changing table in the antechamber to the ladies loo, which if not beautiful, is certainly functional. I am delighted to report that the museum is breastfeeding friendly, and there were at least two mothers spotted breastfeeding happily. The museum is also easy to navigate with a pushchair for the most part.

Duly fortified we headed into the main part of the building to examine the mosaic floors, and although I had previously seen pictures of them, were really quite breath taking. The suspended walkways allow you to view from a height and take in the detail. Towards the end of the hall, there are a number of children’s activities. As you might expect, there were foam tiles to make mosaics with, and building blocks for younger children. There were interactive programs on a computer, and a large exhibit on archaeology and some of the methods used, which my daughter in particular found extremely interesting. We had a go at coin rubbing and there are also a number of children’s books on roman history to look at.

Heading outside we walked around the gardens which have been recreated from the original late first century bedding trenches. Towards the end you will find a kitchen garden full of plants used by Romans in cooking and medicines including sloes, figs, artichokes and of course, grape vines. There are more interactive games and exhibits in the potting shed at the end of the garden.

Heading back for the obligatory visit to the gift shop we discovered some fun roman cut outs and spent some time posing as Romans and Celts. The gift shop carries a range of Roman, Celt and archaeology inspired gifts. books and souvenirs, with a good selection of items under £2 for the children.

All in all, a very enjoyable four/five hours or so, and well worth a visit. We paid for two adults (£8.70 each) and one child (£4.30) as my son is under 5 and therefore free. The total cost was £21.70. We attended on a non-event day and there was plenty to see and do. The museum runs regular events which you can check for on their website.

If you are planning to visit during the summer holiday then you can have some Summer Fun on Thursdays at the Museum during August. Summer Fun days will feature ancient crafts and things to make and do, roman costume, working with clay, Roman writing, food tasting and a chance to meet an archaeologist and hand some 2,000 year old artefacts.   You can also see Gladiators in action on the 9th and 10th August when re-enactment group Britannia visit Fishbourne. They will be on hand to talk about their equipment and fighting tactics and there will be displays of gladiatorial contests in the formal Roman Garden. There will also be lots of hands on activities for the whole family. These extra activities are all included in the museum’s usual admission fees and will run from 11 am – 4 pm.

If you do visit, we’d love to know what you think – do leave a review on our listing and share your experiences with other local parents.


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Money Saving Deals on Days out in and around Portsmouth


HMS Warrior, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Do you have a Tesco Clubcard? Chances are you’ll have some points you haven’t yet claimed. Get on to the clubcard site and have a look – you can exchange your points now for up to 4 times their value and put them towards some great days out locally. Make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully, the deals vary from attraction to attraction.


In Portsmouth itself you can choose from:

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Tickets – exchange £6.50 in vouchers per ticket
Royal Marines Museum Tickets – exchange £2.50 in vouchers for £10 worth of tokens
Spinnaker Tower Tickets – £2.50 in vouchers for £10 worth of tokens.

In Havant:
Staunton Country Park - exchange £2.50 in vouchers for £10 worth of tokens.

Further Afield in Hampshire:
Gilbert White’s House and Oates Collection - £2.50 vouchers for £10 worth tokens.
Hawk Conservancy Trust – £2.50 vouchers for £10 worth tokens
Milestones Museum - £2.50 vouchers for £10 worth tokens
Watercress Line - £2.50 vouchers for £10 worth tokens.

If you fancy lunch out you can also search for local restaurants and exchange your vouchers for up to four times their value too. Participating restaurants include Prezzo, La Tasca, Café Rouge, Snakeaway and more.

If you’re dreading the school uniform, new lunchboxes, stationary etc bill, then the boost extends to these items when you buy them online.

Groupon also offer great deals locally, not just for days out but for goods and services. A quick search yesterday turned up reduced price tickets for Fishbourne Roman Palace just up the road in Chichester, Whitchurch Silk Mill and Bursledon Brickworks Museum (including their Gala Days).


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Georgia Lindsay’s Family Garden and ‘Bub Tub’ Competition

Originally posted on London-on-Toast:

Calm and reassuring, the figure of a circle makes us think of a great big hug, and Georgia Lindsay, a finalist in  the 2014 Grand Designs Garden Design competition, created a garden full of them. We met the London-based designer during a family day out to the Grand Designs show last Spring and instantly knew we had to help her show it off!

Action man

A gorgeous metal swing seat designed by Steve Myburgh (Myburgh Designs) provides comfortable and playful respite from all the action in the garden. Artificial turf is used throughout. This can be cut in shapes to help form the lids for the tugs and circular play spaces.

The colours and shapes of this wonderfully child friendly space made my children beam, a response Georgia was clearly aiming for:

“The circles were very deliberate. Soft curves seem much friendlier and child orientated than angular lines.” I also was taken…

View original 891 more words

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Baby and Toddler Groups Open over Summer


art for childrenOne of the things that used to be a problem over the summer holidays was the closure of your regular groups. Six weeks with pre-schoolers without any structure can be difficult to fill. Fortunately in Portsmouth at least, there are plenty of groups which will carry on throughout the holidays – although some of them may be on  a reduced timetable.  I’ve started this blog post as a list and as and when I find any more I shall add to it – so keep checking back. I won’t add the days and times to the blog as the schedules vary so instead I’ve added links to their own sites and you can check directly with them. If you know of a class I haven’t added – drop me a line at

Jiggy Wrigglers - All Portsmouth Groups  (except for the last two weeks in August)Portchester, Rowner, Lee on the Solent, Stubbington (check their facebook page for up-dates).

Little Steps Gym - check their facebook page for regular up-dates.

Mini Makers, Aspex Gallery – Wednesdays 11 am £3

Play Southsea Groups – Will be running as normal except the last two weeks of August – Aileen may be able to run a couple in those two weeks but check the page for up-dates.

The Surestart Summer Holiday timetables are out – here are the links for the various areas:

Locality A – Northern Parade & Stamshaw CC, Paulsgrove CC, Portsdown & Drayton & Farlington CC

Locality B – Buckland Children’s Centre, Fratton & Landport Children’s Centres, North End & Willows Children’s Centres

Locality C – Somerstown & Portsea Children’s Centre, Milton, Baffins & Cumberland Children’s Centre, Southsea & Brambles Children’s Centre

Child Health Clinics - Link to the child health clinics.

Breastfeeding Support - Link to BfN facebook page and a list of groups taking place over summer.

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Cosham Park gets new play equipment

DSC_0060Work started today on building the new play equipment in Cosham Park, following vandalism on the old climbing frame during the May half term. It should be finished just in time for the summer holiday.

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Happy Birthday Southsea Library!

Southsea_Library_0873_rdax_300x200Southsea Library celebrates its 3rd birthday this year and to celebrate, a Teddy Bear’s picnic will be held on the 29th July, from 12 noon – 1 pm.  Take your children along to listen to bear stories and make a bear face in the library.  You’ll need to take along their favourite furry friend, a blanket and a packed lunch.  Each child attending will receive a free booklet.

Opened 3 years ago by bestselling author Kate Mosse, the library is built on the old Woolworths shop site in Palmerston Road .  The library hosts regular talks and adult courses including digital photography and IT courses and a craft group on the 2nd Monday of every month.

Teddy Bear's PicnicFor children, the library offers regular events, including RhymeTime for toddlers and babies on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 am – 10.30 am, and Storytime on Mondays from 2 pm – 2.30 pm.  There will be Summer Holiday activities on the 29th July, 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th August (10 am – 12 noon); no need to book, just drop in.

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Nominations needed for Midwife of the Year Award

Logo-2014-WEBThe Best of Health Awards 2014 has extended its nomination deadline to Friday, August 8th.  One of the categories is Midwife of the Year Award and it would be great to get some more nominations in.

Therefore, if you think your midwife is worthy of some recognition, please email your name, the name of your midwife and a detailed reason to explain why you have put them forward.

It’s free to enter and a shortlist is printed in the paper, which in itself is a great way to say thank you. You can email your nomination to  The Awards Ceremony will take place on the 17th October 2o14 at the Guildhall.


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Brand New Mini Makers Sessions for Under 5s

MiniMakers-copyMini Makers, aspex’s workshops for toddlers and under 5s, are back at the earlier time of 11 am – 12 noon from the 23rd July for just £3 per session.  Your little ones will work with you and our Participation Team in fun sessions on Wednesday mornings throughout the year, freeing up their creativity and taking inspiration from our exhibitions and books provided by Portsmouth Libraries.  There will also be offers for participants in the Café Bar.

aspex_logoWorkshops are on Wednesdays from 11 am – 12 noon.  The £3 fee is payable on arrival, no booking necessary, just drop in.  If you have any questions you can call aspex on 023 9277 8080 or email

You can find aspex behind Loch Fyne in Portsmouth’s Gunwharf Quays.

I can personally recommend these sessions having taken my son recently – plenty of room to work, lots of materials and mixed media to work with and lots of great ideas from the participation team. Well worth trying out if you have an under 5 and you prefer messy sessions to be anywhere but at home!

Older children can book up for the Summer Art Club sessions aimed at 8-13 year olds and don’t forget the regular See! Make! Do! sessions on the second Saturday of each month at 11 am.


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