Are we just co-existing?

Dear husband,

Last night, you asked me: Are we just co-existing? And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

At first, I was angry you’d even asked. Is that all you think of us now? After almost ten years of life together, our relationship has reduced down to just being two people that happen to live together? Gee, thanks. Immediately, I was on the defensive. Immediately, I felt hurt. Because that’s our default at the moment: we’re so easily offended by each other. I’m tired of having to suffix everything I say with ‘that’s not a dig at you, by the way’ just in case you’ve taken my innocent comment as a passive aggressive insult. It’s exhausting.

Then I was just sad. Sad in the knowledge that we haven’t spent as much quality time with each other as perhaps we should. Sad that I can count on one hand the amount of dates we’ve had since becoming parents. Sad that I often think about organising a night out for us, but then feel like arranging a babysitter, worrying about money and putting pressure on myself to look nice are too big of obstacles to overcome. It’s just easier to have a lazy night in instead. For us to sit on separate sofas (when did that become our norm?), passively watching the latest craze on Netflix, with our phones in hand, fearing to get too comfortable knowing that as soon as we do, Pickle will wake up and require settling back down again.

And then I felt guilty. Because, co-existing is a euphemism for our lack of sex, isn’t it? And I know I’ve not been very forthcoming in that department. I don’t have to justify my reasons why but I feel I have to. It’s not, contrary to your paranoia, that I don’t fancy you anymore. It’s not that I’ve gone off you or find the idea repulsive. I love you. I think you’re beautiful, and gorgeous and you’re always the handsomest man in the room. It’s just… my body isn’t the same as it once was. My hormones are all weird thanks to twenty months of breastfeeding, and I can’t forget how uncomfortable things felt down there those first few months. Don’t you remember how much I wondered if they’d made some kind of mistake during my c-section? How much I worried I’d never be able to enjoy sexy times again? And the relief when I found out all of this was normal because of my decision to breastfeed? Slowly, slowly, I think my hormones are starting to level back out, but I still get anxious. It’s still not the same. And I’m still learning to feel confident about my new post-baby body.

I’m not rejecting you. It’s really nothing to do with you… but it’s like I said last night: if you spend months feeling pain from the prick of a needle, even if one day it’s suddenly not as painful – you’re still going to be scared of the needle. Perhaps my choice of analogy is a little unfortunate (I’m not calling you a prick, or a needle by the way), but the metaphor still stands.

And let’s not even get started on my chronic lack of sleep. You may feel your nights are unsettled, but it’s nothing compared to the hours and hours I’ve spent awake at night nursing. Something I still don’t really feel you’ve shown enough appreciation for.

Shit. I’m not painting a very pretty picture, am I? It’s all starting to sound quite bad. Strained. Maybe you’re right. Maybe we are just coexisting. Do all new parents feel this way? Is this what a marriage with children is like? Are we normal? Or are we failing? I don’t know. No one really talks about this, do they?

This morning, unable to think about anything else, I looked up co-exist in the dictionary:

A screenshot of the definition of Coexist

Look at that second definition: to exist in harmony, despite different ideologies or interests. Hang on a minute. I don’t know about you, but that actually sounds quite positive. Doesn’t it? It also sounds like something that takes a lot of work, a lot of consideration, patience and compromise. It sounds like the kind of state married people should be living in.

And we are different. Our parenting ideologies aren’t the same. Our roles as parents have been poles apart. Until this week, you were the breadwinner and I was the stay at home Mom, and as much as I know the value of being at home with your child – we live in a society that means our contributions to the household are inevitably measured differently. There are things you’ve even said yourself, comments and quips that despite you saying otherwise, betray you, and prove that you see Pickle as my responsibility by default, even when you’re present too.

If, through all of this change to our lives, our views and our priorities, we can still manage to co-exist, and live in unity… I actually think that’s something to celebrate. Because, you see… despite our increased petty arguments and our passive aggressive tendencies, there really is no one else I’d want to do this with. There’s no one else I could find peace with in such a time of turmoil, change and uncertainty. You are still my best friend. You are still my rock. You are still the person I want to comfort me the most after a day of self-doubt, tantrums and overwhelm. Your opinion is the still the one I value above all others. You’re my everything.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that I still want us to live in the same place. At the same time. I want to exist in harmony with you, despite a mountain of differences between us. I still want to co-exist with you. For many more years to come.

So, ask me again: are we just co-existing?

Yes. But really, that’s a good thing.

With all of my love,

Your ever-faithful sweetpea.

xxx

LPD and I, looking happy.

This time last year, Pickle had his first experience of theatre: In a Pickle by Oily Cart. It absolutely blew me (and him) away, and was the best possible introduction to children’s theatre I could have asked for. They set the standard bar really high! And although we’ve seen some pretty brilliant theatre together since, nothing has quite matched that first production for me.

It’s no surprise then, that I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my last day before going back to work than enjoying another Oily Cart theatre performance with Pickle, Hush-a-Bye. In fact, I delayed my start date by two days to make sure I wouldn’t miss it! I am delighted to say I was not disappointed. Not one bit. It was everything I was hoping it would be, and more.

The performers of Oily Cart's Hush A Bye

Nestle among branches and come touch, see, smell and meet the woodland neighbours in the
brand new, immersive and enchanting tree-top world of Hush-A-Bye.

Hush-A-Bye has three versions: a performance for babies and toddlers (6 months – 2 years), one for very young children (3 – 5 years) and a relaxed version for those aged 3 – 8 years. As Pickle is 20 months old, we went to the babies and toddler show, and this is what my review will focus on. I have no idea how different the shows aimed at different audiences are, but I can imagine there are some fundamental changes to each show to make sure it’s perfectly tailored to the target ages.

Green, pink and orange bird boxes at Warwick Arts Centre

Wonderfully, we began entering the world of the performance even before it started. Scattered around Warwick Arts Centre, and lining the long corridor to the studio, were lots of beautiful bird boxes. It was lovely to point them out to Pickle as we walked along, and I was really impressed with his curiosity at wanting to see what was inside. He loves looking and finding things (his favourite thing to say, and the only proper phrase he can say, is: there it is!), so this was right up his street!

Upon entering the studio, I immediately knew we were in for a treat. In the middle of the studio was a carpeted oval, strewn with leaves, underneath a pretty canopy of clouds and leaves, whilst the most beautiful smells wafted around us and we were treated to the delicate sounds of the kora (an instrument a bit like a harp and lute hybrid). The children, and us parents, were welcomed in and invited to take a seat in little green floor seats atop the carpet, as part of the performance space rather than set apart from it – an important distinction. We were not there as observers. We were participants. We were part of that world. (Although… if any little ones weren’t feeling brave enough to be that immersed in the action, there were some benches set a little further back).

Cute little chick from Hush-a-Bye

Each child was given their own little nest, cushioned with brightly coloured soft feathery things, which became the home of their very own chick. This would be a fantastic production to see if you’re looking to introduce the idea of a baby sibling to your little one, as they spent the performance being encouraged to be as nurturing, loving and kind to this little chick as possible. Over the course of thirty minutes, we fed our chick, sheltered it from the rain, dried it off, gave it kisses and put it to sleep with a little blanket. Very, very cute.

The two main performers of Oily Cart's Hush A Bye

All of this was facilitated by the performers, familiar faces to me from last year’s In a Pickle, who were wonderfully engaging, managing to communicate and express themselves clearly without the need for words (much like a certain toddler I know!). They shepherded us through the performance, weaving their voices beautifully with the ethereal music (which I’ve been listening to all evening on Spotify – we even had it playing during Pickle’s bathtime before bed). I couldn’t keep my eyes off their costumes – brightly coloured, and beautifully made. Some serious sewing goals, right there!

In fact, everything about the show is crafted expertly. Not only are the costumes dazzling, but the set is too. Every element is carefully thought out with every prop blending in perfectly and the overall effect is of a picture book brought to life.

Hush A Bye Audience

There is absolutely nothing I would criticise or anything I can offer as an improvement to this production. For me, Hush-a-Bye ticked all the boxes: a glorious example of how children’s theatre should always be. A delight for all of the senses – quite literally, and one I will treasure the memories of for a long time to come. There is only a limited availability left for the rest of the run at Warwick Arts Centre (until Sunday 11th February) before the show has a sold out run at Polka Theatre in Wimbledon. I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting news of whatever the next Oily Cart tour will be, and will be the first one poised to book tickets again – long may Oily Cart productions continue to be the theatrical highlight of the year for us.

The cast of Hush a Bye

Oily Cart Set Design

I’d love every family to go and see theatre together. I wish it was as normal to step inside a studio or auditorium as it is to pop to the cinema or order a pizza. But if you’re reading this as a parent who doesn’t have a clue where to begin, who is struggling to justify the expense and wonders whether it’s really worth it… I implore you to try an Oily Cart performance. Follow them on Twitter or Facebook, and book tickets for whenever they tour a production to a venue near you. Arrive with an open mind, leave the rest of the world outside the studio doors, and just soak it all in with your little one. Because I promise you, within five minutes of seeing the performance through the eyes of your child, you will be filled with wonder, joy and a little bit of magic. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll shed a happy tear or two as well. Thank you, Oily Cart. For another perfect performance.

Disclaimer: we were offered press tickets to attend this performance, but all opinions and views remain my own. 

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day. It’s always felt a bit too contrived and commercial to have any real romantic value. Is it really romance if it’s forced upon you? So when we started watching Parks and Recreation* last year and heard about main character Leslie Knope’s Galentine’s Day, I thought to myself: now, this is something I can get on board with!

What is Galentine’s Day?

Oh it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.

A day for ladies celebrating ladies! If my friends lived more locally, I’d totally do a Leslie Knope and arrange for us all to have breakfast together on the 13th February. I mean, this year, it’s also PANCAKE DAY so that’s double reason to drop everything and eat some scrumptious food with your besties.

Celebrating the Women in my Life

There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t feel incredibly lucky to have such wonderful women in my life. As much as I like to think I honour their love and friendship by being as good a friend, daughter, grand-daughter, aunt, niece, or sister-in-law as I can – so often I feel like I don’t do these women justice. These women are strong, resilient, compassionate, determined, fierce, intelligent, brave… and yet, I bet most of the time they don’t feel that way about themselves. Because none of us really do, do we?

This year, I’ll be spending as much time as I can on Tuesday 13th February making these beautiful women feel loved, treasured and proud of themselves. And if you’d like to do the same, here are some ways you can join me in sharing the Galentine’s Day sentiment.

Making Plans for a Date

Just as we need regular date nights with our partners, so too should we have date nights with our friends. One on one time is so valuable and crucial, and I love nothing more than sitting down with a cup of tea, a pack of biscuits and an endless flow of conversation.

China tea set on coffee table with tissue paper pompoms

I had a lovely time with some gorgeous girls at my bestie’s baby shower at the weekend. We spent the afternoon eating scones and sipping tea in a cosy room at the Thomas Oken Tea Rooms in Warwick and it couldn’t have been more perfect. We were enjoying ourselves so much, we didn’t want the afternoon to end, so four of us ended up spontaneously going out for a curry afterwards too (can you tell someone is trying to coax their baby out!?). Oh, I could chat with these girls all day and night long.

If you fancy something a bit more adventurous than a cuppa or a curry, why not try out a new craft or skill by signing up to a workshop or class? My best friend and I had the best morning recently doing a candle making workshop at The Wax Studio, just outside of Leamington. Not only did we have an absolute blast learning about the art of candles (and I hope to write about our experience soon), but we were so proud of the candles we created whilst there! We tried our hand at a beeswax moulded candle, a multicoloured pillar candle, two scented container candles and a hand-dipped candlestick. The only thing is… I’m so pleased with them, I’m not sure I’ll ever want to burn them!

Three handmade candles looking pretty inbetween flowers

Giving the Gift of Pampering

As we get older, it seems there is less and less time in the day available to allow for a good proper pamper. Long gone are the days where I could spend an hour in the bath, with lit candles and a good book – and I can’t remember the last time I painted my nails. Especially when we become Mothers, sometimes, an excuse in needed to take time for yourself, and after years of thinking ‘pamper gift sets’ were a bit of a cop out present, I’ve come around full circle and now think they’re the best things ever.

Spa Botanique Gift set surrounded by flowers

If you’re looking for some particularly beautiful sets, it’s worth having a look in the Pampering Gift Sets section of Perfume-Click. I recently placed an order for several of the Spa Botanique sets, and they’re absolutely beautiful. The botanical packaging called to me and my outdoor-loving nature, and I picked up a typical bath products set, a dressing gown set, a hand-wash set and a body set.

Spa Botanique gift set for Galentine's Day

Spa Botanique gift set for Galentine's Day

Spa Botanique gift set for Galentine's Day

I think these would make perfect gifts for any of your girls that have had a tough start to the year, and with the super quick shipping, there’s still time to place an order before 13th February. They also have a more general gift set section with lots of lovely perfume, aftershave and beauty sets (worth a cheeky browse of ahead of Valentine’s, Mother’s Day and Easter!).

A bit of Snail Mail

Getting something in the post that’s not a bill or a takeaway menu is a rare treat these days – and I’m hoping to set aside some time one evening this week to write some little notes to send through to some of my besties.

Writing a note to a loved one

I don’t know about you, but I keep all the little cards and letters that I’m lucky enough to receive so not only are well-wished words uplifting at the time of giving, they also can be kept as a reminder of how loved we are for years to come too. I’m not sure if there are any specific Galentine’s Day greeting cards in the shops (it may not be part of the zeitgeist enough for that yet!), but Etsy has a great selection and I’m sure some Valentine’s Day cards would do the trick just as nicely too. After all, it’s all about love, isn’t it?

Are you doing Galentine’s this year?

Will you be doing anything special for Galentine’s Day this year? Or will you be sticking to the more traditional Valentine’s Day instead? Or both? If you’ve been inspired to show your lady friends a bit of love this year, definitely let me know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links (indicated with a *). This doesn’t affect the price you pay, but if you choose to purchase, I receive a small financial referral fee. I was offered a gift voucher for Perfume-Click.co.uk in exchange for featuring the products I bought in a blog post. All opinions and views remain my own, and as always, 100% honest.

I feel like this is a subject I keep returning to, but I really want to start taking better care of myself. In all sorts of ways. Since Pickle came along, he’s obviously been the biggest priority in my life. I’ve spent every day since his arrival putting his needs, wants and developments ahead of my own. During one of his settling in sessions at Nursery last week, I took the opportunity to have a rare bubble bath and I’d completely forgotten what it was like to dry my hair, style it and put some make up on without having to multi-task and supervise a toddler at the same time. Now that I’m returning to work, I feel like I’ve been given a licence to take more time for myself. And boy, do I need it. I need to exercise more. I need to eat healthily. I need to get into a proper skincare routine. And I need to take better care of my hair. And my wardrobe choices…

Flat lay showing some self care items: nice outfit, perfume, make up and crochet

I’d love to be fashionable, but in all honesty, I never have been and I probably never will be. Before I had Pickle, I’d kind of figured out what kind of styles and colours suited me and my body shape and I was happy to just stick to what I knew worked for me, hoping that even if I didn’t appear to be at the cutting edge of fashion, I’d at least look presentable. But now that I’m a Mum, still carrying a bit of added baby/toddler weight (here’s an insight… it’s not pregnancy that makes you gain weight, it’s the number of biscuits you need to consume to get through the day after a sleepness night with a baby/toddler that wants to nurse all night long!), my body shape has changed. The clothes that once suited me, look weird now. And I’m having to go back to the drawing board and figure out what suits me all over again.

Clothing rail at a shopping mall

I’m desperate to find myself some body confidence. Not just to feel positive about my size and shape, but also to feel good in the clothes I wear, and to leave the house feeling like I could take on the world. I’ve been trying to shake up my wardrobe a little bit, after realising that even though I can fit into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe now, that doesn’t really mean it’s going to look the same, and besides, fashion has changed a lot since 2015.

A few new Staple Wardrobe Items

To start with, I was desperate for a new coat. I loved my maternity coat, and even though I sometimes make use of the generous sizing to wear when Pickle is in his carrier, I can’t really wear it as an everyday coat. I’ve been wearing my outdoorsy Trespass coat a lot too (because, you know… it’s practical!) but wearing it doesn’t make me feel particularly cool or fashionable.

I thought this coat from J D Williams ticked all the boxes! It’s not too thick so is warm enough for during the winter months but should also do the trick in both Spring and Autumn too. It’s got nice big pockets to house all those things you want easy access to whilst chasing around after a toddler, and I’m a complete sucker for a coat with toggles! One day, I aspire to join the yellow coat brigade (fast becoming the staple Mum uniform, right?), but grey pretty much goes with everything.

Grey jumper with pink sparkles with a coat and scarf outside

Sticking to the grey theme, I also picked out this grey jumper, again from J D Williams, with lots of little pink sparkling embellishments on it. I love that the sparkly bits brighten up the outfit, and make me feel like I’m wearing something a bit special, even if it’s just to head to soft play in. The jumper is so incredibly soft, and doesn’t cling to those lumps and bumps that I prefer to try and hide. It’s the kind of ‘nice’ jumper that I get panicky about when putting it in the wash for the first time in case I ruin it with my ineptitude at household goddesstry, but thankfully – it’s already survived a few washes and still looks as good as new! Phew. Uneccessary disclaimer: if you look closely… you may spot I’m actually wearing this jumper back to front. That’s what sleep deprivation does to you, guys. Sorry.

I love me a posh jumper

Holly wearing a Joules Harbour Top wearing a Christmas Paper Hat and holding a glass of wine

At Christmas, I felt like my jumper game was seriously strong. Not only did I have the grey and pink one, but LPD bought me a lovely new striped one to add to my classy jumper collection too. I’m a big fan of a Breton stripe (again, standard Mum uniform!) and I felt like the bee’s knees in it. I’d pretty much just wear these two jumpers on rotation for the rest of the year had I not stupidly chucked the striped one in the wash at 4am a couple of weeks ago when I was up scarily early with Pickle one day and accidentally dyed it orange. I’m still grieving about it.

The final thing I picked from J D Williams was a pair of shoes. I’ve struggled with footwear since pregnancy. I outgrew pretty much all of my shoes by the time I was in my eighth month of being pregnant, and it took quite a while for my feet to shrink back down again. I’ve been pretty much living in a pair of lightweight trainers that I picked up from Aldi (such a sucker for stuff in the specials aisle!), but they’re starting to get a bit tatty now and don’t make me feel particularly glamorous. I’ve been on the hunt for a pair of boots with a bit of a heel that I can wear on days when I want to feel like the ‘old me’ again, and this gorgeous pair of tan boots from Heavenly Sole do just that! And the cherry on the cake? They come in a wide fitting – perfect for my post-pregnancy widened feet.

Heavenly Sole shoes from J D Williams in the mud

They’ve already taken a bit of a battering in the mud, but at least my feet have remained toasty warm.

Sprucing up everywhere!

With my new hair cut, new wardrobe items and new job on the horizon – it feels like everything is getting a much needed update! I even treated us to some new bed sheets this week as well. I went for a bit of a floral, busy print and now I feel I’ve opened the floodgates to becoming obsessed with floral bedding… someone stop me buying more before all my wages go on high thread count cotton!

Holly stood in a field wearing a coat with new straightened hair

Roll on the next chapter! With my new clothes, my snazzy new hair cut and a renewed sense of self-worth, I’m ready to tackle this latest adventure. All I need now is a new handbag…

Disclaimer: this post features items from J D Williams that were sent to me in return for being featured. All items were chosen by me and all views and opinions remain my own. 

If you missed my little announcement on Instagram last week, I’ll soon be rejoining the world of work. Later this month, I’ll be heading back to work for four days a week, and whilst I’m excited about this new change, I’m desperately trying to make the most of the time I have left as a Stay at Home Mom. I feel incredibly privileged to have had the last twenty months with Pickle, and now with just a week to go, there’s still lots I want to do before he goes to nursery. Thanks to a lovely invite from 360 Play in Redditch, one bucket list activity has been ticked off the list: visiting their new play centre in the Kingfisher Shopping Centre. And if you keep reading, you can win a family pass to check out your nearest 360 Play Centre too.

360 Play Logo on the soft play equipment

What is 360 Play?

Somewhere to go whatever the weather and not just another indoor play centre but something where the whole family could enjoy a day out all year round and which would help with children’s general health and development.360 Play is more than just your normal soft play centre. Yes, it has the normal soft play elements you would expect: a massive climbing frame with multi-levels, fun slides and obstacles galore… but it offers so much more on top. It has an imaginative play street which boasts a supermarket, post office, pizzeria, vet and mechanics. There’s a whole section just for lego! There’s a creative station for drawing, painting and chalk. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s even a carousel and bumper cars. It’s a treasure trove of fun, somewhere to delight children (and adults) of all ages.

French Kidslingo Classes at 360 Play Redditch

To start off our outing, we took part in a Kidslingo French class run by Shannon. It’s for preschoolers aged 18 months to 4 years and runs weekly on Tuesdays from 10.30am – 11.00am. As we were rushing to get there from Rhythm Time, we were embarrassingly a few minutes late but arrived just in time to say a quick ‘Je m’appelle Pickle!‘ to the other children taking part, who all displayed some pretty impressive grasp of the language.

Tres Bien sticker after Kidslingo French lesson at 360 Play Redditch

As it was our first time at 360 Play, Pickle was pretty desperate to go off on an explore… so I spent the first five or ten minutes of the class chasing after him as he legged it towards the play area and tantrumed when I tried to return him to the class. Sadly, this is fairly typical behaviour at the moment! We did have some mini successes though – he paid attention nicely during the Twinkle Twinkle nursery rhyme ‘brille, brille, petite étoile’ and he absolutely loved playing with the parachute.

Language is an area Pickle struggles with – he’s not as vocal as his peers in English, and whilst that might put parents off trying to introduce a second language, I’m a strong believer in encouraging languages as early as possible. Not only will it aid their development but I think it’s so important to introduce other cultures to children. It grows an understanding that there are people who live differently, and that we should do all we can to learn about and appreciate that difference – rather than being scared or confused by it.

One Big Adventure

As soon as the class was over, Pickle was off! Keen to explore the play area, he wasted no time getting stuck in. He was absolutely fascinated by the ball area (as was I!). Rather than a typical ball pool, there’s an area with vacuum shoots – even one that sucks the balls up and deposits them in an overhead funnel… Once the timer runs out, the funnel opens and all the balls rain down! Pickle and I liked to see how many balls we could manage to put up there before the timer ran out – I’m not sure who enjoyed themselves more to be honest.

Ball Machine at 360 Play Redditch

Although it’s something I’d like to encourage him to do more, Pickle wasn’t particularly fussed by the imaginative play (which pains me as a theatre graduate!), but that didn’t stop him enjoying ‘driving’ the fire engine. He even made a few friends – and I was pleasantly surprised how nicely they took turns behind the steering wheel.

I don’t have any photos of us, but we also had a go on the dodgem cars and carousel. I let Pickle sit in the driving seat and I just gave him a little helping hand around the corners – I think he was a bit bemused to be driving an actual moving vehicle! SUCH good fun though, and you can ride both the dodgem cars and the carousel as many times as you like during your play session.

The bumper cars at 360 Play Redditch

Although we’ve been to other soft plays where parents can clamber on with their children, I’ve sometimes felt a bit silly playing with Pickle – a bit out of place and overly protective. That’s definitely not the case at 360 Play! In fact, I think you’d feel silly sitting at the side really. It’s perfectly set up so that parents aren’t only encouraged to play but you won’t feel like a hunchback having to duck your way through the play area – there’s plenty of space and no need to crouch all the time, perfect.

Toddler walking over a rope bridge brightly coloured at 360 Play Soft Play Centre

I know I’m biased, he’s my son… but I’m always so proud of Pickle when he’s off adventuring. He amazes me with his bravery – he wasn’t phased at all by walking over this rope bridge, or going across a transparent walkway. He just gets on with it, eager to explore the next section. I know children don’t really know fear at this age, and whilst I do want him to be respectful of dangerous things, I hope he is always this courageous!.

Exploring at 360 Play

That said, he developed a funny relationship with slides during this play session! If you’re a long time Little Pickle’s Mom reader, you may remember a post I wrote recently about him going down the slide. He was quite happy taking himself down the slide in the toddler area, laughing with a friend he made in there whilst her Grandma and I watched on proudly, but then… all of a sudden… he just wanted to sit at the top instead. And ever since, it’s been really tricky to get him to slide down on his own! He’s not scared or upset, he just seems to think it’s hilarious to just sit there. I wonder if it’s maybe because it means I give him lots of attention to try and get him down? But anyway, he was the same when we visited Hatton Country World this week too. What a monkey.

Sitting at the top of the slide at 360 Play Redditch

We had great fun going down the big bumpy slide together – it really goes quite fast! I could just about see his smiling face as we slid down, but next time, I’d love to see LPD and him going down together so I can properly watch his enjoyment. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to let him slide down totally on his own… that feels far too grown up for such a big slide!

A Spot of Lunch

With all our energy expended from playing, we definitely needed a hefty lunch, so I ordered us some food from the 360 Play Menu. As you’d expect from a children’s play venue, the children’s menu was fairly varied and offered lots of choice to suit all diets and fussiness levels – but I was a bit gutted they didn’t offer mashed potato as that’s Pickle’s favourite! Instead, I ordered him sausages with peas and some chips as a treat and I went for a chicken pesto pasta dish.

Chicken and Pesto Pasta with cheese and kids sausage and chips

Pickle ate his food relatively nicely, which is a bit of an achievement these days, although I wish I’d have had the foresight to bring some of his own cutlery with us. I couldn’t see any child sized cutlery on offer at 360 Play (but I may have missed it), so he mainly just used his fingers. I was hoping for a few more vegetables with my pasta – but I can’t complain as it was exactly as described and hit the hunger spot nicely!

Is it worth it?

When it was announced that 360 Play was opening in Redditch, I remember hearing a lot of moaning from parents about the cost of entry – especially as there’s a registration fee and adults are charged for their admission too. If you’re reading this and aren’t sure whether the experience warrants the price – I’m here to tell you to give it a go. We easily spent four hours there, and would have spent longer if Pickle hadn’t fallen asleep after his lunch. There aren’t many soft plays I’d happily spend that amount of time in.

Drawing with Chalk on a massive chalkboard at 360 Play Redditch

Not only are the vast array of activities available engaging and exciting, the fact that you’re paying for an adult ticket makes sure that you, as the parent, make the most of the play too. It’d be easy to let your little ones run off and enjoy themselves (and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with making the most of having some hands free time to enjoy a hot drink in peace!), but I know I’ll remember and treasure the fun we shared together. For those few hours, I switched off from my phone, wasn’t worried about the ever-growing pile of laundry at home or even thinking about what we’d have for dinner that night… I was just enjoying playing with my little boy. And that’s definitely worth £3.50 in my book.

The Verdict

We’ll definitely be going back! I can’t wait for all three of us to go together – I think LPD will be particularly impressed with the imaginative play area and the lego section. It is more expensive than other local soft plays, but it’s also a much more enriching, exciting and educational experience. The added bonus for me was that Pickle was exhausted by the end of it and had a really nice long sleep in his pushchair, allowing me to have a peaceful wander around the shops afterwards – and I can’t remember the last time I did that!

The 360 Play in Redditch is located in the Kingfisher Shopping Centre, with the entrance being next to New Look. It has the following opening hours:

Monday to Thursday: 10.00am – 5.00pm
Friday and Saturday: 10.00am – 5.30pm
Sunday: 11.00am – 4.00pm

And the entrance costs (correct at time of publication) are:

Adults: £3.50
Children 1-3 years: £7.50
Children 4-12 years: £9.50
Children under 1 year: FREE

You will also need to pay a one-off £5 Family registration fee on your first visit.

If you’d like to try out 360 Play for yourself, either in Redditch or at the other play centres in Basildon, Farnborough, Leicester, Milton Keynes and Stevenage, enter the competition below for the chance to win a Family Day Pass (which entitles two adults and two children to entry on any day outside of the school holidays, valid until 30th April 2018).

Win a Family Day Pass for 360 Play

Competition for a Family Day Pass at 360 Play

Family Day Pass for 360 Play

Disclaimer: Pickle and I were invited for a play session at 360 Play in Redditch, including the Kidslingo French class, for the purposes of this review. We bought our own food. All opinions and views remain my own, and as always, 100% honest.