Continuing the series of preschool adventures! In January we got our primary school applications in, a rather stressful experience as we don’t have an obvious local school for LO to go to. It did highlight though that she will be off to school in September, assuming, of course, that she actually gets a place somewhere (she will definitely get a place somewhere, it’s whether it’s somewhere we’ve chosen or that we can physically get her to is another matter!). We looked round four schools, and have ranked them in our preference order, but we already know we probably don’t stand a chance of her getting in to at least two of those…
We’ve ticked a few more things off the list so far this year. We went on a playdate with a nursery friend to The Lookout near Bracknell. This was incredibly brilliant. It’s a science and discovery place, and is almost all under cover (although some bits are not completely enclosed so can be a bit cold). There is also an absolutely enormous play area outside, including an accessible section. I’d been a bit worried that there wouldn’t be much for LO’s age group (4 years) but I was totally wrong, and now regret not visiting it a lot sooner. Especially as it’s free for age 3 and under… You have to pay to park, but it isn’t expensive. The play area is free, and is right by the Look Out’s cafe, (which is very reasonably priced) so you can just do that bit, but the Look Out itself easily filled four hours of our day. You can also take a picnic, as there are ample picnic tables outside. As it was January, we didn’t do this! If you visit at a weekend or during school holidays picnics can be eaten under cover in a marquee (used for school group packed lunches during term time).
There are just a few pictures below from our visit. LO tried out chromatography, gears, inflating a hot air balloon to a certain temperature and watching it rise to the ceiling, a play canal lock and boats in the water area (LO preferred opening both gates simultaneously and letting the boat crash through on a big wave), using pullies to lift different weights and a spinning disc thing. The whole place was very impressive and well thought out – with something like 98% of the displays working. There are hand driers and aprons in the water section, and steps for smaller people to stand on so they can see. Another highlight was the construction and architecture zone, where children could climb up into the roof of a model house and tile it (using an upright conveyor belt to lift the tiles up from the floor, and collecting them in toy diggers. In the nature area we could watch leaf-cutter ants carrying bits of leaf through a clear plastic tunnel to their nest.
Definitely somewhere to visit again! We went on a term time day and there were a couple of school groups in, but it wasn’t too crowded and we were able to move around and try everything out. They also run specific days for toddlers, where school groups aren’t booked in and there are more toddler-specific activities available.
We’ve spent more time in Windsor Great Park and Savill Garden. Once on a playdate where LO and her friend marauded around in the mud exploring various paths and we found some beautiful plants to look at (they had camellias and snowdrops in bloom when we visited in early January). We also went on a walk with Daddy there, where LO stood in every puddle she could find, and we watched people having rides in a horse-drawn carriage, and we’ve seized the moment on a couple of other occasions when it hasn’t been pouring with rain to play in the play area and feed the ducks.
We’ve been to Chertsey Museum to try out Museum Monkeys with a friend. This was lots of fun – it’s aimed at under-5s, and starts with drawing activities, a story and singing time, before the children do a craft activity, then go on a treasure hunt through the museum, before finishing with a cup of tea/squash and a biscuit. We really enjoyed it. I’m also tempted by their craft and wine evenings… The museum has good toilet facilities and you can get a drink there. It has lots of things for children to do on a normal (not Museum Monkeys) visit, including dressing up costumes and a dolls’ house. We also found a nice child-friendly coffee shop in Chertsey, about ten minutes walk from the museum. We had a very reasonably priced lunch there, and there are toys to play with at the back of the (enormous) space.
We had another visit to Little Street as a playdate with a friend when the weather was awful. LO had even more fun with a friend with her this time (which also meant the mummies could spend more time in the cafe drinking coffee…). There is so much to see and do here we’ll definitely be going again. It’s worth booking online to make sure you can get in (we went during school holidays and booked the night before).
And we’ve managed to visit a Seven Stories exhibition without going to Newcastle(!). Osterley Park, a National Trust property, was hosting a Tiger Who Came to Tea exhibition, complete with activities, which we made the most of, along with my God-daughter and her mum who were staying with us. There was a tiger pawprint trail to follow in the gardens, plus some rooms inside where we found a dressing up (dress up as Tiger or Mog) with colouring to do, a play kitchen with the Tiger sat at the table and a story room where a brave soul was reading Judith Kerr books to a horde of small children. LO loved dressing up as Mog, and was most reluctant to take her outfit off. There is also a (permanent) play trail in the grounds of the house, which involves a circular walk, with rope swings, den building, climbing and stepping stones. This was a lot of fun but wellies are essential in February! Even without the exhibition, Osterley is a great place to take preschoolers to gallop around outdoors.
We actually did more than I thought we would in Jan/Feb! Hopefully March and April will be as much fun. Have you visited any of these places too?