Lollipops Play Centre, Castle Hill

Situated at Unit 8/10 Hudson Avenue, Castle Hill, 2154, Lollipops is open 7 days a week:
–  9:30am to 6pm Monday to Thursday
–  9:30 to 7pm on Friday
–  9am to 6pm on weekends

Already a winner I say 🙂

The costs vary depending on age and whether its a school day or not. We went on a random Friday and paid just over $20 ($4 for me, $11.90 for my 3 year old and $8.90 for my 1 year old). The three age categories are 2 – 11 years and you pay $15.90 on a non-school day, 12 – 23 months and you pay $11.90 on a non-school day and babies under 1 year of age are free. As an adult you pay $4.50 on a non-school day.

The adult ticket price includes a drink voucher which you can use to get a tea, coffee or soft drink. I’m a decaf loser so I had to chip in 50c for my decaf but thats okay, the coffee isn’t bad and the pear and raspberry bread was good too.

We got to Lillipops at 9:40 so just after it opened and we weren’t even the first people there, we were beaten by three other moms with kiddies about 2 years old or thereabouts. It was nice and quiet at this time and there was plenty of parking. Given that my kids had been awake since the crack of dawn, both were ready to leave after 2 hours of full out playing. By the time we were leaving the car park had filled up substantially but inside it was still pleasant and there wasn’t the feeling of being overcrowded or numbed by deafening noise.

It calls itself ‘The Hills District’s Premier Family and Party Destination’ and I would be surprised if this is true (going to have to do some more research and exploring around the Hills District I reckon).

It’s big but not overwhelming, my son’s favorites were definitely the air powered canon type things that you can shoot soft balls out of. I heard him yelling “I’m like Jake and the Neverland pirates with my cannon” at one point.

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The air powered “cannon ball shooters”

A note on these “cannon balls” the release of air makes a woosh noise so just be aware and warn your little one so that they are not taken by surprise – my 1 year old nearly jumped out of her skin at this.

But there are so many other things to enjoy: spinning tea cups, slides (even a super slide for over 6 year olds and a light up slide for babies), climbing frames, jumping castle, enclosed area for driving and a big ball pit.

 

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Admiration of the ball pit

 

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Rotating Tea Cups Safety Notice (which over protective mother doesn’t love a safety notice!?)
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Great jumping castle
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One of the large play pens – be careful, it rains balls
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The pipes sucks the balls up to the roof, how much fun!!

 

My daughter’s favourite was definitely the light up baby slide, I have never seen her so happy to be on a slide.

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Light Up Slide is back left in the “babies’ area”

 

 

What I really like about this place is that it focuses on the kids’ safety. When you walk in you’re given a sticker with a barcode to stick to your child’s clothing and a card that has corresponding stickers – these two are then compared when you leave. Additionally on the safety front, the play areas have little signs setting out the requirements for playing on that particular piece of equipment. This is bloody marvelous as it means that bigger kids aren’t going to knock over littler babies or run around in areas earmarked for littlies. I really do love this as it makes me feel a little less panicky about my 1 year old.

Two other benefits of this place is that there are little toilets for your under 5s and the whole area (including access to the facility) is all flat so there are no obstacles to taking your pram in.

Party packages are on offer with 5 designated party rooms.

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There are a couple of rules to take note of:

  1. Socks must be worn at all times – even by adults.
  2. You aren’t allowed bringing food into the place, unless it’s baby food. They make exceptional babychinos and for only $1! Bargain!
  3. You are only allowed taking photographs of your own child.
  4. Children under 2 have to have an adult slide with them and clothing must cover bottoms and thighs (I can only assume this means dont put your child in a dress??)

 

I’m really glad we ventured out to the Hills District to check this out and weren’t put off by the exterior – we will definitely be back again!

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26 things you didn’t know before you had kids 

“Mothers are all slightly insane”

– J.D. Salinger

  1. You will refer to other adults as Clarissa’s mom or holly’s granny all the while never knowing that persons actual name.
  2. Left overs and cold food and drinks are actually delicious.
  3. How little sleep you can actually function on is incredible. You can still go to work and do your job after being woken up three times in the night, the third time being 4am when your 1 year old thought it was the official wake up time.
  4. You need not teach your children about certain things – they are born knowing them, aside from knowing how to crawl and how to cry they also know how to swipe an iPhone open, how to manipulate you, how to make an awful mess and how to make you smile.
  5. Mascara, eye shadow, lip gloss and blush gather dust, saved for special occasions like a wedding or job interview. Your beauty routine now consists of brushing your teeth and hair, okay maybe not your hair on bad days.
  6. Leaving for work or dropping off at day care is depressing but coming home from work is like a party when you’ve been away for a year or more.
  7. Being pregnant makes your body change, you may think this is obvious but the changes are not always expected. My feet have shrunk from having children – no lies! 2 sizes, I’ve got these little feet now, they would be cute if I was a little girl but I’m a full grown woman. I’m also convinced that something funny has happened to my ribs, I swear my ribs have widened. Dresses don’t zip up anymore despite having lost my baby weight.
  8. Crocs will invade your life, blue ones, pink ones, toy story and frozen ones.
  9. You will not know your baby’s cry instantly – it’s a myth. But by the time your third comes around I reckon you hope it’s someone else’s and just block it out. Also not everything is ‘mothers instinct’ I got a few nappies on backwards (still do) and wasnt really sure what I was meant to do when they were awake, fully fed and clean but you learn and it’s okay.
  10. They, these little creatures, have their own personalities, no matter what you do, not matter how many books you read or research you do they will have their likes and dislikes and there is sweet little you can do to change everything (or anything in some cases). But as much as they have their own personalities you will still see flashes of you or your partner – so help you if you were once a little terror yourself, we are suffering from a bad case of Karma ourselves.
  11. The dream of clean carpets, cushions, bedding and almost everything else is gone – kids eat and eat with their hands like little cavemen and then they touch things and drop crumbs and food in their wake. I have moments where I give up and just pretend I didn’t see a drop of ice-lolly hit the t-shirt and then the couch (granted I do have a designated messy couch).
  12. With kids, if they’re awake their first preference is being on you – standing on your toe, elbowing the Crown Jewels, hanging on your hair – as long as they’re touching you happiness reigns.
  13. Bags with leather or fabric innards are a no no, everything sticks to leather and ruins it. It’s so sad but now you’re after canvas interiors or plastic. It’s amazing what you can dishwash 🙂
  14. You can no longer have a drink out of any bottle or cup alone, you have to share and the worst part – the sharers you’re sharing with love dropping bits of food back into the drink.
  15. Watching a movie or a whole tv show is a treat. Enjoy it while you can because when you have kids you either are interrupted 400 times and forget what is going on or you fall asleep.
  16. Expect to wear the same clothes every third day when you go on holiday because there is no longer any space for your clothes in the suitcase – the space you used to use for multiple shoes is now taken up by blankets, nappies and every clothes change possible.
  17. Dangly earrings or pretty dangly necklaces are a thing of the past as are sequined tops or anything with sticking out trim – unless of course it’s edible.
  18. Pram envy becomes you – you will find yourself checking out prams as they go past or being the subject of some checking out.
  19. Conversations about poo are not taboo, such conversation is completely normal and welcomed!
  20. Just have a baby and you will become one of those people, those people who: posts countless pics of your baby and child on social media. (Until your second child arrives then you’ll struggle to find any picture of your second child or of your second child alone). Those people who seem unable to discipline their 3 year old in the shops. Those people who freak out when their child has a rash and are convinced its life threatening even after the doctor tells you it’s heat rash, for the second time.
  21. Getting ready to leave the house becomes an Olympic medal worthy challenge – you will be challenged by multiple obstacles in weaving your way through the house (over Lego and round the dolls) you will do a second maybe third loop as you leave things behind, you may even pass the baton to your partner a few times (‘you carry this and I’ll grab that, no hang on, give me her and you take this’.) This challenge is a marathon not a sprint and it would take Usain Bolt at least 30 minutes to move the 100 meters from the lounge to the car.
  22. No matter who you are – King of England or the President of the United States at some point you will be pooped on wee’d on or vomited on. It the great equalizer of us mortals – just hope it’s not all at the same time and your nails are short.
  23. As you fall asleep at night or sit in traffic on the way to work – you will rehearse all the songs from the Disney channel or Cbeebies lucky you! The only relief is to phone your partner and tell them so they too can have the specific song stuck in their heads.
  24. Trendy kids clothes cost the same as their adult counterparts – it’s a tiny amount of fabric in comparison – by square meter the stuff may as well be made out of gold.
  25. You just gotta let go, they will colour out the lines (and you can’t get upset), the will get mud on their shoes and they will fall over but they learn as they go and it won’t be as shocking the second time around.
  26. You will know joy like you have never known before and it’ll hit you bang between the eyes in the most arbitrary moments.

Is life with 2 kids harder than just 1?

In some ways the answer is a definite yes and in another sense its a no. Maybe i’ll know the answer by the time I get to the end of this and see all my thoughts lined up…

When you’re expecting number 1 your head is in a spin, everything is new and everything is Unknown (with a capital U). I remember going into a baby store to get dummies (pacifiers / soothers) and was shocked – in front of me was a wall of choice! I thought I would just go out during my lunch break and pick up a dummy, I did not realise there would be more than 2 brands and within those brands hundreds to choose from. I was so stunned by this experience I promptly walked out the shop and phoned my husband in a panic. Needless to say, this didn’t happen the second time around. This time I thought I knew what to expect – I would go to the hospital one day, heavily pregnant and the next day I would have a tiny human. I knew what the deal was.

However, I did have nightmares, I was seriously worried about how to take two children to the shops – how the hell do you put two children in the car and then how do you get them both out, which do you take out first? The tiny infant and leave her in the pram in parking or the two year old who would run for the hills in any given situation. This plagued me, my husband was no help at all. (I am now an expert and removing children from the car, thank you very much) (I always take the lesser of the escape artists out first).

So, yes, the second time around you know what to expect just a little more which means that the actual process of having the baby is much easier, so is the preparation and your mindset. What else is much easier is that you know that the little mistakes which racked you with guilt the first time around are actually not that serious in the long run (think missing bedtime or feeding time by 10 minutes). Mentally, you are generally in a better place with the second one.

The arrival of a second child is also not such a shock to the system – you know sleep deprivation already, you know what its like to not understand your baby’s cries and you know that you can’t go out at the drop of a hat anymore (some families manage this but I have no clue how to leave the house in less than 30 minutes).

However two children means double the admin, double the baths, double the dinners, double the activities. This lasts until your second is about a year and then things begin to settle. I’ve found that after the first year of exhaustion and the double-trouble the schedules and activities begin to align – the two begin to eat the same things at the same times and play with one another.

 

The difficulty with having two children is mainly a management issue – the management of your older child. It starts with the pregnancy and preparing them for the arrival of the second, helping them understand that they are no longer the only focus of your world and making sure  that when number two arrives, the two children’s worlds don’t collide. Let’s explore this concept of ‘collision’.

The way I see it, it is easier enough to have two children (and only have two hands) if you can manage them in their own little worlds without those worlds colliding. The two worlds meeting is a good thing, think of ‘meeting’ as playing together, bathing in the same bath, eating dinner together and think of world’s colliding as fighting, jealousy and keeping each other  awake.  All is well in my world when the children’s worlds co-exist or if the worlds meet but when they collide, I have some serious problems.  Our collisions happen when one of our kids is paid more attention than the other, one child is hungry or thirsty, too hot or too cold or tired. So all I have to do is make sure that they’re paid equal attention (or understand that we have to share things), carry lots of food and water and forty changes of clothing.

At the end of the day, I think having 2 children isn’t harder it just requires more planning and more bags. And let me tell you – the moments when you catch them sharing toys or laughing together the whole world stops and is perfect.  

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[QUICK SIDEBAR: If you’re pregnant and reading this – when you are in hospital for the birth of the second, stay there as long as you can, its like a hotel, linen changed daily, help with the baby and a good night’s sleep … HOTEL!!]

 

Crows Nest TAFE Playgroup

Crows Nest TAFE Playgroup is THE playgroup to take your child to – Monday’s to Thursday’s. It’s so good it’s almost impossible to find information on because it doesn’t need to be publicized at all for it to have tremendous support. I heard about it by way of mouth and then tried to track down info, tried to phone a number I found and got zilch so this is for all of you who have heard about this place over the rainbow that has pots of gold (just kidding, no gold, just tons of stuff you don’t have to think up and then clean up).

The payoff for the playgroup is that you have to consent to your child being observed by the teachers in training. You may get asked a question or two or you may have a future teacher sit and play with your child, which in my case meant I had five minutes to think.
The playgroup starts at 10am and finishes at noon but it is very relaxed and you can come and go as you please. You pre-purchase attendances but it’ll be worth your while, just look at the pictures below.

The playgroup is situated at the TAFE Crows Nest Campus, 149 West Street. You enter through the main building where there are posters to the place to buy your pre-purchased tickets.
The facility is awesome – it has an inside and outside area with different play stations set up. It has almost everything you can imagine, just a few examples:

– painting

– musical instruments

– reading area

– puzzle table

– swing set

– sandpits with a water pump


  
Inside there are also areas which are set up for babies with soft toys and couches for moms.

There are students on hand to watch over your kids if you are darting between two play areas or running with a child to the bathroom. Speaking of which, there is a big bathroom inside which has changing mats for babies and there are little toilets for the toddlers.
Parking in the streets surrounding TAFE is a nightmare so we park in the Holtermann Street Car Park on the corner of Holtermann and Zig Zag lane. The car park is free for 2 hours and then approximately $5 for every hour thereafter. The car park I’m talking about is the one that backs onto the Crows Nest Community Centre. But, even with this parking it gets full quickly – come 9:40 you have to park a number of levels up. The walk from Holtermann Car Park to TAFE is about 5 minutes so not so bad and it’s pram friendly the whole way.

[QUICK SIDEBAR: If you’re parking here note that the only meter is on the 2nd floor so pay there before going to get your car otherwise you’ll be stuck with nowhere to stop to pay. ]

There are some restrictions on food and drink – no hot beverages allowed inside the playgroup grounds (inside or outside) and we were prevented from the children eating inside but on this last visit I couldn’t wrestle the biscuit out of my baby’s hand and that didn’t seem to be a problem.

While it is well shaded, it is still hot and there are plenty of sunny spots so make sure to pack a hat.

One of the best playgrounds on the North Shore

This is a great park / playground, maybe even the best on Sydney’s North Shore. With a big walking path circling the open flat park, a coffee shop and playground it ticks all the boxes. 

Initially when I heard about it I struggled to work out where it is because people refer to it as Flying Fox playground but it is actually called Winnererremy Bay Park or Winnererremy Bay Foreshore Reserve. The address you can use for your GPS is 2 Mona Street, Mona Vale, 2103.  

The parkland itself is lovely and flat with a big looping walkway around it. Its a great place for a picnic with the trees and the permanent umbrellas. We have been there a couple of times but the pictures below are of when I took the kids last winter so the sun was setting early. Sorry for the poor quality of the pics, I hope you can get the gist of it.

If you want to explore a bit more, across a bridge over the water into the wooded area along the water. This seems to be where people who don’t have a crazy 3 year old on a bike who is trying to kill himself get to walk – between him and the pram we didn’t get far.

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The playground is big and has a ton of different aspects to explore: slides, swings, climbing sets and a small zip line (well I think it’s a zip line) and those bouncy things with the spring. There are climbing frames for little kids and bigger pre-schoolers. Below is a picture of one of the playground areas which is a ship, loved by all boys I can assure you. 

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The playground floor is that soft stuff which means a fall isn’t as hard as it could be and has seating inside with plenty of shady areas too should you find yourself there in the middle of the day.

The adjacent cafe is open from 8 am to 5:30 so you can take the kids down in the morning or afternoon and still be able to grab a coffee.

I would definitely recommend a visit!

Hallstrom Park, Willoughby

Hallstrom Park according to the internet is situated at 2 Small Street, Willoughby. I have inserted a map below so you can see for yourself – the red pin is where the internet says Hailstorm Park is and maybe the park is but I would aim for where I have dropped the purple pin (just before the restaurant called The Incinerator) as this is where the playground is.

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There are a few reviews of Hailstorm Park on the internet and I had a look through these before heading off to see it for myself. We landed up parking at the red pin and walking through the park to get to the playground, up a massive hill with my three year old complaining the whole way – not ideal.

So, at the playground there is a swing set, climbing frame and two slides and those bouncy things you sit on (no clue what they’re called, you know the things with the big spring and handle bars). Its manageable with a pram as there is a walkway around it.

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What is cool is that off down a path from the playground (walking in the direction of Willoughby Road) is a cycling track for kids, complete with road signs and bridges. My three year old could have spent all afternoon at this track. You must however keep an eye on your little one on his bike or scooter because it is adjacent to Willoughby Road.

 

 

 

Wannabees, Frenchs Forest 

Wannabes Family Play Town is in an Office Park in Frenchs Forest at:C1/1-3 Rodborough Rd Frenchs Forest NSW 2086.

Its an indoor play centre which revolves around pretend and dress up where children run around their own little town. Complete with a hair salon, grocery shop, bank, restaurant, gym, fire station and more it should cater for every child’s ‘when-i’m-big’ ambition. My son’s favourite was the construction site while mine was the TV studio where my son could pretend to be all sorts on things in front of a green screen while he could watch himself on tv – it was just too cute.

There is also a track for the kids to ride around on and a restaurant for you to grab a coffee and some food.

Babies under 1 are free and thereafter tickets are between $13.50 and $16.50. There are discounts for entry on Wednesday & Thursday after 1:00 PM when all children $12.00.

I have put in a picture below of the daily schedule when we were there last but this may have changed so check out their website at http://wannabees.com.au.


  

  

 

Gifts for Girls: 1 year olds 

Our little lady turned one recently and I couldn’t think of what I should get her, especially with a birthday so soon after Christmas. It took a while but I few good internet searches and trawls through the toy shops and I was able to put together a nice set of stuff. 

Below are the gifts that I came across that I think are great for little one year old girls (your own or someone else’s), or thereabouts because some will be interested in some toys earlier or later than others. 

The below list includes a variety of gifts at different prices and where possible I’ve put a link to where you can get the item.

  1.  Bruin bath cups, ToyrUs $7 http://m.toysrus.com.au/bruin-sea-critter-bath-cups_10486288/
  2. Bright Stars Flexi Ball, Target $10 http://www.target.com.au/p/bright-starts-flexi-ball/46821492
  3. Minnie Mouse Beach Bucket Set, Target $10 http://www.target.com.au/p/minnie-mouse-beach-bucket-spade-set/56104011
  4. Fisher Price Stack and Explore Blocks Target, $12 http://www.target.com.au/p/fisher-price-stack-explore-blocks/57549736
  5. Fisher Price Flip Phone, Target $12 http://www.target.com.au/p/fisher-price-peek-a-boo-friendly-flip-phone/55557610   
  6. Alice in Wonderland Slide Push Pull Book, David Jones, $15 http://shop.davidjones.com.au/djs/m20/en/davidjones/first-stories%3A-alice-in-wonderland
  7. Mega Bloks bag of blocks, Kmart $15 http://www.kmart.com.au/product/mega-bloks-first-builders-60-piece-pink-blocks-bag/122892   
  8. Bello Farm Puzzle, Kidstuff $15 http://kidstuff.com.au/bello-down-on-the-farm-puzzle.html
  9. Hungry Catapiller Finger Puppet Book, David Jones $17 http://shop.davidjones.com.au/djs/m20/en/davidjones/very-hungry-caterpillar-finger-puppet-book
  10. Peter Rabbit Slide Book, David Jones $17 http://shop.davidjones.com.au/djs/m20/en/davidjones/peter-rabbit-first-words-a-slide-and-see-book
  11. Hello Baby Board Book, David Jones $17 http://shop.davidjones.com.au/djs/m20/en/davidjones/hello-baby%21-board-book
  12. Bello Shape Puzzle, Kidstuff $20 http://kidstuff.com.au/bello/bello-shape-puzzle.html
  13. Bruin Sing-a-long Piano, Toysrus $20   
  14. Baby’s First Buttons and Bows Doll, Target $20 http://www.target.com.au/p/baby-s-first-buttons-bows-doll/58220726
  15. Hairy Maclary Touch and Feel Book, David Jones $20 http://shop.davidjones.com.au/djs/m20/en/davidjones/hairy-maclary-and-friends%3A-touch-and-feel-book
  16. Fisher Price Xylophone, Target $22 http://www.target.com.au/p/fisher-price-brilliant-basics-classic-xylophone/48097451
  17. Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Bear, Target $35 http://www.target.com.au/p/fisher-price-laugh-learn-smart-stages-sis/57001289   
  18. My little baby, Kidstuff $40 http://kidstuff.com.au/little-baby-born.html 
  19. Fisher Price baby pram, Kmart $45 http://www.kmart.com.au/product/fisher-price-princess-mummy-gift-set/786801
  20. Dolls World Little Treasure doll, Kidstuff $50 http://kidstuff.com.au/dw-little-treasure-style-1.html   
  21. Lilly Plush Toy, Myer $50 http://m.myer.com.au/shop/mobile/mystore/peter-rabbit-ballerina-soft-toy-27cm-950975120-365111920–1
  22. Vtech First Steps Baby Walker, Big W $60  https://www.bigw.com.au/product/vtech-first-steps-baby-walker/p/WCC100000000027939/
  23. Little Tikes Princess Cozi Coupe, Little Tikes $130 http://www.tikes.com.au/index.php/age/1-2-years/princess-cozy-coupe-30th-anniversary-edition-detail   
  24. Little Tike Activity Center, Little Tikes $150 http://www.tikes.com.au/index.php/age/6-9-months/activity-garden-34-detail     
  25. Pixie and Fluff Rocking Horse, Kidstuff $199 http://kidstuff.com.au/pixie-fluff-rocking-horse.html

These are just a few ideas to get the ball rolling. 

I haven’t included any clothes because there are too many options to consider. 

Good luck and enjoy the shopping! 

  

The crazy mom’s guide to planning a CHILD’S BIRTHDAY PARTY

 

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If you’re a bit neurotic about birthday party planning like me, it takes you ages to decide what to do, you bounce backward and forward over a plethora of ideas. Its absolutely crazy, I’m absolutely crazy – I blame it on my mother. Pinterest becomes my obession, we eat cake for weeks before and after, trip over party decor – its just cray cray.

So this is the way I go about birthday party planning, well in a perfect world I would be this structured and wouldn’t change my mind a hundred times.

I have not tackled the issue of the cake, maybe I’ll get there in another post 🙂

 

STEP 1: KNOW YOUR CHILD

This itself is a two part step a) how old is your little one and b) what is your child’s nature. These two questions answered will give you a good indication of what to do, where to do and when to do it.

Age

If your child is under the age of 3 you can pretty much determine what type of party you want to give – what works for you or what you like or what you think your child likes.

Something to bear in mind with little ones is you want them to not miss their nap just so they can be at their party – that is the worst worst idea ever! Plan for the party to operate between naps.

Child’s nature

As I have learnt from spending time with a lot of kids and coming from a large family there are diffiernt personalities who will enjoy different types of things. Some children are observers and would be most happy having one on one time with someone like Elsa or Sophia, other children don’t like big crowds so a few close friends work and other kids love a crowd (I was one of these) so combined birthday parties can work here.

Determine what would be special for your child, not what you think you have to do because everyone in your mothers’ group did 🙂

 

STEP 2: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

Who are you going to invite, is it just adults, a bunch of hyped up 3 year olds or some lovely little one year olds who don’t know what is going on. Whatever you plan has got to special for your child but suitable for your attendees.

 

 

 

STEP 3: SET A THEME

 

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The theme is a whole disaster on its own. The way I see it, there are a few categories within which to choose:

 

 

  • character: think sponge bob square pants or Minnie Mouse or octanauts
  • Colour: green or pink would be the go to colours in my house and have been
  • Idea: sailing for the boy whose father loves boats or hot air balloons for the girl whose mom thinks they’re the cutest
  • Activity: swimming party, ice-skating, you get the vibe
  • Place: from zoo to jungle to Africa or from tea house to Paris, you can go as big or small.

Not everything has to be themed, have one or two decor items and one or two food items to tie it all together. If you want to go nuts, sure, you have my blessing. There are so many fantastic options and I will delve into this in a little bit.

My first first birthday party was an Sesame Street theme and I went nuts, when my sister saw the picture she queried whether Elmo had vomitted everywhere so that has been my line – don’t make it look like the theme vomitted everywhere, graphic but you get the point.

 

STEP 4: FIND A VENUE

Where do you have a children’s party? This is largely affected by the number of people you’re having (do 15 one year olds fit in your lounge), what you’re planning on doing and what time of year your party is.

So some ideas:

  • The local or at least closest good park. There are some great parks in Sydney. Upper North Shore has Wahroonga and Turrumurra Parks. Lower North Shore has Balmoral. The City has the Botanical Gardens and then there is always Centennial Parklands for the City. I haven’t explored more than this just yet, forgive me I’m still new 🙂 If you go onto your local counsel’s website they will have a list of parks and even places within those parks that you can hire. By hiring a place you should have access to bathrooms, electricity, a shelter and potentially parking.
  • The beach, Sydneysiders love the sea and the beach, I reckon that’s one of the reasons we live here. There are many fantastic beaches which have BBQ facilities and space for children to wear themselves out. The last time we were at Clifton Gardens a little girl was having her birthday and she seemed to be having a ball.
  • Indoor play areas. We have only been to two at this stage Sportsbliss in Thornleigh and …. in Alexandria. But there is also Wannabees in French’s Forest which has kids parties.
  • Gymnastics or sports parties (with the former you can go to the venue and have a supervised party where your kids can play on a gymnastics circuit and with the latter you can arrange for a coach of a certain sport to come to your home or chosen venue).

 

Remember your venue needs to cater to the time of year you’re having the party and the time of day, too hot or potential for rain you will need to have some form of shelter. I have learnt that it rains in September in Sydney and as a result we can’t rely on a purely outdoor party venue.

 

STEP 5: DECORATIONS

 

There are two places I would recommend going to first Big W (we go to the Macquarie One) and Spotlight (we go to Belrose). After that you can look at KMart and Target, those stores collectively should give you everything you need. You could also check out your local Woolies and Coles for any things that fit in your theme.

My current list for decor includes (current being what I’ve learnt to limit the decor to as per husband’s orders 🙂 )

  1. Balloons, for us our kids are nuts about balloons so I always incorporate them but some places won’t let you bring balloons to a venue
  2. Loot bags / party packs, Target and Big W have big packs of fillers so you don’t have to spend a fortune buying little toys
  3. Happy birthday banner, who doesn’t love a birthday banner
  4. Serviettes, you can never have enough but, should you have enough or too many 🙂 use them afterwards for the birthday child whenever s/he eats dinner, it’s a lovely reminder of a great day
  5. Paper or plastic plates, I generally go with a simple colour so that I can reuse them for future picnics
  6. Plastic table clothes (make sure you get the right shape – made that mistake before)

I have been known to get carried away and have also included themed straws, plastic or paper cups, a cupcake stand, the odd centrepiece  (yes you read that right ) and flowers (I love having flowers so any excuse will do).

If you buy good quality plain coloured items you can continue to use them for years to come.

 

STEP 6: FIGURE OUT YOUR CATERING

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If you are having the party at a venue you may have to use their catering while others may allow you to bring your own food in.

There are two aspects to this – food and drink, I’ll deal with drinks first as this is the easier of the two.

A) Drinks

Make sure you have waters for the kids and adults, especially if you are an indoor venue on the weekend because it gets crazy hot in there! You can either buy bottled water or just have jugs of water, the problem with jugs of water is you need to carry with you jugs and cups, plastic, and you have to have a source for refills. I go with bottled water and keep my eyes out for specials.

Decide if you want alcohol, some parents may expect it while other venues may not let you serve it.

Fruit juice is a firm favourite are as sodas but it can get so complicated with the hundreds of different options available. The other thing is you often get left with half drunk 2L bottles and who in the world has space in their fridge for that?

B) Food

My biggest problem here is that I always always over-cater and then send everyone home with left overs. I don’t know if that’s embarrassing or not, I’m still undecided 🙂

Food is a time issue – the time of day you have the party will determine what foods you provide but there are a few staples I always go to. Here is my list which you can name and tag according to the theme (I have intentionally left off sweets so you think I’m a great super healthy mom:) )(I’m not)

  1. fruit platter
  2. cupcakes. These of course are always themed, always 🙂
  3. biscuits (this is age dependent for babies Maries are great and for youngsters tiny teddies are a hit)
  4. cheese muffins (I’ve got a great simple recipe which I could blog if anyone wanted it)
  5. carrots, cucumber, baby tomatoes and corns
  6. cheese board
  7. chips / pretzels and dips

Outside of the above, some of the things I have included in the past are:

  • scones with strawberries and cream
  • meatballs with dipping sauce
  • popcorn
  • shooter glasses with milk in and tiny cookies to go with
  • mini meringues
  • sausages rolls
  • beef, pickle and mustard crostinis
  • quiche
  • croissants
  • savoury tarts – a really easy option if you use store bought puff pastry (great recipe at http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/18583/prosciutto+tomato+and+ricotta+tart)

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STEP 7: PRE-PURCHASE

Having been through the previous steps, it is now safe to go out and start your buying.

I always start buying a few weeks before, I keep an eye out for the specials at Coles and Woolies and then start stocking up. You can buy the drinks, biscuits and chips weeks in advance, sometimes even your cheese and baking items can be bought way in advance.

You do however want to buy your fruit the day before or at a max two days before so that it stays fresh.

In addition to the food and decor stuff above, remember to pick up birthday candles or candle –  you can get cute little numbered ones, I’ve managed to find goodies at Coles and Woolies.

Wow this has turned into a super long post, my apologies for that friends but I hope you put it to good use. Now go forth and try and enjoy this experience. Good luck, you’ll do great!

 

 

A quick visit to Northbridge Baths with baby

I always drive past the sign for Northbridge Baths so I decided to go see for myself. 

I did my cursory Internet search to figure out what it was and whether it may be suitable and it looked promising. Two complaints dominated the reviews I read, firstly there is no longer a kiosk and secondly the hill down to the baths is steep. 

Off I set with baby in tow to go check it out. NB as I will call it is situated just off Widgiewa Rd, Northbridge. Your GPS may pick up this address or the address of the Northbridge Baths Fitness and Aquatic Centre. (For some reason my map creating skills have failed me again today, apologies!!)

The parking sits above the baths so you access NB either by walking down the steps onto the road leading into it or out the parking and back down the road (this may make no sense now but when you get there you’ll see what I mean). 

You could definitely take a pram from the car to NB and I saw two mums with babes in prams. The only consideration is pushing it back up, but with a small baby I would say this isn’t a problem. Pushing your baby in the pram with your three year old sitting on the pram would be a different story. 

NB is a nice little spot perfect for a little visit with your little one complete with water, a small patch of sand, grass and shady spots too.  The grass leads towards some wide steps (wide enough to set yourself up on) which in turn leads onto the sand (again, so confusing but you’ll see from the pics I’ve added below). 

When we went there were four other moms with kids ranging from a few months to about 5 years old. The tide had come in so there wasn’t much of a sandy spot for sand castles but it meant that my 1 year old could walk in the water for quite a while before it got deep. 

It did concern me that there was a sign up warning you of ‘stingers’ but it didn’t seem to prevent anyone from getting in the water and I didn’t come across anything. What we did see were tons of fish that swam up to us as we stood in the  water, it was really lovely. The water was also ridiculously warm, ridiculously ridiculously warm, bath water warm and I have no explanation for it 🙂 

    
The above pic is of the shallow swimming area and the sand area with the grassy area behind me. The below pic is how far the tide had flowed out by the time we left two hours later. 

  
I’ve also included a few pics of the grassy area so you get an idea of the place and its size. What you can’t see in the pictures is that towards the end of th Baths on the left hand side are swimming lanes. There were a few people taking advantage of it but the whole atmosphere is very quiet and chilled.

I’ll definitely go back with the baby and my 3 year old as it’s shallow enough for both kids to have a great time, no waves means no dunking and it’s a contained area where I can monitor them both at once. 

Just so you know, there aren’t any lifeguards so don’t take your kids swimming at NB if this is a prerequisite. 

Hope you enjoy it if you give it a go! 

Oh, on the two issues I read, 1) take your own snacks if you need to eat and 2) the hill isn’t great but it’s small in comparison to others.