There is so much to do with kids in the UK. The mentality is very different to the Spanish one. In Spain, the kids are accessories to the parents and they go where mum and dad go. In the UK the parents plan their days around the kids’ entertainment and not the other way around. It’s awesome and I much more prefer it.
So I thought I would make a list of all the places we’ve been to, with a little summary and a grading too (I won’t mention play groups or clubs – only purpose built locations)
JJs (soft play)
JJs is not my favourite soft play, however it is near me and quite cheap. Plus the big slide is really good fun. The first time we visited the twins were still small and crawling and the place looked very run down and dirty, so we only stayed for a few minutes.
We have come back a few times lately, now that the twins are more mobile and they actually enjoy it, but I don’t so much. There are always older kids around, even on a Monday morning (I think they are “homeschooled” kids) and the food is not good at all – and you’re not allowed to take your own food.
In total I give it 3 out of 5 stars.
Playdays (soft play)
Playdays is slightly better than JJs. Definitely cleaner and only slightly more expensive, however the big slide is not as good. As in JJs, there is an area designed for smaller children, but we always find it full of older children too, who tend to be very careless about the fact that there are babies and toddlers around.
The food is much better than at JJs however the tables are always very busy and we have even been a couple of times when all the tables were taken up by upcoming birthday parties. Another great point is the staff, as I have seen very good service a few times, with very friendly staff.
In total I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Manydown Family Fun
We have only been once to Manydown. It was last summer on a very hot day. The twins were toddling but weren’t great walkers by any means, and despite the fact that there were areas designed for smaller children and toddlers, we found that there wasn’t that much for the twins to do, and they certainly got bored easily.
And did I mention it was very hot? I know Manydown can’t control the weather, but none of the play areas were covered, not even by a mere tree. There were a couple of gazebos, but they were mainly eating areas.
We skipped the maze, since the twins would not be able to walk most of it, but decided to go on the tractor ride instead. And as luck would have it, the tractor broke down in the middle of the ride. We waited to see if they would repair it, but it would take too long, so they sent us back by foot (carrying the kids!)
To be totally fair, I think that had the twins been older they would have had much more fun. In fact, we are planning on going back this summer again (and for the lambing season before that!) and I’m sure they’ll have a better time.
In total I give it 3.5 out of 5 (but this will be reviewed later on this year)
A friend of ours used to take her toddler to the Vyne all the time and then she would come by our house for a cup of coffee and would tell us how wonderful The Vyne was and how much her son enjoyed it.
So finally, a few weeks back, when we gauged that the twins were old enough to enjoy it, we decided to take them. The place is gorgeous, even if just by the sorroundings, but I am afraid to say that the facilities for kids are not enough for my children (yet). I say ‘yet’ because, the same as Manydown, I believe they will be able to make more of those facilities when they are a bit older.
There is a ride on area, quite big to be true, with lots of “tractors” and toy lawn mowers. There is also a small-ish play area that is not too bad but that the twins tired of quite quickly. We did not attempt to go in the house. We reserve this for a child-free day or for when they are older.
In total I give it 3 out of 5
This is our favourite park in Basingstoke. It has got everything for a good day out with the kids. A nice and enclosed toddler area with a good slide, the paddling pool, a cafe that sells hot food and snacks (although they don’t open regularly, we’ve been there on a Saturday and the cafe was closed). The green area is also perfect for picnics, as there is quite a lot of shade but plenty of space for the children to play and run around.
In total I give it 4.5 out of 5
Active Tots (soft play) – Stratfield Saye
This is our favourite soft play in the area. We’ve been coming here since the twins were 14 months old (approximately) and they always have a great time. It’s quite small but big enough for the twins to be able to go on their own to explore without feeling “abandoned”. You are always within eyesight, and that is reassuring for them. The facilities are spotless, so clean and well looked after, and the food is really good as well.
The downside? It is not cheap at all. It is actually quite pricey, since you can’t take your own food or drink… They do a Multiple Birth special day when entry for two kids and mum is only £6, but you’re restricted to the times between 10 and 12. The problem for me is that if I left at 12 without giving the twins any lunch (and remember I can’t take my own), then they would fall asleep in the car before we reached home and I could give them lunch. This is not ideal, so I always end up buying lunch there, which makes the bill go up to almost £20.
In total I give it 4.5 out of 5
Wellington Country Park – Riseley
Wellington is great. It’s a massive country park with lots of play areas designed with little ones in mind. We started coming last summer when the twins were a tiny bit more confident on their feet. They really enjoy the sand pit, the animals, the wendy houses, the swings and those little pillows that you jump on them and they make a little noise.
We really enjoyed Wellington all over the summer, so much so that I got a season ticket just on our second visit and it was very much used all summer long. The last time we visited last season, though, was around September and the twins were in super mischievous mode and they just wanted to run away. The park is so big that if they run in opposite directions (which they did) it is actually dangerous for toddlers, due to the big open lake.
Another downside of this park is that if it’s raining or very wet, there is not much you can do. There is a soft play area but it is very poor. Small and not equipped at all. There are also some gazebos to protect you from the rain, but rain would really spoil your day.
The food in the restaurant is not bad, although a bit pricey, but you can take your own picnic without any problems.
In total I give it 4.5 out of 5
Finkley Down Farm – Andover
Finkley is just awesome. We’ve only been once so far but we absolutely loved it. As the name indicates, it is a farm: there are lots of animals to see and feed, and even regular handling sessions of the smaller animals (like rabbits). There are lots of play areas outside, but the big selling point of this place is the indoors soft play. This soft play is designed for older kids. There are also two smaller sections for babies, but when my kids got a taste of the big areas, they didn’t want to go into the baby areas.
We will be definitely be coming back this summer. We felt that there was so much more to explore when we went! It will definitely be better when the weather gets fairer as we will be able to properly use all the outdoor facilities as well as going crazy in the play barn!
The food is quite decent but on the not-so-cheap spectrum, but once again, you can take your own food and drinks without a problem.
In total I give it a 4.5 out of 5
A bit further afield.
Marwell Zoo – Winchester
I am not a fan of zoos. I love animals too much to see them caged and unable to roam free. For this reason I was a bit wary about going to Marwell, but so many friends raved about it that I had to give it a go.
It’s not too bad. I mean, it’s still a zoo and animals are still in enclosures, but I must admit that the size of most of the enclosures were decent enough. The kids, however, loved it. They loved all the animals, they loved running around… It is a very big place for children that young though (they were probably around 19-20 months old when we went) and it was a good thing that we took the pushchair with us because otherwise we would have done a lot of carrying.
We took a packed lunch with us, so had no opportunity to try any food from the place.
In total I give it 4 out of 5
Little Street – Frimley
Little Street is a very unique play centre. The place is designed as a “miniature street” for toddlers, with a little coffee shop, a little hairdressers, doctors, construction site, fire engine, supermarket, etc. It is role play made big! All the “shops” are properly equipped and there are lots of props and costumes for the children to properly get into the setting.
Eric and Elisa do not fully understand role play yet, however that didn’t stop them from fully enjoying our visit to Little Street. Obviously there were places that they liked more than others. For example, they absolutely loved the supermarket, because they could physically grab products from the shelves and put them in their mini trolleys. The hairdressers they didn’t understand and they walked past.
Little street works in sessions that you book in advance, so it never feels too busy. If I remember correctly we attended the session from 10:30 to 12 and I had to give them a bit of a snack in the car before leaving because otherwise they would have fallen asleep in the car before getting home. The journey from Basingstoke to Frimley took me less than 30 minutes in good traffic.
In total I give it 4.5 out of 5
I know there are many other places for us to visit, so this post/list will be kept updated as regularly as humanly possible 🙂