christmas-at-the-falkirk-wheel-santa
baby and toddler activities

Santa at The Falkirk Wheel

This year we’ve been on a bit of a Mission Santa now that Travis is a bit older and has more of an understanding of the festive season. We’ve been trying to open up to as many festive experiences as possible, preferably meeting Santa if possible.

Last year we had a bit of a hurdle to overcome as Travis absolutely hated Santa and was scared of anyone with a white beard wearing red! This year we’ve worked a bit on turning that around, and one of our first Christmas experiences was at The Falkirk Wheel.

We visited on the first weekend of their Wheely Festive Boat Trips (Saturday 14th) which run until Monday 23rd December. The idea is that the normal Falkirk Wheel boat trips have a Chirtmassy twist. The boat essentially goes on the same journey up through the wheel as with the original trips, but there’s a whole lot of festive fun on board – think elves leading the way, singing Christmas songs, festive decorations. Then, as if by magic, a grotto appears at the end of the tunnel, ready for a special visitor to board.

Santa joins the girls and boys for some songs and gives out presents according to age, with the option to have a photo with Santa too. That pretty much takes up the second half of the boat trip as you make your way back down the wheel and back to land. However there are loads of great festive elements within The Falkirk Wheel’s visitor centre which add to the overall experience and make it a great day.

Firstly, (and quite importantly!) parents are met with a voucher for (unfortunately, non-alcoholic) mulled wine and shortbread available in the cafe area. Within this area there are other activities for kids, including cupcake decorating, colouring in and the chance to write and post a letter to Santa. There’s also the chance for kids to have their face painted, and a snowman hunt which rewards a prize for finding all the images of snowmen hidden around the centre. Best of all, these activities are all free to take part in, meaning you can enjoy a cup of coffee while they colour in Rudolf or release their inner Mary Berry.

Travis-cupcake-decorating-falkirk-wheel

If you make a day of it, the cafe has plenty of food options catering to most requirements. Plus at this time of year there’s a festive menu, which included a foot long (!) pigs in blankets baguette when we were there. Need less to say I had to try it, and was exactly as amazing as it sounds! There’s plenty for little ones to pick from too, and a lunchbox option which gives the choice of a sandwich, juice plus three snacks (think fruit, yoghurts, crisps and chocolate) for around £4.

It’s worth noting the Wheely Festive boat trip takes an hour, which might be a struggle for some toddlers. We had a few whines from Travis, but managed to keep him appeased with some juice and crisps on the trip. Usually there are great views to distract toddlers with lots of things to point out the window at too, but we went on one of the single wettest days of the month – hard to avoid in Scotland in December, but it didn’t really impede our trip.

Tickets are £13.95, or £2 for under 1s (to cover the cost of the gift) and are available to book online. Tickets include the boat trip, chance to meet Santa and a gift. The pictures with Santa are extra, but make a great souvenir, plus digital copies mean you can print some as pressies for grandparents etc.

Overall I’d say this makes for a great day out with toddlers – the experience offers enough to do for a whole afternoon. The boat trip may be a little long for younger toddlers, but the other activities balance that out. Well worth a spin I’d say!

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Baby M's firsts, Uncategorized

December Firsts

I can’t believe our Year of Firsts has come to an end! How quickly the last 365 days have flown by, each one with a new experience and learning curve for both me and little bear.

As the year has passed, our milestones have become less, but even in December we managed to accomplish a fair few firsts.

Christmassy firsts:
We had a trifecta of Christmassy firsts on 1st December where we visited Helensburgh Winter Festival for the first time. It’s a great local festival that takes place across one weekend each December, full of market stalls, entertainment, festive food & drink and more. It was here that we took Travis for his first trip to see Santa. Last year he was barely able to see without squinting, never mind be expected to see that it was Santa, so we saved this first for his second Christmas. It didn’t go down well, there were lots of tears and tantrums and one big hug at Santa’s beard. I’ve heard that’s quite common, but it’s pretty horrifying trying to explain to kind strangers dressed as elves and Santa that you’re sorry your child is a Christmas hating weirdo.

A slightly better first from the festival was the first time seeing reindeer. Like actual, live reindeer! It may also have been a first for mum, I’ll need to check with my parents but I don’t remember seeing reindeer in the flesh before. We got to pet them and there was an opportunity to get photos taken with them, but at that point Travis spied some dogs which were far more interesting and of his size, so off he toddled to see them instead.

First time using a fork
This was a big feeding milestone as we hadn’t really let or encouraged Travis to use cutlery before. He was haply to either be spoon fed by us or use his fingers to pick at his food hinself. So we were equally surprised and delighted when he wanted to take my fork off me and use it himself, not prompted by us. Now, in fairness, it can be a fight to feed him as he wants to try and be independent (despite picking things off the fork half the time) and feed himself which is more time consuming and messy than I’d like it to be!

First nursery Christmas party
On Thursday 20th December (bizarrely not a Friday?) Travis attended his first nursery Christmas party! Unfortunately I was really ill so couldn’t go, but I heard he enjoyed eating party food (surprise!) And although he hasn’t been Santa’s biggest fan, he had to sit beside him when he got there and even managed to get a present from big beardie without crying!

First Christmas illness
I’d hoped I’d be able to share “first Christmas dinner” this December, as last year I think he was still only on about 6 oz of milk per feed at Christmas time. However it wasn’t meant to be, as we had our first Christmas illness instead. I think it was related to teething, but he spiked a fever and pretty much refused food except for fruit puree and a few mouthfuls of soup. There was advent calendar chocolate involved at some point in the day but that was as festive as it got. It will need to be third time lucky for first Christmas dinner!

mum life

My Christmas Eve routine now I’m a mum

Ask me what my Christmas Eve routine consisted of just a couple of years ago and the answer would have been work up to the button, dash home to do last minute wrapping, get ready at the speed of light and head to the pub. While I can’t say much has changed in terms of rushing about, it has certainly changed dramatically in terms of what I get up to.

Here’s how Christmas Eve goes these days:

Work

If it’s a weekday it’s a work day! Hoping for the boss to get into the festive spirit and send us all home early, work on Christmas day is usually full of excited boys and girls who’s workload isn’t that full for some reason.
This year I baked some gingerbread cookies and Christmas cupcakes to share with everyone. My icing skills leave a lot to be desired – Mary Berry I am not – but it was good to try and make work a bit more festive!

Last minute visits
No matter the year, the day Christmas Eve falls or how far in advance I’ve bought gifts, there’s inevitably a dash to visit people and drop off presents at the last minute.

I also took a last minute trip to the shops (something I haven’t done since I worked I retail at Christmas) to buy a card for my other half as I’d shamelessly forgotten a card for my other half (shh, don’t tell him!)

Praying for a regular bedtime

As Travis is still so little, we don’t quite have the battle of wanting to stay up late for Santa, but by god I swear this child knows when something is going on in his parents life. Whether it’s wanting a bath post-bedtime, the chance to tidy up or just finish wrapping those presents, he has a sixth sense and either won’t go down to sleep or will wake-up frequently. This is why we’ll be going through our regular routine and praying for a normal bed time!

Present shifting
Before Travis, I could just wrap Christmas presents and leave them under the tree in the leas up to the big day.
Now we have to wait until Travis is in bed and shift everyone’s presents from the hiding place to the tree. I don’t envy Santa at all, that’s a shift in itself for one household never mind millions!

Bath time
Once everything has been done, finally a bit of mum time can resume. As any parent will tell you, much craved you-time must be used wisely, especially if your child is in bed! So this Christmas Eve I plan to cram absolutely everything into bath time; the usual routine (my legs will finally feel the chill of the cold Scottish winter), a cheeky gin, face mask, nail painting, blog reading and some catching up with friends.

Christmas specials
There are loads of Christmas specials on around this time of year and with a baby and a million other things to do, its not always possible to catch them live. The Last Leg, 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Would I Lie to You have all been on this week and I’d like to catch one or two to get into the Christmas spirit!

Early bed
In the pre-baby days I would have never gone to bed before midnight on Christmas, but now, every minute of sleep is precious so I’ll be in bed as early as all the other things on my list allow! I’ve always been an early riser on Christmas, notoriously annoying my brother even into our 20s when we would come home for festivities, but it’s different waking early on your own terms rather than someone else’s.

Happy Christmas everyone!