A Day Out In London: Visiting Hamleys Toystore

I honestly never thought I’d say this, but it turns out spending a morning in a toy shop can actually be a fun event.

If you’re heading to London any time soon, and specifically if you’re looking for a way to kill time indoors for a few hours, Hamley’s Toy Store in Regent Street is amazing. On our way in I told my 4 year old Ameli that I wouldn’t be buying anything and we were just there to look, and amazingly, that was fine! She didn’t ask for anything all day, and was more than happy with the ‘free’ things she walked away with. (More on those in a bit.) I was quite surprised. I had expected a bit more fight! (In truth I think she was so overwhelmed she wouldn’t have known what to ask for anyway!)

I am in love with these Magic Markers. Ameli was thrilled to take the picture home!

I am in love with these Magic Markers. Ameli was thrilled to take the picture home!

Hamley’s Toy Store isn’t a shop. It’s an experience. Seriously. When they open the doors at 11am (on a Sunday) there’s a whole countdown, and eager browsers and shoppers alike are dragged into the spirit of the thing by ‘hosts’ counting down to the opening of the shop, by princesses and the Hamley’s bear waving at them and welcoming them. I’ve never really experienced anything quite like it!

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The Tiger Who Came To Tea Live In London

If I were to have any regrets about my life before children it would be that I didn’t take enough advantage of the theatrical options that life in London offers. I mean, we did go to Royal Albert Hall, we did go to the National Opera and we did see ballet. We saw King Lear, and we saw amazing concerts from Leonard Cohen to Nickelback, but considering that we lived in London, and that we had two good full incomes, we really didn’t take advantage as much as we could have.

I do love the theatre though, and it is my sincere hope that the girls will grow up loving it too. Which means that we need to expose them to it now, in their childhood.

When Kids Week came along a few months ago, I was thrilled to get two adult tickets with two free child tickets for The Tiger Who Came To Tea Live.

We walked into the theatre with no expectations, since we have never actually read the book and had no idea what Judith Kerr’s story was about. Sometimes its nice that way.

The Lyric Theatre in London is beautiful, small and perfect for a show aimed at children. We had front row seats, so the kids had to sit on our laps to be able to see the whole stage.I only realised this a few minutes in, and Aviya’s face went from ‘that’s nice’ to ‘WOW’!the tiger who came to tea live

The show itself is highly engaging, with the audience being encouraged to participate from the off. They make use of ‘old tricks’ like a bit of slap-stick comedy from the father, or the Tiger knocking on the door and disappearing – cue hundreds of children shouting warnings at the cast, but it works brilliantly. The children adore it.

The actors entered the stage with huge smiles and full of enthusiasm. They sang and had fun and the audience loved it. The children were mesmerised by the on stage magic – the disappearing food, emptying juice bottle and vanishing contents of the cupboard and fridge.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea Live

– Engaging show

– Short enough for children

– Beautiful theatre experience

The tiger/father/postman/milkman was played by Matthew Dudley. The tiger was a huge suited hind-leg standing creature made up entirely of frills and the actor who played him was fantastic. The kids loved the tiger and my daughter has been emulating his walk and curtsy all day long. I was worried that a huge stuffed tiger would be scary for the kids, but it wasn’t – his way, his movement, him presence, were all comical and lovable. He was really very well portrayed.

The actress who plays Sophie, the little girl, Abbey Norman, is wonderful too. She had such a lovely singing voice, she was an absolutely mesmerising. She was full of energy and looked like she was having fun.

Finally the mother, Jenanne Redman, was so like a real mother: she led the tick-tocks and told the story in the ‘everything on stage is a prop’ kind of manner – like the passing of time, had fantastical facial expressions, and made everything happen – she brings out the food, makes the bathroom appear, and loads of other little scene setting things, that are largely unnoticed…. pretty true to life, I think! I did laugh out loud when the tiger said he was hungry and she grabbed her daughter away from him. So mother like indeed.

the tiger who came to tea live

I think the real magic of this show is definitely that of the props. The tiger eats all the sandwiches,cakes and biscuits off the plates, so there’s obviously some kind of mechanism to flip inside of the plate upside down.  My daughter is convinced the Tiger ate them.

There must also be an opening back to the cupboards and the fridge, that someone takes things out as the large tiger “eats” through everything. It really provided an element and awe and magic and reality that the children adored and I appreciated.

We loved The Tiger Who Came To Tea, the actors, the set and the props. It was a fantastic show, and a brilliant 55 minutes of day time entertainment for the kids.

Here’s a little clip from the live stage show:

YouTube Direkt

And here’s more information:

The Tiger Who Came to Tea
Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7ES
Box Office:  0844 412 4661 www.thetigerwhocametotealive.com

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! London – A Great Day Out In London

Ameli and I spent a day out in London today, with a visit to Hamleys Toy Store (more on that later), lunch at Planet Hollywood, and then a first-for-us visit to Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Ripley was an American cartoonist, entrepreneur and amateur anthropologist, who created the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! newspaper panel series, radio show, and television show which feature odd facts from around the world. He himself explored  over 120 countries of the world, collecting the weird, the wonderful and the down right bizarre.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! certainly contains a collection of eclectic things, from the portrait of Brad Pitt made entirely out of cigarette ash, to the somewhat disturbing picture of Kennedy made out of butterfly wings, to the really clever snake effect portrait of Mrs Obama, made out of bottle tops.Ripley's Believe It Or Not! London

Read more on our new travel blog Giving Up Normal

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Greenwich Planetarium For Under 5’s {Mamaventurers}

Greenwich Planetarium, actually called Peter Harrison Planetarium, is a 120-seat digital laser planetarium, situated in Greenwich Park, London and is part of the National Maritime Museum. Every Tuesday during term time, (and school holidays and weekends) they have a special showing for children, in what is actually a very affordable and fabulously enjoyable day out.First a couple of negative points:

Since we had to travel to London and plan ahead for it, we set a date in our calendars well in advance, but didn’t actually book tickets because with little children, you never know what comes up on the day.

We chose the day we did, however, because the website said that it was a show for under 7’s – Space Cowboys.  On arrival at the reception to book our tickets, I asked for tickets for that and the man at the desk was really unhelpful and really miserable and uninformative.

He said the show for the day was “Meet the Neighbours” and offered no further info. I pressed for more asking if it was appropriate for under 7’s and he just looked at me and eventually said “It’s a family show”. It was like pulling teeth to get information! The woman sitting next to him just stared at me through the whole exchange! When we decided we’d go for it anyway, he  asked if we wanted tickets for the Observatory too. I asked if he could tell me more about it and he just gave me the prices, I looked at the children – who admittedly were lying on the floor giggling at the ceiling at this stage – and asked my friend Y if she wanted to get the combined tickets, when the man said it wasn’t really appropriate for children! (So why ask me in the first place!)

Our initial exchange was frustrating, but once we were in, we decided to start at the cafe and have an early lunch. There’s a lovely outdoor area where we could drink our bought coffees while the children had their lunch box snacks and have a bit of a run around after a long drive.

We also used this as an opportunity to work on a Space sticker book, which was perfectly aimed at the under 5’s. (Amazon has a few similar Space Sticker Books from DK) This was a great introduction to space, astronauts, things you can find in space and so on.

Greenwich Planetarium

On the entry to the Planetarium there was a beautiful photo exhibition, The Astro Photographer of the Year exhibit, which gave us the opportunity to chat about the stars and other solar events – like the Aurora Borealis – before heading into the theatre.

Greenwich PlanetariumThe staff on the actual Planetarium were fantastic. Ameli and her friend A were both dressed as astronauts, and the staff here were the first to give them any acknowledgement of that fact, something they were thrilled about.

They let the (most well behaved ever) schoolgroup in first, and then told our little astronauts that it was time to launch!

When we walked into the ‘theatre’, we lay back in the reclining chairs – Ameli and A both proclaiming how awesome this is – and waited.

Meet the Neighbours is a show about the planets next-door and the search for extra-terrestrial life. The show was presented by a lovely Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomer who allowed the children to ask questions after – although the show itself was pretty informative, and the school kids had more questions about the presenter (Rupert Grint, AKA Ron Weasley, although there was no Harry Potter connection in the show itself).

Inside the planetarium – for those who’ve never been to one – to roof is a curved dome, and the roof itself is the screen. This provides an almost 3D appearance, but also places the viewer in the centre of the action. It’s pretty phenomenal, and even the under 2’s in our party were enthralled.

The show lasted about 30 or so minutes, which was just the right length for the children, and while Meet The Neighbours wasn’t aimed at our children, it was animated enough and in the right ways that it engaged them and the school children equally. While many of the finer details of extraterrestrial life forms will have passed over their heads, the fact that they did in fact learn and gain from it was obvious afterwards, when we went through the interactive exhibits and looked at the different activities and experimental exhibits. Y and I were even able to launch (and crash!) a mission to the moon, I think it was. (There’s a reason NASA engineers don’t take their children to work, I’ll have you know!) Greenwich Planetarium

Overall, it was a fantastic experience, and I’m sad that even when we lived in Greenwich we just assumed the Planetarium would be too expensive, and never went!

The children loved it, and have already asked when we can go again!

Greenwich Planetarium

The practicalities:

It’s in London, so you have to work out your travel and then add an hour or two to get from the outskirts of London into Greenwich, which isn’t in the congestion charge zone. (But you might travel through one to get to it).

Greenwich mainline station and Greenwich DLR station are about a 20 minute walk up a steep hill to the Planetarium. Blackheath Station is probably about the same, but approaches the planetarium from the back.

If you’re driving, there’s (largely unadvertised) parking via Blackheath Avenue. At the time of publishing, there is a four hour maximum parking time, at £1.20 per hour.

There’s a cafe on site, and gorgeous park land for picnics.

Show times: 12:45 and 13:45*

Prices: Adults £6.50 | Concessions £5.50 | Children £4.50 (Under-3s free) | Family £20 (2 adults + 2 children); £14.50 (1 adult + 2 children) | Members FREE*

*PLEASE check before departure

Find out more at: http://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/

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