10 Things to Do with the Kids this Half-Term in Greater Manchester

Half-term is just around the corner even though it seems like the children only went back a few days ago! I'm sure all of your thoughts are turning to entertaining your children and getting out and about before Winter starts to bite. I've pulled together ten suggestions for half-term fun, some free, some charged for across Greater Manchester.

1. Spot Harry Potter at Manchester Museum

In addition to their outstanding permanent collections, Manchester Museum are giving fans the chance to spot Harry Potter this half term. Artwork by Jim Kay, from the new edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has been hidden in twelve museums across the UK this half-term (including Manchester Museum), simply find the image, take a selfie with it and share it on Twitter or Instagram using #HarryPotterSpotter to have a chance to win. For full details of the competition visit Bloomsbury Harry Potter.

While you're in the museum be sure to check out the Gifts from the Gods: Animal Mummies Revealed exhibition which is on until April 2016. The exhibition uses modern science to explain the ancient practice of mummy making and takes visitors 'underneath the wrappings.'

2. Investigate Spooky Seas at SEALife Manchester

SEALife Manchester have so much Halloween fun planned. Spooky Seas will help us find out who is the scariest creature of the seas. Sharks, eels, giant crabs are all seen as scary but SEALife Manchester want to dispel the myth as humans are seen as scarier than that! There is a pumpkin hunt with letters hidden in tanks for children to track down. If they find all the clues they can take part in the yucky dip to win a prize.

Arts and crafts and talks with Halloween facts will also be available, as well as lantern making and origami! To find out more and book tickets visit the SEALife Manchester website.

3. Meet Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers at The Whitworth Art Gallery

I'm ashamed to say we haven't made it to the Whitworth Art Gallery since it re-opened after it's extensive refurbishment. I've heard so much about their family friendly activities though and they are getting half term off to quite a start with a fantastic event featuring two of the brightest names in children's books. Oliver Jeffers and Eoin Colfer have joined forces to create 'Imaginary Fred' and will be appearing live on stage for an event filled with fun, banter, words and pictures.

The event takes place on Saturday 24th October and is part of The Big Draw, To find out more information and book free tickets click here.

4. Brick or Treat at LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre

LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre is getting in on the Halloween action with some exciting activities for half-term week. Take part in an adventurous Halloween Hunt, building your own special LEGO pumpkin in the designated Halloween building area and you’ll even come nose-to-brick with three giant spooktacular castles haunted by LEGO® zombies, ghosts and skeletons!

Children who dress in costume on Halloween (31st October) will get free entry into the attraction when accompanied by a paying adult. Visit LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre to book tickets and check out the deals which allow you to combine a visit to Spooky Seas at the SEALife Centre nearby.

Brick or Treat at LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre

5. Take in a Show at The Met, Bury

Bury's lively entertainment venue, The Met, has no less than five family friendly shows planned for October half-term, suitable for children age three upwards.

On Tuesday 27th October at 2pm Big Telly Theatre Company present Gulliver. - An uproarious theatrical adventure suitable for ages 12+. Tickets £6.

Big Telly Theatre Company present Gulliver at The Met

On Wednesday 28 October at 7:30pm  Publick Transport bring We Are Brontë to The Met. We Are Brontë is a visually comic family friendly introduction to the world of the Brontës. Suitable for ages 12+, tickets £10/£6 concessions.

Kid Carpet brings his new show Kid Carpet and the Noisy Neighbours to The Met on Thursday 29 October at 1pm. Using music, puppetry and projection Kid Carpet and the Noisy Neighbours looks at what it’s like to move into a new house in the city and find your place there. Suitable for ages 6+, tickets £6.

Returning to The Met on Friday 30 October is Artful Playground with The Toothy Adventures of Davy Denture, an imaginative and interactive musical journey for children. Aimed at young children ages 3+ and children with special educational needs. Performances of The Toothy Adventures of Daviy Denture are 11am & 1pm, tickets £6.

After half term is over why not join Les Enfants Terribles at 7pm on Thursday 5 November for Imaginary Menagerie.Packed with puppets, music and magic Imaginary Menagerie is the world’s weirdest wonder emporium. Suitable for ages 6+, tickets £10/£6 concessions.

For more information on any of these events or to book tickets phone The Met’s Box Office on 0161 761 2216 or go online at www.themet.biz.

6. Experiment with Science at Manchester Science Festival

Manchester Science Festival is back for it's 9th year and the 11 day city-wide festival showcases a broad array of events for people of all ages to explore, investigate and experiment. The natural home for this event is, of course, MOSI but there are events in a wide range of other locations, from the Royal Eye Hospital to MediaCity UK. Check out the Manchester Science Festival website for the complete guide to what's on. The Family Fun section showcases everything suitable for families, but that's just one of the eight strands that make up the festival. 

7. Join in the Snoopy & Friends Fun at intu Trafford Centre

Head down to intu Trafford Centre this October half term where there’s a whole host of fun activities on offer to keep the kids entertained. Ahead of the release of the highly anticipated film The Peanuts Movie on November 6th, Snoopy and friends will be taking over intu Trafford Centre with a variety of different pop-ups and workshops for children including: a pop-up Peppermint Patty pamper station, Snoopy themed Halloween pumpkin carving workshops, mask making and plane building,.

The beautiful Victorian Carousel that graced Barton Square last year will also be returning to intuTrafford Centre on 24th October to take children on a magical vintage ride around the shopping centre.

Finally, there’s two key dates to take note of as the hugely popular Christmas Light Switch On kicks off this year’s festivities on 29th October and the Fireworks Spectacular goes off with a bang on 1st November.

Peanuts the Movie

8. Celebrate Animation at the Waterside Arts Centre, Sale

The start of half term sees the opening of a brand new exhibition at the Waterside Arts Centre, Sale. Puppet Masters: Celebrating Animation focuses on the work of world-renowned puppet makers Mackinnon and Sanders. This includes Corpse Bride, Mars Attacks!, The Clangers and Bob the Builder and give visitors a fascinating behind-the-scenes insight into the world of stopmotion animation.

The exhibition will bring together a unique collection of original puppets, sets, props, technical drawings, character designs and concept art, on display together for the first time. Through a series of ‘story-zones’ the journey of each character from page to puppet will be explored, alongside the practices of stopmotion animation in an immersive gallery experience. To find out more about the exhibition and the special events arranged as part of it, visit the Waterside Arts Centre website. They have a programme of family friendly shows for half term on too.

9. Learn About The Blitz with Horrible Histories at IWM North

We love Imperial War Museum North and their current Horrible Histories: Blitzed Brits exhibition is one of the best we have attended there. Seventy-five years ago, the Blitz brought the war to the doorsteps of everyone in Britain. The exhibition features more than 200 objects, photographs, art works, film clips and sound recordings and reveals the personal stories of the people who lived through the Blitz.

This Horrible Half Term explore the  exhibition with a special family friendly tour and hear how 14 year old girl Charity Bick, volunteered to become an ARP despatch rider and deliver important messages during air raids and was awarded a medal for her bravery. Then drop into the Open Studio to get up close with items not on display and sketch your own still life masterpiece of Second World War objects from IWM's collection. Don’t miss the ration weary 1940s housewife - a silent masked character on the loose in the museum – to find out just what rations she had in her shopping basket. Discover the Blitz through the eyes of Dotty, a 10 year-old girl whose mum is an Air Raid Warden, in this interactive storytelling session. Follow Dotty as she goes on a daring rescue mission and get hands on with ARP artefacts and unique pieces of shrapnel collected by children over 70 years ago.

10. Celebrate Halloween at Lowry Outlet

Halloween comes to the Lowry Outlet with an exciting event - Spooktacular,  taking place fro Wednesday 28th - Saturday 31st October.

Follow the Halloween trail through Lowry Outlet for tricks and treats which can be found in the Little House of Horrors - a dark and spooky experience suitable for children aged 4-12 years. The house is filled with spooky decor, lighting and characters to test the nerve of the bravest young souls.

Enter the Witch's Kitchen, where you can meet the witch in her cauldron filled kitchen. Reach inside her slime filled pots and pans and find the missing spell ingredients.

Dare you crawl through the Spider's Lair? Discover ghosts and skeletons behind the cobwebs and mirrors. After that you can venture into the Skeleton's Tomb and try your hand at our spooky hoopla game.

For further details check out the Lowry Outlet Events Guide.

There's so much going on in Greater Manchester this half-term. Will you be joining in with any of the fun?

What's Happened? What's Happening? 08/10/2015

The madness of back to school led to a wee break for #WHWH but we're back this week to showcase all of your events posts once again. We really want to push this linky as it's your posts which make it successful and we're really hoping to be busy pinning, sharing and commenting on all of your posts from now on.

Our favourite posts from What's Happened last time around couldn't be more different. I love reading about people's travels as a family, the more exotic the better and the lovely Five Adventurers' post about their stay at a very exotic hotel in Malaysia - The Best Family Hotel in Chiang Mai - was a fascinating read. The amazing villa they stayed in, complete with their own pool, looked simply perfect for a family holiday. The hotel and it's extensive grounds and activities really seem to set it apart from the run of the mill. I really admire the way Nisbah travels the globe with her gorgeous family and her writing is great Head on over to take a look at her blog if you haven't visited before.

The Best Family Hotel in Chiang Mai – Dhara Dhevi Hotel Chiang Mai Review Five Adventurers
Photo Credit: Five Adventurers

The second post from last time that we loved was ET Speaks From Home's take on their traditional British seaside holiday to Southbourne Beach in Dorset. I know Eileen well and can't quite imagine her on a caravan holiday but it looks like they had a lovely time. Dorset is such a beautiful county and the kids had lots of fun in the sea and pool on their caravan site. I love the photo of the seafood platter dinner they ate, I could just eat that myself!

Photo Credit: ET Speaks from Home

What's Happening saw two giveaways linked up. One has now closed but you can still enter Jen's giveaway to win an amazing Great Yarmouth break in 2016. It just might be the perfect UK holiday so make sure you enter!

What have you been up to? What are you planning?

We'd love you to link up your blog posts to What's Happened? - featuring events, days out, holidays, film, theatre and restaurant reviews and any other 'happeneds'. What's Happening? is the place for you to link your event previews, ongoing events and ticket giveaways.

We read and comment on every one and share on Twitter, Facebook. Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.

We've created a brand new #WHWH Facebook Page is where we'll be sharing all of your posts from now on so please head over and give it a 'like'.

There is also a Pinterest board where we pin all of your posts, feel free to follow it.

Follow What's Happened? What's Happening? on Pinterest.

As always, please grab our badge to show you've joined in and point your readers in our direction.


Roman Ruins in the Greater Yarmouth Area

A favourite part of any holiday for me is exploring the history of an area. I love walking around castles and stately homes and investigating ruins and evidence of long gone civilisations. We've explored many areas of the country but today I'm sharing a look at an area I've never had the pleasure of visiting. Great Yarmouth always seems to be a location for a fantastic family holiday but I had no idea it had this much history. I'm sharing a guest post from the Great Yarmouth Official Tourism Website today, which introduces an ancient part of the area's history.

The Romans arrived in the area around Greater Yarmouth in the first century AD and settled in Caister, in fact the name Caister comes from the Latin word ‘Castra' which means fortress. In around 200AD they built a ‘Saxon Shore' fort there which was occupied by a unit of the Roman army and navy, forming one of the chief Iceni towns until the end of the 4th century. The partially excavated remains of the fort, including wall and ditch sections and building foundations can still be seen today.

Image Source

In the third century the Romans moved south-west of Caister to guard the River Yare and built another fort in the third century at Burgh Castle, the confluence of the rivers Yare and Waveney. This acted as a defence against Saxon raids arriving by water. This fort was called Gariannonum and was garrisoned by the Equites Stablesiani Gariannoneses, a detachment of the elite troops of the Stablesian auxiliary cavalry. The imposing remains of three of the walls and buttresses can still be seen today and are found just half a mile from Burgh Castle village, next to the River Waveney and overlooking Berney Arms Reach. Visitors can follow the brown signs to a free car park and walk to the castle, which is a fabulous place to picnic and for families to play. The castle is located on the Angles Way, a National Trail from Thetford to Great Yarmouth, although shorter circular walks are also available. Beautiful panoramic views of the windmill and marshes over the river, into which the fourth wall long since collapsed, are stunning whatever the time of year.

Roman Ruins in the Greater Yarmouth Area

 If you would like to investigate the ruins further, why not enter this amazing competition to win a seven night holiday for up to eight people in 2016, with no restriction on dates, staying at Haven Seashore and including various attraction passes. To enter the giveaway, head over to my lovely friend My Mummy's Pennies for all of the details.

How Much Do You Spend on Children's Birthday Parties?

Since Bud started in Reception last year a whole new world of children's birthday parties has opened up. He was lucky enough to receive a few invitations to other parties and we invited his whole class to his Dinosaur themed fifth birthday party. In the end we had around twenty children at the party and it was a lovely afternoon.

How Much Do You Spend on Children's Birthday Parties?

I'd say we spent around £100 on the party. We kept costs down by using my partner's scout hut free of charge and hired a bouncy castle to keep the children entertained. This cost us £60 but it was so worth it as whenever the kids were eliminated from a game they were happy to go back to bouncing straight away instead of complaining about not winning! We kept our eyes open for dinosaur themed items for party bags, decorations and game prizes for a good while before the party and used shops like Home Bargains to get a good deal on prices.

The party went really successfully and it was a pleasure to see all of the children enjoying themselves. Bud already has three party invitations for the next month or so pinned to the fridge so I think we might need to start planning this year's party soon!

Sun Life Direct have put together an infographic which shows the average spend on children's parties across the UK. It looks like we were just above average for Bud's party in our area, the North-West. Unsuprisingly London was the biggest spending area, with East Anglia spending the lowest. Does this reflect your usual spend?

How Much Do You Spend on Children's Birthday Parties?

What are your tips for keeping party costs lower?

In collaboration with Sun Life Direct

The Power of Fragrance - Deeper Sleeper With Sealy UK

I've recently been approached to join the Sealy UK Deeper Sleeper Panel and this just might be the perfect opportunity for me. I've struggled with episodes of bad sleep since I was about fourteen years old. As soon as there is something on my mind the insomnia begins, I struggle to get to sleep horribly. There is nothing more frustrating than being the only person awake in a house of four other sleeping people.Little E now sleeps through most of the time. I've never had a problem with night feeds (there are some advantages to the years of broken sleep) but I do rather resent being awake with a snoring baby beside me.

The Power of Fragrance - Deeper Sleeper With Sealy UK

I've now joined the Deeper Sleeper Panel and Sealy UK are sending me a parcel each month to see if they can help me to improve my sleep. This month's parcel was themed around fragrance and essential oils and I received the following items:
  • Babyblooms Relaxation Candle
  • Tisserand Sweet Dreams Roller Ball
  • Jacob Hooy Lavender Incense Sticks
  • Mohdoh Mouldable Aromatic Dough
The Power of Fragrance - Deeper Sleeper With Sealy UK

Babyblooms are a company I am familiar with from their gorgeous baby products. It's a really simply, classically designed candle with a a neat lid to keep it tidy,, It is fragranced with geranium, orange, lavender and ylang ylang and this combines to form a delicate floral scent which was actually quite addictive. I kept smelling it when it wasn't lit and I found the scent to be even stronger. It was lighter when the candle was lit.

I've been using Tisserand aromatherapy products for many years and their roller balls are one of the most convenient ways to use them. The Sweet Dreams range is a blend of Sandalwood, Cedar and Lavender which you dot on your pulse points. I loved the fragrance of it and found it really relaxing to smell it on my wrists as I fell asleep. I've got into the habit of using it at bedtime every night. I'm not sure if it is actually helping me to sleep but I do find the fragrance calming and centring.

I've been a fan of incense sticks since my teen years when my Dad used to complain about me burning them in my bedroom but I haven't used them for some time. I loved the familiar ritual of finding a holder and lighting the incense stick and the lavender fragrance was really pleasant. The only thing with this was that I was a little worried about burning the incense around the children but it waited until they were in bed. The fragrance was quite gentle but Lavender is one of my favourite scents and I loved the aroma.

My favourite of all the products was one that was completely new to me - Mohdoh Mouldable Aromatic Dough. Objectively I thought that this was a  little silly but I was really impressed when I began using it. It's presented in a plastic jar and you get a hit of the lavender scent when you open the jar. You can then take out the dough and play with it in your hands. I always find myself reaching for the children's playdough when they have it out and it's that simple, automatic action to roll it in your hands and between your fingertips. As you do this the dough's aroma is released further and it's really lovely. Playing with the dough is relaxing in itself and the fragrance adds to the experience. I've even found myself reaching for it when I've been having stressful days for a few moments of calm and peace. 

I'm not sure if the products have helped me to sleep better but I know that they have helped me to relax both at bedtime and at other times of day. I've always been affected positively by fragrance and am a firm believer in aromatherapy and the power of scents and this month's Deeper Sleeper parcel has really allowed me to reconnect with that as it's something I have not had chance to think about much recently. It's made me think about fragrance in my home and I will be purchasing more of the Mohdoh for myself and as a gift for friends. I've realised that taking a few seconds to apply the rollerball or play with the Mohdoh is great for my stress levels throughout my day, not just when I go to bed.

My Little Pony: Spooktacular Tales on DVD - Review and Giveaway

LM has recently discovered My Little Pony and she's mad about the ponies in the range. Just in time for Halloween there is a brand new DVD featuring her favourites and we received a copy recently for her to take a look at. My Little Pony: Spooktacular Tales is released on Monday 5th October and features six 'scary' episodes from the first two seasons of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

The episodes included are as follows:
  • Boast Busters (ep 6, season 1)
  • Stare Master (ep 17, season 1)
  • Luna Eclipsed (ep 4, season 2)
  • A Dog and Pony Show (ep 19, season 1)
  • The Mysterious Mare Do Well (ep 8, season 2)
  • A Canterlot Wedding Part 2 (ep 26, season 2)

Gather around the camp fire for six mysterious tales, as adventures unfold in this special new collection featuring series favourites Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. Equestria is aglow with all the fun that Nightmare Night brings, including pumpkins, costumes, candy and friends. With everything from a giant bear monster in the Everfree Forest to the mischievous Diamond Dogs up to no good, the herd have a lot to contend with. Even Rarity, Applejack, Pinkie Pie and Spike come together for some ghostly escapades, but Princess Cadance gets into a spot of bother
when Queen Chrysalis conjures up a devious plan…

My Little Pony: Spooktacular Tales is available from all usual stockists including Amazon.

I've teamed up with Hasbro Studios to give away a copy of the DVD to one of my lucky readers. Hopefully it will arrive in time to be the perfect half term Halloween treat for a little My Little Pony fan. To enter the giveaway please complete the Gleam widget below, the blog post comment is compulsory and will unlock a range of additional entries.

My Little Pony Spooktacular Tales DVD

Once Upon a Time with Peppa Pig Storytime

About twelve months ago our Peppa Pig toys were in the recycling bag waiting to go to the charity shop but LM pulled them out and began playing with them and they earned a reprieve. Since then she's had a birthday and Christmas and we've added to her collection and she plays with them every single day.

A couple of weeks ago we received a very exciting box, with Peppa Pig written all over it, something she was very quick to spot, we opened it to reveal four exciting boxes.

Story Time Castle Playset (£19:99)

Once Upon a Time with Peppa Pig Story Time Castle Playset

This is a double-sided, free-standing playset which means that two children can play with it at the same time. It's a castle gatehouse, complete with working portcullis, a small 'George and the Beanstalk' figure, and a crate of magic beans. There are some lovely features including the flag and George and Dinosaur pennants and George can climb on the different platforms inside the castle. We would have liked it if the drawbridge had moved in addition to the portcullis.

Pumpkin Carriage (£14:99)

Once Upon a Time with Peppa Pig Pumpkin Carriage

I think that this was our favourite. The Pumpkin Carriage is a bright orange Pumpkin with wheels that cause the three seats inside it to rotate a it is pushed along. It arrives with a chauffeur Peppa and you can fill the seats with your figures from other sets. It's a really nicely built carriage and the movement is an interesting feature. The roof of the pumpkin flips open for easy access to the seats and will unclip instead of breaking off if it is dropped or banged. The seats work well for the figures and we haven't had too many falling out.

Storytime Tea Party Playset (£14:99)

Once Upon a Time with Peppa Pig Storytime Tea Party Playset

This is a lovely little playset incorporate Peppa Bo Peep Peppa, Fairy Suzy and Prince Pedro alongside a table, tea pot, jelly and three chairs. Again the chairs sit the characters well although we did have to balance Pedro's chair more carefully as his tended to fall over more often. This is the perfect set to play with using the castle playset, or in an existing Peppa Pig playset.

Story Time Figure Pack (£9:99)

Once Upon a Time with Peppa Pig Storytime Figure Pack

This set incorporates four of the most popular Peppa Pig characters and you get Swan Princess Peppa, Medieval Danny, Woodland Candy and Woodland Rebecca, you also receive a 'Once Upon a Time' story book (it doesn't open). These are great to use with the other playsets, as extra passengers in the Pumpkin Carriage, for example. It's nice to see all of the different outfits too.

Bud and LM have both played with these sets extensively since they arrived with us and they've been incorporated very quickly into LM's Peppa Pig world. We all really like this new range and it's really refreshing to see all of the different costumes and different characters available with the sets. We have Peppa three times across these different playsets but she is wearing a different outfit each time, we love that as it means you don't get repeats as you do with the main range (I've lost count of the number of Peppa in her red dress figures that we own!)

Playing with Once Upon a Time with Peppa Pig Storytime

I can see this range being very popular with little Peppa Pig fans this Christmas. There is so much scope for imaginative play with familiar characters and I loved that you can incorporate fairy tales into the play too. LM, especially, has really taken to the toys and I think we may well be adding to her collection at Christmas.

We received the toys for review purposes.