November 2020 - Looking Back

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November was a very strange month, pretty much like the rest of the year really but we have spent most of it in lockdown although unlike March we have been allowed to go to school and work. So whilst it hasn't felt like it did last time we have still obeyed the rules and kept to just the four of us but we have had a lovely time enjoying time at home and winter walks at the weekend. 

Boys wellies
Two boys lying on a large inflatable
Before lockdown kicked in, we began the month still on half term break so whilst I had to return to work little J had a bonus day off which he spent with John and his friend.

boy holding a pencil writing christmas list
Little J wanted to write his Christmas list and get it sent off to the North Pole. This year he has asked for a gaming chair and Fifa 21 from Santa. He also would like something in his stocking. 

As all the non essential shops have closed we have been trying to buy most of our presents online and supporting small local businesses too. 

Little J did a small play in school about Noah and the Ark. Unfortunately we were unable to go in and watch however we did get to watch it later that day online. It was so lovely and little J had a speaking part which was so nice. 

two boys walking over sand dunes
We enjoyed a lovely walk at The Red Squirrel Reserve in Formby. Although it was quite a wet day we all really enjoyed it and we even got to head over the sand dunes to the beach for some fresh sea air. 

pudsey t-shirt
We helped raise money for Children in Need by wearing our Pudsey T-shirts and ears. 

Big J is still doing the majority of his university course online which isn't ideal but at least he is safe at home. He has been in a few times now and one time was to do art which is his worst subject but he did really well.

Our wellies have had lots of wear over the past month as it has been so wet but because of all the rain we have enjoyed lots of rainbows. 

snow white jigsaw
Harry Potter jigsaw
I finally finished my Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs puzzle. It has taken me so long but I got there in the end and it was worth the wait. I love it. I've now moved on to my next puzzle 'Harry Potter'

Christmas lights at Albert dock
The Christmas Lights have popped up at the Albert Dock so we headed there for an evening stroll. It was so nice to wrap up warm and enjoy the lights. 

man and boy walking through woods
Another day out, this time at Speke Hall Estate and Gardens and we all really enjoyed it. It's another National Trust and it has made us consider getting National Trust memberships as we are really enjoying the days out.

Mickey Mouse christmas bedding
We haven't put our Christmas decorations up yet but we have bought new Christmas PJ's and Christmas bedding. 

boy on a bike
Due to the lockdown little J's grassroots football has completely stopped so he has been enjoying bike rides with John instead in his spare time. He is really enjoying it but I know if he could he would choose football over anything but for now it's bike rides.

The new tier system was announced last week and it seems most of the country are in tier 2 and 3. For us it just means nothing much has changed and we will just continue how we are anyway until it changes. I am a little anxious as to what Christmas will look like but I know we will try and make it special and fun as much as we possibly can for the boys.

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Horrible Histories - Horrible Christmas Book Giveaway

We have been reading Horrible Histories - Horrible Christmas Book and it's a Horrible Histories version of Christmas with all the nasty bits left in. This hugely entertaining festive edition is stuffed full of strangely interesting facts and gruesome tales from days of Christmas past. From pantos and Christmas characters to foul food and curious festive customs, Rattus guides you through with the usual one-liners - it's a cracker! Learn about silly Santa's, spooks and spirits, why making a Christmas pudding used to be a crime and even how to get rid of carol singers. Full of dreadful jokes, rotten recipes and even a Christmas quiz to cheer up the family Scrooge.

Horrible Histories- Horrible Christmas Book
I've teamed up with Wicked Uncle to give away a copy of Horrible Histories - Horrible Christmas book and to enter is simple.

Sorry the giveaway is now closed. You can check out our recent giveaways by visiting out giveaways page or you can buy the Horrible Histories - Horrible Christmas Book over on Amazon

Win a Horrible Histories Horrible Christmas Book

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Make Your Own Christmas Book Advent Calendar

You may have seen our post recently about Advent Calendar's for kids who don't like chocolate. We included lots of alternatives but there was one advent calendar that we didn't include and it's one we have each year - Our make your own Christmas Stories Advent Calendar.  I look forward to make this each year and it's very simple and little J loves it. He loves books whether it is trying to read them himself or a bedtime story and having a book advent calendar is a perfect treat to open just before bedtime. 

Wrapped Books
Christmas books
How To Make Your Own Book Advent Calendar

Making the advent calendar is very simple all you need is
24 Christmas or Winter Stories
Wrapping Paper
Sticky Labels numbered 1-24

Once you have the 24 books all you need to do is wrap them up and number them with the sticky labels from 1-24. Pop them in a box or tub and place in your child's bedroom. 

Each night once their  bedtime routine is finished they can open up a story to read before bed.

Christmas Books
The best thing about making your own Christmas Book Advent Calendar is you do not need to buy 24 new books each year. Most of the books we use are from previous years but as we only get them out at Christmas time little J still gets excited as he can't remember most of them so it's like a new story. 

Christmas Books
As the years have gone by we have added a few new stories to his advent calendar as he may be too old for some of the books he previously had but the majority he's had for years. 

Christmas time is so special and this is a lovely way to read about Winter and Christmas before bedtime to add to the excitement.

Christmas Books
You can always add some little treats to the advent calendar too. Maybe a pack of cookies to enjoy with a glass of milk or a chocolate coin.

I like to start with a few Winter Stories for the first few nights and then build up to the Christmas stories and I always make sure 'The Night Before Christmas' is numbered '24' so we can read it together on Christmas Eve. 

Have you created your own book advent calendar? If you are looking for some inspiration I have added our favourites here. 

Do you have any Christmas books? What are your favourites?

If you found this post useful there are a few ways that you could say thanks and support Playdays and Runways.

Leave us a comment below.

Visit our Advent Calendars post for more Advent Calendar ideas

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Visiting Speke Hall Estate and Gardens

As you all know we have been trying to head out at least once a week for a walk and we are trying to visit new places each week. This weekend the weather wasn't too good so we didn't want to go far. We chose Speke Hall Gardens and Estate. Speke Hall Gardens and Estate is a National Trust property just outside Liverpool and last weekend we visited for the first time since it reopened after lockdown.

Speke Hall

Due to current restrictions Speke Hall Gardens and Estate are asking their visitors to pre book your visit with tickets being released every Friday for the week ahead. You can purchase your tickets up to 3pm the day before your planned visit date if available. 

What To Expect At Speke Hall. L24 1XD
Unfortunately Speke Hall is not currently open however there is still plenty to do at the Estate to keep you busy. 

Boy overlooking a runway

airport runway

Boys overlooking the airport runway

Bund Walk
The Bund Walk starts just past the adventure playground and will take you up and around the estate. This huge earth embankment was built in 1967 to lessen the noise and sight of nearby aircraft, when Liverpool airport moved to the east side of Speke Hall. Enjoy the stunning views out across the River Mersey to Wirral and the Welsh hills. 

There are benches along this path where you can sit and if you are lucky you may see a plane take off or land on the very near runway. 

You continue around the Bund Walk until it brings you back round to the front of Speke Hall. 

Childe of Hale Trail

Childe of Hale Trail

Childe of Hale Trail

boy playing woodland instruments

Childe Of Hale Trail
The Childe of Hale Trail also begins just at the back of the adventure playground. Begin a woodland adventure with a sculptured play trail, based on the local legend of John Middleton who was supposedly 9'3" tall! It is even said that he slept with his feet sticking out of his bedroom window in nearby Hale village. Will you spot him on your way around? Remember to look out for giant buttons, optical illusions and some larger-than-life vegetable musical instruments that you can play.

This trail is suitable for all ages and pram-friendly.

woodland playground

woodland playground

woodland playground

Woodland Playground
After the Childe of Hale Trail you will come to a huge open plan area that is perfect for letting the kids go wild! 

Hidden away in the magical woodland, there are lots of exciting challenges for them to take on including a hair-raising zip line, a hill of stepping stones and outdoor balancing obstacles. Will you conquer the wobbly wooden and chain bridge? There's hours of fun to be had in our woods.

Dotted around are huge sticks and branches of fallen trees that are perfect to put together for a den building session. 

Hedge Maze (currently closed)
Will you find your way out of the giant hedge maze? Designed by the world’s leading expert in maze construction, Adrian Fisher, there are 12 gates, 5 bridges, 4 finger mazes, 3 weather vanes and a viewing platform waiting to be discovered. You can even catch a wonderful view of the River Mersey from the platform as a rewarding surprise.

Adventure Playground
The playground is a great place for  the kids to burn off some energy and for the adults to sit and enjoy a takeaway hot drink from the nearby cafe. 

takeaway at speke hall

takeaway at speke hall

Enjoy a Takeaway
At the moment is cafe is open and is offering a selection of hot and cold drinks and snacks to takeaway.

Anything Else?
If you are not a National Trust member then you do need to pay to enter Speke Hall Estate and Gardens. 
Tickets cost £5 per adult and £2.50 per child. There are family ticket options available too. 

Opening Times - Gardens are open 10 - 4 and the cafe is open 10-3.30 every day. 
There are toilets open at the Estate.

There are plenty of car parking spaces all within a very short walk to the main entrance. 

Most of the routes and trails are one way at the moment so keep an eye out for green arrow signposts. 

There are hand sanitiser stations dotted around especially near attractions that require you to use your hands such as the Woodland playground. 

Please ensure you follow social distancing rules & Government guidelines and if somewhere is busy on arrival, please consider leaving and returning at a later date. 

Face coverings are required the cafe and also the toilets for those aged 11+ (usual exemptions apply)  

Check for local lockdowns / travel restrictions before visiting anywhere. 

Always check with the venue direct as things may have changed after this post was published. 

What Is Close By?
If you are looking to make a day out of your visit to Speke Hall then there are a few places you could also visit close by. 

Dobbies, L24 1UX
Dobbies Garden Centre is approx 5 minutes from Speke Hall and is decorated for Christmas.

Royal Albert Dock, L3 4AA
Take a walk along the waterfront just a 15 minute drive from Speke Hall.

There are lots of parks close to Speke Hall including the closest, Calderstones Park and Sefton Park.

Further Away
Dream, WA9 4BB 
Dream is a huge sculpture of a child's face situated in the middle of Sutton Manor. You may have read our post recently about our visit to Dream. It's just a 20 Minute Drive from Speke Hall and nice easy walk to enjoy.

Antony Gormleys Another Place (The Iron Men), L22 1RR
Another Place is a piece of modern sculpture by Sir Antony Gormley located at Crosby Beach in Merseyside, England. It consists of 100 cast iron figures facing towards the sea

I really hope this post helps you plan your day at Speke Hall Estate and Gardens. 


If you found this post useful there are a few ways that you could say thanks and support Playdays and Runways.

Leave us a comment below and let us know about your visit 

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Share This Post With Friends Who May Also Find It Useful. 

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Visiting Formby and The Red Squirrel Nature Reserve

We have been trying to make the most of lockdown by making sure that we get out at the weekend for some much-needed fresh air. We have a huge list of places that we want to visit in the North West For some scenic walks. A few weeks ago we decided to head to Freshfields which is also known as Formby National Trust Red Squirrel Reserve.

boys walking through the woods

It’s been a while since we visited the squirrel reserve but it's probably one of our favourites and we have been visiting since both John and I were little.  It was once home to lots and lots of red squirrels but as the years have gone on there are less and less and unfortunately we didn't see any on our visit this time. It's a nice scenic walk and perfect for some fresh sea air. 

What To Expect At The Red Squirrel Reserve, L37 1LJ
There are some walking trails to enjoy at The Red Squirrel Reserve including


boy on a rope swing


Formby Red Squirrel Walk
​Explore beautiful woodlands surrounding Formby in Merseyside, home to the rare native red squirrel. This walk is mostly covered by trees so if you choose to visit on a wet and rainy day like we did you won’t feel the rain at all.

There is lots of ground to cover and so much for little ones to explore. There are lots of hills to climb and run down and large open spaces perfect for den building.  We even found a tree swing someone had made which was lots of fun. 

woodland space

tree carvings

Formby Asparagus

Formby Asparagus

Asparagus Walk
Have a wander through the crop fields and discover how a spring vegetable helped shaped Formby as it is today. There are lots of information points along the way to read about Formby Asparagus.

boys walking over Sand Dunes



Over The Dunes
The Squirrel Reserve is a short walk away from the coastline and just over the dunes you will find Formby beach which is perfect for a nice stroll or even a paddle in the sea.

Anything Else?
The National Trust Squirrel Reserve can be reached on foot or by car. If you choose to use the National Trust carpark you will be asked to pay £7.50 if you are not a National Trust member.

Toilet facilities are open every day till  3pm however they are closed at 12:30 for a 30 minute deep clean.

There is an ice cream van selling ice cream and refreshments just located by the toilets. Card is accepted however due to poor wifi signal I would recommend taking cash too. There is also a pop-up trailer serving hot and cold drinks and some light snacks including cakes.

If you are heading to the beach upon arrival please take note of the tide times as it can come in very quickly and you do not want to be surrounded by water.

The Red Squirrel Reserve is very popular with local schools so there are lots of picnic benches and family friendly areas situated around the reserve and clearly signposted.  

Please ensure you follow social distancing rules & Government guidelines and if the reserve is busy on arrival, please consider leaving and returning at a later date. 

Check for local lockdowns / travel restrictions before visiting anywhere. 

Always check with the venue direct as things may have changed after this post was published. 

What Is Close By?
Antony Gormleys Another Place (The Iron Men), L22 1RR
Another Place is a piece of modern sculpture by Sir Antony Gormley located at Crosby Beach in Merseyside, England. It consists of 100 cast iron figures facing towards the sea.

Southport Pier, PR8 1QX
Not only does Southport have 22 miles of coast but also boasts the Grade II listed Southport Pier, the oldest iron pier in the country, standing for over 150 years.

Further Away
Blackpool Promenade, FY1 5BB
There’s nothing quite like a day at the seaside, and Blackpool is one of the best beach resorts you will find in the UK.

Speke Hall Estate and Gardens, L24 1XD
Speke Hall Gardens and Estate is a National Trust property just outside Liverpool with lots of walking trails, adventure playground and beautiful views of the River Mersey.


If you found this post useful there are a few ways that you could say thanks and support Playdays and Runways.

Leave us a comment below and let us know about your visit 

Visit our Out and About section for more days out ideas

Like us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

Share This Post With Friends Who May Also Find It Useful. 

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Preparing the Perfect Study Space for Your Child | AD

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Disclosure - This is a paid collaboration.

This year was meant to be a happy year for us, more happy than any normal year. We had two big birthdays to celebrate, a milestone wedding anniversary and big J's new adventure at university. Unfortunately we never got to really celebrate the birthdays or our anniversary and big J's university experience is not what it should be. His university course is mainly taught by zoom and online so we have had to make adaptations to his room to make sure he has an adequate space to study.

computer on a desk

Ensuring your child has a great place to study at home can help to make homework more fun, improve their ability to concentrate and generally just motivate them to learn. A private school in West Sussex have prepared the following advice to help parents set up a comfortable and practical study space for their children….

Start by making sure your child’s study environment is different to their relaxation space. For instance, they should not be doing their homework on their lap in the lounge, as they won’t be able to concentrate. If you’re fortunate enough to have a spare room, this would be a great place for a study spot. However, not everyone has this kind of room in their house, but regardless of where you set up your child’s study space, it should be as free from distractions as possible. 

Make sure the desk area is clean and tidy, otherwise they will be too busy focussing on the mess, rather than their schoolwork. You might need to invest in some shelving or storage boxes to help you keep the clutter to a minimum. The space should also be equipped with all of the relevant study tools, including books, stationery, and anything else they might need. You don’t want them to waste time looking for a missing ruler when they could be engaging in valuable learning activities. You should even make sure your child takes a glass of water and a healthy snack to their study space with them before they begin so that they can stay alert, energised and hydrated. 

Consider the lighting in the space. Natural lighting is preferable but if this is not possible, especially in the darker, winter months, make sure there is a decent lamp in the study area. Without appropriate lighting, your child is more likely to suffer from eye strain and headaches, which is not only unpleasant, but it will also make it harder for your child to do their work. Encourage regular breaks as another way to help your child avoid any aches and pains.

Make sure there are some strict rules in place where the study environment is concerned. For example, there should be no mobile phones or other digital devices in the room, unless required for the homework. Ask your child’s teachers if they have any more suggestions when it comes to preparing the perfect study space for your child.

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Family Fun With Spin Master Games

Disclosure - We were sent the products below for the purpose of this post. All thoughts, opinions and photographs are our unless stated. This post contains affiliate links. 

One thing we have loved this year is playing board games together as a family. Little J is at the age were he has the concentration to sit for longer without being distracted and enjoys the competitiveness of playing a board game. We have had a lot more free time than usual this year so it's been nice finding something that we all enjoy and we can all do together. Our pile of games has grown over the year and the newest games we added to our collection are Grouch Couch, Headbanz and Beat The Parents. 

a selection of spinster games

Grouch Couch
Ever wonder what happens to those little items that go missing? Now’s your chance to find out and maybe get some things back when Grouch Couch spits out Lost Goodies! 

Grouch Couch

Grouch Couch is a fast paced game that's easy to play and fun for all the family.

Set up is easy. All you need to is pop in the batteries (3x AAA not included) then lift up the middle cushion on the couch to place the counters in. That's it you are ready to play.

grouch couch contents

grouch couch
To play all you need to do is take turns feeding Grouch Couch tasty treats.On your turn roll the dice. The number on the die is the number of treats you need to feed the couch. You place the treats on his cushions and then press the remote-control and see what happens. He might grumble, chomp, burp and (hopefully) eat your treats.

When he does eat your treats, he’ll spit out Lost Goodies (counters you placed in the under the sofa cushion earlier). 

Grumpy Grouch Couch

If you roll the vacuum you collect lost goodies from other players and you’ll want to collect these because the player with the most Lost Goodies when Grouch Couch plays his victory song, wins!

A fun spin on the traditional game 'What Am I?'. Headbanz is a family friendly game that is perfect for games night. 

headbanz contents

Each player pops one of the adjustable headbands on their head. When it is your turn you need to ask questions to try and identify what you are. The other players can only respond yes or no so make sure you ask a good question. 

The three 'What Am I?' cards are Animals, Food or Things. There is a quick guide to glance at if you are stuck and unsure what to ask. It gives you questions to ask for the specific categories. 

headbanz contents

If you guess right before the timer runs out you win a token and the first player to win 3 tokens will be crowned the winner of the game.

Beat The Parents
The head to head family game of questions and challenges. Beat The Parents is a game of adults v kids. Adults need to answer questions correctly to move up the board however the kids have the chance to answer kids questions too so it's anyones game. 

Beat The Parents

Beat The Parents games

Beat The Parents game

It isn't just about questions though as there are challenge spots on the board when the game stops and a challenge needs to be done. 

If you land on a challenge spot you must read the card aloud. It could be 1 player from each team or it could be an all play so everyone joins in. 

Beat The Parents game

Beat The Parents

Once at the top of the board you will reach final challenge you can only advance to the win space by winning the challenge first. 

The first team to enter the win space is crowned the winner of Beat The Parents. 

If you are looking for some gift inspiration this Christmas you can read more about Grouch Couch, Headbanz and Beat The Parents over on our Christmas Gift Guide - For The Kids as well as lots of other ideas. 

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