run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

REVIEW: Little Tikes car

You'll probably recognise this Little Tikes car because, well, almost everyone has it. My parents have a 20-year-old one in their garden (the classic red and yellow variety) - and it still drives more smoothly than most two-decade-old real-life hatchbacks do. 

Tiny man loves it. His refusal to get out of the Cozy Coupe car means it often lives in our lounge. It has seen me push it 15 minutes to the post office as he sits waving at everyone en route. Since the car has better sun-shielding coverage than a buggy, this works out well - I just had pretty tired arms on the uphill stretch home...

So the car is seriously popular. And half the tots in Britain seem to heart this car - so one question that stuck in my mind as I took its many components of the huge cardboard box and read the pictural instructions, and tried to work out how its makers wanted me to drill into plastic, and swore repeatedly as I tried to follow the instructions and ultimately called on my brother (and his drill) to help, was: how have all their parents put it together?
Well, we got there. Building the car takes about an hour - btw, if you have a bradawl, and some muscle, you don't need a drill, despite the instructions. But you will need some patience - and I don't think the instructions are as clear as they could be. 

But... And there's a big but... It's worth it. On wet days, the Dino Cozy Coupe is bought into the house, where tiny man pushes it around the dining table whilst singing (no need for an in-built radio here), or plays with the petrol cap and clicking ignition key (it's connected to the car, unlike older versions - although my boy is doing his best to free the key...) Outdoors, it's forever doing rounds on the grass. We've built the car's floor in, to keep his feet safe, but he'll enjoy pushing himself around on the grass when he's bigger too.
Car's out = I can put my feet up ..
And given I have proof of the longevity of this toy - alongside my parents' vehicle, grandparents I know in the States have a 37-year-old Little Tikes car from its first year of production - the cost is pretty low: £55-£80, depending on whether you opt for the classic, the dinosaur version, the princess version, the truck, police car, fire truck etc - you don't have to be traditional. (I went for the dino version to be different, but am grateful I did as the roof spikes make excellent handles)

You can hope to be using it for grandkids one day. And by then, I'll have forgotten that I almost lost my cool in trying to build the thing, "all the way back in 2016..."

* Run Out of Womb was sent a Cozy Coupe for review. Rest assured, though, that we're seriously gobby and only rave about stuff we really love.


Thursday, 21 July 2016

40 baby and toddler-friendly things to do in London

Most Wednesdays, tiny man and I meet up with his bestie Oli and his mama - and we're always after exciting things to do with a baby/toddler in London. 
After another Whatsapping session debating various London activities, I decided to write down the fab places we've been to, and the ones we're aiming for next. They're all baby-friendly (for when you want to go out and have fun and baby's coming too), and most are baby-focused (but beyond soft play). 
They're all fairly close to NW London, within an hour's travel, because that's where ROOW lives. So, enough chat... Bookmark it, share it, but most of all visit them - and let me know what I've missed...

1. If your tiny one is half the fan of aeroplanes that mine is, don't miss Hendon's RAF museum. It's free (parking is £3 or free on the road) and has huge hangars of plane history, including gliders and war jets, statues and films. Tiny man loved running around and seeing all the planes even before we reached the kids' area. It's retro - but very hands-on, lots of buttons to press and planes to ride, and even a glider to hang from.

2. Stroll the Southbank. The Southbank Centre itself has storytelling, music and other events, the whole bank is full of buskers, street food, NO STAIRS (buggy bliss), and colours and there's always something to do - plus loads of chain restaurants that don't shudder at the sight of your over-burdened City not-so- Mini rolling in.

3. Kenwood - there are ducks in the pond and huge grassy expanses to explore outside, whilst the house has a kids' room, and music/art classes dotted throughout the week too.

4. St Albans - visit the Verulamium park with its lake, splash park, playground, and history - then cross over the road to gorge on waffles at The Waffle House. Perfect afternoon out.
5. Golders Hill Park - there are animals (deer, birds, lemurs), there's a sand pit, there's a playground, there's delicious gelato, there are rolling hills for scrambling around, there's a beautiful garden, there's a duck pond, and it's just a short walk up from Golders Green station.. And it's all free.
6. It's closed until later this year, but when it reopens check out The Discover Children's Story Centre, with big indoor and outdoor playgrounds, storytelling rooms, crafty groups and lots of space.
7. We love a City farm: tiny man loves oinking at the pigs, and seeing the chickens, horses and more at Kentish Town, and the ones in Spitalfields and Hackney are on our list too. All free.
8. The Geffrye Museum in Hoxton is a museum of houses: it's all on one level, so buggy-friendly, really interesting insight into how we've been living over the past centuries, dollshouse-loving toddlers will like it and there's a delicious cafe too. Plus hipsterville shopping is there ready for nap-time.
9. Bethnal Green's Museum of Childhood - there's a small sensory area for babies, some hands-on playing parts for kids although a fair amount is behind glass cases so older toddlers may enjoy a bit more. 

10. The Science Museum is a nightmare to get to on the Tube from the northern line, but worth it - the Garden bit in the basement has a long water splashing activity, big blocks to play with, concave mirrors, noisy activities and more. The rest of the museum is great for a toddling one to explore, and the hanging planes are a hit with my tiny man. By contrast, I find the National History Museum too school group-packed for much babe fun.
11. Hit up some galleries - might not seem baby-friendly but for tiny ones when you the mama want to enjoy yourself, the Royal Academy, Hayward Gallery and Tate Modern all have wide, buggy-friendly spaces and lots of things for babies to stare at. And for toddlers, the Tates are great space-wise for a wander and have activities for older kids too.
12. Baby Cinema was the highlight of my week when tiny man was, er, tiny. Until about 9m it was a dreamy few hours: watching the latest films whilst having a baby sleepy-cuddle on you (when tiny) or play on your lap when bigger. It's definitely easiest when they're small... I love the Phoenix (£7) in east Finchley, and the Everyman chain's dotted around London (£13 but that does include tasty cake and drink delivered to your seat by waiters). Great parent and baby cinema screenings at the Barbican too. Useful weekly listings here:Babes About Town. For older kids, lots of the chains do cheap toddler movie screenings.

13. Take a boat trip: for a big'un, take the Thames Clipper to Greenwich and it's really easy to wheel a buggy on and off. Plenty of places to park them next to a seat too.
14. Or a smaller one, we loved the swan boats and pedaloes (bonus: great work out) at Ally Pally. It's about £3 a person and young kids are free: must be over one to go on a boat. They have tiny lifejackets.

15. Also in Ally Pally is Little Dinosaurs soft-play: it's a good one for younger tots as there's a spacious baby area and go before 3pm and the rest is fairly empty too so they can traverse bigger obstacles with you. Soft-play wise, we've also enjoyed Clown Town behind Tesco Colney Hatch.
16. Book in advance to enjoy Sky Garden in the City - it's free and has lovely views (just have to book a time slot in advance). Great cafe and tons of space for rattling around.
17. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has loads of space to explore, little cafes, the Tumbling Bay Playground and flowery grassy land to relax.
18. Coram’s Fields is super-central - just near Euston - but a gloriously green pocket with farm animals, lots of different play areas and often organised activities.
19. We were disappointed with the £million-a-ticket and too-busy-to-move London Aquarium. For a cheaper hit, Forest Hill's Horniman Museum has an aquarium as well as lots of child-friendly exhibits. For a realllly cheaper hit, we sometimes visit the local pet shop or Pets at Home to see fish, guinea pigs, etc.
20. Spend a day at Kew Gardens. We're members (which is good value if you're going more than twice a year, and means you can beat the crowds and arrive at 8am). There are the obviously awesome acres of beautiful borders, the lakes, the ducks, the trees and the flowers, and tots all love the indoor soft play (with weird rubber bouncing 'sand' which is no-mess and epic) and the play area. Just don't lose your car key there like I did..
21. Watch street performers in Covent Garden ... then get one of London's best ice creams at Morelli's Gelato.
22. Get on the front carriage of the Docklands Light Railway and let your tot 'be the driver'. On the weekend, Canary Wharf's shops and restaurants are fairly empty so have lots of room for a tot-takeover.
23. Sunny day? Put the tot in Crocs and take a spare pair of clothes to the lit-up dancing fountains at Granary Square in King’s Cross. Then visit..
24. Camley Street Natural Park around the corner - it’s a volunteer-run green pocket of London with lots to see and learn about.
25. Take the number 9 bus (one of the few old-fashioned Routemasters still in service) for a cheapo sightseeing tour of Trafalgar Square, Knightsbridge and Kensington, or the no. 11 does King's Road, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Shoreditch, if you last that long.
26. Get off that no. 9 at Kensington Gardens and visit the Princess Diana memorial playground - there's a secure entrance (you must have a kid with you), a huge Peter Pan pirates ship, lots of swings, lots of shade, enormous sandpit, water fountains, splash puddles, all free; try to shield the kids' eyes as you pass the pricey carousel. Walk down to Ken High St after and toddlers will love seeing the food piled up and gorging on the freebies at Whole Foods Market
27. Take a bluebell hike in Ashridge Estate around May (check the website for when the flowers are in full bloom) and take a fully charged camera..
28. Make a "Mini Masterpiece" at Dulwich Picture Gallery - once a month on Tuesdays, for babies aged six-to-18 months. Preceeded by tour of the Sir John Soames-designed gallery.
29. Visit Willow Farm and read all about it here.
30. Rave on at a Big Fish Little Fish, Baby Disco or Disco Loco gig - not-too-loud music and dancing for the parents and tots, bubble areas, light shows, craft tables and more.

31. Broomfield Park: it has one of London's biggest adventure playgrounds (and a smaller one that's more tot-friendly), plus conservatory with bananas growing, crazy golf (not such a crazy one), lake and model boating pond. There's the nearby Baskervilles Tea shop, too, with delicious cakes and a room just for baby classes if you time your visit right (sometimes need to prebook).
32. Go to a ceramics cafe. Yes, breakable pots + tots sounds crazy, but if they're in a calm mood (and you go at a quiet time) it can be great. And a handprint plate / paint-sploshed vase makes a great present for dads, grandparents, etc.
33. Go train or plane-spotting. Sure, it's pretty boring for you.. But lots of toddlers love nothing more than sitting at Kings Cross / under the flight path (Syon Park in west London and Kew are good for this) and watching their fave mode of transport trundle by.
34. Or for a more in-depth version of the above, try driving a train and more at the
35. Swim. Of my local pools, Spires in Bushey is rated for being warm, Borehamwood's Venue has a baby pool, or find a friend with a guest pass for a gym with a baby pool... :)

36.  Meet dinosaurs (aka models of them built by the Victorians) in Crystal Palace Park. There's a children’s farm, playground and maze too. 
37. Watch pelicans being fed every afternoon (usually around 2:30) at St James's Park. There are also owls, woodpeckers and bats, if you're keen-eyed.
38. Enjoy trees-a-plenty at Highgate Woods - also a great (big) playground and easygoing cafe.
39. Gaze at the neon craziness of God's Own Junkyard.
40. Visit one of London's huge toy shops (like Hamley's or The Toy Store) - toddler is obviously the ideal age: they're distractable so won't notice you're not buying *everything* (or anything).

Friday, 1 July 2016

Review: Maxi-Cosi AxissFix -and i-Size explained

Getting my 15-month-old into his old stage 0 car seat had become one of the worst parts of my day. I mean, worse than an unscheduled 3am WAAAAAH wake up. I've never tried to shoehorn an caffeinated octopus into an Evian bottle, but I imagine it would be easier than the daily battle I was facing trying to get my planking, screaming baby to sit in a car seat for ten minutes.

It was still the right size for him - but he's super nosy (hey, I'm his mum; it was inevitable) and likes to see more than the grey back of a Ford Fiesta seat. The mirror wasn't cutting it anymore - there's only so long that someone can spend gazing at themselves. It was time for a new car seat.

But I wasn't ready to give up the superior safety of a rear-facing ride: I'll still commit to that car seat battle for long journeys. The Government recommends babies face rearward in cars up until 15 months, or as long as possible - this position protects their necks and heads if a car was in an accident.

So the Maxi-Cosi AxiisFix was the perfect solution: babes can ride forward or backward facing, and, best of all and the feature my own parents really like - with the flick of a simple switch, the whole seat swivels around 360 degrees so you can face the seat towards the outside. That means it's easy to put even a chunky babe in and out of the car, as you don't have to contort your body like Max Whitlock in Rio.

We went for the Triangle Flow beautiful turquoise colour - it is, as the practical parents about you will notice, the least-best at blending in those inevitable strawberry car bribes or muddy shoe marks, but is such a lovely colour I couldn't resist.. Black is boring. 

Another thing I love about the AxissFix is that it's one of the few car seats on the market that's approved for the new European standards, the i-Size regulations. 

I was as anti-Brexit as the next sane person, but just because we're leaving Europe we can still adopt their thorough safety checks. 

Still, I'd just got to grips with Isofix so had to do my research on i-Size - a new set of regulations that mean, eventually, all car seats will fit in all cars. The car and car seat both need Isofix, (the fitting system that attaches car seats directly to the frame of your car using connectors, rather than seat belts) and i-Size cuts the risk of you fitting your car seat incorrectly -which can be really dangerous.

i-Size-approved seats have been tested more vigorously - frontal and rear-impact AND side-impact tests, for example, and you pick one based on your baby's height rather than weight. There's no need to buy a new i-Size seat if you don't need a new car seat- the two types of regulation are running alongside each other for now - but given their improved safety checks, the AxissFix's i-Size approval gave me piece of mind.

Now we've been using the car a month, the seat-battles have cut right down: tiny man seems to find it comfortable - it's really padded and with good neck support: even when he's asleep, his head stays back on the chair, not slumped forward. I planned to keep the Axiss rear-facing for as long as possible, but when tiny man tantrums about it, I love having the option to turn it around. 

The seat was really easy to fit - clipping into the Isofix and having a top-tether that you just clip together like a hiking carabiner. Video here:
Another positive is that whilst the seat is spacious and expands to fit roughly a four-year-old, it's not huge at the base so doesn't take up more than one 'bum space' in the car's back seat. 

The only things I dislike about the AxissFix are: my Houdini-like baby can sometimes slip his arms out of the seatbelt, even though it's a five-point harness, tightened as much as possible. We're working on 'No!' to stop him doing so as I don't think any car seat would.. The other issue is I find the belts tricky to clip into the bottom unit sometimes: given it can be a battle, it would be nice if the two straps clipped together better before they go into the bottom part of the strap.

The AxissFix looks expensive - at around £375 - but that includes the built-in base, where other seats require you to buy a separate one. It also grows with the child, until they're 105cm long, so lasts a long while.

If you're hunting for a new car seat and have any questions about the AxissFix, ask below and I'll try to answer as quickly as poss.

* Item sent to ROOW for review - but rest assured we're seriosuly gobby and only rave about things we genuinely love.
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