Something to do with your little pumpkin…


This Saturday morning (21st October), get yourself down to Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park for Bow Beasties – it’s a Halloween special.

This month’s activity is pumpkin carving. Weirdly, this is something I’ve never done before. Tools are provided, so you just need to bring along your pumpkin (and your kid/s, of course).

See here for all the details.

Make sure you’re there in good time for a 10.30am start because this is the busiest Bow Beasties of the year!


Free fun on Tuesdays…

Now that the days are getting colder and wetter, it’s time to find some indoor activities to keep little people busy, happy and occupied.

One Tuesday a month, Stratford Circus throws open its doors to under fives and their carers, between 10am and 12 noon. You can expect crafts, messy play and even music and dance.

There’s a tiny amount more information here – as well as a list of which Tuesdays to turn up. (The first session was today Tuesday 10 October 2017)

No need to book. And it’s free.

Springfield Park and cafe

This is my new favourite destination for family cycle rides.

Springfield Park cafe

If you’re coming through the Olympic Park from Bow or Hackney Wick, you can carry on up to Springfield Park entirely off-road on lovely, flat paths.

Exit from the North of the Olympic Park and there’s a variety of routes, along the Lee navigation channel or beside the River Lee and across Hackney Marshes and Walthamstow Marshes.

The Marshes (which I’ve posted abput before) have big expanses of sky and a scruffily wild feel that feels like entering a new landscape, even though they’re crisscrossed with an urban veinage of busy waterways and giant pipes.

Which is quite a contrast to the feel cycling on the other side of the Olympic Park… Though my 3-year-old is convinced that the Greenway is a “country road” and that these are mountains. Continue reading “Springfield Park and cafe”

Bob’s park

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The dragon of Bow

What’s this?

Why it’s the shiny scales of a dragon catching the sun as the season turns from summer to autumn, of course.

You can meet said dragon, or even run along her, at Bob’s park at the back of the Bromley-by-Bow centre. Even though this is very much our manor, I’ve never before visited this lovely little park with the baby and the three-year-old. There was a great deal for them both to enjoy.

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Dragon’s eye view

Bob’s park is another of the smaller local parks that might get overlooked with the Olympic Park and Victoria Park not far away, unless of course you live in a neighbouring street at which point it becomes a godsend. It’s locked at night, which keeps it relatively litter-free. It’s also clearly loved…

There’s a small fruit and vegetable garden that’s well tended. There’s a small playground split into two for smaller and older children which has some interesting equipment including a wobbly, wooden balance beam. And there’s a dragon.

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Balance beam

There’s also plenty of green space to run about. And there’s a cafe in the Bromley-by-Bow centre for refreshments (Open Monday-Friday 8.30am-3.30pm – check here).

Bob’s park has a nice feeling about it – like a secret you’re pleased to discover. You can access it from Bruce Road or St Leonard’s Street.

We’ll be going back.

In case you’ve missed the others, this is the fourth post in an occasional series featuring smaller local parks and playgrounds which you may have passed by, but never visited. So far, we’ve covered:

PS If you’re wondering, Wikipedia says it used to be called the Bromley Recreation Ground, but local people named it Bob’s park after the local park warden. And it’s a much better name.

Two things you can do tomorrow…

(That’s Sunday 3 September)

Mudchute Annual Fun Dog Show 1-4pm

Last year’s best in show Thistle from

There is a prize for the dog with the wiggliest tail – this alone makes me want to go Mudchute Farm tomorrow afternoon. Toddlers? Dogs? What could possibly go wrong?

In between admiring the pooches (prize-winning or otherwise) you can enjoy games, facepainting and cake. Anything else?

Why would you need anything else?

Find out more here.

Story Spectacular at Victory Park, Stratford 12noon-4pm


Alternatively if dogs aren’t your thing, make your way to Victory Park, where storytellers from Discover will be performing, ‘Aliens love underpants’. There’s also face-painting, plus the chance to climb aboard a real life fire engine.

Find out more here.

You can also pick up a Tail Trail from Signorelli’s – the brightly coloured map will take you around the area, sparking your imagination as you go.

(Here’s a previous post about Victory Park here).

Last chance to…

The school holidays – and sadly the summer – are now drawing to a close, so you need to move fast if you want to:

… Enjoy free activities at the Ragged House Museum (last day tomorrow, Thursday 30 August)

Open between 10am and 5pm, you’ve got one more day to make the most of the Victorian  classroom, the East End Kitchen and the Under 5s Ragamuffin Room.

For more information, click here

… See What the Ladybird Heard at The Lyric Theatre (last day Sunday 10 September)

This has been on my to do list but never quite made it to the top. Tickets aren’t cheap at around £15 depending on how you book.

Find out more here

… See Tiddler and other Terrific Tales at The Leicester Square Theatre (last day Sunday 3 September).

See not only Tiddler but other Julia Donaldson favourites brought to life on stage (Monkey puzzle, the Smartest Giant in Town and a Squash and a Squeeze). Tickets also around £15.

More details here

… Catch the Wonderful World of Dr Seuss at Stratford Discover Centre (last day Sunday 3 September).

If you love Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat, get moving – there’s only a few days left to go downstairs at the Discover Centre and find a whole new world.

On the plus side, next up with be a year-long exhibition dedicated to the Gruffalo and other Julia Donaldson inventions.

£6.50 for adults. Under twos go free (other concessions available including for Newham residents).

All the details are here

… Head to the urban beach in Stratford (last day Saturday 2 September)

After Saturday, the enormous paddling pool, sand area and rides will be packed up again for another year…

All info including opening times and wristband prices here

Looking for a present for a three-year-old?

If you’re looking for a present for the three-year-old in your life, here are 17 ideas (and I dare say most of them would please two-year-olds and four-year-olds too). They are (mainly) low-tech, non-plastic and low price. They’re suitable for any child, because they’re toys and the boy/girl gendered toy is a horrible con that does no one any good, except perhaps manufacturers trying to make more money.

Some of them have been road-tested on my three-year-old – others are things that I’ve seen her friends enjoying. Some will be guaranteed to put an instant smile on their face – others are more of a slow burn, but might just turn out to be the kind of memorable present that brings a new interest alive.

  1. Fingerprint art book
Fingerprint art book

So it turns out there are quite a few of these books. They come with an ink pad on the front and as you turn the pages you learn to make pictures using your fingerprints. Great for a rainy day or any time you want a quiet few minutes, and it might just be something your three-year-old hasn’t tried before.

Find out more

2. Stomp rocket

These are fun – you jump on it and it propels a foam rocket really, really high (100ft it says!). They make a trip to the park much more exciting for everyone.

Find out more

3. Magazine subscription

At three-years-old, drawing, writing and reading skills are starting to take off – you can inspire them with a magazine subscription. Whether it’s C Beebies, Friends or a magazine linked to their favourite film or tv programme, you’ll keep them busy and entertained.

For an alternative option, try Dot magazine for under 5s – it’s issued quarterly and has no adverts.

4. Figures

Super presents for super children

In this household anyway, three is the age when imaginative play using small figures started. I never dreamt the Paw Patrol figures I bought at easter would be used every single day since then. Find some figures that are of interest to the child in your life – wooden animals, superheroes,  dinosaurs, Playmobil, Duplo – whatever sparks their imagination.

5. Treasury/story collection

You can get through an awful lot of stories if you read to your toddler every night and, even if you go to a library regularly, you can find yourself reading the same ones again and again. Freshen up your toddler’s book collection with a classic – we’ve been given a beautiful collection of fairy tales and a complete Winnie the Pooh.

You can get really good value collections of books here. Alternatively, create your own selection of your own favourites or with a theme that appeals to the child you’re buying for – funny books, stories about animals, or vehicles, or whatever!

6. Bird feeder

In Spring especially, birds need a little help to feed themselves and their young. You don’t need a garden to help them out, while enjoying their visit.

See previous post here.

Find out more about window bird feeders (other models are available)

7. Board game

I’m a big fan of board games for teaching toddlers some unlikely skills – taking turns, focusing, waiting, as well as being a fun way to learn counting and letters. Orchard toys has a whole range to choose from, and they advise on the age group they’re suitable for. They also have lots of good jigsaws.

Find out more

8. Foam letters for the bath

Foam letters for the bath

This might not work for everyone, but these inexpensive foam bath letters were a real hit in this household. You can stick the alphabet up round the bath or make up long and funny sounding words or make little jokes like ‘You’ve got poo on your back’ by sticking P, O, O on you or your toddler.

Find out more

9. Pass for the zoo/Discover centre

At the dearer end of this list, what about a season ticket or annual membership of somewhere your toddler likes to visit – or hasn’t yet been? Here are some ideas: Stratford Discover Centre, London Zoo, Sea Life centres or Kew Gardens.

10. Theatre vouchers

There are some really great theatres locally for children, so a nice present could be vouchers for one of them – the Little Angel, the Half Moon, Stratford Circus, the Chicken Shed and the Unicorn all have productions running year round.

11. Tent

Tents can be good for indoor and outdoor fun

If there’s space in your toddler’s home, a tent makes a great present – it can give them their own place to play or look at books or hideaway indoors, and it can be taken to the park or into the garden for outside play too. There are expensive ones, but they needn’t cost much to do the job.

Here are some examples

12. Small add on

If the toddler you’re buying for already has a toy they love – like a doll’s house, a railway set or a kitchen – what might seem like a small, inexpensive extra component can be an amazing present. Like the one engine they haven’t got, or the car they’ve always wanted for their doll. You might have to ask them or their parents to tell you exactly what they’re missing though.

13. Dressing up outfit

Dressing up is another activity that really took off in the last year or so. There are plenty available to buy – animals, cartoon characters, pirates, fairies, dinosaurs, astronauts, firefighters, police etc

There’s quite a selection here

But this is one of those presents which is even better if it’s homemade and entirely unique, so if you’re one of those clever people who can sew, how about making a costume that’s perfect for the toddler in your life?

14. Treasure box

Every self-respecting three-year-old is captivated by the idea of treasure, treasure maps and adventure. If you’re feeling creative you could make them a treasure map to find their present. Or how about giving them a treasure box of their own – fill it with things they can use to decorate their box and don’t forget some gold coins.

Here’s one you could buy

Some of the best presents cost little or nothing – an example being…

15. Your time

At three-years-old, toddlers make excellent companions – their conversation skills are growing especially when it comes to making demands. They love having someone’s undivided attention. A great present could be taking them somewhere they’d like to go – swimming or the cinema costs just a few pounds but can be an amazing treat.

Alternatively, pitch up with…

16. A craft project

Build up a collection of bottles, cans, boxes and have messy fun making a robot, or a monster. Your toddler will think of something if you can’t.

17. Their own art gallery

Give your toddler everything they need to display their works of art. You can find one nice idea here – you buy the de-cal, wire and clips.