We don’t do many playdates, purely because N’s had nursery during the week. At weekends when we’re free, most people are doing family things. We have managed to do a few playdates at friends’ houses and ours, and at parks – all the better because none of us have to do any cleaning (apart from maybe the car if we’re sharing lifts).
But just before N started school, we had a few days off work and nursery so he could have some time off before starting. And so we could make the most of fun times during the week before they could be no more.
One playdate we’d arranged with his best friend from his day nursery. They were always pretty inseparable at nursery, but were going to different schools. But only being 5 minutes drive away, hopefully they’ll be able to stay friends.
We’d proposed going to Stratford-upon-Avon because there’s great outside play areas at the park, walks by the river and plenty of places for lunch. Typically, the weather didn’t look like it was going to play ball and it was dark, dreary and a bit wet on waking.
A quick text message conversation and search online later, and we’d decided we’d still head out but try going to the Mechanical Art and Design Museum (MAD) instead. None of us had been before, but it looked quite interesting for children of all ages.
The boys loved being in the car together. N was so excited to see where his friend S lived, I think he’d invited himself over to play pretty quickly on arrival to pick them up. We found somewhere to park and walk down the main street amongst the tourists.
Having two 4 year old boys with us took some time. Stratford has some lovely independent shops, and I knew the shop with Peter Rabbit soft toys in would stop them to have a look. We listened to them comparing notes on which Peter Rabbit N had, and what the other animals were called before we managed to draw them away….until they then spotted superheroes in the window of a comic/sci-fi shop.
A giant bear was spotted down in a courtyard so that meant time to stop for a hug. I don’t think N would have done it on his own, but it’s funny to see how the boys interacted and would do what each other told them.
Finally we reached the MAD Museum. It’s a pretty small place, just the one room, and upstairs above shops which seems a bit strange going in. We had a lovely welcome from the staff at the entrance, and immediately we could see exciting things to explore.
The best way to describe the MAD Museum is think marble runs of every different sort and size. Add in weird engineering and mechanics with an artistic flair and that pretty much describes it.
As well as the trains going round overhead, there was so much to see. The big draw was definitely the ‘marble’ run made from kitchen accessories. We spent ages watching that until the boys started arguing over whose foot should be on the go pedal.
Another big draw was the musical water glasses on the dresser….played via an old fashioned typewriter. I even managed twinkle twinkle little star.
And we’re not going to forget the secret chest in a hurry. The boys watched that one for ages, although the first couple of times did make N jump quite a bit.
Some of the designs were a little quirky, but so much time must have gone into creating them. It’s a great little museum, perfect for wiling away a couple of hours. There are toilets there, and kids under 5 get in free, but otherwise what you see is what you get. Nothing fancy. The only downside is the noise, so if you’ve got sensitive children or hearing problems, the mechanics going on might be a problem.
Afterwards we had a bit of time before lunch and the sun had come out, so we headed down to the gardens by the theatre and river for a drink and a bit of a run around.
Us mums were able to sit and chat, keeping an eye on the boys who were enjoying walking round the flowers and hedges, then running between them. N did get a bit narky because he wanted to be on one side on his own, but once they discovered the water fountain they were friends again. Easy life being children.
We just wanted sandwiches for lunch and whenever we’re out it’s always hard to know what restaurants or cafes would cater for children. I hate places where they only sell hot foot for children, but a child’s portion for sandwiches is beyond them. We found the Anne Hathaway tea rooms which is a quite old fashioned place. It’s over several floors so we headed upstairs, past the delicious looking cakes and found a table.
They sell a good choice of sandwiches, paninis, soup and various light meals. The boys wanted the same sandwich so they asked if we wanted to split an adult portion which was perfect size wise. It was really good to have that option because there’s no way they’d have eaten a larger portion.
The panini I had was delicious, the fruit smoothies were fresh and zingy. The drinks for children weren’t great, because it was basically juices which are pricy (no squash option). But the cakes were gorgeous. N had ice cream, while my huge chocolate fudge cake with cream was divine.
It was a lovely lunch with a comedy toilet palaver and panic to get back to the car in time (never quick with 4 year olds in tow), to top off our visit.
N got his wish to have a look at his friend S’s house as well when we dropped them off, so they could have another quick play. Oh the excitement at all different toys, another garden to check out…and a bungalow!
Do you tend to go out for playdates or stay in?
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