Mini Adventures | Little Diggers Christmas Grotto at Carr Gate Garden Centre

So it appears that without me noticing it, December has crept up on us. And December means twinkling lights, Christmas trees, panic shopping and, most importantly, a trip to see the Big Man himself. That is Santa, Father Christmas, St Nick, Kris Kringle, that big dude in red…whatever you choose to call him, if you have children you will undoubtedly be seeing him at some point before Christmas Day.

We’ve been on our annual Santa trip to various places over the last five years but the first place we ever visited Santa with Elsa was Carr Gate Garden Centre. So we decided to make a return visit for this years trip.

The Grotto visit begins with a meander through a Winter Wonderland. Ted was in love with the animals, wanting to stroke and kiss them all. Elsa found the Giant intriguing and a bit scary in equal measures.

 

There are various scenes set up featuring both traditional Christmas themes and slightly less traditional such as the giant and a fairy scene. Lots of animatronics are used which all the children there seemed to love. Who doesn’t enjoy a singing reindeer?

 

When we reached the Grotto the helpful elves directed us into the correct queue. I would totally recommend pre-booking as we had done. We joined a much smaller queue than those that hadn’t prebooked and we were whisked through with only a short wait.

 

Just before we headed in to see Santa himself, Elsa and Ted planted a magic tree seed with one of the elves. A magic seed went into the pot with some magic soil and this was placed in a magic cupboard when we went into the Grotto.

 

And now for Santa!! My children, particularly Elsa, can be quite shy and she made Santa work hard to get any conversation out of her. He was excellent though and not at all put off by her one word answers and reluctance to go within 10 feet of him. He had a good chat with both of them, usual questions about what they would like for Christmas and he actively encouraged them to be nice to each other and not fight in the run up to Christmas. I hope that they listen to Santa on this one because they certainly don’t listen to me.

 

The presents for both were good quality. Elsa received a Crayola stamping set which she has enjoyed so far. Ted received a set of stacking cups which I thought was a little young for him, however has spent most of the weekend building towers with them so they went down well with him.

 

As we were about to say goodbye to Santa his Elf assistant reminded us about the plant pots we had placed in the magic cupboard and when the cupboard was opened the big reveal showed that their very own mini Christmas trees had grown! This was very exciting for both of them, they were blown away by the magic of it.

After leaving the Grotto Elsa and Ted spent some time at the craft table decorating the mini Christmas Trees that they had grown.

 

The whole experience last approximately 30 minutes. The planting and growing of the mini Christmas Tree added a lovely twist, something I have not seen done before and the kids loved being able to bring it home.

 

You are quite welcome to take photos throughout the experience and with Santa. Santa’s Elf does also take a photo of the children with him. This can be purchased afterwards. I did buy the photograph and I am slightly disappointed with how it has come out. It looked really lovely on the screen but seems to be much darker when printed and my own photos are actually lit better. Unfortunately I was too busy talking to an Elf afterwards to have a proper look at the print out or I may have asked for it to be reprinted.

 

Overall we had a lovely time visiting the Little Diggers Grotto at Carr Gate Garden Centre. The cost was a reasonable £10 per child and tickets can be booked here. Pre-booking is the way forward! The Grotto is open daily right up to Christmas Eve.

 

** We were invited by Wyevale Garden Centres to visit the Little Diggers Christmas Grotto in return for an honest review. All words, photos and opinions are my own**

Mini Adventures | We Are Mini at Rainbow Factory, Leeds

We are huge fans of Rainbow Factory here in Leeds and, in fact, Ted is a Rainbow Factory baby given that they are the same age and he has been visiting since birth!

 

But whilst we are huge fans we hadn’t got round to checking out their ‘We Are Mini’ venture. So we were very excited to be invited down to try out a couple of the sessions. Elsa opted for ‘Mini Princesses‘ and we chose ‘Mini Make Believers’ for Ted.

 

In all honesty, Mini Princesses is not something that would have jumped out at me for Elsa to attend. Elsa and I are not ‘princessy’ girls (well, she might be given the chance but I’ve not given her the chance!) so the idea of a ‘princessy’ session wasn’t that appealing. How wrong I was.

 

Mini Princesses is aimed at both girls and boys (although Ted was the only boy there when we joined in) and is focused on a new skill or trait each week. It is about empowerment and social awareness. The theme for us was ‘Honesty’.

Fairy Godmother Emma runs the Mini Princesses session (and all We Are Mini sessions) and she is actually magic. The children fall under her spell, Ted is particularly enamoured with her! Within seconds of us arriving she had all the children singing, dancing and joining in with all the activities.

The Mini Princesses session compromised signing, dancing, storytelling, imaginative play, team work, a little bit of crafting and so much more. The session was perfectly pitched at the girls, all aged 3-4 years but it was also perfect for just turned 2 year old Ted to join in.

Mini Princess sessions runs on Friday at 1pm and Saturday at 11.30am. You can drop in to the sessions, although booking is advisable.

 

Following on from the success of Mini Princesses, Ted and I went along to Mini Make Believers this week. Things didn’t bode well when Ted was laid on our drive screaming before I put him in the car, unfortunately he arrived at Rainbow Factory in a pretty foul mood.

 

Mini Make Believers is an hour long session of active story telling, the story on this occasion being ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’. It is aimed at children aged 2-5 years and involves crafts, imaginative play, creativity, songs and the encouragement of team work.

 

Ted’s mood did not put off Fairy Godmother Emma (I’m not sure that she is a Fairy Godmother at Mini Make Believers but I like to call her that anyway!) as she persevered with encouraging Ted to get involved in the session. He certainly wasn’t the easiest child to entertain on that day but Emma continued to involve him and eventually brought him out of the mood. This is testament to the child friendly skills and dedication of the team at Rainbow Factory. Ted is notoriously moody and we have been to many other venues and classes where the leader has not tried to engage with Ted if they could see he was grumpy.

 Although the Mini Make Believers wasn’t huge success for Ted on this occasion I loved the session and we will definitely be back to try it out again on a day when Ted is in a better mood!

 

Mini Make Believers sessions run on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The full timetable is available to view here.

We Are Mini sessions are £5 per child and booking in advance is advised although drop ins are welcome. Full details of all sessions can be found on the We Are Mini website.

Check out the Rainbow Factory website for full details of the May Half Term Activities. The theme is Awesome Authors and entry is free, just pay for the activities (£3 each) you would like too participate in. We are looking forward to the Dr Seuss Character Creator & Puppet Workshop and making our own Gruffalo model!

 

CLAIRE

 

*We enjoyed complimentary Mini Princess and Mini Make Believers sessions for the purpose of this post. All words and opinions are my own*

Review | Toddler Jump at Jump Inc Leeds

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Elsa attends Nursery (pre-school) for 15 hours a week, Monday to Wednesday. Having Thursday and Friday together I am often looking for new and exciting activities to do with her so when I heard that Jump Inc ran Toddler Jump sessions this seemed like an ideal morning out.

Jump Inc Leeds is a new addition to the popular Leeds trampoline scene, opening recently near to Elland Road football ground. The huge arena features over 200 trampolines, a dodge ball area, Walk The Wall and lots of other exciting trampoline stuff that looked way beyond my bouncing ability!

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Toddler Jump is a specific session run every weekday morning for children aged under 5. Elsa has a crazy amount of energy and burning it off with some wild jumping and charging round is ideal. During the toddler sessions the usual super cool tunes are replaced with the toddler friendly sounds of Disney songs, cartoon themes and all the other noise that small children love!

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We spent an hour bouncing, jumping, balancing and face planting and I was absolutely exhausted. What a work out for this Mama! Elsa and her friend declared that they loved it and couldn’t wait to visit again for another bouncing session.

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After all that  bouncing around we were definitely ready for a spot of lunch. The Jump Inc Kitchen offers a selection of sandwiches, wraps, pizzas, salads and more. All very reasonably priced with jacket potatoes from £3.25 and grilled ciabatta’s from £4.25. We tried out between us a selection of sandwiches, a mozzarella, pesto and tomato ciabatta, a pizza, onion rings and my absolute favourite, sweet potato chip. It all got a resounding thumbs up from children and adults alike.

 

We absolutely loved the Toddler Jump at Jump Inc Leeds and this will be a regular haunt for us now. The Toddler Jump sessions run every week day 11am to 12 noon. The sessions are £3.50 per child (under 5) with one accompanying adult free. Jump Inc socks are required at a cost of £1.50 but these can be kept and used again and again.

 

For more information and to make a booking visit Jump Inc here.

CLAIRE

 

*Jump Inc Leeds kindly invited us down to experience the Toddler Jump and have lunch. All words, thoughts and opinions are my own*

 

Review | Sledging Snow Fun At Snozone

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So it’s August, it’s forecast to be the hottest day for 13 years, you wake up to a clear sky and bright sunshine. So what would you do? Well, we spent the day sledging of course!

In temperatures of 26C we donned our wellies and winter coats, gloves and scarves and headed off to Snozone Castleford for a chilly experience.

 

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Snozone Castleford is a purpose built indoor snow slope using real snow to give an authentic slope experience. They provide first-class indoor snow facilities for skiing and snowboarding, as well as providing snow experiences such as tubing, sledging, and family snow play sessions.

The sledging sessions are for children 3+ right through to the Grandparents. You are given an aerodynamic sledge and sent on your way down the slopes! I was a bit concerned that Elsa might be a bit daunted by this but after need an initial nudge to get going, her screams as she set off turned to hysterical laughter as she slowed at the bottom and not so gracefully fell off.

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We also spent time riding in the large rubber ring things and Elsa even made a whole family of snow angels. At 45 minutes the sledging session was timed just right. Long enough to have plenty of snow fun but we were just feeling the cold as the session came to an end.

My top tip would be to invest in some ski gloves. Elsa was just wearing bog standard woolly gloves and they got very wet and cold, which she was not happy about.

Sledging sessions at Snozone Castleford can be booked here. There is 25% off all bookings until 30th September with code SLEDGE25.

Snozone Castleford also offer Sno-play sessions for toddlers and children who are not so confident with the sledging. They can have fun in the snow, throw snow balls, make snow angels and a drink for the children afterwards is included in the deal. There is a free soft play area so it is ideal for something different to do with the little ones.

We had a lovely time in the snow and can’t wait to go again. Although we might try to choose a cooler day next time!

 

CLAIRE

 

Review | The Baby Swimming Shop

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Summer is here and with the ‘Big School Holidays’ looming we will all be spending our long hot days outside, basking in the glorious sunshine… Oh wait, this is Britain, famed for it’s grey, wet and this year, decidedly unpredictable weather. But we will surely make the most of it anyway…

So when The Baby Swimming Shop contacted me about some swimwear for Elsa & Ted I opted to try out a couple of Platypus Australia UPF50+ suits in the hope that we might actually get some sunshine.

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Sun safe swimwear is perfect for us, ultimately I like my life to be as easy as possible so whether in this country or abroad having UPF50+ inbuilt in the swimming gear means I can be sure that those bits of the children are safely covered. The less room for error the better as far as I am concerned.

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The Baby Swim Shop is a new online webshop offering a full range of children’s swimwear. They cater from babies up to age 11 and stock everything you could need for swimming at your local pool, swimming lessons to seaside holidays.

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Before placing my order on the website I had a few queries and they we answered speedily and concisely. The website is clear and well organised with lots of hints and tips for sun and water safety. My order also shipped quickly and arrived within a couple of days.

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Elsa, who knows her own mind and what she wants to wear these days, opted for the Platypus Australia Bloom UPF50+ Fitted Short Sleeve Rash Vest with Boyleg set. This compromises a short sleeved rash vest and coordinating shorts. We opted for age 3-4y as the next size up is 5-6y but in hindsight we should have gone bigger. I would recommend sizing up if you are unsure.

PicMonkey CollageI went for the Platypus Australia Regatta UPF50+ Baby Sunsuit for Ted and given that he is a bit of a chunk, I went for the 18-24m size. This was the right choice, again I would recommend sizing up if you want the to last.

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Elsa’s Bloom set costs £34.95 and Ted’s Regatta one piece is £28.95. The Baby Swimming Shop offers free UK postage on orders over £50. Pop on over and have a browse at all the fabulous swimming gear on offer. If you do it with a cocktail in hand you may even feel like you’re on holiday (use your imagination!).

 

CLAIRE

*The Baby Swimming Shop kindly sent the swimwear for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are my own.*

What Elsa & Ted Wore | Q1 2016

So we are already a quarter of the way through 2016. Once again, time is whizzing by too fast. Here we have some of Elsa & Ted’s favourite outfit so far this year.

 

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We are not normally huge fans of yellow in this house. Mainly because I have a tendancy to turn it a mucky colour when I wash it. But Elsa & Ted seem to have been wearing quite a bit of yellow lately.

1 Our best buy of the Winter was the Maxomorra cars fleece. It’s been perfect for babywearing, thin enough to wear in the car but cosy enough for snowy days. The awesome coordinating hat is by the very lovely SoSatsuma who knit the most amazing hats, scarves and many other things.

2. Buzzzzz buzzzzzz. This bumble bee look went down a storm at Nursery. Elsa is wearing an Oh Baby London dress with Country Kids Marigold tights.

3. Twinning in Maxomorra polar bears. I love twinning. Elsa is wearing a Little Bird By Jools knitted waistcoat with her dress.

4. Vintage L’asticot for Nursery, Elsa? Well, why not?! This L’asticot dress was bought preloved but the quality is amazing.

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5. We love Little Bird By Jools for bringing affordable unisex colour to the high street. I originally only bought the striped tank top for Ted but then Elsa wanted one too. We have loved and worn them so much that I bought the next sizes for next Winter. Although this does mean that Ted will have four of them to get through and will be wearing this tank top every year until he is 5!

6. Maxomorra velour. I blooming love the stuff. It is a wardrobe staple now and Ted is wearing my favourite colour, petrol. With a lovely More Than A Fling football vest.

7. More Maxomorra velour. Bright orange for Elsa this time. The lengths I went to to get this dress. Because orange is Elsa’s favourite colour. She mentions that at least 20 times a day.

8. Fantastic Mr Fox is on the loose. Twinning in Maxomorra foxes, Elsa’s dress is from Uni & Jack and Ted’s top is from Tantrums.

 

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9. Bananas for bananas. This Indikidual jacket from KyNa Boutique is just amazing. I wish I had got the next size though as it is a bit snug on Ted’s chubby arms. But I have heard a rumour of a banana parka for Winter so all is not lost!

10. You can never wrong with hand knit tank top by Granny. And she pulled out all the stops with this rainbow stripy tank top. And what could go better with it than Slugs & Snails Drop tights. Understated as always!!

11. Meet the veggies! These two are totally rocking the Duns Sweden vegetables. Both the dress and the trousers are from Uni & Jack. I love Duns Sweden and I always find that I am not initially overwhelmed with the prints but they are so much more beautiful and vibrant in real life. Try them, you’ll love them!

12. And finally we have Elsa in another of the new style twirly dresses from Maxomorra. This is from Tantrums again and Elsa is wearing matching knickers. That’s fancy!

 

CLAIRE

A Mama To Two: One Year In

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It is almost one year since Ted took me from a Mama of one wild toddler in to the brand new territory of motherhood to two children.

How did this happen? Surely only yesterday I was solo back packing around Australia, having wild nights out at Uni and having multiple holidays per year. I am not old enough or wise enough to parent two children!

This year has been challenging to say the least. Having had an easy baby in Elsa I expected much the same and to take having two children in my stride.

Ted had other ideas.

His entrance to the world could not have been more different to Elsa’s, calm, quick, dare I say easy! However as a baby he has also been the complete opposite. A terrible sleeper, clingy, in need of a dummy to stop the constant feeding.

I have learnt a few things over the last year that have made my life a little bit easier:

Organisation is key

With Elsa starting nursery school in January I need to have two children up, fed and dressed promptly on a morning. Most Mama’s appear to take this in their stride but I am not great at getting myself up on a morning, let alone two small people. Laying out clothes, bags, having sandwiches made the night before is the only way I have managed to be nearly on time. Basically do as much as possible so that breakfast can be thrown at them & then shoehorn them into clean clothes as quickly as possible.

 

You do get used to the lack of sleep

We all expect a lack of sleep after having a baby. We don’t necessarily expect no sleep for weeks followed by a few hours sleep a night for months. By the time Ted was 4 months old I was averaging 5 hours sleep a day. This is not enough for me. But there comes a point where you seem to move past the tiredness. You gradually become used to less sleep and begin to function better. This is not to say you are not knackered but you do become able to manage.

 

Choose your battles

I have 3 year old. Every day there is a battle about something but there would be infinitely more if I didn’t let some things go. I am not saying you can be totally slack but weighing up the necessity of arguing over something relatively minor has helped a lot.

 

Never say no to a cup of tea

No more needs to be said about this really. I go to Baby & Toddler playgroups purely because I will get a cup of tea there.

 

Going from one to two has been a far bigger shock for me than going from none to one. With your first baby you can still be very selfish. There is only the two of you to think about so if you want to stay in bed all day you can do. Not so much when number 2 comes along. But obviously I wouldn’t change anything. Well…maybe the the sleep thing!

 

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Review | Blast Off With The Rainbow Factory Space Theme

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We are massive fans of reading and books in the What Elsa Wears household so The Rainbow Factory, down the road from us in Leeds, is one of our favourite places to visit. And last week we had an extra special visit for the launch* of their latest theme – Space.

*Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun.

This tied in brilliantly as Elsa is learning all about space and the solar system at nursery this month. So as we trudged through the very soggy snow, signing the solar system song we were very excited about what we might learn at the The Rainbow Factory.

As usual we were greeted by Boggles, The Rainbow Factory mascot who introduced us to the story of the day; There’s No Place Like Space starring The Cat In The Hat.

We followed the yellow brick road into the ‘rocket’ and went on a journey with The Cat In The Hat through various other story scenes, collecting letters at each one to eventually spell out a Space themed word (I won’t spoil it for you and tell you what it is!).

The staff were once again excellent as they try to involve all the children. Elsa is very shy and it can take her quite a while to warm up in front of people she doesn’t know. It is hard work trying to involve her when you are met with silence and a sullen stare but none of the staff let this put them off and kept trying with her.

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After the tour we headed to the craft area, Goldilock’s Kitchen, where there were plenty of activities on offer. Elsa coloured in her own rocket, made a spaceman’s helmet and created a spaceship complete with it’s own alien. Massive points at Nursery when we took those in for homework!

 

coll2All the kids also got the opportunity to create a Nebulous using squishy gel stuff and food colouring. This went down a treat and it is the kind of messy stuff I would love to do at home but never actually get round to.

While we were at The Rainbow Factory the staff also put on two shows in which they encourage the children to get involved. Elsa eventually came out of her shell and was up on the stage hunting for aliens!

So once again we had a lovely afternoon and pretty much had to be kicked out at closing time. For full detail for The Rainbow Factory and their Space theme see the website here. We can’t wait to go back!

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*We were invited to the launch of the Space theme by The Rainbow Factory. All words and opinions are my own.*

The {Lack Of} Sleep Diaries | Our Cranial Osteopathy Experience

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Sleep…that much loved and much longed for necessity and pleasure has been missing from my life for almost 10 months now. My social media posts have alluded to my lack of sleep but isn’t that the same for all parents of small children? I know that I got super lucky first time round with Elsa, having a baby who slept for 13 hours from 10 weeks and had a 3 hour nap on an afternoon. I guess I didn’t expect to fall so lucky twice but I was also not prepared for the shock of a baby who doesn’t sleep.

After more than 8 months of not sleeping more than 3 hours at a time I reached breaking point. I felt unsafe to drive, I was falling asleep mid-conversation and, most upsettingly, I was snappy and short with Elsa through no fault of her own.

Something which kept cropping up during my middle of the night sessions googling ‘Why doesn’t my baby sleep?’ was the subject of cranial osteopathy. I do not know anyone who has taken their  child to see a cranial osteopath but at this point I had nothing to lose other than my sanity (that may already have gone to be honest).

Our first session began with a detailed consultation about my pregnancy and the birth, Ted’s sleeping patterns and his general health. It was very interesting and our Osteopath made a lot of observations which made a lot of sense. After listening to our birth story she advised that babies who are born quickly, as Ted was, often do not have time to stretch out their necks as they should and may suffer from compression and tension in the head and neck.

The consultation was followed by her examining him and carrying out what appeared to be the gentlest sports massage ever. On the most part Ted absolutely loved this. She advised that she had found three points of tension, the first being in the centre of his back which she believe was his ongoing bronchiolitis. The second area was slight tension in his shoulder which was a relatively new point of tension. The third and final area of tension was at the based of his skull / top of his spine, which she believed was due to the fast nature of his birth. Interestingly enough, when she touched this area he cried and was clearly in discomfort whereas he had previously been chilled out and even leaning into his massage. She also thought that this has been the root cause of his (mild) Plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome as he has had difficulty and pain turning his head to the left.

The Osteopath recommended three sessions to relieve this tension and hopefully sort out the sleep issues.

I had expected that Ted would sleep straight after that first session but I was wrong. He was wide awake all the way home and for the whole afternoon. But he did sleep for 7 hours that night (and 3 subsequent nights) which was the longest period of time he had ever gone.

Ted’s sleep did deteriorate again for a couple of nights before the second session but then followed the same pattern again in the run up to the third session. We went along for the third session a couple of days before Christmas. Upon examining him the Osteopath said that she was not going to treat him as she could no longer feel the tension in the back of his head.

Super tired. Look at those bags!

Super tired. Look at those bags!

So has the Osteopathy improved anything? Well, I am still exhausted. I am still drinking gallons of tea to get enough caffeine to see me through the day. I am still falling asleep mid text message and sending a load of garbled nonsense to the confused person on the receiving end.

The boy is still not a brilliant sleeper. We have seen slight improvement in his night time sleep now, consistently sleeps for 7 hours so I can now get a reasonable block of sleep in. However, day time sleeping is still a disaster. He will only sleep on me / in the sling or in a moving car.

But I do think the cranial osteopathy helped a little bit. He seems a bit more chilled out, he no longer cries when I pull clothes over his head or put a hat on and the sleep is improving. Maybe this would have happened anyway, we will never know but for me the it was worth the spend on two osteopathy sessions.

 

CLAIRE

 

 

Review | The Shoemaker’s Christmas Wish at Rainbow Factory, Leeds

 

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One of our favourite places to visit in Leeds is the Rainbow Factory so Elsa and I were thrilled to be invited along to a sneak preview of their Christmas show, The Shoemaker’s Christmas Wish, a couple of weeks ago.

 

A reimaging of the classic tale of The Elves & The Shoemaker, the show was written by and starred local actors Emily Goldie & Jennifer Carss. The show was a wriggle proof 40 minutes long which was perfect for Elsa. It was cleverly written and acted and was thoroughly enjoyed by all the adults and children in attendance at the preview. Full of music, laughter and clever lines I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these two talented ladies.

 

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Tickets for this show are completely sold out but a trip to the Rainbow Factory is fabulous at any time. Hours of entertainment for children, capturing their imagination with storytelling, arts and crafts, dressing up and running wild! Elsa genuinely loves visiting the Rainbow Factory (she is particularly enamoured with the sinks and hand dryers at child height – little things!) and we are looking forward to visiting again in the New Year. A lovely day out for anyone in the Leeds area.

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Credit for the professional photos goes to C Johnston Photography (apart from my dodgy one of Elsa!)

Full details of opening times and events at the Rainbow Factory can be found here.

 

*We were invited to the performance of The Shoemaker’s Christmas Wish by the Rainbow Factory. All words and opinions are my own.*