A family outing: The Efteling

Last week we took our boys to the Efteling in the Netherlands. It’s an amazing theme park for all ages and I was really excited to show it to our sons for the first time. They had never been in a theme park before so it was a bit hard explaining before hand and they were quite nervous and excited about doing something ‘they had never done’.

We had a fabulous day, the weather was great and the boys absolutely loved everything. We took them on several family rides like Fata Morgana, Droomvlucht, the Carnavalย and the Snail Monorail: they were big hits with them. Some of them we did multiple times. But there was so much more: carousels, steam trains, merry-go-rounds, playgrounds, the Pagoda, boat rides, pedal trains. We did not have enough time to do it all. We never even made it to the fairy tale forest.

We were really lucky with the weather. It has been and still is amazingly sunny for this time of the year. We also went on a school day, so it was not very busy. Waiting times were very limited, we only had to wait for the newest ride: Symbolica and even that was only 15 minutes. The staff was friendly everywhere: they all greeted you, helped where necessary and made you feel very welcome. Prices of the food in the park are very reasonable and there is an abundance of different restaurants and take-away places. You are allowed to bring your own food and drinks too.ย The park is about 1.5 hours drive from Brussels so it’s very doable for a day trip.ย 

We had pancakes in the pancake restaurant and the boys enjoyed decorating their own pancake very much. At the end of the day we watched the water show Aquanura. 200 fountains spraying with many sound, light and even fire effects. It was really beautiful.

As you can read, I recommend the Efteling highly. And so do our boys. We will definitely go again, maybe even make it an overnight trip so we have two days to explore the park.

If you plan to go, a few things tips:

  • Children go for free until they are 4. After that you pay full price, so go before they turn 4 to save money. (That’s what we did haha ๐Ÿ™‚ )
  • Tickets are 40 euro per person. Buying them in advance online is cheaper. Subscribe to their newsletter, as they often have discount offers.
  • Bring a buggy for the little ones. The park is huge and it will save you lots of time if you can push them from one area to the next. (They have little towing cars for rent, but they only seat 1 child and are not very comfortable.)
  • Download the Efteling app so you can see what the waiting times are and which places are open/closed
  • If possible try to go on a day it’s not busy. On their website there is a great calendar with information about the upcoming months.
  • if you go with little children but also want to go on the roller coasters and the other more scary rides yourself, make sure you go with multiple couples so you can take turns with the kids.

Halloween-costumes everywhere

Friday was the last school day before the autumn holiday started and all children were allowed to come to school wearing a costume. The boys were quite excited and really enjoyed going to school looking like a big bird/ vampire/ flying monster with a cape. They drew a lot of attention at 8:15 in the morning cycling to school looking like this:

They were not the only class doing this though, when we walked to school it seemed all kids for all schools were dressed up. We met knights and princesses, pumpkins and dinosaurs, superman and batman, spiders and ghosts. It was great to see so many happy children. It really put a smile on my face (and on many other peoples’ faces).

Music lessons

Last month we started taking our boys to bilingual music lessons. I want them to develop a love for music and I was very happy to have found a music class for children from 3 years old. It is very surprising to see how much children can already pick up. Learning about rhythm and notes, trying out different instruments and learning some dance sequences. It’s absolutely great. There are two side effects to these music lessons though, that are worth mentioning: one very great, the other one…

See, the funny thing is that, since the lessons started, music suddenly is everything for one of our boys. The minute he comes home from school, he grabs his guitar and starts to sing songs and recites all the verses he learned in the last months. He mixes them up sometimes but there are at least 20 different ones in 3 different languages. And sometimes he even improvises and sings about what happened that day. It is really great to see how much he enjoys music. There is a smile on his face constantly when he holds his guitar. (Our other son is a little less interested but will sometimes play along.)

The other thing is that our boys now discovered YouTube… We had to look up some of the songs they danced to in the class and we found them with a video that showed the dance as well. But this also resulted in them realising we have a tablet, which we had managed to hide successfully from their lives for nearly 4 years…

So now we very often have to play the following videos because they want to do those dances. And from one song, they discover the next one and it never stops.. . So yes, I will share the videos here, because when I suffer, you all can suffer a little with me ๐Ÿ˜‰


and the worst song in history:

Gift ideas for 2 year olds

After the success of my earlier post about gift ideas for three year old children, I decided to make a list for two year olds as well. These ideas can be used to make a wish list for friends and family that are coming over for the birthday. I again have not mentioned any bicycles, cars or other big toys like slides, sand pits and play houses.

This toys on this list were the most used toys in the year that our boys were two.

  1. The classis Fisher Price register. They can use this for years.


2. Books. Some of the stories that our boys enjoyed over and over again.

3. Duplo. One of their favourite toys in the world. Building, playing, making up stories… Small sets, big sets, there is always something within budget.

4. Play figurines. Perfect toys to take on the road, when visiting friends, in the car, in a restaurant etc. Our boys absolutely love dinosaurs, but there are many sets available like farm animals, wild animals, fish, horses etc.

5. Wooden train set. Another toy that will last years and they can start playing with it from this age onwards. Ikea also has a really nice and affordable set.

Just a last tip: At this age, children usually have many toys already and unpacking presents can be quite overwhelming, especially when they get a lot of new toys. When we celebrated our boys’ birthday I also put some clothes on their wish list, especially items for the season ahead. It was a great way to make sure they boys did not get too many toys and to stock up on clothes as they really could use some new ones. Just make sure you mention the sizes you want, you can never be too specific when it comes to clothes ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Reflections

One of the stories we are reading a lot at the moment is Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson. It’s a great rhyming story, not the easiest one to read to be honest, but with a lot of hidden meanings and discoveries to make. The story is about Drip, a duckbill dinosaur that ends up in the wrong nest and is raised as a T-rex. But he really does not feel at home with this family and one day he runs away and ends up with a herd of duckbills, the dinosaurs that the tyrannosauruses want to eat. –spoiler– When the T-s finally have a way to get to the duckbills, Drip scares them off with their own disfigured reflections in the water.

Our boys find this concept very interesting; of course they know about mirrors and they have seen reflections before. But recently I realised that the story really had stayed on their minds… Last week it had been raining and there were quite a few puddles on the street. On the way home from school, they suddenly stop their bikes in the middle of the sidewalk.
‘Mom, I see the clouds’, one of them says, pointing down.
‘Mom, I see the sky’, the other one says, also looking down.
At first I am confused, but then I see what they mean. The sun has come out and the sky is reflected in the puddle.
Then one of the says: ‘It’s just like the story, mommy.’
From there on they run from one puddle to the next to see what else there is to see ‘in the ground’; houses, windows, street lanterns, cars, even an airplane. And then of course their own faces. It was so great to see how much fun they had.

Father’s Day – some craft ideas

Father’s Day is coming up. Yes, I can just hear you think– Yaiks, there is no time, I am too busy and I have no idea what to make or buy.
We all know how busy we get, so here are some quick ideas to still be able to give your man a present from the children and you.

  • Take a walk to a photo-boot (to be found in metro- and train-stations) and take a (funny) picture of you and your kids together. Either make 1 picture or a set of 4 for in his wallet. Frame it, or not. Just see how much time there is. This idea is perfect when you have a very small child.
  • Get the finger paint out, put your child’s hands or feet in it, put them carefully on a canvas and your are done. Best done before bath timeย  to ease the clean-up ๐Ÿ™‚ Perfect with a very small child and also great gift idea for grandparents.
  • Get the finger paint out for your toddler/ older children and give them a canvas to make their own art. Cheap canvas can be found at any Action shop.
  • Buy some white cloth handkerchiefs for men (Hema has them) and some permanent clothing markers. Have the kids draw on them. Wrap them up. Can also be done with tea towels, t-shirts or an apron, but I find that handkerchiefs are the most likely to actually be used.
  • Design some labels for beer or wine bottles. This sounds more fancy than it is, just cut out some white cardboard or thick paper and make sure it fits around the bottle you have picked out as a gift. Give this paper to your children to be drawn or painted on. When they are done you use sticky tape or glue to fasten is around the bottle and you have a perfect gift.
  • Make cards. Go to Action or Hema and buy loads of stickers and some empty cards. Let the kids design their own card for daddy. They can of course also use their markers, pencils and stamps.

Hopefully this was helpful. Enjoy the fun!

Blackboard paint

So I bought blackboard paint and painted a big piece of one of the walls in our living room with it. When it was all dried and finished I explained to the boys that they could now write on this wall with their chalk. They were very happy with my surprise.
‘Wow,’ said the first. And he started scribbling on the wall.
‘Wow,’ said the second. And he walked to another wall and before I realised what happened he had scribbled some huge scratches on our normal walls.
Aaargh!