Essex Mums Blog

Cardiff with the Kids: What Can You Get Up To?

Guest Post

Whether you’re planning on a weekend away with the brood, or you’re looking at options to fill the time during the imminent February half term, the Welsh capital would be a great place to go. It may be one of the newest capitals in Europe, but its home to a whole host of activities and attractions that help to contribute to its cosmopolitan feel and diverse outlook. Whether you’d prefer to choose one of the Travelodge hotels in Cardiff as a base for some outdoor adventures in South Wales, or you’d like to make the most of your stay in the city with the kids by introducing them to the various local attractions, an affordable hotel and a fun-packed itinerary would be all you need for a successful trip. Here are some of the top attractions that the kids will love, both in, and around, the city.



They may be off for a week from school, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be learning. At Techniquest, learning can be super fun too! This Science Centre in the city is a superb spot for children and adults alike, giving them the chance to enjoy some hands-on exhibitions and activities to gain insight into various aspects of the science world. With over 160 stations where you can experiment, as well as various shows and demos throughout the year, there’s plenty to be getting on with at this great value, entertaining day out.


Cardiff Dockyard

The dockyard in the heart of the city is awash with things to discover and explore, with visitors able to gain insight into the history and heritage of the city’s maritime past with every step. Embark on the Cardiff Bay Walking Spy Trail with your youngsters and you can all enjoy the sights of shipwrecks and wetlands while following this fun, outdoorsy trail that lasts for about 3 hours – it’s a great way of enjoying the outdoor aspects of Cardiff, away from the cityscape.


Planet Ice

If you’re stuck for things to do and the weather outside doesn’t exactly fill you with hope, Planet Ice is a great place to go. The ice rink, located in the heart of the city, offers a fun-filled afternoon for all ages. From the little ones mastering the blades for the first time with the help of the penguins, to the older kids (and parents) who hope to find their feet on the ice without the help of these childish supports, the rink caters for everyone and provides a great alternative to the norm.


The Doctor Who Experience

Any fan of the Time Lord will love to embark on the Doctor Who Experience, which can be found in Cardiff Bay. This interactive journey takes you through time and space on a hi-tech adventure, where you can fly the TARDIS and tackle some of his renowned foes, including the Daleks and the Cybermen.


Whatever you choose to do, you’ll certainly be able to keep the kids entertained with a trip to Cardiff.


Your child has decided to study abroad – Now what?

Guest Post:

Most parents will probably have some reservations about letting their child study abroad – but a little bit of homework on the topic will soon lay these to rest.

Studying in a different country will help your child mature on a personal level as well as academically, so it is something that is extremely worthwhile.

Here are five top tips to help you come to terms with their decision to hit the books overseas.


Letting go

The first thing you need to do is let go. It can be an emotional time when your offspring decides to fly the nest, particularly to study abroad, but coming to terms with the situation as early as possible will help you through this exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, time.

Research the country they’ll be heading to by looking at things like its history, culture, customs and laws. Getting an idea of the bigger picture can answer a lot of your questions and give greater peace of mind.

It is also a good idea to read all program literature and any available student accounts of studying abroad.

The Florida State University Gateway Programme has a number of administrators on-hand to answer any questions you may have, so never be afraid to get in touch.


Help them pack

Your child may be going half-way around the world but that doesn’t mean you can’t help keep them safe and organised.

Lend a hand with their packing. Put in a few extra photos in case they need to get a new passport at any point, and give them an extra supply of any medications they’re on and a copy of the prescription.

Try to obtain a note from the doctor regarding your child’s need for the medication, in case of any issues during the customs process.

If they wear glasses, make sure they also have an extra pair to take with them, especially if they are prescription lenses.


Keep in touch

Keeping in touch with your child while they’re studying abroad is important for both of you – and thanks to the wonders of the internet it has never been easier! Just don’t expect to hear from them every day.

Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are a great way of staying in contact. You can even share photos and videos through these websites.

Skype is another great alternative, allowing you to make free internet calls via video link and cheap online calls to phone or mobiles.

Blogs are also a cheap and fun way of keeping in touch, showing each other what is going on where you are, while the humble letter shouldn’t be underestimated!

International phone calls, however, can be expensive, so consider purchasing prepaid international calling cards.

Students and parents should both have a set of emergency contacts with them at all times, including contacts from the university and program – you can find these on the FSU website.


Arrange visits

Of course you’re going to want to visit your child while they’re overseas, but remember to do it in the right way.

Choose to do so at a time that is convenient for them. Exam periods, for example, are a particularly bad time to head over.

Above all, however, you should put their best interests ahead of your own. Although you may miss them terribly, they need to spend quality time immersed in the culture and with fellow students to get the maximum out of their education abroad.


Coming home

Just as you’ll be preparing for your child’s departure, you should also prepare for their eventual homecoming.

Be sensitive to the possibility that they could experience a reverse culture-shock. It is therefore important to allow them a period of adjustment when first getting home.

Listening to their experiences (they’ll have plenty of tales to tell!) will help them settle back in, while you should also bear in mind that they’ll probably be more independent.

Encouraging them to keep in touch with the people they’ve met while studying abroad is recommended as well. These connections are important and can end up lasting the rest of their lives.


RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

January is one of those months when you feel like there is nothing to look forward to but more cold weather. The kids are slowly going stir crazy with you probably getting there first and the thought of getting outdoors in all the rain and mud has many of us running for cover. Not more washing! Well, at the end of this month why not get the kids involved in some family fun that isn’t too messy, means you can all stay warm and gets you all enjoying nature and the outdoors.

On the 25 – 26 January the RSPB is holding their annual Big Garden Birdwatch and it’s really easy to take part. All you need to do is register on the website and then spend one hour over the weekend watching and recording the birds in your garden. You can even take part in your pyjamas!

Photo by Rahul Thanki (

Don’t think the kids will sit for one hour? Then why not do it in 15 minute bursts or get them all riled up and excited by making your very own bird cake or some worm treats to keep them entertained while they watch the birds feasting - The birds will love it and the kids will relish in the opportunity to get mucky (without getting muddy of course).

Haven’t got a garden? Or maybe you just want to make a day of it? Then pop along to Wat Tyler Country Park and visit the RSPB visitor centre (10am – 4pm) where you can take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch from our very own busy bird feeder station. There will be a chance to make some fat balls, learn some bird id skills and at 1pm, 2pm and 3pm there are some special Big Garden Birdwatch storytelling slots for littlies who love storytime.

Whatever you do to take part we would love to hear how you all got involved. You can post your pictures to our Facebook page RSPB Essex or tweet us @RSPBEssex and don’t forget to let Essex Mums know how you got involved too. Have fun!

To find out more about our Big Garden Birdwatch event then visit our Facebook page RSPB Essex or call us on 01268 498620



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