I love Vienna. It has been voted to the most liveable city of the world for a reason. I’ve visited plenty of times, however, never with my children until a few weeks ago. Naturally, this time it was a completely different experience, just as we did expect it to be. Not so much of Aperol-Spritzing and Museum Quartier visiting. You can’t just drag your young children along whilst visiting galleries, markets and trendy restaurants. If you plan ahead though, everyone can get something of what they wanted. City tripping with a toddler and a baby sounds challenging but it it’s not impossible!
Start with booking the right accommodation. We stayed in serviced apartments this time, because we knew that we won’t be able to eat out in the evenings. That is one thing we needed to give up. Keeping their usual bedtime routine meant, that they were able to cope a lot better, it’s something they are both (all of us, in fact) heavily rely on. We also needed space, which an average hotel room just doesn’t provides. (The hotelier inside me is gasping in horror now.) So we booked Anyna Apartments, which was OK (price-wise and staff -wise good, but with some small security and other issues) and close to transport links, near a big park with playgrounds and supermarkets.
When the weather is nice, then of course there’s plenty to do. But when it’s raining or it’s too cold outside it can be a bit tricky to entertain small children. So, my list contains a mix of indoor and outdoor activities. However, avoid traveling in winter, as lots of outdoor attractions are closed. Also better to avoid places like Nashmarkt. Whilst it’s one of Vienna’s famous attractions and it’s great fun as a grown up, it’s most definitely no fun as as a parent of small children. It’s very busy, there are a lot of hot food stations, smokers and things to grab from the stalls. (Yes, the experience is talking.)
One if the oldest amusement parks in the world offers a lot of fun small rides for the minis. If they can’t ride on their own, because they are too young, parents can accompany them. There’s no entry fee to the Prater, you just need to pay for the rides (cash only). Plenty of options for food, from small kiosk-type street food to a proper restaurant. Open from March till October. The mini rides are relatively cheap: cost between EUR 2-4 each.
Vienna has lots of playgrounds, they are all very clean and well maintained, most of them has small swings, slides and sand pits for the littlest.
3. Zoom Children’s Museum
Zoom is quite big, suitable for children of all age. For the minis (8 months to 6 years) particularly, it has a play and adventure area called The Ocean, with a glittering water grotto, a mirror tunnel and a coral reel with tickly anemones. They can explore a ship deck and play role games, untie knots, turn the ship’s wheel or communicate with the lighthouse. Entry fee: EUR 3 for a child (free admission for one adult per child); extra adults pay EUR 5.
4. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
Sitting on the top deck of the bus when the weather is sunny and pointing to all the exciting things to see is great fun for small children. (They are also prepared for the bad weather with a cover.) There are 6 routes and 50 stops. From EUR 22.50 per person.
5. Cake Time!
No Vienna experience is complete without a cafe house visit. And that means: it’s time for a cake! The traditional cafe houses are not exactly children friendly and booking is always required. Also, at some places smoking is still allowed (Austrians love their cigarettes.) and normally a separate room is dedicated to that, but obviously you can smell the smoke all over the cafe. However, places like Aida and Oberlaa are more relaxed and welcoming towards children. (No smoking is allowed at all, either.)
6. Schoenbrunn Zoo
Schoenbrunn Zoo is considered one of the best zoos in the world. The animal compounds have a decent sized living area and designed to imitate their natural habitat as much as possible. More than 700 kinds of animal live in the zoo. It’s a fun place for small and big children. There’s also a huge nature trail and an educational forest trail, which I really liked. Unfortunately, not too many options for buying food and drink once inside the zoo in April when we visited, more in summertime. The little train wasn’t operating either, which was a shame as my little boy is a huge fan of trains. Entry fee is EUR 18.50 for adults, free for children under 6.
7. Schoenbrunn Maze And Labyrinthikon Playground
Bobcat really liked both the maze and the playground. And watching the fantastic water fountain. We enjoyed a lovely walk in the palace park. The playground is really cool and it has unusual elements as well as classic toys: climbing poles with sounds, jumping station, puzzles and water gargoyles. He especially liked the water features and marvelled the huge eagle-shaped climbing frame, but he was too small to climb that. But there was plenty of other things for smaller children, so we spent a few hours there. Open from April till November. Entry fee: EUR 5.50 for adults and EUR 3.20 for children.
8. Family Fun
It’s a huge amusement park for children, with a section called Kiddyworld, where even the smallest kids can enjoy themselves too. There’s trampolines, ball pools, a magic climbing tree, and some more. I’d say it’s probably from 1 year up, depending on the child’s capabilities. The toddlers will love it. Entry fees: under 1’s go free, 1-3 year olds EUR 3.90, 3-16 year olds EUR 8.90, adults EUR 3.50
9. Riding An Old Tram
Simply 🙂 Very old, vintage trams are still in every day use in Vienna. Some of them are more than 50-60 years old with wooden benches. They are one of the coolest things to see, so don’t miss our on a Ring-ride, especially if you have a transport and vehicle maniac 3 years old, like us. Just buy a ticket and complete a whole Ring loop, it’s really good fun.
10. Bogi Park
It’s a huge indoor playground for children aged between 1 and 12. Again, I’m sure even some active babies can enjoy it, and recently they started to do Baby Mondays. For very small children, they have bouncy castles, slides, ball pools, small climbing installations. Entry fees: under 1’s go free, 1-3 year olds EUR 3.50, 3-16 year olds EUR 8.90, adults EUR 4
11. Donau Insel
The Danube Island is very popular amongst the locals, there’s so much to see and do for the whole family! There’s a family beach, which is protected by a number of small islands surrounding the beach and the water no more than one meter deep. Absolutely fantastic in summertime. There’s also a free water playground with a separate splashing area for under 3’s and a trampoline center. Free entry.
12. Horse carriege ride (fiaker)
One of the tourists favourites, an absolute must do. The children loved it, it’s a leisurely ride (really slow, very safe with being small children on board) around the historic inner city area. You can find them parking all around the old town, just hop on one. It’s normally a half an hour and prices vary, around EUR 50.
13. Cobenzl City Farm
Meet and get to know the farm animals at a working farm producing organic goods. You’ve got pony rides, a nature trail and yummy cakes to buy. Entry fee: EUR 18 for kids and EUR 28 for adults.
14. Danube Boat Tour
The shortest tour takes around 1.5 hours, it’s a lovely, cultured thing to sit on the top deck in the sunshine. Waiving to the other boats and to people strolling at the river bank, it’s a relaxing cruise on the river. It’s operating from April till October (with the heating on when needed). There’s also a restaurant or bar on all the cruise ships. Prices vary.
15. Inner City Parks
When everything fails, just let them run around in a lovely, well manicured, safe park. There are plenty of them: the Stadtpark, the Volksgarten, the Burggarten, the Sigmund Freud Park and more.
That’s how it feelt in the last few days.
Listening to my friends how they are having emotionally tough times as their toddlers are starting in the nursery or with a child minder. Most of my friends (just like myself) are typical helicopter parents to small children. But even though I feel like I’m being overprotective and worrying excessively sometimes, I was soooo looking forward to September for him to be back to nursery. I saw some funny mummies taking first-day-back-to-school photos to the next level by posting one with a grumpy child and a happily jumping mum. And then I saw the comments too, mainly things like: “you shouldn’t have had a child if you’re so happy to get rid of him“. Or, people simply boasting about how they homeschooled five children. This made me feel guilty. (Well, not the homeschooling part, because I can’t wrap my head around that thing.) He just turned two not long ago and I’m already getting rid of him for three hours every weekday morning.
Then I remembered, Bobcat not only loves his nursery, but he started to develop his language skills a lot faster, since I wasn’t there to attentively read his mind. He had no choice but to start to communicate. It’s a lovely nursery with enthusiastic professionals and all the kids love them. (I strongly believe that nurseries are better than a one-to-one solution for being in company, copying, developing social skills, and much more.) To be honest, before him started to be more vocal I have seriously questioned my parenting skills. I’m far from being a teacher type personality and I felt I’m letting my son down. But I read books and blogs, bought special toys, did plenty of floor time, took courses to help him to speak. Then ladt year, being heavily pregnant and now with a very demanding baby I find it difficult to devide my time equally between them and my other chores. Bobcat of course, finds it hard too, not having my undivided attention like before. I felt guilty (again) thinking that I must be doing something really wrong: just can’t get things done and I need a day to consist of 36 hours at least.
That three hours for him is like being in a playgroup. He says bye mummy when I’m dropping him off and dashes off to play. But he also waits by the door and throws himself into my arms whe I collect him. He understands the routine and learned it quickly (after a week or so) that I (or daddy, or grandma) will be back in a few hours to collect him. No need for me to worry. That three hours on some days, allows me to play and enjoy some special time with Babi, catch up on some sleep, cook dinner, or just some “me-time”: looking after my blog (my only creative outlet), have a coffee sitting down, or a piece of cake without hiding in the kitchen 🙂 Because, I am a parent, I try to be the best, but I’m not a parent only. I need some time on my own too, even if it only happens when the baby is fed and asleep 🙂
I realised: no, looking forward to the nursery start does not make me a bad parent. It makes me normal. Normal, as in my dictionary: maintaining a healthy balance, providing him with quality education and fun time, respecting myself and enjoying some “me time”.
So I’ve been hearing about this farm for ages from my mummy friends. It’s a short drive for a South Londoner, even with a toddler having a grumpy morning. One lovely July day (when it was 30 C all of a sudden) we finally drove down there and visited it. We initially only intended to spend there no more than two hours, but it’s like a countryside Disneyland: there’s enough to do for a whole day.
Hiding in the beautiful Surrey hills, Bockett’s is a working farm: plenty of animals, regularly introduced baby animals, a kitchen garden, and a barn to educate the kids about how a farm works and how they keep animals. They can also pet and feed them. For the fun part, there’s loads of exciting things to do and even small toddlers can enjoy themselves. There’s two different playgrounds, bouncy pillows, pig race, tractor ride and indoor play areas for bad (or too warm) weather.
We started indoor as we arrived, as the entrance is through the play barn. Good luck dragging your small children outside again when they spot the mini John Deer race course and the giant slide. After we spent about an hour inside and successfully blocked a tantrum by promising even more playground fun outside, we managed to get out.
Outside, Bobcat’s favourite was the giant bouncy pillow and the old tractors on the site: he loved sitting on them pretending to drive. Of course he had a go on every slide and climbing frame too. He loved feeding the animals and he’s favourite were the mini goats. He found them really funny 🙂 Mine was the pig race and the giant slide. Great fun even for a grown-up (or for your inner child).
In the Old Barn Tea Room you can stop for a quick meal and buy locally made onion chutney, but make it really quick, as there’s so much to do! 😀
We travel to Barcelona every year or two because I love there, it’s one of my favourite places in Europe. I lived in Spain for a few years, it feels like home 🙂 It’s always good fun, very child-friendly and a lot warmer in March than in London.
This time we wanted to be near the beach but still close to town and just go for long walks and relax. A long weekend with spa experience and great Spanish food. So we booked SB Hotel Diagonal Barcelona Zero which was very convenient for the beach, as it’s just on the other side of the road. Not too bad transport links, tram stops just outside the hotel. They also booked us a travel cot (nearly new, good quality) free of charge. We were very impressed with the breakfast: from grilled vegetables for your scrambled eggs to churros with chocolate sauce they had everything. They even had a dedicated kids’ breakfast section – unfortunately, mainly with stuff which would exceed an adult’s daily sugar intake: pink sugar coated doughnuts, sugary cereal and yogurt, chocolate pastries, chocolate pretzel sticks etc. So cover those little eyes when entering the breakfast room. Two things we were really unhappy with: firstly, that we couldn’t enter the spa with Bobcat being under 14 years old. The information they have provided to Hotels.com is deliberately misleading: Hotel Information on Hotels.com, not saying a word about extra fees (not only the treatments cost money which is normal, but just to enter the spa too) or the age limit (14 years old. Really???). So, there goes our getaway spa experience out the window. When telling this to the receptionist she simply replied: apart from the age rules, I can’t use it anyway, because I’m pregnant and the chemicals in the water might be harmful. And it’s just a jacuzzi anyway. If we’ve known about this, we would not have booked this place. The other thing was that the door lock was broken and the door didn’t close properly. So they sent a handyman to fix it. On the photo below you can see the AFTER repair state.
Apart from having nice walks down at the beach and stopping at every single playground (Barcelona has loads of playgrounds and they are great), this occasion we went to Barcelona Zoo, where Bobcat had some fun with feeding goats. It was just very sad to see how small space the animals get in a small European zoo. Not only in Barcelona. They are just old, founded in the 19th century, and in those days no one cared about animal rights. It was heartbreaking to see the cheetach walking up and down in its cage, seemingly beyond stressed.
The City Park though, never dissappoints. We went for a walk after the zoo, stopped at the playground again of course.
Barcelona is always a great getaway choice with kids. From early spring the weather is very plesant.
The Gro Company sent me one of their fabulous Grobags to review it. It is quite an easy task: I know and use their products since Bobcat was born (I mean, Bobcat uses them), and I am very pleased with them.
I picked this cute nautical design wich goes well with Bobcat’s room decor: True Blue Stripes 18-36m 2.5 Tog Grobag This sleeping bag is the usual great Grobag quality, super soft cotton, 2,5 tog for the recent cold nights. It’s been washed already, still like new, but I expect that it will not bobble or fade for a long time (just like the previous ones didn’t).
We started to use sleeping bags soon after his birth, as he always hated to be swaddled. All babies are different. But what’s a new mum got to do when her 10 days old child screams his head off when being swaddled? So I bought sleeping bags and he was perfectly fine with it from day one. He always slept on his back as a young baby, so no problem there. In the sleeping bag he could freely move his legs but it still kept him nice and warm, but not too warm. The tog rating is a great indicator and I used a Gro Egg thermometer to monitor the room temperature. As a first time mum you worry a lot (basically all the time), but at least one item is off of your worry-list when you use Grobag and Gro Egg thermometer. I then later bought different make of sleeping bags too, but never one came close to the quality of the Gro products. I especially liked their summer lightweight sleeping bags of 0,5 and 1 tog, what we used on summer holiday. And they are so cute too!
We still use sleeping bags with Bobcat being 23 months old now. He doesn’t like pillows and he keeps kicking the blanket off. He tosses and turns a lot during the night. Here’s a few pics about his normal sleeping positions. You can see my point about still using Grobags.
Also, I’m pretty sure it helped him to build a good sleeping routine, because he’s never too cold or hot and can sleep in whatever position he finds comfortable. He sleeps through the night since his first birthday, lucky us. We also travel quite frequently and all we need is the cot arranged by the hotel. We take his sleeping bag with us, a piece of home, and he has no problem with sleeping at a new place.
I’ll be getting some lovely ones for my new arrival too, for sure!
With Bobcat we use cloth diaper most of the time, I’d say 90% of the time. We only use disposable (bio-degradable) nappies during the night and when we’re out and about for a longer time (longer than half a day).
The 2 main reasons we switched to reusable diapers are: they helped him with his eczema. Essentially, we reduced allergens getting in contact with his skin. The other reason is that I’m a mama with a green heart, so it was very important for me.
But there’s some other known and less known advantages. So here are the reasons why you should do the switch too:
- Environmental impact. Yeah, we all heard about that one. But let the numbers talk. An average child undergoes approximately 6.500 nappy changes by the time of turning two and a half years old. Over 8.000.000 nappies are thrown away daily in the UK. It will take 200 to 500 years to decompose a branded disposable nappy. (The bio-degradable nappy decomposes in 50 years.) They produce 2.3 times more waste water and 60 times more solid waste than real nappies.
- Impact on baby’s health. TBT, a chemical compound which is known to disrupt sex hormones, has been found in disposable nappies. It is something which should not being in contact with babies’ skin. Not to mention the super absorbent chemicals, paper pulp and adhesives. Other bleaches, colorants and fragrances also increases the chance for allergy – just like in Bobcat’s case. (Eczema)
- Impact on your wallet. Reusable nappies can save parents up to£600 per child. If you use the nappies for another child too, that’s £1.200. These savings can be greatly increased if you don’t tumble dry them, wash them on 60 degrees only and without fabric softener.
- Impact on potty training. Bobcat is a late talker. But since we’re using cloth diapers, he lets me know when he’s done a poo. Or when he feels too wet. That slight discomfort well worth it: whilst earlier he avoided to be changed, now he takes my hand, leads me to his changing mat and “asks” to be changed. That’s a step closer to potty training. With reusable nappies babies tend to potty train much earlier.
- Great absorbance. Even with really explosive poo, the cloth nappy performs better. It’s easier to detect when a nappy needs changing as disposable nappies bulk up and draw moisture away, so that you’d think the nappy was dry.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!
I normally have this in the freezer all the time, for Bobcat and for the days when he’s extra picky and won’t eat anything substantial. Pasta can always come. So it’s a good idea to add as much healthy and nutritious ingredients to a pasta dish as you can. Very simple to prepare, a real comfort food for him. If you cook everything really soft, it’s a great weaning meal too. The recipe below will give you 3-4 toddler portions.
half a head of broccoli, broken into florets
150g pasta (any kind of, really)
2 small garlic cloves, minced
150ml whole milk
50g medium cheddar cheese grated
half a tbsp of flour
1 tsp of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Start to boil some water in a medium pan and steam the broccoli above it. It takes around 15 minutes to soften, but depends on how tender you want it. In a small pan poach the salmon for 10 minutes in 100ml milk on low/medium heat, add the garlic and the parsley. When it’s cooked, set it aside. We keep the milk too, don’t throw it away. Start to cook the pasta and simultaneously, in a small pan melt the butter, add the flour and simmer for a minute. Add the milk from the salmon pan and keep stirring on low heat when it starts to thicken, add some more milk and the grated cheese. Add some salt and pepper if you wish. When everything cooked, flake the salmon. In a bowl mix everything well. The broccoli should just break into small pieces. Serve it with a some grated cheese on the top.
When my son was diagnosed with eczema, I got really scared. It was mild, but we didn’t know (still don’t) what was the cause, so it was hard to figure it out how to control it. According to the National Eczema Association, it usually starts within the first 5 years of life. (It affects about 20% of children, in some form.) Eczema flares occur when the skin is very dry, it comes in contact with irritating substances or allergic triggers, or when the skin is infected. In our case we didn’t know what was the trigger, not even after 2 different skin tests. So, I had to dig a bit and find help myself.
The most important thing is, we need to avoid the skin going dry and therefore itchy. With some changes, my son is eczema free for the last 8 months! Here’s the list of things which helped me:
- Ditch all your branded baby toiletries (from bubble bath to talcum powder!) and switch to fragrance free, colour free and hypoallergenic products. Sometimes the cheapest non-branded supermarket or chemist products are the best. From 12-18 months onwards soap made with goats milk proved to be good too. Avoid other soap, bath oil, sponge or cloth usage.
- Give your child a bath every day, but the water should be lukewarm. Bath time shouldn’t be longer than 10 minutes. You can skip using bath products every other day, babies and toddlers are not getting too dirty, unless they were rolling in mud.
- Switch to reusable nappies or eco nappies, which aren’t coloured, fragranced or bleached – this could be very irritating for sensitive skin. Unfortunately, there’s very few of them on the market, I use Naty Eco Nappies and washable ones combined.
- Wash baby clothing separately. At least for the first year or 18 months. (Buy only 100% cotton clothing only.) Use washing nuts (well, they work for me!) or non-bio basic washing powder and no fabric conditioner at all. This applies to not only the baby laundry but all laundry in the household. Fabric softeners coat the garment with a thin layer of chemicals, thus your skin is in contact with them all the time. Also, it tends to build up in your washing machine, making no sense to separate the laundry, so just get rid of it. (In my desperation I even tried Ecozone Ecoballs too. I not only almost ruined my washing machine with the balls releasing the pellets – and I used them according what the leaflet said – but basically I could have used golf balls too, as they are essentially washing with pure water.) For stain remover I suggest Ecover Stain Remover
- Use an ointment. Ointments have the greatest oil content and they normally don’t cause burning sensation when applied, unlike lotions and creams (because of the added preservatives). I also tried to switch to bee’s wax based ointment for flares, Purepotions Skin Salvation Intensive Moisturising Ointment worked well for me, read my review about it here: Purepotions Ointment Review
- Limit steroid cream usage, only use it when flare ups are nasty red, itchy and only on affected skin. Use the mildest possible steroid cream. When using it, never apply it more than 2x a day. Stop using it immediately when flares are gone. Some children are not bothered having flares and they are not itching either. In this case you don’t need to use it, it will just look bad.
- Limited direct sunshine helps. Late afternoon sunbath can do really good. Give the little one Vitamin D supplement too.
- Don’t give up. It’s heartbreaking at times and requires some changes, but it can be controlled. Fortunately, in most kids eczema becomes less severe with time.
Remember, never self diagnose. Consult your doctor or a specialist!
Good morning! Baked breakfast? Yes, please! Yummy, hearty, warming and fluffy. Packed with protein and fiber to start the day with. Oh, and no refined sugar. In fact, all you need to add is a little honey, because the banana will give you a naturally sweet taste. Really easy to prepare, you don’t even have to keep stirring like the regular porridge, ideal for weekday mornings. Kids will love it, if it’s soggy enough, you can give it to your small toddler too. I love it! This recipe will give you about 2 adults’ portion.
100ml oat (any kind of, really)
1 thick slice of hearty, crusty bread, cubed (I used my home made half brown – half wholegrain bread)
1 ripe banana, sliced
hint of cinnamon
splash of vanilla extract
1 ts of honey
1 ts of butter
Preheat oven to 200C and in a shallow baking dish combine everything well. Then wait about 30 seconds, until the bread absorbs the milk. If it looks to dry (it has to look quite soggy, as most of the milk will cook off in the oven). Bake it for 15-20 minutes, the longer you leave it in the oven, the crunchier the top will become. Enjoy!
Hungary is famous of its thermal water and bath culture. Not only the capital, Budapest: there are lots of great hidden gems of spa and wellness hotels in the country up to the highest European standards. The one we visited during our winter stay was the Magical Bambara Hotel**** Premium
It is about an hour and a half drive from Budapest, mostly on motorway. It was a shame, that it was too cold for an outdoor walk during our stay (-12C, ouch) because the hotel is in the middle of the forest bounded by nature conservation area built on a 4 acre woody sylvan area. From summer to fall it’s a great place to go hiking, mountain biking and walking. Near the village Felsőtárkány You’ll find a cute forest railway built in 1915, should be great fun for train for train enthusiasts and children (operates in summer only). Plenty of outdoor activities in the nearby National Park. Eger, the nearest biggish town and the wine cellars nearby also worth a visit.
The hotel itself, both in summer and winter time, provides enough fun for a few nights stay with children. Their approach is so children and family friendly, that the hotel is filled with families mainly. If you’re annoyed by children at the slightest, or you’re planning to have a quiet getaway, this is not a place for you. For us, however, it worked brilliantly. The indoor spa area has a children pool and even the bigger pool is safe and fun with supervision. The staff even provides swimming nappies and floating arm and waist bands for free. There is no indoor swimming pool, just the fun pools, but they are great. No gym either. All sorts of relaxing treatments for grown ups: sauna, steam, salt and aromatic cabins, massage, you name it. All spotlessly clean and well maintained.
Plenty of activities and programs for the kiddos: strategically located soft play corner near the restaurant, meeting with the hotel’s very own meerkats, family pool paradise, jungle house and Matrix Club for the teenage children. The room sizes are generous too: big enough to accommodate a travel cot.
There is an option to choose between a’ la carte and boarding. We opted for boarding, some pluses and minuses here with the variety and quality (whilst ostrich ragout (!), fresh salads and beautiful desserts are available, the kitchen is mainly still Hungarian style and… Well, a bit bland. Boring. (I know, what I’m talking about, I’m Hungarian.) I guess, the food needs to be less spicy for the children. On the other hand, worth to try the local red wine selection: Egri Bulls Blood. Great free tasting programs every day: African tea serving, Hungarian cheese tasting, African fuming and live music in the evenings.
We would definitely return at some point, really enjoyed our stay. Hopefully soon enough.