Call it brave or just plain foolhardy, but this weekend we decided to take our 20 month-old to CBeebies Land. Emily loves CBeebies, and in all honesty, the presenters Andy and Kat have been like surrogate parents to her when I’ve needed a few minutes to finish work or sort the house.
When your addiction to Tesco’s donuts is so great that you’ve saved up enough ClubPoints for a free day out to Alton Towers (and a free meal in Pizza Express to-boot), you might as well make the most of it, am I right?
So we cashed in our points and headed to where all great weekends start – Stoke on Trent.
As soon as we got through the gates at Alton Towers, Emily spotted a tiny picture of Bing Bunny on a poster and she completely lost her mind. She ran over to it pointing and screaming ‘Bing!’. We probably could have turned around and put her back in the car then – that would have been enough excitement for her for one day.
I love how easily pleased toddlers are. It’s one of my favourite things about them and it’s only a short-lived phase before they shrug and can’t hide their disappointment at anything that doesn’t match their expectations.
She was about to have her mind-blown in a big way. We reached the main entrance to CBeebies land (shortly after a mini meltdown because I wouldn’t let her climb into the pond to pet the plastic frogs that gob water on each other) and as soon as she saw the little yellow CBeebies ‘blobs’, she broke into a sprint and hugged each one as we walked in.
Experiencing this place for the first time with a toddler was a total baptism of fire. As you can probably imagine, it was teeming with under fives jacked-up on candyfloss, proudly wielding oversize novelty stuffed animals won for them by their grown-ups. At any given moment, you can be pounced upon by the Alton Towers paparazzi, who snap away indiscriminately as you devour a bag of donuts before trying to sell you the treasured memory as a photo for a mere £10.
There were a fair few rides that were too big for our 20 month old, but between the more gentle rides, like the Postman Pat van and the themed play-rooms, like Nina’s Science Lab and the Charlie & Lola House, there was more than enough to keep even the younger visitors entertained. Emily honestly didn’t stand still once the whole morning, she was too busy darting from attraction to attraction.
There were definitely a few low points in our day. Spending over 30 minutes in a cramped queue for the In the Night Garden boat ride with an irate toddler was about as pleasurable as childbirth. But being on the boat and seeing Emily’s face when the Tombliboos peaked out of their bush was incredible – her eyes widened and her mouth dropped. She couldn’t believe she was seeing them in ‘real life’. What was essentially an old river ride with a few animatronic figures was genuinely magical to a young girl who loves to watch that show before she falls asleep each night.
There are free live shows throughout the day, a good mix of indoor and outdoor activities and soft play rooms so even on a Saturday, it didn’t feel too overrun with crazy little people.
Expect to pay through the nose for any souvenir toys and prepare to leave the park feeling utterly exhausted. But the chances are, it’ll be the best day out ever experienced by your toddler…until the next time they happen to see a picture of Bing Bunny in a shop window and that beats any other experience for them.
Would I do it again? Yes, maybe in a year or so when Emily will be able to enjoy it even more. Or when I’ve eaten enough Tesco donuts to earn the ClubCards points for the tickets.