What I Have Learned at Center Parcs

So today is our final full day at Center Parcs. The sun is shining for the first time and the skies are blue. Everyone seemed to wake up in a better mood ready to start the day. I had booked us into a morning activity which I thought was soft play but turned out to be a cross between a toddler group and Gym Babes.

My overall feeling about this holiday is that we would have had just as good a time if not better at home. The activities we have been to are like the classes we go to at home but not as well organised or well led. The pool is good but there is one not too far from our house that is comparable with special fun toddler sessions. Our house is nicer than the lodge we have stayed in, has all the cooking equipment that we need and, of course, all the babies’ toys.

This was supposed to be such a great week. I feel like I have let everyone down because I chose the place and booked the activities. We have not done anything or been anywhere and come away thinking that was great. That was worth doing.

Maybe this all says more about my state of mind than the holiday itself?

This is what I think I have learned this holiday.

My expectations are too high which is why I always end up disappointed.
This holiday I have learned that I am a sucker for an advert and that I believe good marketing material, build things up to be something that they are not and then end up sorely disappointed in reality.
Today is a prime example of that. I booked Esther and William into what I thought was a soft play centre for a 45 minute session. The blurb and photos on the Internet looked great. When we got there it was a cross between our local toddler group and Gym Babes but not as well planned, organised or led. It was a hall with a range of toys out for babies from 8 months to 4 years to play with, with their parents. It was okay but not what I had thought it would be in my head. Esther and William enjoyed it for a while but after 30 minutes we were all more than ready to leave. William was saying goodbye to everyone and heading for the door! I have been disappointed by all the organised activities that we have attended at Center Parcs apart from Musical Melodies which we really enjoyed.

When a baby has just learned to walk the thing which makes them happiest is having time and space to roam.
The thing that William in particular has enjoyed more than anything else is being allowed to walk around the sports complex at Elveden Forest. There is a wooden bridge crossing the badminton courts and then a circular walk around the courts with lots going on and things to see. William has loved just walking round and round and climbing the stairs. I think because walking is so new for him he is enjoying mastering the skill. Esther also enjoys walking and exploring new places. They are much better at that than taking part in any organised things.

We would have had a much better time staying at home.
I have already said about this. For all the money we have spent, the travel, the packing and organisation etc… I wonder if we would have been better staying at home. Esther and William would have had their own cots, all their toys and familiar things whilst at home and we could have spent the money on going for quality days out in our local area. Esther and William love Leeds Castle for example, we could have gone to the zoo and to a farm. We could have gone to all our usual classes but had Daddy with us too. I wonder if that would have been a better use of our time with Daddy? I feel really bad because I planned this holiday thinking we would all have such a wonderful time and it doesn’t feel like that has been the case at all. I carefully planned activities around nap times and just nothing feels like it has gone right at all. Bad Mummy!

I do not know how to deal with toddler tantrums.
Esther and William have decided to use this holiday as a time to start displaying a true toddler tendency – the toddler tantrum. They are very strong minded little things and if they are made to do something that they do not want to do then they will let you know about it. Today has been the worst I think with Esther screaming because she did not want to get back into the buggy. William is just as bad when he does not get his own way. I feel like I should know how to handle these situations but the truth is that I don’t and it terrifies me the thought of having to deal with twin toddler tantrums when I am heavily pregnant and on my own. I need to do some reading and come up with some consistent behaviour managment strategies for our little lovelies, especially for when I am on my own. I really thought teaching would have prepared me for this aspect of motherhood. It has not!

Girls and boys really are very different in some ways and yet totally the same in others.
I am going to write more about this when we are home as their is a book I want to refer to as I am writing. But Esther and William though very similar in many ways are totally different in others, ways that I imagine are stereotypical for boys and girls. Esther for example enjoyed playing with playdough for much longer than William who just wanted to run around. This is a whole other blog post though!

Esther and William’s prematurity has affected their development in some areas.
At Center Parcs we have been to play dough and messy play sessions for children from 18 months. Esther and William are 19 months actual age and 16 months corrected. They are quite advanced with their language both able to link words to make simple phrases and Esther is starting to be able to count. A new development this holdiay! What they cannot do though is concentrate on anything for very long. Play Dough lasted 30 minutes and Messy Play 45. The sessions were not structured and so Esther and William struggled to stay focused, even with the support of Mummy and Daddy. William lasted about 10 minutes a time, Esther considerably longer but we did not stay for the whole of either session. Ihave to say though that we were not the first family to leave either time so perhaps Center Parcs needs to rethink the planning of the sessions or break down the age ranges some more. Certainly with play dough the equipment we were given was not particularly age appropriate. We did not for example have a rolling pin but did have animal body parts to try and make creature models!?! We also found at these organised sessions found that Esther and William were physically too small for many of the table top activities. They could not really appreciate the messy play as they could not see into the trays of jelly and custard or get their hands properly in. They could not reach the sand pit without balancing precariously on a foot stool and they could not reach the waterplay without being held up by Mummy or Daddy. This has proved one thing to me which I already knew, they are not ready yet for nursery and I am not ready yet to send them. There is nothing I feel that they will do at nursery that I cannot do better myself at home and by taking them to organised classes. How this will all fit in when Matilda is with us as well, I really do not know. My feeling at the moment is that rather than pay nursery fees I should pay someone to come and help in our house a couple of mornings a week so that I can do one to one activities with each baby with the support of another adult. The more I think about this the more I like the idea.

I am not sure that I know how to relax.
I think that I over analyse everything. I think too much about things. I imagine how things will be and I am disappointed when things do not go to plan. I want to make my family happy and feel heavily responsible if I think that they are not having a good time. I am too hard on myself and I just need to learn to let go and go with the flow. To make the best of whatever situation we end up in. I am not sure that I know how to do any of this and so find it hard to really relax.

My waterproof camera is not as waterproof as once it was which may have to mean the end of my 366 project!
Nothing to do with Center Parcs this one but something that has really upset me all the same. My camera seems to have broken. I used it with the babies in the pool yesterday and now I cannot switch it on. I have charged up the battery and nothing. It comes on for a second but will not stay on. I am gutted as any readers of this blog will know I take a lot of photos and have been trying to improve my compositions and skills through the 366 project. I can take some pictures with my phone and hope that this will do until I can afford to replace the camera or it makes a miraculous recovery.

So there we have it. Our not so brilliant week at Center Parcs. Tomorrow we head to The West Bay Club on the Isle of Wight which I am hoping will be much better.

This afternoon, when the Squidgers wake up, we are off to play in the pool. We will not be going to our not soft play Fun Zone activity in the morning. Instead we will have a walk in the woods before heading off in the car to the Isle of Wight.

9 thoughts on “What I Have Learned at Center Parcs

  1. I’m really sorry to hear that you haven’t had a lovely holiday. It’s hard isn’t it the expectation we put on a week off! We learnt the hard way too that when the twins were little staycationing at home was just easier, more relaxing and enjoyable for all. We’d get a babysitter a couple of nights so we could go out and that made for a good week!

    We did take them to Center Parcs last year as part of a big family trip, we only went for three nights and they were with their cousins and had a ball (my oldest was 4 then and the twins turned 2 while we were there) but we didn’t do any activities and spent the happiest hour playing in the playground!

    We haven’t found the perfect solution but do love Clydey Cottages in Wales as it’s super baby and child friendly but it’s quite remote which doesn’t suit everyone. This year we’ll be going to Clydey and then staycationing once more. Twins do get a lot easier, now they’re almost 3yrs I think it’s easier having two than one as they keep each other entertained.

    Hope the Isle of Wight is lovely for you (its where I grew up!).

    • Thank you. I think if we had been with more family it would have been different. Looking forward to some spring weekends at home now and then next year we will try again with a holiday and think we will probably go and stay on a farm x

  2. I am sorry you haven’t enjoyed the break as much as you could have done.

    I can highly recommend Toddler Taming, by Christopher Green. It doesn’t really go into strategies so much as understanding why your toddler is behaving like that and how to change your own perception. I’ve found it really useful.

    I think with toddlers it really helps to see that they are just trying to make sense of a really confusing busy world. You are not doing anything wrong, its completely normal.

    Personally preschool, Joseph goes 3 mornings a week, that he started at 2 years 3 months, has done him the world of good.

    What I find really interesting is all my teacher friends have found toddlerhood really hard “if I can behaviour manage a classroom why are my toddlers walking all over me” and it’s just totally different.

    Relax and enjoy them.

    • Thank you for such a lovely comment and for the book recommendation. I have ordered it! Esther and William will start nursery in September or when we move house. I hope that it will be good for them and I also think it is important for the new baby to be able to do baby things. Being a teacher first and a Mummy second is hard I think, I wonder how it would have been the other way around??? x x x x

  3. I’m sorry that you didn’t have a very good time at Center Parcs. We’ve had some very successful holidays there over the last few years (the first with just a four month old, the most recent with a nearly 3 year old and a five month old) but I can see where you’re coming from.

    We’ve been lucky enough to go with my parents, so we’ve been able to go out as a couple for a meal and to the spa, which is wonderful and this has made a huge difference. I think that we would have struggled without that. We’ve also never bothered with any of the organised activities, because I think that they are incredibly over-priced for what they are, especially if you compare them to the equivalent activities at home. I’m really glad that you’ve given some honest feedback on them, because it has confirmed my suspicions! My toddler wouldn’t have had the attention span for them either at that age.

    It is also a lot of effort going swimming there, especially with a baby because you often have to queue for a family changing cubicle with a changing table, not ideal when you have a cold, wet and unhappy baby.

    We’ve had fun on our trips there, but we’re thinking about moving towards something different for a few years now. We had a lovely time last year on a small farm in Wales in a lovely cottage where we could feed the animals every morning and our toddler loved it, so we might think about something similar.

    Please don’t feel that you’ve let your family down, a change of scene is always good for everyone, and it sounds like your toddlers had fun with new things to see!

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