Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens – an honest review

Today our four year old turns five. What with him starting school a few weeks ago I’m fresh out of emotions at milestones, so I’m coping just fine! Five suits him, and I remember from the teen that five is a good year. Less tantrums, more personality. Though this kid has personality by the bucketful already, I’m not sure I could handle any more! We didn’t throw him a party this year, as he doesn’t know all the kids in his class yet, so instead we took him to Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

It’s a dreary Monday and I’m the bad (good?) sort of mum who makes her kids go to school on their birthdays. He opened all his gifts before school – a street sweeper, mini bus, log lorry, crane and sea plane in a variety of Lego, Playmobile and Sika…he’s a total vehicle geek. Another thing he geeks out over is dinosaurs. He geeks out over those hard.  We’ve seen every dinosaur movie possible, our house is over run with books and toys, and the little dude can tell you facts about the most obscure dinos (as well as pronounce their names).

So when I first heard about the Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens I knew we had to take him. Animatronic dinosaurs would blow his little mind.  I had the tab open on my browser for months until the tickets went on sale, and yesterday it was finally our time to experience the magic.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

getting there, getting in

I’ll get the bad bits over with first.  The tickets for Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens weren’t cheap – for a family of four it was over £10 per perso. The customer service is poor to non-existent too.  I raised a request via Eventbrite and got no response, and on Facebook had to chase for a reply which was curt to say the least.

I also didn’t like the booking process.  If you’re thinking of going when the tour moves on to other areas of the country, don’t book as soon as the tickets go on sale.  I did that, only to find that a discount code was released the next day.  Not a nice way to treat your most keen customers.  The tickets are also non-refundable, which isn’t great when you’re buying in advance for children. Better hope they don’t come down with chicken pox or something on the day!*

Obviously if you catch the tour somewhere else this one may not be an issue, but specific to Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens there is no dedicated parking.  We didn’t see that as a problem but I thought it was worth a mention here.  We got parked on Byres Road, which was free and unrestricted as it was a Sunday. There are also a couple of car parks nearby.  But I would guess the car parks would fill up quickly, and they aren’t free.  On-street parking is restricted and most of it is residents only, so I’d recommend public transport if at all possible. Our friends got public transport, which is great to that part of the city.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

the dinosaur experience

The dinosaurs are laid out at points along a route through the Botanic Gardens.  The route was well sign-posted and was fine for pushing a pram along, though due to where it is there were hills and part of the route does take you out on to a road.

We were greeted by a colossal Brachiosaurus as we made our way up to the start of the route. The wee guy was a bit nervous at first!  The dinosaurs make noises, and he wasn’t too sure about that.  He soon warmed up though, when he saw some Pterodactyls in the trees. After that he excitedly ran from dino to dino, getting up close and really enjoying himself.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

The models themselves were really good, and there were facts about each one.  A lot of them moved and made sound so it was a lot of fun being roared at!  It was really busy when we were there, but the models are spaced out well enough that there’s plenty of room to see them and pose for photos.

We were lucky enough to get a typical Scottish summer day for our visit. The heavens ripped open and torrential rain pelted us before we even got halfway round the route.  We’d worn our trusty waterproofs, which was lucky as there is very little shelter.  Feeding the baby under a bridge while rain thundered down and a T-Rex growled menacingly at us is a memory I wont forget.  It was like being in our own version of Jurassic Park. We just needed an upturned car to complete the scene.  Make sure you check the weather and dress appropriately so your trip isn’t spoiled by soggy socks!

Highlights of Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens for us were the Raptors snacking on another dinosaur, the Euoplocephalus and of course the enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex!  It was also nice to see the Botanic Gardens, which I haven’t been so since I was a kid.  We’ll definitely be visiting there again once the dinosaurs have moved on.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

facilities and extras

There were portaloos and catering facilities at the mid-point, although we didn’t need to use them.  There was also a merch trailer selling all things dinosaur.  Our little guy chose a plastic model Pachycephalosaurus (he can pronounce it, I can’t) which was £9.  I actually didn’t think the toys on sale were too badly priced.

There were ride-on dinosaurs and a VR experience, both which cost extra.  The wee guy wasn’t interested, so I don’t know if they were worth the money.

There are also an egg and a dinosaur’s jaws near the entrance, to use as photo props.  They are free, but the queue for these was pretty long so we didn’t use them.  As you can tell from his pained expression in the photos, the birthday boy wasn’t in the mood to pose!

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

overall – is jurassic kingdom at glasgow botanic gardens worth it?

Given the bad experience with booking, I was really worried that Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens was going to disappoint.  I’d read some less than positive reviews from other stops on the tour, especially about the condition of the models.  Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised.  The models were all working and all looked great.

In terms of value for money…are these things ever value for money?  But I didn’t feel ripped off as we walked around.  Sadly the weather was pretty awful for us yesterday. But we were waterproofed up enough to still enjoy it and see everything there was to see.  We could have easily made a day of it, with a picnic and going round the route more than once, had the weather been at least dry.  We’d love to do it again for that reason, though not at the current price.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

The tour still has some places in the UK to visit. I’d recommend it if you have a little dinosaur nerd like ours,  particularly if they’re under the age of ten. Though I did see childless adults enjoying it just as much as our crowd!

 

 

*They say they’re non-exchangeable too, but Eventbrite do let you change the names on the tickets.  So if you are unable to go you could always sell your tickets to someone else.

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first day of school – how we prepared for our baby starting primary

It’s that time of year. Summer holidays are over and the schools are back.  I’ve seen the Dear Teacher poem doing the rounds on social media, read blogs by mothers distraught at the thought of their little one walking through the doors of “big school” and clicked past countless adverts for iron-on name tags.  Parents all over the country are packing their babies off for their first day of school.

first day of school - how we prepared for our baby starting primary

This year we joined them, watching our four year old toddle off for his first day of school.  It’s a rite of passage, for parents as much as for the kids.  One which is meant to come with tears and bittersweet longing for the baby you were holding only yesterday.

But actually, I wasn’t one of the sobbing mums having to be peeled off her child and bodily removed from the classroom.  I found this next adventure exciting. I couldn’t wait to see him in his uniform and to share in his first day with him.  Hubs and I walked out of the school that first morning beaming.  Not distraught, but proud.

 

the build up to the first day of school

I hadn’t always expected to feel so positive on his first day of school.  When school sign-up time came around he still seemed far too small for that to be looming already.  I worried that school would be a scary and difficult place for our little guy who still needed us so much.

But there have been many steps up to the school gates.  With each of those steps we’ve felt a bit more ready. When we signed him up, he and I were given a tour of the school.  The nursery also took him to spend some time there, and the teachers visited the nursery.  Then came a couple of sessions where the kids spent a few hours in the classroom without parents or nursery staff.  The end of nursery was signalled by an adorable graduation day, and folders of all his work to bring home.

This all brought nursery to a gentle close, and opened the school gates to welcome our little man.  It meant I could happily watch him disappear into the classroom with a herd of other tiny little people without wanting to break down.  He was happy to go too, and has loved it every day since.  He’s become a bit of a role model, taking kids who aren’t so happy to be dropped off each morning under his wing.  He comes out of school grinning at 3pm, with his shoes all scuffed, shirt untucked and tie skew-whiff as if he’s been on the go all day!

first day of school - how we prepared for our baby's first day of primary

 

help prepare your little one (and you) for the first day of school

I know we’re quite lucky that our transition from pre-schooler to primary school kid has been so smooth.  And I know that not every child will find it so easy to make that leap.  Even children that have been through the exact same settling in process as our boy struggled on the first day of school.  A week later some are still crying and having to be coaxed through the gates.

I thought I would share some of the things we did to prepare our son for school. I hope it will help even one other parent avoid the school gate heartbreak:

  • Talk about school
    We talked about school every day over the summer.  Sometimes it was just a comment – “you’ll get to do that at school.”  At other times we read books about school, or just had a chat about how he was feeling.  We also pointed out some things that would change too, like having to wipe his own bum!
    I took his lead – if he wasn’t interested I didn’t push it. I wanted school to be a positive topic.
  • Make school familiar
    We drove past the school whenever we could, and pointed out children in the uniform.  To give him ownership we referred to it as “your school” and we didn’t call it “big school” either, to avoid it seeming intimidating.
  • Try on the uniform
    I bought my son’s uniform way back at the start of the summer. We tried it on at the time, but it then lived in his wardrobe for weeks.  I tried it on him again the week before school started, more to make sure the trousers didn’t need taken up, but I think this made him more comfortable.  I wasn’t sure how he’d cope with a shirt and tie (he refused to wear one even for our wedding!), but he’d got used to it by the time the first day rolled around.
  • Build independence
    As a full time working mum trying to get two kids out the house by 7.15am each day, sometimes it was just easier to do certain things. But in the run-up to the first day of school I made an effort to encourage more responsibility.  Things such as dressing himself, carrying his own bag, finding his own belongings at the end of the nursery day and yes, wiping his own bum.  I also encouraged him to carry his own plate to the table. I even got him to use toilet cubicles on his own when we were out in public (I think that was scarier for me than him!).  This all built him up, and made me more confident that he’d be ok doing these things at school.
  • Get used to other kids
    Having been in childcare since he was a baby, our son is well used to other kids.  But they’re the same kids he’s been with for most of his life. The move to school meant new faces and personalities to get used to.
    Soft play was really helpful in teaching him how to deal with strangers, either turning them into friends or coping with behaviour that he didn’t like.  So far at school he sticks with his nursery friends, but they are very close so I’d expect that.  He is learning new names and getting to know other children too though, and is confident enough to say hi when we see them outside of school too.
  • Routine, routine, routine
    I think this is key to any aspect of a young child’s life, they thrive on routine. Again, we had it easy with this one.  We’ve been in a routine of getting up, fed, dressed and out the house for 7.15 every day since our son was tiny. But over the summer (and with a newborn) this routine slipped. In the weeks before school started I made an effort to impose structure to our day again.  That has helped our mornings run smoothly – we haven’t been late once so far!
    Routine also goes for what happens after school too. We use the walk home to unpack his day, get some fresh air and have a snack. Then we get homework out the way and make sure everything is ready for the next day when we get home.  That means the evening is his to play as he wants.

 

new school kid on the block

I’ve gone from thinking he wasn’t ready, to wondering if the teachers are ready for him!  Our son is a vibrant little boy who is always talking and wanting to know everything. We frequently describe him as “full on” because he doesn’t seem to have an off switch.  He is confident, articulate and picks things up quickly, and school hasn’t intimidated or unsettled him. He has big ideas and the vocabulary to match.  But  he can be stubborn and determined, even in the face of adult opposition, so I wonder how he’ll get on having to sit quietly or do the prescribed work if there’s something he’d rather be doing!

I guess we’ll find out when parents’ evening rolls around!

 

Good luck to any other parents about to send their little one off to primary school.  Each milestone takes them further away from the tiny babies they were, but see it as an exciting adventure. Think of all that they’ve got to look forward to!

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our rainy day on the farm

 

We are lucky in that we live in a very beautiful part of Scotland.  We’re close enough to cities like Glasgow and Stirling to enjoy all that they offer but far enough into the country that we’re surrounded by natural beauty and opportunities to get out and about.

So that’s just what me and the boys did recently, to kick off my maternity leave.  Despite the rain, we headed to a local farm, who were having a fairy woodland weekend.  There were games (racing rubber ducks using water pumps was a clear winner, and even the teenager joined in for that), crafts and a hunt through the woods to find fairy doors.

We also went on a tractor ride around the farm to meet the animals.  I don’t think I need to say what a stupid idea it was for a heavily pregnant woman to ride through fields on a trailer…this would be obvious to anyone.  Except me, it would appear.  It was only as we set off and the first few jolts knocked me that I started to worry about my waters breaking.  But we made it through intact and the four year old was made up to have gone on it, so at least I scored some mum points.

Living in the west of Scotland – possibly one of the wettest places on earth – we’ve come to embrace that saying about there being no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.  And actually, I’m usually glad when conditions are a little less than perfect on a day out because there are less crowds to bother with.  Clouds over crowds…I should get a t-shirt made up with that on it.

The other great thing about a bit of rain is that I think there’s something beautiful about nature when it’s wet – the colours and smells just seem to be a bit more alive.  Plus, there’s nothing quite like being slapped in the face by a wet branch as you race after an intrepid explorer on the hunt for fairies.

From my point of view it was quite an emotional day too.  As we tucked into some lush home baking in the farm shop, I said to the boys do you know, this is the last time we’ll have a day out just the three of us.  Struck by the fact that next time there’ll be another little person in our gang soon, that this was the end of an era for us, I thought that was kind of a big deal.  The mum, please looks I got back from the teen and the four year old told me I was alone in the moment though, and they got stuck straight back into their obscenely large strawberry tarts.  Maybe it was for the best, it would have been a bit cringe if I’d burst into hormonal tears and hugged them to me in the middle of the café.

We had a lovely day out, and I’m hoping that once the baby arrives and the school holidays start our summer will be full of more adventures to share on here.

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Pink Pear Bear
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