Written by parents and carers, Edinburgh for Under Fives (EFUF) is a popular guidebook for families covering Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife.
Every month on WOW247, the local experts at EFUF blog about family-friendly attractions, events, cafés and days out in Edinburgh and beyond in an essential new feature for parents. Without further ado, EFUF editor Cathy Tingle shares her top tips for March.
The National Mining Museum in Newtongrange is this month’s big attraction. Coal might not seem the most obvious way to engage little ones, but this five-star attraction has gone all-out to appeal to children, from the roaring Triceratops as you enter the coal exhibition to the multitude of buttons to press throughout, from the area where you can dress up as a miner to the fantastic interactive room where we turned handles to move gears and saw daddy illuminate a lightbulb with pedal power.
There’s a toy-packed gift shop and the new Mini Miners Soft Play (both of which can be visited separately from the museum). All this and a wee outdoor play area, a welcoming café and a couple of canaries called Arthur and Maggie. Free parking and pushchair friendliness round off the package. Adults and older children will find the guided tour of the colliery by ex-miners fascinating. Remember your warm clothes though – parts of this tour can be chilly.
This month, it’s all about igniting wee imaginations. World Book Day is on Thursday (6 Mar) and a range of £1 books for different ages will be published especially. £1 book tokens, redeemable until March 30, have been distributed through primary schools and some nurseries. In Edinburgh, Blackwell’s, Waterstones, The Edinburgh Bookshop and WHSmith will be stocking the £1 books and these shops, plus Usborne Books, will be accepting the tokens. On the day, Blackwell’s will be visiting Out of the Blue Drill Hall, so that tokens can be swapped for a £1 book or put towards any others that take your children’s fancy. For inspiring a lifelong love of reading, don’t forget local libraries which have hundreds of free-to-borrow books and cosy children’s areas.
On March 29 the Scotland-wide Puppet Animation Festival starts. The majority of this magical event, which celebrates its 30th birthday this year, is in April, but make sure you check out what’s going on soon so as not to miss Edinburgh shows like Three Colours at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Albert’s Amazing Acrobatic Flea Circus at Out of the Blue Drill Hall, Two Can Toucan at North Edinburgh Arts Centre or Willie the Wicked Wolf at Craigmillar Arts, all in early April. Wonderment guaranteed, whichever performance you choose.
Places to eat
Ever wondered why we mums like coffee and cake, tea and biscuits? It’s because of the combination of caffeine and sugar (it’s like having an energy drink, but tastier). Luckily for us, there are a multitude of places in and around Edinburgh where you can treat mums to a well-earned boost on Mother’s Day (30 March). I really could go on all day about them, but here are just three.
Mimi’s Bakehouse on Leith’s Shore has quickly attained legendary status for its beautiful baked items and quirky style. It’s a lovely place to go for afternoon tea. But if you’re nowhere near North Edinburgh, don’t panic. Mimi’s Picnic Parlour, with its gorgeous takeaway cupcakes, is more centrally on the Royal Mile.
Treat mum like royalty by booking afternoon tea at the Café at the Palace, Palace of Holyroodhouse. This light, bright and elegant café has lots of space (a garden at the back, large courtyard at the front and plenty of room for pushchairs) and welcoming staff. Combine with a walk in Holyrood Park, a skip up the Royal Mile or a visit to the Palace itself, which has a family room with toys, books and dressing up.
Finally, in the West of the city there’s an exciting new fixture for cake – The Edinburgh Cheesecake Company in Corstorphine. If cheesecake’s your thing, this really is your café. And so that mum can finish her slab of scrumptiousness in peace, there’s a great little play area for kids, complete with a wee kitchen (with tea and cake accessories, of course!).
• Want more cake? 5 of the best cafés for cake in Edinburgh
An idea for a day out
We couldn’t wait any longer to write about this as the day out (and some might wonder why it took so long), but this month East Links Family Park near Dunbar is the place to go for a fantastic, family-friendly trip that really will take an entire day.
Ride on the Super Train Safari to see all the animals, which include cattle, sheep, hens, pygmy goats, deer, pigs, horses, donkeys, llamas and wallabies. If the weather’s fine, there are trampolines, go karts, the Fortress (a multi-activity structure for a range of ages and abilities), outdoor toys and much more.
Rain? No problem. Take the opportunity to visit the Haybarn with its climbing walls, the Playbarn with soft play and bouncy castle, or the ball blast arena. This March there are lots of new arrivals to meet including goat kids, rabbit kittens, chicks, a donkey foal and lambs, one of whom is being bottle fed (visitors can help with this!).
Edinburgh for Under Fives reviewers recommend annual membership as a good option if you visit once and can’t wait to return − as a family of four, you’ll get your money back within four visits.
Best place to go beyond Edinburgh
The Owl Centre, which opened here in 2012, is a great place to visit with kids, with hundreds of owls to see and regular flying shows for visitors.
The wider, free-to-enter Polkemmet Country Park offers beautiful woodland and riverside walks, an extensive playpark and opportunities to spot such wildlife as roe deer, herons and badgers. It also happens to offer another opportunity for the mum in your family to enjoy a nice slice of cake, as its café is run by the fabulous Ivory Tower Cakes – an excellent reason to visit this March!
Pictures: © TSPL unless otherwise stated
Edinburgh For Under Fives on WOW247
Edinburgh for Under Fives was started by Edinburgh NCT and has been enriching the lives of under 5s for the past 28 years. The next edition of Edinburgh for Under Fives is out this May. More info at www.efuf.co.uk. Follow them on Twitter to get the day-to-day about what’s going on for under 5s, or discover what they’ve been up to recently by reading their blog.