“ Free annual children's event held at Milton Keynes Bowl in Thornborough, Buckingham. „
I simply must tell you about a fantastic day out I had with my daughter and two youngest granddaughters at the end of July. My baby granddaughter is obsessed with Peppa Pig, The Backyardigans and all the Nick Jnr characters, one day while we were watching the channel an ad came on informing me that they were giving away thousands of tickets to an event they had organised called Nick Jnr's Jump Up!. I successfully applied for tickets and we set off on the long journey to Milton Keynes, where the event was being held.
We had tickets for the afternoon as we live too far away to have been able to get there for the morning event, but come 1.30pm we were queuing up with our e-tickets in hand ready to be admitted into the Milton Keynes Bowl. The event was organised for children between 3 and 7, so at 14 months and 9 years my granddaughters were both outside the target audience but they had a great time nonetheless.
Jump Up! featured many of the Nick Jnr characters in various surroundings and no expense had been spared in bringing these characters to life for the visiting children. What they'd done was split the grassy flat area of the Bowl into different areas and each area was set aside for one particular character or another. The main areas concentrated on Dora The Explorer, The Backyardigans, Peppa Pig, Thomas The Tank Engine, Blues Clues and Lazy Town.
Every area had something different and fun for children to do or experience. The only thing I was disappointed by was The Backyardigans area because although it looked fun and was decorated with a jungle and pirate theme, the only activity there was for the children was to sit and listen to an adventure story read by the Nick Jnr staff. This area was bedlam because the children were all so excited at their day out that there was absolutely no way they were about to sit down quietly for a story, however enthusiastic the story tellers were! My nine year old granddaughter took her baby sister in to listen for a minute or two but I soon saw they were only adding to the kiddie-riot that was going on inside so I hauled them out fairly quickly!
Incidentally I have changed my profile picture to show you my baby granddaughter giving her favourite Backyardigans character, Uniqua, a big kiss when she spotted a life sized poster of them that had been erected outside their area. You cannot see it properly, but she was in raptures and kept running over to me and her mum to giggle at her favourite Nick Jnr characters bought (almost) to life.
The best area I thought was the Blues Clues section which had a ball pit, beach balls, large yoga type balls and special 'clues' dotted around the floor. This was ideal for my granddaughter because she was able to run around without fear of being hurt, her big sister had gone in there with her to keep a watch on her but in the end even she ended up having a wonderful time burning off some energy! It was so comical when my baby granddaughter climbed into the ball pit because she sank immediately to the bottom and the member of staff looking after that area literally dived into the balls to save her. Can you suffocate in small plastic balls I wonder?
Other areas included a massive Thomas The Tank bouncy castle which was shaped like Thomas and large enough to easily hold 20 or 30 children. Obviously the baby couldn't go on it but my nine year old granddaughter had a whale of a time bouncing around with friends she had made whilst queuing up. The Dora The Explorer area also incorporated her rather famous cousin Diego and was set up like a jungle scene, it looked too old for my baby granddaughter and too young for her big sister so we didn't go in there as the queue was very long because these are very popular Nick Jnr characters. Likewise the Peppa Pig area, to be honest this looked quite interesting for the children but the queue was huge so we went and looked at something else after getting the kids' photos taken with the large Peppa and George Pig standees.
My absolute favourite part of the whole event was the Fifi Flowertot area where children could get their faces painted, plant a seed in small plastic cups to take home, learn about gardening and colour in pictures of Fifi and all her flower friends. This was a real hands on area and it didn't matter for a minute that my granddaughters got soil on themselves because their beaming faces reflected what a wonderful time they were having. My older granddaughter had her face painted with sparkly purple butterflies, it was extremely professionally done and looked spectacular.
There were lots of freebies and goodies given out at the Jump Up! event, as soon as we walked into the Bowl my granddaughters were handed a Nick Jnr goody bag which consisted of some nice items including full length Dora and Diego story books, stickers, a comic, frisbee and small tube of Piz Buin sun tan lotion. Then after they had partaken in the various areas they were given a small free gift relating to the area they had just visited, after the Thomas bouncy castle they were given a plastic whistle and a set of Thomas badges and the Blues Clues area yielded a set of sweet Blue postcards and a poster. The freebies were basic but all of very good quality and obviously chosen by the organisers with small children in mind, I thought Nick Jnr were extremely generous giving all of this stuff away when we had paid nothing to even attend the event.
Oh, I almost forgot. Throughout our three hour visit there was a live stage show which featured lots of Nick Jnr characters, to be honest there was so much to do that we didn't actually sit and watch the show but it could be seen and heard across the whole of the Bowl. Sportacus was there doing back flips and probably saving the day, and I also spotted Pablo from The Backyardigans on stage although what he was doing I don't know! The show seemed to get a very good reaction from the more patient children who were sitting watching it and it seemed to be very interactive with the audience fully participating in songs and exercises when the (rather patronising) Sportacus decided they had done quite enough sitting down for one day!
There was food available for purchase here but it was very expensive, the food vendors were independent and as usual charged through the nose because there was no choice if you were hungry than to buy from them. If you attend next year I'd suggest a cool bag with a nice picnic as who wants to go to a free event and then pay £6 for a burger or £5 for a tiny portion of sausage and chips? Not me, we ate our sandwiches and waited until we saw a McDonalds on the way home for a larger munch!
I'm sure you can tell we all had a wonderful time. The staff Nick Jnr had put on the Jump Up! event were wonderful with the children, very pleasant and obviously knowledgeable about what kiddies want. It was a very safe environment for children of all ages, with the areas securely fenced off and members of a security team manning all the exits on the look out for mini escapees. There was also a non smoking policy which members of staff were enforcing, asking rogue smokers (like my daughter who tried to have a crafty ciggie while we were having our lunch) to put out their cigarettes because of the dangers they posed to the children running around. Very well organised and sensible in my opinion.
You've obviously missed this years Jump Up! event now, but it is an annual happening at various locations across the country so keep an eye on the Nick Jnr website around May next year for details of the 2009 event. www.nickjnr.co.uk - if you have young children or grandchildren add this site to your favourites and keep checking and you too might be lucky enough to grab one of the 10,000 free tickets for next summer. I know I'm hoping to go again.