I am tired. Not really physically but just tired. Every day is starting to feel the same. The rush to get the kids to school, lunches packed and dog walked. The rush to get the house picked up just enough for it not to look like a frat house after a big party. The rush to get to the gym so I can squeeze in some exercise.
Shit. Its time to start dinner.
Got to walk the dog and pick up my son. Finnish dinner, cuddle on the couch for a bit then bedtime.
We have a good routine and we all like it generally but after all it starts feel like Groundhog Day. Am I right?
So every now and then we take a mental health day. A day in the random middle of nowhere to switch things up a little.
Up at 6:30 but instead of packing lunches and organising backpacks we are baking muffins.
8:05 but instead of attempting to wrangle 2 kids into full winter gear for the dog walk and walk to school we are colouring.
Some of these special days we may stay in our pj’s all day. Read books and play with Legos. Do some crafting and baking. I love these days.
Today, on our mental health day we are going to a Christmas Market. A super special outing during the week (I hope it will be less busy than on the weekend).
These are days that I look forward to. They are a chance for me and the kids to break out of our routine and spend some time together. Recharge our batteries and remind ourselves that life is supposed to be a little random and fun and unscheduled. A chance for me to hear my kids laugh more and get extra cuddles.
These are the days that remind me how amazing life is.
This is my favorite indoor place to take the kids. We live there (I’m only exaggerating slightly). We are there every week at least once but sometimes as many as three times. There are a number of reasons for this. I live in Veldhoven and Ballorig is a seven minute drive from my house. It is so totally awesome having a huge indoor play place so close. It’s big, there is loads to keep the kids entertained and the staff is really nice.
But first a story:
My kids are only two years apart so that means I had a very active toddler while I was huge pregnant and at the time we didn’t own a car. The Netherlands is extremely bike friendly and has really great public transportation but the lack of a car definitely made it more difficult to get out. I was having a lot of trouble keeping up with my son out in public but at the same time I knew that I couldn’t really keep him in. Ballorig: Veldhoven had their grand opening one fateful Saturday and had free entry for that day. My husband and I took our son and we bought our year passes that same day. I honestly think it has been the best investment we have made (except the car. I do love owning a car!). That was 3 years ago.
So what makes Ballorig: Veldhoven so great?
The space is a major bonus. There is loads of seating and its spread out so even when it’s super busy you never really feel cramped. And all along one wall there are comfy leather couches. Sit on a couch and read a book while the kids play? Yes, Please!
There is also lots of windows along one side so there is nice natural light.
There are 3 main play areas: The play area for the under 4 crowd, the big kids play area, and what translates to a “climbing volcano” ( a friend of mine finally told me what these are called and I love it).
Here is a picture:
The big kids play area is really nice and big. Everything is padded so it’s really difficult for kids to hurt themselves. There are several different slides, trampolines, giant legos, so many different things!
The area for kids under 4 is really nice as well. It’s big and open and padded. I have spent a lot of time in this area! There is a small padded wall around it with one main entrance/exit. This works really to keep super little kids in but once they have mastered walking its pretty easy for them to escape.
There is also an enclosed soccer field, a fun ladder climbing area and cars to ride. I found the cars very annoying when I first started going there. They cost 1 Euro for a ride and I found it irritating that there was an extra cost for a ride inside somewhere I had just payed to get into. My kids have since leaned that they can push the cars and they take turns pushing each other. I think this is better anyway.
You can not bring your own food and drinks into Ballorig. The food isn’t great, honestly. The french fries are generally good and the gezond sandwich is fine (it’s what I get in a pinch). They have standard fried snacks and “kid food”. I really wish they had more healthy and better tasting “adult” options. My kids love the food but I rarely ever eat there. It really doesn’t bother me much that they don’t have food that I want to eat, it’s a treat for the kids and thats fine with me.
When you want to order you walk up to the counter and order and they give you a buzzer. When your food is ready the buzzer will vibrate and light up and you go pick your food at the counter.
I have a pretty sweet time at Ballorig right now. My son is 4 and completely capable of running around the place on his own. My daughter is a very adventurous 2 and I no longer have to follow her around the place. I actually bring things to keep me busy during the time I spend there (sometimes up to 5 hours). Lately I have taken up knitting again because I have extra time on my hands. I even managed to repair my daughter beloved knuffel bunny there while she played. It’s so amazingly awesome.
Definitely check out Ballorig: Veldhoven. It just might save your sanity on the cold winter days!
Some Practical Information:
Update for season pass holders:
You can’t store your points on the cards anymore. There is now an app for that. There is an app for everything, though. You need to download the app and then bring your phone and your childrens cards to the front desk and they will load the points onto the app. There is good and bad in this. I generally hate putting extra things on my phone so at first this annoyed me. But now the points from both cards will be combined so that’s good. Next step, hopefully, is to scan the app at entry and get rid of the cards completely. Hopefully they will manage that soon.
I almost called this “What a Difference a year makes” because, well, a year has made a huge difference in our lives here in the Netherlands. Of course a year makes a difference, right? Yes, I know. But I tried to take my kids to the Sinterklaasfest at Weverkeshof: Nuenen last year and it was a bit of a disaster. I rarely feel like a complete and total outsider in The Netherlands but on this day I did. I felt like a social failure and I was bringing my kids down with me. If you have ever lived in a foreign country you have had those moments. They suck. Luckily Weverkeshof is pretty great with or without Sinterklaas and the kids had a great outing. That day, one year ago, was saved by my kids ability to see the good in things but this year I was determined to do things differently. You can read about that day by clicking here: What I learned from my kids today
So what were the main changes?
Well, I messaged them and made sure we were going at a good time. This has been a huge step for me in the last year. My confidence level has grown dramatically. In the past I would have been unsure of my Dutch so I wouldn’t messaged them. I decided that if I felt unable to message them in Dutch I would do so in English. They will almost certainly respond in Dutch but thats what Google Translate is for! I mean, yes, I’m foreign. The reality is that they don’t really care. I just want my kids to have a fun outing, just like they do. It took me ages to realise that it’s OK that I am here, Dutch or no Dutch.
But speaking of my Dutch, it has also improved dramatically. I have been taking classes for the last year and I am overall pleased with my progress. Pretty much I can ask for things and if someone speaks to me I can generally understand them and sometimes even respond appropriately (although often in English) instead of standing there looking like a deer in headlights.
I have also decided to embrace the the Dutch. Instead of being pushed around and out of the way because Dutch people seem incapable of standing in a line properly, I shove with the rest of them. A beer in the middle of the afternoon at a kids event? The old me cringed but looking around I noticed a great many adults enjoying an adult beverage and why not? It definitely made the day better! My kids screaming at each other in the middle of the room about who had control over the red crayon? Yep, I have learned that kids will be kids and they all act like crazy little monsters sometimes. Not a huge deal and my ability to stay calm and smile is way more important then their ability to do so.
The Dutch just seem more relaxed than where I came from. It’s awesome.
I was amazed at how differently everything went. We had a really great outing.
The Sinterklaasfest at Weverkeshof: Nuenen takes place between the intocht (the arrival of Sinterklaas in the Netherlands) and Dec 5 ( the night he delivers presents). During that time this great little farm is transformed into a Sint residence. His room is set up so kids can actually see where the man is sleeping while he is in town. There are also rooms set up for his helpers Zwarte Piet and a toy wrapping room (where the magic happens)! Children can meet and sit on Sinterklaas’s lap. He sings songs with them and interacts with each child. There is juice and pancakes and colouring. Music and dancing and kids having a great time. It was great. Everyone was so happy and having fun. It felt like a real community atmosphere.
Weverkeshof: Nuenen is really great even without Sinterklaas. It is a working farm with chickens and goats and donkeys. They also have a really fun playground.
The kids had a blast. My son is now 4 and in school so he is very interested in Sinterklaas this year. He coloured Sinterklaas a picture and gave it to him. It was really sweet. Sint unrolled it and pointed out different things. His main helper put it in the naughty and nice book. My son was so excited!
They coloured and played and ate pancakes.
Did I mention the horse? Sinterklaas travels by horse while staying in The Netherlands, it’s name is Amerigo.
This isn’t the only “residence” around. I hope to take the kids to a few more before the 5th. My son will love it and I am really enjoying watching him experience Christmas this year. This is the first year he has had a real understanding of what’s going on and it’s so much fun!
Go check it out. You won’t be sorry!
Some Practical Information:
Want to know more about Sinterklaas and Christmas in The Netherlands?
Now that we have our fancy museum cards we are on a mission to check out as many of the “kid proof” museums as possible. This is a huge list and is going to take us some time, luckily there is no shortage of study days and school breaks to use up! The Discovery Center Continium: Limburg wasn’t even on my “must visit” list until a friend took his son and sent me a few pics. We went on the next possible day.
Science museums are great for kids but they can be a little tricky to plan. They need to have enough to do to keep the different age groups interested while having nothing that can get broken or hurt the title kids. Continium checks all the boxes. There are plenty of buttons to push for the littlest kids, things to explore and figure out for the bigger kids, and things to build and take apart for the bigger kids. On the day we went we there with a 2 year old, three 4 year olds, and a 7 year old and everyone had a great time and stayed well entertained (while hopefully learning something in the process).
The actual museum is seperated into 4 main areas. Honestly it didn’t feel like there was much of a rhyme or reason to the exhibits but they were all really interesting.
In the area to the right of the entrance there was a place you can learn about how water is processed, thee are giant robots you can make talk and gesture, there is even a bed of nails to lay on!
There was a bus to “ride” (you sit in it and watch a little film), an area to explore how the inside of the body works, and so much more random greatness.
The area to the left had a much more “hands on” science feel. There was all kinds of stuff to do in there. Things like “if I pump this and then press this button this shoots up in the air” and a ball that floats on a fan. There was also a small water area to experiment with.
There is also a hall with puzzles and blocks. This was a little to advanced for my kids so they didn’t stay here long.
Also on this level there is an exhibit room for a changing exhibit. At the time I went it was about the history of communication. There wasn’t much for the kids to do in there but is was interesting to see all the old cell phones. It made me really appreciate my smart phone!
Downstairs (you can see the stairs in the picture above) there are 3 rooms. One is a place you can eat (more on that later), one is a room where big kids can build different things, it’s based on age and the parents have to help (and there is an additional charge). The room my kids spent the most time in my friend called the “chill out room” and for good reason. There are different stations all with a different activity. One station had legos, one had a peg wall where you could build a marble run, one had a an area to take apart small electronics. Its a cool little room and gave all of us a chance to breath after all the mad running around we were doing upstairs.
At the entrance there is a really great touch screen tv. I think my kids could have played with his for hours.
You have 2 options. Thee is a small cafe outside the museum but still in the same building. They serve soup and sandwiches and other basic packaged food. There is an outdoor seating area that I’m sure is nice during the summer. There is also some things for the kids to play with outside so thats another bonus. The day we went it was rainy but my kids were still very excited to go out and explore.
You go to the counter to order and pick up you own tray.
You can also bring in your own food. There is a nice little room inside the museum and down the stairs set up to eat in. It was nice and quiet and had big windows. I always try to bring my own food. Eating with two small children is a bit of a pain, I find myself saying “sit down and eat your food” about a million times before they finally just decide they are done and just run off leaving me to pick up the mess and it can make for an expensive day. Plus eating out at an unknown place is always a bit of a gamble, I’m likely to spend 20 Euros on food that all of my kids will deem “yucky” and then be screaming hungry in and hour so we have to do it all over again. Packing a lunch saves so much frustration (I can’t be the only one this happens to).
Compared to Nemo: Amsterdam.
Science Center Nemo is our favourite museum. We can’t actually go to any other museum on Amsterdam because my kids scream for Nemo (I think they can smell it or something) so whenever I visit another science museum I naturally compare the two. There are pros and cons of each. Nemo is in Amsterdam and I love Amsterdam so this alone is a huge plus. Nemo is a beautiful building, it’s bright and open and really nice to be in. Compared to Nemo, Continium feels a little dark and cramped. Nemo is very open so it’s very easy for me to stand in one spot and keep up with the kids. I really have to follow the kids around Continium because everything is in its own little area.
Continium does win on a lot of points, though. There is MUCH more for the littler kids to do in Continium. It has a better mix of activities for the different age groups. Parking is free at Continium and if you have ever parked in Amsterdam you know that is a huge deal. Continium is also slightly closer and thats always a good thing.
So I’m mixed. I would go back to either happily and I’m sure my kids would as well.
There are a few things that I wish I had known before going.
You have to walk through a lego store to get into the museum. My kids were content to merely look at all the lego sets that were completely put together and drool but if your child is going through an “I want” phase be prepared.
There are stairs.
I went with a stroller and this was a mistake. There is no elevator at the front entrance and when you walk in the door you are confronted with stairs. I got really frustrated about this. I learned later that at the back entrance there is an elevator you can take from the outside down to the main floor (which is sublevel).
The desk to buy your ticket is on this level (as well as the cafe) and to get up into the museum there are more stairs. There is a separate elevator inside to get up the the 1st floor but by this time I had already stashed the stroller in the coat room.
Some Practical Information:
We had a great day at Discovery Center Contium:Limburg. It will make a great option for a rainy study day. I really recommend checking it out. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Don’t have a Museum card?
You can get all the information here: The Museum Card
Intersted in other museum fun with the kids?
I am on a constant hunt to find new indoor places to take the kids. I love living in The Netherlands but I find the winters very difficult to handle, especially now that I have kids. It’s so difficult to keep my two very active monkeys busy and entertained through what always feels like a never ending chain of cold and dreary days. This is why we love finding new indoor play places. The latest indoor play place we checked out was Monkey Town: Valkenswaard. Monkey Town has earned a spot as our second favourite indoor play place.
Monkey Town is one open room with 2 play structures. One is for big kids and one is for little kids (the under 4 crowd). There are lots of tables in the open space at the center of the room and around one side.
The little kid area is THE BEST I have ever seen. It’s just as fun as the bigs kids but everything is smaller. There is a trampoline, a tube slide, roller slide, a ball pit and foam blocks. Its pretty perfect. There is only one entrance/exit and the walls are high enough that kids can’t easily climb out. Trust me, this is a huge bonus! If you can get a table just next to the entrance your little can safely play while you sit and you won’t have to worry about them escaping into an area that is to much for them.
This big kids area is pretty great as well. I was surprised by how big it is and how much there is to do inside!
Giant blocks at the bottom and a place to play soccer at the top! Seriously cool!
My extremely adventurous 2 year old was able to navigate the big kid area ( with the help of her older brother and his friends) but she did get stuck once and I had to go in and rescue her. There was nothing inside that she could hurt herself on so I wasn’t worried, she just couldn’t find her way out.
And the food was surprisingly good. They had all the basic fried snack stuff so I wasn’t really expecting much as far as the “adult food” goes but I was pleasantly surprised. I ordered the “gezond” sandwich because it is always a safe option at these places. It always has sliced cheese and ham as well as some veggies and a hard boiled egg (so its nearly impossible to mess up). I ended up with a really nice sandwich! I will be more adventurous next time.
There are a few things that make Monkey Town stand out for me:
And just in case the kids get bored of all this, there was a little gym. Seriously, tiny workout equipment that the kids were fascinated with. I little treadmill? Yes, please take my money and put it one my living room!
So yes, Monkey Town: Valkensward is pretty awesome! On the day we went we were there from 10:30 till 5:30 (yes you read that right). The kids had a blast and so did I. It is open enough that I could sit and let the kids play and I was still able to keep an eye on them. It was also surprisingly quiet. All the tables were full so it was very busy but it didn’t feel that way. I could have a conversation with my mommy friend easily and we didn’t have to scream. We will go back!
Some Practical Information:
Looking for more indoor play places?
Every fall, my families favorite place to play outside puts on a kabouter hunt! Kabouter Hunting: Bosschuur de Meren is a really great way to spend a fall day.
So what is a kabouter?
Cute, aren’t they? Basically they are what we English speakers call gnomes. They live in little houses in the forest.
The beginning of the hunt you can get in the mood by painting your cheeks a rosy red. Then you follow the path and hunt for the little houses. Will you see a kabouter on the way?
I wrote what I will call the “first draft” of this post a while ago and I really didn’t intend to change it. Its been pretty much the same every year. The kids always love it so we keep going back. They are always changing it around and adding new elements so it never got boring but over the last few years it has been pretty much the same. I was shocked when we went this time! It’s like the little kabouters were whispering in their ear that they needed more color in their life!
These were some of the photos from previous years.
We went yesterday and it was amazing! The little houses were so colorful! They have really outdone themselves.
The trail starts at a little table where you can paint your cheeks a rose red. Then you follow the path of mushrooms through the forest and spot the houses along the rout. Every year we go I get to hear squealing children shouting “A HOUSE! THIS WAY!!” This year we went though the trail twice. The kids found new things on the second round.
These are some of the pictures from the original post. I am leaving them in because I love them. I was so cold!
Here are some pics from this year. Spot the main difference? ( Besides the upgraded houses. Perhaps the little kabouters won the lottery?)
Man, it was warm!!
Totally check it out. Bring a picnic and spend the day. I would recommend a spare change of clothes. Your kids WILL get dirty, embrace it. As you can see my daughter insisted on a brand new dress that her daddy bought for her. She was the best dressed person on the hunt! Luckily she knew enough to wear a tank and shorts under so she could “play properly” and then put the dress back on. Smart cookie, that one. It helps that we practically live at Bosschuur!
Some Practical Information:
My son took this picture of me as we were leaving. Proper bag lady but I love it!
A “speelboerderij” is roughly translated to “play farm”. I am always slightly confused about why this is in the name. It isn’t a farm and although there are chickens in a koop at one corner of the property there are no animals on the premises (to my knowledge and please correct me if I am wrong). Confusion aside, Hullie Speelboerderij: Uden is a great place for the kids to play. There are indoor and outdoor play areas so it is a good option in any weather. Here in the Netherlands there is no shortage of great outdoor spaces but I always struggle to find places for the kids to play when winter comes. This is one reason why Hullie is so great.
Hullie Speelbordoerij is big, VERY BIG. There are 2 main rooms inside and a hallway down the back that leads to smaller rooms that all house different activities, there are also huge amounts of outdoor play spaces.
When you walk in the first thing you see is the desk where you pay. To the left there are tons of tables. If you have older kids that you can just let loose this is a great place to camp. It’s the quietest area and away (as away as you can get) from all the play structures.
Straight on past the counter you will see a hall that leads to the back rooms (more on that in a moment).
The Big Rooms:
Immediately to the right you see an opening into one of the great rooms. Inside there is a GIANT multi level soft play with slides and balls and things to climb on. The is a great play structure and is much loved my my son. It is, though to much for my daughter to handle on her own. My son is 4 and just now able to go in by himself and navigate through without difficulty. If my daughter wants to play I (or usually my husband because he actually enjoys climbing through these things with the kids) has to go with.
And fair warning: the red slide on the outside of the play structure is very fast. Little kids shoot through that thing like a rocket. When my son was little I would get a table right at the bottom of the red slide so when he came doen it I would be able to catch him.
There are also tables surrounding the play area. This is the best place to sit if you have littler kids. Despite the madness it is still relatively quiet and the tables aren’t very tightly wedged together.
There is also a small play area designed for the under 4 year crowd in this room. I find it very small and not very exciting for children who are beyond crawling. I could never get my kids to stay in there for long. Another problem with this space is that older kids seem to want to play in there and I find that very annoying.
If you walk through this room you will enter the next big room. This one is WAY bigger than the first and has another giant soft play in it. They also have a big “mountain”(you know, the giant soft plastic thing that this kids climb and slide down. If you know what these are actually called please let me know!) with a slide. There is also lots more seating.
This is also where the counter is where you order food. Hullie actually as good food for a kids play place. They serve home made pizzas as well as some nice salads and sandwiches along with the standard Dutch snacks. On your table is a card with your table number. When you order at the counter the person will ask you for this number. They will bring you the food when it’s ready. Someone will also come around and collect the plates and such.
Above your head there is a train that kids can ride. When I say ride I mean pedal around the track. This generally ends up being my job so I avoid it. There are stairs at the back that lead up to the trains.
I only sit in this room if there are no other options. It is very loud and very cramped in here. It’s a huge cavernous space full of screaming kids and a train that somehow makes more noise than I can describe. Maybe I have sensory issues, though. It’s possible because no one seems to mind as much as I do.
So, remember that hallway? This is where it gets interesting.
There are smaller (some small and some not so small) all along the back of the building.
My favourite is an art and craft room. There is a different project being done every day and a staff member is in the room to give guidance. Younger ones will often still need the help of a parent . The projects are very cute.
There is also a room filled with giant building blocks, a room containing 2 bounce houses, a small story room with a little gnome scene (this one confuses me, honestly) and 2 larger rooms with a track for peddle cars.
I really like the playgrounds outside although we don’t get to play in them often. Because the inside is so expansive I tend to take my kids here when the weather is bad and thats a shame. There are swings and slides and peddle cars. The last time we went to kids wanted to play outside even though it was raining. That was fine with me because they had their raincoats and I had a covered area with a nice comfy table.
Hullie Speelboerderij is a great option for a fun day out because no matter what your child likes he will find something to keep him or her occupied there.
I also really like how it is decorated. The whole building feels very “old world”. Everything is wooden and decorated with these adorable Dutch gnomes (yes, like garden gnomes. The Dutch call them kabouters and they are adorable).
Honestly though. Hullie is not my favourite. I find it very loud and overwhelming and because there are so many different rooms and hallways it is impossible for me to keep up with both of my kids at once. Luckily my son is just old enough to go off on his own ( 4 years old) but I have to shadow my daughter (2 years old). The little kid area is very small compared to other indoor play places and not very exciting so she won’t stay in there for more than 5 minutes. I think this will all change when she is older, though. When my son was little we would go often. With only one child I could follow him around and play and it was never a problem. We have only been twice since my daughter was born because I find it to difficult. The most recent time was much better and I think it will get better as she gets older.
I will say my kids LOVE IT HERE and have an amazing time when we go.
Some General Information:
Does it look busy in my pictures? Thats because it was super busy. Line waiting to get in the front door busy. If you get there at opening time there is generally not a problem getting a table but wait till early afternoon and you will probably end up standing in a corner holding coats. Unless it’s nice and people can sit outside, that helps.
Put Hullies Speelboerderij: Uden on your list of places to check out. It may become your new favourite!
Looking for other places to take the kids? Check out some of our other favourite places