Independent Lincoln makes buying small easy

Lincoln has developed in recent years to become a shopping destination with a wide range of retailers including many that welcome younger visitors through their doors.

Start in the St Mark’s Shopping Centre and you’ll find big brand names such as Mothercare, Mamas and Papas, Toys R Us, The Entertainer and Debenhams.  Move into the centre of the city and you’ll find an area starting to show the benefits of its ongoing rejuvenation.

But it’s when you take steps towards and up Steep Hill to the top end of Lincoln that you’ll be rewarded with a selection of independent shop frontages that are unique to the city.

As today is Small Business Saturday – “a grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small business in their communities” – The Mini Malpi asked a couple of those stores what they’d pick from their ranges as Christmas presents for little ones this year…


Bo Peep Boutique (Bailgate, Lincoln) 

A family run business, Bo Peep Boutique stocks children’s clothing, lifestyle products and traditional toys that describes its ranges as “one of a kind, quirky, different, funky and fun”. Here are just some of Emma’s favourites.LottieDoll

“We love Lottie Dolls (recommended age 3+) because they are aspirational and based on a child’s proportions rather than a grownup. £18.99.

Janod“Janod Storyboxes are one of our favourite new products. These boxes are designed for imaginative play including knights, firefighters and fairytales. £9.99

Tigger“The Orange Tree Winnie The Pooh range is suitable from 12 months plus. The new range of wooden toys just launched includes pull-alongs, trains and pushups.  Lovely and traditional, starting from £4.99.

JellyCatAquaBunny“Jellycat, designed in the UK, are the softest soft toy range on the market.  We stock a wide range including books, comforters and toys from £8 upwards.”


With Love From Lincolnshire (Burton Road, Lincoln)

With Love From Lincolnshire is definitely the perfect place to visit on Small Business Saturday as where “every item has been lovingly handmade by local craftspeople” “you will find over 70 small local business under one roof”.  Like most small independent stores, Pirjo Holtta doesn’t stock anything she doesn’t love herself but here she picks out some highlights for us.

Cardigans“The most beautiful cardigans are crocheted by Justine.  These cardigans come in all the colours of the rainbow and in sizes: 0-3m £6, 3-6m £6, 6-12m £7, 1-2yrs £8, 3-4yrs £10, 5-6yrs £12, 7-8 £14.  By buying one of these cardigans you don’t only support one small local business but three!  The Stylecraft Special DK yarn is from Number Four (also Burton Road, Lincoln), Justine (Just Handmade) has crocheted the cardigans and you can buy them from With Love From Lincolnshire.

“Nothing keeps a little one warm like a lovingly handmade blanket or a quilt and we stock a range, including some with matching bunting, by crafters Val, Nicole (Little Sew It All) and Justine.  And we’ve also got lots of hats and mittens for little ones full of character!

Octocape“Jacqui’s octocapes are her best selling items!  With no fiddly buttons you just put it over your child’s head and it will keep their neck and chest warm without bulkiness. Great to wear in a car seat too! £5.50.

“Reversible dresses for little ones must be one of the best inventions ever!  Accidents happen and no-one needs to know if you’re wearing one of these – just quickly turn it round!  These are easy to put on and take off with snappers on the back or on the shoulders.  This is also a great time to buy a pinafore dress. Add layers underneath and cardi on top, start reducing layers towards spring and wear on its own in the summer!  £9 each or 2 for £15 by Rachel Pugh and from £7 in sizes 0-4 by Pauline.

GrowMePants“These Grow-With-Me-Pants have been designed and made by Karen Booth Designs with folded hems and waistband for your little one and are made with a pre-washed cotton and lycra jersey fabric for minimal shrinkage and added bounce back comfort.  No digging in elastic!  They are £7.99 a pair in sizes from newborn to toddler.”


Lindum Books (Bailgate, Lincoln)

Looking for a book?  Independent book store Lindum Books gave us their recommendations here: Seasonal stories make perfect presents.


If you are challenging yourself to the sheer walk up the hill (or taking the bus and walking down) then you might also want to pop in to Annual (Grantham Street, Lincoln), that has a passion for unique design and an exploration into making the world for children stimulating and fun, and Object and Line (Bailgate, Lincoln) that searches out small to medium companies worldwide that have high design values.

Are you buying small this year?  Recommend a local business from near you in the comments below and make someone’s day!


Escape into literary winter wonderlands

Whether as part of an advent calendar, included in a Christmas Eve box, a stocking filler or a main present, there’s no doubt that books make great Christmas presents – they even make the cut in the “four gift rule” of want, need, wear and read – so no wonder there are so many great titles to choose from.  Here Deborah Holland of Waterstones, Lincoln picks out a few of her favourites with a wintery theme to look out for if you’re buying for mini ones this year.

polarbearexplorersThe Polar Bear Explorers’ Club – Alex Bell (Faber & Faber, PB, £6.99)
This book is a brilliant fantastical adventure story with a stunning cover and illustrations by Tomislav Tomic.  On this expedition to the Icelands join Stella, Beanie, Ethan and Shay for a thrilling tale with snow pirates, carnivorous cabbages, unicorns, wolves and pygmy T-Rex to name a few!  This is Alex Bell’s first book for younger readers as she usually writes for young adults.  I’m very excited about what will come next.  If you were looking for that extra stocking filler for your own bookworm then this is a must.  Perfect for any child aged 9 years old onwards.  Chosen as November’s Book of the Month at Waterstones it’s not hard to see why.

invisiblechildThe Invisible Child & The Fir Tree – Tove Jansson (Sort of Books, HB, £4.99)
This book is available exclusively through Waterstones, Oxfam and the Moomin shop.  Two short stories in a beautiful hardback with gorgeous illustrations.  The Invisible Child is about someone finding their voice with the help of a simple Moomin recipe.  The Fir Tree is perfect for this time of year showing the Moomins unselfish take on Christmas.  My children love these stories and I love their message of respect and tolerance.  Perfect for ages 6 to 106 years old.  Aside from being a huge Moomin fan – 100% of the sale of this book will go to Oxfam’s projects empowering women and girls around the world.  A perfect gift.

WalkingWinterWonderlandWalking in a Winter Wonderland – Tim Hopgood (Oxford University Press, PB with CD, £8.99)
Tim Hopgood’s illustrations are amazing in this stylish picture book of Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith’s song Winter Wonderland.  Stunning pictures of wildlife to spot on each page and everything blanketed in snow.  A brilliant book to read to your young one over the festive season and an added bonus CD of Peggy Lee singing the song!  Festive spirit, nostalgia and a sing song too.  I dare it not to get you and your little one in the mood for Christmas.

ADotintheSnowA Dot in the Snow – Corrinne Averiss (Oxford University Press, PB, £6.99)
I read this out at a story time recently and though very simply told it really engage the young ones of 3 years onwards and is beautifully illustrated by a new talent – Fiona Woodcock.  Her sparkly snow is a particular winner in our household!  This is a tale of a polar bear cub, Miki and a girl who get separated from their mothers.  Miki sees a red dot in the snow and slowly gets bigger until Dot reveal herself a human girl.  This is a lovely story of friendship, a changing polar landscape and a heart-warming story to end a wintery day.

Need more suggestions?  See what Gill Hart from Lindum Books recommends here: Seasonal stories make perfect presents.

For more recommendations from the Lincoln bookseller pop into their store in High Street, Lincoln. 

Children’s arts opportunities put in the spotlight

From the regular visiting children’s theatre productions to the toys in its cafe area along with in house provisions such as the Diddy Disco, accessible changing facilities and a lovely warm welcome, the Lincoln Drill Hall has long been a favourite destination for young audience members.

And now the Free School Lane arts centre is making it even easier for those wanting to find out what’s on offer to enjoy alongside their children by launching a new family brochure.  Sales and communications manager Gavin Street explains why…

“Lincoln Drill Hall is a great place to introduce children to the arts.  The venue hosts a year-round programme of live shows, theatre groups, workshops and creative sessions specifically aimed at younger audiences – from tiny tots to teenagers – plus events the whole family can enjoy together.  And with the launch of a new seasonal family brochure, you can find it all in one place!

“So what’s coming up in the Spring?  Running through the season are the Happy Monday Club weekly creative play sessions for pre-schoolers, which includes sessions based on storytelling and drama, dance and movement, art and making and rhythm and music.  These sessions take place in the venue’s cafe bar on Monday mornings, 10.30am-11.30am.  On Wednesdays, the Drill Hall also hosts Hartbeeps, weekly musical adventure classes for newborns, babies and toddlers.

“Or for older children, why not Fishtank, the city’s alternative youth theatre, where the kids create their own original theatre pieces and then perform them in front of a real audience.  Drama skills, self-confidence, team-building and fun are guaranteed in these sessions for Tiddlers (ages 3-6), Juniors (ages 7-11) and Intermediates (ages 11-16).  Sessions run on Saturday mornings throughout the year.

“And rounding off the first half of the Spring, February half term is packed with events.  These include the first outing of the season of Diddy Disco (Tuesday 13 February), the venue’s hip dance club for under 7s and the interactive theatre adventure The Dead Sea (Wednesday 14 February), which follows a young marine biologist on an ecological rescue mission to the bottom of the ocean.  There’s also Rhubarb Theatre’s time-travelling Sidney’s Shed (Friday 16 February), which whisks young audiences on an exciting journey to dig up the past and weed out history’s bullies and Hiccup Theatre brings the classic story The Gingerbread Man (Saturday 17 February) to vivid life through amazing puppetry and fabulous live music.”

For more information about these and other events later in the season pick up a copy of the new Drill Hall Family brochure or read it online here.  For more about the venue visit (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).

And don’t forget there’s still the pantomime to enjoy before the end of this year.  To find out more about Jack and the Beanstalk, showing from December 8th to January 2nd, click here.


Tale of Light Princess inspires little feet

For thousands of mini aspiring ballerinas it’s nice to be able to see where their weekly classes and donning of tutus could take them so I love that many ballet companies have been developing shows with a family audience in mind.

Earlier this year we treated the minis to a trip to Cast in Doncaster to see Northern Ballet perform Goldilocks & the Three Bears.  Despite mummy and daddy discussing at length (due to traffic jams) exactly how sensible it was to take longer to drive to and from somewhere than the event itself lasts (the show was about 40 minutes long), the minis had a fabulous time with Willow excitedly calling out “bear” every time one of the titular ursine characters took to the stage.

So I was very pleased when I found out that Lincoln’s LPAC was hosting Ballet Cymru’s The Light Princess last weekend and even more delighted to be guests of the arts centre for the family friendly 5pm performance.

The Light Princess by Ballet Cymru

Based on George MacDonald’s fairytale which was inspired by Sleeping Beauty, the new production is a full length ballet so the minis were required to sit for a lot longer which did see us finding a space to run around in during the interval to let some pent up energy out.

But, even though the tone for The Light Princess was much more melancholic and romantic than the three bears’ bumbling fun, the minis were quickly spellbound themselves by the spinning and leaping characters relating the magical tale of the floating heroine who finds her freedom under water and in true love.

IMG_5240I loved the atmospheric video projections that further enhanced the ethereal feel and the text captions/chapter heading storytelling elements interspersed throughout the show that also helped to transport the audience into their fairytale world.

(Although I am still waiting to see the aerial circus skills described in the promotional material – maybe it took place during our toilet trip?)

At the end of the show it became clear that the restless legs of the interval were actually simply inspired feet that had an undeniable desire to replicate what they were watching.

And this audience member was treated to a mini aftershow performance of pirouetting, kneeling, beautiful arm movements and leaping on and off the little stage in the foyer that only ended because the arts centre’s (very patient) staff really did need to be able to go home themselves too – a sure sign of the mini ones’ appreciation of the dancers of Ballet Cymru.

The LPAC has two winter shows suitable for a family audience coming soon – Winter in Sherwood and The Winter Whale.  Click here to find out more.

The Light Princess is still on tour.  Click here to see if it’s coming to a venue near you.

A hamper full of hello

Down Syndrome Bloggers Network: Thankful

I have recently joined a Down Syndrome Bloggers Network group who have decided to link up together writing to a monthly prompt.  In honour of the American members of the network and their national Thanksgiving holiday this week the first theme is “thankful”.

We are very blessed to have Faith in our lives and I am thankful for many things her arrival brought with it including the friendly community that have extended us an immediate warm welcome.

The Lincolnshire Down’s Syndrome Support Group had just started a new scheme around the time of her birth – Harrison’s Hampers – and we were one of its first recipients.

Here LDSSG trustee and secretary Emma Hall explains how the idea for the project was formed.

Harrison has inspired a project in his name that helps celebrate the birth of babies with Down’s Syndrome.

When I look back it was after that moment when the doctors and nurses gave us the conclusive news at two days old, that Harrison did have Down’s Syndrome.  When they left the room we felt completely lost, alone and overwhelmed with questions that in our heads sounded silly but we needed answering.

After four months, by chance and social circles, we met Eileen and Pete who are parents to Niall, also with Down’s Syndrome.  The relief we felt after chatting to them and airing our ‘silly questions’ was really encouraging.  It was also through them that we then found out about the Lincolnshire Down’s Syndrome Support Group.

Since joining the LDSSG and hearing many other parents share their stories and maternity experiences, it became clear that the delivery of how our parents are first told about their babies’ diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome is very different!

It was then that Harrison’s Hampers came about.  Myself and Terry had always wanted to do something to support Lincoln County Hospital after how well they cared for myself and Harrison after his birth and we realised that we could provide the medical staff with a hamper to give to other new parents, celebrating the birth of their baby and which could also signpost them to the LDSSG, when/if they felt ready to meet other families in a similar situation.

The name for the project was easy, our little boy is called Harrison and the teacher in me loves a bit of alliteration so Harrison’s Hampers it was!

We’re aiming to do away with negativity!  It is a rollercoaster of emotions, being told your baby has a syndrome and depending on how this news is delivered to you can affect how you deal with it.

My biggest aim at present is to get the Harrison’s Hampers in to the Lincolnshire hospitals with maternity services, Lincoln County and Boston Pilgrim.  I want the maternity units to be able to gift them to the new parents as and when the time is right during their stay as this would be more immediate and uplifting at a time when they may need it most.

However this also needs to be done sensitively and respectfully which I would like the medical staff to consider as it may need to be done differently every time!


When planning the contents of the hampers I wanted to make sure there was something for the whole family so there are items for the baby (clothing/toys), for siblings there is Hayley Goleniowska’s book I Love You Natty which is actually written by Hayley’s older daughter and the fun she has with her younger daughter Natty who has Down’s Syndrome.  For the parents there are toiletries, the LDSSG leaflet which tells them all about what we do in our local community and how we support our families and a homemade card just to say congratulations which includes a picture of our little Harrison.

The latest addition to the hampers are beautiful, handmade, patchwork baby blankets which were kindly made and donated by volunteer organisation Project Linus UK.

My main aim was to keep all the business that supported the Harrison’s Hampers local, within Lincolnshire.  Luckily I have found most local business and crafters really supportive and keen to be involved.  I always include their business cards to advertise and support them in return.  Some items are generously donated and some are heavily discounted without negotiation!

I am about to make my next 10 Harrison’s Hampers and I am on the lookout for even more ideas for content within lovely Lincolnshire, so do please get in touch if you know of a local business that could donate items or you think would like to be involved.

The Kavannaghs were also one of the first recipients of a Harrison’s Hamper for their beautiful daughter Connie.

The hampers that have been given out have been extremely well received by the whole family.  It’s great to be able to give something positive and informative at what can be an emotional time.

It’s also important to add that the LDSSG fund the Harrison’s Hampers as part of their fantastic ongoing commitment, right from the start, to all our members and their families across Lincolnshire.

As one of the first recipients of a Harrison’s Hamper we were thankful for the warmth behind all the donated items included and the focus on simply welcoming a new life.  But we were especially thankful for the inclusion of Goleniowska’s book and Harrison’s homemade card – an introduction to families for who our new normal has not just been normal for years for them but enjoyable and celebratory. 
To find out more about Harrison’s Hampers visit their Facebook page here.
To find out more about the Lincolnshire Down’s Syndrome Support Group click here.

Can you help Emma fill the next 10 Harrison’s Hampers?  Email me at, she’d be very thankful!


Read more from the Down Syndrome Bloggers Network on the theme of being thankful:
Cedar’s Story – I Am Thankful for Down Syndrome blog and YouTube Thankful compilation.
Inclusion Evolution – The Value of Down Syndrome
Trista Park – {Thankful}
Bean Post Farmstead – Thankful for Down Syndrome?


Santa’s Workshop has an extra touch of magic this year

The Lincolnshire Food and Gift Fair 2017


If Christmas itself and the chance to catch a glimpse the man in red aren’t magical enough for your children then the Lincolnshire Showground has arranged for an extra spellbinding attraction at the Santa’s Workshop at Lincolnshire Food and Gift this year.

The Magical World of Fingley, a series of five children’s novels, will be bringing two of its pixies, Astoria and Nixie, to the event taking place on December 2nd and 3rd and they’ll be helping younger visitors to enjoy colouring, crafts, reading, writing, storytelling and treasure hunts.

There will also be a range of Christmas crafts for children to have a go at and Super Chefs will be helping them decorate their own festively-shaped pizzas.

Lincolnshire Showground CEO Jayne Southall says “Christmas is all about family and we’re keen to ensure that the Fair celebrates everything that is great about Lincolnshire by offering something for everyone.  Children love the magic of Christmas and we are delighted to run the Santa’s Workshop for a second year following its popularity last year, and to welcome The Magical World of Fingley.”

The fair is open from 9am to 4pm on the Saturday and Sunday.  Tickets are £5 in advance, £6 on the door, accompanied under 16s and parking are free.

Find out more on the Lincolnshire Showground’s website.

Children of Lincoln

Children of LincolnHave you heard about the Children of Lincoln project?

At the beginning of November Daddy and the two eldest minis attended a family fun day entitled Imagining a ‘Child Friendly’ Lincoln at the University of Lincoln.  They enjoyed some art and crafts activities and taking a shot at the Lincoln City Imps in the Community goal and had the opportunity to find out more about children’s rights and “Child Friendly Cities”.

UNICEF Child Friendly Cities initiative was launched by the UN in 1996 with the aim to make cities liveable places for all by putting children first stating “The well-being of children is the ultimate indicator of a healthy habitat, a democratic society and of good governance”.

The School of Social & Political Sciences at the University of Lincoln have been working with the City of Lincoln Council and Lincolnshire County Council since 2016 to launch a child rights initiative for the city of Lincoln and the fun day saw this aim realised.  Other Children of Lincoln steering group partners include the Lincolnshire Children’s University, Children’s Links, Lincoln BIG, Education Business Partnership, Priory Academies, Bishop King Primary School, St Francis Special School, LiNCHigher, Bishop Grosseteste University and LCVYS.

Now they can start work to achieving their aims.

“Our aspiration is to be recognised by UNICEF as a Child Friendly City alongside a number of other cities in the UK.  We aim to raise awareness of children’s rights in Lincoln, by holding events for children and families, conducting research and working with local services and businesses to help them prioritise children’s rights.”

Acknowledging that Lincoln is already a great place to grow up in, they wish to pay special attention to the most vulnerable children within our city listing children with disabilities or health needs, children who are looked after by the state, children who get into trouble with school/police, children who are young carers, children living in poverty and children who are homeless.

Find out more at

Do you think Lincoln is a child friendly city?