Today we went to spend the day with my niece and Mum (J’s cousin/Godmother and Grandma). We went to Planet Laser.
Obviously J is too young for Laser games so me and my niece went to play whilst he enjoyed the machines with Grandma. I tried to keep to a budget. Toddlers in general aren’t cheap. Toddlers with additional needs can often have extra expenses (I have to take unpaid time off for appointments and therapy, pay petrol/parking costs, pay for his pecs symbols, Makaton books and apps etc etc). Today I wanted us to have fun and not go over £20.
We got there just after 9.30 for the ‘unlimited games’ which is £10 with a free drink (saving me £1.70). This lasts 2hrs and you go in whenever your letter is called. J was free as you don’t pay for entry. I am a bit gutted as we only got 3 games. They last 10 minutes so for £10 we only got 30 minutes game play. Doesn’t seem very ‘unlimited’ but oh well. 3 games will normally cost £15 so that was a savings of £5. The games were a lot of fun and not wanting to brag but I came 1st in 1 game and in the team game it was my niece and I that won. The arena was big enough to explore and there were different game modes to play. The Marshall was friendly but ‘official’ at same time so safety is obvious a big thing to them (which is great).
Whilst we were in between battles, we all played on the arcades. This was something that J instantly loved. Lights and buttons were everywhere. He was running from machine to machine. Some of them I put money in, some I didn’t. He didn’t care as long as he had stuff to press. We went at a quiet time so the sounds weren’t too overwhelming for him. The area is well lit too and very spacious. This helped J to have fun and not be over stimulated (which is often what causes meltdowns or the ‘robotic’ freeze he does).
I was happy as they supply free lockers. It meant I didn’t have to carry everything around whilst chasing a toddler. There was a nice area to sit and relax. I brought J his water bottle from home (so free) and just purchased a bag of PomBears.
The machines give out tickets. J was quick to figure this out and loved the 2p machine as he was winning more often than not. He put in £2’s of 2ps and ended up with almost 300 tickets! He wouldn’t leave until the pot was empty. I was amazed how good his fine manipulative skills were as he could get the coin in the slot all by himself. I think he liked the rotation and ’cause and effect’ aspect.
The prizes do require quite a lot of tickets and are often items you could easily buy from the supermarket next door. However, these are tickets that J worked for so I was happy for him to feel he had achieved something and earned his prize. We choose 2 flashing balls (one for him and one for his cousin) which J has been throwing happily around the living room. I also had enough for small bag of Haribo!
My advise for anyone going out with a toddler with additional needs and wanting to stick to a budget is:
- Have a look on websites…check ‘special offers’ and times where you can save money. Is it cheaper to go at particular times?
- Do they have the menu online? If so check out prices. The cafe was quite expensive so we opted to eat afterwards. Also, if your little one is sensitive to texture (like J) ask if it’s ok to bring food with you for them. I have found that when you explain about your child’s needs most places will accommodate.
- Find out ‘busy times’ so you can avoid these and the stress it will cause little one.
- Ask on social media for opinions and experiences. You may find others have hints and tips. They can tell you if there’s too much noise for sound sensitive children, unhelpful staff etc.
- Group bookings: see if it’s cheaper to go with friends and family. Some places offer discounts for groups. The added bonus is that there will be faces that are familiar to your child so they may feel more comfortable in the new surroundings.
- Show your child the website and photos of where you are going. Think about creating some pecs pictures or finding out key Makaton words you might need for the day.
We spent less than £20 between me and J, had a lovely time (I got to have 30 mins ‘mummy free’ time) and got a prize each to take home. My only regret is not having more games during an ‘unlimited’ times but for J I can’t complain. He loved it all. As we left it started to get busier so I’m glad we went early. J doesn’t ‘do’ crowds. So, doing research and planning ahead is the best way to have a fun and frugal-ish day out 😉