Christmas Must-Have Gift List from our fave Independent Businesses

Forget Black Friday! We have the greatest gifts from our fave independent businesses. We have worked with all of these wonderful people over the past 12 months and would encourage you all to shop independent this Christmas. Never fail to remember that every time you shop independent an actual real life person somewhere does a crazy happy dance 😉

So here is our ultimate gift guide- something for everyone (including YOU!), we always ensure that the businesses we collaborate with offer value for money with desirable goods at reasonable prices. We hope you enjoy our top picks!


First up – it’s US – something the whole family can enjoy! Buy the tickets to joy this Christmas – absolute guaranteed unadulterated FUN! Bring the whole fam and your mates to Our Kids Social to smash New Year’s Eve at YES – Charles Street Manchester.

Join us 1pm-3pm in four whole floors of YES from the basement to the roof terrace: resident DJ; silent disco; arts and crafts; circus skills; face-paint; pizza and Prosecco; fully licensed bar – tickets and info

Grab some tickets and get ready to rock out as you say goodbye to 2019 in style! TICKETS


Next up – our pals at Punk Box Tribe are making junk modelling more fun that it has ever been before with their amazing sticker packs – the perfect stocking filler. We have been using them at our events and the kids (of all ages) love them!

From magical fairytale castles to jolly pirate ships, super charged cars and even Santa’s  super sleigh, Punk Box have it covered and all you need to provide are the cardboard boxes.

For a fiver you get an envelope stuffed full of stickers through the post and then there are hours of creative fun for the whole family to enjoy together. Punk Box Tribe stickers will be featuring high on our gift buying list this year.


Albie and Sebastian are long time collaborators with us and we love their cosy clothing range. Just look at the adorable leggings and snuggly jumper co-ords.

Check out these beauties for starters – who wouldn’t want to snuggle up in these over the Christmas holidays? This gorgeous all in one spotted dungarees is everything this season. 

Not only that but if you tag them in on insta @albieandsebastian and they use your image, they will send you a 20% off voucher!

AND if you sign up to their newsletter you get 10% off your next order! Fantastic! Find them on Facebook here.


Hall and Hines have a gorgeous shop in Sale but if you can’t make it over there for beautiful gifts for adults then you deffo need to check out their website and social media account.

A whole host of intricate designs, beautifully crafted collections and eye catching accessories. If you can, take a look into their shop in Sale – it is a treasure trove of delight.

I have some of their unique earrings (an absolute steal at £8.50) and a fab gold purse which I take everywhere. This year they have a beautiful 12 days of Christmas gift box with a gift for each of the 12 days following 25th Dec which means you get to prolong the joy for your loved ones!

Check them out but be warned you may end up treating yourself – which is never a bad thing!


Buying for couples became easier when Kate set up A Year of Dates. Since then the business has gone from strength to strength with a variety of gifts to bring happiness through all 4 seasons.

Dates for couples, play for children, self-care just for you and additional boxes for special birthdays. Whatever the occasion make it a year of joy – these boxes are most definitely not just for Christmas.

You can have your boxes personalised, and a tip from us is to use the year of play to put inside your advent calendar so the kids reveal one activity each day which then lasts all of the following year – perfect.


If you are looking for a gift made with loving care then look no further than @HDYleather (Instagram) – this one woman business is an absolute fave of ours and her perfect goods are a must-have.

From make up bags to belts, key rings to beautiful beautiful handbags, how can you resist this one-woman slow fashion machine?

With prices to suit all pockets and the option to monogram your purchases, make sure you get orders in early because this lady gets fully booked super quick.

I have two handbags, a make up bag and a belt – I am not biased, this is truly exceptional fashion.


Everything’s Sweet Theads are a fab family business who beat the drum for female power and equality as loudly as possible from their Manchester base.

We have pics here of their fab Christmas releases but you should deffo take a visit to their website for fab tees and jackets for adults and kids alike. Peace on Earth will deffo been seen around our table this Christmas but equally all year round.

All their items are now either printed on up-cycled bases (Revived range of tees and jackets) on Earth Positive organic cotton, ethically produced and made in manufacturing facilities powered by green renewable energy, from low-impact raw materials.

They are designed to be worn forever.


As some of you may know, Alice and Hannah have been enjoying Witness The Fitness early morning sessions with Kate every Saturday since Jan.

They are fun, accessible, suitable for all ages and abilities and very reasonably priced. Kate has a timetable of classes set up across South Manchester with lots of choice. Why not treat someone – or even yourself, to a kick start to fitness in 2020?

With early morning kettle bells, personal training sessions, outdoor fun and classes indoors, as well as sessions just for 50+ there is something for everyone – no matter when the last time you put a pair of trainers on was. Special class pass prices start from £45 for 10 and Training prices start from £35 ph – block booking offers available. Family and kids options available too so you can all join in!  


Paper Town Crafts are long-standing OKS veterans and help us out at larger socials throughout the year.

They are also one of our party collaborators and you can order their fab party bags through our website. The must have end to any party – ditch the plastic and get creative!

These three pics show just a small variety of the wonderful array of craft packs available and our experience is that little ones of all ages love them! The perfect stocking fillers and something which parents and children can enjoying doing together.

While we all love getting out and about over the Christmas break, there is also time for being together indoors with a hot choc and a craft kit.


David Gibb is a firm family favourite and he features every Friday in our Friday Kitchen Disco.

Yes you can get him on Spotify but seriously – buy the CD, play it in the car, play it in your kids’ bedrooms on an actual CD player. It is well worth the money – the artwork is fantastic, plus there are stickers and T-shirts – fab merch to go with the music!

There are two albums availableequally as fantastic as each other. Or why not get up close and personal and busy gig tickets to see David live next year.

A performer for all ages we guarantee you will be singing along in no timewhether the kids are with you or not!


Loola Loves is an independent retailer, born from a love of original designs, ethical production and supporting independent designers.

You can find a wider array of products on their Facebook page shop here. Gorgeous designs which are simple and attractive with must have patterns and beautiful shapes.

With gorgeous jewellery, stationary and stocking fillers, we guarantee you will find something even for those particularly hard to buy for relatives.

Badges, earrings, notebooks – gifts you hadn’t even realised you needed are waiting for you here.


Happy Robin Clothing provide all the cool colour and slogans any family could ever need. Our kids have the ‘Together in Electric Dreams’ jumpers which are great quality and very reasonably priced.

These three designs are just a handful of what lies in wait at the website where there is a whole host of colour to splash all over your wardrobe!

Tees and jumpers, adults and kids, there is really no excuse for having a drab wardrobe this Christmas – bold designs and classic slogans, just what you need to bring a smile you your face!


Olive and Oscar provide beautiful clothing at down to earth prices. Another Manchester family with lovely pieces like these three here – just a small section of their wider seasonal collection.

From babies upwards, all ages are covered with simple colour, clean lines and warmth for Christmas. 

You can find out more of what they have on offer at their fab website and you won’t be able to resist the treats they have in store.

Spotlight on Jo from Bricklands Lego

What’s your name and where do you come from?
Jo Stranix and I live in Sale
What’s your background and how did Bricklands start?
I am originally from Suffolk but left aged 18 and moved to London where I became a nanny (for an ex-Rolling Stone!) I stayed there for the next 12 years, meeting my husband and having my first child before making the move to Manchester in 2011. We had our second child and have happily been living in Sale ever since! 
My two boys, Fred age 9 and Kit age 7 are one of the main reasons I started Bricklands. They were both Lego obsessed from a very early age so I decided to pair that with my childcare background and Bricklands was born! 
How are you involved with this Year’s Happy Sundaze event?
Bricklands will be there to provide some serious Lego fun in between all the dancing! We’ll have mountains of loose Lego including our gravity car racing kits and loads of Duplo for the younger ones. 
What do you most enjoy about your work?
I LOVE what I do! Lego is such an easy tool to work with, the possibilities are endless and children learn so much through play. 
I love that I can fit it all in around my boys school and my husbands shift work. 
I also love seeing families come together at our Saturday sessions, getting stuck in and spending some quality time together.
Which tunes are top of the kitchen disco playlist on your house?
I am a bit of an Indie chick so if I had my way we would have a lot of mid-nineties stuff playing. I am also a diehard Beatles fan. My husband is the 80’s fan and our youngest is following in his footsteps! I have to say though we all love it when Queen comes on. It’ll always get us dancing in the kitchen! 
What was the first album / single you bought and what format did you buy it on? 
The first album I bought was Definitely Maybe and it was on cassette! I’m pretty sure the first single I bought was Stay By Lisa Loeb, also on cassette! 
What are your favourite places for a knees up without the nippers?
To be honest my idea of a good night out is getting together at friends houses with a nice bottle of wine, a large cheese selection and some good tunes in the background!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
Seriously just go for it! Have faith in yourself. Guts and good friends is what helped me! 
Where can lego enthusiasts find you?
You’ll find us most 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month at our Bricklands sessions in the scout hall on Woodbourne Road in Sale. As well as these family sessions, we do birthday parties, events like Beavers and Brownies groups and school clubs.
All our details are on our facebook page @Bricklands Lego Club 
What’s in store for you in the next 12 months?
Along with my colleague Zoe we have got a super 12 months ahead with all our usual sessions planned and lots of birthday parties to look forward too. 
We are going to be taking bookings for school workshops from October and I also have something exciting in the pipeline that will hopefully be a great community event.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Happy Sundaze event? 
I am really looking forward to being a part of the Happy Sundaze event. Seeing lots of happy families come together for a good time is what its all about! Music and Lego sounds like a good combination to me! 

Pop Up Adventure Play – coming to Manchester Monastery!

Our Kids Social are super excited to announce that Pop Up Adventure Play will be joining the jam packed line up at Happy Sundaze – this May 6th at Manchester Monastery.

Join Our Kids Social for an afternoon of festival delights with something for all ages to enjoy – Residents dj, storytelling, circus skills, arts and crafts, cafe and bar, Silent disco, indie shops, Jo Jingles toddler groups and of course – Pop Up Adventure Play in the courtyard – it’s going to be a fantastic afternoon. Tickets selling fast! http://www.ourkids.social

We took a bit of time out to talk to Suzanna about Pop Up Adventure Play, her advice to new businesses, her loves, the reason behind the charity and what we can expect from them at Happy Sundaze

What’s your name and where do you come from?
My name is Suzanna Law and I currently live in Radcliffe, Manchester.
Tell us about Pop Up Adventure Play and the work the charity does?
Pop-Up Adventure Play is a UK-based charity that focuses on the advocacy of child-directed play in a community of supportive adults. We travel around the world delivering trainings and workshops on the importance of children’s free play, and help them to develop their pop-up adventure playgrounds – temporary open-ended play sessions with loose materials. It’s our name-sake model which we developed and is now being replicated in over 20 countries. There are only 2 of us who work for the charity – myself in the UK and Morgan who is based in the USA.
What’s your background and how did it all start?
Once upon a time I acquired a chemistry degree, hated it, and starting looking for a type of job that let me stay on my feet and move around. I’ve always had an affinity with children so I thought that teaching could be a route, but then I discovered a field called playwork and I was sold. The more I learned about playwork, how it prioritises children’s play and their rights surrounding that need, the more I fell in love with the field. I worked for a couple of years as a playworker before getting a bachelors degree in Playwork at Leeds Beckett University. During that degree, I co-founded Pop-Up Adventure Play with Morgan in 2010 and am now working towards a PhD in Playwork.
How are you involved with this Year’s Happy Sundaze event?
We are going to be running a giant pop-up adventure playground at this year’s Happy Sundaze! There will be boxes and fabric, tubes and tubs, lots of open-ended materials for children to explore, create, discover and dismantle. It’s going to be an amazing opportunity for children to follow their own lead in their own play, all in what looks to be a beautiful space in Manchester. We hope to be the event’s chosen charity too, which is a complete blessing for us to raise funds to continue running events in the area!
Which tunes are top of the kitchen disco playlist on your house?
The Pop-Up Adventure Play kitchen is often in a different country, or in a hotel, or even the snack box in the car hurtling across a country far far away, but we do have some favourites! Here are a couple – apologies for them not being particularly disco! 🙂
It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. https://youtu.be/4o0r9unT4L4
You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd. https://youtu.be/skFWsc_-i14
What are your favourite places for a knees up without the nippers?
We’re not really a knees up kind of organisation, but places that we would absolutely love to visit again without the kids are:
Captain Kidd’s, Redondo Beach, CA https://captainkidds.com/ (Sitting on the pier eating seafood that I just picked and watched them steam for me – heaven!)
Hickory Hollow, Houston, TX http://hickoryhollow.com/ (The most delicious, most tasty slow cooked barbecue I have ever had)
Atariya, Ealing Common, London https://www.atariya.co.uk/sushi-bar-atariya/ealing-common/  (Amazing sushi in a relaxing but authentic environment)
Radcliffe Market Friday Food Nights, Radcliffe, Manchester https://www.radcliffe.market/calendar (Every friday it’s different, so it’s always exciting!)
What was the first album / single you bought and what format did you buy it on? 
I remember heavily influencing (even paying for) the purchase of the Hear’say single – Pure and Simple – on cassette. I pretended to be generous and bought it for my younger siblings I think, but actually I secretly wanted it all for myself.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
To take a phrase from playwork theory, I love the fun, freedom and flexibility that my work offers! I work from home so at a time that suits me, often this also might mean I am in a completely different country with people I have only ever spoken to by email. Every day is different and has challenges to overcome, but in a glorious way that really makes me feel alive! My work offers me the flexibility that I need in my personal life, but the adventures that stay with me forever – fun, freedom and flexibility in practice!
Why is free play so important in a child’s development?
Play is a biological, psychological, and social necessity. It is not only a wonderful way to pass time, but an intrinsic urge that children have. The benefits of play are multifaceted and plentiful – it develops gross and fine motor skills, helps to work on communication, creativity, team work and resilience. It is where children develop their executive functioning skills – those soft skills like coming up with a plan and following through, or seeing a potential need and asking for help.
Play can develop Maths, language skills, cultivate a love of Science, and provide a platform to consider the philosophical side of life. Play has a therapeutic quality too, an important way for children to work through life’s difficulties and improve their own mental health. Play is the answer to so many of children’s developmental needs but strangely enough playwork’s focus is not on any of them!
Play from a playwork’s perspective is with the pure joy of playing – playing for play’s sake. That’s what we want to tell the whole world about: the simplicity of play is enough, for every child.
What advice would you give to any new business?
We have a phrase – almost a motto – at Pop-Up Adventure Play that we’ve used since the very beginning: start small, start now, keep going. When you wait for the stars to align to grow your, those conditions may never come about, but if you push forward just a little bit, you will find a way to make things happen.
What’s in store for the charity in the next 12 months?
We are working on some projects that will nurture relationships in Hong Kong, Malaysia and the USA. We are also working on some connections closer to home, running pop-up adventure playgrounds in Manchester. The biggest focus for us this year is sustainability – our little charity runs on a shoestring but want to reach even more people in more places. It’s the year of fundraising for us and we look forward to finding ways of helping our little charity continue to bring playful joy to children all over the world.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Happy Sundaze event? 
We are looking forward to meeting lots of new people, and seeing how children play in this kind of environment. It’s going to be strange but beautiful and we’re very excited.

To find out more about Pop Up Adventure Play, what they do and where to find them head here – http://www.popupadventureplay.org/

To donate to this wonderful charity and support them popping up in the name of play, head here – https://www.paypal.com/gb/fundraiser/charity/130750

To find out more about Happy Sundaze and to grab tickets for your family this May 6th head here – http://www.ourkids.social

Indi gift guide for a family Christmas

Here is our guide to Christmas gift buying whilst also supporting independent small businesses – almost all of which are based in Manchester!

Gift buying with something for everyone – including some people in Manchester who you don’t even know …..

For the whole family:

Everything’s Sweet Threads

Feminism is for everyone – and so are these Ts from Everything’s Sweet Threads. We love them and we also love the fact that there is a charitable donation to Thr Pankhurst Trust with every purchase. If slogan Ts are not for you (and if they’re not – who ARE you??) then they also have fab pins, bags and temp tattoos – the perfect gift for all ages.

Our Kids Social

It’s not always about what you get, it’s about what you do – that’s what the OKS gang believe over the Christmas period. So why not spend some time together as a family at their fantastic New Year’s Eve party – 1-3pm at YES Manchester and full to the brim with family goodness – festival vibes DJ, two channel silent disco, arts and crafts, circus skills, glitter face paint, pizza and a bar! Tickets selling now.

Claire Brookes Photography

Why not capture the joy of the festive season with a family photography session with Claire Brookes? Guaranteed to show you at your best, Claire’s natural shots are guaranteed to capture the heart of your family with photos that will last a life time. Great as keepsakes for yourself or gifts for family members.

For adults:

Hall and Hines

Hall and Hines jewellery, bags and accessories are truly beautiful pieces and all reasonably priced. From delicate earrings to statement purses, their collection is thoughtfully put together and incredibly desirable. Maybe shopping for a loved one – or even for yourself!

A Year of Dates

Date night? What’s that? Feels like ages since you spent any quality time together? Or maybe you are approaching a milestone birthday and looking for a pile of fun things to do before you get there? A Year of Dates has the answer – with gift boxes of suggestions for couples, birthdays, (and even kids), these fantastic sets add excitment, surprise and fun throughout the year. Go on – treat yourself!

Crafty Willow

And for your home you can’t go wrong with design led Crafty Willow – check out the fabulous Christmas garlands, a welcome addition to any home’s festive decoration. Flag banners and bunting bring cuteness overload all year round and in our opinion they are definitely not just for nurseries!

Marble Brewery

You can’t go wrong with a few cans of Manchester brewed Marble beer. Once parenthood strikes, nights out over Christmas may be limited but with an online shop you can now drink the very best in the comfort of your own home. And if you do manage to squeeze in a night out, it’s of course also available on tap – the Marble Arch is one of our very fave Manc pubs.

New parents and their babies:

Mama Knows

Mama Knows really does know what’s best for keeping parents stylish and supporting teething babies. With chewable necklaces, bangles and teething rings in a whole variety of colour combinations the only decision really is which one to buy – or if like us, you can’t decide, then why not select a few?

For children:

Kiddy Sticks

Imagine the surprise on their faces on Christmas Day if they opened their eyes to a Kiddy Sticks display on their bedroom wall! With a variety of designs covering all tastes and colours, there really is something for everyone at this small biz website. You can choose from bright and fun to monochrome and understated – bring their bedroom to life with its own personality whatever their age.

Gooseberry Fool

For knittted and crocheted beauty, wooden affirmation plaques and all round loveliness, head to Gooseberry Fool for the most delicately precious handmade goods. Booties and hats with Pom Poms a plenty – we dare you to resist these adorable items for your little ones. Each made with loving care, don’t leave it too late to get your orders in so you can ensure your little ones are stylish and snug on Christmas morning.

Albie and Sebastian

Twinning is winning and Albie and Sebastian know how to rock a matching sweatshirt combo for stylish kids and their parents. With a fab selection of handmade clothes for those aged 5 and under, plus some twinning combos, you probably don’t need any more reasons to pay their website a visit but we have one – there is a charitable donation from every sale in the lead up to Christmas going to When You Wish Upon a Star – you can’t say fairer than that.

Modern Little People

Do you have some Modern Little People living in your house? Then this is the website for them – and you! With gorgeous gifts for playtime, bathtime, and mealtimes too – there are a whole host of reasons to beautify your home. Babies and children, clothing and interiors – go and take a peek while stocks last.

Projekts Mcr

How about a set of scooter or skateboard lessons at the super cool Projekts Mcr? With one to one sessions available for kids (and adults) this could be the ideal gift for those children who are increasingly difficult to buy for as they get a bit older. The joy of learning a new skill with a little bit of freedom and developing independence – ideal.

For someone you don’t know:

Wood Street Mission

The Wood Street Mission in Manchester collects and distributes thousands of gifts ever year for children living in poverty. Families across Manchester are supported by this very special charity who ensure those in need have something to unwrap on Christmas Day, as well as working alongside large supermarkets to provide food hampers. You can drop off directly on Wood Street in town or contact them for a local drop off.


Z-Arts are getting as many of the 799 children who are aged 5-15 and living in care, to the theatre this Christmas. Donate what you can directly on their website to help to pay for this experience and up until 4th Dec, all donations are being doubled. You can donate whatever you can afford – everything is welcome – don’t forget to gift aid.

Top family stuff this December in Manchester:

Best family theatre:

Cinderella at Salford Arts Theatre is top of our list. We go to their panto every year and LOVE it. Something for all ages with all of the usual slapstick humour and festive cheer.

The Stick Man is on at The Lowry, ideal for younger children who love the Julia Donaldson book. A short theatre experience – perfect for a December afternoon.

Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs is on at The Waterside in Sale. Book an evening ticket and the kids get to wear their pjs, plus you get to book milk and cookies at a little extra cost. After The Bear last year which was phenomenal, this promises to be a fantastic show.

Best family free stuff:

– Don’t want to spend cash? Head to The Refuge 2nd Dec 10-12 for Christmas Craft FREE drop in with Our Kids Social in The Den. Winter headresses, disco twirlers, letters to Santa and badge making all feature at this family social – Why not stay for a family roast but don’t forget to book – it’s bound to be busy!

Best family freeze:

The Ice Village has come to Manchester for the first time and has landed in Cathedral Gardens. Visit the beautiful sculptures and see how long you can last in the cold! Warm up outside will a mulled wine at the bar – or maybe something stronger!

The Ice Rink is at First Street this year and booking in advance as always, is necessary. We recommend going first thing in the morning if you have smaller children as it can be quieter and less busy on the ice.

Best family sparkly lights:

Dunham Massey has the beautiful walk through their lit up grounds again this year. Perfect for families with lights, music and last year you could toast giant marshmallows half way round. Wrap up warm, prepare to be amazed and if you are a National Trust member you get a discount on entrance price.

Lightwaves is back at MediaCity and as always promises to be a spectacle of delight for all ages. Plus there are a few decent bars around for a cheeky pint on your walk round.

– Wild Rumpus bring back The Lanterns to Chester Zoo and this is such a fabulous evening experience for families. We recommend booking some food in advance and taking in the whole experience. Give yourself time to walk around in wonder at the huge animal lanterns, performers and artists.

Best family New Year’s Eve party:

Our Kids Social are throwing a family NYE social at YES (Manchester City Centre) on 31st Dec 1-3. You won’t need a babysitter because everyone has welcome! With a two channel silent disco, festival vibes DJ, arts and crafts with Papertown Crafts, glitter face paint, circus skills, an enchanted mystery trail, pizza and a bar – this promises to be a wonderful afternoon with family and friends. Leave the car at home and come and settle in for the afternoon in the most beautiful surrounding. Kids tickets all come with a large slice of pizza – bonus! Tickets from the website.

Best family Halle:

The Snowman with The Hallé at Bridgewater – fantastic. 15th – 16th Dec, Tickets usually fly out for this event so don’t hang around if you want to grab some! A perfectly wonderful family Christmas event.

Best family gig:

The Rockin Rhinos are back with their annual Christmas Cracker and what a shindig this is. Live music with a band of animals singing everything from Wheels on the Bus to Bowie – a set list not to be missed! 9th Dec we will deffo be on this dancefloor and don’t forget the bar for a sneaky afternoon pint!

Best family Father Christmas:

All of the nearby National Trust sites have a variety of family Christmas experiences on this year. Lyme Hall is pretty much all sold out but Quarry Bank Mill has some spaces left if you add quick! Alternately jump on the East Lancs Railway for a steamtastic experience, or how about Gulliver’s World for a full family fun day out!

Best family markets:

Want to avoid the city centre? Head to Ramsbottom 15th 16th Dec for their Christmas markets, and give yourself some time for a wander around this beautiful town and enjoy some of the lovely pubs, bars and cafes.

Best family cosy pub:

It wouldn’t be a guide to Christmas without a mention of Worsley Old Hall – families, kids, dogs all welcome. Fab menu, great staff, a vast choice of gins, open fires, comfy chair and a whole outdoor space for little people to explore – we love it.

Spotlight on: Alex from Mucky Monkeys


What’s your name and where do you come from?

Hi my name is Alex Henderson and I run Mucky Monkeys. I’m originally from a small town on the south coast but I moved to south Liverpool in 2003.

Tell us a bit about your business.  How did you come up with the idea / what is it and where can people find you?

My business is called Mucky Monkeys and we offer arts, crafts, sensory play and messy fun! We have weekly Messy Play classes, weekly sensory play classes, children’s craft clubs, adults craft workshops, bespoke hand/footprint keepsake art sessions and children’s parties.

I came up with the idea 8 years ago as I wanted to use my love of all things creative and arty and develop a class for parents and children alike.

There were some key ideas which were really important to me when I set Mucky Monkeys up. For example, being inclusive to all carers, offering both term and flexible drop in places and allowing mixed ages to all join the fun together. These key principles have remained at the heart of my sessions ever since.

In Liverpool we have just moved all our Messy Play classes to an amazing new venue. We are now based inside AirUnlimited Trampoline Park! Messy play classes are each weekday 10:30am, except Tuesday which is 1:30pm. We also use AirUnlimited for our weekly children’s craft club too which is ace as AirUnlimited have kindly allowed all our customers free use of the trampolines!

We often run craft sessions in cafes and other venues around south Liverpool. This half term we have some slime sessions in Wigwam Coffee Shop on Rose Lane.

For our sensory play classes we have sessions in Velocity in Wigan and Spaceworld in Prescot. These run on Tuesdays and again the venues have kindly given free play to our Monkeys!

We try to run classes all year round but it’s always best to check just incase we have taken a week off over a 1/2 term to hang with our own children.

Describe your business in 3 words!

Creative, friendly and fun! If I’m allowed a 4th word it would definitely be messy!!

What’s your go to activity that keeps your little ones happy?

I don’t really have one go to activity as I like to keep things fresh and exciting. Although, having said that, at the moment it’s got to be slime making!


We all love a bit of pintrest and online inspo. What accounts, bloggers, websites would you recommend the OKS community check out?

I’m not really the right person to answer that! My awesome teacher Heather is my Pinterest expert! I will often tell her an idea I have and she will do the research and make it a reality!


What’s on the kitchen disco play-list in your house?

Well there’s an eclectic mix in our house that’s for sure! From rock to Disney tunes or current pop! Between my husband and 2 children we all have very different ideas of music! I am a secret Disney lover though and do enjoy the Disney tunes which are pumped out in our Liverpool venue!

Where are your favorite places for a knees up without the nippers?

I absolutely love Pi on Rose Lane. It’s very chilled with no pressure to dress up. However for a fancy night out The Florist in town is just gorgeous. (I appreciate they are not exactly a knees up though!)

What was the first album / single you bought and what format did you buy it on?

An embarrassing answer coming…PJ and Duncan on CD for my brand new CD player! I thought I was so cool!

What would be your band T-shirt of choice?

Death Cab for Cutie or Bears Den. If you haven’t heard of them defo check them out.


Top tips for encouraging creativity in children?

Definitely follow the children’s lead. I always suggest parents allow children to observe for a little while and gain their own confidence to join in.  Children learn so much more and have way more fun if they are able to do things their own way. When it comes to art there’s no rule book, by giving children the ability to explore and make things how they see fit they really do have lots more fun! So I try to encourage parents to not worry so much about the end goal, for children the joy is in the process of creating.

Apart from OKS (obviously) what would you recommend for family fun in the North West?
We are so lucky in the North West as we literally have everything!

One of my favourite Halloween activities is the Roy Castle Spooky Welly Walk which we have a stall at each year. (Set a reminder for that next year!)

Find out more about Mucky Monkeys here – https://m.facebook.com/muckymonkeysmessyplay/?locale2=en_GB

Spotlight on: Claire from Totbag UK


What’s your name and where do you come from?

I am Claire and I’m one of the founders of totbag – I am from Liverpool and still live here with my husband and 3 children. Amelia 7, Sebastian 4 and Alana 18 months. The other 2 totbag girls both live in Cheshire and have 7 children between them of varying ages!


Tell us a bit about your business.  How did you come up with the idea / what is it and where can people find you?

With technology increasingly present in all areas of children’s lives, we set out to design an alternative, screen-free activity that would get kids back to nature, spark their imagination, encourage creativity and enhance family time.

Combining our individual skills and professional experience in art, education and working with families and young children, we have created fun and educational go-anywhere bags that encourage hands-on learning. totbag is created by teachers with a love of the outdoors.

Each totbag/totbox contains a totbag-branded bag, carefully chosen outdoor activities suitable for children aged 3+ and a nature journal bursting with useful information, instructions on how to complete the activities and exciting additional fun and games. All materials are environmentally friendly.

You can purchase a one-off totbag or subscribe on a monthly basis to our totbox, with your first month free, meaning there is an option for different budgets.

You can find us at www.totbag.co.uk @totbaguk


Describe your business in 3 words!

Fun outdoor crafty


What’s your go to activity that keeps your little ones happy

Visiting our local park and feeding the ducks frozen peas!


We all love a bit of pintrest and online inspo. What accounts, bloggers, websites would you recommend the OKS community check out?

Parentfolk FamilyGoLive

#mamamassive #lifewiththebuxtons #careeringintomotherhood


What’s on the kitchen disco play-list in your house?

This has been taken over by my 7 year old daughter so now includes mainly Little Mix, Anne Marie (I really have no clue who this is????!!) and The Greatest Showman album constantly on repeat! I must admit this one I don’t mind so much and have been known to belt out ‘This is me’ both with my daughter and sometimes a sneaky one when she is in school!


Where are your favorite places for a knees up without the nippers?

Local places where you dont have to travel far, can sit and have a lovely glass of prosecco and most importantly chat without being interrupted every 2 minutes – these are my priorities these days


What was the first album / single you bought and what format did you buy it on?

Now 8 on cassette!


What would be your band T-shirt of choice?

Take That all the way – I may have tried to squeeze into the one from my teenage years from time to time but would never venture out in it and subject the world to that!


Top tips for encouraging creativity in children?

Obviously our totbags/totboxes provide a great opportunity for children to get creative and provides a more structured activity but the main thing I feel is getting them outdoors and back to basics exploring nature. I dont know one child who doesnt enjoy being outside, exploring and getting a bit mucky. Children have a sense of freedom when they are outside and if you can spark enthusiasm about the living world it really captures their imaginations.

My daughters favourite thing to do when we’re out and about is a bug hunt which is so easy to create and gets the children really hands on searching under stones,leaves, bushes and encourages them to handle the insects.


Apart from OKS (obviously) what would you recommend for family fun in the North West?

We are National Trust members and love visiting Speke Hall and Tatton Park – so much for the kids to explore and mine never tire of going back to the same place because theres always something new they manage to discover

Family raves are also a fun experience for both grown ups and children – holding the hand of your tiny one and dancing with glosticks to old club classics that you used to dance to with a WKD in hand is a fun experience.

Plus we love Just So Festival which is featured in some of these pics #teamfox


Finally, what can out OKS community expect from you at Haunted Hinterlands?

We will be providing fun Halloween crafts and showing you what tobag is all about

Tickets for Haunted Hinterlands can be found at http://www.ourkids.social

OKS Spotlight on: Francesca from School of Wordplay and Wizardry


What’s your name and where do you come from?

I’m Francesca and I live in Liverpool. I grew up in Suffolk in a town called Lowestoft.  


Tell us a bit about your business.  How did you come up with the idea / what is it and where can people find you? 

My social enterprise is called School of Word Play and Wizardry. We run creative writing classes for children in Liverpool and the North West. Although the sessions are educational, they’re set up as though the children are training to become a witch or wizard and the emphasis is on writing for fun. We do things like write spells and play with wand pens. Some of the games are designed to inspire the imagination, while others are about building confidence with writing and with sharing ideas.

If you want to find out more about our creative writing sessions for children, you can visit our website, or find School of Word Play and Wizardry on Facebook or Instagram.

I started the School of Word Play and Wizardry for lots of reasons. I’ve always loved writing and over the years I’ve taught creative writing to lots of different people – from kids through to Big Issue vendors. But I’ve not really come across many activities for children over the age of seven that focuses on creativity, imagination and fun. There’s lots of dance and drama clubs, and there’s lots of football and martial arts lessons, but not a whole lot of creative clubs for kids. They always say you should write the book you would want to read, well the School of Word Play and Wizardry is the club I would like to go to (if I was eight!).

Describe your business in 3 words!

Creative. Fun. Inspiring.  


What’s your go to activity that keeps your little ones happy 

All of the kids in the classes love dressing up in our robes. There’s also a hidden wand pen holder inside that goes down particularly well.  

We all love a bit of pintrest and online inspo. What accounts, bloggers, websites would you recommend the OKS community check out? 

For ideas to keep your children entertained, Imagination Tree is always a great go-to. I also really like Fierce Mama’s Club (@fiercemanasclubs) beautiful motherhood inspired designs. Her pins are fantastic. If you’re a fan of wizards and witches, The Cauldron Magical Pub (@thecauldronpub) is a fun account. They have a few magically-themed bars and they post brilliant photos of their props and bubbling potion cocktails.  

What’s on the kitchen disco play-list in your house?

I’ve always been a big fan of 60s ska and a little bit of The Clash always goes down well.


What was the first album / single you bought and what format did you buy it on?

The first single I bought was Candle in the Wind by Elton John. My only excuse is that I was seven.

What would be your band T-shirt of choice?

 I’m going to see an Australian punk band called The Chats soon and I plan to walk away with a t-shir

Top tips for encouraging creativity in children? 

I find the best way to encourage creativity is to provide activities that encourage play and that children can lead. For example, rather than saying we’re all going to sit down and write a poem in silence, we might look at some potions in bottles and talk about them. Children then tend to start sharingwhat potion they’d create if they could cast spells. At that point, we’d sit down and write about those ideas together.

Finding activities that are a mix of free play (without too much adult intervention) and structure can be great in encouraging creativity.

Finally, what can our Our Kids Social community expect from you at Haunted Hinterlands?

We’re going to be bringing along all of our best witch and wizard props for you and your kids to explore. You can come along and have a go at casting spells with our wand pens and you can make your own magically-themed top trumps. Your kids can also dress up in our wizarding robes and strike a pose in front of our spooky backdrop. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Tickets for Haunted Hinterlands are on sale here http://www.ourkids.social

Spotlight on: Louisa from No More Nursery Rhymes

This week we shine the spotlight on Louisa who has set up No More Nursery Rhymes – a choir for Manchester parents. We LOVE this idea as we can totally appreciate the feeling of needing some time for yourself – but having to take your little ones along. This sounds like the perfect compromise to ensure babies are happy and parents get to meet up and sing!


What’s your name and where do you come from?

Louisa, now living in Monton to be closer to my stepson – but am a Chorlton girl at heart!

Can you tell us a bit about how No More Nursery Rhymes was born?

I’ve sung in a choir for years now, and knew that when I was on maternity leave, that I’d want to carry on – but during the day. It took me 18 months to get my head back into gear after having my daughter, so I’m pleased to have finally launched it! During maternity leave I struggled to find a class that I really liked, and so I wanted to create an environment where mums can come and have something in common to talk about, that’s not just about babies! No More Nursery Rhymes is aimed very much at the mums, singing with your babies.

We sing all sorts of stuff, with lyric sheets, whilst your little ones play on the mats.

What type of music can we expect to hear the choir singing?
It is pop songs, show tunes, guilty pleasures, classic anthems, and a whole load of nonsense! And absolutely no Nursery Rhymes!

What about if singing isn’t your forte but you want to give it a go? 

You don’t have to be able to read music, sing in tune, or even want to sing out loud – we’re totally inclusive and friendly – the group is just about singing for pleasure and nothing else.

What are the top tunes on the kitchen disco playlist in your house?

Wham, Greatest Showman and Kylie – absolute cheese, but I’m also partial to a spot of Fall Out Boy, and Oasis – so pretty much anything and everything.


What was the first album or single you bought and on what format? 

I think it was Aerosmith ‘Crazy’ – I was brought up on MTV, and their videos were amazing!

What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to and who would you love to see in the future? 

I’ve just been to see Britney, who was epic / ridiculous but the best one I’ve ever been to was Fleetwood Mac – they were just incredible!

What’s a mealtime favourite in your house and can you share the recipe? 

Simple roast chicken and boiled potatoes – I love the timer on my oven! I can whack it in at 6.30am and it’s ready at tea time!

Where is your top tips for a knees up without the nippers?

I recently came across Bongo Bingo and I LOVED IT! Totally ridiculous, OTT and right up my street!


Where across the North West would you recommend for family days out?

I love Brockholes – near Preston. We have spent many an hour there building dens. My little girl also loves The Hideaway in Partington – we’re usually there before it opens 😉

If you were wearing a band T-shirt which band would it be?
The ultimate boy-band A-ha. I have loved Morten Haarket for many many years.

Are there any other local small businesses you want to give a shout out to?

Big whoop to TinyTalk South Manchester – they’ve been incredibly helpful and supportive whilst I’ve been setting up No More Nursery Rhymes. And obviously OKS – can’t wait for my little girl to be a bit bigger so we can enjoy your events together!


How can we find out more about No More Nursery Rhymes?  

On FB www.facebook.com/nomorenurseryrhymes and on Instagram @nomorenurseryrhymes


If you like sound of a break from nursery rhymes, a chance to socialise AND sing your heart out, then you can find Louisa on FB here – get in touch and give it a go!


OKS Spotlight On: Jayne and Holly from Crafty Bear Club

Welcome to Holly and Jayne from Crafty Bear Club – we are super excited that they will be joining us in Sale this October for our Halloween extravaganza. They will of course be in charge do our Make, Do and Mess area do you can come and get crafty with them – let your spooky creative juices flow!


What’s your name and where do you come from?

Crafty Bear Club. We are based in Altrincham.


Tell us a bit about Crafty Bear.  How did you come up with the idea?

We are both really creative and it’s always played a big part in our lives. Two things happened which made us want to transform this love of craft in to a business; we both relocated and wanted to meet new people and get out of the house, and we both have young children of our own now and understand how challenging it can be to keep them entertained. The adult parties came first and people just started asking us to come up with crafts for kids, and they’ve been great fun! It’s also really great to be able to work alongside your sister, especially when we have our strategy meetings down the pub!

Describe Crafty Bear Club in three words:

Messy, fun and friendly.


What’s your go to crafting activity that keeps your little ones happy

Jayne: My 6 year old loves anything with fabric and fabric pens. We decorated her old PE shirt after they broke up for summer, it’s a great way to recycle. Unfortunately my 1 year old prefers drawing on himself!

Holly: My 21 month old loves anything to do with paint so we do lots of hand prints and foot prints. I tend to turn them into cards to send to loved ones. We also make a lot of pictures using sticky felt shapes, however most of the shapes end up stuck to the dog!


We all love a bit of pintrest and online inspo. What accounts, bloggers, websites would you recommend the Our Kids Social community check out to help get their little ones crafting? 

Our go to account would be instagram. Our favorites are @46_daysofsummer which is great for little craft activities you can do at home with your little ones. @fiveminutemum is really good for five minute activities and crafts. Obviously we love pinterest and have many crafty boards we keep adding pins to! If you want to buy lovely handmade items or even crafty bits http://www.etsy.com is a really good website for that.


What’s on the kitchen disco play-list in the Crafty Bear’s family house?

Jayne: Depends who’s in control. Usually it’s the boss, my daughter, and if that’s the case it would be spice girls, Daft punk or some sort of Disney mega-mix.

Holly: Us crafty Bear grownups will always opt for a bit of Dolly Parton to speed up productivity.


Where are your favorite places for a knees up without the nippers?

On the rare occasion we get to put on lipstick and heels and hit the town (Altrincham) nowadays we tend to keep it relatively civilized. We love how friendly and knowledgeable of their booze they are in Riddles. We like The Cheshire Tap for candle lit business meetings, and think Sugo do the best pasta and wine in miles.

What was the first album / single you bought and what format did you buy it on?

Jayne: Embarrassingly I think it was Ace of Base on double cassette.

Holly: Kylie Minogue on cassette. I think the album was called Kylie. ‘I should be so lucky” was (and still is) my favourite track.


What would be your band T-shirt of choice?

Jayne: I do own and AC/DC t-shirt which I love.

Holly: I own far too many David Bowie t-shirts.


Top tips for encouraging creativity in children?

Make it so that they are allowed to make loads of mess. Put a mat down in the garden or sellotape newspaper all over the table. And help them out with a theme or story to get them started. Once they get over the initial hurdle of coming up with an idea it’s so much easier to run away with it. If your child struggles with drawing help them out by getting some stencils or tracing paper. Older children like it if their outcome looks like what it’s supposed to be.

Apart from Our Kids Social (obviously) what would you recommend for family fun in the North West?

For something crafty, Sew Creative in Altrincham does sewing workshops for children which we think are great. Sewing is a really good and handy skill to have. If we’re going out for the day together (kids and husbands included) we love Tatton Park and Dunham Massey. There’s loads of space for the kids to run around, they get to see lots of wildlife and the cafes have some pretty good cake.


Finally, what can out Our Kids Social community expect from Crafty Bears at our Spooky Social?

Children can get creative, decorating their own Day of the Dead felt skull to hang up and scare trick or treaters.


Find out more about Crafty Bear Club here and you can find out about Our Kids Social here. Tickets for the Halloween Social can be bought online here – hope to see you there!