Since the HP Smart Business Awards in October we've been building a fantastic relationship with Hewlett Packard and was really excited when an email came through last week asking us to take part at a family event in London on Sunday. So I mentioned it to Mackenzie (6) and Billy (4) and all week we've had 2 very excited children, to be honest even Jamie and myself we're really excited!
We travelled down to London on Saturday by train and the children had reached a whole new level of excitement, the thought of the train, a 'sleep over' in London and visiting Santa was so much for them to take in and that wasn't even the start of it. If i'm honest I didn't really know what to expect other than what I was told in the email- the event was 10-12pm, with lunch, a santa's grotto and ice skating aswell. I assumed we'd be done by 1pm so planned to do some other stuff before returning home.
Saturday, once we arrived in London and dropped our stuff at the hotel we took the children to the Natural History musuem where the highlight of the afternoon was the dinosaurs on display. After the museum we went to Garfunkels for dinner, another lovely experience and it was lovely to find a restaurant that was family friendly and had something for each of us. It wasn't just my childrens first time in London it was also my husbands so for me I was so happy to see each of their faces. Next we went to Westminister to see Big Ben and look at the London Eye from across the Thames, something my husband has always wanted to see. It was getting late but we really wanted the children to hear the chimes so we waited until 9pm and the children loved counting along to the clock. Then it was back to the hotel and into bed ready for our day of fun with HP on the Sunday.
I woke up early, like a child in a sweet shop, I was excited. I woke up Jamie and the kids up and we got dressed and ready for what we thought was going to be a morning of Christmas activities- what was ahead was really going to blow my mind.
We got to Westfields shopping centre and we were all amazed by the size of it, we found our way to the HP hub in the designer section of the centre. We were greated with a smile and the children were made to feel welcome, they were asked their names and were given a hand written name badge, allowing them to spell out their own names. Myself and Jamie was also greeted and offered a name badge with our name and company on them. We were then all asked if we'd like some breakfast goodies with a selection of cakes, cookies and pastries to choose from and a selection of smoothies too. A great touch considering we'd rushed out of the hotel without having much breakfast. The children had a big smile on their faces already.
We was then shown to the 1st area and introduced to Jack, a young man who made a real effort with the children. He first showed us a Christmas greeting card and you might be thinking whats so special about a greetings card we can all have a pic taken and turn it into a card but this really was something else. He placed the tablet over the top of the card and the picture turned into a video! Perfect way to make personalised message cards. We even got to make our own, all wearing silly hats (of course mine was an elf and yes Billys had to have the most sparkles!), we waved and shouted Merry Christmas and it was turned into our own card there and then. Next Jack introduced us to another bit of kit. Now i'm not necessarily into gadgets as much as my husband and the children but I really saw the value of this. It was like a tablet but about the size of a laptop, and great for more than 1 child to use at once and interact together on. It was actually a Mobile all in one. The children played the game that was loaded, a bit like a moving jigsaw and they both worked together and quickly got the hang of it, moving around the device without any help from us or Jack, who was suprised at how quickly Billy got into the swing of things. I told him that was Billy all over and at 3 he was the one who set up my tablet and phone for me when I couldn't!
The next session was making paperchains with Camilla, who was lovely and got the children cutting, sticking and glittering the paperchains (and each other) they also helped colour in santas body parts ready for pin the buckle on santas belt. Santa was bright and colourful once all the children had had a go. The next session was 'in the kitchen' and I did wonder what we was going to do with all the cook books out on display considering we was in the middle of a hub in the middle of a shopping centre. The children got to choose a Christmas recipe and chose triple choc muffins and then I got to type up a recipe card on a notebook, it was a great idea and something that our house could really benefit from as we love cooking and I have a recipe card box but I have to admit i hate writing the card out! The recipe card was printed out in seconds, complete with picture and we was given it to take away to along with the greetings card. Whilst I was doing this Billy and Mackenzie had gone for more pastries and moved to another section. Mackenzie was busy painting pictures on 1 device whilst Billy was taking photo's of himself and adding special effects like superhero helmets, party hats etc. I'm not sure if what he was enjoying the most, the activity or the attention he was getting from the 3 lovely ladies who was helping him and telling him how sweet he was. Again these pictures were printed out and given to the children as a reminder of all the things they'd done.
Next each family was handed a massive goody bag with 'extras' to take home, I wondered what the A2 size box was so had a little peek and couldn't believe it was an advent calender! We were in for a real treat now as we were lead away from the Hub to santa's grotto, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a 4D grotto but I was blown away by it. We were lead outside to a log cabin and greeted by elves and invited in. Our group really was being made to feel like VIP's all day. The elves came round and spoke to each of the children individually, asking them their names, if they'd been good and what was on their christmas list. Then they took their photo's, we had no idea why but was then lead into the main room of the cabin, and sat on benches infront of a giant screen and each given glasses to wear. We watched an amazing 4D short story about a naughty elf stealing presents and was amazed to see th childrens faces and names on them in the story... so thats what the pictures were for! At the end silver glitter pieces sprayed over the children. We were then lead into the corridor and lead round to father Christmas' room as a family. My two were so excited and couldn't wait to talk to father Christmas and tell them what they wanted. He even asked mum and dad what we wanted and I joked 'peace and quiet' we had our photo taken with Santa and then was lead back out to the front of the cabin where we brought a family picture and a photo snow block as we loved it that much.
Next the HP team greeted us with an envelope and explained lunch arrangements. In the envelope was a pizza express gift card preloaded very generously to cover a 3 course lunch for us. We had a great time in Pizza Express, a great choice as our children love pizza and he fact they got to have starters and desserts 'like grown ups' was great.
At 1.45pm we headed down to the ice rink and was greeted by the HP team and an organiser from the rink, who sorted us with ice skates, took our bags and organised penguins and seals so even the children could enjoy it. I'd seen the pengins before to help children skate around the ice but not the seals so even younger children could have fun! I love ice skating but Jamie and the kids had never been so he was a nervous and convinced her was going to end up in A and E. I'm glad to say nothing like that happened and everyone enjoyed it. Mackenzie and Jamie gave up first so I asked Billy if we wanted to go round fast, he said he wanted to zoom! So we went round a bit longer zooming in between everyone.
It was a fantastic day and we realised after all this we were ready to travel home without doing anything else as we were all so wiped out! I was a little overwhelmed at the thought and effort that HP had but into the day and was very thankful for the invitation. But that wasn't it. When we got home and opened the goody bag to find lots of goodies for the children including felts, colours etc and we were shocked to find that the giant advent calender wasnt just full of chocolates but on certain days throughout the month there would be a different activity throughout the month, they had given us corresponding envelopes to match the door numbers and were going to send us a family printer to complete these activities on and send back to them to enter a competition to win £100. Wow! The fact they had given the children something to do in the run up to Christmas to keep that experience alive was really fantastic in my eyes and had given us all the tools to allow them to do it was mind blowing.
Thankyou HP for a truely magical weekend.
Stacey, Jamie, Mackenzie and Billy.