Kiddy cars

With Christmas fast approaching, the masses take to the streets to do their Christmas shopping. For parents with young children, the experience can, quite frankly, be extremely stressful and most mums dread it.

I was desperate to avoid Oxford Street this year, as my daughter was definitely deep into the terrible twos. With that in mind, I headed to Westfield London in Shepherds Bush, billed as the largest in-town shopping and leisure destination in Europe.

The Car Park was hard to navigate and it was by some miracle that I ended up parked right by the Concierge Desk entrance. The car park charges seem quite expensive but they currently offering the first two hours free. Apparently they have Parents with Prams parking spaces, but I didn’t come across them.

They also have Valet Parking which costs a very reasonable £7.50. If you come by public transport but can’t face going back the same way, there is a Chauffeur Service, so you can be drive home by your very own chauffeur.

First stop: the Concierge Desk on the hunt for one of the Kiddy Cars. We were early so there were still plenty there. These cute little cars are free to collect and you can leave your buggy behind. There is a bag for your shopping at the back and handle to push.

The cars are bulky but the shopping aisles were wide enough to accommodate them. Westfield has all the high street shops, including House of Fraser, Debenhams and lots of amazing gift shops. Click here for the full list, however the collections are not as big as you’d find on Oxford Street. Instead of being weighed down with heavy, cumbersome bags, I opted for the handsfree service. Every time I made a purchase, the bags were collected by their Concierge team, for me to pick up when we were done. The Kids Section is fabulous and features all manner of children’s shops from Bebe Bisou, Polarn O. Piret and Atelier de Courcelles, to the Early Learning Centre, Build-a-Bear or the Disney Store. We also stopped for a play at the Play Zone.

For reasons of speed, we stopped at Costa Coffee for a sandwich, and the obligatory Babyccino (frothed milk, with a sprinkling of chocolate powder, which my daughter promptly spilt all over her dress, seat and floor. The staff must have loved us! There are plenty of fabulous kid-friendly restaurants, offering all types of wonderful food, and not a MacDonalds or KFC in sight.

The shopping centre is enormous, we ended up spending about 4 and a half hours there. I made sure my daughter had some fun too. The only thing that irritated me was not knowing which lift to take to my car. I wandered around and around, getting more and more frazzled, and by then my toddler was losing her patience as it was way past her sleep time. I eventually spotted two officially looking Westfield employees, who happily escorted me to the lift down to the car park.

We had a great, trantrum-free day and I got most of Christmas shopping done. My daughter happily stayed in The Kiddy Car most of the time. What a great invention! According to an insider, they are going to introduce Ferrari or Porsche style Kiddy Cars if you use the Valet Parking service.

There are lots of facilities for Parents with young children, including Family Rooms –  with changing tables; child-sized loos and sinks; private areas for feeding (with really comfy chairs); microwaves; play area and television, and a creche. Westfield also put on Mommy Mornings, Little Gym classes and Face Painting, and at the moment there is also a Santa’s 3D Grotto. If I came here more often, I’m sure we’d join in. Next time I visit, I’m planning on using their personal shopper services so I’m desperate to go from Slummy Mummy to a Yummy Mummy!

Westfield has definitely put a lot of thought into creating a much more enjoyable shopping experience for parents with young children. I’m converted!

© Janine Clements 2009

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It was with great trepidation that I arrived at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush, London, my toddler strapped in the back seat of the car. However it was a necessity, I needed a below-the-knee dress to wear for Henley Regatta the following day, or face the total humiliation of being refused entry to the enclosures (an experience that had happened a few years back in front of my father-in-law, that I did not wish to repeat – my dress had been ON the knee!). Billed as the largest in-town shopping and leisure destination in Europe, surely I’d find something – failure at this late stage was not an option.

First stop: the Concierge Desk on the hunt for one of the Kiddy Cars I’d seen children being driven around in on a previous trip. The Car Park was hard to navigate and it was by some miracle that I ended up parked right by the Concierge Desk entrance. The car park charges seem quite expensive but they currently offering the first two hours free. Apparently they have Parents with Prams parking spaces, but I didn’t come across them.

These cute little cars are free to collect and you can leave your buggy behind. There is a bag for your shopping at the back and handle to push. Isabella was champing at the bit, desperate to try out her new ride. So I strapped her in and we were off! She really looked like the cat who’s got the cream. Proudly being wheeling around on her throne. Thankfully there didn’t seem to be many shoppers and although the car was fairly bulky the shopping aisles were plenty wide enough to accommodate it.

Early on I was distracted from my dress shopping mission by a quick detour via the all-important Village, into Miu Miu, Gucci and Mulberry, taking advantage of Isabella’s jolly mood. However I quickly got back on track. Westfield has all the high street shops, Zara, Topshop, House of Fraser, Debenhams etc, however the collections are not as big as you’d find on Oxford Street.

Why is it when you are desperate, you can never find what you are looking for. Maxi-dresses and mini-dresses were clearly the height of fashion but wasn’t not much below the knee. Whenever I tried something on Isabella, even at the tender age of 21 months, had an opinion. The most popular comment was “Yuck Mummy” but occasionally she’d nod her head in approval.

For reasons of speed, we stopped at Costa Coffee for Isabella to have a sandwich, and the obligatory Baby-cino (frothed milk, with a sprinkling of chocolate powder, which she promptly spilt all over her dress, seat and floor. The staff must have loved us! There are plenty of fabulous restaurants, offering all types of wonderful food, and not a MacDonalds or KFC in sight.

She didn’t want to get out of her chariot, unless stuck in the changing rooms with me. Even then she’d wander around and then willingly climb back in. She did have a run around the Play area in the Kids section, which is fabulous, all manner of shops from the Early Learning Centre to Russell Bromley Kids.

My hopes were dwindling as the day progressed and I did buy an emergency dress from Debenhams. I wasn’t convinced I even liked it, but at least I had something.

The shopping centre is enormous, we ended up spending about 4 and a half hours there. The only thing that irritated me was not knowing which lift to take to my car. I wandered around and around, getting more and more frazzled, and by then Isabella was losing her patience, it was way past her sleep time, until I spotted two officially looking Westfield employees, who happily escorted me to the lift down to the car park.

So, it was great day, mainly due to the appeal of the Kiddy Car. What a great invention! According to an insider, they are going to introduce Ferrari or Porsche style Kiddy Cars if you use the Valet Parking service

There are lots of things for Parents and Kids, including Mommy Mornings, Little Gym Summer Camps, Face Painting and there’s a creche. If I came here more often, I’m sure we’d join in. Next time I visit, I’m hoping to sign up to the Personal Shopping service, you have to pay, but I think it will be worth it.

© Janine Clements 2009

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