white board

My top 5 toys for 1-5 year olds when travelling

I have just got back from a trip to Crete with my 2.5 year old and my just 5 year old (who can’t read well enough to go through books).

I was quite conscious of the amount of time they/ we could potentially default to the iPad…


Two 4 hour flights, meals out every day, time inside when it got too hot at midday, so I took a supply of toys that I hoped would help keep them happy.  On the plane I was sat in-between the two of them and on the whole it was fairly stress free, so I thought I’d share the things that we took with us, that ended up being a godsend.


These were a real hit especially for my youngest.  They are animals with a magnetic centre that you can swap heads and feet to make different creatures.  He had a good half hour on the plane swapping their heads, bottoms, acting out different scenarios, making different sounds and they fit nicely on the tray table so he was sat still which was a total bonus!  My eldest also really liked them, he was interested in how many magnets could stick together and working out why one end repels and the other attracts.

I actually bought mine from Odds Farm in Bucks, but you can get them on Amazon for £17.95.


white board

I think this was one of the best distractions for us both on the plane and going out.  My two year old just likes to scribble and erase over and over, but my 5 year old played naughts and crosses, ‘teachers’, drew various members of the family and we had to guess who it was (I didn’t fare well on that one), as well as practiced his writing skills which was a bonus.  If you have a child that’s 4/5 I’d definitely recommend getting one. It is just the right size for small hands but fits a lot on.

Mine was from Amazon and cost £5.99.


These were an absolute winner for my five year old.  He can get quite bored of the wipe clean numbers and writing books but we haven’t done a mixed activity book before.  We had a mixture of them that included school type activities like tracing letters and circling correct shapes but then fun activities like spot the difference, crack the cryptic codes (which he loved), word searches (was quite impressed with how he did on those) and lots more.  I also think it helps having stickers so they can mark their progress too, my son loves to tell himself well done!

Where’s Wally books are great for this age group too In our experience.  We spend a lot of time looking at those.

Our favourite was a present so i’m not sure what it cost but amazon stocks loads of them at good value.  I find The Works always have fab selections normally at around £1.50-£3.



This is small enough to stow away in travel bags or hand bag on a night out  and fits on tray tables easily.  It’s great for 2 year olds and my 5 year old still really loves it too.  You can connect pieces to make all sorts from space ships, houses, cranes, cars, horses etc.  My two year old likes finding me the pieces and I build them with him and my 5 year old likes to make surprises so that we guess what they are.

I got a large starter pack years ago after seeing my son playing with them so much at nursery.  It’s fairly pricey but you can get smaller, cheaper packs too.    The starter pack I have is £44.

I’ve often looked at the different magnetic toys too but not personally used them, although I bet the work just the same.



As a lot of parents probably do, I take duplo with me most places.  Both of mine love pirates so a couple of pirates and mixed pieces of duplo kept them both entertained during meals and on the plane and in the car.  Especially as I took wheels so they could build cars and trains.  You don’t need lots, just a few to keep them (especially the little ones) interested in sticking them together and pulling them apart over and over and over!  My eldest is into lego now but still loves building duplo too and the bonus is I can split the pile of blocks in half so no fighting!


I am a photographer, specialising in anything to do with families.  Newborn, baby and family portraits are my speciality although I also do commercial/ product photography too.

You can see my latest work HERE

or please get in touch fiona@fionanormanphotography.com  07970 612867

Holyport sundial

A little look at Beautiful Holyport Village

My little village was hit by a fire (actually more than one) last week, it was horrible.

Everyone really rallied, ensuring people were safe and well informed.  It made me realise how much I appreciate living here.  Everyone is just so kind and it felt awful having fire engines around such a beautiful place.  I feel like it’s an incredibly warm, welcoming and safe community for my children and I need to photograph more of it!

So here’s a little snap shot of the gorgeous light I have been appreciating on my evening walks recently.

Have a look at my recent work, here.  Or get in touch below for more info.

family cake smash

Recent Session - First birthday celebration at Ockwells park, Maidenhead

This family combined a first birthday celebration with a family photo shoot.  It was great un in ockwells park, Maidenhead, watching the kids run around and play and then sitting down afterwards with cake.  The little girl who’s first birthday it was didn’t fancy her cake much!  So everyone else got stuck in!

Recent Session_Baby boy before his christening

This family travelled to my Holyport Studio to capture this little man before he got christened and turned one.


It’s a gorgeous age to get photos (Around 7 months- 9 months).  Baby’s are usually smiling, happily distracted and not crawling or walking, which makes my job a bit easier!

family kissing

Family photography - before and after


A lot of people could be mistaken into thinking that 90% of a photographer’s time is spent photographing, but actually this is not the case at all.  Aside from the emails, enquiries, orders, invoicing, marketing, packaging, posting, delivering, researching, location scouting, advertising, training, website and SEO updates I also spend my time editing photos.  Especially at this time of year when I am so busy…

I am currently doing a lot of photographing outdoors in the evening, for family and maternity sessions especially.  This means that the light is softer and easier to work with.

At times though, some photos need a bit more work.

I’ve picked a few of the more extreme examples below, to show you what happens after a shoot.

Some of the issues I was faced with below:

  • Lack of light – for the maternity sessions we stayed quite late which meant the light was almost gone. This makes for some fabulous silhouette type effects but also means that some of the pretty details and light from a photo needs to be brought back in when using photoshop.
  • Change of location in a session without adjusting settings – When chasing toddlers around I end up using many different places within one location.  One minute I’m photographing them in bright sunlight and then I am under the trees or running through the forest.  So whilst I adjust my aperture/iso/shutter speed to cope with this, things like my white balance don’t change and then need to be tweaked in post production.
  • Distracting elements – trees, benches, people, you name it!  They can take away from the focus of an image and I spend A LOT of time removing things when working in public places, especially photobombing dogs!  If there is something I really want your eye to focus on, like a pregnant lady in the distance, I remove anything (trees) that will make your eye wonder form that focus).
  • The need to compliment and accentuate what’s already there.  Sometimes photographs just need a bit of extra colour, light or contrast to highlight what was already there.  For example, when working in the long grass it can often look a but dull in camera, so accentuating the warmth or the colour can make an average photo have more drama and impact.

I hope you found this interesting!  If you’d like more info on Maternity, Newborn, Baby or Family photography then please contact me using the form below.


Bluebell Photos - before and after

Green colour casts, dark shaded areas with little light, or bright hotspots of light with little shade.  The Bluebell season really challenges photographers when it comes to the photo shoot itself but especially the editing process!

This year, I thought it would be fun to show you what goes into making my bluebell photos really stand out and explain why it takes a while to edit them!

The first thing and most important thing in running bluebell photoshoots, is the choice of location and then the spots I use within that location.  I am looking for somewhere with limited logs and branches that are a huge distraction in the background, let alone a pain for the kids to manage when running around.  I also chose to use a spot with a clear path so that the kids aren’t trampling over bluebells too.

Where possible, I tried to find spaces for the subjects to sit so that they were facing outwards towards open sky so that they have some natural light on their faces (and not facing more trees that are blocking the sky)  but often this isn’t possible.  Bluebells typically grown in the woodland where they are fairly covered by tree branches and shaded, this causes a problem for photographers as it doesn’t provide a lot of light on faces and skin ends up looking dull and often tinted a dark green colour.

On the flip side to this, there are also many hot pockets of light that can reflect the acidic green colour from the plants and the trees onto peoples faces.  On bright days the pockets of light also mean that bright spots can appear on peoples faces and blow out the highlights (overexpose the bright spots) and ruin a photograph.

On this day pictured below, the sun was constantly going in and out, so I’d find a spot I liked, adjust my settings so that the subjects faces were lit just right, then the sun would either come out and blow the highlights or it would go in and they’d be underexposed.

However, the main problem with the bluebell photo shoots, is really just the green colour casts you get.

In the photo below, you can really see what I mean by the acid green colour taking over the photo.  The kids have a green colour cast all over them, especially their faces.

unedited bluebell photos
edited bluebell photo

Yukky Green

In this picture, the green is so overpowering that the kids and the bluebells are lost.  So I work to increase the exposure slightly, reduce the green from their faces and clothes, especially in the shadows, reduce the green from the background and also from the grass, increase the warmth of the whole photo, add a few more bluebells and clone out the dead leaves, and create a bit more light around them  whilst darkening the tree somewhat (to help them stand out).

Did you also notice that I removed those distracting leaves from behind them?

Another example below.  I love this next image, so sweet.  it took us a while to get the little one standing too, so I wanted to get it right!


It doesn’t need a huge amount doing to it but just a few steps to really make it pop a bit more.

The first image you will see is slightly under exposed, this is because it was a bright day and there were pockets of light coming through the trees that I couldn’t control with them moving so much.   As discussed above, had this hit their faces, It would have blow the highlights which means a loss of detail.  So as I know my camera well and also shoot in manual and raw, I could allow for a small bit of underexposure as I can fix it in photoshop without doing damage to the quality.


Here’s what I did, in a bit more detail (for anyone that is familiar with photoshop).  I increased the exposure, as mentioned, as well as lifted the shadows and reduced the highlights which in turn reduced the contrast.  I like my bluebell photos to be softer than my usual edits.   I played with curves layers in Photo shop to make the kids stand out, I did this by brightening them up and darkening the background slightly to create some subject / background contrast.

I warmed up their skin, ( I added more yellow and reduced the magenta and blue tones) and I also reduced the green that was being slightly reflected onto their skin.   I reduced the yellow saturation from the acidic green plantation and increased the vibrancy of the blue in their clothing somewhat to make it stand out a bit more.

I thought at this point they needed a bit more framing, so I brightened them up a tad more and created a slight vignette.

Lastly, I brightened up the older boys face a tad and then added a soft layer of lilac to give it more of a dreamy look.  I then noticed the log at the front so I remove that!

The key to avoiding these types of problems, is really to step your subjects out of the shaded green areas, so that they are facing natural, open light, rather than being enclosed and the light bouncing off green leaves and blue flowers and then reflecting on to their hair and skin.

It’s so tough when you’re in the zone though! Sometimes you just got to get the image and worry about it later!

If you’re photographing kids in woodland or a similar environment, here are a few top tips on how to have them stand:

Get down low– this creates the illusion that they are surrounded by flowers or grass when they may not be.  In the example of the kids sitting down above there was just a small patch of bluebells infront of them and they weren’t actually that tall, but getting down low made them look more surrounded than they were.  It also helps to hide things like paths if you get down low enough when there are flowers in-between you and the subject.  Getting down low also gives the feeling that you are in the childs world, not an adult looking down upon it, which I personally like.

Face the children/ subject towards open sky – this is going to illuminate their skin much more than if they were facing large trees or surrounded by woodland.  It also helps to prevent colour casts which give your photograph and undesirable feel.

Don’t position them facing the sun in daylight – this will create harsh shadows (especially in midday sunshine) and it will also cause squinting and unflattering faces.  Instead, position the subject either with the sunshine behind them (you can tell when this looks really nice as the back of the hairline lights up and create a slight golden halo) or at 45 degrees.  Just don’t have it behind you unless they are in a shaded area or until it’s much later in the day and therefore lower, softer and more flattering.  If you are shooting very late in the afternoon it will be darker so you will need them facing the light at times to get their faces bright enough.

Look out for hotspots – Have you ever taken a really nice photo only to have a part of their face really bright that you can’t see much detail?  When taking a pictures outside, try to get them to move around so that there is no isolated light shining on their face and move them so that they are more evenly lit (all in the shade or all out of the shade).  One bright spot distracts your eyes from looking at the subject and draws them to that light part of the photo.

An example of what I mean below:

Don’t ask them to say ‘Cheese’- this applies to all photo shoots really!  It’s such a common thing for parents to do but you just get staged/false smiles with no real connection.  Instead, get them to tell you a joke, tell you something that makes them laugh, tell them a joke or a story about yourself, ask them to look at the flowers or guess what they smell like. Anything other than look at me and say cheese – trust me!

Some more of my 2018 bluebell sessions are below, hope you enjoy them!  I can’t wait to share the other two sessions that are currently being kept a surprise for a birthday and and anniversary present!

See more of my family sessions here

Or enquire by completing this form

Dad and son walking in the forrest

Before and after - an example of how post processing can really add impact!

Turning an ordinary photograph into a wow photograph

Dad and son walking in the forrest

This is one of my favourite photos of my husband and my son.  It is hanging on my wall on a large wooden block – as you walk into my house.  I love it!

But, would you believe that it wasn’t actually that much of an amazing photo straight out of camera?  I wrote a before an after blog before and people really liked to see the transformations, so I thought i’d do another!

It's a nice enough photo but it doesn't blow me away

The Editing Process

When I saw this photo, I knew I’d want to work on it to make it something special.  The light, the position of them, the scale of the trees, were all really lovely.

The first thing I did was check the white balance in Camera Raw and warmed the photo up a tad.  I also added contrast as I knew I wanted to really accentuate that beautiful light coming through the trees and give it a sharper feel.


I knew because of that amazing ray of light, that I wanted it to be black and white, but first of all, I had to remove all of the distracting elements.  Using photo shop I cloned out the extra people, their shadows and the dogs that snuck into the frame.  At this point I also thought i’d want it portrait, rather than landscape, so I cropped to see what I thought.

This, I liked, but for me the portrait orientation reduced the percieved scale of the forrest and how small my (6ft 4 ) husband looked in it. A quick check as a black and white edit confirmed this.

At this point, I could also see that there were lots of distracting elements to the photograph.  The extra bits of light sneaking in took your focus off the subjects.  As did the reflection of light on the foliage and the large lighter space on the floor. I removed these by cloning over with darker spots or reducing the tone of the light using a curves layer in photoshop.

I really liked this now but It still didn’t have the wow factor to me.  I decided at this point to manipulate the light slightly, to create more of a frame around them and make it much more dramatic (I also sharpened in places too)….

The circular framing of the light at the bottom right of the image really keeps your eye focused on them and is much more pleasing to the eye.  A little bit more contrast and I knew i’d be happy. So I pulled down the blacks using curves in photoshop and I was done.  The  light elements appear brighter now and the focus is purely on the subject, with the light rays taking you to them.

Dad and son walking in the forrest

Original/ original converted to B+W/  final B+W.

And there you are, wasn’t super hard but those small changes turned it into a beautiful image that everyone comments on when they walk in the house.

What do you think?  Hopefully better!

A few more before and after’s below…

Here I Increased exposure, added contrast, fixed white balance slightly, removed distractions.

I must say, this was a little sloppy of me as I was photographing my son relatively unplanned.  Usually I would have planned it better so there was more light and my settings were spot on.    But it was easily rescued.

Merged two photos together to get the best expressions.  Increased exposure, shadows, adjusted white balance, added contrast, brightened whites.

Getting 4 siblings (including a wriggly 8 month old) is always a challenge so it was inevitable that i’d be swapping faces!

Olivers skin was a bit red here as with a lot of 1 or 2 year olds.  So I had to remove the redness using a colour balance layer in photo shop, remove the dried skin around his lips, warm up his skin by increasing the yellows and reducing the magenta tones slightly, sharpened his eyes and used a colour boost action to make them pop.  Followed this with a slightly better crop that made the photo more interesting.

unedited picture of boy
edited picture of boy

To see more of my work please click here

Or email me fiona@fionanormanphotography.com 07970 612867

baby feet

Why you don't have to buy new clothes for your little ones session

One of the most common questions I get from parents that have booked a session for their baby is what shall they wear?

It’s an exciting thing to prepare for and you want to get it right!

Over the last year I have started to build up a wardrobe full of clothes for little baby boys and girls so that people don’t have to worry.  Photo shoots cost money, I’d rather you not have to buy clothing as well!

I have been doing this for a few years now and not only have I developed a style that I like, I also know it looks good and helps to makes a baby photograph as cute as it can be.

My clothing is a big part of the overall look – because it’s not distracting.  I want the babies that I photograph to look like babies.  I know it can be tempting to buy lots of grown up clothing – shirts, jeans, dresses etc when they are little.  I do it for mine all the time.  But ultimately when we look back at the photographs we have of them as a baby we more often than not say -they look so little!!  I want my photographs to emphasise this point.  They have their whole life to dress smart.

The clothes I have in my studio wardrobe are simple, casual, comfortable, babyish and super cute! They aren’t too formal and they add character without taking away from the baby.

Here are my top reasons to follow my guidance on clothing – whether you use my clothes or buy your own for the session.

You get to see all their little details - chubby baby feet and hand dimples

Little vests, baby grows and knickers mean that all of their baby features can be seen – baby feet don’t stay chubby forever, and one day those hand dimples will also be gone!  Get them photographed before it’s too late.

The clothing compliments the baby 'cheekyness'

With my first child I was desperate to dress him in ‘big boy clothes’ but actually it’s the little leggings and baby outfits that emphasise their cheekiness.  They don’t take away from the photo they just give extra character to those adorable funny faces that they pull.

Baby Chub needs to be seen!

Enough said really!  I just love the rolls that babies have.  The creases in the thighs and wrists are just gorgeous and shouldn’t be covered up!

Baby pot belly's don't stay forever!

The baby pot belly is something they all have, however small or big they are.  It’s unique to this age and one of my favourite things to capture.

It helps them to look as small as they really are

Nothing better than a simple baby grow or vest to really capture the baby’s size.  It’s just them, in the big world!

It allows movement to be captured on camera

My studio clothing is all chosen so that each baby can move freely.  Often they are trying to crawl, walk or roll so having dresses that they catch their feet on or tight jeans can be a pain for them at a time when we want them to be happy!

You get to play dress up without the cost

My clothing allows you to treat yourself to new things without breaking the bank!  Allow yourself to shop amongst my small studio wardrobe and walk away with beautiful photographs without having to pay extra.

Who needs clothes anyway!

Often the photos I love the most the baby doesn’t have clothes in anyway!

Nothing says cute like a squidgy baby bum!

Find out more about my baby sessions here 

Studio vs at home vs outdoor session - what's the difference?

So you live close enough to drive to my studio in Holyport, but you aren't sure if you want photos at home or in my studio, or outside.

Let me help you decide!

For my sons second birthday, I wanted to get a few new pictures to mark his development and to capture his personality.  It got me thinking if I wasn’t a photographer, what sort of photos would I want, studio or home?  Or would I want to be outside?  So, I did all three!

As a photographer there is one key difference when talking studio vs home shoots and that is the light.  The light in a studio is controlled, it is familiar, the space is set up to facilitate the best angles in the best light. You can’t loose really!

The flip side to studio work is that you are limited to that space, the settings you have created or bought.  Most people homes have many interesting spaces, light sources, objects, rooms.  At times it can be very exciting and produce some really creative results.

Outdoors of course the kids are able to truly let go.  The surroundings can be spectacular or simple depending on what you want and which month or season you are in.

Off to the studio I went to begin my challenge...


Studio work with my own kids is hard for me.  They aren’t generally allowed in the studio so when they are, there is temptation to climb and jump on the bed and he’s generally not wanting to stay still for a single second.  This is fine when it’s a clients child as I have the parents as a distraction and help.  But on my own – tough!  My husband was eventually roped in.

boy being tickled

After a few attempts (one after a hair cut) I managed to get what I wanted.  He is captured as he is, cheeky, gorgeous, little, beautiful.

edited picture of boy

When I remember his smile as a toddler - it will be exactly like this!

I will definitely frame some of these.  My studio style is light, it’s airy, it fits in with my home decor which is predominately white, grey and green.  I will definitely share them on facebook, I love them. When I look back on photos these will show me what he looked like, they will show his personality, they will remind me how cheeky he was, how much he smiled.  They put his size into context.  They make me happy.

boy with is father

However, what they don’t do is remind me of what he is currently into at he moment.  All of the things that form his personality and are helping him to learn something new every day.

Let me show you some examples of what I mean...

For example.  He adores music.  He got a guitar for Christmas and absolutely loves it, plays it every day (I say plays it loosely).  It has started coming with us places.  I want to remember that.

child on guitar

He loves pirates (absolutely obsessed with pirates is possibly a better way to describe it).  I had to get some of him being ‘Captain Hook’.

Even Captain Hook needs a nap sometimes...

Maidenhead Photographer

He is never without his teddy bear.  He doesn’t actually care which one of about 5 he has, but he wants to hold one always and relishes games where he gets to pretend to feed them or dress them.


He loves loves loves his brothers train set and if I can’t find him I know he has snuck into his brothers room to play with them.

boy playing trains

Would I frame all of these pictures or share them online? Possibly not all, but I’d probably choose one or two for sure.  Would I keep them and cherish them forever?  Absolutely, they are going in an album as we speak.

Mum's boots are a big hit at the moment!

child in mums shoes

Running free outdoors

maidenhead and bracknell photographer

I think I’m hard pushed to remember a photo shoot where I didn’t get smiles, love and laughter from being outside.  I find that it’s outdoors where everyone really relaxes and true personalities are really captured.  People often worry about the weather and email and call me days before saying shall we just go for a studio session instead as it isn’t going to be sunny.  This is absolutely not necessary.  I don’t need sun, I don’t need it to be dry, as long as it’s not pouring down my outdoor photo shoots go ahead – what child doesn’t like jumping in muddy puddles!

Additionally, this is where family photography can really come into it’s own.  I can capture piggy backs, swinging, tickles, chases, holding hands, sulking, tantrums, laughter.  Family life as it is really.

In my case, at this age (two) outdoors was an absolute winner in terms of how easy it was to get him relaxed and engaged.  He can run towards me and smile, hide, play on his own, with me or his dad or brother and we can get some beautiful posed shots as well as more natural ones.

When it comes to your photographs of your children here are some questions you want to ask yourself.

What is the decor in your home like?

  • Would bright and airy studio photos look better? Would documentary style black and whites work better? Do you like the colour and vibrancy of outdoor photoshoots?

What exactly do you want to capture?

  • Do you want a nice photo of all the kids together looking at the camera or interacting naturally? Do you want a picture of the kids playing in their own environment? Or do you like clutter less portraits?

Do you want the to be a documentary of life as it is now?  Or do you want to be a documentary for them and how they look, how they smile etc – studio?

Do you want to be in the photos?  Does your partner?

Do you want the focus to be just on the children, no real background?

Do you want to have photos as keepsakes to show the children the houses and rooms they grew up in?

Do you want me to photograph them in nice clean clothing or them jumping in muddy puddles along with the joy that come with it?

Would you like professional photographs to document ‘real life’ – dirty mouths and hands after food / play?

  • (for example – photos you would take yourself if you could)

Do you feel comfortable having someone in your home?

Do you feel comfortable taking your kids to a studio?

Does your child like new places?

Is your child good at being in confined spaces?

Does your child warm to new people easily?

Is it a large group or just one or two children?

All of these things can influence your decision , and it’s worth talking to me about it if you are unsure.

"If I don't look at mummy, she can't see me"

cheeky monkey

So if I wasn’t a photographer which type of session would I go for at this age?  It’s a tough call – probably in an ideal world a mixture of all.

When you consider photography think about what it is you want to capture?  For example I get many people saying their kids teeth are about to fall out and they want photos before (or after they have).  Others want photos of their children with their favourite toys or they have a significant place that they visit as a family.

The most important thing I guess is just to take photos! Take loads!  Value photography.  Good photography isn’t cheap but that is for a reason.  Nothing else in life takes you back, makes you feel things, reminds you of forgotten times and above all makes you feel so proud of what you have achieved!  I love mine and always will.

family photographer

If you are unsure then we can work to create something that fits for you. I once had a lady bring her two sons and one of them was obsessed with pigs (Still is i am told) so he bought a bag full of pigs to the studio and we photographed him playing with them.  We got more posed images but we captured what he was into at that time.  Alternatively, if you want the comfort of home but want some more formal pictures, I can always find a place to sit everyone down to do this.

A few additional points from me.  If I come into your house, I am a fresh pair or eyes.  I can see things that you might take for granted, particularly the way your kids gravitate towards you or certain activities in their own environment.

Additionally, camera phones are great these days but the majority of photographs that we take indoors are in either very dark light or very bright light.  Camera phones can’t cope with these like a good camera with a good photographer that is trained to work it can.  You simply won’t get good prints from indoor photos on a phone.  Don’t take this for granted and think you have lots of good ones you can print already.  Chances are they won’t print well.

boy playing with bubbles

Other things to consider are how the kids might feel and behave and how that impacts you.  If you have a very shy child perhaps home is better? It’s totally down to you.

And obviously if you can’t decide, do all, like I did!

Or we can work to create something that combines the clean portrait feel of a studio with the natural relaxed atmosphere of in home or outdoor.  My studio work is relaxed and natural.  The photos of Oliver were on my bed in the studio but could have been taken in any home – I aim to recreate a non stuffy, happy environment for my photos and I hope that comes across.  So if you like the idea of natural photographs but don’t want to use your home – we can achieve exactly that in my studio.


Please get in contact to discuss what would work for you...

maidenhead and bracknell photographer

My favourite places to visit with friends and kids if you actually want to catch up!

The best places to visit in Windsor, Maidenhead and the surrounding area when you actually want to catch up with friends (and not end up chasing the kids in opposite directions).

Maybe it’s just me, but I think I think i have had approximately 4000 unfinished conversations with friends in the last 5 years.  We meet with the best of intentions; our sole aim of meeting is to ‘catch up’.  But then, one kid goes one way, the other goes another way and you end up going home thinking you may as well not have bothered!  Well I always end up talking about this with clients – its one of the many topics we cover in our sessions.   So I thought i’d put together a list of my favourite places to catch up if you want to actually try and complete those conversations, and have lots of fun with the kids.  It’s not guaranteed, they are for children after all (it’s not a list of spa’s)! But I do find that I get to see more of my friends in these places.

Beautiful Spring in Langley and black Park

Black Park / Iver Heath

Price per child: Free, parking is between £3 and £5.50 and dogs are welcome.

Perfect if: You are having a larger group get together, although it’s suitable for anyone!  It’s lovely to walk around and let the kids climb tree’s and explore the woodland.

We used to go here as kids and it’s now a favourite for me as a mum.  You can definitely spend a chunk of the day here with friends in the summer months.  It’s the other side of Slough, in Iver Heath, so about 20 minutes from Windsor.  The park is set around a lake with a cafe and a playground suitable for ages. There are huge walks that you can do and lots of different flora and fauna to explore.  Throughout the year they hold different kids trails such as an elves and fairy trail or an Easter or halloween hunt.  Then in the summer there are lots of activities usually scheduled such as outdoor cinema and fun days with the fair etc.  The playground is fairly big, so I can’t guarantee constant conversation but the lovely walks and large cafe make up for that and provide plenty of opportunities to catch up.

Langley Park / Langley

Price per child: Free to get in, parking is between £3.50 and 5.50

Perfect if: You have children that have a habit or running off!

My favourite place for outdoor photo shoots, this is a beautiful spot and great for catching up with friends.  It’s very near Black Park, in Langley.  There is a small gated play area where you can see the kids at all times, so perfect if you want to have a natter while they play and they cannot escape.  Outside of the park there are beautiful gardens – especially pretty in the spring and summer months when then rhododendrons and Azalea are in bloom.  The cafe serves delicious food and if you are up for a walk there is plenty to explore with the Arboretum and other historical features.  In the summer we love to make use of the large open space to picnic and watch the kids run around.

Beautiful Langley Park in the autumn

Savill Gardens /Old  Windsor

Price per child: Entrance is free until the end of Feb but parking can be expensive – up to £10 for a few hours – try parking on the roads nearby if you can.

Perfect for: Walks all year around and picnics with plenty to keep the kids occupied.  Great for scooters and bikes.

Savill Gardens is part of the Windsor Great Park and is one of our family favourites for Sunday walks.  The garden itself cost to go inside although it is free in January and February.  If you park and then go left as you are looking at the garden entrance you will head towards Virgina Waters.  Just at the start of that walk you will find a small play area with sand pit inside.  It’s opposite the lake and a large open space so it’s perfect for parents to take turns to sit and watch their children play as the playground is secured (my husband and I often do shifts in the playground when we go with friends – one goes in the playground while the other sits on the grass and mans the picnic area and chats to friends).  There is an ice-cream van in the summer months and then tea and coffee and warm food in the winter months.  It’s perfect for walks, although the parking is expensive so try to get a space o the road on the way in if possible.

Runnymede/Old Windsor/Egham

Price per child: Free, with parking around £6 for the whole day.

Perfect if: You want to fill your day and keep the kids from getting bored, especially on sunny warm days.

This is a great day out, on the way to Egham if you are going from Windsor.  The riverside itself is a beautiful setting for a picnic and people / boat watching! The children love the splash pool in the summer months and there is also a small amusement park too.  The playground is large enough for all ages and is situated next to the cafe.  There are plenty of walking opportunities so the kids simply can’t get bored.

The Jelly Lounge is a firm favourite

Jelly Lounge/ Windsor

Price per child: It costs £6 to get in for an hour and a half soft play and they also run workshops for music / craft / cooking etc at set times, so you can pay £7 to go to one of those (£10 for cooking) or get half an hour soft play included too if you pay £10.

Perfect if: You have toddlers and under 6’s (although I think it’s recommended up to 8) that you are comfortable running free in soft play, or if you have babies/ small toddlers that are the same age.

This is a fairly new soft play in Windsor and is in a great location, just off Peascod Street, so very central.  It has a medium sized soft play for the kids with seating along side it and then a smaller area for younger ones with baby toys, trains, wooden kitchen etc plus a few tablets attached to the walls.  Their facilities are great with lovely toilets and plenty of space to eat (although you have to buy from them you can’t eat packed lunches).  Their food makes a nice, healthy, change to the usual stuff available in soft plays and they even sell alcohol, win!

My 2 year old is confident, and after a few visits where I have shown him the slides he has developed his own little loop of up the stairs, down the slide and doesn’t need my help.  Meaning I actually get to watch and have tea and talk!  They also have staff manning the soft play which helps although I don’t rely on it personally.  When we have been with younger kids, he is happy to go into the quieter toy area and even my 4 year old loves it because they have trains and tablets.

Jungle Mania / Bourne End

Price per child: £1.50 – 6.95 admission depending on age of child

Perfect if: You have a baby and older children with you or just babies.

When my first baby was little I loved it here because there was enough for him to do while I sat and had coffee, and the older children my friends had could run off and play safely. It is a great place for kids of all ages.  It has a large soft play with big slides for the older kids and a smaller one for the under twos.  There is also a football area and it has baby toys (jumperoo’s etc) for those that aren’t old enough to go in the soft play.  I like it because it’s not so big that if you have older ones you get in a panic that you can’t see them (It’s smaller than Kids in Action and Odds Farm).  You can call out for them and they will hear you if you are loud enough (unless it is ridiculously busy, which it can be on weekends or rainy days).  They have a cafe and toilets with space to change and the soft play has just been refurbished.


Ockwells Park near Andreas Cafe, in the summer months

Andrea’s Cafe/Maidenhead

Price per child:  Parking is free and the soft play is around £3-£4.

Perfect if: You have small kids that can enjoy the soft play but might want you close at hand.

This is set within Ockwells park in Maidenhead, which in itself has lots for the children to do.  There is plenty of open space for the kids to run around, a few animals to look at over the fences, nature trails, bluebells usually in May and a large playground including sand pit and zip wire.  The Soft play and cafe are opposite the playground, with the cafe serving basic food like bacon sarnies.  The soft play is small enough that when the kids are in there you can see them at all times.  Its perfect for under 4’s.  I love it because you can have a proper catch up with friends without having to chase them up and down slides as they can always see mummy. You can literally always see them.  And once the soft play gets too much or they get bored you can go outside for more fun.  The cafe also provide some outdoor toys such as fisher price cars and scooters.



Maidenhead Library/Maidenhead

Price per child: Free

Perfect for: A catch up when the kids prefer quieter play or you don’t want the noise of sotfplay

I like meeting friends here when I have just one child in tow (they have to be in a calm mood though – sorry).  It’s a nice quiet space with a coffee shop that sells delicious cakes.  Round the corner from the coffee shop is the kids book/reading area, with toys as well as books for them to explore while you enjoy a catch up and a coffee with friends (I believe you can take your drinks from the coffee shop with you).

Pheonix Gym / Windsor

Price per child:  50p for non walkers and £4 for children. It’s open every weekday morning except Wednesdays

Perfect for: Catching up with friends that have toddlers or babies and toddlers

This is hidden away in between Holyport and Windsor and was a godsend for me with my first when I needed to wear him out.  Its’ just one big warehouse full of soft play toys and gym equipment for babies and kids but because its’ just free play and open space you can chat to friends whilst keeping your kids safe no matter what their age.

Thames Valley Adventure Playground / Taplow

Price per child: £3

Perfect for: Children that like to keep moving onto new things or get bored easily.  I’d suggest kids of similar ages so you can stick together.

This is a registered charity, a sensory adventure centre for kids and adults with special needs.  It is open to the public on a Wednesday morning when they hold their ‘toddler sessions’.  Inside, you’ll find a small soft play, dressing up area, toys, crafts and my kids favourite, the music room complete with real, grown up drums!  Outside there is plenty to explore and it’s great for kids who get bored easily.  Sensory gardens, panpipes, sandpits, toys, ramps, climbing opportunities, swings, and a small trail that takes you on a path where you see a big pretend gorilla (of course).  It’s a firm favourite of mine and you can find it just past the BMW garage and Miller and Carter on the right hand side on the way to Taplow if you are coming from Maidenhead.

Jump In / Slough

Price per child: Between £5 and £10 depending on age and time for one hour.  If it is your first time you will need grip socks too £2.50

Perfect for: Meeting friends when you have older and younger kids that don’t want to do the same things.  The older children can go and jump on the trampolines while the younger ones can stay in the toddler area where there is a small soft play and fisher price type cars (and you can have coffee).

If you want to wear the kids out while you have a catch up this is for you- so long as you are happy for them to go off jumping on their own.  If they aren’t old or confident enough then expect to do a lot of jumping yourself to keep them safe!   There are seats within the trampoline area so you can stay close by.  The cafe and seating area is good as it sells different food and you can see the kids area when you go to order.  If you want a quiet catch up, best to avoid on the weekends but their toddler sessions in the week are usually quite chilled.

maidenhead and bracknell photographer

The Look Out/ Bracknell

Price per child:  The parking is around £4 for the day and you get money off the entrance to the discovery centre if you show your parking ticket.  Under 4’s are free to get in and adults and other children are between £6 and £8 (before the car park discount).  The playground and forest walks are free.

Perfect for: Keeping the children entertained on days where it may look like it will rain but you want the option of outside if it doesn’t.

This is a bit further from Maidenhead and Windsor as it’s in Bracknell but worth the drive.  The discovery centre itself is a fabulous space for kids to learn and play.  There are loads of activities such as water tubes with boats they can navigate, building sites with diggers and blocks and plenty of other sensory activities.    When we go with friends the kids either gravitate towards the water area or the building area, both of which we can stand, watch and have a chat.  Outside there is plenty of picnic space, a cafe and a large play area separated into three gated spaces.  So you can always chat to friends as the kids are never too far away from each other.  It’s set in Swinley Forest so there is also plenty of space to walk and for the kids to explore and jump in muddy puddles.


Escape soft play/ Egham

Price per child: £4.50 for non members

Perfect if: You want a quick catch up between one or two friends

This is a small soft play in the leisure centre, suitable for under 4’s I’d say.  It’s lovely if you want to meet a friend or two for coffee and know that your little ones are safe as you can always see them.  The cafe sells a mixture of hot and cold food too.


Maidenhead Riverside (Boulters Lock)  and Ray Mill Island / Maidenhead

Price per child:  Free, parking is under £4 (there current prices aren’t disclosed online)

Perfect if:  You want to give the kids fresh air and to have a picnic with friends

This is on the way to Cookham if you are travelling rom Maidenhead.  The Riverside area (which is actually the other side of the road to the riverside!) has a playground with large sand area which my kids have always enjoyed.  It’s got a mixture of things for all ages, so good if you have large age gaps.  I have never done it but there is also a mini golf next door.  The cafe serves hot and cold food and is open all year round.  If you walk slightly further up the road, towards Cookham you will find Ray Mill Island.  This is a really pretty site and gives the kids the chance  to see the lock and weir at the top the island.  There is also a small playground, waterfalls, ducks, swans and an aviary and guinea pigs.  If you’re not confident taking small kids near water then it might not be the place to go, but I really like it for a walk and a place to stop and get an ice-cream with friends.

Dad and son walking in the forrest
The Look Out, Bracknell

I hope you find this useful – and again, sorry if you don’t get to catch up – I make no guarantees!  But I do find these are my go to places these days.

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