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We invited Suhaine Baptie and her little boy Fraser to check out The Centre’s festive offerings.

Having a November baby meant that our first official Christmas as a family of three went by in a blur of newborn snuggles, nappy changes, night feeds and binge-watching Christmas films. This Christmas our baby is now an energetic one year old who is full of fun and mischief and I’m determined to make the most of the festive season and enjoy all the delights that Christmas has to offer!

The Centre is a great place for a festive family day out, offering a brilliant mix of shops for the all important Christmas shopping, family friendly restaurants and lots to keep little ones of all ages amused. Top of our Christmas to-do list was Fraser’s first visit to see Santa in his Grotto.

Santa’s Grotto is nestled in the heart of The Centre’s largest Christmas tree, near Topshop, and will be there right up to 3pm on Christmas Eve, so there’s plenty of time for little ones to meet the man himself. Tickets are £4.50 per child and you have the option to buy photo gifts and packages after your visit – a mounted photo costs £7 and packages start from £14 and include photo key chains, snow globes and printed pictures.

For Fraser the visit to see Santa was a lovely introduction to all things Christmas! He was giggling at the elf, captivated by the jingling bells, twinkling lights and reindeer decorations and thoroughly enjoyed meeting Santa. He even received an age-appropriate little gift which is a lovely touch. It’s something I can picture us doing year after year with him (for as many as he’ll let me!) and it was the perfect traditional start to our festive season.

The Grotto does get busy so though there are lots of slots available on the day, I really appreciated being able to book online, it made our visit quick and easy and meant that we could pick the perfect time for Fraser (after he’s had a nap and a snack!). The elves are so friendly and if little ones get overwhelmed you’re encouraged to take a break and come back later to try again for the perfect festive family photo.

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After seeing Santa our next stop was M&S to pick up a few Christmas presents for friends and family including a pair of penguin Christmas pyjamas for my nephew, some nice bubble bath for my aunt as well as one of their Dine In meal deals for us to enjoy when we got home - their slow-cooked beef ragu pappardelle is really tasty!

While we were visiting The Centre, I wanted to check out one of the new stores that I’d spotted on The Centre’s Facebook page - childrenswear boutique Petite Beu. My friend’s little girl is turning one soon so I’m looking for a little birthday gift inspiration and Petite Beu is a haven of gorgeous wardrobe additions, any of which would be a hit with the birthday girl and her mum!

The boutique is a pleasure to browse in with lovely floral displays and cute mannequins in the window, and most importantly has items to suit any budget, from affordable accessories to high end brands, available from newborn sizes up to age 12. One of their most adorable brands is Angel’s Face which includes faux fur jackets, lovely chiffon party dresses and my favourite - some beautiful frothy tutus that are guaranteed to make any little girl feel like a prima ballerina! I was spoiled for choice!

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In Iceland it’s traditional for people to give each other books on Christmas Eve and then spend the rest of the night reading them - this sounds like cosy book heaven to me, so with that in mind we headed off to Waterstones to stock up on a festive read for Fraser. Waterstones have put together an irresistible collection of Christmas books for children including classics like The Snowman and the textured That’s not my Reindeer board book.

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We couldn’t resist getting the Winter Wonderland Usborne Sound Book, £12.99, as Fraser loves anything with music - the pages transport you into a world of winter magic with the sound of Christmas carols, robins singing, a crackling fire and reindeer bells, all providing the soundtrack to the beautiful illustrations of animals ice-skating and hanging Christmas decorations. I can’t wait for our first read-through on Christmas Eve!

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After a morning of shopping and seeing Santa, we fancied a sweet treat to keep us going so headed along to Bakers + Baristas to sample a few items from their festive menu. I opted for the Mr Frosty muffin - a delicious rich chocolate muffin baked with chocolate chunks, topped with vanilla icing and a chocolate snowman. From their hot drinks menu I chose an indulgent white chocolate and coconut hot chocolate, served with whipped cream and a chocolate flake while my husband went for a festive spiced gingerbread latte which he polished off in record time, along with half of my muffin!

We popped in to pick up a few more presents from Boots and B&M (their home decor range is beautiful!) then we walked along to enjoy a children’s book reading by Scottish Author Coo Clayton. To celebrate Scottish Book Week The Centre had invited Coo along to bring her story, Maggie’s Mittens, to life through puppets, props, arts and crafts. The little ones really enjoyed the interactive elements and it was a lovely addition to our visit. If you missed it The Centre has lots of free family events running during the school holidays - just keep an eye out for details on The Centre’s Facebook page as well as on the events section of the website.

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Our final stop of the day was Disney Store and Fraser’s face lit up like a Christmas tree when he saw the giant soft toys. I’ve been re-watching all of the Disney classics lately but the one that holds a special place in my heart is one of the newer films - Up. While we were there I saw a hand-painted ornament of Carl and Ellie’s house with the balloons coming out of the chimney and I couldn’t resist adding it to our bauble collection.

We had a fantastic day at The Centre, soaking up the festive atmosphere, getting some great stocking fillers and starting a few Christmas family traditions. We’ll definitely be back soon as I’ve still got lots of items on my shopping list and enough time to squeeze in a few more festive hot chocolates before the big day!

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