Last Christmas, one of the highlights for our family was attending ‘Elf School’ at Hoburne holiday park in Christchurch. The event was in its first year, so there were only a handful of children there for the session the kids went to, and they absolutely loved the hands on experience, where they had the chance to paint an elf money box and learn all about what elves get up to when helping Santa.
This year, we were invited along to Elf School, again at Hoburne Christchurch, as well as the Mr & Mrs Claus experience, at nearby Hoburne Bashley, in the New Forest. The children were really excited, and it was nice to make a day of it with two different visits – perfect for getting the children in the festive spirit as Christmas approaches.
On arrival at Hoburne Christchurch, the children were greeted by two of Santa’s helpers, and invited to become qualified elves themselves at Elf School. Unfortunately this was the point when Benjamin, who recently turned three, decided it wasn’t for him. He had been to soft play that morning and I think the combination of tiredness and a little overwhelm upon entering the festively decorated room had him not wanting to leave my arms, which was a shame.
Elf school is recommended for those age 3-8, and I think it would be fine for children Benjamin’s age, as long as they aren’t overtired as he was. The other two children had a great time taking part, even though Cameron is just over the recommended age at nine. They made a couple of Christmas decorations and then wrote out their Christmas letters for Mr Claus, which they posted in a letterbox on their way out at the end.
I will admit, I personally found last year’s experience slightly better. I am not sure if it was the larger group, or the different craft activities, but something felt a little more special about last year’s event than this one. The children really enjoyed themselves though, and haven’t stopped playing with their miniature snow globes that they made during the event.
I like the fact that the children got to keep their elf hats, and also received a certificate to commemorate taking part in the session, which is a nice keepsake. I think something small like a bag of chocolate coins would go down really well alongside this, but perhaps the issues with dietary requirements or some parents not allowing their children to eat chocolate would make this difficult.
We headed in the car over to Hoburne Bashley, which is around a fifteen minute drive from the Christchurch park, and is somewhere I have visited a few times now for beauty events at their onsite spa. Hoburne Bashley have the Mr & Mrs Claus experience, which I was intrigued by, as it is a brand new experience and sounded different to anything we had been to before.
On arrival we were greeted by the Woodsman – Woody, who ticked names off the list and then led the way into the woods to the cabin where Mrs Claus was waiting for our group.
After some introductions, Mrs Claus split the group in two, with one group going to make reindeer feed with Woody, and the other group decorating cookies with Mrs Claus. It was a little bit cramped in the cabin, especially with all the parents as well as the children, and it was difficult to see what the children were doing, especially when they were making the feed, as we couldn’t easily fit in the room with them, but they loved both activities and were really happy with their cookies and little pouch of sparkly reindeer feed.
Enjoying their cookies and some hot chooclates, the children settled back together in the living area, where Mrs Claus proceeded to read a festive story to them (the kids loved it, as it was about poop!). My kids are notoriously fussy, and don’t usually drink hot chocolate, but I caught Benjamin on camera trying it out for the first time, and he seemed to like it!
As each child or small group of children went through to visit Mr Claus himself in one of the cabin’s other rooms, Mrs Claus encouraged the remaining children to take part in a colouring competition to keep them occupied.
I thought it was really nice how down to earth Mrs Claus was and how good she was with the children. Sometimes visits to Santa can feel very clinical, with a ‘one in, one out’ attitude, but this experience was much more interactive, it really felt like the staff cared how the children felt during each part of the session, which was fantastic.
Visiting santa, the children enjoyed having a chat and receiving a small gift. I think they might have been happier with a variety of presents, as with other Santa visits we have done in the past, but they were still grateful for the elf money box from the previous year’s elf school, which they can paint at home.
Before leaving, there was one more chance for a group photo with both Mr & Mrs Claus and then it was time to go. The children had a lovely time, and it felt like they did a lot more at this session than the Elf School. The kids enjoyed both activities, but as a parent, I would recommend Mr & Mrs Claus over this, if you were only looking to book one. Mr & Mrs Claus felt more intimate, had more activities and generally felt like a more well-rounded visit, with a gift and reindeer feed to take home.
We were invited along to Hoburne Christchurch and Hoburne Bashley for the purpose of attending both press events, however I was under no obligation to write this blog post and all words and images are my own.