Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Pirate House and Matilda’s Cat Book Reviews

My boys positively shone when they saw the package containing some new books for their now somewhat mammoth collection!  But they never tire of new reading material and were counting down the hours until bedtime.  Obviously children will benefit from reading anytime of day, but it’s been particularly busy for us today (children’s party, trampoline lesson, soft play session!), yet however tired we are bedtime would not be complete without a story.

But today was not just any story, The Pirate House by Rebecca Patterson shows how children’s imaginations can run wild and from some vague clues string a whole creative tale together.  If you have a few seagulls circling your house (and on regular occasion we do!) watch out you might be considered a pirate!  Sam Turner likes telling his friends lots of things, but they all begin to believe and see it to.  The narrative becomes more and more elaborate with tales of counting gold and baby mermaids.

My boys love pirates so the subject material was perfect for them.  Plus we are always going for walks and stringing along a tale based on clues we find when we are out and about.  So this book is very appealing for children who like to daydream big!  The door eventually opens wider and the children can glimpse inside, is it pirates they see or something else…?

I like it best of all because I can explain to my boys how you can over think things, like when eldest assumed a pair of jeans drying on the radiator and partly covered by a curtain was a fiercesome monster’s legs.  You can just explain how a vivid imagination can just make it seem that way, when the reality is often quite different and nothing to worry about.

It normally has an RRP of £10.99 for the hardcover version but Amazon has it for a bargain of £6.37!

Matilda’s Cat by Emily Gravett is quite funny; as it is written by the little girls hand in pencil, with bits crossed out as the story progresses.  The boys liked this, as it was slightly different to what they are familiar with.  Matilda talks about all the things she is sure her cat will love, but secretly it is what she likes doing, so she is forced to cross out the option each time when the cat is understandably unenthusiastic.  For instance the cat looks suitably unimpressed with his banana on a plate offering at a tea party and is more partial to a nap than fighting foes!

At the end of the story you find out what the cat actually does love (and no its not tuna fish sandwiches!).  A very entertaining book for any pet lover, my boys have two cats themselves so they liked it straight away, I am just hoping they haven’t got some idea’s and we shall soon see our cat being encouraged to eat a banana washed down with some tea in a bone china cup!

The illustrations are quite sweet and you can see how much the little girl loves her cat and wants to share her daily life with him.  This book also has an RRP of £10.99 but available at Amazon for £6.26.
These are definitely two lovely hardback books to consider featuring on your little ones bookshelves.

Monday, 30 July 2012


This is our entry into the Toys R Us Toyologists 2012.  My boys cannot live without bugs...

My boys love bugs but I am not ready to share my house with an assortment of pet woodlice and worms, so the next best thing is building on their HEXBUG collection.

My boys already have the small Nano bugs and they have been played with extensively since Christmas 2011, but I did not know until the Christmas in July event that they exist in bigger very sophisticated versions!

We were sent two of them, Larva and Scarab, they are targeted for those aged 8+ but my boys got lots of entertainment out of them.  I think as long as your child is over 3 (in case of random behaviour with small pieces!) they will be fine.  I was surprised how well they have both endured the heavy-handed nature of youngest at play!  He has been tying bits and bobs onto the Scarab legs and he is still going strong.

Just look at youngest debating what mischief he can get up to with his one... who he can scare or what the cat will make of it!

The Scarab (RRP £14.99) drained batteries quickly, but I guess its no surprise when you speed about like you have necked 10 cans of red bull, plus on top you have the athlete prowess to flip from your back on to your front again.  It’s like the Olympics but in the comfort of your own room with skilled robotic bugs taking centre stage!

The Scarab was so realistic I was not so keen on holding it with its legs going manically on my hand!  I think if I left it on the floor at my parent’s my poor dad would have a shock, thinking there was a giant bug on the loose.

The Larva (RRP £12.98) reacted to objects in its way and adjusted its path to avoid them.  It slithered around just like the real thing.  The movement, the look and the unique features should make these HEXBUG hugely popular.  You have been warned if they start selling out in the mad Christmas panic.

Here is a little footage of the bugs in action in a Duplo maze made by the boys.

I have my eye on the Crab, which reacts to light and sound, the perfect stocking filler for either of my boys.  But with 5 colours to pick from they can easily have one each!

Available to buy from a wide range of stockists.

My boys would love to be Toyologists, this is our third year trying!  So we will be keeping fingers extra tightly crossed.  Look how teeny they were the first year they applied (awww!).

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Lelli Kelly Shoes Competition

Having two boys you would think I would be pretty clueless to the world of Lelli Kelly Shoes but it’s hard to miss them.  For one you have the catchy tune on television, which lures you in, before you know it hubbie, the boys and I are singing it… seriously we need to get a grip!

Back when I was a little girl (so many moon’s ago!) I would have loved to own a pair.  Rosie (£49.85) in Black leather and patent are proving to be the big selling shoes and I can see why, with interchangeable straps, you will never get bored of your shoes.  If you have a school disco, a fancy meal out or a trip to the cinema your shoes can complement your look, with a bow, flowers or embroidered Lelli Kelly strap.  
But am sure Rosie in red will prove very popular too, being so bright and vibrant!

If you’re a teacher look away now (so you can keep relishing the long holiday) but everyone else its time to start thinking about back to school items.  I used to be so excited having new shoes and supplies to start the term.  Everything shiny and pristine for the first day, gave me a real buzz of excitement to face whatever was in store.  I can imagine lots of little girls have spotted and set their heart on a pair of Lelli Kelly shoes.  Being such a well known and quality brand with so many different appealing styles, it’s hard to resist buying a pair for your little princess.

It is almost just worth ordering a pair so I can get the free light up bunny pen from shoes.co.uk.  I would relish writing my blogging notes with one of those!  Although eldest might try and pinch it off me!

I wish I could squeeze my feet into a pair but sadly it will be no Cinderella moment for me.  Instead I am going to offer a competition to win a pair of Lelli Kelly Shoes, which will make someone’s daughter/niece very happy (although if your family has more than one little girl deciding who gets them might turn ugly!).

To enter please complete the rafflecopter below by the 10th of August.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kloo My Zoo Reader Cards Review

I read the instructions for the kloo cards and got slightly confused, it took hubbie coming home from work and getting to grips with them.  He read them, played it and then explained it to me suddenly it clicked!  Now I am not quite sure why I got in a muddle in the first place.
So glad hubbie did figure it out, as eldest loved them.  He enjoyed winning the animal picture cards and adding to his Zoo collection when he managed to read the animal word correctly.  

He had a real motivation to learn the words.  Plus children of this age seem to have a real interest in animals, so great subject matter for them.

It is the perfect game to start learning sentence structure and it is made easier by having the coloured arrows as a guide for younger children (those who have just turned 5) to identify the next card in the sequence.  Sentences always start with a card featuring a big star, so children can quickly get the hang of the game (well once mummy understands what to do that is haha!).

Lots of other suggestions for other games you can also play with these cards, so great value for money (RRP £9.99) given how versatile they are.  For example you can play word match, a memory card much like pairs but matching words to the animal pictures instead.

This would make a great educational stocking filler come Christmas.  After chocolate coins, edible Santa’s and a toy car, I struggle to find fun fillers so this pack works well. 

Learning to read through playing games seems more readily embraced here than when we try and encourage eldest to read his own bedtime story.  Sometimes he point blank refused, so any method (like these clever cards), which will help with reading ability, can only be a good thing.  Whatever stage of reading your child is at these would be a beneficial aid.  As always team them with plenty of praise to coax them to keep learning.

Available to buy from Amazon

Friday, 27 July 2012

It’s a Chicken! Game

This was a great game perfect for all the family, Paul Lamond Games in my opinion might just have nailed one of the Christmas must buys for 2012.

It is a drawing game, tailored well for the 5+ target market.  The templates on the drawing paper make it easier for this aged children to get involved, they then can just draw some extra features around it.

The cards that tell you want you need to draw are also well catered for the little ones, at the top there is a picture so those that cannot read can still join in.   My son would roll the dice and do the written word when he was able to read it otherwise he did the picture.  All in all a very well considered game, helping children of all abilities to take part and enjoy it.

The timer is chicken which clucks, this was much more appealing to the boys than the usual sand egg timers you normally get (although be warned it is quite loud!).  You get more points the quicker you guess the picture correctly.  If your child is taking longer to draw you could even remove the timer element until they are quicker but our son coped admirably and I was pleased seeing his drawings.

I think they have pitched this game correctly as 5+; my 3 year old did not have the concentration for it, he was too eager to draw his own pictures and did not even try and play.  But least he was happily occupied colouring!

There is a template on the back of the instructions, which you can photocopy to have more of the special drawing sheets.  I think it was very useful of them to have considered this, as knowing us we would run out then wonder what to do to get more! 

This game was great to get eldest drawing, he is not as interested as his younger brother to sit and colour.  But he was very enthusiastic about this game, so a helpful way to improve upon his drawing skill, whilst he still feels he is just having fun.

When your children are more sophisticated at drawing you could remove the drawing sheets that acts as a base for their drawings and use plain paper instead.  This would help further develop their drawing abilities.  A versatile game that will appeal to families for many hours of amusement.

The game requires 3 x AAA batteries so make sure you are stocked up!  The game is available to buy from Amazon for a snip at £10.95.  A little moan is that it does not come with any pencils, but we have heaps of drawing supplies in our house, so I do not know why this bothered me.  I think part of me was just being lazy going back downstairs to get the colours when we were all set up to play (note to self: going up and downstairs is good exercise!).

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Rapido Game Review

We review lots of games here but I am amazed we keep stumbling on such a variety to engage my boys.  For anyone who thinks board games are “bored games”, you need to think again!

Rapido is visually quite different, with a piece of rope to mark out the area for the coloured balls and tubes for collecting, rather than a standard board to play on.  I think that spurned on their interest to get playing.  Youngest actually went on playing with the coloured balls and shaking them around in the bamboo tube long after the game playing was over, happy to amuse himself with everything in the box.

Great fun was had with all of us trying to be the fastest, getting all our colours according to the strips indicating which order before everyone else.  I like how there are two strips one easier than the other, so it helps for the younger players that it is not as difficult.

Hubbie, youngest, eldest, his best buddy and myself all played at different times and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, it is the perfect game for refining our manual dexterity.  We got better at moving our hands with skill the longer we played.

Eldest very proud when he won:

This game was sent to us by Eden Project and is available to buy for £20.00.  I must be honest I never knew Eden Project had an online shop, but having browsed it repeatedly ever since, I am ear marking lots of lovely products suitable for presents (I think my mum especially would love the Scented Candles Gift Bag).  The kids section is fun and educational and helps encourage a love of nature and the outdoors.

When you buy from Eden Project you also know your helping towards a better future, as all their products are environmentally friendly (recycled, fairly traded or sourced locally).  So your buying more than a gift, you’re buying a whole way of life, a greener more sustainable one.  For example Hape who make this game use Bamboo because it is the fastest growing wood like plant on the earth.

Bunny Starts School Book Review

This is a very sweet book from Caterpillar Books for any little ones making the transition to primary school from playschool.  It might help them to start to mentally prepare, just thinking about the things they need to get ready to take with them.

It is a very bright book with lots of interaction; you have to find everything bunny needs for her first day behind flaps.  There is also a pull down list with pictures of what bunny packed which is great for children who cannot read yet, they can happily sit and go through the book on their own and still find everything, using the pictures as a guide, rather than the words.

It is a good book to help with colours, items to find like black shoes and a pink sunhat helping with that.  As regular followers of my blog know eldest is bunny mad, so this book has been very popular.  Although generally I think it is best suited to 3-4 year olds.  Younger children would no doubt also love this book - but you might lose a flap or two by the end of the story in their over excitement!

What a real surprise was the lovely ending.  Attached to the last page is a "bag" containing everything your child found for bunny to get ready.  This serves as a great memory game, seeing how many of the items you collected along the way that your child can actually remember.  You can also then remove items from the bag and see if your child can guess which is missing.

The book costs £6.99 and is available to buy from Amazon (currently £6.29).  For a hardback book of this quality and appeal for children, I would definitely say it is worth buying ready for your child starting school in September.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Inspire your budding Olympians with ITSYOURSTORY

If your little ones haven’t caught the Olympic bug yet, Itsyourstory have the perfect memento of this year’s Summer of Sport. The new 2012 Sports Scrapbook will inspire your budding sports stars of the future and give them a taste of a host of different sports on display in London this year.

What makes this 2012 Sports Scrap Book unique is that you can photo-personalise each book for your child. Your child’s photograph will appear on every page as they compete in over 40 different sporting events. Do they see themselves as a strong shot putter or a fierce member of the fencing team? With this book they will see themselves involved in Sports they didn’t even know existed!

As well as seeing themselves on every page, the book is a treasure trove of useful information about each sport featuring fun facts and photographs. The interactive scrap book allows children to fill in information about what they enjoy about each sport as well as including their favourite sports people.

Children can also get, set and go with their colouring pens filling in and decorating their own personal keepsake inspired by this momentous occasion in British Sporting history. You can also add a personal message at the front of the book to make this memento extra special. Who knows, this Scrap Book could inspire our next Olympians – watch this space.

The a4 photo-personalised book is priced at £19.99 (plus p&p) and is available exclusively from www.itsyourstory.co.uk. Get your order in now to beat other parents and make your child stand out from the crowd.

Poppin Hoppies Review

When it comes to board games I thought we had seen most possibilities, our games cupboard is certainly full and spilling out all over the house anyway.  So it is great to find a new game that is completely different out there.  I can definitely see why it was selected as the best new toy at the 2012 toy fair.

The game is very action packed and thrilling.  You have no idea when the hoppies will pop off the board, so you’re constantly on edge, eager and ready to move at a moment’s notice.  I mainly caught fresh air!  But I enjoyed the challenge as did the boys, great for building up all our reaction speeds.

Alongside catching the hoppies you work towards building a coloured puzzle character.  The hardest part later on is catching the hoppie you need to get the right colour left for your puzzle.  Eldest enjoyed the puzzle to help develop his problem solving ability, at first he found it hard not placing two of the same colours next to each other or completing the puzzle with no more than two of each colour, but once he got the hang of it, he felt lots of achievement and a sense of satisfaction.

The suspense of waiting and the excitement when you all desperately try and catch them as they pop off the board makes for a pleasant way to pass the time with your children.  Both my boys can set up the game on their own so you could leave them to get on with it, but then you would miss out on all the fun…

With an RRP of £16.99 it is a worthwhile addition to any games cupboard, which will be received enthusiastically going on my boy’s reactions!  Available to buy from Amazon, currently on offer for £9.95 on there from Fun Collectables, yet another bargain to stash away for Christmas methinks.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Playscope Sensory Tales Review

We were sent the delightful tale Aaaarrgghh! Spider! By Lydia Monks, as it is a sensory tale it was also accompanied by a soft little spider finger puppet, a grass web and a card with a web on to photocopy and a couple of suggestions for follow on activities and a little guide with lots of helpful ideas all housed in a handy cotton bag.  Story time will never be the same, once you have welcomed a sensory tale into your home…

Costing £14.40 (including VAT) it is a really good buy.  You get a hardback book, which has a page full of glittery spider webs, making the book unique and eye catching for children.  The book is filled with humour and bright colourful images; I really enjoyed it, as did my boys.  The spider is quite a character, doing all she can to be accepted by the family.  The ending especially is quite funny but I do not want to give it away (because I have a feeling I will have tempted a few of you to get this!).  One of the highlights for the boys was having a page in the book upside down, because the spider is looking down on the family.  They have never seen something like that before!

Inspired by the accompanying laminated leaflet we then got out the colouring and glitter pens and some black paper and made some spider webs of our own.  

Playscope have really put plenty of thought into their sensory tales, the book is just part of the overall learning experience, you can read, build on extra activities and introduce the exciting additional resources alongside the book.  

We have lots more to do to develop communication and discussion, further games to play, opportunities to discover more through arts and crafts, food, music and numeracy all through their informative guidance.  

Spider is a firm favourite of youngest, I would not be surprised if he ends up tucked in bed next to him tonight!  

If you have more money to spend perhaps at Christmas, you can invest in one of the £45 sets, which come with lots of extra’s to set the scene of the story, including musical instruments.

You can find out more about their play and learning resources from the Playscope website.

Monday, 23 July 2012

HAMA Bead Competition Entry

We were luckily sent a fab selection of HAMA Beads from the delightful lady from Patch of Puddles and Merrily Empire fame, with the aim of creating a holiday masterpiece. 

Having a huge choice of beads arrive was perfect timing, just what we needed to get involved in something creative and engaging to do over the LONG summer holidays.  I highly recommend a visit to the Play Merrily Toy Shop; to see plenty more craft idea’s to keep your children happily entertained.

Eldest was quite keen to get involved, youngest just decided to re-decorate the room in beads.  It’s amazing just how much ground this selection can cover when scattered EVERYWHERE!  But they are fun and my boys have not really handled beads before, so I am glad they had an opportunity for a new way to express themselves.

Here is an example of an entry by eldest, a lovely beach depiction (minus a summery cocktail to make it my perfect holiday!).  You can then get extra fancy and iron what you have made (with the special waxed ironing paper) and the beads then stick together.  But we are saving that little bit of extra excitement for another day.  I was mainly keen to get this post up so all my lovely followers could try their hand at the competition.

But I am certainly a HAMA bead convert and found it very relaxing!  So all mums out there keep your hands busy and you might be less inclined to slope off into the kitchen and reach for the biscuits (speaking from only my own personal experience of course lol!).

To enter the competition:

Between now and the 31st of August you need to upload artwork created by your child loosely connected to the theme “An Amazing Holiday” – they can let the imaginations run wild and have a rocket trip to the moon, a cowboy adventure or as we did a reliable trip to the beach!

The prize: a generous £100 gift voucher to spend on PlayMerrily, CraftMerrily, Jolly Dollies or The Little Big Toy Shop on whatever you choose… oooohh just think of the possibilities!

For those of you who are yet to experience the wonder of HAMA beads they have a selection on special offer.  The Midi Hama Starter Kit is only £11.95 (down from £16.90), this would be perfect to enter the competition with, but you are of course welcome to use any HAMA beads you currently own.

Once your entry is ready email it over to patchofpuddles at gmail.com with the child's first name and age.  Good luck one and all!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Lollichocs Review

When the Lakeland catalogue arrives it is a real feast for the eyes, with so many clever tools to inspire you in the kitchen.  We decided to review the chocolate melting pot, lollichocs (chocolate lollipop mould) and a pack of 30 lolly sticks.  I choose this selection as in the past melting chocolate has always been slightly problematic, usually featuring some combination of bowls over a hot pan of water, which never quite works for us.  I tend to get into a pickle and admit defeat, but before doing so randomly chuck in hot water with the chocolate or stir in some milk and hope for the best…

With the Lakeland chocolate melting pot it could not be simpler.  It is a genuine joy to melt chocolate (a quick ding in the microwave!).  The design of the mould makes pouring easy and being an extra squishy pot means you get every last drop out – after all it is sacrilegious to waste chocolate!

The whole progress is relatively mess free, you can even turn the melting pot inside out to clean!  I think the hardest part of lollichoc making is resisting eating the molten chocolate before it sets.

These are must buys for family fun in the kitchen and very inexpensive.  The melting pot is only £2.99, the lollichocs mould is £4.99 and 30 lolly sticks £1.09.  So with very little expenditure you can start making treats to fill your children’s party bags.  Going on how delighted my boys are with these lollies, am sure they would be a hit at parties.

Also the melting pot is very versatile, you can use it to make homemade chocolates, drizzle chocolate on anything (and everything!) or even melt butter (how often do I need to do that… the butter is always like a rock in the fridge and I am longing for freshly buttered toast!).  I think next year we will give the homemade chocolates a whirl; I think the boys teachers would appreciate a selection of tasty treats!

In the picture below we used the little white sticks that came with the lollichocs mould pack, I do not think they are lollipop sticks as it suggests you buy them additionally, but they served a purpose anyway!  But on reflection I am guessing they might be to fill the gap if you want to make chocolate shapes instead of lollipops?

Our next plan is to use orange essence and have chocolate orange lollichocs, YUMMY!  With big bars of Cadbury’s on offer at Co-op at the moment (just £2!), it would be rude not to experiment a bit.  

Find out more from the Lakeland website.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Chuggington Die Cast Review

We were sent the portable double decker roundhouse (£20.83 from Amazon), a cross and switch track pack (£6.27 from Amazon) and a couple of extra trains.  My boys were very enthusiastic with everything but we have relocated it all to their grandparents house, as we already have two train tracks in residence and surely you can have too much of a good thing…

But it is nice for the boys to have something new and exciting to play when visiting there.  I was slightly confused at first as the tracks for the two packets were different and incompatible.  I soon found the adaptor piece though which meant the pieces could all fit together thankfully.  The track with the roundhouse was best for my two to handle, which was easy to connect; the other pack tracks were much harder to fit together.  My three year old could not do it and the five year old did struggle (to be fair I struggled!).

The roundhouse is handy to store all the track and trains in, making it easier to take it to a friend’s house to play or just move it into another room.  The turntable can even stick on the back of the roundhouse, keeping everything tidy and together.  When in use the turntable is quite an impressive feature, you press the red button and it rises up and you can turn it around to drive into one of the roundhouse doors.

Eldest has been asking to go to his grandparents all day and I have only just twigged why, he wants to go and play with the Chuggington trains again!  He has just reliably informed me that: “Thomas is for babies, Chuggington is for big boys”.  I am not quite sure of his rationale for this, especially as Baby Jake is not considered babyish and it has an actual baby in it!!!  But at the moment anyway Chuggington is favoured here.

There are many sets available to assemble a whole world of Chuggington adventure.  Some of the track diagrams on the back of the box look fairly elaborate but I am not sure how easy they would be to build.  It might be worth the effort if you could leave the track up once built!  But if space is a problem then you really cannot go wrong with the portable double decker roundhouse and with room to add track around the back of the roundhouse you have scope to grow the set if you wanted in the future.  But I would only want the track my boys could manage themselves.

The pieces seemed adequately strong, the trains clip in to each other, which is quite good as they tend to stay together when the boys whiz them round really fast.  

Eldest especially was thrilled to have Brewster to ride the rails.  So fans of the show will love this train set.

More information is available from Tomy.

Friday, 20 July 2012

hippychick Dream Tubes Review

I wish I had known about this product almost 2 years ago when youngest at the tender age of 19 months first slept in a proper bed.  We made the transition early because he had learnt to climb out of his cot, but from that day forth he would fall out of bed again and again and again!

Fast forward to present day and two very grumpy sleep deprived parents, who deeply regret not having had this earlier.  We did know bed guards existed, but not a soft appealing one such as this.  Eldest had one of the folding bed guards and actually asked us to take it off as his fingers got stuck between the guard and the bed, not to the point of causing an injury just enough to unsettle him.  There is no danger of any upset with the Dusky Moon Dream Tubes.

Youngest is no longer waking because he has fallen out of bed or has lost his duvet and is cold, the cover is staying nicely as it should wedged between the two tubes.  I would of course love to announce the instant re-branding of my site, but sadly we are still missing some sleep.  I think youngest has got into the habit of needing us because we did not have this fantastic product earlier.  He is so used to us popping in to tuck him in or pick him off the floor.  Now if he stirs he still wants us there… so I recommend getting and using this product straight away when you’re ready for the switch from cot to bed.

Suitable from 18 months to 5 years, you really will start to see the benefit from the very first use.  There has been a huge reduction in the number of times we have to go to him.  In his peak he would fall out of bed five or six times a night, now cosily tucked in bed, life does involve a less exhausted mummy finally!

Initially when youngest first left his cot we had a spare duvet on his floor to cushion his falls from bed, with this product you do not need to mess about like that and bother tidying up extra padding every morning.  Your children are safe and you can relax in that knowledge, not having to peep in every few minutes to check they are where they should be!

Perfect for holidays, as it is easily portable to take with you, so no more worrying if your child falls out of a high bed.  For our Haven holiday we took all the backs of the sofa’s and placed them on the floor, next time we will take our handy dream tubes with us (and sit more comfortably on the sofa!).

It is simple to make, comprising of a soft fitted sheet with built in channels for the two inflatable tubes.  With an RRP of £39.99 (for the 100% cotton ones we were sent) I would have gladly paid this ten times over because the value of a night of sleep is priceless!  It is machine washable but you can buy a spare sheet for £32.99 (even less for a cot size) and re-use the inflatable tubes.  It is a quality product that you will be able to pass onto any new additions in your family.

Available to buy from hippychick amongst all the other innovative products which are great for parents and children.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Fun with my 5 Senses Review

We were sent this fabulous book, it is not a latest release or anything just something I spotted on the Gazelle Books website and thought it sounded very interesting for parents with young children.

Fun with my 5 senses was actually published in 1998 but the entire book is still extremely useful, especially now approaching the exceptionally LONG school holidays.  The activities in this book might be what keeps me sane!  Regardless of the weather, there are plenty of ideas for things to do both in and outdoors. 

I like that throughout the book there is also an undercurrent of safety issues, like what are dangerous smells? What would you do if the smoke alarm went off? Do you know a phone number to ring in case of emergency? A useful section on road safety and the importance of stop, look and listen when crossing, again gives practical tips for parents.

The book is very educational but also very approachable, the suggestions are simple and well explained but really help children learn about more complicated concepts.  We have made an Ear Collage (so they could see how animals ears vary), youngest was in charge of gluing and eldest cutting out the pictures, so great to get all your children involved and working together.  Then you can start a discussion why the ears are different, what benefits are there to a particular type?

The book covers a wide range of activities, games, songs, and dance ideas.  Plenty to think about and adapt to suit your own family needs (if your children switch off to a certain type of activity there will be something else they will love in here).  I read on one of the pages about being a detective, so this afternoon we went for a long walk and as we found items on our journey we made up a story about the type of person and what they were doing (although it did end up being a giraffe who crash landed his hot air balloon, had a barbecue and drank some beers… based on the bits and bobs left on the beach!). 

Tomorrow we will be off finding leaves to make a different textured picture, the day after we might do the activity with different materials off the beach!  We can go on a nature walk and try and develop our observational skills and invest in a suitable magnifying glass.

This book costs £10.99 which is a bargain because not only is it a helpful educational resource, it doubles as a colouring book!  Each page has big bold pictures on which are shouting out to be coloured in.  So you can on completion of an activity colour the picture and that way it can act as a record of achievement for a section.

This is a little gem of a book for helping develop your children.  We have plenty more ideas to keep us going.  I am very excited to have found such a great resource!  Head over to Gazelle Books to purchase and see what other great inspirational books they have!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Galt Marble Run Review

We were picked to review this for Izziwizzikids, to do so we had to do a video review, I apologise for my not so sunny disposition this time.  I have been feeling slightly off colour the last couple of days.  Service with a smile will resume shortly I am sure.  When I stop coughing at night and actually lose the giant bags under my eyes, I am sure I will be more cheery!  But I was my usual factual self at the very least.

Marble Run is aimed for children 4-8, youngest played quite happily (who is 3) so I think its more a safety guideline for the small marbles.
My two really liked playing with it, it is nice seeing them get more involved with marbles, as they were such a popular game when I was a child.  Although mine were not housed in a fancy run, I just used to hit them across the floor.  Building an elaborate run and seeing who’s marble will get to the bottom first is slightly more thrilling.

The run is quite sturdy and relatively easy to set up (I think hubbie was doing an impression of Eeyore in the video as he is failing to smile too!).  There are no official guidelines of what you build (which is a shame but forgivable especially with the budget price to buy it!), you can use the picture on the box as an idea or use your imagination.  The pieces are easy enough to manage so my five year old built his own run.

With an RRP of £10.99 Marble Run is excellent value for money.  My boys keep returning to it, again and again.  There is scope to add to your pieces by buying an additional set.  The Super Marble Run (£19.99) looks even more impressive.  So you can build your collection and have lots of different routes for your marbles to travel down.  It is a game that will never get boring.  But personally I would skip the cheaper option and go Super straight away (I love all the additional features).  I have a feeling this might be one to add to our Christmas list.  Great fun for both my boys but still affordable for me, thankfully living on a restricted budget need not be dull for your children.

Do come along to playfest on facebook and find out more about Galt Toys.  The date 26th of July is definitely one to add to your calendars!

Making Mini Battenburg

It is no secret my hubbie is rather good when it comes to baking.  I guess it is in part one reason I put up addiction to computer games, if kept topped up with cake I am naturally happy in character!

We were sent the ingredients to make Mini Battenburg (thank you Baking Mad), which we choose from a selection of Street Party Recipes.  It was difficult picking, just see for yourself the selection of mouth-watering treats on the website.

I was pleased that we were involved with Silver Spoon as they are the only sugar grown in Britain.  I am all for supporting British produced ingredients to make great cakes (so great you will be fighting the urge to lick your computer screen!).  Also with Silver Spoon working with 1,200 farmers goes to show how important sugar is for creation of jobs.

Now over to the making:

Preparation Time: 30 Minutes
Baking Time: 25 Minutes
Eating Time: Considerably less!
Portions: 4 (unless you increase all the ingredients like we did! why make cake, when you can just as easily make MORE cake!).

Mini Battenburg Ingredients

150 grams Unsalted Butter softened, plus a little for greasing
150 grams Caster Sugar (Silver Spoon Homegrown)
3 Free Range Eggs (Happy Eggs)
150 grams Self Raising Flour (Allinson Nature Friendly)
30ml Just Milk
0.50 tsp Pink Food Colour (Silver Spoon Create)
50 grams Apricot Jam
200 grams Ready to Roll Marzipan (Silver Spoon Create)

How to make Mini Battenburg

Preheat the oven to 200°C, Fan180°C, 400°F/Gas 6

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, adding a little of the flour if the mixture looks a little curdled.

Fold in the flour. Add a little milk to the mixture, to make the mixture dropping consistency.

Pour half of the cake mixture into another bowl. Add a drop of pink food colouring to one of the bowls and stir well.

Grease and base line a 15cm square cake tin. Fold a 15cm square of foil into a thick strip and place down the middle of the tin so to divide the tin into two equal parts. Spoon the pink cake mix into one side and the plain mix into the other side.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until springy to the touch. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Lightly dust a surface with icing sugar and roll the marzipan into a 23cm x 23cm rectangle.

Trim the cakes to the same size, and then cut both halves into quarters lengthways.

In a pan, heat the apricot jam until it becomes runny.

Place one of the pink pieces of cake onto a work surface and brush one side with jam. Lay a yellow piece next to it on the jam side and push together.

Brush the top with more jam. Top the yellow piece of cake with a pink piece and vice versa. Brush the outside edges of the cake with more jam.

Cut the rolled marzipan so that it's just slightly longer than the cake. Wrap it around the cake, brushing the edges with a little jam to seal them together.  Trim off the excess marzipan at the ends. Repeat until all the cake and marzipan is used.

Then enjoy eating…


Why I love tea?

Tea is very soothing.  A good cuppa seems to help me unwind after a stressful day.  Somehow the fact youngest has spent the day kicking his friends, jumping off the sofa then landing hard against my hip and almost flooring me and emptying every draw/cupboard and scattering the contents far and wide around the house, for me to enjoy tidying later… pales in significance… all I think is the boys are asleep, my teapot is at the ready.

One indulgent sip and I can feel my troubles lifted.  Even more so if its combined with a giant slab of cake.  Together I am ready to face whatever tomorrow will throw at me (and usually quite literally when it comes to my boys!).

I could give up alcohol without a moment’s hesitation but anything to do with tea or cake would be an outright struggle.  I love the idea of afternoon tea, little dainty sandwiches and stacks of cakes; my dream would be to enjoy that in the Ritz… (Eyes glaze over and start drooling at the thought of it!).

If you’re stuck for a present for someone judging by the reaction my friend had to my new fancy teapot (I am sure she would have tried to swipe it if I had turned my back!) I have a feeling tea gifts might be the way to go.  If you treat your friend to a gift like that, you might benefit from being invited over for a high tea!

My London Pottery Company Red and White Spot Teapot has pride and place in my kitchen, I cannot fail to raise a smile at its cheery colour.  All I think is in order is a visit to a tea shop to get some fancy tea to complement it…

I received this lovely new teapot for sharing my love of tea with the world.

GUP-X Launch and Rescue Vehicle Review

My two boys both really enjoy the Octonauts TV show; it is great for showing children more about exploring the ocean and the sea creatures you would encounter.  It is educational and entertaining in equal measure, but even more fun is the range of toys available to complement the show. 

We were sent the GUP-X Launch and Rescue Vehicle set, which was fantastic as it had so much to do.  The vehicle itself can be used in one of three ways, as a Octo-Ski, a tank or a glider depending on the situation you find Barnacles the included character in.

The 15 play pieces enable plenty of scope for underwater adventures.  My eldest also enjoyed adding his own ocean creatures to the set.  At one point a giant crab was attacking everyone, thankfully using the “slime disks” helped scare him off.  

With an adaptive vehicle, all the included pieces and the fact you can add to it quite easily with what you currently own, the re-playability of this toy is vast.

The “slime” disks are not actually slimey they just look like slime.  Luckily eldest did not seem deterred that no real goo was involved!

This toy also brings out your child’s nurturing side (so thankfully not all about attacking things), looking after sick and injured sea creatures, with a bandage and a stretched to aid them.  The toy has lots of fun phrases and sounds from the actual show, which will appeal to genuine fans. 

Available to buy from Smyths Toys for £34.99 and aged 3+, a worthwhile buy if your child enjoys the program or just as a decent vehicle to own and come up with their own scenarios.  Definitely developing a love of wildlife and exploring the ocean.