11

Melissa and Doug Pizza Party Review

For Christmas, Harrison and Alex had some Melissa and Doug sets. I had asked for these as they looked lovely and when we played with them I was even more impressed.

Melissa and Doug are an American company that specialise in toys that promote creativity and imagination. Most of their toys are wooden which I especially love as I have a soft spot for wooden toys. They last longer and always look much more beautiful than plastic ones!

My personal favourite is their pizza party set. You can buy it from the entertainer http://www.thetoyshop.com/Baby-and-pre-school/Wooden-toys/Melissa-%26-Doug—Pizza-Party/p/377523.

It comes presented in a beautiful wooden tray that holds the set together. My only tiny criticism is that it doesn’t have any sort of lid – but that literally is the only negative thing I can say!

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It is a beautiful wooden pizza with Velcro on so it can hold together or be ‘cut’ with the wooden pizza cutter tool into six slices. This is brilliant for early numeracy skills. We’ve been using it to count! It is also a way of introducing basic fractions to children. We’ve already started talking about haves using it. If I was still teaching in schools, i’d definitely be using this for fraction lessons!
It comes with over 50 ‘toppings’. These are small round discs with a picture of mushrooms, peppers or salami on and have Velcro attached so they stick to the pizza slices. You can put three toppings on each slice. Again this is fantastic for numeracy skills. Harrison likes to ask me which toppings I want and I can give him various answers e.g. two mushrooms and one pepper. We also had fun sorting out the toppings and making sure they were in the right space!

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So far we have had loads of fun with this, and we can use it alongside our toy market stall and kitchen for brilliant role play. It’s also given me a great idea for a craft activity – watch this space!

If you’re looking for a lovely durable toy, I would definitely recommend this!!

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ohsoamelia

9

Heroes of the City Giveaway

You may have read my review on the Heroes of the City App that Ruta Ett sent me last week – if you haven’t you can read it here.
We then received a lovely parcel of goodies from them – a fab pre Christmas surprise that has given us valuable minutes to wrap the thousands of presents!
Included in our parcel was a gorgeous glossy hardback book, which is beautifully illustrated and contains really endearing characters (we’ve called in love with Calamity Crow!). There was also a DVD of the series, a blow up ball which we’ve used for talking about colours and the kids favourite – two lovely little die cast vehicles!

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We have another one of these lovely sets from Ruta Ett to giveaway to a lucky winner. Simply leave a comment below telling me what your favourite blog post has been so far!
Good luck!!

Winners will be chosen on Monday 6th January 2014

***The winner was Becki Gates***

8

The Little Letter Company

Coming home from our playgroup Christmas party we had a lovely surprise waiting in the letterbox – a bright red envelope from ‘The Little Letter Company’!

The Little Letter Company, for a subscription fee, send a craft kit out to you every week. Ours was a trial for the purpose of this review and I was very impressed!

Our kit from Harrison consisted of a Christmas snowman mosaic activity. There was a lovely snowman scene printed on thick sturdy card with numbers printed on. These numbers correspond with the colours of the foam sticker squares and sparkly 3d gems included in the pack. The idea behind this is that kids stick the coloured foam squares on to create a mosaic effect.

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Although Harrison is only two, TLLC packs aren’t designed for children under the age of 36 months (which the lovely lady I spoke to over email pointed out) as they do contain some very small parts, so, as with all craft activities, Harrison (and Alex!) were very closely supervised.
It was quite fiddly and Harrison did find it challenging although he really enjoyed it. I liked that – if something is too easy it can be boring! For a slightly older child this would be a perfect low mess independent activity.
I have to admit once Harrison moved on to playing with something else (as toddlers do!) I really enjoyed carrying on and doing it!
It was a perfect activity for developing fine motor skills. You could let older kids have a go at using tweezers to pick the bits up. What I really loved was the information sheet that can with it.
It was a lovely clear sheet with lots of ways of approaching the craft with your child depending on their age and ability and discussed the different ways you can incorporate numeracy, matching and coordination skills. As a former primary school teacher I love activities that encourage development skills, but as TLLC points out, “the main objective is for the child to enjoy their craft activity, even if their approach/objectives differ from your own”, and that rather than being seen as a ‘lesson’, it’s a fun and enjoyable activity, which sums up what crafting is all about!

When Harrison turns three next year I think I will be subscribing to this. For as little as £2 a week (what can you get for £2 these days?!) you get an activity with all the resources delivered to your door. I can imagine kids getting really excited seeing a brightly coloured envelope addressed personally to them arrive in the letterbox! If your stuck for a gift for kids age 3-5 a subscription to this would make a great gift that lasts all year. Look out for a giveaway on the blog from TLLC in the new year and try it for yourself!

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Visit their website here or follow them on Twitter @LittleLetterCo

Disclaimer:
I received a pack from The Little Letter Company for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Family Fever
0

Jolly Mixture

Last year I was lucky enough to discover a fantastic playgroup. In my experience, many privately run playgroups (and government funded ones!) can be very cliquey and souless. Not this one!

Jolly Mixture is run by the lovely Emer who makes the group so much fun and something we return to week after week. It has become so popular that on top of the original group she now does an extra two.
There are two held on a Friday – one at 9.45am and the other straight after at 11.05am. These are at St Mary’s Church Hall, in Solihull. There is one held at Shelly Farm Community centre on a Tuesday at 10.30. We go to the second session usually on a Friday. It costs us £4 for Harrison and Alex (prices on the website!) which is great value for the amount of fun we all have!
There is unlimited tea, coffee, juice and biscuits included within the price.
There is usually a couple of craft tables where the kids can have a go at making something to take home. Today, at the Christmas special at Shelly Farm we made reindeer food and decorated cute little wooden ornaments for the tree with glitter paint.

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There are plenty of toys – role play toys, dressing up, cars, ride on toys, baby toys and soft play toys, and always books and puzzles to explore. Harrison and Alex always head straight for the crawling tunnel and ball tent! There are soft foam
Mats scattered around so it’s great for little babies – I took Alex when he was less than two weeks old!

After half an hour or so of free play and crafts, everyone sits in a circle
on the floor with singing and action songs. This is followed by parachute games and then every kids favourite – bubbles! It’s always finished with an energetic dance and sing along to the Hokey Cokey.

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After this, there is always a visit from either Jack the Pirate or Molly the Princess. My boys are a little unsure of Molly but love Jack and always run for high fives and hugs.

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There’s always such a lovely atmosphere at the group whether it’s a busy day or a quiet day. I’ve made some really good friends from there and I know the kids always have a great time.

Emer also does children’s parties with soft play, face paint, sand art, singing and dancing. I haven’t had one of these parties (yet!) but my friend had one for her sons 3rd birthday and said it was amazing!

If you’re a Brummie or Solihull mum, come along!

Visit the website here

And another review can be found here

2

Heroes of the City: A review

If you read my post Toddlers and Technology you will know that I’m slightly ambivalent about encouraging children to use technology, so when Ruta Ett approached me about reviewing one of their apps, I was hesitant. Would this be an app that simply encourages children to zombie out on a smartphone or tablet, or would it actually be an app that helps their development?

Ruta Ett are a leading edge Swedish children’s media company with a huge international market. Their main products are based around a cartoon series called ‘Heroes of the City’ – a short series based around rescue vehicles in a small town, where everyone gets to be a hero!

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I never let the kids look or play anything on my iPhone until I’ve checked it out myself so I spent a good hour or so exploring the app, which is really simple to navigate. They are very simple animations with clear language and bright colours – very appealing to a toddler. The targeted age group is 2-7 but I would think that maybe 6-7 year olds may find it a little too simple. It’s perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. When Harrison watched it he was completely engrossed! The main theme running through it is friendship and helping each other which is a really lovely idea for this age group who are just beginning to think about these issues. These fourteen minute videos are perfect for those moments when you need to put dinner on, sort out younger kids, or do any of those little jobs that toddlers don’t seem to want to let you do!
The app comes with twenty-six preloaded movies.

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There are nine games on the app. All the games are simple and among with ‘real life’ activities will support fine motor and cognitive development. It includes simple jigsaws, colour block games and one where you have to complete a train track.

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These were perfectly pitched for Harrison who is two and a half but very bright for his age, and even Alex who is thirteen months loved sitting watching the cartoons with his brother.

You can buy plenty of add on packs containing more videos and games for £2.49 a pack, which isn’t bad considering what you get, although the app does come preloaded with plenty!

The only thing I would like to personally see is some sort of restriction timer on the game, to prevent children playing for long periods – like the parents having to put a password or something in after thirty minutes, but this is something I would like to see on all children’s games and apps!

All in all, the ‘Heroes of the City’ app is one that I’m quite happy to let Harrison and Alex for short periods of time, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else Ruta Ett have to offer!

Try it yourself!

Apple device (I tried it on iPhone 4S) https://itunes.apple.com/app/heroes-of-the-city-movie-app/id602592310

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rutaett.HeroesMovie&hl=en

Disclaimer:
Thanks to Ruta Ett for a promotional version of the app. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

0

Hatton Country World & Adventure Farm

We were sent some family tickets to visit the adventure farm at Hatton Country World, with passes to see Santa. With only two weekends left until Christmas, and presents still to buy, we thought we better get going yesterday!
It was a cold but lovely sunny day so we wrapped the kids up and jumped in the car. It’s about 15 miles down some lovely roads to Hatton from where we live, so didn’t take us too long. When we got there just before 12pm, the car park (free parking, always a bonus!) was already filling up. We had a quick wander through the shopping village, which hasn’t changed much since I last went when I was a little girl – lovely little shops selling candles and soaps, garden ornaments, homewares, pretty furniture, toys and more.

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There was a small queue to get into the farm but it moved fairly quickly. To pay for our tickets would have cost us nearly £30 (and that’s with Alex being free as he’s under 2!) so not the cheapest day out.
The farm though, to be fair, is huge. Including a half hour stop for lunch it took us a good 4 hours to go round.
The first thing we did was visit the JCB track, a child sized ‘road mat’ with ramps, cones and tunnels with ride on JCB diggers. Having two digger mad boys, this was a great start to our day! There were plenty of toys to ride on even though it was busy – a nice surprise!

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When we finally dragged them away we saw the goats and pigs, which we had fun feeding. You can buy a cup of animal feed for 50p from the kiosk as you walk in.

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We then wandered down to look at the birds before coming to an attraction where you could pan for gold. Sounds fantastic but it was deserted and the water looked filthy, so we quickly moved on! Next to this was another attraction which looked to be some sort of duck race but again was deserted and looked like it had seen better days!

The leaflets and website advertises ‘festive fun fair rides’ but to be honest these were really disappointing. Three tiny little rides – a spinning teacup ride, a ladybird ride and flying caterpillars – not festive in the slightest. Not only that, the one wasn’t working. Still, the kids had fun.

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We then played on the climbing frame, had a bounce on the trampolines and played on the tractors. We especially loved the digger sandpit, which considering it’s a farm and the time of year was spotless and lovely. The kids really enjoyed using the buckets and spades and climbing on the equipment!

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We them went to my favourite bit – the animals! There was a lovely variety of animals including donkeys (in a nativity scene!) sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, rabbits which were all really friendly and tame enough for the kids to stroke. Plenty of places to wash hands and lots of signs to remind you as well. We loves the guinea pig petting area. Harrison loved holding them!

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By this point it was almost 2pm and we were hungry! After a quick loo stop and nappy change (toilets ok but definitely room for improvement!) we went to the restaurant attached to the soft play centre – and immediately walked back out ! Absolutely full to the ceiling, noisy and no where to sit. We left the farm area (wristbands allow you to go in and out) and went to another restaurant/coffee shop which although lovely wasn’t really toddler-friendly. Limited food choices – cakes, soup, panini and one or two meal options and that was it. It cost us almost £18 for a bottle of pop, hot chocolate, a pot of tea, a scone and some fish and chips, which were all very nice.

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Then we paid a visit to Santa. Sadly at this point my phone went flat so I couldn’t take photos! We walked through the elves workshop and winter wonderland which was really magical and enchanting. There are little tables for kids to write letters to Santa. The queue was quite long but moved fairly quickly, but it was a lovely wait surrounded by trees, lights, penguins and polar bears!
When we got in to Santa the kids went a little shy (nothing unusual for toddlers!) and didn’t really speak. I have to admit, ‘Santa’ really annoyed me as he said that Harrison ‘should be speaking at his age’ – he’s 2, and quite rightly is weary of strangers. Was not impressed! The kids were given keys to choose a present from the toy shop, which was huge and had a massive choice of gifts suitable for
all ages, and we’re pretty decent gifts. Harrison chose a hairdressing play dough set and we chose some animal foam stickers for Alex.

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After coming out we fussed and stroked the reindeer and then decided it was time to head home as it was nearly 4pm. We hadn’t had chance to visit the kids disco or magic shows. It was starting to get dark and with the fairy lights around and the Christmas music playing through the speakers it was really pretty and festive. As we walked back towards the car we had our complimentary mince pie and delicious mulled fruit punch whilst listening to a kids choir singing Christmas songs.

We had a really lovely day out as a family but would we pay almost £30 to go again? Probably not. Parts of it are very tired and need some TLC to make it worth the entry cost.

For more information visit their website
Hatton Country World

*Disclosure
Thanks to Hatton Country World for the family tickets which we received free of charge for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

8

Cardooo Review and Giveaway

I hate cards. You open them, stick them on a shelf where they do nothing but irritate you by falling over and gathering dust. That was until I received a Cardooo card to review!
Cardooo are a small book company with a book publishing background. They have created a range of interactive greeting cards, that contain games, puzzles, stories, stickers and much more, which will amuse kids from the moment they’re opened.

I received two cards from them. The first was a story card ‘The Enormous Turnip’ (which is a story we love!). The card is blank for you to include your own greeting so could be used for any occasion. The card is no bigger than a normal card so I reckon would be pretty standard postage cost. The story is beautifully illustrated and would be perfect for sharing at bedtime!

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I really loved the second card which was a Christmas activity card. It contained 12 pages of puzzles, games and colouring activities as well as a fold out board game and stickers. As just a card it is beautiful but the little extras inside make it a really special gift for someone.

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The company sells a range of cards for
all sorts of occasions, for a really reasonable price so I know I will be looking at using them for cards in the future!

I’m giving away ‘The Enormous Turnip’ story card to someone lucky. All you need to do is leave a comment telling me what your favourite kids book is and why, and I’ll pick a winner. Winner will be chosen on the evening of Wednesday 11th December. Good luck!!!

*Disclosure
I was sent two samples of Cardooo cards free of charge for the purpose of this review. All opinions and thoughts expressed are my own.

**** the winner was Laura Brook ****