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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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#PlayPatrol : Mission Three : Pirate Multi Layer Puzzle and Jungle Mobile

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol | Posted on 23-09-2014

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Little Man returned to preschool a couple of weeks ago. He’s doing three sessions a week and having his lunch there so he’s there for about four hours each time. We made the decision to change his preschool at the end of last term and we’re really pleased with where he’s going now, and he seems a lot happier. He’s also a lot tireder. I’m getting told what he’s doing each day and it sounds like there’s a lot of running around in the garden with his friends, as well as lots of fun and games and activities indoors. He goes on a Wednesday, Thursday and a Friday so by the time we get to the weekend he’s still pretty tired. I’m sure this will sort itself once he’s used to his new routine, but for now I like to keep Saturday activities fairly relaxed. He takes a trip to the local library with Daddy in the mornings, but we tend to try and do something a bit more chilled out in the house in the afternoon. Our latest Play Patrol mission looked like it would be a great activity for our lazy weekends.

He was sent the Pirate Multi Layer Puzzle. This is basically what it sounds like – three jigsaws layered on top of one another. Each one gets progressively bigger as you work your way up, and the finished puzzles fit together neatly in a tray.
We’re big fans of the pirate theme to this puzzle – Swashbuckle is one of Little Man’s favourite TV shows – and the three pictures are really good. Nice and bright, and with lots of detail so there’s plenty to talk about in them. I also think the addition of the small cutaway on one piece per jigsaw makes them much easy to remove from the tray layer by layer. I also think the puzzle is great value at just £8.99.

Unfortunately I have a few issues with the toy too.  The pieces aren’t traditional jigsaw pieces – they’re all random irregular shapes. I think traditional pieces would have been better, albeit larger than usual. I think the set would be more child friendly if the jigsaws were square – the curved top section pieces don’t fit quite as neatly and as flush as I’d really like. Finally the set is aimed at children aged 2 and over. 2?! I don’t think many 2 year old children would be able to complete these puzzles without a lot of help. Little Man is almost 4 and he found them tricky and got increasingly frustrated.

This is, for us, quite a disappointing toy from Bigjigs. The quality is what you’d expect from their range, but I think some adjustments are needed to make it as good as other items.

Little Dude had another lovely delivery however. He was the very excited recipient of a Jungle Mobile. Now he already has a mobile in his bedroom – a farm themed one which Nana bought for him – so we hung this mobile up in the new playroom. Its currently balanced a bit precariously by the french windows but I’m hoping to arrange a more permanent fixing soon.

The mobile features four jungle creatures – a lion, a giraffe,an elephant and a zebra as well as trees and plants and coloured balls. They’re all suspended from wooden bars and they spin and move nicely in the breeze. Again its another brightly coloured wooden toy – thought I am slightly confused by the bright purple elephant – and there’s a lovely amount of detailing on all the pieces. Its a beautiful mobile and one that Little Dude merrily stares at whenever he’s sat or led in the playroom.

Lots of positives from Mission Three, though a few negatives too sadly. Lets see what Mission Four brings.

#PlayPatrol : Mission One : Train Service Shed and Bruno Comforter

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol, Product Reviews | Posted on 01-08-2014

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Well here we are, back reviewing Bigjigs toys and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. For our first mission of this new series we were sent two toys to review: a Bruno Comforter for Little Dude and a Train Service Shed for Little Man. Two very different toys for two very different boys, so without further ado, let’s get on with the show.

First up we have Little Dude’s newest friend, Bruno. Now Bruno is a member of Bigjigs’ rather cute baby range. Whilst they are famous for their wooden toys – trains especially – they do have a lovely selection of soft toys that are suitable from birth. Bruno Comforter is a soft fabric square, plain on one side and patched on the other. In the centre of the patchwork side is Bruno’s colourful head, and on the end of each corner is fun toy to play with. Two plastic teethers to play with and chew on, and two soft feet, one of which is squashy and one that crinkles.

I am a big fan of Bruno, in all his forms. This comforter is a perfect toy for any newborn, and Little Dude is extremely fond of his new buddy. At 11 weeks old he’s not *quite* grasping and gripping things, at least not consistently, and thankfully we haven’t reached that dreaded world of teething yet so admittedly he isn’t getting the full use and potential from the toy. However he is very efficient when it comes to cuddling Bruno and as you can see from the photo above, having a nice little chat. I love the bright colours, I love how soft it is, and I love that it genuinely works as a comforter. Its a great size for Little Dude to snuggle down with on his playmat or seat, and to come out on trips with us whether its to the supermarket or this week multiple National Trust locations.

Trains aren’t a new passion of Little Man’s, he’s been gracing the local garden centre steam train on a weekly basis for most of his young life, but wooden train sets are. He got his first wooden train set for Christmas, and at Easter his grandparents topped up his stash with a few bits and pieces from the best wooden train company in the world with my gentle guidance. You can understand my thrill no doubt then when we were chosen to review for Bigjigs again and in our first delivery we received the Train Service Shed, which is new for 2014. The service shed is precisely that: where you lead your trains when they need a bit of work, some new oil and a bit of TLC. The shed contains two lanes for maximum efficiency, as well as a drum of oil and water ready for use with spares outside. The walls have shelves painted on them with a bevy of tools and equipment to get your train back into tip top condition, and the roof is full of windows so the engineers can see precisely what they’re doing.

Well, where to start. This Train Service Shed is basically epic. The attention to detail is just mind-blowing, from the oil leaks on the floor of the shed, to the foliage growing up the back wall. The interior design is beautiful and the effort which has gone into it is astounding. Its an amazing addition to any train set – Bigjigs is compatible with all leading train sets – with super bright colours. You discover a new part of this toy every day, a new detail, and new use. This service shed has been used endlessly since it arrived, and has been one of the most recurring toys to grace the floor of our new playroom. It took a little longer than planned – admittedly me having a baby the week the building work was supposed to start didn’t exactly help – but we’ve had a shiny new conservatory built on the back of our house, and for the next few years at least it’ll be the boys playroom. Little Man is especially excited about his new domain – I’m sure Little Dude will fight his corner when he’s big enough – and seems to have made it his personal mission to cover the floor each and every day with toys. The train set is the most efficient way of doing this, and the service shed is always a key part of his work. I love it. Its exactly what I wanted when I dreamt up the playroom. Admittedly I think soundproofing should have been included, but you’ve got to work to a budget I guess.

If I had to criticise the service shed – and I guess I should if I could – it would be the entrance doors. The piece of track they attach to – which is included in the box – takes the two lanes down to one before the trains embark on their journey. Unfortunately the pieces down fit flushly together enough for the doors to open and close cleanly and I here endless choruses of “Its stuck!” coming from my chief engineer. With a bit of effort you can get them open again – pushing the track piece down so it sits below the shed does the trick – but I still find the yellow paint from the doors have begun to rub off on the pale wood track. Also the colour is also coming off on the removable roof where it fits onto the shed walls. A bit of minor decor faults that by no means detract from the enjoyment and endless play that this shed provides.

If you’re not already following Bigjigs on Twitter – and shame on you if you’re not – you can find their main account @BigjigsToys and their account dedicated to their rail toys @BigjigsRail. Give them both a follow and join in the fun, and keep your eyes open for regular competitions. And to keep track of all things Play Patrol keep your eyes on the dedicated hashtag #PlayPatrol.

Play Patrol: Chunky Alphabet Puzzle

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol, Product Reviews | Posted on 23-05-2013

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I am a big fan of toys which are educational, especially when your child doesn’t realise they are learning. Learning through play is something I am keen for Little Man to do, so the arrival of our first Play Patrol toy brought an immediate smile to my face.
 The Chunky Alphabet Puzzle is an ideal educational toy for Little Man. As the name suggests you have 26 chunky letters on a board. Each one is the perfect size for a toddler to pick up and is brightly coloured, instantly making it appeal.  You can remove and replace the letters individually, or as Little Man prefers to do, tip them all out across the floor. The cut out sections of the board beneath each letter are coloured the same as the individual letter to help little ones by recognising colour matching as well as shape. There is also a lower case version of the letter in the corner of each cut out.

The learning opportunities of this toy are excellent. I hope to use this to teach Little Man about letters, colours, simple spellings, shapes, phonics and I believe it will also help encourage his talking. He’s already a big fan of it, picking the letter “M” out and giving it to me and saying “Mamma”. He also recognises the “A” as being the first letter of his name. Though he can’t say his name yet he does hold the letter “A” and then point to himself.

Obviously I really like this toy. Its a good solid wooden toy with many years of play in it. Its well built and sturdy – essential for Little Man and his new found love of throwing. I like the bright colours and the use of both upper and lower case letters. It looks beautiful sat on the shelf in Little Man’s room, or more often than not out on the floor. Whilst the pieces do go everywhere – I dropped most of them myself getting it out the toy box to photograph – you always know which you’re missing, and because they are so bright finding them is usually easy enough. I know this is meant to be a visual toy, one that you can display as well as play with, but I do feel the need to put it in something with a lid to try and protect it and stop us losing any letters.

Overall another wooden toy success from BigJigs Toys – I can’t wait to see what comes through our door next.

Product Review: Gowi Racing Car Transporter

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 14-02-2012

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With the new Formula 1 season almost upon us its time to get into the racing spirit, and this toy helps do just that.

The Racing Car Transporter from Gowi is the ideal toy for any future speed demons out there. Whilst it is made from plastic its very sturdy and strong and has been bashed and driven around by my Little Man and his little friend for ages and has come to no harm. The toy consists of a long transporter with detachable cab section, a racing car with driver, two spare tyres – something every car needs and you don’t have to go to National to buy them, a petrol can, and a spare helmet. The racing car comes off the transporter to allow separate play, but also fits neatly onto the back so it can be safely driven around. You can also park up the transporter and just drive around the cab section.

My Little Man loves this (as does Daddy to be honest!). Its very well made and copes with boisterous one year old boys very well. My Little Man enjoys taking all the detachable pieces off and attempting to put them back on, and he spends ages pushing the racing car around on the table and floor. My only complaint with this is that the drivers of the transporter and the racing car are both fixed in. When so many other parts of this toy separate for independent play I think it would be nice if you could remove the drivers as well.

Needless to say this toy will be getting many an outing during the F1 season which kicks of in March, and I’m confident it’ll last for many seasons to come!

Gowi Toys is part of the extended BigJigs Toys family. For a list of stockists go to the BigJigs website.