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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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Travel: Content & Calm Tray Kit

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Days Out, Holiday | Posted on 28-05-2013

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Are you planning a trip away this summer with the children? May be a long car journey is involved or maybe you’ll be jetting off somewhere in a plane. How are you going to keep your children entertained? Whenever I go out in the car with Little Man alone he sits happily in the back, looking out the window, dancing in his seat to the radio and chattering away to himself. Put anyone in the front passenger seat and he seems to automatically start demanding their attention. Especially if its Daddy. There is nothing I find more distracting when I’m driving, especially if I’m going a long way, than the person in the seat next to me spinning around every few minutes and things being passed back and forth in an attempt to keep Little Man amused.

We recently went on holiday to Pembrokeshire with my parents. I live in West Sussex, so Pembrokeshire is a VERY long drive. We had an overnight stay in Cardiff, but with stops on the way we were going to be looking at four hours to Cardiff, and three hours from there to where we were staying. I was not looking forward to seven hours of a toddler complaining in the back and Daddy endlessly passing him things to do, so I went in search of a solution. I wanted Little Man to have a selection of things to hand, from books to crayons, some small toys and a few snacks. I didn’t want half the contents of his bedroom balanced around him, but I wanted a manageable amount of items within reach that he could play with easily and without causing too much havoc. Luckily for me, I discovered this.

This handy little “suitcase” is actually a Content & Calm TrayKit. As you can see it has a handle which Little Man could use to carry it around – not that he ever carries anything of his own around apart from Teddy and food – and it also comes with straps so it can be worn like a rucksack. Sadly Little Man won’t do this either, having only ever worn one rucksack for longer than three minutes. To be honest these are the least exciting features, as when you open the “suitcase” you have a great travel companion for your little ones.

Now of course they come empty, but this is what we did to ours. In the big pocket at the back we put a colouring book and a copy of Zoe & Beans: How many pets? for Little Man to look at on the journey. He really enjoys pointing at all the animals in this book, and he especially likes the fact that it features a tortoise as we recently got one as a pet too. In one flap pocket we put a few crayons to use with the colouring book – and hoped he wouldn’t colour the Zoe & Beans book instead. In the other flap pocket we put a couple of packets of fruit snacks. We also popped two of his Hawkins Bazaar Wooden Robots to play with. These are ideal toys for in the car as they can’t break and there’ll be no bits bouncing around the back seat mid journey. Whilst we had a back up stash of things for him to play with when he got bored of this – he’s two and has an attention span of about ten minutes unless its Toy Story or Finding Nemo – these were the items we were happiest for him to play with unsupervised.

The bag is designed to fasten to the back of a car seat, and when its opened it creates a play tray for your little one to use like a desk. Because Little Man’s car seat is quite large, and he’s also a giant, we couldn’t attach the TrayKit as its designed as Little Man’s legs were in the way. Instead we used the rucksack straps to fasten it to the headrest and it was pretty secure. The tray balanced neatly on his knee and he could reach everything he wanted unaided. It would probably work correctly for Little Man on a plane where his seat would be lower. He loved rummaging in each pocket to see what we’d put in there, and within ten minutes everything was out but confined to the tray, and he was eating his way through his snack pile. One of his favourite features was the small mirror you can see just above the wooden robots in the photo above. That was at the perfect height and angle for him to pull faces at himself and it kept him amused for ages.

The TrayKit is brilliant. No, it didn’t keep his amusement for the entire journey, but I wasn’t expecting it to. I love how it holds a good quantity of items and I think it will get a lot of use for many years to come. It did precisely what I wanted it to, and in turn saved Daddy from spending his whole journey turning awkwardly in his chair. Next time we go out and use it I’ll make sure to put different things in there so its always a new experience for Little Man. There are plenty more long car journeys planned for this year, not least a trip to Cumbria in September, where this will get used a lot.

The TrayKit is available in a range of colours and you can also get additional accessories to match. I think I’ll be getting Little Man a couple of Travel Bugs before our next trip.

Christmas Stocking Fillers: For Children…

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Christmas Gift Guide, Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 14-11-2012

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Its Christmas!!

Well at the very least its approaching fast, and no doubt most of you have begun your shopping already. If any of you have finished your shopping… I hate you. Joke.

If you’re looking for inspiration for a few stocking filler for your little ones, or topping up a main present, all of the gifts below are available now for less the £15.

1. Justin’s Funny Faces Sticker Activity Book
The phenomenal Justin Fletcher – star of Something Special, GiggleBiz, Justin’s House – brings you this brilliant sticker book. Full of faces and reusable stickers your children will have hours of fun creating and recreating lots of funny faces. This has an RRP of £3.99 and is available now from Amazon.

2. Wow Toys: George’s Dragon Tale
Join Sir George and Smokey as they go on a quest in this excellent set from Wow. Complete with a chariot and boulder which can be fired at any foe they might meet, this is a great little set for the boys. This retails for £7.99 and is available from all good Wow Toy stockists.

3. Colour Me Fun Crayons: Gingerbread Men
This festive edition of the popular Colour Me Fun Crayon sets comes with eight gingerbread men in a range of colours. Non toxic, high quality and super cute these are a great buy for any budding artist. Other festive sets are available or you can get their names. Prices start from £2.49. See the complete range here.

4. Deadly 60 and The Simpsons Games
Fans of either show will love these boxes trivia games. The games are simple to play and quick fire so nobody will get bored. Each comes with 400 multiple choice questions on either show. The Ruckus Deadly 60 card game is a fast paced card collecting game where anything could change up till the last moment. All games are suitable from 8 years plus and prices start from £5. You’ll find all the games in your nearest toy store, or online here.

5. Festive Books: Everything’s Rosie, Thomas The Tank Engine, and Mr Men
Books make great gifts for children, and these Christmas themed titles are even better. Featuring characters from their favourite TV shows children will enjoy reading these again and again, and probably not just during the festive period. Priced at £3.99 each you can find these titles in your local bookstore.

6. The Hungry Frogs ‘Magic Sound’ Board Game
An ideal first board game for pre-schoolers this is a simple game of turn taking, counting and moving around the board. You are on a mission to collect flies, and the first to make it home with 5 flies wins. Every time its your go you also get to press the ‘Magic Sound Button’ which makes a loud croaking sound – without a doubt Little Man’s favourite feature. You can find stockist details here.

7. Wow Toys: Arctic Archie
Archie the Snow Mobile is a lovely toy for Christmas, particularly if you are looking forward to snow this year. Joined by Scott and Penelope the Penguin Archie is a great push along toy, and whats more its quiet too. A nice peaceful gift perhaps? Retailing at £8.99 you can find a list of stockists here.

8. Pirate Rag Doll
Whilst Rag Dolls are traditionally for girls, Little Lucy Willow has created this very trendy Pirate for all the little boys out there. Beautifully made of 100% cotton you can even undress the Pirate if you want to. A great toy for any fans of Jake & The Neverland Pirates!! This Pirate retails for £15 and it available from Little Lucy Willow now.

9. Wow Toys: Pocket Friends
If you’ve already got your little one a new Wow Toys set this Christmas, or perhaps they have them all already, the Pocket Friends are a great idea. Each packet comes with one new friend and an activity sheet and you can choose either a boy or a girl. These toys are only available at existing Wow Toys stores and Road Chefs and are not available online. They are £1.99 each.

10. Artzooka Rock Painting Kit
A great little craft set which I was amazed to find included the rocks, this set gives you everything you need to create 5 rock animals. You get the rocks, paint, stickers, brush and fixings needed, as well as the instructions. Another great way to keep the children quiet for a while so you can relax after all that turkey eating! This retails at £5.99 and is available now from Amazon.

11. The Hive: Rubee
Disney Junior’s “The Hive” is very popular in our house and they have a new range of plush toys out this Christmas featuring your favourite characters. This 6.5inch plush of Rubee is great for any little girls who watch the show. Its a good size too for cuddling, which is essential. She retails at £9.99 and can be found in all good toy retailers.

Stocking Filler ideas for Mum and Dad will be online soon!

 

 

Product Review: Pack Mate Ottoman

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 31-10-2012

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If your lounge is anything like mine its probably hidden somewhere beneath a mountain of children’s toys and their associated “stuff”. Clutter and chaos is normal part of everyday life in our house, but at the end of the day or when people visit, I don’t like my house looking like the local toy shop. The next problem is that I hate house work. I don’t want to spend hours at the end of the day packing toys up, and if people visit at a moments notice I sometimes just don’t have the time. Some storage for children’s toys doesn’t work well in a lounge, especially if you’re trying to keep it somewhere for adults too, but the new Ottomans from Pack Mate are brilliant.

Supplied flat packed but with very simple construction the Faux Leather or Faux Suede Ottoman’s come in three sizes. The smallest is designed to fit at the end of a single bed, but also looks great in the lounge. It holds a lot of toys and books, and also makes a great spare seat. Little Man likes to sit on it whilst he’s watching TV!

You can also get the Ottoman in two bigger sizes, designed to fit at the end of double or king sized beds. If you do want to use the Ottoman somewhere else, I also found it great to use in the corner of my bedroom to store some of my shoes in.

Ottomans are the new addition to the already essential Pack Mate range. Their Vacuum Storage Bags are indispensable when it comes to packing duvets and pillows not in use away somewhere compact and clean. They are also great for packing away outgrown baby and maternity clothes, just in case! Travel Roll Bags are perfect for holidays – you don’t need a vacuum either, you simply fill it up, zip it closed, roll out any air and pop it in your suitcase. Ideal if you tend to try and cram a little too much in your case!

For more details on the Pack Mate range, including stockists, head over to their website. You can also find them on Twitter @Pack_Mate.

New Titles From Harper Collins…

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review | Posted on 03-10-2012

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Walter & the No Need To Worry Suit
This is the first book from the brand new “Wonderful World of Walter and Winnie” series from picture book author Rachel Bright, who previously wrote Love Monster. Walter is a bit of a worrier, in fact his worrying often gets a little out of hand. When the “Super-Seriously-Competitive” sports and funday approaches his worrying gets very out of hand, particularly because Walter isn’t a big fan of sports. The story is so funny and the pictures are so bright and detailed. The text is part of every picture and the whole book just exudes fun. We get to join Walter as he worries away, and as his friends come to his rescue, led by his best friend Winnie.

The Great Granny Gang
Author Judith Kerr needs no introduction. Author of over 20 books, her most famous no doubt being The Tiger Who Came To Tea, her latest installment is “The Great Granny Gang” – a celebration of why grannies are so great. What we learn as we read the book is that there is more to grannies than meets the eye, and I suspect that any child who reads or hears this story will probably never look at their own grannies quite the same again! I love the rhyming melody within Judith’s rhyming and the accompanying drawings are beautiful. This is a fun addition to any child’s bookshelf, and perfect for this weekends National Grandparents Day on October 7th.

This Moose Belongs To Me
Oliver Jeffers is an internationally best-selling and award winning picture book author. His previous work includes “Lost And Found”, “How To Catch A Star” and his recent work, “The Hueys In The New Jumper”. This autumn Oliver returns with “This Moose Belongs To Me” a heart warming and funny book about Wilfred who may or may not own a moose called Marcel. You see Wilfred isn’t entirely sure. Most of the time Marcel follows the rules of being a pet very well, but then sometimes things don’t quite go to plan. And one day Wilfred meets someone else who thinks they own Marcel. This story is all about friendship and learning about what owning something is all about. It is a classic Oliver Jeffers and one that I look forward to reading at bedtime soon.

These titles are available from all good bookstores.

Guest Post: Local Bookstores Suffer the Wrath of Ebooks

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Guest Post, Information | Posted on 24-09-2012

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“There is a strong feeling of pessimism amongst people within the book industry. This feeling spans from novelists to publishers, largely down to financial reasons. The worry these individuals have comes from the introduction of the eBook, the digitalised version of the traditional book. The impact of this new form of literary medium is causing massive reverberations throughout the field, and none more so perhaps than that of quaint local bookstores.

There has been plenty of coverage over the closure of independent record stores over the past five years or so, due to the explosions of internet downloads and mp3s. But the troubles local independent bookstores are going through seem to have been neglected somewhat in the media. This may partly be down to the appeal it has to people, as believe it or not, everyone enjoys reading, but to find someone who doesn’t like music of any kind? Impossible, surely.

It is quite a serious issue however, and one that I did not really contemplate until the last local bookstore in my nearby town was forced to close after over a twenty-five year residency there. When interviewed in the local paper the owner of the store explained that he simply could not compete and keep up with the conglomerates, the big chain stores and the influx of online literature, particularly their prices. He did manage to joke however that one the final books he sold was The Great Gatsby, jesting that had he perhaps read it he’d have been able to put up more of a fight into keeping is dream alive.

He had a fair point though concerning the financial competition, as eBooks are almost always sold for a cut price in comparison to physical books, with companion books such as Twilight and Philosophy – Vampires, Vegetarians, and the Pursuit of Immortality available for under half the price of a hard copy. It’s not even unusual now for many eBooks to be made available online for free now, and it makes you wonder, how can anyone really compete with that?

There are not many independent bookstores left in the UK now, but hopefully, if communities band together, more and more can be saved and keep the true essence of the book alive.”

I love the concept of e-readers, and there is no escaping their popularity. But sometimes, for me, nothing beats a real book. I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Book Review: “The Mystery Of Mercy Close” by Marian Keyes

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review | Posted on 11-09-2012

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After a three year wait the much loved Marian Keyes returns to our bookshelves with “The Mystery Of Mercy Close”.

The book sees the return of the great Walsh family who have featured in several of Marian’s titles over the years since we first met them in “Watermelon” in 1995. “The Mystery Of Mercy Close” focuses on Helen, the youngest of the Walsh sisters, and one of my personal favourites. Helen is a Private Investigator called in to help out when a member of the boyband “Ladz” goes missing shortly before a much hyped reunion concert. Helen has her own demons to battle as she sets about trying to find Wayne, and none more so than her ex Jay who seeks out Helen’s help just as she’s getting her life back on track following their “messy” split.

I adore Marian Keyes – she is without question my favourite fictional author, and she sets all her books in my favourite place, Dublin – and it is a joy to have her back writing again, especially about the legendary Walsh family. Her writing style is brilliant and I love the quirky twists and turns on every page. This book is a real page turner that will keep you entertained, and a little on edge, from the very first page. All of Marian’s previous books have pride of place on my bookshelf and are excellent stories which I can read and re-read again and again, and I have no doubts that this one will be just as well read as those before it.

The Mystery Of Mercy Close” is published by Michael Joseph and released on September 13th.

For all you Walsh family fans out there, I suggest you download “Mammy Walsh’s A-Z of the Walsh Family” for a bit of a reminder of their ups and downs over the years!

Book Review: New Books For Children

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review | Posted on 10-09-2012

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From Smellessence…

I’ve previously featured a title from Smellessence on here before – “Chocolate Chipped” – which though a brilliant book was written for children who suffer a bereavement. This Autumn sees the release of two more Smellessence titles which are more of an everyday read for your little ones. First we have “Theo“. Theo is a dog who has lost his sense of smell, and sets out on an adventure to find it. Theo visits some of his most favourite smelly places, and we get to go along too. The smells in this book are hugely realistic and I love the idea of having them included to add an extra dimension to the stories. Little Man loves this book because there is a dog on the front cover, but I’m sure once he understands the smelly factor he’ll love it for that too.
Next is “The Story Of The Famous Farter“. This book is not for the faint hearted! This book regales the story of artist Joseph Pujol who was a famous entertainer at the Moulin Rouge in the late 1890s. Pujol was famous for being a ‘Professional Farter’ – imagine writing that next to occupation! – who had the ability to fart on demand. The story is delightful and the drawings inside are so good and, along with the aroma, bring the story to life. This book is definitely educational, whilst being somewhat witty too. It is bound to appeal to all children who no doubt think farting is hilarious fun.

From Macmillan…

This year marks the 30th Birthday of the excellent “Dear Zoo” book. To commemorate a new title has been released – “Dear Zoo: Touch & Feel“. This is ideal for little children as each animal has a touchable part to it. There’s the lions mane, the frogs sticky feet, the snakes basket, and many more. Little Man has thoroughly enjoyed looking through this book. Whilst he sometimes lacks the patience to listen to you reading a story to him, he likes to be able to interact with his books when he’s looking at them by himself. Books with flaps, pop-ups, or touchable parts are big favourites, and this one is no different. I love this book too. I am a big fan of the original Rod Campbell classic and I do enjoy reading that to Little Man when he lets me, but this allows him to enjoy the story himself, even if he’s doesn’t know entirely what’s going on. A must for all “Dear Zoo” fans.

Back To School…

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review, Product Reviews | Posted on 28-08-2012

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Well that time is upon us all once again, where the mad dash to find essential supplies for our children before we send them back to school next week – unless you’re in Scotland of course where they are already out from under your feet! Now Little Man isn’t 2 yet so I have a few more years to psych myself up for this eternally stressful time, but I do have a few products here that might just appeal to you, and your young scholars!

Smencils
A new school year means a brand new pencil case loaded up with new pens, pencils, rulers and erasers. If you fancy treating your child to something a little more unusual this year – something special if its their first ever day at school – then I highly recommend a set of Smencils. Smencils are just what they sound like – smelly pencils. Made from recycled paper and scented for added fun, these pencils are a great idea. I really like the Fruit Shoot scented range, which is great for young children just starting school. I don’t think there are many children out there who don’t love Fruit Shoots, so a matching set of pencils will be a perfect addition to their very first pencil case.

Click here for a Facebook Competition to win a set. Closes Friday September 7th 2012.

Back To School Books
If your child is a bit nervous about venturing to school for the first time then there a couple of great books here that might just ease their worries. “Foxy” by Emma Dodd is about a little girl called Emily who is starting school the next day and is worried that she doesn’t have everything she needs. Her magical friend Foxy comes to her rescue with some very amusing results, and a brilliantly reassuring message for all children. “Come To School Too, Blue Kangaroo” by Emma Chichester Clark is the latest in the Blue Kangaroo series. Lily takes Blue Kangaroo to school with her and wants to help him through his first day, but his day goes on longer than planned when he is left behind. A great fun story for all Blue Kangaroo fans worried about starting at school.

Forget Me Not
If your child has something of a hectic schedule – school, clubs, sports teams, music lessons, etc – or the mad rush each morning means they often forget something important for school, investing in a Forget Me Not from Tidy Books might just save you a lot of stress. It comes with a large magnetic whiteboard for jotting down reminders or fastening letters from school or timetables on. Beneath that is a small shelf with a lip to put small items that need to be taken, such as lunch money or letters that can be posted on the walk to school. Finally you get a row of hooks which can hold school bags packed ready for the next day or sports kits for PE lessons. The Forget Me Not has a compact slimline design, but has plenty room to store all your school day essentials.

Product Review: Pkolino Fire Engine Book Buggee

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 18-07-2012

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Books are very popular in our house and Little Man’s already epic collection seems to grow almost daily, so we are often on the look out for new ways to store them. Already owning the Tidy Books Book Shelf means that the book stash in the lounge is contained for now, and in Little Man’s bedroom we have a couple of stacking boxes with yet more titles in. Recently Little Man started carrying his books around with him and you often find them on the stairs or in the kitchen – I guess he just likes to be prepared! When Pkolino offered to send me a “book buggee” to review, I said yes immediately. Take a look:

The “Book Buggee” is a beautiful wooden truck decorated to look like a fire engine – you can also get it in orange, natural or to look like a princess crown. As you can see there are four slots at the back to hold your books, and it hold books of all sizes. There is also a section at the front – just in front of ‘The Gruffalo’ – where you can pile very small books or anything else your little one needs to take with him. Attached to the front is a length of white rope which your child can use to pull along the “buggee” wherever they go – something Little Man particularly enjoys. He can often be found wandering about trailing his Fire Truck behind him. Sometimes its empty, and sometimes there are a few books in there. I’ve also seen him use it to transport drinks and snacks, but the most popular use for it currently in our house is this:

I’m thinking that Milo The Monkey needs some kind of helmet…

You can read more about the Pkolino Fire Truck Book Buggee – and the rest of the brilliant Pkolino range – here, as well as locating your nearest stockist.

Bagabook Giveaway At Brit Mums Live!

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Blogger Event, Brit Mums Live, Competition, Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 18-06-2012

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Bagabooks are designed to protect your precious paperbacks from damage when you’re reading them if you’re out and about. Whether you’re travelling by train or plane, or sat on a warm sandy beach (clearly not in the UK…) or just like to have your book with you in case you fancy a quick read, your paperback may end up a little dog-eared and damaged. Bagabook to the rescue!!

Bagabooks slip around the cover of your book and protect it from the elements. They come with a built in bookmark and a handy pocket for a travel card or train ticket – perfect for all you commuters out there. There is even a pen holder as your Bagabook can also house a notepad or diary. You can even fit an e-reader or 7 inch tablet inside – and that’s why I’m bringing my Bagabook to Brit Mums Live this weekend with my new Kurio inside. As you all know I’m going to be showing off the pre-release 7 inch Kurio to anyone who wants a look, but I am also going to be running a competition to giveaway a brand new Bagabook of your choice.

Bagabooks come in two designs – Classic or Executive. The Classics look rather like a stylish handbag, with a strap to pop it over your shoulder or carry it.

The Executive has a briefcase look to it with a much shorter and neater handle, and has a discreet zipped pocket to pop in your mobile or mp3 player or some loose change.
Take a look at the full range on the Bagabook website – there are a host of colours and designs to choose from.

Fancy winning one of your own?

Track me down on Friday or Saturday at Brit Mums Live and give me one of your business cards.  You’ll be entered into a Prize Draw and on Sunday I’ll pick one of the cards out of a hat – or the discreet hidden pocket of the Bagabook – and that person will win a Bagabook of their choice from the website. What’s more is that ALL entrants will be emailed with a discount code to use in the online store.