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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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#Play Patrol: Wooden Construction Set

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol, Product Reviews | Posted on 13-02-2014

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Little Man has never really gotten into Lego. He’s had Duplo but he’d much rather stack blocks than stick them together. We have a supply of Lego in the loft ready for when he’s a bit bigger and hopefully he’ll warm to the idea soon. He can merrily sit piling wooden blocks on top of each other, building walls or towers, and then invariably knocking them over. Usually with an Angry Bird. He also likes to help Daddy when he’s doing DIY. Getting hold of one of Daddy’s screwdrivers or hammers and “helping” fix a fence panel or build flat pack nursery furniture. He’s been using his Drill Set from Learning Resources for ages and still loves it, but when I paid a visit to Toy Fair last month and had a chat with the lovely George at Bigjigs he suggested this construction set would be an ideal Play Patrol mission.

Bigjigs Play Patrol Sussex Mummy

This Wooden Construction Set comes in a handy bucket – perfect for tidying up time – and contains 50 pieces of wood and bolts and a wooden screwdriver. The wooden pieces are varying shapes and sizes – some are just lengths of varying size, others are curved, some are large pieces, plus there’s blocks to add dimension to your build, and a wealth of nuts and bolts. There’s even some wheels included. The kits comes with no instructions at all, its totally designed to give your child a free reign to build whatever their imagination comes up with. On one hand I love this. I want Little Man to use his imagination, to build wild and wonderful things. On the other hand, its a bit of a pain when your son desperately wants you to build the helicopter that is on the front of the bucket and baby brain makes it neigh on impossible! Thankfully Daddy came home from work and created it in no time – the benefits of being married to an engineer!

The construction set is very solid and robust, and stands up to use, building, demolition and rebuilding with ease. I love the chunky nuts and bolts, and the wooden pieces are clearly built to last. The colours are bright – as you’d expect from Bigjigs – and it is aesthetically a great toy to look at. Since the helicopter was built on day one its not been taken apart. The leftover pieces have been played with, but Little Man has spent a lot of time flying his helicopter around the house with lots of enthusiasm and wooshing noises.

I continue to be hugely impressed with the quality and variety of Bigjigs toys, especially after visiting their stand at Toy Fair. Once again I can only recommend this toy for any budding engineers or for children like mine who don’t do Lego but do like tools. A great choice George.

Christmas 2013: Hendon Kitchen

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Christmas Gift Guide, Product Reviews | Posted on 27-11-2013

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Whenever we went to baby and toddler groups or toy shops there was always one toy that Little Man would make a beeline for. The kitchens. Generally always the ones that were that big that they’d fill my house and would look fancier than my own kitchen, but cooking and pressing buttons was always something that enticed him. I bought him a compact table top cooker from a charity shop in our village about eighteen months ago and its had lots of use. It came with a good stash of play food, and when combined with some new pots and pans he was set and would often bring us random meal combinations. Whilst I was at Christmas In July this year I spent a lot of time at the Plum Products stand where they were displaying their new indoor toys, to compliment their extensive outdoor range – some of which is occupying our garden, as well as Nana and Pops’. The stand out product for me was the Hendon Kitchen, and Plum were kind enough to send us one over to review.
The main thing that stood out for me about this kitchen was the colour – its not pink. SO many play kitchens – especially the quality wooden ones – are pink. Now believe me this has not stopped my Little Man from playing with them, but wouldn’t it be nice for someone to create one without the pink stereotype, assuming only girls want to cook? What I also love about this is its size. Despite incorporating a cooker top, a sink with taps, an oven and two shelves its surprisingly compact and takes up very little room in our already jam packed lounge. It is in fact the ideal height for my Little Man who plays with it loads, and randomly gets himself a drink of air from the taps during the day, or washes his hands, or even, on the really odd occasion, gives Teddy a bath in the sink.
I like the details too. On the end of the cooker there are three hooks to hang the included utensils on, and there’s a picture of a tea towel hung up too. There is a hot and cold water tap – they don’t move but Little Man is happy to press them and make the noise of water coming out. There’s two dials on the front which turn round and make clicking noises to control your oven, and there’s even a (fake) digital clock. The two spacious shelves are well sized and we’ve managed to cram plates and Little Man’s tea set on there so all his “cooking” items are together. I must get him some new cutlery for Christmas though, as currently we get to eat our meals with either a ladle or a teaspoon!
Could it be better? Yes. Whilst its a great little kitchen I’d make a few small changes. I would add a shelf to the oven itself – currently its just one huge space and more like a cupboard than a realistic oven. I’d also make the taps turn and click in the same way the oven dials do. I would probably also make the overhead shelf run the full length of the kitchen and perhaps add a second, for items like condiments and tins of food.
On the whole this is a brilliant little kitchen, and it was really easy to put together, even with the help of Little Man. At £70 it is also really well priced, with other wooden kitchens on the market for a lot more. Whether its for a little boy or a little girl I think this compact kitchen would look great in any lounge, bedroom or playroom this Christmas morning.

Review: Oxo Twist Top Water Bottle

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 31-10-2013

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Is it just us that seems to own every sippy cup out there, or is it a normal thing? Every time we open Little Man’s cupboard in the kitchen where we store his cups and bowls and plates at least one sippy cups jumps out at us. The reason for our deluge of cups? Finding one that works consistently and reliably is a nightmare. Who knew it could be so hard to create a cup that your child can drink from without spilling it, or chewing the straw off, or that is permanently open to the elements, or leaks in your handbag. Apparently its rocket science, but thankfully someone seems to have achieved the seemingly impossible. And about time too.
oxo tot twist top water bottle in aquaOxo Tot have created this, the Twist Top Water Bottle, seen here in Aqua. A simply designed bottle which is easy to hold for young children either by the indentation round the bottle or the loop on the lid. A decent length straw reaches right the way to the bottom so no juice or water gets wasted – the number we have that don’t do this is alarming – and a simple twist of the lid folds the straw away. This is both hygienic AND ensures the spill proof nature of the lid. Even with it open you can shake it upside down – as children tend to do – or knock it over – as Little Man does hourly – and nothing comes out. Not one drop.
I love this bottle as it does what it claims and it does what I need it to do. Little Man loves it because he can carry it round easily and it always dispenses his favourite juice. Even Daddy commented the other day that this was a good cup and wanted to know where we got it from and should we get a spare. For Daddy to notice and comment on something like a sippy cup must mean its pretty much brilliant.
The Twist Top Water Bottle from Oxo Tot is priced at £8 and is available in Aqua, Green and Raspberry. It has a capacity of 300ml and is dishwasher friendly – always a bonus for us.

Review: Tonka Town Fire Station

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Product Reviews | Posted on 30-10-2013

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Little Man is a pretty typical boy. He loves cars and space ships and dinosaurs and Doctor Who and anything that’s loud basically. When we were contacted by the team at Tonka Town and asked if we’d like to test out one of their new play sets we couldn’t resist, especially after spotting a rather cool looking Fire Station.
The Fire Station comes with two characters – Jose and Bruno – and a fire car. The station itself includes ladders, a fireman’s pole, a spinning satellite dish, and a pop up fire for your crew to put out. The garage section also extends out and doors open to allow access for your car. Behind the computer on the top of the station is a button to press to sound the alarm.
As soon as this arrived and I opened the box Little Man was straight over and wanted to play immediately. He was straight at the button that made the alarm ring – obviously – and that won him over. He can sit for ages driving Jose and Bruno around in the car, walking them up and down the steps, tackling the pop up fire, or pressing the alarm button. Endlessly. Thankfully the alarm isn’t too loud so even when it feels like its going constantly its not that annoying. He also enjoys opening and closing the garage doors and twisting the satellite dish round and round.
I really like the Fire Station as its fairly compact and because the alarm is reasonably quiet. Its all plastic and not perhaps the sturdiest of plastic toys but its coping well under the pressure of an excitable three year old. My only real criticism of it is the fireman’s pole. Attaching one of your characters to it is not particularly easy. Little Man can’t do it, and to be honest I struggle at times. This in no way affects his enjoyment of the toy though.
You can buy a Fire Engine separately to go with your Station – something I’ll be pointing Aunties and Uncles at this Christmas – as well as a Jail Play Set which will match this one nicely. Tonka Town is available from a wide range of stockists, both on the high street and online. Suitable from age 3 plus I think they’d make a great set for children this Christmas.

 

Keeping School Uniforms Clean

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Back To School, Product Reviews | Posted on 10-09-2013

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Well the children have been back at school for about a week now – or longer if you’re north of the border. Little Man had his first morning at preschool last Thursday and, despite a few tears once I’d left, coped really well. Very proud mummy. What I did notice though when I picked him up was the fact he looked rather grubby. Paint and pens on his fingers, but also sand and dirt on his clothes. To be expected, particularly when you have a little boy.
He has two tshirts which he wears as his uniform, along with some shorts when its hot and trousers when its cooler. His tshirts are a bright green colour and have the preschools logo on the front. I want to keep them looking bright and colourful right through the school year, and maybe into next as they do swamp him at present.

Washing Little Man’s clothes is a bit of a minefield as he does suffer with eczema – the perils of being related to me sadly. We have medicated cream and moisturiser to protect his skin but we do have to watch what we use to wash his clothes. Non-bio is generally the safest bet, but I do tend to use a fabric softener as well, just to make sure everything is comfortable against his skin.

Clothes will probably start getting the Persil Small & Mighty with eraser ball treatment. This works wonders on really hard to get out stains like tomato sauce, simply by popping some straight onto the stain and rubbing it in with the eraser ball. I’ll also be using the new Comfort Bright Colours fabric conditioner with his school uniform. As well as keeping his clothes nice and soft, it also works to keep them looking nice and bright too.

Best get plenty Persil and Comfort in. Based on day one, its going to be a long messy school year!

Play Patrol: Green Toys Rocket

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol, Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 09-09-2013

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My love of BigJigs toys is pretty clear, so when we became Play Patrol Agents I was really hopeful that we’d get to review products from my favourite brand. I ADORE Green Toys. Not only are they eco-friendly and made from recycled plastic, but they are hard wearing, long lasting and most randomly, dishwasher safe! Luckily for us the lovely George at BigJigs sent us this Rocket from Green Toys to review as our most recent mission.

Brightly coloured toys are what I’ve come to expect from BigJigs and this one is no different. Bright red and bright blue colouring makes this rocket stand out a mile. The rocket itself is made up of four component parts – the main rocket, a detachable top capsule, and two intrepid astronauts. The door on the main rocket and a second door on the top capsule both open allowing access for the astronauts – the capsule doorway is a bit of a tight squeeze! Within the capsule you’ll find extra detailing with buttons and computers on the door, whilst the main rocket has steps on the inside of the door to allow astronaut access.

Little Man is a bit of a typical boy, and loves spaceships and rockets. He adores Buzz Lightyear and Toy Story, so this rocket from Green Toys was the ideal choice for him. He runs around the garden with it making whooshing sounds, and sits getting the astronauts in and out of each section. He takes off the capsule and launches that about and takes his astronauts on missions to all kinds of places. For him, this product is firm favourite.

For me, its another brilliant quality product from Green Toys. Yes, the astronauts are a bit plain and simple in their design and they don’t “do” anything, but with a child’s imagination they are off on their adventures. The method of separating the capsule from the rocket is simple – Little Man can do it more often than not – and the bright colours make it easy to spot. I love that if Little Man gets it messy I can pop it into the dishwasher making it super easy to clean, and I love how toddler friendly it is, both in design and size.

Part of our challenge for this review was to take a video of Little Man using the rocket. Below are FOUR videos of Little Man playing with the rockets under the silent – mostly – instruction of Daddy. That thing he is looking at most of the time behind the camera? Daddy waving his arms around and “directing” him. I love the final video where Daddy is showing another fun use for the rocket. We hope you enjoy them.

A firm two thumbs up from Play Patrol Agent Little Man for this one, and from his Mummy too!

 

Review: Aliens Love Underpants Live

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Days Out, Product Reviews | Posted on 01-09-2013

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I don’t suppose there are many children’s bookshelves that don’t contain a copy of “Aliens Love Underpants” by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort. The popular picture book has been published in numerous languages around the world since its release and has now been made into a live show. Following a successful start at the Edinburgh Fringe is now embarking on a full scale tour of the country which will run right through until mid November. Little Man went along to our local venue, the Capitol Horsham, to see whether it was as good as the book.

Aliens Love Underpants book cover

The book itself is fairly short but the live show is 50 minutes long with no interval so it was clearly going to be more than just a straight copy. Four main cast members – Derek Elwood, Cheryl Felgate, Mark Collier and Harrison Spiers – take up a wealth of roles, from introducing the show, to a cast of teachers, students, parents, and, of course, aliens. The show takes you on a journey with the lead character Timmy whose underpants keep going missing when they are on the washing line. He finds the culprits and goes on a trip with them which is truly out of this world.

The show has singing and dancing, lights and music, and a good dose of audience participation. It was twice as long as the last show Little Man and I saw at this theatre last December so I was a little nervous that he’d get fidgety but he sat enthralled by the whole thing. He was pointing out aliens and spaceships, he was waving at the actors and laughing throughout. It was a brilliant production and one I heartily recommend taking your little ones too when the aliens land in your area. A full list of venues and dates can be found here.

Starting Preschool With Marks & Spencer

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Back To School, Product Reviews | Posted on 29-08-2013

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One week to go until Little Man’s first day at preschool. I’m sure he’s going to be fine. I hope he is at least. He’s often a bit nervous in new places, but we’ve been to several drop in sessions at whenever we drive or walk past he points preschool out and wants to go in. Whenever we’re there he’s perfectly happy, playing with the toys and running around the garden. I know it’ll be different being there without Mummy there too, but I’m sure he’ll settle in soon enough. The preschool he’s going to is just a small one in the village. There’s no official uniform but there was the option to buy t-shirts with the name and logo on, and jumpers too. Little Man has always been a fan of routine and consistency, doing things to same way and doing the same things with the same person. This is why we decided to get him a couple of t-shirts and a jumper. So he’d have a consistent outfit to wear. So he’d know that it was his day to go to preschool. We were told he could wear anything he wanted on his bottom half – shorts, trousers, whatever. Preschool did request no open toe sandals but otherwise any sensible footwear. When Marks & Spencer got in touch after reading a previous post on here and asked me if I wanted to look at their Back To School Range I wondered whether he should have a specific set of clothes to wear. I wondered whether a uniform of sorts, albeit not official and not compulsory would help with the settling in process. I had a look around on their website and picked out a few items which looked ideal for Little Man’s first day.

Marks&Spencers Back To SchoolFirst up I wanted a pair of trousers. I wanted something that would be hard wearing and long lasting. We’re advised by the school to not put them in anything new when they start as they do a lot of playing in the garden as well as painting and water play. There’s also lots of Playdoh going around. They are bound to get messy/wet/dirty so wearing something new would be a waste. The trousers I chose from M&S have Stormwear+. They repel both water and stains to keep them looking newer for longer. They also have Supercrease. This means the crease down the front stays there, even after washing. No extra ironing for Daddy. The trousers also have adjustable waists. Perfect for my skinny Little Man. The best thing though is that there are no fastenings on them on sizes below 5-6 years. They just pull up. As you know we have just potty trained Little Man – with incredible success, both during the day AND the night – and he is very keen to be independent. He wants to pull his own trousers down and up when he goes to the toilet at home, and I wanted to make sure he could do it at preschool too when I’m not there to help.

Back To School Shoes

Footwear was next on my list. Something smart yet comfortable. Something again which would be hard wearing and which he could take off himself if needs be. Did we mention him being rather independent? Anyway, I found what I hope will be the ideal pair. Black, leather, proper quality soles and scuff resistant. Even better is that they come with Marks & Spencer’s patented Fresh Feet technology so hopefully, even after a day running around like a mad thing, his shoes at least will still be fresh and clean. I’m sure these shoes will become a fast favourite and no doubt he’ll end up wearing them all the time. Another reason I chose them – they don’t look specifically like school shoes.

And finally whilst I was wandering – virtually of course – around the Back To School pages of the M&S website I found socks. All of Little Man’s socks are brightly coloured, socks you’d expect an almost three year old to be wearing. Some have Angrys Birds on and others feature the cast of Toy Story. Hardly the most appropriate for preschool, especially when you’re so smartly dressed otherwise! So I thought a few pairs of plain black socks would do the trick nicely. And what better way than to plump for some Fresh Feet ones. Little Man should hopefully be spending his time at preschool in comfort.

I think we can safely say that clothes and footwear wise Little Man is ready to start his preschool adventure. I hope he loves it. It’ll be very strange not having him here one morning a week, but I can’t wait to see what he gets up to.

Camping Kit: Toddler Airbed

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Camping | Posted on 27-08-2013

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Its just under two weeks until we head north to Cumbria for our stay at The Quiet Site. You’ll remember that comfort is important to me and how impressed I was with the double airbed that I’d got for Daddy and me. Well Little Man now has his very own airbed thanks to the team at The Shrunks, who sent us their amazing Toddler Travel Bed to test out.
The Shrunks’ Inflatable Travel Bed is just brilliant. Designed for children aged between 2 and 4 – though at nearly 3 Little Man fills it nicely – it is the ideal airbed for camping or for staying overnight at family or friends. The airbed has two inflation points – one for the central mattress (marked “Inflate 1”) and one for the surround (marked “Inflate 2”). The bed comes with a standard bellow foot pump but you can also get an electric pump separately – handy for at home use, but less so in a tent unless you have an electric point on your site. Luckily for us our Camping Pod comes with a power socket! With the use of the electric pump I had the bed inflated in minutes.

Now for the clever bits. This beds surround has an inflatable guard to prevent children rolling out in their sleep. Whilst its not an especially high airbed you don’t want to be woken at 3am by the sound of your little one on the floor, especially in a tent. My favourite bit though is the gap between the mattress section and the surround. Its not huge, its not unsafe, your child won’t fall in to it. What’s its there for is to make the bed just like your little ones’ at home. Standard sized crib sheets fit over the flocked mattress and sheets and duvets can be tucked in the gap so they’re not only cosy, but they’re content in a familiar feeling bed. Little Man has never really done the traditional sleeping bag thing so its good knowing I can use his duvet and blankets on this bed. Though as you can see he’s pretty happy with it as it is.
Now this is going to be ideal for our trip to Cumbria and we’re also going to use it when Little Man and I gatecrash Nana and Pops’ holiday to Scotland later next month. But if my giant Little Man gets any taller he’s going to have outgrown it. Thankfully for us The Shrunks have a bigger airbed for children aged 4 and up. The design of the Twin Bed is just the same, its just that bit bigger. This is the one we’ll be using next year, should Little Man decide he loves camping! Its also going to be great for visits to relatives, or for use when we stay in overnight in hotels which only have high single beds. And should we ever brave having one of his little friends to stay, it’ll be perfect for them too.

You can find The Shrunks range on Amazon.

 

Camping Kit: Footwear

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Camping | Posted on 13-08-2013

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Its only a few weeks till we head up to Cumbria to visit The Quiet Site for four nights. I’m remaining eternally optimistic that the weather will hold out, or at the very least remain reasonably warm. As well as making sure we have all the necessary kit for our camping adventure, I also need to make sure we have all the right clothing. Lots of lightweight clothing, waterproofs in case of sudden downpours, and comfortable footwear. Whilst Daddy and I have trainers, hiking boots and wellies, Little Man only really has wellies which are suitable for all terrains. Whilst we’re clearly not about to start hiking the hills of Cumbria, we may well go on a few walks and some lightweight footwear that is suitable for wet or dry conditions would be a bonus. Off to an internet search engine I go, and I found these cute little sandals on the Jelly Egg website.
JellyEgg Keen Kids SandalsThese infant shoes from Keen look ideal for stomping around the countryside and for any trips to the coast we manage whilst we’re up there. The Quiet Site is very close to Ullswater so no doubt there’ll be some splashing around done there by the Little Man. The soles look pretty sturdy so should cope well with the kind of terrain we’re likely to take him on, but should also work fine on trips into towns and villages.

Now I come to think about it Daddy has been muttering that the shoes he currently walks to work in are getting a but tatty and in need of replacement. He’s awful when it comes to buying shoes so maybe it’d be quicker for him and more painless for me if I just get him a pair of these whilst I’m buying Little Man’s?
These boots are waterproof, breathable, and designed for comfort and stability. Whilst Daddy doesn’t tend to fall over much – there was ONE time he did and it was hysterical – he does walk about three miles a day in all weathers so these look perfect for him. Maybe I’ll just forward him the details and let him spend the money eh?