Christmas goodwill and cheer to all

Dear readers,

It’s time for me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2015.

I’ll be back in the New Year with some ideas for goal setting for working parents, more crafty bits and bobs and play ideas for toddlers too, and of course my eco-series will be back for Organic January.

All the best to you and yours and thank you for joining me this year.

Love and blessings from Angela and Joss x

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Enchanted parks and winter walks

A short photo story from us this week, Christmas planning has taken over but I just had to post these pics, so it’s like a bumper Sunday Photo from us!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Gro Clock for sleep training – a review

Gro clock for sleep training

Long time fans of the Gro Company range, particularly their sleeping bags (remember this photo of J, cute or what!?) I was delighted to be offered a Gro Clock to review, having heard such great things about them.

Reticent though I am about ‘sleep training’ per se, Joss is now of an age where her night owl habits are taking their toll on her daytime behaviour, she’s often having crashes during the day where her mood drops because she’s not getting enough sleep.  Although we’re managing this with the odd daytime nap this isn’t going to be sustainable for much longer.

It was with interest then that we looked at the Gro Clock as an option.  The Gro message is “How do you get your children to understand when it’s time to get up? SIMPLE “stay in bed until you see the sun!”  It’s aimed at toddlers aged two and over and Gro Clock uses fun images of the stars and sun to communicate when it’s time for your tot to go back to sleep and when it’s time to get up, it glows blue at night and yellow with a sunny smile in the morning.

You set the time of wake up and can set the clock for a nap time too, it was really easy to get set up and the brightness is adjustable too, handy as we don’t use a night light but needed to introduce one this winter after frequent wake ups when Joss was a bit poorly recently.  The Gro-Clock is mains powered and the cord is long enough to reach up onto Joss’ toy chest to make it easy for her to see it in the night.

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I liked that the clock comes with a story book so we were not introducing something new into the bedtime routine totally cold (sleep deprived parents will sympathise, the idea of introducing something that could make a tot go the other way is something we’re loath to introduce!) – the characters are fun and the story is really sweet, the moral of the tale is that if you’re late to bed or too early to rise you will be too tired to have fun the next day!  The book is really nicely illustrated and a good size for small hands but a hardbacked version would last a little longer I think!

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Gro-clock features:

  • Glowing screen shows images of stars and sun to communicate ‘sleep’ and ‘wake-up’ time
  • Includes bedtime story book
  • Stars go out one-by-one during the night to show the passing of time
  • Key-lock option
  • Option to set two separate wake-up times (weekday/weekend or night-time/day-time nap)
  • Adjustable screen brightness
  • Silent operation
  • Optional audible alarm feature
  • Mains powered. Suitable from age 2+ years

How did we get on?

The first night we used the Gro Clock Joss was VERY interested in the blue light and stars and I was worried it was too distracting but by night two the soft blue glow seemed to comfort her and she went happily off to sleep. It’s hard with a tot that has quite changeable night time patterns to say how effective Gro Clock has been at establishing a better bed time routine but I would say the night light element has reduced her crying at bedtime and there are more nights than we’d had previously where she goes off to sleep chatting happily, which reduces our stress and worry as parents too.

In the dark mornings Joss would usually cry out or yell “it’s morning time” despite it being 5am, after about three days we started hearing her say “it’s not dark, it’s morning time” – I think having a night light is a big help for her now and we’ve cracked the early morning starts too.

I can’t say she’s sleeping longer but she chatters on quietly in her bed instead of starting the day with yelling, a much more gentle start to the day for all of us!  I like that the stars count down to show time ticking over as this prepares her for using a ‘big clock’ when she gets older too.

I think the book is great for starting a conversation about the importance of sleep; we’ll definately use it for a refresher as Joss’ sleep patterns can be quite changeable!

Priced at £19.99 and growing with a little one as it has an audible alarm feature too I’d say this makes a great value addition to a children’s bedroom and is well worth a try for any parents struggling to establish sleeping and waking routines.

 

Disclaimer: We were sent a Gro Clock for review purposes, all views are my own

 

 

Smiggle Review – Give a Smile and a Giggle for Christmas

We’ve long been fans of Smiggle’s fun range of quirky stationery, their strapline, ‘where a smile meets a giggle’ brilliantly reflects their light-hearted, bold and colourful range.

I think stationery makes a brilliant gift, of course I’m a real stationery-lover but it’s something we all use and I think that bringing a little fun to someone’s play, study or work can be a really thoughtful present, and can help spark their creativity too.

With novelty pens starting from just £1.50 Smiggle offer a huge variety of stocking stuffers and perfect presents too. I was delighted and a bit overwhelmed when Smiggle asked me to review their range of Christmas gifts this year, I have to say a big thanks to them for this bundle as I absolutely love the selection and they’ve captured the things that Joss and I love perfectly!

Brilliant bags

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The Macarons backpack is a really great size, I know a few teens that would love to take this to school with them, vibrant, with pockets to stay organised and sturdy canvas fabric with a really fun design this is a really nice twist on a classic bag and I’ll be using this myself to carry the shopping home when I carry Joss in the sling!

Stocking fillers to delight and spark creativity too

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I love activity books, they’re great for keeping little ones busy between courses when out for a meal, or for encouraging quiet moments of play on Christmas day when everything gets a bit too much! These Konnichiwa stencil books bring hours of fun and are great for getting creative juices going too!

The range of pencil cases and accessory cases are to die for! I love the idea of this speaker case, with room for a phone or i-pod, speakers and space to store other essentials I think this is a really unusual gift idea for a music lover. The pencil cases range from £5 to £15 and are fantastic quality. I always carry a pencil case with me as I do a lot of writing on the go, these are long lasting, made from sturdy high quality materials and how fun are they! I am loving these designs, they’re so light hearted!  The purple one is a Kimono wrap and opens out into a HUGE pencil case!

One of my favourites from this fab set of gifts is the heart shaped lights; the perfect addition to any youngsters’ bedroom Joss absolutely loves these, when I put them up in her room she got into bed and just stared up at them in delight! All little one’s love bright lights and this is a great way to keep that Christmas magic going, at £15 a set they’re really competitively priced and great quality, their lightweight battery pack makes them really easy to hang anywhere.

Finally, more cool stocking stuffers in the shape of watches and toys, wallets and loads of brilliant novelty pens and pencils, practical but with a smart design edge. Smiggle’s range of gadgets and games make really unusual stocking fillers. There’s something for everyone and for every budget; from a £5 secret santa to filling a stocking for a stationery lover, check out Smiggle’s website, you’ll be hooked looking at their fantastic designs!

Disclaimer: we were sent a bundle of goodies for review purposes, all views are my own

Sensory play at Christmas – feat Hexbug

I think Christmas can be a brilliant time of year for sensory play. Earlier this week Joss and I spent an afternoon with a bowl of water, some ice-cubes and blue food colouring and had an amazing time playing with her plastic sea animals in the water and watching the ice cube ‘icebergs’ melt!

This year these are some of the gifts that Joss will be receiving, bath crayons, foam shapes to stick on the walls of the shower, and foam silly soap all intended to encourage more sensory play.

Image from Magic Toy Shop

Image from Magic Toy Shop

I’ve also bought a set of these sensory tubes for scientific explorations; I’ll be filling them with water, glitter and glue to make sparkly sensory tubes; Joss loves putting things in and out of containers so I know these will be a big hit.

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Now that she’s getting older I thought about other toys to support her learning. When HEXBUG contacted me about their range of robots for children I was really intrigued! By leveraging their robotics expertise HEXBUG toys launched a Micro Robotic Creatures product line designed to give children a positive experience with robotics at a young age – these are some of the coolest toys I have EVER seen!  Look at this Battle Bridge, a brilliant arena for HEXBUG toys robots to interact in.

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Our childminder has a selection of HEXBUG toys and Joss loved playing with them, so I was only too happy to add a HEXBUG toys review to this sensory play post.  The Aquabot range starts at a super reasonable £7.99 for a single Aquabot; a robotic fish that really swims, these totally delight children, and why not, they move with such realistic actions that it’s hard to believe they’re robotic!

We reviewed the Aquabot 2.0; this interactive environment provides the fun experience of having a pet fish, without all the messy clean-up or need to remember to feed the fish, perfect for us and even better Joss can get her hands in and get wet too!  The comes pre-set with batteries and spares, and with a small tank and stickers to decorate the environment for the fish! At £14.99 for the Aquabot 2.0 and bowl this makes a great all round gift.

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The Aquabot encourages kids to let their imaginations run wild as they care for their new pet. After five minutes without activity, the fish goes into sleep mode to conserve battery life, Joss found this utterly fascinating and even more fun as the fish can be awakened by tapping on the tank, and off it goes swimming again!

Other robots in the HEXBUG toys ranges react to light and sound or movement, these are brilliant little toys to introduce children to science and foster a love of engineering too; oh and they’re pretty fun for grown ups too!

Why not think about giving a fun sensory or scientific gift this Christmas?
Disclaimer: We were sent an Aquabot 2.0 for review purposes, all views are our own

Build-A-Bear Workshop Review Metro Centre

Give an experience!

I love the idea of sharing an experience for Christmas and when Publicasity contacted me to see whether Joss and I would like to try out the Build-A-Bear Workshop experience I was really excited to take my stuffed animal-loving toddler along. The experience didn’t disappoint and would make a great gift for a younger child.

We visited the Metro Centre store in Gateshead this week where we were greeted by Rebecca and Kelly; friendly and chatty they really made the experience special for us and the staff team and store had a really fun vibe about it.

Joss chose a brightly coloured bear from the selection of animals and bears, there was a huge choice and with prices starting from £10 for a bear and accessories around the £5 – £8 mark you can make the experience as expensive or as reasonable as you like. We moved onto the Workshop area and listened really carefully to all of the voices at the bear voice station, Joss selecting ‘I love you’ over and over so that was a clear winner for her! Kelly took us over to the bear stuffing machine and Joss listened carefully to her instructions, we chose a heart for our bear and Joss rubbed it on her cheek so it would be cheeky, on her heart to fill it with love and made a wish to pop inside her bear, after stuffing the bear it was on to the washing station and then ‘Rainbow’ as we chose to call her was ready to be dressed.

Build-A-Bear Workshop Review Metro Centre

Joss has always been one for bright colours and so of course Rainbow is dressed in a riot of colour too, neon no less! That’s the lovely thing about the experience though, I let it be child led and she made her own selections! There are a huge range of accessories and clothes on offer, from Frozen inspired dresses to little dressing gowns and PJs, there’s something for all tastes and budgets, and the little Christmas outfits and reindeers to stuff would make a great festive present. It also struck me that the clothes are a great addition to any little one’s dressing up box to be used with other bears and dolls that they might have at home.

The personal touch

I really liked the little special details that the Workshop add to the experience, for example each bear has a barcode inside so that if it gets lost the bear can taken back to the Workshop where it can be identified for its owner. We printed a birth certificate for Rainbow and the box that the bears are presented in is a lovely quality blank canvas that little ones can take home to decorate to make a little house for their bear with windows!

Charitable partnership

A nice way to give a gift that gives twice would be to explore the Build-A-Bear Workshop’s range in partnership with Children in Need. They have three great ways to donate, including buying a special purple heart to pop inside your stuffed toy for £1 which goes to Children in Need.

Build-A-Bear Workshop Review Metro Centre

If you’re looking for something to treat your children or grandchildren to this Christmas and want to choose a gift that is unique, personalised and offers a magical experience too we would recommend checking out your local Build-A-Bear Workshop, you won’t be disappointed!

Disclaimer: We visited the Workshop to experience building a bear and received a complimentary bear as part of that experience, all views are our own

Skip Hop Zoo-Let Review

We’ve blogged about US brand Skip Hop before, their changing bag has been a lifesaver with its many pockets and storage solutions.  Now we’re moving into potty training we no longer need a huge bag anymore and Joss is becoming independent and wants to carry her own bits and bobs when we’re out and about.

Skip Hop Zoo-Let

The Skip Hop Zoo-Let is a mini backpack suitable for children aged 12 months+ and is the perfect step up from our changing bag now we’re carrying smaller items and no nappies.

I like to give gifts that are a bit different to the usual toys; something for outdoors is always appreciated by parents and tots alike. This backpack featured in our Christmas Gift Guide as a brilliant present for an outdoorsy, independent tot, the bee and owl designs are cute too, but this smiley ladybird is perfect for my little bug – judging by Joss’ delight at receiving this from Maguari (who distribute Skip Hop) as a review item the lucky Christmas recipient is sure to be impressed too!

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It is perfect for her small frame, spacious and comes with detachable reins which we’re not needing to use at the moment but as we move away from hand holding it’s an option we are likely to opt for to keep her close by when we’re talking about road safety. I like that the reins tuck into the pocket of the bag when they’re not in use to keep them somewhere safe and out of the way!

Featuring Skip Hop’s usual friendly faces this ladybird design is so cute!  The handy name tag inside is great for identifying the bag as hers when she’s away from home, the handle on top is perfect for hanging this on the buggy when she needs a rest and the mesh drinks pocket is just the right size for her water bottle and saves us digging about inside for a drink!

I’m really impressed with the quality of this bag, it’s really robust and sturdy in a thick fabric that’s BPA and phtalate free; at £18.99 rrp it’s about what I’d expect to pay for a backpack with reins and is a really high quality item that will grow with Joss (it’s aged up to 4 years old). I only have a small comment on the sizing, all round it’s a great size for a tot, but when J is wearing her winter coat the straps on the front fastening could be a fraction longer to give her more wear out of it (this is said with a caveat as J’s coat is sooo chunky!)

Stocking fillers made easy

I love the idea of a Christmas stocking, little bits and bobs to keep the kids busy or little treats for adults; but it’s not easy choosing these tiny treasures without the price mounting up. I also like unusual stocking fillers and novelties but don’t have loads of time to get out and look for them in addition to the usual gift buying!

Enter http://www.stocking-fillers.co.uk/ with their huge range of stocking stuffers!

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They do a brilliant range of deals on mix and match gifts so you can pick up ten items in a selection for £20 for example and there’s a huge selection of novelties under 3 quid too, a bargain!

I made a small selection for review purposes and this is the stash I was sent; perfect for keeping an inquisitive toddler busy!

I’m going to use the My Little Pony lunch tin for her Christmas Eve pajamas, I love the retro print and would quite like one for my own packed lunches!  It’s the perfect size for sandwiches and fruit for days out and has a sturdy plastic and metal carry handle, essential for my rambunctious tot!

The rubber duck is a little thing I know she’ll love for bathtime as she was admiring one at our friend’s house, she wanted to take their duck home as she somehow doesn’t yet own her own little bathtime duckie – this is a colour changing one, surprise! The walking wind up hens are a sweet novelty too, something to keep her occupied during Christmas lunch perhaps!

I love the squirty crazy soap and was pleased to finally find a stockist for this; it’s mouldable and really fun to play with, we use it at toddler sensory group  and all the kids get together and squish it into snowman shapes; she loves it, so it’s a good addition to our sensory box at home.

The pink pig is a Puffimal, it’s air filled and though it’s a 5+ toy we’ll play with this under supervision, it’s just so tactile and again it will be great for soothing her during fractious times!

And finally something for me, patterned tape to help with the wrapping process, this one is skull and crossbones for an edgier Christmas but there’s a huge choice of tapes on offer, you just need to buy more than one to get a choice, I guess I don’t mind not having a choice as the price is so good and the range is so versatile.

Finally, the postage offered by stocking-fillers.co.uk is great value at £2.50 for standard orders which is cheaper than my bus fare into town too!  I’m really pleased with the huge range and diversity of stocking fillers on offer, if you’re looking for those final bits and bobs head over and treat your loved ones to some novelties!

Disclaimer: we were sent these products for review purposes, all views are my own

12 Days of Christmas with Funky Giraffe

12 Days of Christmas

Welcome to the 13th Day of Christmas! SURPRISE! We couldn’t say goodbye without a little treat to say thank you for joining us throughout the 12 Days of Christmas!

Our final (really this time!) giveaway prize comes from Funky Giraffe who have kindly offered us a £50 voucher for one lucky winner to choose £50 worth of Funky Giraffe products (stock dependent) which include fun and funky bibs, burp cloths and hats.
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Funky Giraffe are great believers that practical and functional doesn’t have to rule out stylish and comfy and they have a wide range of designs for the coolest of kids. As well as their UK website they have European sites too, in France, Spain and Italy

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For your chance to win this fabulous prize simply complete the Rafflecopter below. Good luck. The winner will be announced on 20th December.

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Disclosure: We have not been compensated in any way for running this giveaway.

12 Days of Christmas with Organic Babies

12 Days of Christmas

Welcome to the 12th Day of Christmas! our final day, and we’ve a fantastic prize bundle on offer!

Our final giveaway comes from Organic Babies from Green People who have kindly given us a brilliant bundle containing one of each of the products from their Organic Babies range, seven products worth over £65 to treat your little ones!

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We’re big fans of Organic Babies and have used their products for a long time, we reviewed them last year too. Chemical free, their organic formulations are pure and naturally kind to sensitive skin.

For your chance to win this fabulous prize simply complete the Rafflecopter below. Good luck. The winner will be announced on 19th December.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: We have not been compensated in any way for running this giveaway.