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Review – Garden Draughts

30 Nov

I’m loving the fact that my son has reached the age where he’s becoming more interested in board games. He’s doing quite well with ones that involve rolling a dice, moving around the board and then following an instruction on the square you land on. We have a few different ones in this style, and I thought it might be good to try a game that required a completely different way of thinking. So we got some draughts. Not just any old draughts though, thanks to Big Game Hunters we have Garden Draughts!

Although they are designed to be used outdoors, I don’t think we’d get away with playing draughts in the swimming pool that is currently our garden, so we had to give it a try in the house instead. The board is actually a large mat measuring 1.2m x 1.2m and the counters are chunky but light, making them perfect for little hands and impossible to lose down the back of the sofa. I think that when we do get to use it outdoors, the mat will probably need weighting down to keep it flat while playing on it.

With a little help from nephew and granny, we started off with a simplified version of the game; just one row of counters each, so that the boys could learn how to move them. They picked it up in no time at all and so I added another row, just making it a race to get all your counters to the other side. The games went really well until I tried to add jumping and capturing each others counters. Or, as they saw it, stealing. I don’t think they are quite ready for that bit yet!

Considering the size of the game when playing, it all packs away quite neatly back into the box (which is no bigger than some of my handbags!) making it easy to store away or take with you on trips to the park.

It seems the Garden Draughts will be used for much more than just draughts. As they are quite chunky, they roll easily and so the first new game involves rolling the counters and trying to get them to land on a square of the same colour. They have also been wheels on the side of a cardboard box fire engine and runway lights. My son has such an imagination, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

 

All opinions are honest and our own. We were sent the Garden Draughts free of charge for this review.

Review – Open And Play: Recorder Pirate Pack

25 Nov

I am a big lover of music, so you may be surprised to hear that I thought it would be a good idea to give a three year old a recorder. A bit ouchy on the ears, yes, but it will get better (I hope). Let me explain. A while ago, my son got a ‘wizzle’ free on the front of a magazine. It’s impossible to play a tune on it, but he has shown a lot of interest in trying and so I thought it would be better to have an instrument that actually works. This pirate themed Open and Play Recorder Pack seemed like a good choice.

The pack contains a blue descant recorder, cleaning rod and carry bag, pirate sticker sheet, fingering chart and a ‘Starting to Play’ tutor book and cd. Son was very excited when he saw the box and couldn’t wait to have a go. He actually left the stickers, which is unheard of, and went straight for the recorder. After a couple of minutes of crazy dancing and trying to deafen me, he handed me the recorder and asked me to play a tune. It’s a long time since I’ve played a recorder, but I gave it a go and it didn’t sound too bad. Son just stared and me and asked, “will you show me how to do that one?”

Using the tutor booklet as a guide, I explained about how to hold the recorder and position your fingers over the holes. The book is easy to follow and starts off with the note B. It starts to introduce basic notation and rhythm by playing the note B to the rhythm of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Old MacDonald. It then tells you how to play the note A and goes through the same tunes using both notes together.

Son is doing really well at learning the first two notes, he seems most impressed about the fact that if you play BABABABA it sounds like a fire engine! He hasn’t tried playing along with the cd yet as he is still mastering the notes, but he tells me that he will try it soon so he can play in a real band.

I think that the Open and Play Recorder Packs are a great way to start a child off playing a musical instrument and at £9.99 they are pretty good value too. The packs are available as either the Blue Recorder Pirate Pack that we have, or a Pink Recorder Princess Pack.

 

All opinions are honest and our own. We were sent the Blue Recorder Pirate Pack free of charge for this review.

Review – CBeebies: The Album

11 Nov

As we now have to do a lot of long car journeys, it’s always good to have something on standby to keep my son entertained. He has his own cd wallet that he keeps in the car so he can choose what to listen to, but it’s been full of the same cd’s for months now and he’s starting to lose interest. Luckily for us, CBeebies have just brought out a brand new album.

CBeebies: The Album is a 2 CD set featuring 50 songs from popular shows on the CBeebies channel. Most of them are instantly recognisable as a theme tune, including some of our favourites – Mike the Knight, Timmy Time, Andy’s Wild Adventures and Tree Fu Tom. Surprisingly though, the biggest squeal of excitement from my son came when the Iconicles theme tune came on!

There are a few songs from within the programmes too, such as Momo’s Song from Show Me Show Me and I’m A Shape from Mister Maker. We’re also really pleased to see the presenter songs on there as we’ve always liked the seasons songs in particular.

The album has proved to be a huge hit with my son; he currently has one disc in the car and the other in the house and tells me he will change them around next year. The only slight problem I have, is that I now have Raa Raa The Noisy Lion stuck in my head and keep catching myself humming it while out shopping.

CBeebies: The Album is a great compilation and I would happily recommend it as a nice little Christmas gift for any CBeebies fan.

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CBeebies: The Album is available to buy now in stores nationwide and through online music retailers.

All opinions are honest and our own. We were sent CBeebies: The Album free of charge for this review.

Hama Beads – Horse Mobile Kit

22 Oct

I’m always on the lookout for new crafts to try with my son and recently I have seen a lot of positive comments about Hama beads. They look similar to a kit I had tried many years ago, which used some funky melty beads to make a picture. I don’t know what went wrong, but the beads wouldn’t stay on the board and the ironing, well, the less said about that the better. After my failed attempts, I was reluctant to try anything like it again. However, with so many people saying good things about Hama beads, I had to give them a go and so we got a lovely set sent out to us.

After a quick explanation of what to do, son was keen to get started. I started him off with a couple of beads and was pleased to find that they sat nicely on the board provided. Clearly, the kit I had tried before was not genuine Hama beads, as the quality of this kit was fantastic. Son had no trouble at all adding the beads to the board, even though he is only three and this kit is aimed at ages five and over.

It did take him a long time to complete, but that’s a good thing! I think it really pushed him to concentrate, which is not something he is good at for long periods of time, so he would leave it for a while to play with something else but always came back to it of his own accord.

Next came the tricky bit. Ironing! Now, er, I don’t actually have an iron so we had to borrow Granny’s. Of course, there was much tutting and head shaking from her, but it was worth it to see the finished project. The ironing turned out to be very simple. You just cover the beads with the special paper included in the kit and iron gently. The heat starts to melt the top surface of the beads and they fuse together.

I had to make sure that the beads had melted enough, so that they were all connected. There were a couple of places where the gaps between the beads were slightly larger, and extra care needed to be taken to make sure the tail was securely attached, but I just put the paper back on and ironed a little more if needed. The beads were quite hot when I finished ironing, so were left to cool for a few minutes before handling.

We haven’t finished making the kit up yet. We have completed three horses and an apple, but not had chance to fix them all together into a mobile. I’ll post a photo when it’s all finished, I think it’s going to look great.

I have been really impressed with this kit and only wish we had tried Hama beads sooner. It has provided lots of learning opportunities for my son including sorting colours, counting and following a pattern. There were quite a lot of beads left over so he has been threading, making bracelets, a necklace for granny and he will be using the square board to make something of his own design. I don’t know what that will be yet, he tells me it’s a secret.

The horse mobile kit is currently priced at £6.95 which I think is really good value for money considering how long my son has been playing with it and there are still plenty of beads left. I will definitely be buying more Hama beads, perhaps just some separate beads and boards so I can try out some of these brilliant ideas on Pinterest.

 

All opinions are honest and our own. We were sent the Hama beads kit free of charge for this review.

Review – Mike The Knight: Galahad The Great DVD

26 Sep

You can certainly tell that summer is over. My son and I both have stinking colds and are feeling a bit sorry for ourselves. This morning, we decided to have a pyjama day. We were sat on the sofa, snuggled up under a blanket and I thought it would be the perfect time to surprise him with a new DVD.

Mike The Knight: Galahad The Great is a brand new DVD featuring five episodes from the popular CBeebies series. In the first episode, Mike is determined to be the best horse trainer in Glendragon. He thinks it will help if Galahad looks really knightly so gives him a bit of a makeover with bells, feathers and a new saddle. Things don’t go quite to plan, until Mike realises that Galahad is perfect just the way he is.

The DVD did a great job of cheering son up. Just as the second episode was starting, he asked me to pause it while he got his Mike the Knight toys out, then watched the rest of the DVD while playing along with the story.

I think Mike The Knight is a great series for younger children. Mike gets himself into trouble by thinking he knows best and not listening to anyone else, but soon works out what he needs to do to ‘be a knight and do it right’. This gently encourages children to think about their actions and learn to do the things the right way.

We have really enjoyed watching this DVD and it certainly brightened up a rainy morning. It would make a great little gift for any young knight.

Mike The Knight: Galahad The Great is available now through Hit Store UK and all good retailers, RRP £12.99

For more information on Mike The Knight, please visit http://www.miketheknight.com

You can also find Mike on Facebook and Twitter

All opinions are honest and our own. We were given a copy of the DVD free of charge for this review.

Blue Mountain Mystery at Drayton Manor

17 Sep

Summer without my car has been difficult, we’ve really missed all the little trips out that we’re used to. The farm, country park, the beach; all journeys of twenty minutes or less which would take up to two hours to do using public transport. Needless to say, we’ve spent a lot of the summer at home, or doing the fifteen minute bus ride to the nearest park. As the end of summer was rapidly approaching, I knew we had no chance of a proper holiday but I really wanted to take son somewhere special, even if it was only for one day.

While I was busy looking for somewhere for us to go, a rather fabulous offer landed in my inbox. I wondered if it would be possible for us to accept as it would be quite a long journey and not one that I fancied tackling by train. But Grandad came to our rescue and offered to drive if I could sort everything else. So, that was it; we were going to Drayton Manor Park, home to Thomas Land, to see a special 4D screening of the brand new Thomas & Friends movie, ‘Blue Mountain Mystery’. Now if that’s not a special day out, I don’t know what is.

Drayton Manor is over three hours drive from here. I thought son would be too tired to fully enjoy his day after such a long time sat in the car, so we travelled down the day before and stayed in a hotel. With just a short drive to the Park in the morning, we were there shortly after opening at 9.30 and got a car parking space close to the entrance. The first thing son spotted as we parked the car was Cranky the crane, just visible through the trees.

“Look mammy! Cranky! It’s really Cranky!”

We were lucky that it was a quiet morning so we didn’t have to queue to get our tickets, we were through the main entrance and into Thomas Land in about five minutes. The rides didn’t actually start operating until 10.30, but we had a nice stroll around Thomas Land so that son could say hello to all the engines before heading into the zoo.

We didn’t spend very long here. Partly because I’m not a huge fan of animals in cages, partly because son was just too excited about Thomas Land. He didn’t care that the rides weren’t running, he just wanted to be there. Not that I can blame him, Thomas Land is brilliant!

The island of Sodor is really brought to life with the rides themed around favourite characters. Harold treated us to a helicopter ride, Bulstrode rocked us at Sodor docks and crazy Bertie bus took us on no ordinary bus ride! Our favourite by far was the Troublesome Trucks runaway coaster. I thought it might be a bit much for son, but he insisted on having a ride and then proved me wrong by laughing and chuckling the whole way round. I even bought the photo that was taken mid-ride as he loved it so much.

After that, we needed an ice cream, which was a perfectly timed decision as the Fat Controller and his brand new Station Mistress were just about to start a live show from his office balcony. Son enjoyed the songs and joining in with the ‘toot-toots’ and ‘peep-peeps’, but was not too impressed when the clown arrived and so we had to make a sharp exit. Not to worry though, as it was nearly time for the movie.

We made our way over to the 4D cinema where we were given some popcorn and bottled water before having a play with some fabulous new Thomas & Friends toys, which have been brought out to tie-in with the movie. The Fat Controller was also there chatting to everyone and I was quite surprised when son, unprompted, strolled over and offered him some popcorn! He wouldn’t give me any! It wasn’t long before the cinema doors opened and we took our seats.

In his latest adventure, Thomas is sent to work at the Blue Mountain Quarry where he spots an engine that he’s never seen before trying to hide. Thomas wants to know who this engine is and why he’s hiding but, well, it’s a mystery so I won’t spoil it for you! The 4D aspect of the film added a little extra fun with moving seats, bubbles and splashes of water and I thought it was good that the sound levels were slightly lower than other cinemas we’ve been to, making it perfect for little ears. Son loved the new movie, he has watched the DVD several times at home and still sits captivated all the way through. The theme tune is quite catchy and does have a habit of sticking in your head for the rest of the day though!

A quick bite to eat and we were ready to explore some more of the Park. We loved the pirate themed rides and the view from the Big Wheel was amazing. We had a ride on the carousel and popped back into Thomas Land to buy a gift for my nephew from the huge Thomas shop there. We put our feet up in the sunshine with a nice cuppa before heading back to the car for the long drive home. Son must have been exhausted, he was fast asleep in about ten minutes.

It really was a fantastic day out. We probably only covered half of the park and there were some rides in Thomas Land that we didn’t have time to go on either. I was really impressed by the amount of child-friendly rides there. Even though son is only three, he could go on every ride in Thomas Land and quite a few in the rest of Drayton Manor, although he had to be accompanied by an adult for some of them. I would love to take son back for the Magical Christmas at Thomas Land, I’m not sure we’ll manage it this year but we will definitely be visiting again.

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For more information on Drayton Manor Park and Thomas Land, please visit http://www.draytonmanor.co.uk

You can find out more about the Blue Mountain Mystery here: http://www.thomasandfriends.com/bluemountain

Thomas and Friends can also be found on Facebook and Twitter

All opinions are honest and our own. We were given entry into Drayton Manor Park and the 4D screening, and a lovely goody bag free of charge for this review.

Review – Mike The Knight T-Shirt

12 Jun

You may have gathered from recent posts that my son is a huge fan of Mike The Knight, so imagine the look on his face when this turned up in the post on his birthday:

He is over the moon that Mike knew it was his birthday and sent a gift, to say he loves it is an understatement. He likes to wear it with his helmet to go for a ride on Galahad and is now getting quite good at making up stories about his adventures. However, I’m starting to think it is all just an elaborate plan to get a jam tart at lunch time.

The T-shirt has been worn several times in the last few weeks and has washed really well with no cracking or fading to the picture. It has gone ever so slightly out of shape, which you can see around the neck and side seam, but it is not noticeable at all when being worn.

I have since been into our local Tesco and bought him some Mike The Knight pyjamas, which have a really bright and colourful picture on them. Of course, son loves them too so I have told him if he can do some Knightly good deeds then I will pop back to Tesco to see what else I can find.

This T-shirt is part of a collection of Mike The Knight clothing available at Tesco, which also includes pyjamas, socks and a couple of different T-shirts. The range is aimed at children from 12 months to 7 years, prices for the T-shirts start at £5.

All opinions are honest and our own. We were sent a Mike The Knight T-shirt free of charge for this review.