Thursday 31 August 2017

Our Summer as Super Wings Ambassadors #SuperWingsSummer

Back at the beginning of the summer, I wrote a blog post introducing Super Wings and stated that we would be Super Wings Ambassadors for the duration of the summer. The summer is now coming to an end and we have had so much fun so I just wanted to do a little post on the range of toys that you may have seen us playing with via my social media accounts and a little round up of what we've been up to.

The toys that we received as part of our Ambassadorship were:

  • Transforming Jett
  • Remote Control Jett
  • World Airport Playset
  • Mini Transform-a-bots (Dizzy and Paul)
Before we received the toys, we were slightly familiar with the Cartoonito show so the children recognised the characters. They couldn't wait to get playing!

World Airport Playset (£39.99)

This is by far the ultimate favourite of all the Super Wings toys that we received. The set comes with two mini Transform-a-bots (Jett and Donnie) which was great as C and E had one each to play with. The set itself is absolutely fantastic and it's a perfect copy of the airport in the Super Wings TV show.

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The lights and sounds make it infinitely more exciting for children. C especially loved hearing the phrases that Jimbo, the air traffic controller, says. There is so much to do from attaching Jett and Donnie to the spinner on top and making them fly to having them slide down the ramps at the side and even turning the conveyor belt of packages. I love a toy that engages children, gives them prompts and encourages their imagination which is exactly what this playset does. 

Transforming Jett (£12.99)

I knew before even opening this out that it would be a huge hit with C. He loves anything that is transformable and this one goes from robot to plane in ten easy steps. It took him a little while to suss out exactly how to move every part but the satisfaction on his face when he finishes it is great. 

C is a very fidgety child and always has to be doing something. This is a good toy for helping with that. It's quite large too so it's great for little ones. It's made of durable plastic so no amount of boisterous play (as E would do) is likely to break it.  

Remote Control Jett (£19.99)
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This is so much fun - even I love playing with it. You need to insert batteries into both the actual Jett figure and the controller but after that, you are good to go! You are able to make Jett go forward and spin 360. 

One thing C did ask was "how do you make him fly?" Remote Control Jett cannot fly, everything that he does is on the ground. He quickly got over it when he saw how fun it was! C has tried remote control toys in the past and always got a little frustrated when he couldn't make them go the way he wanted to. As this control has only two buttons, it makes it so much easier to use and we have had no strops at all.

Mini Transform-a-Bots (£3.99 each)

These toys are just like the larger Transforming Jett that I spoke about above except in mini form. The larger ones transform in ten steps, but these mini ones only take three steps!

These are great to carry around on the go, the mini transform-a-bots have done a lot with us over the summer and come in nearly every car journey. Transforming them from robot to plane and back again is great for keeping them occupied. They also fit well in the World Airport Playset too.

Our Super Wings toys (well, the Transforming Jet and Mini Transform-a-Bots) travelled around with us all summer to see what exciting things we got up to. We managed to tick a good lot off of our summer checklist so I'm pleased about that!

We had so much fun getting to know the toys and characters and the children would even say, "We can't forget our planes!" before we went anywhere.

Don't forget that you can watch Super Wings on Cartoonito and you can purchase the Super Wings toys from Smyths Toys, Argos, The Entertainer and Toys R Us.

(We received the toys as part of our Super Wings Ambassadorship. We also received financial compensation by way of voucher.)

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Zhu Zhu Pets - Review

My children both adore animals. Unfortunately, we live in a small two bed rental home with no garden so having any real pets of our own is a no-no. To my children's delight, toy pets exist and they were thrilled to see what it was like to look after their Zhu Zhu Pets.

Zhu Zhu Pets are little hamsters but you don't have to feed or clean them - score! We received:

  • Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster - Chunk
  • Zhu Zhu Pets Adventure Ball 
  • Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster House Playset

As soon as we opened the parcel, the children were so excited to get playing. Chunk the hamster is quite big so is perfect for little hands to play with. They come with batteries so all you need to do is push the button on it's back and watch it scuttle off! The Zhu Zhu Pet hamsters make noises too and their movements are random so you just don't know what it's going to do. The sensors mean that when they bump into things, they can turn themselves around and keep going. E kept exclaiming, "It's so cute! Look at it's pretty hair!" The little tuft on top is pretty adorable and she loves that he is soft and fluffy just like a real hamster. 

The Adventure Ball is a great accompaniment to the individual Zhu Zhu Pets. It includes one piece of plastic that you clip onto the bottom of the Pet before placing it into the ball. The ball itself is pretty easy to clip together but don't leave it near a boisterous almost-3-year-old! She managed to crack it a little but it's nothing a bit of glue didn't fix. She now knows to leave mummy to open and close it! The sets are recommended for age 4+ so it's worth going by that or supervising younger children.

The ball has a little "door" so you can put the hamster in or take it out so really there is no need to take the ball apart once it is built. When inside the ball, the Zhu Zhu Pet will run around just like a real hamster in an exercise ball. The kids prefer using this over leaving the hamster to roam free around the floor as it can't get stuck under the sofa!

The Hamster House Playset was a massive hit with C and E. It took a little instruction reading and building but all in all, it was easy enough to get right. The children were very excited to decorate it any way they wanted with the stickers that were included. You get the main base area where the hamster starts off. There are three openings but included are two yellow stoppers so if you only want the hamster to go up the slope and not escape out the two side parts, you can block them.

The slope attaches to the base area then clips into a helter skelter type part. When you place the Pet into the base part and press the button, it will find its way up the slope then back down to the ground. The slope has three opening lids and if they aren't clicked closed, the hamster can pop its head up. They do need to be closed fully for it to continue its journey smoothly. 

The Hamster House Playset comes with a hamster too (the exclusive Winkie) so we had no fighting over them. They enjoyed playing with them together and letting them take turns in the Adventure Ball and Hamster House Playset. I think the fact that the Zhu Zhu Pets are so unpredictable was a source of excitement for the children. They both let out squeals and giggles when the hamsters ran off. 

We absolutely love playing with them and they are a great idea for people who can't have pets or for practice before getting a pet! The Zhu Zhu pets are available in four different characters and are £12.99 each. The Adventure Ball can be purchased for £9.99 and Hamster House Playset for £29.99. The range of Zhu Zhu Pets toys can be purchased from all major toy retailers.

(We received these items for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.) 
Monday 21 August 2017

BRIO Classic Figure of 8 Train Set - Review

We absolutely love reviewing for BRIO. Their toys are fantastic quality and the children always ask for them to be set up to play with. A lot of the sets that we have reviewed in the past have been a bit too old for two year old E as she can be a bit rougher than her big brother. If there are any high parts, she'll easily knock them down accidentally whereas C knows to be more gentle.

The Classic Figure of 8 Train Set is the perfect starter train set. The set is comprised of:

  • 14 equal length rounded track pieces
  • 1 connector crossing bridge train piece
  • 3 wooden trees
  • 1 wooden station
  • 1 three-part wooden train
As the end result is a figure of 8 track, it is super simple to put together - I didn't even have to look at the instructions. As long as you start with the connector crossing bridge, the rest is pretty straightforward. The others pieces (trees, station and train) can be placed anywhere.

E loved how quickly it was set up because as a two year old, she has patience for nothing. In typical BRIO fashion, the pieces were perfectly made, sanded and painted and E had no problems in pushing the train around the track. Each train part is connected by a magnet so the only thing she did have a little moan about was when she pulled the train apart, then couldn't get it back together again as she had the wrong sides of the magnets facing each other! 

She was great with using her imagination and would pretend that there was a little driver inside, shouting out to the people at the station as the train passed. Usually when E attempts to play with her brother's train sets, she'll easily knock the tracks apart but this hasn't happened with this set as the 8 shaped route is easy to follow and it's all flat on the ground. It definitely makes for a brilliant train set for beginners.

The BRIO Classic Figure of 8 Train Set is recommended for children aged 2 years+ and it retails at £37.99. You can find out more about the range at the BRIO website or you can follow them on Twitter.

(We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.) 
Thursday 17 August 2017

Big Beard Battle - Review

When my son C first saw Big Beard Battle advertised on TV, he was desperate to get it and play. He's always been fascinated with beards as daddy has a beard and he's told us on numerous occasions that he's going to grow a beard when he's older. 

The aim of the game is two grow the longest beard. The game includes:
  • Four coloured plastic moustaches (with arms so that you are able to wear them)
  • A spinner
  • 16 coloured beard pieces
  • Velcro dots
  • Scissors
  • Razor 

Before you start the game, the white and black Velcro dots need to be stuck down on the beard pieces and moustaches. It's probably best to do this before you've got excited children who can't wait to play! The circles on the beard pieces are colour-coded so you know which Velcro dot goes where. You receive the exact amount needed so you need to be careful not to lose any. You'll notice that the beard pieces are different colours on each side and some have shaving foam on them and others don't.

Once you've popped the Velcro on, you place each of the beard pieces down where you are playing (as well as the spinner, scissors and razor) get your moustache in place and it's time to play! The spinner has eight different options to land on. The beard images means that you flip over the beard pieces, two if it says 'x 2' and one if it says 'x 1'. If the colour underneath matches your moustache, you get to add it to your moustache/beard. This adds a bit of a memory element to the game as you need to remember where your colour might be.

If you land on the scissors, you get to cut the last piece of someone else's beard off, the razor means you get to shave someone else's entire beard of and the shaving foam means that the first person who touches the beard piece in their colour can add it to their beard. The moustache fitted both me and Chris perfectly but as C added beards to his, the weight made his slip down occasionally.

As an adult, I didn't think I'd enjoy the game as much as I did and I actually got quite competitive. Every time Chris or myself landed on the razor or scissors, C shouted out, "No, not me!" which gave us all a laugh and it became a bit of a 'tradition' to tease him a little. It's been a great way of bonding and it's super simple to play. It's definitely going to be a staple for family game night. Everyone looks so silly when playing but that's all the fun!

Big Beard Battle is suitable for children aged 4+ (my daughter is almost 3 and it didn't keep her attention so I definitely agree with that!) and is for 2-4 players. You can purchase it from all good retailers and Amazon - who currently have a little deal on - at an RRP of £14.99.

(We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.) 
Wednesday 16 August 2017

Finding the Perfect Family Photographer

I love taking photographs. My phone is never out of my hand and I'm forever snapping pictures of my partner and children and because I'm always behind the camera, there are very few photographs of me 'in the moment' or doing things with the children. 

When C was a few weeks old, we went along for a family photoshoot with my partner's family and had a few gorgeous pictures taken. C is now almost five years old and has an almost three year old sister. Over the years, I've thought about booking in for cake smashes, newborn shoots, sibling shoots/family shoots but it's just never happened. I feel like booking a photographer is a massive decision. These things do cost a lot of money and I don't want to regret my choice or feel like I'm paying too much for what I receive as the end product. I also think that there are an abundance of photographers out there, how do you choose the best one?

Bidvine is a great tool to find what you need. As I wanted to search for family photography, I went along to the website and selected it from the extensive list of professional services available (yep, you can find anything from solicitor to personal chef to tarot card reader, and everything in between). From there, you are prompted to enter your postcode so that they can find services close to where you live then answer a few more specific questions, such as how many people would be in the photographs to your budget and where you want your photographs to be taken. Once you have submitted your email at the end, relevant services and companies (in my case, photographers) will email you with a quote and from there you can reply to their message, give them a call or hire them right away.

The website itself is so sleek and easy to use and I even had a little nosey into other categories to see what's around nearby. I was going to say that Bidvine is great for busy mothers or fathers but it's actually perfect for everyone as everything you want can be found in one easy place. I can definitely see me using it a lot!

(This is a sponsored post.)

Tuesday 15 August 2017

How Confronting Nature Aids a Child's Development

Parents, teachers and children's attitudes to nature have shifted dramatically since the 1970s. During the 1970s to the late 1990s, being sent to bed would be considered punishment for a child, as they wouldn't be able to play outside. Now, the bedroom is no longer considered punishment.

This is because the bedroom is home to a whole digital world, made up of social media, games consoles and smart devices. Essentially, they are distracted from the world outside their window.

Designers of natural outdoor playground equipment Infinite Playgrounds explores how and why a child's experience has been limited when it comes to the outdoors in modern age.

Screen schooling
Despite the possibilities of offered by smart devices in terms of learning, playing and communicating, the TV remains popular with British children - 2.5 hours a day, or 17 hours per week on average. As well as this, children are also spending more than 20 hours a week online - mostly spent on social media apps and websites.

So what impact is the dominance of tech in our children's life having on their opinions on the outdoors? A screen-based lifestyle is considered by many as one of the main reasons why more children are choosing to stay indoors, instead of going outside. However, some also believe that although smart technologies can be educational, it is the well-meaning sensibility of parents that are limiting children when it comes to outdoor play.

The potential of unsupervised play
As parents rely on "stranger danger" to educate their children on potential threats, the radius around the homes where children play is decreasing. Since the 1970's, this area has shrunk by almost 90%.

Figures from 1971 suggest that 80% of seven and eight year olds used to walk to school alone or with a friend. Nowadays, this as decreased to just 10%, with many being accompanied by their parent or a guardian. If this is the case when walking to school, then the chances of a child roaming freely in natural settings with their friends are slim. No one is at fault in this scenario, parents simply want their children to remain safe; however, an almost overprotective approach can compromise a child's mental and physical health.

The physical impact of indoor and outdoor play
Playing outdoors brings many health benefits to children. This is because outdoor play is associated with an active lifestyle, whereas inactive lifestyles are associated to those who remain relatively immobile indoors.

Physical health
As such, the growth of indoor play and activities has had a negative impact on children's physical health and wellbeing. Around three in ten children in England that are aged being 2 and 15 are considered overweight or obese. If these current trends continue, then by 2050 more than half of all adults, and a quarter of all children, will be obese.

Mental health
In addition to physical issues, a child's dependence on digital has given rise to an increase in mental health problems. The Good Childhood inquiry found that between 1974 and 1999, the number of children suffering from emotional and behavioural problems increased drastically. Now, one in ten children between the ages of 5 and 16 have a mental health disorder that has been clinically diagnosed.

Living away from the countryside has altered many children's perceptions of reality and changed their physical state of mind. As well as mental health problems, a lack of engagement with the natural world has meant that many children can't learn the resilience and natural problem-solving skills that come with being outdoors and fending for yourself.

How the great outdoors can help
If a child perceives exercise and the outdoors positively, they are likely to do the same in adulthood. If a modern society is to stay healthy throughout their lifespan, children should be looking to play outdoors to make exercise a part of their everyday lives from an early age.

Natural landscapes support more varied and imaginative ways to play. By going beyond the boundaries, children can open themselves up to new experiences and sensations that they may not have otherwise experienced. Our natural world is highly complex, with an abundance of shapes, textures and spaces for children to explore, discover and hide within.

It's clear that the right type of play can be crucial to a child's mental and physical wellbeing. Letting go of the smart device and getting children outside to explore the great outdoors might just be the making of them.
Friday 11 August 2017

10, 9, 8... Owls Up Late by Georgiana Deutsch

C has always been a massive bookworm. He will be five next month and has taught himself to read. Our house resembles a bookshop and I love it. C is always happy to get a new book to read.

10, 9, 8... Owls Up Late is a brand new book by Georgiana Deutsch. It's recommended for chidren aged 1-4 and the story is about a mother owl trying to get her ten baby owlets to go to bed. 

They are all busy being noisy and having fun and it's a great little book for children who are reluctant to go to sleep. The peep-through parts add a bit of excitement and it uses the concept of counting owls to make bedtime a fun, educational and relaxing experience.

The colours of the book are mostly pale and muted - great to help children relax before bedtime. It creates a tranquil mood and ends with all owlets cosily in their nest, encouraging little ones to fall asleep too.

The rhyme makes it easy to read and lovely for children to listen to and follow. C has learnt a few new describing words and the counting guide at the end is great for teaching children numbers. We've read it a lot to two year old E, hoping that she will remember number orders. 

10, 9, 8... Owls Up Late was published by Little Tiger Press yesterday (10th August 2017) and can be purchased from all good bookstores for £10.99.

(We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)
Wednesday 9 August 2017

How Peppa Pig Helped Us with Potty Training

My darling daughter E will be three in four weeks time. We only potty trained her brother C last March when he was 3.5 years old but because her language and understanding was fantastic when she turned 2 last September, I decided to introduce her to C's old potty.

She was having absolutely none of it and would scream and cry anytime I suggested using it. I didn't give up but I also didn't pressurise her. I would just suggest trying again every other week but it was always met with the same crying and squealing. With C finishing preschool at the end of June, I was determined to train over the summer. Everyone says that summer is the best time to potty train so I was willing to give it a go.

We received a fabulous bundle of Peppa Pig potty training goodies and because E is a big Peppa fan, I hoped it would sway her a little bit. Usually when she'd see C's old potty, she'd run away from me. I got her to open the box herself and seemed really pleased with the contents. We received a Peppa Pig Steady Potty (RRP £9.99), Peppa Pig Training Seat (RRP £8.99) and Peppa Pig Step Stool (RRP £8.99) - all of which have images of Peppa dressed as a princess on them (another of E's loves!) - as well as a copy of the Peppa and her Golden Boots book (RRP £5.49) and some Peppa Pig Hand and Body Wipes (RRP 75p per pack).

I left the potty sitting out for the first day and she surprised me by sitting on it with her clothes on to get used to it.  I felt like this was a breakthrough in itself so I was happy enough to go forward with proper training the following day. I cannot believe how well she is doing and I have Peppa to thank! Right now we have been using the potty for around a month and E is completely dry during the day with no accidents. We are yet to use the insert and stool because I think she's a little afraid of the big toilet but there is no doubt in my mind that they will make the transition from potty to toilet easier for her.

The Peppa Pig toilet wipes have been great for giving her independence and she's happy to wipe herself, help me flush the contents down the toilet then wash her hands afterwards. She seems comfortable when sitting on the potty and she has now sussed exactly what way to sit so that nothing spills out. The feet of the potty, feet of the stool and edges of the insert are non-slip too so that puts both of us at ease. The Peppa and her Golden Boots book helped in the early days because she was able to sit and flick through the pages whilst sitting down and trying to go - it now gets read a lot a bedtime!

If you're struggling with potty training your little one, I definitely recommend character themed training sets. They are even available in George Pig style.

(We received these items for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.) 
Tuesday 8 August 2017

What I Won - July 2017

Hello! I'm back with another What I Won post, this time for July 2017. If you haven't read any of my What I Won posts before, one of my main hobbies is entering competitions. I love to keep a record of anything that I win here on the blog so I can both look back on them and encourage others to get entering too. It really is a fantastic hobby. 

Without further ado, here's what I won in July!

1) Family pass to an early screening of Cars 3 (RRP £20.00) from Movie House Cinemas

I was really excited for this and both kids absolutely loved it! I won this from Movie House Cinemas on Facebook in a simple 'like and comment' competition. I did add a photograph of C with a Lightning McQueen puzzle which I think may have helped.
2) Treat Yourself box (RRP £5.00) from BoxeyBoxey

I love getting the time to give myself a pamper - not that it happens a lot! I love this little box and it has everything for a little pamper night in. I won this in a Twitter 'RT and follow' giveaway.
3) Marshmallows (RRP £4.25) from Naked Marshmallow Co

Naked Marshmallow Co had a Facebook live video where you had to answer questions and a random winner was chosen. I think there were 20 questions and winners, each winner receiving a random pack of their marshmallows.
4) Boatyard Double Gin (RRP £40.00) from Vineyard Belfast

This was won from a local Facebook giveaway and it had to be collected. It's always worth searching for competitions in your area. Who doesn't love an alcohol win?

5) Spider-Man Homecoming merch (RRP £30.00)

I was delighted to win this on Twitter because C is absolutely obsessed with Spider-Man. The drawstring bag will be perfect for his PE kit when he goes into P1.
6) 7" chocolate cake (RRP £12.99) from Sponge Cakes Ltd

Sponge Cakes run giveaways every week on Facebook and Twitter with over 1000 entries on each channel. I never thought I'd win one of their giveaways but finally managed to on Twitter - hooray! It was absolutely delicious FYI.
7) Tan (RRP £26.00) from That's So
I'm not a big tan wearer myself but my 15 year old sister is the complete opposite. I always seek out competitions so she can try new tan brands and managed to win this in a 'like and comment' giveaway on Instagram. 

8) Wussywat book
Again, this was a little Instagram 'like and comment'. It's a really great little read.

9) Mal from Descendants costume (RRP £22.99) from Rubies

This was a Twitter win and E loves dressing up so it's perfect for her. The smallest size was 5-6 years so I'll have to put it away for a little while!
10) Robbie the Rabbit emotions teddy (RRP £30.00)

I won this little soft toy on Instagram and I think it may be aimed at younger children, but with C having issues with emotions I thought it would be great for him.
11) Transformers Rescue Bots goodies
Transformers Rescue Bots is probably one of C's most watched shows on Tiny Pop so I was thrilled to win this from the channel's Facebook page. I've yet to receive it so I'm not sure what will be inside!
12) Ben 10 Rustbucket toy (RRP £69.99) from Smyths Toys

This is awesome! C got into Ben 10 when my dad bought him a massive box of Ben 10 DVDs, figures and cards on eBay so I've put this away for his birthday next month.
13) Emma Bridgewater themed jar (RRP £7.00) from emmacraftylilcrafts
I absolutely love stuff like this for brightening up my kitchen. Chris doesn't share my love but who cares? Ha!
14) Sleepzzz Until bear (RRP £15.99) from Wafflemama
I absolutely love the look of these! There was a Sleepzzz Until Twitter party running with a few bloggers hosting RT and follow competitions to win one. C very much needs a visual countdown for things so this will be perfect for him.
15) Signed Two Cousins of Azov book (RRP £8.99) from Gransnet
One thing that I loved to do before I had children was read. I am really trying to get back into it now that my children are older and are more independent and sleeping through the night etc. This book sounds great and I can't wait to get reading.
16) Spider-Man Homecoming merch (RRP £30.00)
Yes, another set! Luckily I have someone to gift this to so, yay! 

In July 2017 I won 16 prizes worth a total of £323.20. As I love a comparison, here's my stats for July in previous years:

July 2016 - 35 prizes worth £721.08
July 2015 - 24 prizes worth £182.20
July 2014 - 9 prizes worth £242.71
Did you win anything nice last month?