Dino Fingerlings – uncovering Untamed Raptors

Untamed Raptor reviewIt’s funny to think that even now, years after Mr Frosty and A La Carte Kitchen made it on to my Christmas and birthday lists, there are still fads and must-have toys causing a ripple in the playground. I have to say that now as a parent, I’m not always the first to react to the latest craze, as I know it’s usually cards to collect one minute, spinning toys the next… But the Untamed Raptors from Fingerling were something I knew both 6 year old and 3 year old would enjoy.

Like the Fingerling monkeys before him (or her), this is a little toy with a lot of personality. Perched on your finger (or thumb if you have particularly little fingers), it quickly comes to life but rather than just being cheeky and cheery, you can actually control how the Raptor reacts to you.

You can choose to pet it, making it coo or hum, or, if you’re feeling more mischievous, shake it, making it angry, snarling and gnashing its tiny teeth. This reaction did actually scare and excite D in equal measure: to be fair these toys are not officially designed for three year olds!

But I couldn’t have denied D the joy and excitement of unwrapping the Raptor when we received it through the post. I put his reaction on my Instagram stories. He couldn’t believe he was allowed to play with it first! And Scrip loved it, too, when he let her have a try (much) later.

There are four Raptors to choose from with suitably carnivorous-sounding names: Fury, Blaze, Stealth, and Razor. These little interactive creatures react to touch, motion, and sound and make over 40 different sounds and animations. So there’s a lot of variety and the fun definitely lasts for a while. The only downside is that Scrip has now started asking for a Fingerling Monkey once more to make up the set…

Untamed Raptors are £16.99 from toy shops but we were treated to one for review – thank you. For more about the range visit the Untamed website.

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The new you: seven things that become the norm after kids

Norm after kidsAs I was devouring my sandwich at 12.01pm, it struck me that my standard lunchtime is now at least an hour earlier than it used to be. I didn’t even have my children with me at the time so had no excuse. They’ve just left an indelible imprint on my routine in so many ways. And it’s not only premature lunches, the new me is all about:

  1. The supermarket sweep – I’m not blessed with time (who is?) but even when it’s just me and my Morrison’s shopping basket, I still seem to find myself rushing around the aisles, grabbing packets like a big timer’s about to go off. I’m just not able to browse anymore.
  2. Same with clothes shopping. Once a procrastinator, now I enter, scan the shop floor and leave in 60 seconds flat. What happened to the days of leisurely trying on armfuls of clothes?
  3. The yawn and stretch at 9pm – you could set my FitBit by it. Somehow the bedtime of my childhood (remember the bongs of the 9 o’clock news?) has come back to haunt me and I definitely see 9pm as some kind of watershed. It’s a firm reminder that sleep is near.
  4. The tissue stuffing – I can’t leave the house without tucking a couple of tissues into my pockets, my handbag or my coat. Even if I’m going to a business meeting.
  5. Taking my own water everywhere – it’s not as if it’s not readily available, but I can’t cross the threshold here without clutching a Highland Spring bottle hastily refilled from the tap. It’s obviously much more eco-friendly to re-use and not buy a new one but I also think the kids’ obsession with their colourful water bottles has rubbed off on me.
  6. The National Trust car sticker – once the preserve of those at least a few decades older, suddenly it’s an indispensable accessory and I’m not alone. People my age seem to out number pensioners by 20 to 1 at any given property, come rain or shine.
  7. And how much more preferable is a day in a country park ticking off 50 things before you’re 11 3/4 than a simple night out? When did a drink down the pub start to feel like a military operation rather than an enjoyable way to pass the time?

It goes without saying that I wouldn’t change a thing (apart from maybe embracing the odd night out a bit more readily).

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Being three meets Being Brunel: a birthday day out

Being Brunel“We’re going to a pirate ship!” Not strictly true but the idea definitely captured D’s imagination on his third birthday, as we set off for a day out at the nearby SS Great Britain. He might have been looking forward to cutlasses and treasure chests; my husband and I were looking forward to seeing the new Being Brunel permanent display.

Our trip started with a stop at the M Shed, after a friend’s tip off that an open air steam train is running up and down the dock during certain weekends. We took the first return trip of the day and D thought it was magical, and didn’t even cry at the loud noises, even though the whistle was just near us. You can disembark outside the SS Great Britain directly but our journey was non-stop. We also decided to come back to the M Shed another time because the displays and cafe there were brilliant.

Despite it being a drizzly day, there was plenty of colour as we walked along the dockside, with the bright rainbow shades of the houses in the distance and then the multi-coloured flags blowing in the wind on board the SS Great Britain, which raised the excitement levels. The ship really is magnificent, even from a distance.

SS Great Britain

This was my husband’s first time on board so we took some time to look around the edge of the dock and the museum. The attention to detail is brilliant – from the old fashioned posters outside to the tour guide who prepares you to step back in time as you enter the area. Then we headed to Being Brunel, the permanent exhibition new this year.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his majestic designs were a regular feature of my up-bringing, as he designed the Tamar Bridge which took us from Cornwall into deepest, darkest Devon; the first London landmark we reached, Paddington Station, and the most famous structure in my university city of Bristol – Clifton Suspension Bridge.

I’m pleased to say that Scrip knows a lot about him as well, having studied Brunel at school, so she was equally interested to hear more about his life. Once again, the attention to detail is good: you can pause on entry to have a photo taken wearing one of a range of replica trademark top hats – which my father later told us was chosen by Brunel to add to his height.

The first stop is a copy of his dining room, beautifully embellished and with some digital portraits that come to life and tell his story. Through the second door the children liked the moving train carriage, which bumped along when they climbed aboard, and the gigantic 3D Brunel face on the wall, which rises two stories high. As always when looking around museums with children you only tend to get a glimpse of displays before being made to move on, but there was a lot in there to look at.

Being Brunel

His life story is told through time lines, documents and images and the journey continues upstairs with more displays. We didn’t make it into the Brunel video experience as it promised flashing lights and loud noises, which one of our children wasn’t keen on, but that also sounded interesting. I should imagine this would be a big draw for older children, as there’s probably less that’s hands-on in here than in the main museum.

Then we carried on to the SS Great Britain herself and enjoyed another brilliant tour of the ship, complete with sounds, smells and scuttling rats in the kitchens. I didn’t manage to make it to Go Aloft, the climbing experience, as it was raining harder by then. So I’d love to come back and do it one day. But it was certainly a great day out and one little boy had to be carried back to the car, and no doubt dreamed of pirate adventures as he slept the whole way home.

Being Brunel

I’ve also written about 12 things to spot on the SS Great Britain.

Thanks to the SS Great Britain for letting us experience the SS Great Britain for the day. A family ticket costs £45.

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How to get back on track when it all becomes a struggle

Toddler on wallOn Friday D and I had a leisurely walk back from dropping off Scrip at school. We stopped to notice frogspawn in the pond on the way. He sat on the wall and looked at the black and white pigs as they snored gently in their trailer home and we talked about the daffodils emerging which are his favourite colour, ‘lellow’.

It was a nice moment. I’ve talked about the little moments with children before and the importance of enjoying them. That’s what having a family often boils down to for me – having lovely moments in the day or the week.

It was really important because I’ve been finding things a struggle recently. Having flu set me back by days – particularly with my work. I had to stay in bed and I could hardly do anything. And I seem to be running my life at capacity at the moment – trying to fit everything in, rushing from one thing to another. I know I’m not alone in that. So when something sets you back it feels like everything starts to dissolve.

I love my work and I find it really rewarding. I’m ambitious and I’m pleased with the fact I’ve started to grow with my first hire. But I’m also trying to protect the two days off a week I have with D and ringfence them so that work doesn’t intrude. But I know that’s not always possible. All I can do is try my best with it and if I have to do bits and pieces in the evenings and weekends, so be it.

For me getting back on track was about tipping the balance in favour of work for a while and then setting aside some specific time to spend with the children. So we went into town to buy some clothes for the Scarecrow we’re doing for the PTA and then had a pizza together. I barely checked my phone and I really enjoyed the time we took.

Likewise, on Friday I tried to do very little work. D watched some TV because that’s actually OK. But he also helped me with some things around the house, we played together and we read together. And then we got his sister and they did some playing, too.

And work will adapt. I’m only human and the main pressure I’m feeling is coming from me, myself. The nature of what I do in PR means I can work from home – brilliant – and do much of it myself. But it also means there are lots of things that are actually out of my control and even if I work flat out, things still might not come off. I work hard and I’m experienced and get results. I need to remind myself of that a bit more.

It’s OK to have low points and it’s OK to change your daily routine to adapt. Sometimes the scales tip one way and sometimes they tip another, but I know the best thing for my family is that I’m OK and I can cope with what comes along. And if I have to make some adjustments to do that, I know I will.

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Our current craze for fairies and win a My Fairy Garden

There’s a real craze for fairies in our house. It started with Scrip looking after the fairy house at school (I’m still not sure what form this house takes but it seems to provide hours of fun at break time), continued with night time notes to the Tooth Fairy, even though she still has a full set still intact, and then carried on with Tinkerbell and her friends who flew in at Christmas.

My Fairy Garden

Then there’s the fairy dust, tiny fairy door and now, the final piece in the puzzle, her My Fairy Garden. She was delighted to try one out for herself as we’d bought a few variations such as the flowerpot for friends’ sixth birthdays recently. I like the way there’s a bit of nature mixed in – with our version you get some grass seeds to sprinkle in the soil and grow around the miniature house and accessories.

There’s a generous-sized tray that you fill with soil and then add the other parts of the scene to. Everything is quite straightforward to slot together. There’s a house with a door that opens and top that comes off, a tiny washing line complete with pegs, a shell water feature, a toadstool and a little plastic mouse (which is not my favourite bit!) There’s also a leaflet with some other ideas for playing inside.

My Fairy Garden

Fairy-sized flowers to stick into the soil that the grass will grow up around come with the set, as does a colourful path to lay and, of course, the fairy herself who’s kneeling down enjoying the scene. Ours is called Belle.

Anything that encourages children to interact with nature and rewards some patience as they watch the seeds grow is a good toy in my books. I wonder if I can encourage her into the garden to water my veggies this summer?

If you’d like to win a My Fairy Garden for a fairy adorer in your household, just use the Rafflecopter link below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The rules

    • Entrants must be 18 or over and UK residents.
    • The prize consists of a My Fairy Garden, RRP of £14.99.
    • Competition closes at 12.00am on Monday 12th March 2018. Any entries submitted after this date will not be included.
    • The winner will be selected randomly through a prize draw and announced on newmumblings.com and through email.
    • There is no cash prize alternative.

Our My Fairy Garden is £14.99 and is easily available in the shops or online. Thanks for gifting the My Fairy Garden to us to review and making a newly six year old very happy.

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If I behaved like my children when I went to friends’ houses

If I behaved like my childrenMy husband and I have a giggle sometimes about ways not to behave in certain situations (especially good to do at stressful times when we need a bit of light relief). So, what we should never do when staying with the in-laws, at a work meeting or at a dinner party. I only hope I won’t have a moment of madness and behave like that one day.

Something we were amusing ourselves with the other day is the thought of us behaving like our children when they go for playdates when we went to see our friends. If we did, we’d be:

  • Hiding behind each other when we went in, avoiding eye contact and giving monosyllabic answers to questions.
  • Shyly following my friends into the kitchen, asking for a drink in a small voice and drinking it quietly in the corner.
  • Within ten minutes, bouncing around jumping on their sofas, pulling out everything I could play with.
  • Going to the toilet with the door wide open and forgetting to flush.
  • Raiding their wardrobe, dressing up in their clothes, putting strange, mis-matched outfits together using old swimming costumes and summer sandals.
  • Pulling all their pens out and drawing lots of family portraits, leaving pens lidless.
  • And sobbing and being generally inconsolable when it was time to go – even if they promise to invite me again soon.

😉

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How to get the kids outside in winter with Really Big Bubbles

Really Big Bubbles I aspire to be an outdoor parent. I love the garden, country walks, parks, sandy beaches. And we’ve had some lovely times exploring a range of beautiful, child-friendly places near Bath. But recently I’ve found that with the grey weather and windy days it takes much more to persuade everyone to muffle up and go outside. With all the new games, books and treats Christmas probably hasn’t helped.

Last weekend I tried a different tack and pursuaded everyone to play in the garden with the promise of some giant bubbles – the biggest they’d ever seen. They could chase them, pop them and even have a go at blowing enormous ones themselves. And it worked!

Even on a cold afternoon we had some brilliant fun with a kit from Really Big Bubbles. In our pack there were two bubble blowers which had sturdy wooden handles with rubber, and rope to make the bubbles, one smaller than the other, and a big bucket of handmade bubble potion which was aqua in colour and smelt floral, and not at all like detergent.

Blowing Really Big Bubbles

The mixture had arrived the week before, fully wrapped in plastic bubbles of it own so there was no danger of it spilling, and the box which held everything was big and suitably exciting, which is always a bonus.

We found that the wands were easy for D to handle at two and three quarters, and foolproof enough that he quickly managed to blow some big bubbles. So, no toddler frustration. Their favourite bit, though, was me manning the wands and them chasing bubbles all over the garden as they swirled and whirled and dispersed into many more.

Toddler Really Big BubblesD even got his water pistol out to shoot them, to much delight. Although the bubbles are pretty robust and don’t pop easily! And they really are big! It’s not hard to blow some enormous, sausage shaped ones which look majestic as they loop through the air.

Kids and Really Big BubblesWe were outside for a good thirty or forty minutes which meant a lot of fresh air, lots of smiles and, because they were running around, no one was cold. We even saved some for Scrip’s friend when he came for a sleepover. They’d make a good party activity and the company even do wedding kits.

Even better, they come from Cornwall so I’m sure they’re handmade with love. We’ll be ordering some more.

Thanks to Really Big Bubbles for sending us a large bubble set (with two wands) to review. Bubbles start at £6.50 and the standard set starts at £20.

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My 2017 alternative parenting achievements

2017 alternative parentingIt’s Christmas Eve-Eve and in between picking up toys, pine needles and toys covered in pine needles I’ve been trying to think about what 2017’s brought. Not just the big milestones like toddler potty training (tick) or first school project completed and in on time (tick) but the smaller parenting wins, which are just as satisfying. Here are my picks of 2017:

  • We got through an entire year with a tub of Play Doh remaining unopened and so unmixed. Even better, it’s the white one.
  • We can get through two hair washes weekly without any tears (most of the time).
  • Both children can now get around on four wheels, one with a little bit of help from me but the end of the pushchair’s in sight.
  • D is still a napper and there’s no sign of that wonderous hour or so being dropped.
  • And he still loves his cot.
  • My colour coordinated shelves are still in order.
  • I’ve learnt how to cut curly hair courtesy of D.
  • And I’ve stopped saving the curls, finally.
  • I’ve managed to convince everyone that a trip to Ikea is actually something to relish.
  • And we built our first snowman together. Complete with crab apple eyes.

Here’s to an even better, and more fruitful, 2018.

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A Slow Christmas: The Hape Quadrilla Space City Marble Run

Hape Quadrilla space city marble runI spent last Tuesday night building a Quadrilla Space City Marble Run from Hape, as part of my build up to another slow Christmas. Actually, it wasn’t hard, even after a long day and I enjoyed it, although it did require some concentration. The marble run is built up from various colour-coded blocks and wooden tracks, unlike the more common plastic ones which come with long, ready-angled pieces to click together. But the creation process is part of the beauty of slow toys.

The box is suitably large and exciting and it’s all beautifully packaged when you lift the lid. It won’t be for long! However, there’s definitely enough space for all the parts to go back in quickly and easily when it’s time to tidy up.

Hape Quadrilla Space City Marble Run

Designed to glow in the dark, there are special luminous marbles and glow stickers to put on the blocks so you can have some extra fun. If the stickers walk off elsewhere, as they’re likely to in our house, you can still enjoy it as there are numerous ways to build different runs. There’s a booklet that comes with it that shows each build stage-by-stage, with the area built up greyed out each time.

Hape Quadrilla space city marble runAs with all Hape toys there are sturdy, sustainable wooden parts and I think D, now 2.5 and Scrip, now 5.5, will both enjoy playing with this, albeit D probably won’t have the precision to build the tallest towers or follow all the diagrams and the grown ups might be getting involved (which is no hardship). The space station top also glows in the dark and that’s one of the few plastic parts, but it’s not an essential bit.

There are a few fiddly bits needed to keep the marbles running smoothly and not dropping out the back, and it might take a bit of adjusting to make sure everything runs well (or maybe that’s just me!) but you soon get the hang of it. And I think this will be great as part of my desire to get Scrip more involved in STEM toys.

And the moment of truth? It took me about 10 minutes to build my run and then drop a series of marbles down to helter skelter their way through down in different directions, as the special blocks send them a range of ways, before falling into the collecting tray with a satisfying plop.

This is surely one the kids will love and I can’t wait to pop it under the tree for Christmas. The only problem is it’s a joint present, so let’s hope they share nicely.

Thanks to Hape for sending me a sample to review for the blog. The Space City Marble Run costs £84.99 RRP.

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Foraging and roaming around Cornwall

Foraging in CornwallMy sister gave me a brilliant birthday present this year – a foraging course in Cornwall with Rachel Lambert from Wild Food Foraging. I took it a week ago when I foraged with Rachel and ten or so others in authentic Cornish weather.

The course was hedgerow, woodland and coastal and it was all the way down towards Lands End in a beautiful area that I don’t know as it’s an hour away from where I grew up. But it was stunning with a walk along the coastal path, through fields, woods and along a small, secluded beach foraging for black mustard and sea spinach, which was delicious.

I knew some of the nine or ten plants that we foraged (wild garlic, or three cornered leek, for instance) but some I didn’t know at all and some I knew but I had no idea you could eat – daisies, gorse flowers and hawthorn berries, for example. Rachel showed us how to identify them by ticking off all of each of their characteristics as we studied each plant, and then we tried each one. I also took some home for everyone to taste. Rachel was on hand to make sure we picked the right plants and also gave us pointers about those to be careful of and to avoid.

Foraged food

We also enjoyed some ‘tasters’ along the way, which were biscuits and fruit leather which Rachel had made ahead, and which were delicious. I bought her book which has some common plants, lots of photos and a recipe for each one.

The course was a three mile circular walk which was three hours long, and I loved every minute. It was really engaging and Rachel was particularly good with the two children who came along who were older than mine but still primary school age. They seemed to really enjoy it, too, and tried everything.

If you book something like this but are put off by the weather on the day, don’t be. It was definitely worth it. Just wrap up warm and turn up. And Rachel’s starting a forage and cook course – three ways with one foraged ingredient – next year.

That was the Saturday and I went on my own. On the Sunday we had a lovely family amble all together down to the wild Cornish seas. D walked the whole way and they loved splashing about, picking up leaves and dipping the net in the streams. Then it was birthday cake for my mum before we drove back with kids in PJs. A perfect weekend.

Cornish walk

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