Category Archives: My reviews

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.

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

Can you play and display? Beautifully crafted children’s toys

So, our building work is pretty much complete (hooray!) and I’m rather excited about our new wall of white shelves, in particular. They’re currently a work in progress (see below) but I’m hoping to make them and their displays as Instagram-worthy and Pin-worthy as possible.

Shelves

I’d mentally allocated about three shelves to the children in the corner near their little table (which they seem to be rapidly out-growing). Realistically, this allocation has now more than doubled and obviously all the shelves within reaching height are actually fair game for them, so the precious things are slowly moving further and further up.

It does mean that while some of the toys are in baskets, some of them are also on display, so I have to say I am keeping an eye out for aesthetically pleasing ones which don’t make me shudder. I’m planning another slow Christmas and wooden and handmade toys seem to be the most beautiful. Amongst those which are very displayable is this lovely cat puzzle from Hape.

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I’ve featured Hape in the past and even applied to be an Ambassador, as I like their ethical approach and beautifully crafted toys. This puzzle is no exception with colourful cats which all tone in well. It’s a 3D jigsaw which doesn’t have lots of pieces but does need mastering as there are three layers. A good challenge for D who’s now 2.5 years old.

Hape cat puzzle

And better still, it has pride of place on the shelves. I also thought it was good value for a gift or, dare I say, stocking filler… at just £8. Off to rearrange those shelves.

Thanks to Hape for sending me the puzzle which is available from Debenhams.

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Diggers and Dumpers weekend – a Tractor Ted live extravaganza

Tractor TedD’s been talking about visiting ‘Tractor Ted land’ since we went to the last Tractor Ted Live (Big Machines) at Bowood earlier in the year. His wish came true last Sunday when we went along to Diggers and Dumpers Weekend.

For the uninitiated, Tractor Ted is an animated green Tractor but the real stars of his show are actual farm machines like combines, diggers and dumpers which are filmed going about their daily tasks with child-friendly commentary. There are DVDs ,which have D in thrall every time, and also books, clothes and toys and D and many, many other small children – some of whom we saw wide-eyed at Bowood – love them all.

We first heard about Tractor Ted at a parent bloggers’ event Talk to Mums Family Playtime in London and the DVDs we received then have been nectar for D. So, to live so close to Bowood and be able to go along to see digger dancing, ride on mini plastic replicas, sit in a massive machine, run a children’s Grand National and bounce on a Tractor Ted bouncy castle was his favourite kind of day out.

It was a packed programme with lots going on in the main arena and plenty around the outside, too, all accompanied by the very catchy Tractor Ted tunes. Although D is the super fan, both children enjoyed the activities and neither wanted to go at the end of the day. Plus it was decent weather so we had a picnic in beautiful Bowood and the children had a good run around. Here are some of our highlights in pictures.

Tractor Ted 1 Tractor Ted 2 Tractor Ted 3 Tractor Ted 4 Tractor Ted 5 Tractor Ted 6

Thank you to Tractor Ted for a set of tickets (and one very happy toddler).

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Technology will save us: Electro Dough Kit review (simple STEM for kids)

Electro Dough KitEven the pack looks exciting and a world away from the drab 80s circuit boards I was taught electronics on in secondary school. I love the idea of getting Scrip involved in STEM activities and this Electro Dough Kit, which lets you make conductive dough, learn how electricity works and play with lights, buzzers and switches, is perfect for her age group.

It’s one of the many kits on offer from Technology Will Save Us who contacted me about other products and then offered this to review. I leapt at the chance. Scrip loves sitting down for activities at the moment, which is brilliant, and I want to make her learning as rounded as possible. Whilst I know we’ve shared our love of books and being creative, I’m not sure I have instilled the same passion for science, which is a shame.

Electro Dough Kit

When I opened the instructions and I saw the classic circuit line drawings, light emitting diodes and all, those science classes came flooding back. Anyone else remember pinching people with crocodile clips and attaching them to each other’s school jumpers? There were some of those inside too.

But after a bit of trial and error we were both smiling when she first made a little LED light up and the kit very quickly brought everything to life in a way she could engage with. We started by making the conductive dough together, which is straightforward (with lots of salt to help the conduction) but needs some heating on the stove. Make sure you wait for it to cool down before handling as she was keen to add the food dye in straight away but it was boiling hot for a while. The consistency was really good, though.

Dough making

Then we started creating, using some inspiration from the pack but also from the website. Not having great science lesson recall, apart from the crocodile clips, I couldn’t answer all her questions straight away so it was useful for me to use some of the explanations from the pack. She quickly got the hang of the LEDs having to be positioned a certain way around and the wires going into the dough correctly, and we made a simple circuit and tested objects which conducted electricity and didn’t (you can also download a sheet to write these up). Then we moved on to using dough versions of our names, little creatures who kissed and turned lights on, making a buzzer go and then some ‘fireworks’.

She was keen to make a range of things and it was a morning’s worth of play. D started off with us then got more interested in putting his tractor in the flour. But then he did come back and sat for a long time building castles out of the dough and sticking jumper wires into the sides. So it was nice to have him with us too, although they recommend age four and up for this kit which I think is right.

Tech will save us

There’s a whole range of kits for four to nine year olds, including machines and solar-powered creations, gifts for 10 – 14 year olds, Micro:Bit kits and other gift ideas. So there’s lots of choice. They’re not cheap (starting at £22.99) but they’re well made with lots of electronic parts so worth the investment I’d say. Particularly if it makes them excited about STEM subjects. I hope they carry on with things like this in the classroom – there’s no reason to wait until they’re teenagers.

And while we’re on the subject of school, I’ve started thinking about PE kits and jumpers now Scrip’s going into Year One in a couple of weeks. A quick mention for a new find – my iron-on labels from My Nametags which I love because:

  • The kids got involved with choosing from a range of backgrounds, designs and colours for their labels with simple click boxes online
  • Being iron on, they’re dead simple to use and even go on things like a tennis racket cover
  • The labels have stayed put so far and seem robust even when washed
  • Scrip loves them so much that I’ve even stuck them on plastics with some sellotape over the top (you can get stickers too if you like a simpler life!)

My Nametags

Thanks to Technology Will Save Us for our Electro Dough Kit (worth £22.99) and My Nametags for our iron on labels (£12.95 including P&P).

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Paddling-pool perfect toys: Splashlings review

Splashlings reviewMermaids are always in vogue in our house. Not to the point of obsession (Fidget Spinners and Lego cards anyone?) but The Little Mermaid and The Singing Mermaid are firm favourites, as is a toy mermaid that swims up and down in a jars using a little rubber tail.

Our Splashlings also came out to play at the start of the June heatwave, so these new little toys quickly found their way underwater in our paddling pool. Splashlings are part of a little plastic and rubber world made up of mermaids, the Splashling sea creatures and the small shells that they sleep in. These have been just as popular on dry land as pool-side with Scrip (now 5) and also a male friend of hers (H, 4 years old) being engrossed one day.

Splashlings 2

They’re a big hit in the US and now they’re swimming their way to our shores. We tried the Medical Centre which comes complete with moveable weighing scales and ‘working’ x-ray machine. All pretty fiddly for me when I joined in the game but perfect for small hands who seem to love the tiny characters and accessories.

There’s a handy chart so you can tick off which ones you have (and which are next on your wish list…) and some miniature accessories. Scrip also seemed to think they were like Shopkins which is another name that gets banded around the house although we don’t have any here.

Splashings even have their own Webisodes featuring all the characters in undersea adventures which I think Scrip would love but I’m still saving that premiere for a rainier day! At just over 2 minutes each the webisodes are actually a clever accompaniment to the toys.

The sets are relatively cheap and cheerful so would make good small gifts (prices start at £2.49 for the Splashlings 2 Piece Collector Shell). Although one of our shells sadly stopped closing pretty quickly so soon became a ‘daytime shell’ in Scrip’s words. So they’re not always the most robust, but are certainly a crowd pleaser.

Thanks to Splashlings for giving us a new set of watery toys! The Splashlings Medical Centre play set is £15.99rrp, and the Splashlings Coral Playground Set is £22.99rrp.

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Win a Tommee Tippee Steamer Blender with #weantogether

Baby Food Steamer BlenderLike learning to walk and potty training, weaning is an all-consuming stage (no pun intended). I think we probably left it too late with Scrip, as she devoured her first baby rice in front of us in a matter of seconds at 5 and a half months, and possibly started too early with D who instantly spat the spoon out.

I remember doing buggy fit in Holland Park in London (those hazy days!) and some of the class would take about all-in-one weaning solutions and I would listen enviously. It felt like something that might make my weaning world – filled with mushy butternut squash, pureed parsnip and sieved carrot – a lot easier. But I never went beyond my basic weaning kit.

I still keep an eye out for weaning recipes (here’s my weaning Pinterest board which was great inspiration for me and which I still add to) and I have friends who are going through all the messy stages of it at the moment.

Tommee Tippee has joined up with child nutritionist, Charlotte Stirling-Reed, for #WeanTogether which is encouraging parents to come up with simple and delicious new fruit and veg recipes. I like the tongue-in-cheek tone, which gives weaning recipes a twist with hipster foodie titles, such as Deconstructed Autumn Fruit Crumble (aka pear and blueberries).

But the best thing is that, through Tommee Tippee, I’m offering the chance to win a brand new Steamer Blender (worth £106.99). Just use the Rafflecopter link below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Basically, the Steamer Blender does all the work for you. This is why I wish I’d had one of these:

  • It steams food to preserve nutrients and flavour
  • It blends easily to a range of textures for every weaning stage
  • There’s no transfer between steaming and blending
  • There’s an automatic timer so you can just set, leave, then simply serve or store
  • There are only a small number of parts for easy cleaning
  • It’s BPA Free for ultimate reassurance
  • It’s a Made for Mums GOLD Best Product for Weaning 2017

Good luck!

The Steamer Blender (RRP £106.99) is now available at Amazon, Mothercare and Toys R Us. For more information visit https://www.tommeetippee.co.uk/product/baby-food-steamer-blender

The rules

    • Entrants must be 18 or over and UK residents.
    • The prize includes a Tommee Tippee Steamer Blender.
    • Competition closes at 12.00am on 30th June 2017. 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.

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Gentle bathtimes with Skinfix (and lots of bubbles included!)

Skinfix reviewBoth Scrip and Baby D had dry and easily irritated skin when they were very little. We used slippery emollient in their baths and banned bubblebath for a while. This has crept back in recently (along with bath foam, bath crayons, anything messy really!) but I do try and buy simple, sensitive-friendly bath products and definitely ban all parabens.

I hadn’t heard of Skinfix products when I was offered a trial but was quickly impressed with the list of pluses on their new Skinfix Baby Regimen, including the fact the products are free from steroids, tree nut and peanut ingredients, soy, sulphates, parabens and phthalates. In fact, they’re 98% natural. Designed for eczema-prone and sensitive skins, Skinfix is based on skin healing balm originally developed in Yorkshire.

I liked the natural smell (unperfumed but fresh-smelling and slightly oaty, I thought, which might well be the oatmeal on the ingredient list), the Gentle Hair and Body Wash made good bubbles and washed their hair well. The nappy cream was fine on D’s skin (although it wasn’t really irritated at the time) and my husband and I both used the creams on our dry hands as well as the children’s bodies, which worked well!

I was impressed. The only barrier for me would be the price, which is more than I’d usually spend at £12.99 for the Hair and Body Wash. But if I was looking for a really simple solution for very sensitive or allergic baby skin then I would definitely be tempted by Skinfix.

 

Skinfix is available to buy in Boots from 17th June. Thank you to Skinfix for sending us samples to try.

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Family-friendly, gender-neutral fabric – introducing Helen Baker

Helen Baker HomeWhen my work, my home life and my blog collide, it’s a happy day. Helen is an incredibly talented new fabric designer who I’m delighted to have gracing my blog page and she’s also one of my best friends from home in Cornwall. With my PR and comms business I’ve just been helping with the launch which was held one balmy evening at The Makery in Bath this week.

Helen Baker

When I stepped inside the room Helen was busy setting up it was the first time I’d seen her designs all spread out in one place, and they took my breath away. I love them because they are simple but beautifully crafted, use a pallet of complementary, soulful colours inspired by Cornwall and I could instantly imagine any of them in my own home.

As a mum of two boys and wife of a husband with a creative eye, Helen’s experienced in what works well for modern families. Here are a few more reasons to take a look at the ‘You can take the girl out of Cornwall’ range on Helen Baker.

  • Everything’s gender-netural and stylishly family-friendly
  • She only uses eco-inks and 100% cotton
  • Designs are inspired by contemporary Cornwall – no more cliched anchors and fishing boats
  • I love the fabric colour names – like mizzle, saffron and lobster
  • Everything’s designed and made in the UK
  • Her eye for detail is impeccable including using actual surfboard dimensions for the Surfboard Scallop print
  • She’s a mumpreneur and works everything around family life

I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking 🙂

ss in lobster lampshade cloud cushion in saffron room scene close up label copy lampshade stack raindrops cushion in mizzle fabricstack on chair ss with orange starfish multi fabric

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12 things we loved doing on the ss Great Britain

ss Great BritainIt’s one of those days out I’ve wanted to go on for a while – and it was worth the wait. We had a brilliant time at the ss Great Britain where there was so much to see and do Easter Trail aside. Although I have to say the Trail was definitely Scrip’s best bit (spotting the animals, sticking on the stickers and enjoying the chocolate egg at the end of it – the Easter Trail runs until 23rd April 2017).

We went with friends and there was one 5 year old (Scrip), one 4 year old boy and two toddlers – one two, one almost-two (D). Here were 12 of our ss Great Britain highlights:

  1. The excitement at seeing this magnificent ship for the first time. It’s been so beautifully restored and as my friend who came with me said, even nowdays when we’re used to massive aeroplanes and cruise ships the scale of this up close still takes your breath away.ss GB anchor
  2. Exploring the dockyard which is laid out as it would have been in Victorian times. The horse poo and the toilet were particular draws…ss GB toilet
  3. Steering the ship. The captain (in full costume) explained how it would have taken two crew members to do it they would have faced backwards to get their steering orders.ss GB steering ship
  4. Scrubbing the decks! The children did this for ages!ss GB scrubbing decks
  5. Walking around the many decks on board the ship – there’s so much to see on board and it feels like you get to look into every area. ss GB
  6. The fact the Easter Trail drew on integral parts of life on the ss Great Britain life and wasn’t just tacked on as they sometimes are.
  7. Dressing up. There were plenty of children’s and adults’ costumes beautifully made. Not a big dresser-upper, Scrip really enjoyed putting on her full dress and mop cap.ss GB dressing up
  8. The contrasts on board. First Class was beautifully grand with a lovely light banqueting hall versus the cramped conditions in Second Class and then the farm animals at the very bottom.
  9. The models were all well done – expressive and just the right amount to bring things to life. There was a doctor, Brunel himself and a newborn baby. Again younger children may be a little scared of some but you could avoid them if so.
  10. The sounds from the creaky toilet door! I’ll let you see what I mean for yourselves!ss GB climbing
  11. The rats in the kitchen! Very well done. Although the younger ones were a little scared in the darker rooms I found them fascinating with full sights and smells.
  12. Going ‘underwater’ to walk around the hull. On a sunny day there’s something magical about this. Just look at that propeller!ss GB propeller

There’s also a well stocked gift shop and cafe although we actually headed down to the quayside and got the little ferry (90p for adults, children go free) across to Spoke & Stringer opposite for some lunch in the sunshine.

Thanks to the ss Great Britain for letting us experience the fun this Easter. Family tickets (2 adults, 2 children) are £37 and you get unlimited re-visits for 12 months.

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