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The Ikea mula range includes numerous toys for babies and small children at modest prices. The bead roller coaster is priced at £10, recommended for children 18 months plus and comes flat packed for self assembly.
Bead rolller coasters, sometimes also known as bead mazes, seem to pop up everywhere I go. Opticians have them. Doctors surgeries have them. My local branch of National tyres have the Ikea one and my lcoal library has two! Whether you call them roller coasters or mazes, the design is basically the same - some form of base in to which a seeming tangle of wires fit. Threaded on to the wires are beads, generally wood and of varying colours, that can be mvoed around.
So, what's the big deal here? These toys are a child magnet. Put a kid under ten in the same room as one of these things and they will zero in on it in seconds, sink to their knees and start to click-clack away with the beads, with a look of intense concentration. I can't recall exactly when I first saw a bead rollorcoaster but they certainly weren't around in the 70's when I was a nipper.
I think these bead frames have a certain 'x' factor about them. Probably the appeal to institutions who have them is that they are compact and have no pieces that can go astray. Also, a wide range of age groups appear to find them engaging. For the child, they can learn about colour and shape from both the beads and the wire, and improve spatial awareness by following the wires, moving the beads and understanding how the wires interlock. There is also a certain sensory satisfaction in feeling and hearing the beads click clack in to each other.
So, how does the Mula bead rollercoaster measure up? The three wires come in three different colours. Two of the three interlock (ie cross over), whilst one stands alone. One is a very satisfying loop the loop spiral - this springs out of the box when you open the flat pack like a jack in the box! The wires are fixed in a wooden base. The beads themselves, of which there is a good number sufficent to fill but not over fill the wires, come in five different shapes and four different colours. I would guess that the overall dimensions are about 35 wide, 25 deep and 30 high. So far so good!
As mentioned, this item comes flat packed. Assembly is simple. I started assembling mine during Mastermind and had finished by the end of the specialist subject round. I then took it apart to alter the allocation of beads to wires to give a better colour and shape combination and considered the assembly complete by the end of the general knowledge round. No problem there.
In terms of robustness, I think the quality is reasonable - this is only a ten pound toy afterall. It's not going to break easily however, I can already see a couple of weak points. First, the wires are clamped in position between two pieces of wood that make up the legs of the frame. There is some play here as, as per many a flat pack item, the holes drilled are not precise. They are a little too big and this allows movement. This is not so significant as to spoil the fun but I can see it getting worse as the toy wears. I think at some point I may take the toy apart and try to glue/fill the wire in the holes with a wood filler or some such. The second weak point is the paint on the beads. I can already see wear on some of the beads and they are only at the start of their click-clacking career.
In terms of fun, there is much to be had with this item. I can spend a happy and therapeutic few minutes pushing the beads around and enjoying the sensation of the push-pull and the satisfying click clack sound. My little boy at eight months, is under the recommended age range by quite some months but he loves this toy. I can't really see any danger to him and certainly there is never any safety advice when the rollercoaster is placed in a public place. Currently he enjoys pushing and pulling the beads, gaining an idea of how much force he needs to apply to send them on the journey round the wires. He does this with one hand if he can, two if he needs to control the beads more. Like his Mum, he seems to enjoy the sound and sensation of the beads moving. In time, he can learn the names of the colours and of the shapes.
Overall, I'd like to give this 4.5 stars. It loses a point for not being the most robust, however, there is more than ten pounds of play value here. I think I will round down to four though as I would happily have paid a few pounds more to have the holes drilled precisely giving a snugger fit around the wires. This would have made this an item to be passed on where as, as it is, I don't think it will find it's way to a sec0nd home.
This Fisher Price toy has been in production since 1962 so it must have something going for it! So, what is it and what is the appeal?
The Fisher Price Chatter Phone is a plastic pull along toy that resembles an old style dial up telephone, with the addition of four wheels and a cute face. A string at the front allows the phone to be pulled. This movement makes the eyes bob up and down. The bright red receiver can be lifted to receive those important calls, and is attached with a spiral blue cord to the main body of the phone. The yellow dial has finger size indentations and can be spun making a ringing noise. It is recommended for ages 12-36 months and retails for anything between £5 (Home Bargains) and £8.99 (Asda or Toys R Us). There are a couple of variations on the standard phone - a pink one and a Toy Story themed one.
I bought the phone for a mere £1.50 in a charity shop. It is well built and looks like it will survive a few more owners after my son. I was looking for a pull along toy for my little boy who is just 7 months. I felt this toy would be safe for him to play with and would be interesting for him. His eyes lit up as soon as he saw this. I think the face was immediatley appealing to him. When I had cleaned it he couldn't wait to get hold of it. He enjoys pushing it and taking the receiver off. After some help from Mum he learnt to use the dial and to pull the phone towards him using the string. Some weeks on this is still a popular choice that engages him for ten minutes plus (a lot for a 7 month old!). He had three little friends around last week and this toy was plucked out of the toy pile by all of them, introducing a new concpet to them all - sharing!
The Chatter phone has several benefits for children's development. First, it encourages social skills. My little boy is too young to pretend to make a call but he is engaged and listening when I pretend that Daddy is on the line. Second, it encourages motor skills. A crawling or walking child can drag this along by the string. My little boy will sit and pull so has learnt about cause and effect - that the string makes the toy come closer. The whirring noise made when the phone moves also rewards the child for pulling. Dialing a number needs some fine motor control, more so than other toys my little one has. He, and his friends, persisted with inserting their fingers and pushing the dial around, partly I think because of the ringing noise this makes. This seemed to intrigue them.
Some reviews on the Chatterphone note that it 'doesn't do much'. I think that compared to some modern day toys it probably does less, however, I think it does enough to entertain without overwhelming and what it does it does well. I wonder if perhaps the recommended age range starts a little old. For a seven month old (and I had a sample of four!) this is highly entertaining stuff and I can see how the play can evolve as he gets older. However, a two or three year old may find this a little underwhelming. It's a solid four stars from me, my little one and his three chums.
The Maxi Cosi raincover is designed to fit the Maxi Cosi Cabriofix and Maxi Cosi Pebble car seats. It is made of clear plastic with a black trim. It is described as a 'throw over' design as it simply pops over the seat and is held in place by elastic at the front and rear of the cover. There are two mesh vents to either side and an opening to access the interior and the handle. The cover comes supplied in a storage bag.
I bought this raincover when I purchased an i-candy travel system, paying around the ten pound mark as an add on to my pram bundle that included the Cabriofix seat. I have also occasionally used this cover with a Pebble seat. I paused slightly before adding this to my bundle but quickly concluded that this would be an essential if I wanted to make use of the seat on top of the pram chassis. Seven months in, this has, to date, been the main way that I have used my pram and, given recent weather conditions (!), the raincover has been a must have.
The alternative to the Maxi Cosi cover is a generic cover for use with any car seat. These are available in most pram outlets and are generally cheaper though the fit will not be as good. The Maxi Cosi cover sculpts to the base of the Cabriofix and the Pebble, making a snug seal and not leaving any material flapping. The plastic that it is made of feels strong and flexible though I would advise storing it away from direct sunlight as it can become soft if left in the car on a hot day. The material is, in my opinion, stronger than the plastic on the raincovers supplied with my i-candy for use with the carrycot and the pushchair. The mesh provides adequate ventilation though it does not stop condensation forming under some weather conditions. The opening at the top of the cover allows some access to the interior. I am not entirely sure what the intended use of this is. I generally open the flap to check the temperature inside and leave it open if I feel it is too hot. It is too small to do much more than wave at baby and give them a brief touch fro reassurance. It is also too small to allow you to keep the cover on and access the handle to carry it. I always take the cover off before taking the seat off the chassis. This is because of the issue with accessing the handle but it is also necessary to remove the cover, at least partially, to access the buttons that release the seat from the frame. For my purposes, I haven't found this to be too much of an issue. The design is simple yet effective so I wouldn't want it made more complicated, and potentially a worse fit, by additional openings being added.
I would say that a raincover of some sort is an absolute must if you intend to use the seat on a travel system. The Maxi Cosi branded cover is a good quality product that I believe offers a superior fit to a generic cover so it is worth paying a few extra quid to get this - in baby kit terms I think this is what could be described as the thin end of the wedge! If you only intend to use the seat in the car then you probably don't need this just to transport baby from the car to another place as you will find the seat hard to carry with the cover on especially as baby gets heavier and you need to loop the handle under your arm to stagger along with it! I give this item 4 stars. It is robust, functional and not bank breaking. However, some people may find the restricted access to the handle inconvenient.
With my little one now 6 months the memory of the stress (and expense!) of choosing baby kit is fading but the consequences of choices made are still very much being lived with! Choosing a car seat was far from straight forward so I hope this review helps you if, like me, you are grappling with the conundrum.
The cabriofix is a rear facing infant seat suitable for babies from birth until approximately one year (about 13kg). This sort of car seat is also known as group 0+. This seat is made by Maxi Cosi and is one of their cheaper seats, the more expensive ones being the pebble and the pearl. RRP is about £120 although Mothercare are currently offering an exclusive fabric design at £96 and I paid just £60 as part of a pram bundle deal with Winstanleys of Wigan. The cabriofix comes in a range of colours and fabric types.
The main features of the seat are as follows:
* fits to two Maxi cosi isofix bases for quick and easy removal and placement in the car
* fits to Maxi Cosi belt fitted base
* can be belted direct to the seat
* can be fixed, using adaptors purchased seperately, to a broad range of travel system prams
*side impact protection system
* removable wedge to improve fit for new borns
* removable neck support for new borns
* easy adjust straps
My experience with the seat has been largely positive. I have used it extensively in the house, in the car and on my i-Candy pram. From birth my baby was happy in this seat - too happy in fact. It was the only place he would sleep in the first six weeks - cue worried mum setting an alarm to avoid baby being in the seat for more than the recommended 2 hours. The wedge provided a good fit for him at 8 pounds. The neck support was ok however, I also own the more expensive pebble seat for use in my partner's car and the neck support in that is superior, being more supportive and generally more robust. With the wedge and neck support removed when my baby was big enough, the seat is still cosy and he still likes a kip in there from time to time. The padding is very soft. When I pick him up he is toasty warm which is nice in winter but one to keep an eye on in summer.
In my car I have an iso-fix base so the seat clicks in and out with no problem at all. I have had occasion to attach it using the seat belt system. I was really impressed with how quick and easy this was. To help you out the parts of the seat the belt needs to go under are colour coded blue and it is almost impossible to do this incorrectly. The straps are also very easy to adjust which is important as the clothes your baby is wearing (eg snow suit compared to fleece hoody) can make a huge difference to the fit of the harness from use to use. There is one button to loosen then tighten the straps.
there's a few areas for improvement though no biggies. First the hood - it's great that it's there and can be pulled forward and put back however, it attaches to the handle with fabric loops. they can be fiddly to get in place and can fly off leaving baby with fabric over their face - no danger of suffocation but a bit annoying. The straps have padded covers on them at shoulder and crotch pressure points. It only took a couple of months for these to part company with the strap, one was lost during a trip to mothercare and the others are somewhere around the house or on the floor of the car. Baby doesn't appear too perturbed by this, but again, the Maxi Cosi pebble design is superior in this aspect as the padding is attached. In terms of durability, in the last month or so the fabric has pilled and bobbled significantly where my little one's feet have kicked. This is an anesthetic issue - there is no sign of an actual hole forming. When using with my pram, the seat can be tricky to click in to the adapters. I have got better at doing this but it has taken a long time. Removing the seat from the pram is also tricky as it requires two buttons to be pressed on either side of the seat at the same time whilst simultaneously lifting the seat clear. My son is over one stone now so this hasn't got easier. That said, the more expensive Maxi Cosi pebble is no easier to remove.
I would recommend the Cabriofix, especially if you can get it on offer or as part of a travel system bundle. If you intend to use the seat on a pram then also think about buying the raincover. You can also buy a foot muff although I put my little one in his snowsuit on cold days and he never feels cold with just this. the isofix base will also make your life easier although, as mentioned, the seat belt system is very clever. Don;t forget to buy a set of adapters too if you want to attach this to a compatible pr4am. The seat loses one star for the minor problems mentioned and gets four stars from me.
The buggy driver was a gift to my baby and was not just his first motor, it was his first toy!
The buggy driver is made by the Early Learning Centre so can be bought in their stores but also in Mothercare and some other stores and toy shops. The retail price is £20, however, it is currently on offer at £16 and has been priced as low as £8. It currently comes in two colour ways - red, which is in my opinion gender neutral, and pink which pitches the toy at girls.
This is an electronic toy, with lights and sounds, that requires 2AA batteries. After three plus months of light use, the batteries in mine show no sign of flagging yet. The toy clips on to a pram, buggy, or even a bouncer so baby can pretend to drive. The clips provided are very flexible in terms of adjusting the grip to accommodate different sized bars and changing the angle of the toy to suit the child. They also attach very firmly so there is little chance of this item slipping off. At the same time, they are very easy to release so it is not a nuisance to take the toy on and off.
The buggy driver has numerous activities. First, there is the ignition key that turns the whole item on whilst producing a sound like a Vauxhall Viva circa 1970. A red light on the toy then indicates that it is on. Two mirrors allow your budding Jensen Button to check for other drivers or, in the case of little Loz, to check he is still looking good! The steering wheel is central and comes with a horn in the centre to warn those other babies in slower moving buggy's to get out of the way. A gear stick can be pushed forward to produce an accelerating sound or pushed back to produce a beep beep reversing warning. Both sounds are accompanied by coloured lights coming on. Two further buttons on the dash (music centre??) play two tunes which are those old chart toppers 'pop goes the weasel' and 'she'll be coming round the mountain'.
This toy is recommended for age 3 month plus. Little Loz received this when he was just two months old. Right from the start he enjoyed the two tunes and watching the lights as I operated this while it was attached to his bouncer. By three months he was able to just about grab the steering wheel and press some of the buttons randomly. This was entertaining to watch as he seemed engaged and surprised at the effects. Then there were the mirrors - always a popular one with little Loz, he would peer in to these for quite some time. This isn't the best toy for a 3 month old as they can't do a great deal with it without Mum or Dad's help. That said, little Loz, now 6 months, is growing in to his and is able to do more and more with it and make more purposeful actions.
This isn't a toy that I would have chosen for my son due to my prejudice against plastic electronic gadgets for children, dislike of electronic music with no volume control and fear that the clip wouldn't be universal. My concern about the clip was unfounded. I'm still not sold on electronic baby toys however Little Loz does enjoy this and unfortunately for me, he loves the tinkly electronic tunes and the lights. I doubt he 'gets' the concept of pretending to drive yet but he has certainly had some fun with this. At the full price I would steer clear of this toy. At £8 it is a bargain.
The simplest toys are often the best and, happily, these stacking cups from Ikea retailing at just £1.49, have to also be one of the cheapest. The Mula set is recommended from 6 months up and consists of seven cups made from sturdy, brightly coloured plastic. Each cup varies by colour, size (obviously!) and shape/pattern around the edge and side. In addition, a few of the cups have holes in various patterns on the bottom.
Like many of the Ikea toy range, these cups encourage imaginative play and lend themselves to a range of games beyond shape and colour recognition. My son little Loz is not quite 5 months so his favourite game, apart from 'chew the rim', is 'Build 'em up and I'll knock 'em down'. Basic but fun for him whilst developing his hand eye coordination. He also enjoys banging the cups together and, somewhere in his head perhaps the different sounds the different sizes make is registering! Together we also play peek a boo hiding games, secreting either another toy or smaller cup under a bigger one. Although we haven't tried it yet, we intend to use these cups in water to practice scooping and comparing quantities as well as enjoying the patterns that water falling through the holes in the bottom will make. In the summer we will probably also take them to the sandpit in the park to make some sandpies.
These are good quality cups that should stand up to many years of use. They are light and compact to carry so will also come away on holiday with us - hopefully to a warm sandy beach somewhere! Highly recommended.
The under ones are a challenging group to design toys for - as if limited spatial and motor skills aren't enough to contend with, a plethora of safety restrictions can cramp a baby's style. All too often toys are cutesy yet dull, appealing to Mum and Dad but ignored by the little one. Lamaze toys are an exception to this rule. The Lamaze 'discovering shapes activity book' is a good example of this.
This three dimensional activity book consists of four blocks of fabric covered foam that concertina together in, what is admitedly, only a vague book like way. One side consists of high contrast black and white patterns. The other has colourful woodland scenes on it. Suspended from each 'page' are shapes, two with a rattle of differing pitches, one with a squeaker and one with crinkly fabric. These are also double sided. One way there is a basic animal face with large facial features. On the reverse there is a slightly more complex image of the same animal. Each shape can fit in to a hole on the coloured side or simply dangle over the high contrast side. The idea is that a very young baby can appreciate the high contrast side with simple images whilst an older baby can enjoy the colourful woodland scenes and play at inserting the shape in to the hole to complete the picture. Around the edges of the three dimensional pages are an array of fabrics ranging from fleece to silk so baby can experience different textures too. There are string ties positioned at each end and in the middle so that this item can be attached to cot bars or, as I have done, across a baby bouncer or car seat.
There is lots for baby to see, feel and do here. This was a gift for little Loz when he was about 3 months old. He has always been fairly indifferent to black and white high contrast but he likes to look at both sides of this 'book' and he will inspect the dangling shapes closely. His favourite is the rattling racoon shape. The ability to tie the book to a car seat makes it a good choice to take out and about. Little Loz will gurgle with pleasure when this comes out and will interact with it for a good while. I also like to sit with him and talk through the different colours, textures and scenes depicted. It is easy to engage him with this.
On the down side, although the book is reversible the ties only really work for the black and white side as they are at the bottom of the page when it is reversed so the book falls down if you try to tie it. Equally, the shapes dangle over when the black and white side is in use but go under when the book is reversed for colour. Lamaze toys are meant to grow with your child hence the black and white side as well as the colour one. An older baby is expected to enjoy inserting the shapes in their holes. As puzzles go this is a simple one even for babies as the cord attaching the shapes is too short to go anywhere other than the correct hole! Like many Lamaze toys, there is a lot of detail in the construction of this toy. Unfortunately the fit of some of the shapes in their holes isn't always spot on and some of the fabric lines where they are joined are not straight. I think this item is very difficult to construct and there is perhaps a bit too much going on to get it all perfect.
I can see this item costs around £16-18 online at the moment. I must admit I was a bit shocked to see it was that much! It is a lovely gift and one that is played with a lot, however, I think there are other Lamaze toys that offer better all round value in terms of cost and play opportunities such as Dee Dee the Dragon. That said, it is still about twenty times better than most non-Lamaze toys! Little Loz gives this four stars out of five and I agree with him!
Little Loz is now six months old. When he was born he received three rattles as presents, all from Marks and Spencers. Two were stick designs in the form of a zebra and an elephant and the third, reviewed here, was a grab rattle in the form of a duck. This was a gift but I think it cost about £6.
A grab rattle is a circular rattle that a child can grasp in their hand. This design, suitable from birth, is a good size for tiny hands - little Loz was able to grab and hold it from about 3 months. Grip is aided as the circular grab section is in a textured cotton rather than slippy plush. The circular component forms the body of the duck. Plush legs hang beneath, wings at the side and a head, containing the rattle, tops it off. The colours are gender neutral, mainly yellow pastel. The item is cute in a way that is likely to appeal to adults rather more so than a baby who is likely to prefer bright or black and white colour schemes.
Little Loz quite likes this rattle. Most importantly it is easy for him to pick up and manipulate. It was the first thing that he grabbed and held. The sound is pleasing and he is able to make it for himself. The wings add interest for him as they flap up and down when the rattle is shaken. The materials are all soft so there is no concern for safety. Little Loz has invevitably had a good old gnaw on this and it has emerged looking none too shabby.
Overall, this toy is nice but just slightly under whelming. Little Loz reserves his windmilling arms and drumming heels for two things - the arrival of Daddy home from work and his Lamaze Dee Dee the dragon. Sorry little duck.
One side effect of having a baby is that your house shrinks. Fact. It must do because prior to little Loz coming along, two reception rooms and a kitchen diner seemed more than ample for a family. Post little Loz and I have been scratching my head about where to put things. So, when it came to choosing a highchair, I knew better than to make a snap decision based on price, colour or cuteness - it was obvious that size was going to matter.
I started my research, even making paper templates of footprints (!) and quickly determined that there are several basic categories of highchairs. I found the following:
1. Fold up chairs - can be as slim as 18cm folded up but are about 88cm when folded out. This was bigger than the space available in my U shaped kitchen with a table in the middle. This style is very common but the Cossato noodle is one example of this.
2. Z shaped high chairs - can be pulled up to a table like a normal chair. Tend not to come with a tray and some don't have a harness. Often convert to high stools, chairs or table to extend the use of the item. The Tripp Trapp was probably the first example of this - the Baby Dan is a cheaper version.
3. Rigid frame chairs - some have trays some don't, they can't be folded up - the Ikea Antilop is an example.
4. Bar stool style chairs with a single leg - the Bloom is one example, the Cossatto 3Sixti is another.
My criteria for a highchair were as follows:
* Small footprint to fit in to a tight space
* Five point harness
* Tray, preferably removable for when fine dining has been mastered
* Small enough to leave out or easy to fold up and down several times a day
It quickly became apparent that fold up chairs were out as I had no suitable space to store even an 18cm one and the distance between my table and the kitchen counter wouldn't accommodate the chairs unfolded. The Z shaped chairs are great in terms of space but I wanted a tray and a safety harness. Some of the rigid frame chairs would have fitted in at a pinch but most had splayed legs and already having kitchen chairs with these legs, I know that I fall over these regularly. Looking at bar stool style chairs, I was amazed to find that the Cosatti 3Sixti, with a diameter of just 57cm has the smallest footprint of any highchair I came across in my research. At £119, in the colour way I liked, it certainly wasn't the cheapest choice but the price was within my budget so I found out some more...
Technical specifications: The 3Sixti swivels 360 degrees in increments of 60 degrees. This gives the flexibility to move the child from facing the table to facing an adult on either side of them. It also means you can turn the seat sideways to pop the child in or out easily then swing the chair back to face the table. The base has a small wheel to assist in moving it. At 13.2 kilograms, this is no lightweight and it won't be going in the back of the car to Grandma's however, on smooth surfaces it is readily manoeuvrable. The back has 3 positions so that your child can recline comfortably. The plastic chair has a padded wipe clean cover and is fitted with a safety harness. In addition, there is a plastic pummel at crotch level to keep the child safe and comfortable. There are two trays on the highchair, one inserted on top of the other, to help with cleaning. This system allows for two meals without washing or can give a clean play surface after a child has finished eating. The 3Sixti can rise between 84 and 108cm. To paint a picture of what this is like alongside a table of regular height, at 84cm the whole of the chair will push under a table. At 108 cm the tray will push completely over the top of a table. The tray can also be removed completely so that the child can eat from the table. A couple of things to watch out for - with a maximum height of 108cm this highchair is not suitable for breakfast bars - it is too low. Also, the ability to tuck neatly under a table may be impaired if your table has a cross bar that is low hanging or close to the edge. I've left the most exciting thing about the 3Sixti until last - it's the gas lift of course. Simply press the button on the base and the chair can rise or fall. The key colour of the seat is matched in the tray insert and on the button that operates the gas lift on the base.
Looks: So the 3Sixti has a lot going for it in terms of technical spec. All this would be rendered irrelevant though if it was a monstrosity. Luckily it's not - far from it. The main body of the highchair is white plastic which is inoffensive and should suit most houses with a modern décor. The padded seats are where the character is. I chose Happi Apple which is a repeating green apple design that reminds me of an Orla Kiely print. Following in the fruit theme there is also a repeating lemon design and a cherry one. On a different tack there in a design called bubbles and one called pixel. The latter makes my eyes hurt. Before you become attached to a design, be warned that this dictates price. Happily Happi Apple which has been around a long time, is the lowest price £119 but the pixel design will set you back £165.
Comfort and useability: The 3Sixti is designed to be used up until the age of 3. This isn't the longest lifespan but I imagine (hope!) that little Loz will be sitting in a normal chair by then, albeit with a booster. On balance I think that high chairs that convert to chairs often give a chair you wouldn't have chosen in the normal scheme of things and could pick up for a tenner in Ikea if you bought it seperately so I'm not too bothered about the chair going at age 3 and not having an alternative use. I'm happy to trade this off for the small footprint. The minimum age stated is 6 months. I suspect this is driven by weaning guidelines rather than sitting ability. Little Loz is at the 50th centile and first sat in his at five months and seemed comfortable and safe even without the harness on. He isn't eating solids yet but he is happy to sit and throw toys (sorry play) or watch me cook for about 20 minutes which is about 19 minutes more than he is happy to spend in his Bumbo. After this time he can slump. I watch for this and take him out then. In terms of size, the seat isn't enormous by any stretch of the imagination and I am having to take Cosatto at their word that this will go through to 3 as I don't have a handy 3 year old around to test this for me. It's probably also worth mentioning that there is some 'play' in the supporting column. This can give an impression that it is unstable but the base design is such that, like a weeble, it can wobble but it won't fall down. Your heart may skip a beat though and junior may decide he has found a new game.
Service: Cosatta offer an enhanced warranty of 4 years on this item if it is registered within 28 days of purchase. I don't normally bother filling in warranties but I did for two reasons. First, this exceeds statutory rights. Second, the robustness of the gas lift mechanism concerns me slightly, for no reason other than my experience of office chairs! I filled the form in on-line and received confirmation via e-mail of my warranty.
I'm relieved to have found the 3Sixti as it takes up so little room - the quality, comfort and sheer good looks are the icing on the cake. I would recommend this to you if space and style are important to you. At £119 complete, it's not the cheapest dining option but nor is it the most expensive. Little Loz seems as happy with his Happi Apples as I am. Let the feeding begin!
Titta Djur are a collection of ten finger puppets made and sold by Ikea. Retailing at a modest £4, these ten animals won't break the bank, but are they worth clearing a space in the toy box for?
I purchased the Titta Djur set as a Christmas gift for my almost 6 month old son. I should say straight away that this is not recommended by IKEA - these puppets are clearly marked as age 3 plus. Whilst they don't have any ribbons, buttons or bows that look like they could come away and be swallowed, these are not large puppets and might make a tasty snack in their entirety for a hungry, chewy baby. Life can be pretty dull when you are a baba - there's not a huge amount out there that toy producers are prepared, or allowed, to sell as suitable for under one's. I don't play fast and loose with my child's safety however, little Loz's play is supervised 100% by me so I make allowances based on this. So, with safety dealt with, let's get on to the important business of play value.
Like many of the Ikea toys, these finger puppets encourage imaginative play. Older children can put on plays, make up stories and create characters for each creature. The puppets are designed for little fingers not huge man hands. At about 6-7 cm they come down just over my second knuckle - if your hands are big you may struggle to keep the animals on. With little Loz, I use the puppets mainly to structure and support singing and rhymes. If you don't know the song about a little green frog who goes galumph then you have never lived but suffice to say each verse involves an animal whose colour is named followed by a chorus of jazz hands because of course no animal goes galumph they all go 'tra la la la la' - cue wiggling puppet clad fingers and much hilarity for the under 3's. I pull one animal at a time from a black bag (not supplied) for added excitement, variety and spontanaety (got to keep the act fresh ya know and I am often playing to a tough crowd). The finger puppets are also great props for peek-a-boo games and, with the addition of a loo roll and a wooden spoon inserted quickly up their nether regions, the puppets can be made to pop up like a jack in the box. This is what little Loz and me do with them - I'm sure other mums and babies can think of more ways to play and that, of course, is the great thing about them.
In terms of quality, these animal puppets are surprisingly good. I bought an additional set of puppets, now discontinued, at the same time called Titta Folk (characters such as a ghost and professions such as a nurse) and the animal set is definitely superior in terms of finish. This is as each animal has a three dimensional head and, in the case of the shark and turtle, three dimensional bodies. Some animals have additional trims too so the lion has a furry mane and the parrot has bright tail feathers. My one concern about the quality is that it seems in excess of the £4 price and begs the question of how much is paid to the people making these in Vietnam. Not an issue exclusive to Ikea I know. You could take these out of the plain plastic bag they come in, pop them in a fancy box and sell them for triple or more in a posh department store. It wouldn't ensure the machinist got a bigger cut though.
So, these animal finger puppets are a real winner for a wide range of age groups. A whole lot of fun with change from a fiver, they would make a great birthday gift or, split, could bulk out a party bag. Anyone for a chorus of 'Hickory Dickory dock' because I do have a mouse who is ready and willing to perform?
I'm not often to be found reviewing beauty products - the only make up I wear is a dash of eye liner and mascara. Why then did I buy, use and love 5 second Perfect Blur?
First off, let's describe Perfect Blur. This is a tough one. Made by Garnier, it is described as a 'new type of product with optical effect' and a 'smoothing perfecting primer'. It claims to use light reflectors to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, imperfections, open pores and shine. The 30 ml plastic tube comes in a shiny pink box. When squeezed from the tube it has the aerated consistency of silly string or shaving foam. It has a very unusual dry feel on the hand. When applied to the skin it glides on leaving the skin feeling smooth yet dry. There is none of the clamminess of a moisturiser. The product is designed to be applied after day cream but before make up. As the name '5 second Perfect Blur' suggests it is fast to use. There is no special technique, no mess or difficulty.
I have never used a primer so I wasn't in the market for one. What attracted me to this product was an advert that I saw in the newspaper. This showed a woman who had the product applied to half her face but not the other. She didn't look 'made up' as such on the side the product was on but she did look better. An asterisk indicated that the image wasn't adjusted in any way and I know manufacturers aren't allowed to lie about this so I decided to give it a go.
I was a bit surprised to find that this product is only sold in Boots. Not a big problem as there are loads of Boots and I had some advantage card points to spend [update - the exclusivity period now appears to be over and it is available elsewhere]. I paid £9.99 on offer, reduced from £12.99. I think that if it had been over a tenner I would have been more reluctant to give it a go as I hate being left with a tube of something I don't like cluttering up the shelf. When I got this home I applied it to one side of my face and asked my other half what he thought. He could tell immediately which side it was on and said that the skin looked more even. I think this product very obviously reduces redness and the appearance of pores. I am in my early 40's so have a wrinkle or two. They looked less obvious with this product on. The only thing I would like this product to do that it doesn't is to reduce darkness under the eyes. It doesn't actually claim to do this but it would be nice if it could.
I will definitely be buying 5 second perfect blur again. It is no hassle to use and it does what it says. The effect is subtle but that is exactly what I want - improved appearance without a foundation or concealers. And this is where the rub is. If you normally use, and are happy with, a foundation, this can be applied after the product. However, this kind of negates the point to the product which is to give better appearance on it's own. A good foundation applied well will give a better visual appearance than perfect blur. For me, foundation feels terrible on my skin and looks too 'obvious' so I would never wear it. I know other women are happy with foundation so would be disappointed with Perfect Blur on it's own but won't get any enhancement by using Perfect Blur in addition to this. So, I suspect the market for Perfect Blur may be fairly small. I like this so much though that I am already stocking up!
The problem with babies is that - crying, feeding and filling nappies apart - they can't do a lot! Consequently, there aren't a lot of toys for the age range 0+. These wrist rattles from Sassy are an exception. They are suitable from birth both in the sense that they are not dangerous and in the sense that they will provide enjoyment for your baby.
Baby Loz's wrist rattles were a welcome gift from a friend, but they are available to purchase for around £6 at John Lewis amongst others. There are two rattles in each set, one for each wrist. The set we received included what I think is a lion, though it could be a teddy bear (?!), with ribbon tags as a mane, and a mouse with very cute, large, folded ears. Other sets may have different characters.
The rattles attach to the wrist with a strip of velcro that is attached to a band. At a pinch, I can get these round my wrist so they are nice and loose for a baby. Although called 'wrist rattles' they will also go around an ankle. Little Loz likes to flail his hands and legs and hear the rattle. He also likes to look down at his feet when he has one on. The big eared mouse seems to particularly draw his attention. At an early age, when many people gift rattles, most babies lack the hand eye coordination to grasp and shake it. This is not an issue with these items. As they are attached to the baby they can learn cause and effect as they realise that an arm wave gives a rattling sound. The velcro wrist strap also reduces the potential for these items to be lost when out and about. If you fear that baby is being driven mad by constant rattling, the velcro can be hooked around a pram handle.
The pack the rattles came in has some claims on and ideas for interaction. I find the claim that it 'develops' and 'inspires' hearing a little odd! I don't think there are legions of babies who are deaf for want of a sassy wrist rattle. There's also some gumph about transferring your scent to the rattle to 'help her calm herself during a cranky time'. There's really no need to over egg this product with this copy. Baby's like rattles. Baby's have problems holding and manipulating rattles. Putting a rattle on a wrist bend gives baby an opportunity to interact with a object that they would not normally have. And that's it! It's a nice little product just based on this. You and your baby will enjoy it! It's a lovely gift too for anyone who is expecting a new baby. Despite the claims, I'd still give this 5 DooYoo stars. Great rattles. Simple.
Nursing tops are designed to make breast feeding easier by giving easy and discrete access for baby to feed. H&M stock a reasonably broad range of maternity wear and a very small range of nursing clothes. Part of that range is this pack of two tops in a cross over style made of 95% cotton and 5% elastane - so essentially a thick-ish T-shirt type fabric that is organic. They come in sizes 10-12, 14-16, 18-20 and 20-22 and are available to buy on-line or in store. One top is block dark blue and the other is white with dark blue stripes. They are priced at £19.99.
I bought these tops when I was still pregnant as I didn't anticipate that I would feel like a shopping trip after the birth! I tried them on and was pleasantly surprised to find that, due to the stretchy fabric, they fitted me well, even with an ENORMOUS bump, so I started wearing them before the birth. Nursing clothes can be expensive and I didn't want to spend too much in case the breast feeding didn't go well. Working out at a tenner a piece, I thought these tops offered reasonable value for money, and were fairly attractive in terms of colour and design. Lucky, as there were no other nursing options in the store I bought these in!
After the birth, these tops still fitted well as my bump receded. The Empire line is flattering too as it is fairly forgiving. The wraparound top and inner panel which lifts up so that baby can feed, do offer easier access than a regular top. I wore these multiple times so they were washed regularly. They kept their shape and colour in the wash. There is no bobbling at all on the fabric which is quite impressive.
Although it's not neccessary to buy special clothes in order to breast feed, it's hard to know what clothes will work and what won't before you have tried it. These tops are good value, especially as they also work as maternity wear too. Having them meant that I had one less thing to worry about after the birth. I can see that they sell well on e-bay too so you could pick up a pair there for under a fiver or invest new then sell on. I can see no reason to knock off any stars - I guess I could shave off a quarter of a point as they are not the most exciting designs - a print or pattern beyond stripes would be nice, but that's a little churlish! So, a DooYoo score of 5 it is then.
The Nailsea Town is an ankle boot. It looks a little like a Chelsea boot in design, but has a zip in place of the more usual elastic panels. The zip is unobtrusive as it is positioned on the inner side of the boot, at a diagonal angle. The front of the boot has a sort of 'fold' effect in the area where you would get a wrinkle from bending down and creasing the leather of a boot. It is a Clarks design and retails at £54.99, sizes 3-8 plus some half sizes.
A pair of black ankle boots has been part of my wardrobe for more years than I care to remember - who am I kidding, it's probably more like decades!. I like to walk and walk in comfort with dry feet and no rubs. I also like to wear my ankle boots with both jeans (boot cut or skinny) and smart-ish work trousers. I'm not a high heel kind of girl but I do like to have some sort of heel. I also have fairly broad size 4 feet, so a little on the smaller side.
The Nailsea caught my eye as the design appealed to me. The position of the zip gives a clear line to the look of the boot. The yellow stitching provides a good contrast (and brought back fond memories of my Doc Marten wearing days) and adds some interest, as do those 'folds' in the leather. The boot looks sensible as well as stylish. Although it is categorised as a 'casual' boot, I think it has a smart look and will wear it to work, when I return from maternity leave, where smart casual is the normal dress code. Meanwhile, the boot looks ok with my boot cut jeans and terrific with my skinnies as the jean fits inside and, in my opinion, looks great. The slight heel means that my work trousers fall to an appropriate length over the boot. That heel also means that walking is comfortable. This is a D fitting only. The boot is fairly wide which suits me but may not fit anyone with a narrower foot. The zips make the boot easy to get on and off.
I went to buy these boots at my local Clarks store. The size 4 I tried on seemed to have some adhesive caught on the toe around the stitching. For £54.99 I want my boots to start out perfect, as well as last a long time. As there was no other 4's in stock, the assistant offered to have a pair sent to my home at no cost and I was shocked to get them just two days later. No complaints about service there.
I've had these boots for about 8 weeks now and I wear them a lot - pretty much every time I go out really. After just 3 or 4 weeks I noticed some wear to the heel. The heel is molded plastic and an integral part of the sole so re-heeling isn't an option. The wear consists of some of the rubber on the heel peeling off. It doesn't seem to have got significantly worse in the last month so I'm hoping it won't be a problem. Heels are a real bug-bear of mine with Clarks shoes. Clarks are now so expensive that I need them to last in order to justify the cost so my expectations of them are high. I paid £100 for some knee length boots a couple of years ago and had to have them re-heeled and soled within 6 weeks. Customer services did offer a refund but as I have difficulty getting knee boots to fit, I didn't take them up on this.
So, I love my Nailsea Boots and have my fingers crossed the heel will last ok. This gives the Nailsea Town a Dooyoo score of 4 - it would be 5 if I was more confident of the heel. I'd like to think I'll walk 500 miles in them but suspect it may end up being more like 50!
I have a theory about Bumbo's. There are, I believe, actually only about one thousand that have ever been made. Of this, I am convinced. This finite group of seats simply spends it's time circulating, and re-circulating through the homes of Britain and under the bottoms of babies. Let me explain...
The Bumbo is a floor seat that claims to be for babies between 4 and 14 months (more on this later). It is made in a soft foam like material and comes in a variety of attractive colours (pink, aqua, blue). A tray is available to purchase seperately. The Bunbo retails at around £28-£35 with the tray adding an additional £6.99. The key benefit of the product is that it provides a safe, upright, seat for babies who are otherwise unable to sit unaided. The design is based on ergonomic principles of baby physiology. The product has a tag line of 'sit.explore.play.'. It is claimed on the Bumbo website that:
(1) the seat aids baby's development by strengthening their neck and trunk.
(2) it positions the baby's hands in the right position for play
(3) it improves the baby's field of view
(4) it improves respiration and breath control
(5) it helps baby's who suffer from reflux
I can also add that the product looks super cute (that's a technical definition by the way ;-)) and that you are guaranteed at least one photo of your little one looking so adorable that they will soar off the top of the 'aaah' scale ..... so far so good
The Bumbo is produced by a South African company who make a range of bottom related products including a booster seat for dining and a toilet training seat. When the product was orginally released it was hailed as a huge innovation and won a number of awards. There was a set back for the company in 2007 when it recalled seats to add a label warning against using on raised surfaces and a second recall in 2012 when the company started to add a restraint harness to new models and offered a retrofit for older models.
I admit I was attracted to the Bumbo in part because, once you realise this isn't a giant potty, it is as cute as a baby's bottom and looks ideal for one to reside in. I was also keen to get one as little Loz has reflux and I thought that the upright position might help him. Little Loz is just short of four months but he has had a strong neck for a good many weeks now so I thought the time could be right to get a Bumbo. He loves his bouncy chair but does get bored of it after a while so the Bumbo seemed like it could add some variety for him and give him a different view of the world.
The price tag new was too steep for me so I took a look on e-bay and found huge numbers of these items for sale at about one third to a half of the price new. There seemed to be a particularly large number available (many not selling) in pale pink. Having heard about the safety issues I decided to only bid on Bumbo's with the safety belt. I also decided to get one with a tray. I bid on an item close to me to avoid postage costs and secured it for £15.80. Within an hour I had collected it and rushed home to give it a try.
So what did little Loz make of his new throne? This is where we return to my theory of finite numbers of Bumbo's in the UK ...Well, little Loz measures in at the 50th centile and he is at the youngest end of the age range this item is intended for. Looking at the seat, it seemed a little 'snug'. He was game enough as I popped him in and forced his little thighs through the gaps for the legs. He fits ... but only just. There is no way he will be in this seat for longer than another month or two. So, after that, back on E-bay this will go. Not so much ownership of a Bumbo, more of a short term loan. Thank goodness I didn't pay full price. Every child is different but I think only the smallest or longest of children will fit in this for very long. I think the seat is secure without the restraint which is a good job as there is no way I can reach in and fish around to do the harness up - there's simply no room for my hands to rummage between his bottom and thighs.
Once in the seat little Loz soars off the cuteness scale. He relaxes with the tray off in front of the TV arms planted on the Bumbo sides looking like his late great grandad. With the tray on (and this is a struggle to get in place) he looks like he is ready for a day at the office processing some important paperwork. The first time I saw him upright without my support I felt like I had seen in to the future. My little baby, a boy! He is completely happy in there... for ten minutes. Maybe twelve. Then he cries and wants to get out. I would never leave him unattended in this as I think sitting like this is tiring for him. Most times he sits like this he holds his head up really well. Sometimes, after a long day, he really flops and I think he is simply worn out and shouldn't be left in the seat. Google images has some really distressing pictures of very young babies flopping around in Bumbos as they are simply too small to support themselves. The seat makes not a jot of difference to his reflux - fountains of milk are ejected with it and fountains of milk are ejected without it.
So, the Bumbo is for me a paradox. A baby needs to be old and big enough to support their own head in order to safely use the product. However, as soon as a baby can do this, they are likely to be too big for the seat itself. The sweet spot when this product is suitable is very narrow. And this is the reason why the UK only needs about 1000 of these items to support the bottoms of the nation's baby's. Buy one, by all means, but consider the item a loan.