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A little bit of background information;
The iPad mini is exactly what it says - it's a mini version of the iPad. Not mini enough to be the size of an iPhone (whole separate item!), but more of a middle sibling between the 2 in size.
Some key factors regarding the iPad mini - it's dimensions are 24 x 18.6 x 7.4 cm, with a screen size of 7.9inches (still a decent size, even for a "mini"). It has a battery life of appromately 8 hours and has a charge time of 2 hours. It comes with a USB cable/plug. Nothing more, nothing less.
My experience with iPad;
I won mine in a competition. Yes, I was one of those lucky ****'s who didn't actually have to pay for one. I'd never been a huge fan of Apple, but a competition is a competition - just because I wouldn't pay for one, doesn't mean I wouldn't like to win one! Needless to say, I was thrilled!
Upon receiving it, I was impressed by the clean structure of the presentation - the box was sturdy, stylish and beautifully professional. One cannot doubt Apple's eye for design, and this didn't stop at the box. As I took out the iPad mini, I couldn't help but marvel at it's design. Fan or not, one cannot deny they are beautifully designed pieces of technology. Upon switching on the iPad, I was guided through several easy set up pages (it came fully charged and ready to use), detailing the usuals like timezones and languages. Then I was in!
It comes with the usual Apple ready to use apps - Safari, iTunes etc. The App store can give you everything else you need (I promptly downloaded Twitter and Facebook, my lifelines!), sometimes for free, sometimes for a small fee (this is usually clearly labelled, but beware of free apps having hidden costs, as this has been well publicized recently).
One thing that struck me, was its ease of use. The clear icons on the screen were easy to navigate, the touch screen absolutely effortless, providing an easy to use interface (dare I say, so easy my Dad could probably use it...)
The screen size is more than adequate for what I use it for - the detail is splendid, even when watching iTunes movies and television shows. Others have stated the lack of retina display disappoints them with the iPad mini, but having no experience of other Apple iPad products this bares no point of discontentment for me. I was happy with the iPad mini experience, and would recommend them. I am an Apple convert.
The 16GB does not go very far though - once you've added music, several apps and a few television shows you are close to filling it. A larger HD size is preferably, but obviously wasn't an option for me at the time. I would consider upgrading in the future though, at the right price.
The battery life is amazing - despite using it almost 24/7 initially (as you do with a new "toy"!!), I didn't need to charge it until almost 3 days later, and this was a simply 2hour affair before I was able to play again! I would recommend a protective case though - the design is too beautiful to be spoilt, especially if you are going to be carrying it around with you throughout the day (the beauty of the size of the mini - it fits in your handbag!). Plus it protects the screen too!
I would recommend the iPad mini to anyone - particularly a new Apple user, as they may benefit from it more. It is small enough to carry around, and easy enough that anyone could use it! But at a recommended retail of approximately £270, these are not cheap - these should be a well considered purchase, weighing up whether you would use it enough to justify the cost! Had I not won one, I probably wouldn't have paid that...
+ About the item;
A lovely wooden table and 2 chairs set from ELC, detailed with pink and pale green, and flowers on the chair backs - this retailed for £75 at the point of sale. Approximate dimensons - Table: H45.5 X W60 X D60CM. Chair: H35, floor to seat H27CM. Included a canvas pouch to store pens and pencils in.
This particular set was discontinued and replaced with this - http://www.elc.co.uk/Wooden-Table-and-Chairs/133535,default,pd.html#q=table. Please note this was a flat pack item, that needed self assembly.
+ Our experience - order, delivery and assembly;
With ELC, our experience of delivery has only ever been positive - the order was made through their website, a nice and easy to navigate site. Email notifications were detailed, and supplied at the point of order and point of dispatch. The item arrived promptly within 48 hours of dispatch by a polite courier from a well known courier group.
Then the experience got interesting... We had ordered this for our daughter's Christmas present. And foolishly, we waited to open the parcel until Christmas Eve when we decided to assemble it, ready for her the next morning. Whilst the parcel was well packaged, and all items were included (no missing screws here!), there was no way we should have waited till then to assemble...
We experienced the classic self assembly problem of screws and holes not lining up/not screwing in properly, and pretty much having to be forced together. Between 2 of us, it took 3hours to assemble, and had we attempted it early, it would have been returned to ELC. The table went together the easiest, but still took a good bit of work. The chairs, however, were beyond a joke - the lining up was so bad, the backs of the chairs are held on by 1 screw each (it's supposed to be 2, but they simply did not line up) - luckily it still seemed quite secure, but still not a pleasant experience.
+ The table and chairs
Despite the rigmarole to assemble these, to be fair they did look brilliant once actually assembled. The table was sturdy, as were the chairs. My daughter was thrilled on Christmas morning, to see it all set up with presents on top.
Now, the table is used daily, with various toys being placed on it's worktop. One thing however - the top of the table appears to stain easily, even with things like juice. It's looking a little used and abused right now, and we've took to using a mat on it for creative things (even simple drawing). It is still sturdy though, despite being moved between various places.
The chairs are fairing okay - the one screw wonders holding the backs on are beginning to get a little loose and need tightening every now and again - a problem which may not have occurred if both screws were able to be used, as they should have been. They are still looking good though, with no chips to the paintwork.
We paid £60 for these, getting them on a special offer down from £75. I'm glad of this - the assembly problems show they are not worth the full price, despite how pretty they may have been at first. I do love the table and chairs but will always hold a little resentment for how hard they were to put together. But my daughter loves them, and I guess that's the main thing. Though, I will never buy flat-pack from ELC again...
I got this as a little extra present for my daughter a couple of Christmas' back - she was just starting to begin to build with Duplo (the toddler version of Lego), but apart from a whole random mixture of blocks that we inherited from family members, we had no figures or animals for her.
I bought this from Amazon for around £6 (it currently retails for much higher on the website, through private sellers as Amazon themselves don't stock it anymore. Keep an eye in local toyshops or even eBay to pay closer to the RRP.). For this price, you get a 9 piece set....
Yes you read right - 9 pieces. Not exactly enough to start a collection, but a nice little addition if you've already got an abundance of blocks but not a lot else. You get a girl, a foal, a calf, a cat and a sheep, plus 4 little blocks. As it's a "Farm Nursery" all of the animals are babies.
The quality of the figures and blocks is faultless - it is Duplo after all. Despite their high price tag, you could never doubt (or mistake) Duplo quality - these are still toys that are made to last, and that they certainly do.
My daughter still plays with these on a daily basis - we extended her set further with the baseplate, so she regularly builds fields for the animals to play in. Or if they're really lucky, they get added to her ELC wooden farm!
Overall - these are a good quality toy with nice detail on the figures, but unless you already have a selection of duplo there is simply no point in buying it. Nine pieces is not enough to start a duplo collection, but it's a nice addition to one that might already exist.
Firstly, let me tell you a little bit about the Luna pushchair before giving my feedback on it. It is made and sold by Mamas and Papas, and comes in a range of colours (we got the pink one). The basic package retails for £159, and this gives you the pushchair, hood, raincover and bumper bar. You can additionally purchase seat adapters to attach a carseat, footmuffs/liners and parasols. At one point you could also purchase a carrycot, but M&P appear to have discontinued this now.
The pushchair is suitable from birth, and features a fully recline-able seat. It's recommended age range is from birth to approximately 3yrs (or weight 15kg).
We bought this pushchair exactly 18months ago - our beloved City Stroller had broken (the front wheel fell off, sob!) and we needed a reliable replacement quickly. I was recommended Mamas and Papas for durability, and because of our budget we chose the Luna.
We ordered direct through M&P, and the order arrived quickly, safely and well packaged. The pushchair itself simply requires the wheels to be clipped in (it really is that easy!), it needs putting up and then off you can go.
Look wise, I personally really like the Luna. It's simple and stylish, but with a range of footmuffs available, it is easy to individualize from other pushchairs. The basket underneath is large and roomy, and most of all - easily accessible, even when the seat is laid back. It fits a couple of good sized grocery bags in it, and you don't feel like you're going to loose them half way home.
The straps have good lengths and are easily adjustable through the frame of the seat. The bumper bar is very useful for keeping child safe - my daughter loved to hold onto it as we travelled around in the pushchair.
Steering wise - as the 2 front wheels are individual (rather than standard double wheels), this makes for easier steering. The pushchair will actually go to where you want it to go, rather than becoming either stuck to the ground or having a mind of it's own. As they are reasonably large wheel too, it makes the pushchair easier to use in more Winter-ish weather.
The seat has multi positions varying from properly upright, to completely flat. This is operated by lengths of harness and a simple fastening grip - very easy to operate, even with the child in the pushchair.
The pushchair folds down well - folding reasonably flat. It has a lever at each side to pull up, which then puts the pushchair down. To put it back up, you simply unfold and click back into place. You do have to bear in mind that this pushchair is quite wide at the back wheels though, and although it does fold flat, it still retains it's width.
It is a good and reliable pushchair - we've certainly gotten our money's worth of use out of it. Our daughter is almost 3 now, and just getting ready to come out of the pushchair properly (she is 90% of the time anyways, except for longer walks). And I will be sad to see the Luna go - it's been a reliable thing and I would certainly recommend it to anyone.
Oh, and if your seat unit develops any faults (ours did within 4months of having it - fraying down one side) - simply ring M&P up and they send out a replacement seat unit, no quibbles. Could not fault the customer services - within 3 days of ringing, my new seat unit arrived. Yes, I had to fit it myself, but it was a straightforward job using a series of click fastenings and velcro. Excellent stuff!
Firstly, I will start by saying - we have stayed at this Travelodge twice. Once back in 2011, when it was still fairly new and fresh, and then again recently at the end of April.
A little bit of information about the Travelodge firstly. It is in a lovely location in Scarborough, situated on St Nicholas Cliff on the South Bay. It is directly opposite The Grand, and a short walk from both the town and the Cliff Lift down to the sea front. It has 140 rooms across 5 floors, with disabled access rooms also. There are 2 lifts servicing the different floors. There is a bar/cafe, which provides drinks and standard pub-style food, and there is also a large breakfast room. Breakfast is provided for a charge (which is cheaper if previously booked online), and 2 children can eat free per paying adult. Breakfast is buffet style, with a range of cereals available, toast and preserves, as well as cooked breakfasts. Something to suit all. Also you are able to check in from 3pm and check out is at 12pm the morning after. Early check-in / late check-out is available in some hotels for an additional fee.
Right, our experiences. I will start with our first trip back in May 2011. This was our first short trip away with our daughter - then aged 11 months. We have stayed at numerous Travelodges over the years, with mixed experiences. We booked the Scarborough one simply because it was cheap and cheerful - we paid £44 for 2 nights (midweek) which, when teamed with very cheap train travel, worked out at a good budget break for the price. We arrived to a warm welcome, shortly after check-in time of 3pm, by excellent front of house staff - they were pleasant and professional, and quickly dealt us our keycards (we got 2, just in case!). We made our way to the lift (which you needed a keycard to activate operation for from the ground floor), which was very very small. We were crammed in - 2 adults, 1 small child, a small case and a folded pushchair - they are not big lifts at all. But it worked and it got us to where we needed to be.
Upon arriving at our room, we were thrilled. It was huge, clean and very well maintained. It had the usual desk area with kettle and tea/coffee sachets. There was a wall-mounted television, and the hanger area for clothes. There was a small neat bathroom, with a 3/4 sized bath (great for our daughter, but we were far too tall for it!) and a overhead shower. But the best feature of the room had to be the massive bay window, with the sea view. We could see over the bay beautifully, and our daughter was particularly enthralled by this, as the sofabed made it an ideal viewing point! We were very impressed with our room - everything worked (if you've stayed in a travelodge before, you'll know how rare this is!), and we had hot water. The room made our stay a very enjoyable experience, and we encountered no problems during this stay - it made for a very pleasant first break with our little one!
I will not comment on meals for that stay, as we didn't opt for breakfast on that occasion - preferring to go local instead. But overall, we were impressed, and it certainly influenced us into booking again at a later point.
However, having recently been back in late April (2013), I can safely say we will not be returning again at any point soon. How things change...
Upon our second stay, we were again greeted well by the front of house staff. But that was about the best experience. It's safe to say that the St. Nicholas Travelodge is in need of some maintenance work - upon having a drink in the bar, peeling wallpaper and mildew is visible on the walls. The room itself, although clean, was pretty much up in the attic this time - no bay window, although you could just about see the sea still. The bathroom was as big as the actual bedroom, but could easily have been in a hostel - again needing some maintenance. We had no hot water on the evening - nothing from the hot tap, the bath or even the shower. After a busy day though, we were too shattered to trail back downstairs to complain (on the 4th floor, right at the side of the hotel), so made-do. Fortunately we did have hot water the morning after - almost like they'd paid the meter! The large curtain in our room was also half hanging down too, which made it tricky (although not impossible) to close it fully, not helped by the sheer height of the windows.
We did book breakfast for this stay - the standard cooked breakfast was cooked to order because the hotel was so quiet (rather than be sat out for hours on end) - we must have only seen a handful of others during our stay. The breakfast and range of cereals etc, was of decent standard. It pleased my husband and daughter, so must have been okay.
But after seeing the maintenance issues, I won't be hurrying back. It's a shame, so much potential for this hotel with it's ideal location, but if it continues to fall into disrepair, the Premier Inn around the corner may reap the benefits.
We bought the Maxi-Cosi Priori XP Car Seat when our daughter was about 9months - our daughter was (and still is!) tall for her age, so therefore quickly outgrew her carry-car-seat. Hence this purchase.
We researched the front facing toddler car seats for a long time, looking at reviews in regards to both safety and comfort. We quickly decided we wanted to get a Maxi-Cosi seat - they had the most reliably consistent reviews and were proving to be a front leader on the car seat market. We ended up purchasing the particular Maxi-Cosi Priori XP Car Seat that we did, as we happened to catch it on offer on Amazon - reduced from around £140 down to £100.
It arrived quickly and promptly - well packaged in a rather big box (to be expected - it's a sturdy car seat!). We had a quick look over the instructions which, although being images, were actually rather straightforward. Well to place in the car they were.
The seat has several positions, changeable through a squeezy lever in the under middle of the car seat - this provides an upright position and a couple more levels down to a sleep position (which proved most useful on more than several occasions!). The sleep position setting is also the most valuable for when fitting the chair into a car too, as it allows you access to the inbetween area where the seatbelt fits and fastens. Under this area there are 2 red strong clips to feed the seatbelt into, to fasten once the belt is plugged in - getting these tight enough requires patience the first couple of times, but after a little practice, it becomes much quicker and easier, and your seat is safely secure in the car.
The key points listed on Amazon for the car seat are;
+ Group 1 car seat, from 9 to 18 kg (9 months to around 3.5 years)
+ Installed using car's 3-point seat belt system, belt tensioning system ensures secure, rigid fit
+ Belt hooks keep harness out of the way when placing child into the seat
+ Side Protection System offers optimal protection against side impact
+ Four recline positions with easy one hand operation
The straps for fastening your child in are height adjustable, so can be changed as your child gets older. These are reasonably straight forward to alter, but do require patience and small hands (otherwise it may prove tricky, as you have to slide your hand in the inner back of the car seat to alter them). As well as adjusting the height, the length can also be adjusted by one handy push button, which also tightens again when needed.
Comfort wise - we have had no issues. Our daughter has always remained perfectly comfortable, using the sleep recline position when needed, as well as the upright position. Any complaints from our daughter has been limited to strict impatience at being strapped in! The straps securely fasten, 1 from each shoulder down to the one lower strap. I have always been confident that my child is safe in this car seat, and would recommend it to anyone. Yes, there may be certain faffy elements (namely the height adjusting of the shoulder straps) but they are worth working with, to ensure the safety of your child.
It is also worth noting, that the seat cover is 100% polyester, which can be washed on a 30° handwash. It cannot be tumble dried.
It is currently retailing on Mothercare for £150, or Amazon for £135.
Available for purchase from the Disney Store website (or in store at the Disney Shop), Simba is currently retailing for £18. He measures H30 x W21cm approx and is suitable for children aged 12months+. He is a soft toy, with squeezy bean bag feet (therefore not machine washable), and has the Disney Store stamp on one of his front paws.
We bought this Simba for our daughter as an Easter present - an alternative to chocolate (as she would get enough of that from family members), and as a bribery method for giving up her dummy! She is obsessed with The Lion King, and her other most treasured possession is a small Disney Store Mufasa beanie toy of mine that is several years old. So when browsing the Disney Store one day, I noticed they had this Simba on offer for £8 - bargain, I thought! Because as much as I adore Disney Store toys, they can be rather expensive at full price, and I do love a bargain! I didn't order online however (see previous review of the website for reasons why!) - although we have no stores near us, one of my friends lives near to one so did a mercy dash for us whilst the offer was still valid!
Upon receiving Simba, I was immediately thrilled with my purchase - he is a good size (proportions listed above), soft and cuddly, and a perfect friend for any small child (or adult, as in my case!). As with all Disney Store soft toys, the quality is superb and really stands out from cheaper Disney items from other retailers. I love the Disney Store stamp on the foot too - it really signals quality for me! One let down though, as with other toys, is that he isn't machine washable due to the beans in his feet (they would swell, retaining the water) - it's a damp cloth job to get him clean, should any spills occur.
My daughter is thrilled with Simba, and plays with him daily. She makes up little role-play situations with him, and he is always centre stage ahead of her other toys. He is taken to bed each night, and lays proudly at the end of the bed with Mufasa, and each morning they are both carefully brought back down to be played with. For now, her obsession with The Lion King lives on!
Just keep an eye out for the special offers though - at £18 full price, this is rather an expensive soft toy, despite it's charm and quality!
About the sheets;
The Mothercare jersery fitted sheets are 100% cotton, washable at 40° and can be tumble dried. They come in packs of 2, and can be bought for moses baskets, cribs, cots or cotbeds. The cost of the sheets is reflected in by the size bought, starting at £7.99 for 2.
I bought the fitted sheets for our daughter's cotbed in a lovely lemon shade. They are wonderfully soft, and fitted the cotbed mattress perfectly - nice and taught around the edges without any fabric being loose, but not stretching it which would have eventually thinned-out the fabric.
They wash well, and are easily tumble dried - each time coming out as soft as when first bought. My daughter was perfectly happy with these on her bed, causing no problems or irritations, sleeping through from 6 weeks old, which I do believe was benefited from good bedding!
Even now, three years on from first bought, the fitted sheets are in good quality, with no loose threadings or worn patches - I would recommend them to anyone who asked!
Whilst you may pay a little bit more at Mothercare than at some other retailers, in this case I do believe the price reflects on the quality of the product, and it is worth paying the extra.
About the blankets;
Mothercare cellular blankets are made of 100% cotton, and come in a range of colours to suit your nursery layout. They are available in different sizes - moses basket, cot and cotbed - and are priced to reflect the size you buy, starting from £7.99.
The blankets are machine washable, at a 40° temperature and may be tumble dried (a useful factor for a new parent!).
I bought these cellular blankets before my daughter was born - I got the lovely pale yellow version for our cotbed, as we wanted a neutral look for the nursery (just in case the hospital were wrong about the baby's sex!). We got them on offer for Buy 1 Get One Half Price (which still occasionally occurs, so keep a watch out!), with several other bedding items (fitted sheets, etc) and were very pleased with them.
I knew from my experience in the childcare sector that cellular blankets are popular for use with babies, and that they are what are used in hospitals for newborns as they are considered safer to use than fleece blankets, because they are less likely to overheat your baby.
The blankets from Mothercare were lovely and soft, and provided a lovely snug bed for my little one, once she had transferred from her Moses Basket to her cotbed. They wash very well, coming from the tumble dryer just as soft as when first bought. My blankets went through a lot, and even by the time my little one was getting her first duvet, they were still as good as new (and in fact have now been passed along to our future niece!). I would highly recommend them for their quality - yes, you may pay a little more than at supermarkets or low-cost retailers, but it is definitely worth it for the quality received.
I would say get a couple of blankets though, should you decide to buy these - it's always handy to have a spare for when one is in the wash!
We've had Rose Cottage for almost a year now - my daughter received this for her 2nd birthday off a close friend, and it's been a firm favourite ever since!
>> The Cottage
The actual cottage is a downstairs/upstairs set up - it has an actual front and sides with door (that opens) and several windows, whilst having an open accessible back. Through the back, you can access the indoors set-up.
The downstairs has a living space and kitchen area, with interactive sounds (door bell, on the mat; cooker; television).
The upstairs has a bathroom, a double bed (the parents area) and bunk beds for the children!
>> What you get
As well as the actual interactive house, you get a collection of 5 figures - a "typical" 2x parents, a boy and a girl, and a dog. I'm guessing this is to depict a regular family, but as we all know this isn't always the case now - lifestyles have changed and so have family set-ups! There is also a 1 person car too.
>> The particulars
This retailed for £30 in Early Learning Centre shops and online for a period. As with ELC though, Happyland is regularly on offer, and it wasn't usually necessary to pay full price. This isn't available anymore through the website though, which suggests it was discontinued at the time of the Happyland redesign (more rounded corners, more toddler friendly!).
>> What we think
Personally in our household, this is a major hit. My daughter loves making up little roleplay situations with the figures, which tend to fit around what's going on at home (potty training has equaled a lot of figures visiting the cottage bathroom!). She enjoys the car, but doesn't use it a huge amount and probably wouldn't miss it if it were to go missing. However, the dog is a firm favourite, and is involved in every scenario!
I've used the Disney Store website a handful of times. My daughter is two, and currently obsessed with Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh, so http://disneystore.co.uk is my most visited site at the moment.
My visits to the site vary, from a general perusal of the plush Disney soft toys (which I also adored, as a child, as my daughter does now!), to looking for something specific (e.g. a gift for a friend) and viewing the special offers that they have every now and again.
The website itself is very professional. It is colourful and inviting, but is easy to navigate and doesn't rely on Flash elements to guide you around (as some parts of the Disney franchise websites do). There is a general search bar, to input what you are looking for, if you are in a hurry, or there are plenty of individual links on the main menu to guide you with ease around the site.
The site itself is easily negotiable both on your computer/laptop and smartphone too. I have used both to navigate the site and had no problems at all.
Buying items from the site is a straightforward affair - a simple add-to-basket affair, followed by buyer details (address, payment). You have the option to register an account, but this is not strictly necessary. Beware of ticky boxes however if you don't like receiving emails - I didn't think much of them, but now receive Disney Store updates to my email account at least 3 times a week. Nice to start with, but how much can change that often? Do they really need to email that frequently?
Now, my only gripe with the Disney Store home delivery service is their delivery provider - Yodel. With my last package, I had no end of problems trying to organise redelivery, which eventually took place a whole week after the first attempt. However, should they value their customers, they should listen to feedback gripes about this. Saying that, you might get lucky and actually be in when they try to deliver!
Overall, I do adore the website, but gripes with the delivery provider would direct me to actually go instore instead. Though that will probably cost me more...
Firstly, this review is related to Brambledale Farm, which ELC has replaced the one pictured above with. It is a similar set-up - a fold-away base with several "flat-pack" wooden out-buildings to put together, it's just the more modern design.
What you get:-
>> 2 rectangular fold away bases - one depicts farm land with pathways, whilst the other has a duck pond - they can be used together or separately.
>> A large barn
>> A duck/hen house
>> A pig pen
>> An enclosed stable
>> A more open stable building
All the buildings are flat pack - they assemble via a variety of slots and fit together relatively easy. The larger of the building are the sturdiest, and hold together well. The smaller buildings, specifically the open stable and the pig pen, come apart very easily (at least ours do), and are notorious for falling apart if my daughter attempts to move them to another part of the farm.
What you don't get:-
>> Any sort of animals or farmer figures - these must all be bought separately, either in the larger packs (an additional £8-£10), or by buying the individual Schleich animals (which are rather pricey individually, but actually worth it for how beautiful they are).
This farm was bought for our daughter for Christmas - it was half price when we bought it (we paid £22.50, reduced from £45). I have since noticed the full price has been reduced to £35 now, still rather overpriced but if you look for offers it is well worth it), and we found that to be reasonable value. Paying full price just isn't worth it, when you consider you have to buy figures to actually be able to play with it.
It is a good role-play opportunity for children though - my daughter has spent hours making up little scenarios with the figures (her favourite - the "naughty goose"!). It's an opportunity to develop imaginative skills, as well as language too, and we've seen a vast improvement in both with our daughter!
"...and long ginger hair which she wore in a plait..."
We have owned this book for a while - working with children, it is easy to filter out good books to try at home with my daughter, but I was disappointed when she originally shunned this delightful story.
However, then came the animated television adaptation at Christmas - she watched it once, and WHOOSH, she was obsessed. Now, since then we must have read this story to her at least 4 times a week. And she's still not bored of it. Incidentally, neither am I!
It is yet another rhyming story from Julia Donaldson, that is deftly and beautifully illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Yet another triumph from the dream team of children's literature.
Room on the Broom tells the story of a witch, her journey on her broomstick, the things she drops and the animals she meets. It tells of the dragon who would like to have "witch and chips" for his tea, and her escape from his clutches, with the help of her new friends. It is a rather magical story - not too long, one that captures a child's imagination (well, certainly my daughter's imagination anyhow!).
Now, as with the other television adaptations of Julia and Axel's books, there is a range of soft toys. We have yet to succumb to them (the price tag is a little high!), but no doubt will eventually. *eyes the nearby Gruffalo toy suspiciously*
Another winner from the Happyland small-world collection - an interactive Ferris Wheel, for your child to role-play the fun of a fair!
With this ferris wheel, comes a ice-cream cart with seller man, and 2 children figures. The ferris wheel itself is fully rotational by the small handle on the side, and plays a simple music tune as it goes around. Unlike some Happyland too, this musical element has an on/off switch underneath and 2 volume settings (low/high, although high isn't that much louder!).
This was a firm favourite in our house and played with for a long time. It can be used alongside other items from the Happyland range, including the circus set.
Developmentally, this is a highly stimulating toy, which provides a sensory experience for your child as well as developing role-play and imagination skills, whilst providing opportunities for new language too. Fine motor development will occur too, when using the handle to begin rotating the wheel, independently. This toy is recommended for the age range of 18months to 4years - this is quite a range, and will depend on your individual child and their development needs.
At a rrp of £22, this is rather an expensive toy for what it is - however ELC often have price-cuts and offers across the Happyland range, so it is worthwhile keeping a check on these!
My daughter has had this Castle now for almost 15months - she received it at Christmas 2011, when she was aged 18 months (the start of the recommended age for the Castle).
Initially, it proved to be of little interest to her. Despite it's bright appealing colour and lovely little figures, she simply didn't care for it, preferring to play with cars and trains instead. So it was put away, as we simply thought she was a little young for it.
A couple of months later though, her interest peeked (she had started to attend Toddler sessions, which provided a range of Happyland to explore) - she became interested in it, and that interest has continued ever since. Yes, it wanes every now and again when a new toy appears, but generally it is something that she always goes back too. She enjoys role-playing the little figures, along with the chairs and bed that came with it.
I have a couple of gripes with it however - whilst the castle is generally very sturdy and well made, the doors continuously come off with the slightest touch. At first, I wondered if my daughter was being heavy-handed (which wouldn't be that unusual), but no, they simply aren't very well fitted. They attach again very easily, but the problem reoccurs frequently. Another, is when the castle is clipped closed, my daughter has difficulty opening it - that can sometimes be a little stiff - maybe ELC can get a happy medium between that and the useless falling-off door problem?
Overall however - it is a lovely toy. It comes with 4 figures - a King, Queen, Princess and Jester. Ours also came with two throne chairs and a bed. Later on, we added the Queen's Jubilee set, and the Fairy Godmother carriage to it, for further role-play development. It is (generally) built to last, and at £25 is reasonably good value - but keep a look out for ELC offers - Happyland is often on sale for 20% off or sometimes even 50% off, making them an absolute bargain.