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My six year old son loves the Octonauts so at Christmas he got several Octonauts sets including the Gup B set. Included in the set is the Gup B itself, Kwazi wearing a green suit, a colour changing shark and a lasso. On Christmas day he was really pleased to receive this toy and several months later it is still played with frequently by him and his younger brother who is 23 months old.
The set can be used both in and out of water but in our house bar Christmas morning this has spent all of its time as a bath toy so the main focus of the review will be how well it performs in water.
The lasso really isn't very good and it was hard for my son even at 6 to try to get it to fit over the shark whilst being held by Kwazi. Also it has proved to be very flimsy and has actually broken which was a disappointment really.
The shark is really popular with both boys and they often have to be reminded to take turns at bath time at having it to swim and try to gobble up various other toys in the bath. The colours on the shark do change when it gets wet which is a nice feature and one that was initially commented on. But now that they are used to the toy the colour changing this plays no role in their game play or imagination so I do think it is slightly gimmicky really. However I do like it as most Octonauts set have one colouring change element too it and it makes the toys a little bit different.
The Gup B itself is nice and robust and copes well with being dropped, pushed and submerged in the bath for long periods. I can see this lasting a long time as it copes so well with rough play at times. Also the opening and closing section on the top never gets jammed and is easy for both of my boys to open and close. The detailing on the Gup has not being damaged in any way during the time used in the bath and still looks nice and fresh and when I give them the weekly squirt with the Dettol spray to stop mould building up they don't fade. Play wise the boys both love playing with it and zooming it around the bath but there are several quibbles with it that I think could be a lot better. The moment you sit a figure in it be it Kwai or another Octonaut unless you are holding the Gup it will capsize which is not great really and causes frustration at times for my eldest. The other issue is that when you press the fin on the top of the Gup it makes the Gup's mouth open and close which is great but it also is supposed to then squirt water from it. This is really temperamental sometimes it works brilliantly and you get a really good blast of water which my sons love squirting at each other, but other times it doesn't seem to do it as well and it either doesn't work or just dribbles. We have never yet figured out what the difference is between the two. However despite these two issues both my sons love playing with this at bath time and zoom it around the bath and use it for great imaginative play dramas with sea creature other Octonauts and have a whale of a time with it.
Kwazi is great and one of my son's favourite characters the look is very accurate to the cartoon so he is able to make the various Kwazi style noises in his play. I would of liked to have seen one of the bubble helmets that they wear included in the set as this would of complemented it well. As it is we use one with this Kwazi from a different set and it functions well with this.
Overall this is a nice set that my son loves playing with it could do with a few tweaks to make it better such as not capsizing but overall it is a favourite bath time toy for my two sons'. It is good for imaginative play, education wise I could use the toy to talk about sea creatures and how things can float or sink and I have done on occasions but for me the strength of the toy is for imaginative play. I am not sure if it is worth its full retail price of £19.99 at Toys r us and we got is as part of a 3 for 2 offers at Argos last year which made it cost with other things around the £14 mark which I think is a belter price for this. I am giving it 3 stars as I am deducting stars for the capsizing, lasso breaking the lack of helmet. However if I was to ask my son he would probably give it 5 stars!
My 22 month old son has several Vtech Toot toot vehicles including this truck. The truck is part of a whole series of toot toot toys by Vtech. What makes these different to other trucks and vehicles is that all the toot toot sets interact with each other so if the truck goes in the garage or the car transporter it is recognised by them and the sets acknowledge and talk to one another.
The truck itself is a lovely chunky rounded design so no sharp corners that can hurt young children and the chunky design is nice and easy for my son to hold. The on/off button is located underneath the truck and is a simple push one way for on the other for off and even at 22 months my son is more than capable of turning the truck on and off himself. Whilst this is great that he has learnt this skill it does mean that I can't sneakily turn the truck off when the noises are driving me mad. The truck bar the noises has no special features bar the light up front section. There is nothing on the truck that can be moved around unlike the fire engine in the same set which has a moving ladder which is popular with my son. I think to add to its play value it would of been nice if it could of even had a just a lift up boot section for children to pretend to put parcels in as my son does love putting things in and out of toys at present.
The truck plays a tune, beeps and does all of these things wonderfully from my sons point of view and he loves to press the face section at the front to make the noises. But I would love some volume control on it as it is really loud, so much so that my eldest son finds it too noisy at times when his brother plays with all the toot toot toys and goes to play elsewhere where he can hear things.
Play wise my son really likes the truck and enjoys pushing it around and up and down in our fisher price garage. However he does prefer some of the other toot toot vehicles more such as the fire engine so whilst he enjoys playing with it this one is not the favourite. I would advise really if you are buying one for the first time my to start with the fire engine as there is a bit more to it really. The truck is great for helping develop imaginative play and I can see as he gets older these will continue with the interactive features taking more precedence. My son even though it makes noises is happy to make brum noises himself too as he pushes it around the carpet and interacts well with the toy.
We only have so far one other toy in the toot toot set which is the car transporter and I can say it definitely recognises the truck when it is pushed on to the transporter and make reference to what the truck is going to do so the technology seems to work well. My son whilst knowing that the truck is going on to the transporter doesn't really seem to understand yet that they talk to one another but hopefully this is something that will come with time.
Overall this is a well-made interactive truck that my son enjoys playing with I would give this 4 stars as I am deducting 1 star for the noise and lack of other features. It is played with most days and my son loves the noises and racing it around the floor so from this point of view you can ask for more. The age the toy is designed for is 12 months plus I think is spot on. It is available from amazon for around £6.50.
We have two of these Maxi Cosi Priori XP car seats the first one we bought when our first son was ready for a stage 2 car seat. The second we bought in 2013 for our second son when I returned to work and needed to have a second car seat in our second car for the nursery pick ups that my husband would make, as I would need the first car seat for the drop off. We were so pleased with the performance of the car seat that it really was the only one we would consider for using again.
In the years between the two car seats I can't actually tell any difference in design which I personally find reassuring as it makes me think that they got it right first time and the design has a proven track record for safety and use.
Fitting the car seat is very straight forward you place the car seat at the side which you want the car seat to sit and then recline the seat for ease of movement. Don't try to do it without reclining as you just can't get access I find. You then place the seat belt through the sections highlighted on the car seat. I like the fact that these on ours are in red contrasting nicely with the black of the seat so I know I am getting it right. Once you have feed the belt through you then fasten the seat belt, from then you then use the button on the base and slide then section across the base of the seat to tighten the belt and put the seat back into a non recline position and away you go. It really only takes about 5 minutes to do this and whilst I personally find it easier to sit the car seat behind the drivers side as I am right handed so this makes it easier for me to do, it is still easy to do on the passengers side and do it from the left side. Once in place the seat is really secure and doesn't wobble or move about at all. This is both in our Ford Focus and KA and we never have any trouble with the car seat becoming loose or wobbling on journeys.
Adjusting the height of the harness inside the seat is easy to do with lifting the material up and moving the seat belts up and down once in place these don't move. To get a comfortable and secure fit for our sons never takes more than a few minutes and once you have the height correct you don't need to move it till they grow as it stays in place well. The tension for adjusting the width and tightness I find a bit more fiddler. This is an area I have to use a bit more frequently depending on the padding in his clothes for example. You depress the button underneath the fastening section and either pull the corded section at the base to make it tighter or puller both arm sections to make it looser and I always find it a bit tricky to get the tension right quickly and often need a few attempts to get it right so he can't wriggle out or be too tight so it is uncomfortable.
The comfort of the seat is great and both our sons when they have sat in the seat have fallen asleep on journeys meaning that it must be comfortable for them. I then use the recline feature to tilt them this is easy to do and I either pull in to do so or if I have a passenger then they reach round to do so and a quick press and pull with one hand and it tilts nice and smoothly and generally never wakes either or the boys. The main positions for the seat that we use are the upright or a full tilt when the boys have fallen asleep. The reason we tend to do the full tilt is to make it more reclining and more comfortable for them and to reduce the chances of their heads falling forwards and giving them neck strain. The position in recline allows them to not have their heads fall forward and be nice and comfortable. The built up section to the headrest area also allows this comfort to happen as well as be a safety feature and they are often rested into the head rest when asleep.
The clips to the side sections for holding the belt in place when not in use I find really helpful as it means if I hook the belt there when taking my son out when I come to put him back in I am not then having to fiddle around to get parts of the belt out from underneath him to get him strapped in. What this means is at times when he doesn't want to go in the car for example in the morning for the school run it makes it a quicker and less stressful job for me to get him securely into his seat.
The actual buckle it self is easy to put in you align the clips and then push into the socket and that's it. Undoing it is slightly harder as up press and pull the clips out at the same time with a slight degree of force. However I like this feature as it means both of my boys to date have never been able to undo the buckle themselves in the car. For my eldest this was necessary as he could undo his five point harness in the highchair with ease but failed with this one fortunately till he grew out of the chair.
The padded shoulder section on the belt seems to be comfortable and stops any rubbing on my son's skin when they have been in the seat and I like the padding this provides for comfort for them.
The cover is washable and I do have to say it is a pain getting it both on and off the seat to do so but it does wash well and has never shrunk on us. But due to its fiddly nature when I did come to toilet training my eldest I did use a car seat protector to reduce the amount of times I needed to take it on and off because it was so fiddly.
We have never so far (she says crossing fingers and toes) been in a crash with the boys in the seat so it is impossible to comment on how safe it has been in a crash but when I was researching buying the seats on the internet I was impressed by all the safety reports that this one has passed and it did get a very good Which report for safety so I am hopeful that if the worst was to happen then the boys would be well protected. As it is big, bulky and heavy and sits securely in place I do have faith that it would protect them and compared to some cheaper lighter versions I have seen in stores I think it is more robust.
The seats do wear well and have a good long life; I personally would definitely recommend these for toddlers and above. The seat is easy to fit, comfortable for children and hard for them to wriggle out of and undo the buckle. The only slight negative for me really is how fiddly it is to take the cover on and off to wash but I am not going to deduct a star for this as I think this is only a slight negative and doesn't detract from the overall use and appearance of the seat. So for me it is a full 5 stars for the Maxi Cosi Priori XP. It is available from the likes of Amazon, Mothercare and Halfords at full price £150 and I do think it justifies the cost. However it is often on offer for less than this so you can grab a bargain as we did for £100.
Features and details
* Car seat group 1.
* Suitable for children from 9 months to 4 years.
* Suitable for children from 9kg to 18kg.
* Only use in front seat if there is no active air bag.
* For use with 3 point seat belts.
* Forward facing.
* Side impact protection.
* 5 point harness.
* Harness sleeves and quick release buckle.
* Helpful harness hooks on the side of the Priori XP car seat hold the harness out of the way when you take your child in and out of the seat.
* This generously sized Maxi-Cosi car seat is designed for safety, comfort and long lasting use.
* Multi-recline - 4 recline positions.
* Padded seat.
This little fire truck has been something that my 21 month old has had a while and has proved popular.
The truck itself is made out of moulded plastic and is bright red. The design of it is nice and chunky which makes it perfect for little hands to hold and my son has no problems moving this around where he wants it to be. The whole look of the toy is cute rather than realistic with the front light up section having a smiley face on it. The windows of the truck are all yellow with some detailing to make it look like hoses and canisters. I have to say that in all of the time of playing with the truck my son has never made any reference to these and just pushes it around and presses the front light up button for the noises. The ladder on the top of the engine is quite small and just moves up forwards and backwards and my son loves flipping this around. I was concerned that this looked a little flimsy and was concerned that it would break quite easily but after a full years' worth of play being knocked around in the toy box it still remains firmly attached to the top of the engine and works a treat.
The noise section turns on and off on the underneath of the engine there is only and on off switch and it is actually quite loud and repetitive which my young son likes and enjoys but starts to drive me mad after about 10 minutes of him pressing it. The 5 phrases and music are on a loop as it were and repeat themselves rather than it being a random selection and I have heard them so often I can generally guess which one is coming next.
All of the toot toot engines and truck from Vtech are meant to be interactive with other parts of the toot toot sets. We only have one other bit a car transporter and I have to say I am impressed with it in that the transporter recognises the fire engine going in to it and make appropriate comments about it. This recognition of the truck and interactive section makes me more inclined to buy other bits in the set.
The engine by itself is played with by my son with all his other cars and whilst he likes it he does enjoy other less interactive trucks just as much. Given this is much more expensive than less interactive trucks then I think unless you are going to buy further sets you may find it just a noisy toy and a less noisy engine would be played with just as much.
Overall a well-made interactive engine that my son enjoys playing with I would give this 4 stars as I am deducting 1 star for the price of the engine. It is played with most days and my son loves the noises and racing ti around the floor so from this point of view you can ask for more. The age the toy is designed for of 12 months plus I think is spot on. It is available from amazon for around £6.50.
This Playmobil police van was something we bought last year for our 5 year old as part of his Christmas present. It is played with most weeks and is in a lot of ways great value for money. I have a few minor problems with the van but nothing that would stop me buying it again.
As with all Playmobil there is a lot of putting together to do of the van but my son loves doing this so this isn't an issue for us. My 5 year old as a Playmobil fan is used to this and I would say it took between us around 20 minutes to put all of this together. There are a few bits that were fiddly to do such as putting the wheels on and getting the windows to be fitted but over all there was nothing that proved too challenging for my 5 year old to do and the construction is good for his hand eye co-ordination. The bit that he asked me to do was to apply some of the stickers this wasn't because he couldn't do it as he liked so he wanted me to try to line them up for him so they were not wonky.
The van itself is nice and sturdy and holds up well to being played with and even getting some rough treatment from our 20 month old when he pinches it off his brother and remains intact. The doors do come off when being handled roughly and sometimes the villains break through the bars and the windows on the van but these all pop back in with ease and are never damaged by this treatment. The roof of the van lifts on and off and what this allows for is for my son to be able to access with ease the inside of the van for lifting Playmobil figures and accessories in and out and sitting the policemen in the van to drive it away. The roof fits well and is easy for my son to lift off and refit without any problems. The roof section has two removable bits as well these are a flashing light and a roof vent. The roof vent allows for great imaginative play for my son as he uses this for villains breaking in and out of the van. The flashing lights are great and when the button is pressed they flash continually for around 3 minutes. So far the batteries that have been in since we got the van a year ago are still holding up and not needed changing and given that our 20 month old likes to press the button a lot I am pleased with how long they are lasting. My 5 year old likes the fact that the van can flash as this seems to make his police chases a bit more exciting and interactive. The criticism that I have of the van is that for some reason the stickers with this set have peeled off very easily which I find a bit strange as none of the other Playmobil sets we own have had this issue.
The van comes with some two policemen complete with hats, handcuffs and other accessories. Both my son and I would have liked there to be a villain or robber as well to go into the back of the police van. Fortunately he got some other police bits for Christmas so he was able to use the villains from these sets to be arrested and go into the van. The bits are all small and fiddly and we keep them all in a small tub to stop them getting lost. However my son loves these small bits the riot shields and batons are particular favourites of his to be used to arrest and quell the riots of the villains or knights from other sets too. These small fiddly bits are great for play opportunities and adding lots of imaginative play and something that really complements the set really.
Overall this is a great police set and the van and accessories are lots of fun for my 5 year old to play with and develop his imagination. Putting it together was fun and has helped with his hand eye co-ordination. We would have liked the stickers to be stickier to remain in place and the inclusion of a villain to make the play opportunities more rounded if you don't have other police sets or figures. We paid last year around £16 for this set and for what you get I think was great value and definitely worth its money. It is currently on sale at Toys R Us for £20 which I still think represents good value for Playmobil toys that are well made. I am giving it 4 stars deducting one for the lack of villain and the lack of stickiness of the stickers.
This car transporter from Big Jigs is part of my sons regular train play as he likes the idea of mixing his cars and trains up.
This is made by Big Jigs that do a lot of wooden train bits such as engines and tracks and accessories. They are also compatible with Brio bits which was essential for us as the majority of his train bits are Brio so it needed to work with them which it does brilliantly with no issues at all.
The set comprises of an engine, two cars some track a ramp and two freight wagons which the cars fit on to.
The track is fairly standard made from wood and fits well with our entire track without any problems. The engine itself is a bit chunky and basic in its design really with no real embellishments to give it a sense of style, because of this my eldest son doesn't actually often use this engine with the wagons. However its simple basic design that is easy to hold appeals to our 19 month old and he finds that he can hold this more easily than some of the more sophisticated engines like the Flying Scotsman.
The wagons have a lot of good points the plastic that they are made from is nice and robust and the magnet that is in the top to help hold the cars in place work really well. The magnet coupled with the slots for the car wheels to fit into keep the cars in place very easily as they zoom round the track. The cars need to be lifted out to remove them and they need a fairly firm pull to remove them but nothing that either my 19 months old or 5 year old can't do. The disappointment for my son with them is that the cars he got with his Brio trains are too small to fit into these wagons so he can only use the two car supplied with the set. The area that concerns me is the wheels underneath the wagons these are in two sections the front and the back wheels, they move from side to side but unlike most wagons that we have where these are held together with metal these are held together with elastic. Whilst if this broke the wheels would remain in place with the screw holding them they would then swivel around and be harder to push around the track. So far nothing has snapped the elastic but I would have preferred them to be more substantial.
The ramp which the cars are to travel up to fits nice and snug against the track and stays in place well. However to get the cars to go from the ramp on to the wagons involves them, being dropped really and they don't go smoothly into the wagon slots from the ramp which my sons find frustrating and means that more often than not they just place them into the holders rather than using the ramp as it is designed for.
The set is good for imaginative play and my son likes moving the cars around the track on the wagons and loading them on and off and moving the cars after he has had them crash so it does give great opportunities for this sort of creative play. The set is also good for helping with hand eye co-ordination with slotting the cars in and out of the wagons and attaching the wagons to the engines and move them around the track
Overall whilst the set has a lot of good points there are also a few negative such as the lack of finesse to the engine, the lack of secure attachments to the wheels underneath and the fact that whilst using the ramp the cars can't actually drive straight onto the wagons. My son does enjoy playing with it but it isn't his favourite engine or wagon set so just a 3 stars from us. It is available for around £10 from retailers such as the www.woodentoyshop.co.uk and I think this is priced right as I don't think it is worth more than this.
This tunnel is a regular feature on my sons wooden train track when it is set up. The tunnel is made by Big Jigs that do a lot of wooden train bits such as engines and tracks and accessories. They are also compatible with Brio bits which was essential for us as the majority of his train bits are Brio so it needed to work with them which it does brilliantly with no issues at all.
The tunnel appears to be made from solid wood bar one of the connectors for the track which is made from plastic. What we have found this means is it is nice and robust and copes well with being bumped on the track and stored in the toy box with no chips or scraps. The outside of the tunnel is painted to look like it is made from bricks with trees and bushes on and the entrance and exit to the tunnel have some ivy style plant creeping around the tunnel. Whilst this gives the tunnel a great effect and makes it look more realistic, the outside for my son could be painted with anything that a tunnel would be made from and he would probably like it as he never has commented on it being brick in any of his play scenarios.
The tunnel itself is quite high and what this means is that my son can easily get his hands into the tunnel when he is pushing his trains along if for some reason they derail inside. The length of the tunnel is a reasonable size being about 15cm long. This is enough for it to cover generally an engine and part of carriage depending on the size of the carriage sometime even a whole one. What this allows is for my son to push the train into the tunnel with ease and then pick the train up as it pops out the other end without any difficulty.
The tunnel as with all his train bits is great for adding some imaginative play to his wooden train set and allows trains to hurtle through it at speed. Also it is good for developing hand eye co-ordination for pushing the trains through it and having to think how to arrange the tunnel with the rest of the bits of track.
Overall this is a great little tunnel that will complement any wooden train set. We have had no problems with it and can see no disadvantages to this accessory as my son enjoys playing with it. At around £6-7 from the likes of the baby farm website http://thebabyfarm.co.uk/main_site/main/index.php?pge=detail&iid=5796 it is very good value too. A full 5 stars for this one.
This engine shed was a present for our son last year from his grandma. He has always loved his wooden trains so was pleased to receive the engine shed as he didn't have one and had looked enviously at a friend of his engine shed when they were playing at his friend's house.
This is made by Big Jigs that do a lot of wooden train bits such as engines and tracks and accessories. They are also compatible with Brio bits which was essential for us as the majority of his train bits are Brio so it needed to work with them which it does brilliantly with no issues at all.
The shed is made from mainly from wood but the track element does appear to be made from a compressed wood material that reminds me of the wood some kitchen cupboards are made from. What I have noticed from this is that some elements to the side of the track section have chipped and got scuffed which is a bit disappointing as the rest of the shed is still in really good condition. The track itself is wearing well and the trains are able to go into the shed fairly smoothly. When driving the train into the central section it is very easy for children to do but slightly more awkward to do for the side elements of the shed. As my son was 4 when he got this he was able to figure it out fairly quickly how to steer the trains to the side but a younger child may actually need some help to do this at the beginning till they were more confident.
The shed itself seems fairly robust with no scuff marks on the wood work. It is all painted to look like a traditional engine shed with two clocks on the top on a triangular shaped wood. These don't move which I think would have been a nice touch if they could rather than them just being painted faces.
The doors are painted a light blue and open and close easily and have suffered no damage from being played with or in storage. However the handles for the door are actually quite small so I think that the younger children that this toy is aimed at may struggle as they are hard to hold but my son at 4 years old was able to manage. Strangely given the shed can accommodate 3 engines the shed just has the numbers 1 and 2 on it. However this doesn't bother my son at all.
The rear of the engine shed is all open bar some supporting dowels that go from the top to the base. What this means is it is nice and easy for little hands to get into the shed and move the engines or carriages around with ease. My son finds this really handy and is able to get into his trains and change them around or use some of the train people we have to go in and do repairs to the trains.
The main criticism that I have about this shed is that you can only store one engine in it in each section and this causes frustration for my son as he has to dismantle his train to get it in. I think that by having the ability to connect some track at the back or making the shed deeper would be better so to have the option to store one engine and one carriage at least would be less frustrating than the current arrangement. Also some trains that we have such as the Flying Scotsman are actually too long to fit in with its tender and close the doors which again my son finds frustrating.
The shed has proved a good addition to the train set and our son does use it frequently when he sets up his track and as the engines coming in and out of it. But I think he would play with it more if he didn't get frustrated by having to uncouple the train he has put together for it to fit in. He also likes making the shed a bit of a repair shed with some of them going in to be fixed by the figures we have. The engine shed is good for helping develop his imaginative play and his fine motor skills as he moves the bits around and in and out of the shed and puts his set together.
Keeping it clean is easy to do and if it gets things spilt on it the painted wood work wipes down easily with a cloth or baby wipe.
Overall it is a good shed but it does have a few flaws such as the cheaper wood for the track and the lack of space inside and because of this I can't really give it more than 3 stars as these issues cause my son at times become frustrated with the shed. However he does enjoy playing with it. I also think that this is one for the older children who play with wooden trains rather than the 3 years old that the toy is marketed as being from as the doors and track part are bit hard to function for small hands. The shed is available from Amazon for £16.99 which given some of the bits it is made from I think is slightly over priced.
This bath toy from Wow toys has been a staple part of our bath time routine and toys for a couple of years since my son got it as a Christmas present. Our boat looks the same the only difference in it is one of the figures swim suit is different which I think shows a great sense of a good classical design that works well for this toy.
The boat is made from plastic and is nice and tough and robust and copes well with being pushed around the bath. The design of the boat is that the top part flips open so that you can see inside the boat my son loves this element as he can put the figures both in and on the boat. The inside section is designed like the inside of a boat with a small table and tub chairs that the figures can sit in nice and snug and be zoomed around the bath. The bit my son thinks is great is the ships cat that is there too. This is fixed into place and is bright yellow but he loves it all the same. On the flip out section there is a picture of some fish and crab that children can pretend the crew have caught. On to this section you can fix the diving board this slots in and out with ease and my son even when he got this at 3years old was able to put it in and out with ease. The diving board is fun for the children to play with as the figures stand on the top and by pressing a button they dive into the water. My son loves doing this with the figures both with the board attached to the boat or just sat on the side of the bath for a higher diving platform. When he was younger he found it a bit tricky at times to get the person to balance on this correctly but he now knows where to place them to get the best dive out of a figure. The top can close with the diving platform in place but not unfortunately with the people sat in the chairs and this does mean you have to store them separately around the bath or in a bath tidy. When the top is closed on the boat there is a section for both figures to stand in the boat as it is steered around the bath. The holders for the people to sit in actually cope quite well with rapid movement without them falling off and if my son is having a rescue boat play scenario happening he often has to knock them out or capsize the boat to get them to fall in the water.
The other great thing about the boat is that it can take on water so you can sink your boat for more imaginative play of divers to rescue the boat or swim around the base. When you lift the sunken boat out of the water you can either tip the water out by flipping the top or as my son prefers to do tip the water out of the front of the boat out of the mouth of Danny the boat. This is also great fun for him to do over his brother and I have been known to use this water tipping to get the shampoo out of his hair to raise a few giggles so this feature is nice and versatile as well as fun.
The two figures as with all Wow figures are a static figure with no moving sections to it. For a bath toy this is great as it means there are easier to keep clean. My son doesn't mind that they are fixed figures and is still able to get them to have lots of adventures in the bath. Our youngest son at 18 months old also finds them fun now and they are nice and chunky for him to hold and with no little bits they are a reduced choking risk.
The dolphin that is in the set is perhaps something my eldest son is more keen on than the figures as often he will have the dolphin rescuing and coming to see his other boats as well as this one and has it bobbing around in the water. One of the things that is especially good about the dolphin is somehow in its design it has been made so that as the dolphin takes on water it goes from swimming in a flat way to moving upright so that the tail is down in the water and the head is poking above the water line. This is really quite cute and something my son likes as it makes the dolphin seem more animated and realistic in the way it interacts with people and things above the water. If you then lift the dolphin out of the water and angle it slightly the water tips out and you can start the process over again.
The whole set is great fun and we have has found that the toy has moved from just helping our son with his co-ordination and fine motor skills. To him learning about boats and how they float, to now being a toy that he uses to help with his imaginative play and I can certainly see how this set encourages this in lots of ways. Because the toy is so well made it is also possible for my younger son to enjoy this toy now as it still looks really good with no chips or damage in any way to the plastic.
Keeping the toy clean with the inventible soap scum that can accumulate is not too bad and certainly compared to the boats he has from the Early Learning centre it is easier to keep clean due to there being less crevasses on the boat. I find that once a fortnight a spray of Dettol Mould spray and wiping it down is enough to keep it clean and the spray doesn't damage the plastic in any way or cause any fading to the bright colours of the boat.
Overall I would definitely recommend the set to any child from 18 months upwards as there is lots of scope for play with the set. The set is recommended for children 18 months to 5 years and I would say that 18 months is a good starting point but that our 5 year old nearly 6 year old is still enjoying playing with it so it is a toy that has a lot of life to it. It is well made the only negative I have is that you can't close the boat with the people in the tub chairs in it but this should not put you off the toy in anyway. It sells on Amazon for around £10.99 and given how much this has been played with so far over the years it is certainly worth its price tag so 5 stars from me and my boys.
This Brio freight locomotive is one that has been in our train collection for a few years.
The locomotive itself is made from a mixture of plastic and wood. The top of the locomotive is made from green plastic with black and white detailing. As it is made from plastic it has coped well with being bashed around both on the tracks when my son went through a phase of all his trains crashing to being knocked around in the train toy box. None of the detailing has worn off in all the time of use and I think this shows the excellent quality of the Brio trains. The detailing suggests on the train that this is an electric train with lightning bolts on the side of the train which is a lovely touch of detailing. The base section with the wheels on is made from wood and is also very robust with no damage to this section in all the time of play.
The train is supposed to be a heavy duty freight train with 8 wheels, these are spread over two sections of four wheels each that are mobile from side to side slightly as well as forward and backwards. What this means in practice is that the train is able to take corners very well when pushed by my son and has great manoeuvrability on the track or off it if it is being pushed around just on the floor. As with the top of the locomotive the base is also well made and has coped well with a lot of play with no damage.
The locomotive has magnets at both ends so carriages can be coupled at either end and this allows for great imaginative play as it allows you to build the train you want. My son has even had this in the middle for extra shunting and moving of the carriages around the track so the combinations that can be made are endless really.
The locomotive is nice and chunky and easy for small hands to move around the track and play with it. There are no loose bits that could be harmful to children and whilst it is recommend for children 3 years and above I am happy for my 18 month old to also play with this with his older brother without him likely to come to any harm.
The locomotive like all Brio trains is wonderful for developing imaginative play in young children and my son certainly loves to use it for his train play having it go to collect coal milk or other items from around the track. We often hear him playing with this at times by himself making up stories for the trains going around the track.
This locomotive is a manual one meaning that it realises on you pushing it around the track rather than a battery operated or remote control train. My son whilst having several remote control trains still goes back often to this push around locomotive and enjoys the fact that he can control the speed and direction easily.
Overall this is a great little locomotive that adds some fun to any wooden train set. Whilst it is freight locomotive my son will at times use it for freight or for passenger carriages as well. It is well made and robust and copes well with knocks and bashes. At around £8 for the locomotive from places like adventure toys and Amazon it is definitely worth the price tag in my opinion as it lasts well. We have not found any negatives with this toy at all.
Recently we spent a lovely holiday on Royal Deeside in Scotland and one of the places we visited was the beautiful Castle Fraser. This is owned and run by the National Trust for Scotland and as members of the national trust we were able to get in for free.
Where is it
We found it easy to find as it is just 4 miles North of Dunecht and only 16 miles away from Aberdeen. There were plenty of brown signs as we approached. There is a good amount of car parking there you do have to pay a parking fee of £2 if you are not a Trust member displaying a badge in your car so make sure you have your car badge with you if you are a member of the change handy. There is some disabled parking next to the Castle itself as it is a bit of a walk down a steep hill to the castle and grounds. We had our trusty pushchair with us and it coped well with the terrain but be warned it is a push back up the hill.
The grounds are quite extensive and there are several walks around it one of which my husband and eldest son did which was a mile long walk in the woods which they really enjoyed and seeing all the autumnal colours. As this walk wasn't really suitable for a pushchair I looked round the walled garden with my youngest son. The walled garden you can actually visit without going to the castle and in the glory of summer I think it would be magnificent. In the autumn however there was little to see really bar some of the planting that they do and some of the herbs and winter vegetables. There are lots of fruit trees here to and I imagine that the many seats in the garden are often occupied in the better weather as it had a lovely relaxing atmosphere. Some of the park land around the castle was suitable for walking with a pushchair and there were plenty of grassy slopes for our 5 year old to roll down which he loved.
We decide to treat ourselves to a hot sandwich and soup in the café. This was table service which would have been great if it wasn't for a surly waiter who appeared to disapprove of everyone in the café disturbing his peace. He barely stayed at the table to take the order which meant we had to ask him several times for things he didn't wait for. The food when it did arrive was delicious and lovely and hot. The homemade cakes that we had for pudding were absolutely amazing and I would recommend them. As well as the surly waiter the other issue with the café was you had to leave a pushchair outside and inside there was only one chair suitable for a young child and this was a booster style seat attached to a chair rather than a highchair so you got the feeling that they really were discouraging families from eating there. It also would be impossible I think for a wheelchair user to get in there was a back entrance from the castle to the café rather than the main café entrance but I think it may be a tight squeeze to get through.
This is frankly amazing there are lots to see in the castle and with its turrets and tower with battlements it fitted my 5 year olds view of how a castle should look like. The member of staff at the door was friendly which after experience in the café was a welcome change to see. The castle is not accessible above the ground floor to wheelchairs or pushchairs but they were more than happy for us to leave our pushchair in the lobby. There is a children's trail to do and find birds around the castle which our son enjoyed. There are lots of twisting spiral staircases to go but they are definitely worth climbing as a lot of the rooms a filled with lots of interesting pictures and items. Some of the rooms have being modernised a bit and one of the rooms was given over to the family and their history in the war. There were several standout bits for us as a family. Both boys loved the lairds Lug which was a hidey hole where the laird would listen to people in the main hall. This closet in a bedroom was something that they loved walking in and out of and to try to see if they could hear people. The other bit was the peep hole that the laird would use to spy on people in the great hall. Again they both loved peering down it and there was a bit of pushing and shoving as they both tried to get a view. In the library we got talking to a lovely lady who was in charge of the room as she told our 5 year about the laird who had being shot in the head and leg in a battle but had survived and had a wooden leg for riding and another cork leg for dancing. He had kept his hat with the hole in for them to see which she pointed out to them. The guide was really friendly and answered his questions with patience and her telling of the story really gripped my son and she was one of the best guides we have met in a property. You can get out on to the top of the tower to see the views but having two curious boys we decide against this! But they did love going past the door which said quite for the bats.
The adventure playground
We were expecting a climbing and swing style adventure playground but this wasn't the case. It was a secret garden really with a large wooden glockenspiel and things carved out of wooden and a large wigwam. These amused our 5 year old greatly but held no interest for our 18 month old at all bar wandering in and out of the wigwam so I think if you have really little ones this isn't the best playground for them but school age children I think would love exploring some of the bits there.
There are toilets in the courtyard these were lovely and clean and the baby changing facilities were great nice and clean with plenty of room and warmth and a nice big bin for dirty nappies.
This is a great castle to visit there are lots of things to do in the grounds with various walks and the walled garden. The castle itself is full of history and the guides are friendly and informative to talk to and can answer questions from adults or children well. The only disappointment for us was the poor service in the restaurant despite good food and because of this I am reducing the stars from 5 to 4. If you are up in the area it is well worth a look.
Opening times can be found on the national trust website at the following address
Prices are as follows
1 Parent £17.50
These Crocs were a pair I got for my son in the summer from our local Clinkards store in the sale. I had been looking for a pair of light weight plastic clogs for him to wear at the beach and for paddling and as these were reduced and in his size they were a perfect buy.
The Crocs unlike a lot of the traditional designs actually combine plastic and some leather. The bases and strap detail are all what you expect from Crocs with the moulded base with grips to the inside having the traditional bobbles for gripping the feet into place. The bases as with all Crocs that we have bought have coped well with the rough and tumble that my son puts them through with no damage to them bar some scuffs to the front of the toes. The grips on the soles have some gradual wearing down but these are still effective and present 4 months later so I have no complaints. The straps as with all crocs can either be behind the heel or over the top of the shoe. My son prefers these to be behind his heel so it's easier for him to run about without them falling off as sometimes happens if he wears them over the top of his foot. The strap detail are nice and robust and have suffered no damage in the four months of use and still move well the only niggle for my son is that the crocodile is gradually fading away. There is a small amount of leather detailing on the strap these are more for appearance and have no real function but these have also coepd well witht eh wear and tear of use with no damage.
Unlike the traditional top being made of plastic the top of these Crocs has plastic going round the edge of the top which is moulded to the base but the section that fits over the top of the foot has leather on it instead of plastic. This is stitched into place with six air vents cut across it. This use of leather has some pros and cons in our experience. The main pro we have found is that the leather actually seems to make the Crocs more breathable and our son's feet definitely sweat less in these than the traditional full plastic design. The main con is really that the top of the shoe is actually less sturdy for him so if he drops something on his feet or his brother stands on his feet he feels it more than he used in the traditional Croc design. The leather actually copes well with getting wet and is easy to keep clean as much as plastic the only difference that you can see in the wear and tear is that the leather has become rather weathered in look and faded than plastic would do.
Comfort wise my son loves to wear these and finds them easy to taken on and off. His feet have had no blisters or rubbing in all the time he has worn them even from new.
Overall we have been very happy with these crocs they have copped well with getting wet at the beach and in the garden, covered in mud and all the other activities that a typical 5 year old boy can get into outdoors. After each activity they are easy to wipe down and are robust so there is no damage to the Crocs after 4 months of wear. The leather detail makes them more breathable than the traditional clog design. These tend to retail around £15-25 depending on where you get them some are currently on sale on amazon for around£15. We paid only £12.50 for our pair and at this price they are definitely worth the full 5 stars.
This small pair of plastic clog shoes were something I bought our 18 month old a few months ago in July they are nearly at the end of their use 4 months later as his feet start to grow out of them so I thought I would share my opinion.
The shoes are available in either Jojo Maman Bebe shop or on line; I got these in store so I was able to try them on my son. The size is very accurate my son has small feet and has gone from a 3 to a four over the past few months and the size we picked reflects this. The sizes for the clogs are in Europe sizes so unless you know these off the top of your head when ordering I would suggest looking at the guide of the website as it tells you very accurately which size to go for.
The reason I had picked these was so my son could have some light weight shoes to wear on the beach in the summer when we were going out and about. I picked these over the Clarks Doddles I had bought for your eldest as they would be waterproof so he could also wear them paddling to protect his feet. These shoes have remained in place whilst he has paddled at the beach and in the paddling pool all the hot summer. He was worn them without socks for this water play opportunity and the back of the clog hasn't rubbed his skin in anyway nor has it been so loose that they have fallen off or stopped him from walking properly. The plastic has wiped down well when they have got wet. When covered in both sand and mud from the garden they have been easily wiped off with no bits getting trapped either inside the shoe or on the outer in the holes or grooves on the soles. This has been good as it meant he has been able to still wear them without the build-up of matter interfering with his walking.
The plastic that they are made from is very robust and even with them used almost daily in the hot weather they haven't split or cracked in any way. The fronts have got a bit scuffed now as have the soles but this damage is minimal. With the soles the damage to the base is on slight so the grooves that are there for gripping and still perform well and allow my son to walk or as he now does trot with ease on a variety of surfaces.
The rear of the shoes have a strap that can either be forwards and resting on the clog or at the back to hold the feet in place. For me given that my son is still under 2 years old having the straps at the back is the most sensible option and the one we use. The straps fit well and help keep the clog in place without any problems at all. They don't rub on his feet at all. For the age group- that he is I don't actually think having them over the clog is a sensible option and would have been happy if these had remained fixed in place.
Now that the better weather is behind us these have been relegated to being used as slippers around the house and as he has got slightly older he is able to slip these on and off as he wants to himself which is very cute to watch and these shoes would be great for older children to put on and off themselves.
Overall I am very happy with these clogs they are well made the sizing is very accurate. They have been comfortable for my son to wear both with and without socks and have not caused any problems with his feet. My son seems to like wearing them and prefers these to his Doddles which we also have had. We had these in the navy colour but they are also available in pink and red. The navy I find hides any scuff marks well which may not be the case in the light pink colour. At £12 they have proved to be a good buy for us and are now lasting the last few weeks before he finally grows out of them as a pair of slippers around the home so they are not just for summer. A full 5 stars from me.
These Clarks "Swerve Hit" shoes were something we bought for our son a few months ago. When we are buying shoes at present we often seem to buy several pairs including school shoes, a trainer pair and often some crocs or similar so he has shoes for outdoors and indoors. This is generally not a cheap option but I have found often if I buy cheaper trainers that they seem to fall to pieces quickly.
The Clarks trainers are available in a blue and red option my son picked the red shoes as red and green are his favourite colours. At nearly 6 years old he likes now to have a bit of a say in the picks of his clothes and shoes and we found that he was drawn to these shoes by their bright colour and football shoe style as they are well designed and seem to appeal to young boys.
The shoes are styled like a football boot with stitching in a criss cross pattern at the front. As well as giving it a football look it also seems to make the front of the shoe nice and tough and combined with the plastic sole edging to the front the scuffing to the shoe has been minimal. Given that these have been worn to climb trees, play at the playground and play football in I am pleased with how well they have worn with out becoming tatty.
The shoe whilst having the appearance of laces is actually an elasticised lace and Velcro strip to fasten the shoe with a tab over the top which disguises the Velcro strip. This again gives the trainer a look of a football boot which appealed to my son but more importantly for me these shoes with the Velcro fastenings are nice and easy for him to put on himself and he is able to adjust the strap so it fits comfortably. The Velcro is wearing well and there is no loss of stickiness after several months of wear and tear. The adjustability also gives the shoe a good fit on his feet and they have never fallen off due to poor fitting.
As these shoes come in a variety of half and full sizes and widths we were able to have a good fit on the shoes with the help of the sales assistant in store. My son has narrow width F feet and often we will find that trainers we buy from supermarkets just drown his feet and fall off when he is playing sport or climbing trees. But there is none of that with these and the size fits in a comfortable way that is neither too lose or tight on his feet.
The soles of the shoe are nice and tough and hard wearing as they are made from plastic. They seem to provide some grip to the ground when he is running on tarmac and the like in the playground or climbing trees. They are less good on wet grass and whilst they do look like a football shoes/boots they actually in my opinion couldn't be worn for playing football on grass as if the grass is wet my sons feet do slip in these shoes compared to him wearing football boots with the studs on. Because of this whilst they do look like a football boot unless they are just playing on hard surfaces I wouldn't recommend buying these to wear as a football boot substitute.
The shoes claim to have a "Agion antimicrobial linings to help keep feet fresh" now my son I have to admit does have sweaty feet so I was curious if this would stop the shoes taking on a smelly feet smell. I think that it does reduce some of the odour that can linger in shoes. Giving them a sniff test compared to his school plimsolls they are definitely less smelly so it must be doing something but there is still a faint whiff of sweat. His feet when wearing them still do sweat so how fresh they keep them I am unsure but I have yet to find a pair of shoes that does that so it wouldn't put me off buying them again.
Overall I would definitely recommend these trainers the football boot look appeals to young boys and certainly did for my son. They are hard wearing and cope well with being worn in a variety of play settings. The fit is good and the Velcro fastening makes them easy for young children to put their own shoes on. I am giving them 4 stars reducing one star for the shoes still allowing sweat to develop and for the lack of grip on wet grass. These shoes are currently reduced on the Clarks website for a price £18 compared to the £26 we paid but even at full price I do think they are value for money given how well they have fitted and worn.
A treat of a proper cup of ground coffee is a must our house on a weekend. But not having a large kitchen we have tried various cafetiere's over the years rather than a coffee machine which we don't have room for. One of our latest tries was a Sainsbury's own brand TU black plastic cafetiere. The version we have is a 3 cup model that cost around £6.50.
Size wise as with all cafetiere's the cups it states never seems to fit my mugs so 3 cups translates in our house to one and a half mugs so great for a bit of a top up without going too much into caffeine overdrive.
The plastic element of the body is nice and robust and the wrap around design I actually find makes the body more substantial so the odd knock doesn't result in breakages. The handle is a nice curvy design which is lovely and tactile to hold so when pouring coffee from it I find it is nice and easy to control the direction the coffee goes into.
The depression of the plunger is easy to do the fit whilst not too tight to cause a problem I however think in some way there must a be a slight gap as often a few coffee grounds slip through and end up in the mug which is a bit disappointing. The square shape in the front of the top by the filter seems to let the grounds through too. Whilst this a few it is certainly not them all but just enough to have a small scattering in the mug
Keeping it clean is nice and easy to and due to its plastic nature so there is no chance of chips but the disappointment is that it can't go in the dishwasher which would be great.
Overall this is a great little cafetiere for the price and nice and robust I just wish it would not let through a few coffee grounds. I am giving it 4 stars deducting one star for the grounds issue.