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We have a Wilko store locally which tends to be our first port of call for household related items as they stock a wide range of products for the home at reasonable prices. It should be no surprise that most of our toy boxes (of which we have many) were purchased from Wilkos.
Wilko sell a range of lidded plastic storage boxes with this being the largest size available, with an impressive 80 litre capacity. We also own a slightly smaller version, which no longer has the lid, thanks to one of the boy's exploits, and a third box which contains a selection of old toys up in the loft. All of these boxes have served 'active service' at some point or other as the boys' toys seemed to breed overnight.
This particular box is very well designed with a lid that clips securely into position, keeping the contents clean, dry and free from dust. The box comes in a range of colours, so can be coordinated with bedroom or living room colour schemes, although the Wilko website only shows them with a totally clear box section and coloured lids. The coloured versions are also transparent which is always useful as it gives a clear view of the contents.
An advantage of this design is that the lidded boxes can be stacked on top of each other which is great for longer term storage in sheds or garages. It's perhaps not so practical for items that are needed regularly as the filled boxes can be pretty heavy and not something that you would want to be constantly lifting.
The stated 80 litre capacity translates into a generous storage box. This copes with a huge quantity of toys and games although sometimes the contents have been known to rise up so far that the lid can't be used.
The plastic lid is actually quite brittle and will snap or crack quite easily, especially if misappropriated for unintended purposes. When intact, the lid remains in position and there are convenient indents under each side, making it easier to carry the box about if necessary. The only noticeable disadvantage with this design of lidded box is that the lid contains ridges and these can collect dirt and dust if stored in a location such as a shed or outhouse.
Even at full price, these boxes are good value and, whilst they might not win any design awards, are a practical and functional storage solution suitable for most spaces.
I'm one of those rare beasts who isn't obsessed by the Soap & Glory brand. In all honesty, I think many of their products are over-priced, over-hyped and over-rated. Despite that, the brand is so popular that it's inevitable I end up with some as gifts.
That is how I came to own a Soap & Glory shower puff amongst other goodies beautifully presented inside a gift box. For anybody without such kind friends it is possible to purchase the puff alone from Boots stores or online but, again, this is over priced and it is much more economical to buy this as part of a set, especially for S&G fans.
The puff itself is very attractive and feminine looking. It is made from bouncy pink netting and is of generous proportions. It is easy to apply shower gel or bubble bath directly on to the puff and it proves a very economical method of showering as a tiny amount of product will lather up and go a surprisingly long way.
I find it holds together well even after prolonged use and lasts significantly longer than the usual pound store options. The puff also comes with a simple loop so it can hung across a tap or shower head. The only possible improvement to the design would be if it also had a sucky plunger to enable this to be stuck to the bathroom shelves or side of the bath. I would find this especially useful to deter the kids from messing with this. This is all mine and I really don't want to share with the kids!
I loved the Bagpuss tv series as a young child and, as an adult, have gone on to amass a collection of Bagpuss related merchandise. As a consequence, my own children recognise the cute floppy pink cat but I'm not sure that all children would do as this is no longer shown on television, not even on the retro slots on Nick Junior and the like! That is a real pity as this is a classic kids' show and deserves a wider audience.
Amongst my collection is a small beanie toy that has been adopted by my boys from a young age as it is the perfect size to accompany them to bed for a cuddle. Such toys are widely available from ebay or small retail outlets such as gift and card shops for around £8 each making this is a small but inexpensive gift that will offer a lot of love.
I like that the beans interior means that the toy can be manipulated into different positions and shapes and will sit up slightly. If the weight is unevenly distributed it will fall over, however.
This is not machine washable so advisable to leave it until children are past the sucking and mouthing stage as this might not be the most hygienic option for a soft toy. It can be wiped down with a soft damp cloth if needed and this should bring off the worst of any surface residue. I think there are other versions available that can be machine washed on a low setting which might be a more practical option for very young children.
I love Bagpuss and think the show needs greater exposure to a new audience! The saggy old cloth cat lives on!
My little ones were forever trying to grab and chew things that they shouldn't as soon as they were mobile. When I first saw this range of toddler gadgets created by the Early Learning Centre I thought they were a fantastic idea and a great, safe way of solving the problem.
Sadly I had not counted on how intelligent my little toddler actually was and there was no fooling him at all. He knew straight away that these were a toy that he was allowed to play with and the attraction remained for all of the forbidden adult stuff so that was a bit of a non-starter!
The toys themselves are fun sturdy plastic replicas of their adult counterparts. The set includes a remote control, 'smartphone' and a set of keys. Surprisingly, the smartphone never really appealed to my son. I think the sounds it made were just too muted for obvious safety reasons and I don't think he fully understood that it was meant to represent a phone. (Ironically he would hold the toy remote control up to his ear instead and say 'hello' with that instead!)
The control, when not being used as a phone, was more of a hit and provided a lot of entertainment. I liked the use of different languages but I'm not sure that any of that was absorbed by my son. He's certainly not proficient in any foreign languages now as a result of that early exposure! I think it's more about having fun at that age and learning about cause and effect as the different buttons are pressed, creating sound and lights to go off.
The keys probably proved the biggest hit as it is something that can easily be sucked chewed and mouthed to any toddler's content! The noises here were realistic and quite loud and the colours bold and entertaining. Disappointingly, the ELC have updated this set now and chose to go for the different colours for different genders approach again! I much prefer the bold primary colours of this original version so would advise purchasing a second hand set if possible rather than going 'pink'!
Like most little boys, my kids have all gone through the phase of being obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. They are more interested in the expensive merchandise than either the original books - which to be honest I find pretty dull to read- or even the TV programme.
They have all learned the names of huge amounts of Thomas characters and amaze me with their ability to identify and recall the individual characters despite, to my mind, looking remarkably similar. I had expected that my youngest son would be starting to grow out of the Thomas phase by now but he seems keener than ever. His interest seems to have been developed by the latest collectable toys in the Thomas range - the new Mini range. These come in a 'blind packet' for around the £2 mark per teeny tiny little plastic train. We previously had a wide selection of die cast trains which were more expensive so I suppose these are comparatively inexpensive but they do soon add up.
As these are a blind set, there is no way of finding out which train is inside the sealed packet prior to purchasing so there is a risk of buying duplicates. Fortunately that has yet to happen due to the sheer number of different engines available in the series. The trains themselves are a fun collectable item but I would advise caution around babies and very young toddlers as they could pose a choking hazard for the little ones.
For slightly older children, these are an accurate representation of the familiar characters. They are too small to be used on any of the Thomas branded railway sets but they do have moving wheels and intricate features, including hooks and faces so there do have some, albeit limited, play value to offer older children.
These are a fun and inexpensive way to build up a Thomas train collection!
I am finding myself becoming more of a Royalist as I get older and have been fascinated by the Royal Family since the marriage of William and Kate! I have particularly enjoyed collected the Limited Edition range of Happyland toys produced to mark the special occasions and am pleased to admit that I now have the entire collection (with duplicates as some are purely for collecting and some have been played with.)
This Happyland set was produced to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and was quite a small and inexpensive little set so I couldn't resist. I was also hoping that this would increase in value as interest in the Royal Family continued to grow. We shall have to see if that is the case. This is no longer sold in ELC stores but can be picked up at varying prices from ebay and the like.
The set itself is a little disappointing if wanted for actual toddler play as there is really a very small number of pieces. This contains the Queen, corgi and a cake so there is really not a great deal of practical play value, without linking this up with other Happyland sets. The main disappointment is that we already had all of these pieces from other Royal Family commemorative sets so there is nothing particularly special about this set. If I didn't already have the others I would not have been tempted by this set and I only bought a single set as I knew that the boys would not be overly excited by playing with these.
If played with, they are the usual Happyland quality so suitable for toddlers from around 18 months plus as there are no really small pieces. These are good sets for imaginative play but there is really not enough to this one alone so it is not the best out there.
I would recommend this for memorabilia purposes only rather than for regular play.
My kids have, a little surprisingly, never been overly interested in dinosaurs as a whole but being boys they still ended up owning quite a large number of toy dinosaurs and dinosaur related stuff.
This giant plastic dinosaur was a gift for my youngest son from his Grandma and was purchased from the Early Learning Centre store. It can also be bought online or at outlets including Mothercare and Debenhams for £7.
This might seem a pricy purchase for a single plastic dinosaur toy but this is a pretty impressive sized toy and offers - to the best of my layman's knowledge- a fairly accurate representation of a brachiosaurus, complete with huge neck, long tail and all of its scary dino features!
The good news about this toy is that it is very sturdy and robust and is practically unbreakable. Ours has survived over a year in the depths of the toy box without any real sign of damage. There are a couple of odd scratches but this is surprisingly resilient.
The only drawback to this kind of model-like toy is that it is heavily reliant on the child's imagination to add all of the sound effects and to create the scenes and worlds in which to involve the dino. That is great for an imaginative child keen to make up their own stories and re-enact Jurassic Park but my son doesn't tend to play like that and this dino hasn't really helped to spark his imagination at all. I think he would prefer something that is more interactive with sound effects and flashing lights.
This is a great sturdy toy. It just isn't played with sufficiently by my son to get the full benefit.
My oldest son is now officially a teenager. Hard to believe that thirteen years have passed since he was born. Fortunately, I have two much younger children who have inherited many of his toys and games from earlier in his childhood. Amongst his collection, are a number of Bob the Builder themed soft toys.
Bob the Builder was a really popular children's cartoon when my oldest son was a toddler and spurned a pretty impressive (and costly) of merchandise. We have a number of soft Bob toys, with Bob available in a number of different sizes from tiny toys through to almost life size! We even have Bob complete with soft tools and one which wears a set of soft safety goggles for all those important jobs he has to do. These are all soft and suitable for very young children to play with safely. They can also survive a trip in the washing machine if necessary!
Anybody with older children might have spotted that the TV programme has recently made a return to our screens with some pretty major changes. Bob is not given much more 'humanoid' features which I'm not entirely keen on. It does also mean that the original toys we own no longer form a representation of the characters in the up to date series so their resale value will decline. Ours are part of a collection and are much loved and some are in a poor state so that isn't a major concern of ours. It does mean that it will be possible to pick up lots of the soft toys based on the original series for next to nothing from sites like eBay, for anybody needing to complete a comprehensive Bob the Builder Collection!
It is probably a sign that my children watch too much kids tv at times when they take notice of advertisements in the run up to Christmas and add items to their overflowing Christmas list! This is how Doggie Doo came to live in our house, much against my better judgement. The game has a list of one star reviews on Amazon to bear testament to my own experiences with this game and yet, even knowing that, I went ahead and bought it! Why? Good old Santa, of course. My younger boys were confident that, despite my misgivings, Santa knew just how much they wanted this game and he would, literally, deliver. So, he did.
Costing around the £20 mark at the time of purchase, this was pretty much a waste of money from the outset. The general aim of the game is one that appealed totally to my young boys as it involved a dog going for a poo! Poo and farts are always high up on the amusement factor with my kids!
Here, the dough like substance that comes provided with the game is 'fed' to the dog and players take it in turns to pump this through to the other end! So far, so good. The problem is that the dough jams up incredibly easily, rendering the game useless. This lasted for around one game before it was so jammed that it was pretty much impossible to use. I didn't want to say I told you so to my children but sometimes they do have to agree that I was right!
I really wouldn't recommend this game as, despite its fun appearance, it really is not fit for purchase and ours found its way to the bin long before the Christmas decorations were even taken down.
Although described here as a baby toy, the Snuggle Up pets range is mostly aimed at older children and has been heavily advertised on some of the children's channels. Such was the case with my six year old son who saw the adverts and begged to have one for his birthday!
I checked out the prices and availability and was shocked by how expensive these were at the time. They are simply a soft toy attachment that is connected to a section of fleece blanket - designed to be both a toy and also a source of warmth and comfort for young children. I was not keen on paying around the £20 mark for one of these when soft toys are readily available for much less but, fortunately, found this on offer at Amazon and was able to snap it up for less than £10 from a third party seller.
Even at that reduced price, I was very disappointed by the poor quality of this toy/blanket. The stitching that connects the dog's head to the blanket section is very uneven and began to come away within days of ownership. Now, after sporadic use, the head is still just about attached. The blanket itself is made from very thin fabric and really doesn't offer much in the way of warmth and comfort. It isn't as large as the advertising makes out either.
Despite the heavy advertising and the cute factor, this is a pretty poor quality piece of merchandise and I would recommend parents to look elsewhere for gift ideas for youngsters, whatever the price. This is not a quality item, sadly.
Having had three children, I know only too well the difficulties in keeping them safely amused once they reach the stage of being mobile and wanting to explore everywhere and everything! It isn't always possible to give a toddler 100% of your attention, particularly if you have other children to look after, so I found a Chicco branded baby walker to be a lifesaver! This wasn't needed for a particularly long length of time - just the period between crawling and walking independently- but for those few weeks, this just gave me the confidence of knowing that I had somewhere safe that I could put my youngest child and know that he would be content for a little while having a different view of the world!
The main drawback of these is the cost, particularly as they are only used for such a short period of time. This Chicco band walker is currently available for £44.99 from the Mothercare website. I would recommend trying to find one second hand, if at all possible, as they are widely available and work out much more economical. It is then, of course, possible to recoup some of the purchase price by selling this on after use as it is subject to such little wear and tear. I sold ours and it was in as new condition afterwards!
The walker is quite bulky to store between uses. It is possible to fold down but that doesn't really do a great deal to minimise the space that is needed to store it away. That is a small price to pay for a secure safe haven, particularly given the number of added electronic devices that come supplied on the detachable play tray to keep the little one fully amused! There are a variety of flashing lights and sound effects along with little flaps to lift up and close.
Although this is bought as a walking aid, my son found this quite difficult to move around on our carpeted floors as it is weighted to prevent speeding and toppling. To be fair, he was pretty content to be static as he was engaged with the toys provided. I also sometimes removed the toys as they simply slot into place and gave him some snacks and a drink as an alternative distraction. This was much easier for him to move and control on a tiled surface in our kitchen but it struggles over any raised or uneven areas as the wheels aren't particularly tough for all surface terrain!
This is a great product, with a padded base to keep baby comfortable and a good option for use in short bursts just to allow parents to get on with the rest of their life, knowing their baby is happy and safe!
I clean our rabbit's cage regularly to keep it smelling fresh and offering her a pleasant and hygienic place to live. I always line the area she uses as a toilet with used newspaper pages and top this with wood shavings which helps to absorb her waste and keep smells to a minimum.
Despite this, the toilet area can become a little wet and smelly, particularly during hotter weather so I like to keep the area as clean and hygienic as possible. This is all the more important as our rabbit is advancing in years and I don't want her to be exposed to unnecessary germs and infections.
After cleaning the area and removing everything including the paper, I like to spray the area with a disinfectant cleaning spray. I prefer to use a spray that has been specially designed for use around pets so that I know that it is safe to use around them and not going to cause any reactions or distress. This cage disinfectant cleaner spray from Wilko is ideal as it costs just £2.75 for a 300ml bottle that lasts for ages, even with regular use.
I have a small area to cover and I find that a single spray or two is more than adequate to leave the cage looking and smelling fresher and hygienically clean. There is a scent to the product but it is not overly strong - it is just a fresh scent that can help to disguise any lingering miffs. I did, however, once use this on the tank section of our gerbil cage and afterwards noticed that our gerbil appeared to be very lethargic, which was very unusual. I was not sure whether or not he was overpowered by fumes but it did put me off using this in his cage after that and I just stuck to good old hot water there. I've certainly never noticed any adverse effects with our rabbit after cleaning.
I would recommend this for cleaning out rabbit hutches but it may be wise to exercise cautions if being used to clean very small pets' cages, just in case.
Before our last remaining gerbil passed away, we spent a small fortune in accessories to keep him happy, healthy and entertained. This Woodlands tunnel was one fun little accessory that we purchased on a regular basis. It can be purchased from Pets At Home for just £3 and is often available as part of a multi buy promotion with similar small pets accessories.
The tunnel is made entirely from wood and has a number of small peepholes dotted across the length of the wood and from all sides, helping to create a fun little play area for small pets to keep themselves amused. When we first purchased this tunnel we envisaged our gerbil crawling in and out of the holes and hiding inside the tunnel.
Our gerbil had ideas of his own however and did what he tended to do with any new toy he was provided with. He took this down into his mound of wood shavings and buried it! He particularly liked to block up each and every one of the holes -so scupped our plan of watching him crawling in and out!
Despite that, he would utilise the tunnel by gnawing and chewing on the exterior frequently and would, surprisingly quickly, wear the wood away with his sharp teeth, until the tunnel ceased to exist!
Whilst our gerbil didn't utilise what is a pretty versatile and potentially entertaining product to the best of its capabilities, he did seem happy enough to bury it and it was a good method of keeping his teeth in check so I would happily recommend this inexpensive item to owners of gerbils.
When we originally purchased a pair of gerbils (one passed away very quickly) we bought the gerbilarium and all of the basic accessories as part of a package from a Pets At Home store. Amongst the supplies was a pack of pet safe wood shavings, used to fill the main tank section of the gerbilarium. Gerbils originate from desert regions and love to tunnel and bury themselves underground so a decent amount of wood shavings is essential to keep them happy and content.
This Pets At Home branded wood shavings comes supplied in a packet costing just £2 currently and is suitable for all types of small caged animals. We used this brand intermittently whilst our remaining gerbil was alive but found buying this from alternative stockists was more convenient on a regular basis. That is really the only thing that prevented us from buying this brand continuously as there are no particularly issues with it.
I found the consistency of the shavings to be very even, with no long or sharp pieces likely to cause any injury or issues for small pets if trodden on or swallowed and it didn't create excess amounts of dust, even when fresh from the pack. The small even pieces were ideal for our gerbils to use for their preferred activity of tunnelling and burrowing.
It is possible to buy this in scented varieties but I prefer the more natural smell of freshly cut wood and found this helped to minimise any scents created by the gerbil's (relatively small amount of) waste anyway.
I would recommend this brand of wood shavings to other pet owners.
Before our remaining gerbil went up to the great gerbilarium in the sky, we spent a small fortune in little accessories to help keep him occupied and fit and healthy during the day.
These Woodlands Play sticks were a regular purchase as they were inexpensive, costing around £3 for a small collection from Pets at Home. Although it might not be clear from the product name, these were not just separate sticks, rather a series of sticks connected together with flexible wiring to enable them to be shaped and used for a variety of different purchases.
We bought this originally anticipating that our gerbil would utilise this as a little bridge as it can be curved over into an arched shape and we placed in on the top of his cage in that format, hoping to watch our gerbil climbing over and crawling through the little tunnel. The wood itself itself is certainly strong enough to support a tiny gerbil doing both of those activities.
Our gerbil, however, had other ideas and tended just to drag this arch down into his thick wood shavings section of tank and then completely bury it. He would then make himself a cute little burrow underneath the curved section and have the rest of it completely surrounded by shavings, so he had his own comfortable little save haven!
He would also amuse himself and help to keep his sharp teeth in check by gnawing on the sticks themselves. This would carry on until the whole structure he had lovingly created would end up collapsing as the sticks broke and the arch deteriorated. At that point, we would know it was time to replace his sticks!
I would recommend this as an inexpensive and versatile accessory to any gerbil owner.