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littleme96

littleme96
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Member since: 01.11.2008

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      14.10.2013 14:23
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      I might ask for a Ben and Holly DVD for my next birthday too...

      I shall start this review by confessing that this DVD is actually mine and does not belong to my kids (although obviously we mainly watch it together... most of the time!). The truth is that I love Ben and Holly and am a massive fan, so I requested this particularly DVD for my birthday last year and my Husband kindly purchased it for me (he understands my uniqueness like no other!). I selected this particular DVD out of the many available because it had lots of episodes on it that I hadn't seen before and also because it was one of the cheapest on Amazon at the time!

      If you have never heard of Ben and Holly then you are missing out. Made by the makers of Peppa Pig, it is a colourful and humourous cartoon based around the characters Ben, who is an Elf and Holly who is a Fairy Princess. They live in a small world called "The Little Kingdom" and each episode is around 10 minutes long and tells a story about some of their escapades that they get up to! There are many other characters that regularly pop up in the episodes, but ther other main ones are King and Queen Thistle (Holly's Parents), Nanny Plum (a very amusing fairy who lives with Holly and her family and works as their assistant), the Wise Old Elf (his name speaks for itself - also highly amusing!) and a ladybird called Gaston. I find that Ben and Holly gets all of us laughing - the episodes are very funny with Nanny Plum and the Wise Old Elf having humourous spats most episodes and spells regularly going wrong with hilarious results. It's just the thing to put a smile on your face if you've had a bad day!

      The box is attractive for a picture of Nanny Plum, Holly and Ben on the front. The title is clearly shown telling me that the DVD consists of "The Tooth Fairy and other Adventures", these other adventures are clearly stated on the back of the box. The top of the case tells me that this is a "BAFTA award-winning show" and having looked this up I can confirm that it won the Pre-School Animation award in 2009 - impressive indeed! The DVD has the normal features as you might expect from a basic title screen, with the option to play all episodes, select the ones that you wish to view or watch them all but in a different order - the charmingly named "Magic Shuffle" option. If you watch all of the episodes then the DVD has a running time of 111 minutes and it contains the following 10 episodes:

      1 - The Elf Factory - Holly and Nanny Plum go to help out at the Elf Factory, but things start to go wrong and it's down to a bit of fairy magic to put things right!

      2 - Ben's Birthday Card - Holly has forgotten Ben's birthday again, she tries to use magic to make him a birthday card, but doesn't get the spell quite right...

      3 - Books - Ben and Holly visit the magic library to find out where the stars go in the daytime, but maybe the Wise Old Elf can help?

      4 - Betty Caterpillar - Ben and Holly meet a caterpillar and decide to try to help her to fly.

      5 - Queen Holly - When King and Queen Thistle have a day off, Holly decides to be Queen for the day and declares the day a holiday, but things don't turn out quite as planned.

      6 - The Woodpecker - King Thistle decides to take up bird spotting and is thrilled to have found a woodpecker, but has he also managed to find a new species?

      7 - The Elf Band - King and Queen Marigold are coming to visit the Little Kingdom and are expecting a wonderful Elf Band concert. Can they improve their playing in time to impress the snooty visiting King and Queen with the help of a little magic?

      8 - The Ant Hill - When the ants take away the belongings of the Elves and Fairies, can they get them back with the help of Gaston, the ladybird?

      9 - Redbeard the Elf Pirate - Redbeard returns from his pirate adventures on the sea and leads the children on a treasure hunt.

      10 - The Tooth Fairy - Nanny Plum must go on Tooth Fairy duty and takes Ben and Holly along for an adventure.

      A great selection which includes some of the lesser seen characters such as Redbeard the Elf Pirate, who is amusing and also shows lots of different locations within The Little Kingdom, so it's a great introduction of the programme for people who have never seen it before or super-fans like me! I don't want to give away all of the storylines of the episodes on the DVD, so I have just given a very small idea of what they are about. Needless to say they are all worth watching and there are no rubbish episodes on the DVD.

      Available to buy from Amazon for £4.15 at the time of writing.

      I thoroughly recommend this DVD for your little ones (in theory it's aimed at 2 - 6 year olds I'd say) or for grown up if you enjoy a good cartoon. I certainly wish that this had been around when I was little.

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      • Smart Games Day and Night / Puzzle / 83 Readings / 80 Ratings
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        30.08.2013 23:52
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        I love this toy!

        When my daughter was approaching her 3rd birthday we suddenly realised that she had suddenly grown out of a lot of her toys. She wasn't interested in the more babyish toys we had, but we were lacking something in the next range and weren't really sure what to get for her. Around this time I had a catalogue find it's way to me from a company called "The Happy Puzzle Company" and one of the puzzles caught my eye. The puzzle was a wooden 3D puzzle called the "Day and Night" puzzle and I decided to go ahead and order it for her.

        When it arrived it came in a box like the one pictured above, with a cut out section so that you could see the wooden rack and pieces. It was easy to unpack and there was no need to take off any annoying plastic ties or install any batteries. Just simply take it out of the box and start playing - my favourite type of toy!

        The box contained a wooden rack which is approximately 23cm long, with 3 thin poles sticking up from the base. These poles are 3 different heights and it is important for the puzzle that the "Smart Games" logo which is printed on the base is facing you. Also included are the puzzle pieces, 10 assorted 3D blocks which are all different and consist of:

        A navy blue triangular piece with lines on it
        A lighter blue bridge type piece with circles on it
        A circular wooden piece with a smiley face on it
        A plain yellow circular-type shape
        A plain orange long circular-type shape
        A curved wooden piece with a smiley face on either side
        A dark green car shaped piece
        A lighter green semi-circle type shape
        A purple rectangle with swirls on it

        Each of the pieces have a hole through them so that they can be placed on the poles.

        Also included in the box is a flip book (challenge booklet) which tell you how to complete the puzzle. It states that children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years cannot play the game properly, but will still get enjoyment out of placing the pieces on the poles and that this in turn will help the development of fine motor skills and hand to eye co-ordination. The challenge booklet is to be used by children aged 3 and above.

        There are two different parts to the puzzle, which is where the "Day and Night" aspect come in. Each of the pages of the flip book show a "day scene" showing the pieces set up in a particular way and the aim is for your child to copy the image to complete the puzzle. This is great for encouraging attention to detail, copying the picture and also for being able to see the different ways in which the pieces are able to fit together (for example the orange piece with the 2 green pieces slotted together on top, make a pretty good tree!). The pictures in the book get progressively harder with the first 12 pictures coming under the "starter" category and the next 12 being classed as "junior" difficulty.

        When your child has mastered the "day" pictures then they are ready to tackle the "night" part of the puzzle. The night pictures can be found on the reverse of the day pictures and the idea is the same - the child has to copy the picture, but there is a difference! Instead of seeing the picture in full colour and detail, the night puzzle pictures are shown as a dark silhouette, with no colour clues or painted details shown. This makes it a lot harder and a lot more concentration is required if the child is to successfully complete the 12 expert and 12 master puzzles. Once the child thinks that they have got the answer correct, they can check it by turning the flip book around, where they will find the day equivalent of the puzzle and therefore can check the solution themselves!

        Now my daughter was a clever cookie when we got this for her and she swiftly managed to complete all of the day puzzles and moved onto the night ones very quickly. As expected these were more challenging, but great fun. I found that even doing the day puzzles helped not only with her concentration, but also her attention to detail. Initially if she got the puzzle not quite right, she really struggled to relate the completed puzzle back to the picture and actually notice what she had got incorrect. However with time this improved greatly and as a result her observational skills really increased. Fast forward 2 years and she still plays with it occasionally - as do I! I really enjoy doing the night puzzles and some of them are surprisingly difficult! Although my daughter has largely moved on from this toy it is experiencing a revival because her little brother is now becoming interested in it. At 2 and a half, he is not really for the challenge book yet, but enjoys putting the brightly coloured pieces on and off the poles.

        I love this toy. It is robust and very well made and has survived well with the only slight damage being to one page of the paper flip book. It looks great, even just sitting on the shelf and it's something a bit different! The pieces are interesting with odd shapes and patterns being used and they are a great size for even the younger child to grip and manipulate into the correct position.

        The concept is great I think. Not only is it a great educational aid, but it's also great fun too. My daughter certainly learnt a lot from it and I would recommend it for any child around the age of 3. I can't wait for my son to be able to tackle the puzzle properly and look forward to helping him with it in the not-too-distant future!

        We purchased ours from The Happy Puzzle Company for £21.94 (this was in 2011), but it has recently been in the sale for a lot less.

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        • Zog - Julia Donaldson / Junior Book / 70 Readings / 68 Ratings
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          07.08.2013 11:24
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          Zog - One of the nicest dragons around

          Like many others, we first came across the wonderful partnership of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler when we purchased the by-now-infamous book, The Gruffalo. We loved The Gruffalo and like many others I am sure, found that it was the book that we read over and over again at every bedtime and quite often during the day when our little people decided to bring it to us for yet another rendition. We have now built our Julia Donaldson library and have found many of her books to be just as good (and in some cases even better *cough* Room on the Broom *cough*) as the Gruffalo. I am pleased to say that Zog is one of these...

          The Story:

          "Zog, the biggest dragon, was the keenest one by far. He tried his hardest every day to win a golden star"...

          The story of Zog, unsurprisingly tells the story of Zog, a large bright orange dragon who is the most eager dragon at Madam Dragon's school for young dragons. As the quote above says, he tries his hardest every day to win a precious golden star, but unfortunately never quite manages it. The story follows Zog through the school and show him trying, but never quite succeeding to win the coveted golden star from Madam Dragon. For example, in year 1 the dragons learnt to fly and all was going well until poor Zog crashes head first into a large tree. Luckily for Zog, a young girl called Pearl always happens to be around to help bandage him up and send him on his way, ready for another failed attempt at getting a blasted golden star and the inevitable injury that goes with it!

          You'll be glad to hear that Zog does eventually get a golden star in year 4 with a lot of help from Pearl, who just happens to be a princess and lets him "capture" her as part of the "How to capture a Princess" task set by Madam Dragon! A knight comes along to rescue Princess Pearl from the dragons, but Pearl is no ordinary princess and she doesn't fancy a future "prancing round the palace in a silly frilly dress" but instead has dreams of becoming a doctor and so tells the knight this in no uncertain terms. Luckily it turns out that the knight quite fancies being a doctor too and Zog finds his dream career right there in front of him - he can be their ambulance to which Madam proclaims it to be "an excellent career! Hooray!

          Our Opinion:

          We love this book and I have to say that it is now one of my favourites. The pictures are lovely to look at, lots to see and point out, they are both brightly coloured and wonderfully detailed. The story is easy to read and flows really well with a nice rhyme throughout. We have the hardback version and the book is a great size so that everyone can see and it's nicely durable with a dust cover to protect it too.

          I love the fact that the storyline appeals to both girls and boys (and mummies and daddy's too actually!). Whilst it is about a school of dragons, they are all friendly and colourful and there is no scariness to the story or the illustrations.

          One of the things I love the most is that Princess Pearl is a girl who aspires to be more that just royalty. She is determined to be a doctor and she is a pretty kick ass one at that! How refreshing to have a story where a girl wants to do something to help people rather than be waited on hand and foot or to just be famous for the sake of it! Zog is a pretty good role model too, showing that whilst you might not be good at everything, if you keep trying then you will eventually succeed.

          I am happy to read this to my children as often as they like, because it really is very enjoyable to read. If you like other books by Julia Donaldson, you really should give this one a try. I bet you won't regret it!

          At the time of writing, you can buy Zog from Amazon in a variety of formats and I have given the prices below:

          Hardback - £6.99
          Paperback - £4.61
          Board Book - £4.49

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          06.08.2013 12:39
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          A cute book to add to your collection

          When my daughter was little she struggled with getting her colours right and so we decided to add a book to our collection to help her in a fun way. Whilst browsing on Amazon a few years ago, we came across this book, the humourously titled "What Colour are your Knickers?" by the wonderful Sam Lloyd and decided that even if it didn't help with colour recognition, it certainly sounded like a funny book to add to our ever-growing collection!

          As you might expect from a book aimed at toddlers and pre-schoolers, the book is very colourful and not very long with the "story" being told over 7 double page spreads. There is not a storyline as such, but each page consists of a different animal being asked what colour their knickers are and a lift the flap part of the illustration showing the animals' knickers! Each of the colours rhymes with the name of the animal, for example:

          "What colour are your knickers Mrs Moo? They're blue!

          and so it is a lovely, simple book to read and children get to know what colour the knickers are without having to look due to the rhyming words (although obviously this is part of the fun and is still done with glee!).

          So as well as covering the colours red, purple, yellow, pink, blue and green, the book also introduces a number of happy, smiling animals who are seemingly not bothered by people staring at their underwear! The animals shown in the book are Horse Ned, Tommy Turtle, Crocodile Joe, Spider Wink, the aforementioned Mrs Moo, Sheep Sharlene and lastly infamous Elephant John, who shockingly isn't wearing any knickers because he (apparently) "forgot to put them on"! Cue lots of giggles at this point!

          Not only did this book help with colour recognition, rhyming words and animal names, it was great fun too. My daughter loved the brightly coloured, engaging pictures and of course, the lift the flap element never got boring! She enjoys it now, 3 years later now that the book has resurfaced to help her little brother to learn his colours! Considering that the book is paperback, the book has survived surprisingly well with all of the flaps still attached and intact, so a good, robust book too.

          The only criticism of this book that I have is that the yellow knickers, aren't really that yellow! In fact I'd say they were more orange than yellow and although this is only a minor point, it would avoid confusion if the colour used was all yellow, rather than with shades of another colour too...

          As a parent, I love this book. A book about knickers may not be for all parents, but for those of us who don't mind the subject matter, then this book is great! A fun and gentle introduction to colours which helps your little ones to learn without even realising it. I would not hesitate to recommend this book - it is currently available to buy on Amazon for £4.79.

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            04.07.2013 17:27
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            Another great product from Melissa & Doug

            Like most other pre-schoolers and toddlers, my kids love stickers and sticker book and if given one will go through it at an astonishing rate until the stickers are all gone or the book is completed. As a parent, I have to admit that I love sticker books too due to the fact that they are mess-free, yet still creative and slightly crafty and that my children love to do them so it's a great way of keeping them occupied for a while. However what I don't like is the cost considering how little time they can be used for. Most books are completed within an hour or so and so this activity is fairly expensive and feels a little bit too disposable for my liking, with the majority of sticker books not using reusable or including low tack stickers which can be repositioned. On searching for an alternative product, I discovered my new favourite company, Melissa & Doug and in particular their Habitats Reusable Sticker Pad which seemed to fit the bill and I will be reviewing this product below.

            The pad itself is rather large (bigger than A4) and consists of a front cover, 5 sheets of reusable stickers, 5 scenes and a back cover. The cover as shown above clearly shows 4 out of the 5 blank habitat scenes which are included, namely underwater, farm, jungle, desert and prehistoric. It also shows some of the reusable stickers which can be found inside the pad. The cover states that this product is suitable for children aged 3+ and I would agree with this, because some of the "stickers" are quite small meaning that they are can be fiddly to apply and the urge to eat them may be too great for really young children!

            The stickers themselves are not really stickers and instead of being paper stickers which are tacky on one side, these are made of a plastic/vinyl material which clings to the glossy paper (just like window stickers) and do not rip or tear. These means that they are able to be repositioned and moved about as much as you like and there is no chance of them being stuck to things that they shouldn't be (books, important papers, the cat...). We loved the fact that the reusable stickers work really well when stuck onto glass and so we have made numerous animal scenes on our patio doors. The back cover of the pad helpfully gives tips on how these can be refreshed if they lose their cling, by washing them in soapy water and allowing them to dry.

            As you may have guessed, easy habitat scene has a corresponding sheet of "stickers" which can be applied to create a scene of your choice. For example the sticker sheet containing a large whale, seahorse, shells and giant squid can be used with the underwater scene sheet. Of course if you child so wishes they can mix these up and use their imagination in playing, perhaps placing a dinosaur in the farm amongst the hay bales or making a sheep visit the rain forest. With over 150 stickers included there are plenty of options and possibilities. I like the fact that because this is a pad, you can take the sheets out so that more than one child can play with it at once, great for siblings or friends!

            My children have had great fun with this product and it worked wonderfully as a sticker book replacement. There are so many stickers included that there are lots of possibilities and the stickers and habitats have been a good educational tool in teaching my daughter about the different parts of the world and the animals which might live there. As you would expect the included stickers are mainly animals, but there are a few others too such as a farmer, hay bales, a safari jeep and a volcano to name a few. I really like how varied the animals are in each landscape and my child now knows what a squid looks like and the different types of big cat there are. The illustrations may be of scary looking animals such as dinosaurs and stingray, but they have been produced in a non-threatening way and whilst they are obviously recognisable they are friendly and colourful cartoon animals rather than photographic reproductions.

            There are a couple of negatives to this product, but I would say that the positives outweigh the negatives. However we have found that when the stickers start to lose their cling, they can get everywhere! Especially the smaller ones and you may well be finding little tiny chicks or fish in random places where they have fallen off the sheets. In addition to this, if you decide to take the pages out of the pad so that more than one child can play with it at once, it is quite difficult to put it away tidily. I tend the put the loose pages in between the covers, but these can (and do) slip out regularly. Perhaps a box would be better so that the sheets and stickers could be kept safely packed away after use with less chance of losing things on the way!

            Having said that, I do really love this product and it has saved me lots of pennies now that I don't have to keep buying sticker books! I have purchased this product numerous times as gifts and it is a great price for when you want to buy something for a classmate, but aren't sure what to get for them. It is also unisex and of equal fun for both girls and boys (who seem to favour the dinosaur page in my experience!). I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this product, but have deducted 1 star for the negatives listed above.

            Available to buy from Amazon for £5.75.

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              27.06.2013 14:23
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              Yummy, just wish they were a little bit stronger from a flavour point of view!

              I like crisps a lot. There I have said it. I like all different kinds of crisps, cheap own brand ones, expensive more luxury end of the market ones and all of the brands that fall in between. I am not loyal to any particular flavour and am keen to try any new ones to the market. Having said that I don't buy crisps that often (probably because I know they wouldn't last very long in the house before I ate them all!) and for some reason so far the Seabrook range of crisps have managed to evade me, until now...

              When I spotted a 6 pack of these delicious sounding crisps in Asda the other day I made sure that I shoved some in my trolley immediately. I was aware of the brand, having heard good things about them from a friend, but had never experienced them for myself - I don't usually shop in Asda so perhaps this was why? Anyway, remembering these positive comments I was keen to try them and the Canadian Ham flavour which I selected sounded especially appealing.

              Each individual pack in my multipack claims that it is a "New Pack. Same Great Taste", but it does not explain this and because I have never purchased these before and am still in the dark. I assume that perhaps the recipe has stayed the same, but the packaging has changed somehow? Anyway each pack is a standard shape and size (25g) and filled nicely with crisps with some expected air at the top of the pack. The packet, which was easy enough to open, is not dissimilar to other crisps out there on the market with the inside being a shiny silver foil type which helps to keep the crisps as fresh as possible. The packet tells me that the crisps are made by Seabrook, who have been trading since 1945 and that they are "Lovingly Made in Yorkshire", clearly something that this company is very proud of. There is a salmon pink picture of a potato farmer driving his tractor and trailer in the fields and underneath this is a photo showing 3 of the crinkle cut crisps that you can expect to find nestled inside the pack.

              On opening the pack you are met with a pleasant sight - lots of irregular shaped, lightly golden crisps with a nice crinkle cut running across the surface of the crisps. The crinkle cut is a nice crinkle unlike some others on the market currently, which are a bit too severe and actually hurt a bit to bit into! The gentle aroma of ham hits your nose when the packet is opened and this is tantalising, but it isn't overpowering. The crisps are quite thin cut and you can see brown potato peel on the edges of some of the crisps, which adds a nice authenticity to the crisps.

              When eating the crisps you get a lovely gentle ham taste followed by a nice potatoey aftertaste. To be honest I would have preferred a slightly stronger flavour and I would be interested to see if the other Seabrook flavours are lacking on the flavour strength that I would have expected from these. Having said that, the ham flavour did taste nice and authentic (although I can't say I have ever tried Canadian Ham to be fair!) and was very moreish, I just wish there was a little bit more flavouring added. The packet states that Seabrook keep their flavours simple and true and I would agree with this statement on the whole. The crisps have a lovely light texture, which you don't often get with crinkle cut crisps which are usually thicker cut than these. They also have a nice crunch when eating them and I didn't find them to be at all greasy either. The fact that these are light means that they are not too filling or heavy and so are great to have as a light snack or as part of your lunch.

              So in conclusion I would say that I really liked these crisps, but I didn't love them. I would buy them again, but they only get awarded 4 stars from because I would have preferred a stronger flavour. Unfortunately although these had a lovely taste and texture, the flavour was just a bit too subtle for my liking. I will be trying other Seabrook crisps in the future though and looking forward to seeing what other flavours are in their range.

              Ingredients:

              Potatoes, Sunflower Oil (30%), Flavouring, Yeast extract, Salt, Potato Starch, Sugar, Maltodextrin, Honey Powder, Smoke flavouring.

              Nutritional and allergy information:

              A 25g bag of these crisps contains 131 calories.
              These are gluten free and suitable for vegetarians.
              These crisps are produced in a factory which handles milk.

              I purchased my 6 pack of Canadian Ham crisps from Asda for £1.59 (currently on offer at 2 for £2.50)

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              • Orchard Toys Magical Castle / Puzzle / 39 Readings / 38 Ratings
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                26.06.2013 22:41
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                Who wouldn't want a magical castle of their own?

                We purchased this child's jigsaw from Amazon for my daughter's 3rd birthday. She isn't the biggest puzzle fan, but does enjoy doing them occasionally and so whilst browsing the range of puzzles that the fabulous Orchard Toys produce, we saw this Magical Castle one. We liked the look of the picture and thought that she would find it particularly engaging, seeing as she is quite a girly girl who loves to pretend she is a princess and begs us to let her visit the Disney castle one day and so we promptly ordered it and hoped that it would go down well with her.

                As with all of the bigger puzzles from the Orchard Toys range, this lovely puzzle comes in a nice sturdy cardboard box which has the added feature of a convenient plastic carry handle. Great for transporting it from bedroom to living room with no risk of the box accidentally opening and all of the pieces spilling out all over the floor! The box clearly states that this puzzle is suitable for ages between 3 and 6 years, although as always this is only a guide and you know your child best! The puzzle is a large shaped floor puzzle with 40 pieces which when completed will be approximately 58 x 43cm in size - fairly large and for this reason we tend to complete this puzzle on our living room floor where there is plenty of room to spread all of the pieces out. There is a large picture of the finished picture on the front of the box so that you know what it looks like and this also acts as a visual guide if your child gets stuck and wants to figure out which piece they should be looking for next!

                I really like this jigsaw and it is perfect for little girl's. The scene that the puzzle depicts is a somewhat fairytale scene and show a fabulous castle with a drawbridge and a moat surrounded by magical stars, attractive grounds and mythical creatures including a white unicorn, a quite friendly looking dragon and a sea monster in the moat (perhaps not so mythical - looks like a pink version of the Loch Ness monster!). Within the castle you can see two princesses, one brunette princess looking out of a window and the other with flowing blonde locks is picking oranges from one of the two orange trees placed on the balcony. There is also a very wise looking wizard who is in the process of doing some impressive looking magic and a brave knight who is brandishing his trusty sword at the poor dragon. The castle has grey stone walls, pretty climbing roses all over the balcony and yellow and pink turrets with regal pink and purple flags waving from 2 of them. Impressive indeed - what little girl wouldn't be interested in completing this puzzle and dreaming about living there with a handsome prince!?

                Considering the age range for this puzzle, the pieces are surprisingly large and so easy to manipulate. I think that they don't have to be this big and that 3 year olds would have no trouble with putting slightly smaller pieces together, however the point of this puzzle is that it is a large, floor puzzle and as such needs to have big pieces to create an impressive sized puzzle on completion. I love the fact that the pieces are wipe clean and quite difficult to bend, meaning that all of the pieces fit together and stay together really well. Even after quite a bit of use the our box and puzzle pieces all look like new.

                As with most Orchard Toys products the fun does not stop when the puzzle has been completed and there are a number of questions listed on the back of the box for inspiration of things to talk about with your child. For example "How many oranges can you see?" and "Why might there be a frog near the wizard?" which encourages your little one to think about the picture and the content and to encourage greater observational skills. Completing the puzzle itself helps to improve hand to eye co-ordination, so I think this is a great educational tool.

                I love this puzzle and can see it still being completed in years to come. The fact that it contains 40 pieces means that it is not too easy to complete, but not too difficult that your child loses interest halfway through either. The picture is eye-catching and very visually appealing for little girl's who love magical things, castles and princesses. There is so much going on that nearly every piece has a point of interest on it and so this makes it slightly easier for them to complete, because there are quite clear things that they are looking for in next piece that they need. My daughter certainly likes it and enjoys looking at the completed puzzle and answering the suggested questions and ones that I have thought up myself and it's always nice to admire your handiwork for a bit before packing it away back in the box for another day!

                Available from Amazon for the princely sum of £8.64 at the time of writing.

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                24.06.2013 11:56
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                A lovely first puzzle for baby

                If you have a young child then you will know that most infants enjoy completing a puzzle or two and that these can come in various forms. At the simplest end of the scale are the wooden peg puzzles and at the other end of the spectrum are the standard, adult sized jigsaw puzzles. One of the first puzzles we purchased when my daughter was very young was this one from ELC (Early Learning Centre) and this particular puzzle is placed very much in the beginner's category.

                The puzzle itself is very simple, with just 4 pieces fitting into the wooden board. Each puzzle piece is nice and chunky and so easy for small hands to manipulate into the correct position. The four pieces also have a thick sturdy peg to hold to allow your little one to easily take the puzzle pieces in and out of the hole in the board. As with a lot of other peg puzzles, each jigsaw piece is shaped differently in the rough outline shape of the animal depicted on the piece itself, which helps the child to see the correct space to fit the piece into.

                Both the puzzle board and the pieces are bright and interesting to look at with colourful designs of flowers, trees and insects painted onto the board and the puzzle pieces themselves each depicting a different ELC character from their Blossom Farm range. These cute animals include Dillon Donkey, Chester Chicken, Lavender Lamb and Buttercup Cow and each of them have a touchy feely section on their tummies. Whilst these aren't hugely different from each other - three of them are soft and slightly fluffy and the fourth is a satin fabric, this is a nice addition to the puzzle and gives a nice tactile quality to the puzzle. Great for little fingers to explore! Underneath each of the puzzle pieces there is a painted picture of the animal with a colourful background and the animal's name printed on each animal's tummy.

                This puzzle has been very well loved over the years (in fact my son is completing it now), but you wouldn't know from looking at it just how much it's been used. Even after nearly 5 years of being played with and being stored it looks as good as new. I think that this shows the great quality of the toy and how durable both the pieces and the board are. We purchased this from ELC ourselves when our eldest was very young and I would say that she started to use it from around 9 months, at first just taking the pieces out and touching the fabric sections and then gradually completing the puzzle properly as she got older. The touchy feely sections and colourful illustrations capture young children's attention and encourage them to try to complete the puzzle. I can't see this particular puzzle on the ELC's website currently, but it definitely cost less than £10.

                The only thing I would change about this puzzle is that I would make the touchy feely sections more varied. However at least by using soft fabrics, this puzzles remains suitable for very young children and so I have not taken a star off for this reason.

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                23.06.2013 15:21
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                Good creative fun

                As with most children of pre-school age, my kids like lego and we have vast amounts of the beginner's Lego range, Duplo. My daughter had started to lose interest in the bigger Lego Duplo sets and so we decided to purchase this box of lego, which comes in a bright pink box and is aimed at little girls aged 4 and above to see if it reignited her interest or not...

                What is the packaging like?

                This large pink box is made from coloured plastic with a translucent pink coloured lid so that you can see all of the pieces inside. The box lid secures tightly to the top of the box to ensure that none of the little pieces can fall out, but the lid is easy enough to open. Little children may need helping opening it, but it is easy with no tricky catches to overcome and so this will come with practise. There is a large label on one side of the box which shows many of the items that can be made with this lego set - a little house, a tree, a stable type building complete with horse and a pink car are shown although of course the possibilities are endless. Another large label on the other side of the box lists all of the pieces that are included in the box so that you know what you are buying.

                What is included?

                As you might expect this box contains various sizes and colours of small, standard sized lego bricks, which is suitable for slightly older children. In all this box contains an impressive 402 bricks and a booklet which is designed to inspire you and give instructions on how to make the trickier items that are possible with this set. Along with the normal square and rectangular shaped bricks there are a number of other items in the box such as a white horse and various accessories such as a grooming brush and golden winner's cup, components to make up the lego lady who is shown on the label, a steering wheel, wheels and a windscreen to make a car with and a door and windows for a house. Fairly versatile, although very obviously aimed at girls with the majority of bricks included being either baby pink, hot pink or white! I am glad to report that there are other colour bricks included such as green and brown so that you can make a recognisable tree and blue and yellow ones if you have overdosed on pink!

                Is it fun to play with?

                Probably one of the most important question is the one above, because there is no point in having a toy if it just sits in the cupboard and never gets played with. I will admit that I wasn't sure how much use this toy would get initially, but I have been pleasantly surprised and my little girl enjoys playing with it for prolonged periods of time. I think the fact that it is so obviously aimed at girl's and has a horse and the bricks to make a pretty pink house have helped to spark my daughter's interest and she happily spends time constructing stables, houses and other assorted items on her own without much help from myself. There are some very small lego pieces included, which she struggles to take apart (very small thin circular pieces which you can stack) and so I have to help her with these, but apart from that she has taken to the smaller sized bricks easily. There are enough pieces included in the box to ensure that a lot of things can be built using them and so it's a great standalone item and although purchasing additional sets would increase the playability, this is not a necessity in my opinion.

                Would I recommend?

                Yes, I would - a great lego set for girls which helps hand to eye co-ordination, imaginative play and encourages creativity. I love the fact that the pieces are varied and not all pink and that they all pack away securely in the box. The box is fairly expensive at around £20 considering what you get. The pieces are very small (especially compared to Duplo which comes in the same sized box) and the box in comparison is rather large meaning that you are met with what appears to be a very empty box! I think that the box could easily be halved in size and it would still have plenty of room for the lego that is included in it and that this might make it seem like a more substantial product.

                On the whole though I would say that this is a great toy for girls aged 4 and above, who are wanting to move on from starter lego. Considering the amount of use that it gets, I feel that the price is fair and it would make a great gift at this price too.

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                  20.06.2013 23:53
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                  For your little escape artists

                  I am a massive fan of Melissa & Doug, an American toy company which makes all kinds of fabulous traditional and educational toys and games. I spotted this particular one on Amazon and after persuading my Husband (to be fair it *is* on the surface quite expensive) purchased it for my Son for Christmas...

                  So what is a latches board you might ask? Well the clue is in the name - a latches board is a large wooden board measuring approximately 45cm x 30cm and on the board are various sections which are fastened with a different type of brass latch. There are 6 types of latches on the board and they are all opened in different ways, with some needing to be turned and others lifted or unhooked. The idea behind it is that your child (suitable for ages 3+, but my 2 year old loves it!) has to figure out how to undo each latch to open up the little wooden doors. Essentially a problem solving activity, it also aids hand to eye co-ordination and helps to develop motor skills.

                  Each latch is on a coloured and numbered door, which adds an additional educational element to the board and behind each door are different animals in the same colour as the door. So for example door number 5 is green and has a security chain fastening it. Once you have negotiated the latch and open the door, you will see that behind it are 5 green frogs therefore reinforcing the colour and the number that was on the door. Other animals hiding behind the doors are a purple horse (nearly extinct I believe...), 2 blue dogs, 3 yellow cats, 4 red rabbits, aforementioned 5 green frogs and 6 orange goldfish. Some of the doors are single and some open like double doors, some open out to the side and others lift up, so there is a nice amount of variety to the board.

                  I love the fact that the board is so well made - this really is a toy that will last for years and years and can be enjoyed by many generations! The wood is solid and nicely thick, without being too heavy, the illustrations are painted onto the board with brightly coloured (but non-toxic) paint and the latches and hinges themselves are high quality brass fittings. Whilst I deliberated buying it due to the cost, I am really glad that I decided to purchase it because the quality really does speak for itself.

                  Needless to say this toy was my little boy's favourite when he opened it on Christmas day and whilst he doesn't play with it every day, it is one of those toys which when rediscovered in the toy box brings delight to his little face. Not only can he manipulate most of the latches by himself (there are a couple of more difficult ones, which are managing to evade him currently!), but it's also a great learning tool for teaching colours, number recognition and counting and also animal names. As a parent I really like that it is totally safe and there are no small parts which could come off and that it is a simple, but brilliantly made traditional wooden toy with no batteries!

                  If you can overcome the price tag - currently £18.96 on Amazon, it really does make a fantastic toy for your toddler or pre-schooler.

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                    19.06.2013 11:17
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                    Share a picnic with the bears

                    As you might have guessed from some of my recent reviews, we own a lot of Orchard Toys games and puzzles and are big fans of them in this household. This particular puzzle, Teddy Bear's Picnic was won by my daughter in a colouring competition that Orchard Toys held a couple of years ago.

                    As with all of the products from Orchard Toys, this puzzle comes in a nice sturdy box with a plastic handle which has a large, bright picture of the puzzle on the front. The box states that it is a shaped floor puzzle informing the consumer that the puzzle pieces will be rather large and that it is not a traditional rectangular shaped puzzle when completed. It also clearly shows that the puzzle consists of 15 pieces and gives an age guide between 2 and 5 years. The size of the puzzle when completed is also given as being 60 x 42.5cm or 24 x 17ins.

                    As the name may suggest, this puzzle depicts a outdoor picnic scene where 3 teddy bears are tucking into various treats. The cartoon-style illustrations are visually appealing and there are lots of points of interest in the picture to help you child figure out which piece fits where. The puzzle pieces are a nice thick durable cardboard, which are wipe clean in case of spills and easy for little hands to hold and manipulate into position. They fit together easily and the completed puzzle is lovely to look at.

                    I love the fact that after the puzzle has been put together, you can also use the picture as a educational tool and quite often I get my son to count the number of cherries on the cake, show me where the pineapple is, tell me the colour of the teapot or count the number of apples in the picture. He really enjoys doing this and it means that the puzzle doesn't go straight back into the box when it's been completed and we can appreciate the picture more than we would with other puzzles. The education guide on the box states that the puzzle has been designed to help encourage observation and language skills and I would say that this delivers on this aim.

                    I would agree with the age range that has been given. My 4 year old daughter has grown out of this puzzle so perhaps the upper age guide isn't that accurate, however my 2 year old son has just started to be interested in the puzzle and can complete it with help. As time goes on he will be able to do it more independently, but for a child who isn't yet two and a half he copes well with it and doesn't get bored because it doesn't take too long to complete. He obviously enjoys this activity because he is always picking up the box and thrusting it at me!

                    I think this is a great puzzle for those children who are moving on from wooden peg puzzles and onto proper ones. The picture is appealing, the product is durable and my child enjoys completing it, which let's face it, is the biggest recommendation of all!

                    Available from Amazon for £9.68.

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                    18.06.2013 15:44
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                    Pop up froggy fun

                    When I was pregnant with my first child, I was given a pop-up book from a work colleague as a leaving present. This pop-up book was called Ten Wriggly Wiggly Caterpillars and has been enjoyed by both of my children over the years. At some point we acquired another book by the same author (Debbie Tarbett) called Ten Tiny Tadpoles and this is the book that I shall be reviewing. Both books are similar in style and content and so we knew that this book would be equally well received by the kids - and it has been!

                    The book itself is a hardback book with brightly coloured, eye-catching illustrations throughout. The front cover of the book shows that title - "Ten Tiny Tadpoles" in large blue font and states that it was created by Debbie Tarbett. Aside from that the cover shows an attractive underwater scene with numerous plants and rocks shown along with a big orange goldfish. The difference between this book and most other children's books is that there are 10 holes cut out of the cover and through these you can see the stars of the book, 10 tiny tadpoles! These smiling tadpoles are all 3D (made out of plastic I think) and instead of being the normal black/brown colour, are all various pastel shades of blue, yellow, green, pink and orange.

                    Although you start off with 10 tadpoles, the end result is that all of the tadpoles disappear and - as you might have guessed - are reunited at the end of the book as 10 pop-up frogs! As this book is a counting storybook, throughout the story a tadpole goes missing one at a time and the simple rhymes explain why. For example the page with 4 tadpoles on it reads:

                    "Four happy tadpoles floating fast and free. One met a friendly fish, so that left..."

                    On turning the page you are met with a large number 3, which finishes that particular rhyme and the next one on the starts.

                    As the numbers count down as you progress through the book, the number of 3D tadpoles also reduce too, which is a nice touch and helps to visually enforce the numbers. The addition of the numerical numbers also helps youngsters to recognise what they look like, which also aids learning. The tadpoles being 3D makes the book incredibly tactile for little ones and my kids like touching them as they really stand out on each page. I also really like the illustrations and these are brilliant in introducing your child to new objects, such as newts, fish, turtles, crayfish, water snails etc. The brightly coloured pictures help to keep a small child's attention and can also be used to point out and teach different colours to them.

                    The only complaint that I have about this book is that the 10 pop up frogs on the last page are not hugely durable for a book aimed at this age group. In fact, our version only has 9 frogs on the last page and another frog has bent the wrong way so that it can be partially seen when the book is closed! I have to say though the tadpoles are glued on very well and we have had no problems with these coming off.

                    I would not hesitate to recommend this book (although the durability of the frogs sadly means I'm only going to give it 4 stars). It is fun, engaging and easy to read with the words flowing easily when reading it out loud. It is great for teaching numbers, counting and also colours and for talking about the life cycle of a frog and animals that can be found underwater. This still has pride of place on our bookshelf after many years of enjoyment and my kids aren't bored of it yet. I would say that the story is suitable for both very young babies and pre-schoolers alike.

                    Available from Amazon for £5.99.

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                  • Lego 6759 Duplo Busy Farm / Lego / 44 Readings / 42 Ratings
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                    17.06.2013 17:31
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                    A shame it's not a little bit cheaper

                    My Son received this set for a 2nd birthday present and although we own lots of Lego Duplo, this set was something a bit different from their "Read and Build" range. Instead of a generic brick box like we already own, this product comes in a little plastic case which includes a small collection of 15 shaped bricks and short board book entitled "Busy Farm". These all fit in perfectly and so the product can be packed away neatly between uses. The book tells a simple story of a day at the farm and follows the farmer as he goes about his daily jobs, such as cleaning out the pigpen and counting the sheep. The idea of the set is that as you read the book, you can make the animals that you come across in the story - namely a rooster, a pig, a sheep and a cow. Each lego animal is made up of between 3 and 5 duplo pieces and the book clearly shows which pieces are needed for each animal and shows how the animals should be constructed. The duplo pieces which represent the animal faces have eyes printed on them which is a nice touch and makes the animals less abstract than they would be otherwise!

                    The box states that this product is suitable for children between the ages of 1.5 and 4 years, however I would say that this product is better suited to the younger age range as my 4 year old shows no interest in it whatsoever and it is far too basic for her for her to complete. My son enjoys playing with it and can construct the animals with a bit of help. He likes the story and has fun making the lego animals interact with each other. As part of the story, children are encouraged to make the animal noises of the lego animals and he also likes doing this as it makes it even more engaging. The book is simple and the illustrations are bright and visually appealing in a pleasant and colourful cartoon style.

                    I do like this item, although I probably wouldn't buy one of the other versions available - Grow Caterpillar Grow! or Let's Go! Vroom! Although the product is fun and something a bit different from Lego, it has limited appeal due to the very specific pieces included - you can't really be creative with it at all aside from building the animals. As mentioned earlier, it is more appealing to younger children and I would be quite happy to buy this as a little present for a friend's child as it is a nice little set and a standalone item which doesn't require them to already own other Lego duplo products. However I do feel that the price is a bit on the high side - £9.99 for such a small amount of lego, which can only really be used to construct the animals in the book is a bit too expensive really. A lower price point would be more appealing to me, but as this was a present, I do not know how much our set was purchased for.

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                    15.06.2013 14:17
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                    Luxury lip balm which really delivers

                    You may not have heard of the Lanolips brand, I will admit that I hadn't either until I was lucky enough to win a tube and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. A lip balm, yes, but I wasn't expecting quite such a luxury and quality item to land on my doormat and so was pleasantly surprised! Lanolips is actually an Australian brand which may have been why it had not come to my attention before. Despite my ignorance of the company, I had come across lanolin before and so was aware that it is an excellent moisturiser which is found naturally on sheep's wool. Indeed, this product is not only animal cruelty free, but contains over 70% ultra medical grade lanolin and over 97% naturally-derived ingredients.

                    The tube itself is small (12.5g), but attractive and states that the item is Lanolips Lemonaid Lip Aid with Organic Lemon Oil and that it is made with Ultra Pure Grade lanolin. The tube is clear and so you can see the thick, slightly shimmery cream coloured balm inside. The writing and tube lid are an attractive metallic gold colour and so is the amusing logo of a rather glamorous looking sheep.

                    Having unscrewed the lid, I squeezed the tube to dispense some of the product onto my fingertip and was surprised at how thick the balm is. This helps to only dispense a smidge of the product ready for you to apply to your lips (you don't need much). When applying you get a delicious lemony waft of fragrance, which explains the name of the product and makes the product even more appealing. Citric acid helps to exfoliate so it's rather apt that this has been included to rid your lips of dry skin, which no one wants.

                    Applying the balm to your lips is easy and the lip aid glides on smoothly. It is ever so slightly gritty to help exfoliate, but to be honest this is barely noticeable. When the balm is on you can notice a nice, subtle shine to them and it makes your lips so soft, smooth and moisturised that you can tell it really does work. The balm has fairly good staying power, although it is not used in the same way as lipstick so don't expect it to stay on all day without you having to reapply it.

                    I really liked this Lanolips Lemon aid balm and will be purchasing a replacement when my tube has run out. My lips look and feel so much better after use and I like that fact that the balm is not tinted, although Lanolips do also do tinted balms if you prefer a bit of colour and these also have SPF protection. It is quite pricey at £9.18 for 12.5g from Boots, but worth it for truly kissable lips!

                    Ingredients: Lanolin, PrunusAmygdalusDulcis (Almond) Oil, Cera Alba (Beeswax), ButyrospermumParkii (Shea) Butter, Aroma (Flavour), Tocopherol (Vit E), Citrus MedicaLimonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Mica, CI 77891, Citral, Citronellol, Geraniol, HexylCinnamaldehyde, 2-(4-tert-Butylbenzyl)propionaldehyde (Lilial), d-Limonene, Linalool.

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                    14.06.2013 15:23
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                    Little papers to de-grease your face with!

                    The Product:

                    I was sent a little packet of these Shine Absorbing Sheets from Kleenex as part of a competition prize. They are essentially little oil absorbing papers which come in a neat little case, which also acts as a dispenser with a little sticky square on the lid picking up one sheet at a time for you to use. The packaging is modern and a bit minimalist, with Kleenex clearly stated on the packet and a sophisticated venetian/masked ball mask pictured on a clean white backdrop. Underneath the Kleenex logo it states that inside are Shine Absorbing Sheets and tells the consumer that they are powder free.

                    When you first open the box you have to peel off a little strip to reveal the sticky strip which helps you to pick up one sheet at a time. The sheets themselves are plain purple on one side and it is this plain side that you use to blot your face with. The other side has a lighter purple colour background and a purple leaf pattern on it, so it is clear which side should be used. These sheets are very easy to use. You just need to take one sheet and wipe your face with the plain purple side, which is smooth and does not leave any residue on your skin after use. I tend to use these on my T-Zone as this is where I get a bit shiny and any oil that is absorbed can clearly be seen on the sheet due to the grease showing up darker on the purple background. Each sheet is single use and should be put in the bin after use. The sheets aren't huge (around 5cm by 3cm) and so if you are a particularly shiny person you may need to use more than one, however I find just one sheet is sufficient to suit my needs.

                    My opinion:

                    I really like these and find that they work well to absorb any oily patches on my face and leave me looking shine-free. I think that the fact you can see the results on the sheet is reassuring and my face does look noticeably less-oily after use. I have used similar products in the past, which not only absorbed oil but also left face powder behind afterwards. Great you might think, but these didn't work for me at all - I found that the powder showed up on my complexion and was asked a few times what odds patches on my face were! No such concerns with these little sheets and I am confident that they help me to look good without leaving behind any residue. The little sticker which helps dispense one at a time is a nice touch, although if it loses it's stick then the sheets are easy enough to get out of the packet one at a time anyway.

                    The results don't last forever and they don't treat the cause of oily skin, so if you are looking for a wonder product to tackle these problem areas, this is not it. However it does the job it sets out to do well in a convenient package which is great to keep in your bathroom or your handbag and I would wholeheartedly recommend if you want a way to degrease your face on the move!

                    Price and availability:

                    You can get these sheets for a reasonable £2.99 for 50 sheets from Superdrug. I have also seen these for sale in various supermarkets.

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