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My 2 and a half year old son, Oscar, is a big fan of trains. He is also obsessed with numbers, so when I saw this Number Train from Duplo, I had to get it for him. He got it for Christmas, and it has been played with every single day since. You get a variety of bricks, numbers 1 to 10, 4 wheeled sections, an engine, funnel and driver section, a dog and a boy figure. The price varies greatly from shop to shop. It is currently £12 from Amazon. As with all Lego branded toys, it is of very high quality. The bricks are sturdy and hardwearing, and the colours are really bright and attractive for toddlers. You do pay a bit more for Duplo, when compared with Megabloks for example, but the quality is much better. The train can be built in several different ways. Oscar loves counting and orders, so his favourite way to play is to line the numbers up in order along the wheeled sections of the train. We have also made bridges, pyramids and towers. We have a couple of other sets of Duplo, and it is great fun to join them all together. Duplo is a perfect size for toddlers. Oscar's older cousins have some actual Lego, and although Oscar is past the phase of trying to eat any toy he sees, it still worries me a bit as it's very small. Duplo is just right, and I can feel confident about leaving Oscar to play without my constant supervision. We have had lots of fun with this train playset, although I think it is better as part of a collection, rather than just on it's own.
Nits! Every parent's nightmare! My 11 year old stepdaughter, Alice, caught them at school, and we had to act fast to avoid her passing them on to Oscar! He's only 2 and toddlers aren't the best for sitting still while you comb their hair! We treated Alice with a wash in, wash out treatment, and that got rid of them fast. I saw this Vosene 3 in 1 in Boots, and thought it would be good to try, to give us a fighting chance of keeping the little critters away! It was £1.66 for a 250ml bottle, and contains shampoo, conditioner and tea tree oil and lemon eucalyptus. Apparently the lice are deterred by the strong odours of the tea tree oil. The bottle is light green with a dark green flip top lid, and the Vosene Kids logo. It shows ingredients and directions for use on the back, as well as additional safety warnings. It's worth noting that the tea tree oil may affect epilepsy and acute asthma sufferers. The first thing you notice when opening the bottle is the smell! It's so strong and leaves the bathroom smelling of it for ages! No wonder it deters the headlice, as the smell is vile! It lathers up nicely onto the hair, and does leave it feeling and looking really clean and soft. I haven't used it on myself (as so far I haven't had any unwanted visitors! Fingers crossed for me please!!), but Alice's hair always looks nice and clean, and feels sleek and shiny. The bottom line is, it works! Since using this shampoo Alice hasn't had anymore headlice, so despite the horrible smell it really is worth it.
I never stick to the same deodorant, and always go for whatever brand is on offer. I tend to sweat a lot, so always go for the ones that claim to last 48 hours. That statement is rediculous in my opinion, as you wouldn't be likely to go two whole days without washing or reapplying deororant. I have found, though, that the 48 hour ones do seem to be more effective at lasting the whole day. The bottle is light pink, with a simple pearl design on the front along with the Nivea logo. It also shows that it contains pearl extract and is 0% alcohol. The back of the can shows the usual directions for use and safety warnings. The scent is quite florally, and very subtle. I'm not sure what pearls are meant to smell like, but I'm guessing it also smells like pearls! Being subtle, it doesn't clash with my perfume which is good! It didn't leave any marks on my clothes, even when I got dressed straight after applying (which is good as the usage directions tell you to wait for it to dry completely before dressing!). It feels comfortable when applying, and didn't even sting when I used it directly after shaving my underarms. I stayed feeling fresh and confident all day, though you can get a small enough bottle size that you could pop it in your bag, for top-ups whenever you need. The current price in Boots is £1.14 for 150ml, or £1.64 for 250ml.
Oscar has just turned two, and I felt I no longer needed to use the baby bubble bath for him. Tesco had this Matey bubble bath on offer for £1 so I got it. I used to use it as a child, so I mainly got it for the nostalgic value. As with all bubble bath, pour it under running warm water and it lathers up into thick bubbles. I found with this bubble bath, you only need to add a tiny bit to make loads of bubbles. It has a really nice fruity smell, which is strong but not overpowering. It left Oscar's skin smelling really fresh for quite a few hours. It says not to get it in the eyes, but this is difficult to do when your toddler enjoys splashing as much as mine does! He did end up with a little bit in his eyes, but it rinsed out easily and didn't leave them sore. The bottle itself is very bright and colourful. It has a picture of 'Pegleg' the pirate, and the lid is the pirate's hat. The design in the picture is the exact design it used to have when I was a child, and I don't believe they do it in this design anymore. You can also get it in a 'girly' variety, which I think is either a mermaid or princess. The bottle makes it very appealing to children, and Oscar often reaches for it when he sees me running the bath water. The bottle also states that it is 'kind to sensitive skin' and is hypoallergenic, which is good to know if your child suffers with skin problems.
I have been using Gillette Venus razors ever since the original Venus first came out. The Divine is my favourite out of the range though. For £8.99 in Boots (or any pharmacy/supermarket), you get a pack with the razor, 2 blades and a wall mountable case to store it all in. The blades themselves can be bought seperately in packs of 4 or 8, and you will pay around £7-8 for a 4 pack. They are not the cheapest, but they are definitely the best. The design is very sleek looking, and feels comfortable to hold in your hand. You can get it in blue or pink, and each is very bright and colourful, with the Gillette logo clearly printed. The blade itself has 3 blades and a built in moisture strip. This strip starts to peel away when the blade is getting blunt, so you know when you need to change it. I have found though, that it lasts for quite a few shaves after the strip has started to peel away. The head pivots, so is great for getting around the ankles (or any other 'nooks and crannies'!!). I have never cut myself when using this razor, even when the blade is getting quite blunt, and I believe that is down to the pivoting head and the moisture strip. The wall mountable case is particularly handy. It hold the razor on the front, and up to 4 individually wrapped blades inside. Being up on the wall means that it is safely out of my 2 year old's reach, and gives me easy access to it in the bath/shower.
Having tried many different supermarket own brand nappies, I had found one that I was happy with and rarely strayed from it. I ran out of nappies a few days before our shopping was delivered one week, so popped into Boots to pick up a cheap pack. They had them on a buy one get one free offer, so I ended up with 54 nappies for £4.69. The nappies have more of a fabric feel than some nappies I've used, and have very stretchy side tabs, making the fit seem very generous. Oscar is in a size 5, but sometimes needs a 6 in other brands. These Boots Super Dry fit perfectly and seem to be very comfortable. They also don't have that strong chemical/plastic smell you sometimes get with nappies. The design is quite simple. There are blue bubbles all over, then a clear number 5 at the top, and a cute looking seahorse on the front. On the back is just the back of the seahorse. This has come in handy recently, as my mother in law babysat last week, and almost put the nappy on backwards. But when she saw the back of the seahorse, she guessed that it must go on the back!! They last very well over night. Even when Oscar has (very occasionally!) slept in past 8am, there have still been no leakages. With some nappies, they can split slightly if they are overfull and the absorbant crystals can leak out. So far we have had no problems like this with these ones. The Super Dry range comes in sizes 3, 4, 4+, 5 and 6, and cost £4.69 for around 27 nappies (depending on size).
I've never been good at cooking rice, and used to spend a fortune on those packets of microwavable rice. I bought this Cookworks Rice Cooker from Argos for £15.99. The box contains the base unit, removable non-stick bowl (which holds up to 1.5 litres, or 8 cups of rice), measuring cup and spoon, as well as instruction booklet. It's the easiest thing ever to use, although does take some messing around with quantities to get perfect rice. The instructions tell you to measure how many cups of rice you want, then pour in cold water up to the correct level indicated on the side of the bowl. However, I found that putting a little less water than it says produces better rice. The great thing about the rice cooker is that you can put your rice and water in (plus anything else you want to add... I usually add a cup or 2 of frozen mixed veg, a crumbled stock cube and some herbs and spices), turn it on, and it will switch itself to the 'warm' function when it is all cooked. You then just need to stir it all round and then leave it until you are ready to use it. The 'warm' function is really useful if you want to get the rice prepared in advance, or if you're not sure what time you will need it for. It says that you can keep it warm for up to 12 hours, although I'm not sure I would risk it. Warm (but not boiling hot) rice is a breeding ground for bacteria, so with that in mind, I only ever leave it for an hour at the most. All in all, it's a great kitchen accessory, and once you've played around with the amounts of rice and water, you really will produce perfect rice every time.
When we were having a 'poor week' and were very low on washing up liquid, I thought I would buy this to give it a try. I use quite a lot of Tesco Everyday Value products and usually find I'm quite impressed with them, but I certainly wasn't with this! It costs 33p for 500ml, so is very cheap, but you have to use so much more meaning it is not at all cost effective. You use it the same as other washing up liquid, run the hot water and squirt some liquid into the stream of water. I found I had to pour quite a lot more to get any bubbles, and after washing up a few items, I had to add more bubbles! It wouldn't cut through greasy pans at all, and they had to be left to soak before washing off. It has a pleasant enough smell, and is a dark green colour. The bottle itself is white with green pictures, lots of little pictures relating to washing up. With the leftover washing up liquid (I bought my usual Fairy the following week!), I added a small amount to a spray bottle and filled with water. I now use this for wiping down my surfaces and it works quite well for this, as long as they are not too dirty. I will be sticking to Fairy in future. I wouldn't recommend, even if you are on a tight budget!
Oscar got these as a gift for his first Christmas when he was 7 months old. He was a bit too little for them then, but started to really enjoy them at around a year. They were from Toys R Us, but I do not know the price, and can't see them on the website so unsure if they are still available. The set consists of Tidmouth Sheds with three engines in - Thomas, James and Percy. The shed has two suction pads to stick it to the bathroom tiles. It sticks very well, and Oscar (now 22 months) cannot pull it off by himself. Each engine has holes for you to pour water through in different places. The engines slot into their space in the shed very easily, and can be removed just as easily by small hands! Oscar has been able to play with this quite well since he was around a year. We like to play a game where I pour water from the jug into the engine and then pour it out onto Oscar's head. This came in very handy about six months ago when Oscar was putting up a big fuss each time we tried to wash his hair. We made it into a game by using the engine, so now he is happy to let us use the jug again. The shed itself, and each of the engines, are very easy to keep clean. We leave the engines out to dry completely each time before putting away, and once a week, remove the shed from the bath tiles to give it a good clean. It's a really fun toy that has made Oscar really enjoy bathtime... the only battle is getting him back out again!
Oscar didn't get his first tooth until a few days before his first birthday, but he seemed to be having teething pain from about six months. We used many different teething rings, gels, powders etc. I was given this Nuby Teether in a hamper when I left work to start maternity leave, so I'm not sure how much it cost then (2 years ago!), but just had a quick look on Boots website and it costs £3.75. It consists of a hard plastic ring with the Nuby logo and 3 keys with textured rubber sections. The keys are water filled, and when stored in the fridge, can be very soothing on sore gums! The ring itself is the perfect shape for a young baby to hold, and it is not too heavy. Oscar used this a lot when teething, and it seemed to really help him, even when not kept in the fridge. The water itself was soothing enough. It was easy to keep clean, I just gave it a wipe over after each use and a good wash every night when Oscar was asleep. If you are really germ conscious you could soak it in Miltons I suppose, but do not put it in a steriliser! A friend of mine did and the whole thing melted, leaving her kitchen smelling of burnt plastic for weeks! All in all, a lovely teether from Nuby at an affordable price! This gets 5 stars from Oscar!!
Our old portable landline broke and we decided to just get a very basic landline as we both used our mobiles more anyway, so didn't see the point in a fancy landline phone. We went to Tesco and were just going to get their Everyday Value phone, but saw the BT Duet for just a few pounds more at only £11.50. It comes boxed with instructions (but who needs instructions for using a phone these days?!), and an optional attachment for mounting it on the wall. We decided to use this as we have a grabby toddler so wanted to keep it out of his reach. It's just a basic phone, with a section at the top of the handset for writing your own phone number in, something which is very useful for us as my husband is always forgetting our number! There are four extra buttons below the keypad which are pause, redial, secrecy and call waiting. There is a slider on the side of the handset to change the ringer volume or mute it, and a light on the front which flashes when it's ringing. This is very useful as I often turn the ringer to mute if my son is having a nap, so if a call comes in, I will still know (if I think to look at the phone that is!). It would also be useful to people who are slightly hard of hearing. Physically, it's a nice shape to hold comfortably, and nice and light so you can speak for hours quite happily (which is a good thing when I get on the phone to my sister!). It's quite a basic phone and doesn't have contact programming or anything like that, but considering most people have a mobile phone these days I don't see this as a big problem.
I wanted to teach Oscar a little bit about the true meaning of Christmas, and thought a story book would be the best way to go about it. There was a very wide choice on Amazon, but knowing how much he loves 'touchy-feely' books, I chose Usborne's The Nativity. It's written by Fiona Watt and illustrated by Rachel Wells (the pair behind the That's not my... series). RRP is £9.99, and it's current price on Amazon is £7.68. The book is a great introduction to the nativity story, if a little basic. It doesn't explain anything about Jesus being the son of God, or about the gifts that the wise men brought Jesus. It is absolutely fine though for a young toddler who is just learning about it. There will be plenty of time for more detail later on! The pages are all brightly coloured with beautiful illustrations. Each page has several different textured parts, for example, on the final page there is a donkey with furry ears, a soft blanket covering the baby Jesus, a fluffy lamb, a fuzzy cow, a velvety coat for one of the shepherds, and a rough textured hat for one of the wise men. These textured spots kept Oscar entertained for long enough for me to read the whole story. Usually when we are reading books, he gets impatient and turns the page before I have quite finished reading! All in all, this is a great book for teaching your very small child about the nativity, but I wouldn't recommend it if your child is over the age of about 3.
You know what it's like when you have a house party. All that washing up! It puts me off having a party just thinking about it. When Oscar had his first birthday party, I decided to use paper plates. I loved the fact that I could relax and have fun with my son on his special day, rather than worrying about mountains of washing up afterwards. I picked these up in Tesco for £1.20 for a pack of 50 plates. Considering their price, the plates held a surprisingly large amount of food, though greasy food (such as chicken wings) felt like they were going to fall through the plate! As we don't have a dining table, people had to hold their plates on their laps, and the plates held up well! They didn't buckle under the weight of the food (luckily for my carpet!). After the party, we still had a good amount of plates left so my stepdaughter, Alice, and I made some fun masks with them, which Oscar loved looking at and playing with. I have also found them useful for mixing paint colours when doing crafting with the children (though be careful the plates don't get too wet!), so they have more uses than just for food!
Oscar is a massive fan of books. One corner of our front room is jam packed with them! Any type will do (even my thick hardback novels get leafed through every now and then by sticky little fingers!). But his absolute favourites are the That's Not My... series. Written by Fiona Watt and illustrated by Rachel Wells, these Usborne books are available in bookshops, some supermarkets, and of course online. The RRP is £5.99, but Amazon price is currently £4.49. I picked up That's not my teddy in Morrisons for £3.99. The cover is lilac with a big bright picture of a teddy with touchy feely paws. The paws are soft and woolly (and in the case of our version, sticky and almost worn away!). There are 5 more pages inside, each with a different textured part of the teddy. There is a nose that is too soft, paws that are too rough, a patch that is too squashy and ears that are too fuzzy. Then on the final page is the right teddy, with a furry tummy and the words THAT'S my teddy! His tummy is so furry! Each page has a small white mouse hidden somewhere on the page. People of my generation may remember the Usborne books from our day, when every page had a small yellow duck hidden somewhere. Oscar is 21 months, and is now at an age where he pays much more attention to books. He loves to feel the textured spot on each page, and picks up my finger and directs it to the spot too. He also (and I think this is very strange!) loves to lick each page. He feels it first with his finger, then picks the book up and licks the textured patch, then turns to the next page! This has led to us ad-libbing the words in the book... i.e. "That's not my teddy, his patch is too squashy and wet!", prompting mad laughter and more licking! We can no longer read these books before bed as Oscar ends up too excited! As with all books in this series, they are beautifully illustrated and have big words to help children who are learning to read.
I get colds a lot! Especially around this time of year, and end up spending loads on different cold and flu remedies. None really worked for me until I found Beechams Cold and Flu sachets. They come in 2 varieties, hot lemon, and blackcurrant, and I got them in Tesco for £3 for a box of 10 sachets. I have since seen them in the pound shop for a box of 5, so slightly better value for money there! You make them up by tipping the sachet into a mug, then filling the rest of the mug with almost boiled water. The box says to only half fill the mug, but I usually fill it at least 3/4 full. This weakens the taste a bit, but thats ok as it is quite a strong flavour anyway. The taste of blackcurrant is quite sweet, but you can still strongly taste the medicine too. I haven't tried the lemon flavour, but my husband has and says that this too has a strong flavour. I'm not sure if its just a placebo effect, but it soothes your throat straight away, particularly the blackcurrant flavour, and works for a good few hours. I also find it clears my sinuses, which I do suffer with quite a bit. You're supposed to leave a 4 hour gap between them, which is fine as I've never felt the need to use it any sooner. They are quite pricy at 20-30p a sachet, but it really does work so is worth it in my opinion.