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A classic game from Orchard Toys, great for pre-schoolers. There are 12 different characters to mix up, pirate, clown, firefighter and astronaut to name a few. Small gripe, as with a lot of games, there are more male characters than female. Though at least the female characters are not stereotypical - there's a police woman, a hiker, a cowgirl and a horserider. The illustrations are bold and funny, and appealing to young boys and girls alike.
Our set is well-worn now, because both my girls played this to death. To play, all the cards are turned face down and each player takes it in turn to draw a card. This may be a head, body or feet. We played it in lots of different ways, sometimes trying to make "proper" people and sometimes trying to keep them all silly and mixed up.
This is one of the cheaper of the Orchard Toys games and well worth the price. A family favourite and one of the earliest games a toddler can play.
Once my 4 year old daughter found out there was a package of Bear Hunt book, DVD and board game, this was on the top of her letter to Santa, and luckily Santa did'nt disappoint.
Of course, the book is the much-loved classic, a must for any young child's bookcase. With a great, repetitive rhyme and fabulous drawings by Helen Oxenbury, this story of a family's trek through grass, river, mud, forests and snowstorms will capture the hearts of children and adults alike. It positively invites chanting along and accompanying actions and once you've all memorized the rhyme, it will get even the most reluctant and tired children walking.
The game is a pretty standard board game wtih dice and cards that tell you if you can go or not. It follows the story perfectly, right down to being chased all the way home by the bear, and has the same lovely illustrations. Up to six people can play and my daughter really loves playing it.
The DVD is a great bonus, absolutely faithful to the book and therefore only six minutes long.
A great package and a fantastic gift for pre-schoolers.
I always look out for Orchard Toys games for my children because they are so imaginatie and have a lot of educational value whilst still being fun.
Bus Stop can be played by up to 4 players and is aimed at ages 4+, though I would say it really suited my daughter's between the ages of 3 and 5.
The object of the game is to get right around the board, back to the bus depot and to pick up passengers on the way.
The board consists of 5 large jigsaw pieces that are easily assembled tp make a colourful bus route that passes a farm, a town, fairground, castle and much more. Each player gets a bus playing piece and a bus mat with ten places for passengers. On your turn you throw two dice, one determines how many spaces you move, and the other how many people get on or off your bus and this depends on whether you land on a plus or a minus sign.
There are lots of passengers to choose from, old and young, male and female, and all kinds of ethnicities.
It's great for children who are learning counting or simple addition and subtraction. There's also scope for a more imaginative aspect, thinking who would get on at the farm or who would get of at the factory, which passengers are friends or family.
What I really like about the game is that we've always played it with two winners. One who gets around quickers and one who ends up with the most passengers. This has proved very convenient with competitive children.
Having said all this I always found that I enjoyed this a game a little more than my children. Maybe it goes on a little too long for them.
It's not my favourite Orchard Toys game (that's Post The Most) but it is superior to a lot of games you will find for this age group.
Owl Babies has become a real classic over the year and is a real favourite of children, who will recite the most memorable parts along with you.
It is the story of three baby owls, Sarah, Percy and Bill, who are left in the forest while their mother goes hunting. As the story progresses the babies get more and more worried about where their mum is and what might have happened to her. Sarah and Percy's speculations are always followed by Percy's constant refrain, "I want my mummy". Until Mummy comes home and asks them what all the fuss was about.
It's a simple theme that young children will recognise and as always with Waddell, there is a great rhythm and bounce to his words.
The illustrations are not my favourite, but the owl babies are very cute.
This book is a staple of nursery schools and is ideal for ages 1-4.
Farmer Duck is one of my favourite children's picture books. It's a kind of Animal Farm for kids, with a poor put-upon duck, who is left to run the farm, while the lazy, fat farmer lies in bed eating chocolates. Farmer Duck eventually bands together with some sympathetic cows, sheep and hens (but with a nod to Orwell, no pigs) and revolution is born. They chase the idle farmer away and live happily ever after in a collective harmony.
As with many Waddell books, there is a wonderful rhythm to his writing and a great use of repetition. The simplicity and subtlety of this story will appeal to children between 18 months and 5 years. Small children will love the repeated animal noises, as the animals only communicate throught their baas and moos and quacks, not through human speech. Yet there is enough of a story here to appeal to 4 and 5 years old as well.
The illustrations by Helen Oxenbury are as always lively and humorous. The animals are full of character and the portly farmer is a glorious slob.
A very welcome addition to a pre-schooler's bookcase.
My children absolutely love Battersea Park Children's Zoo. Be aware, it's in a completey different league, form the big zoos, like London and Colchester. It's smaller and sweeter, cheaper (though not that much) a much more manageable to traipse young kids around. I always start to lose the will to live after too many hours at London Zoo!
They don't have the big draw animals here, but there's plenty to delight children. Favourites are the meerkats, kids will just love the tunnel leading to a glass dome that comes out in the middle of the meerkat enclosure; the cheeky cappuchin monkeys; the mischevious otters; and a very talkative mynah bird. There's also a petting zoo, with a very popular white fluffy rabbit and if you're there at the right time your children will be able to help the keeper on her feeding round. There's plenty of great talks from the friendly and knowledgeable keepers, and because the zoo is small, it's easy to get to the talks at the right time, which I never manage to do at the larger zoos. The written information on all the animals is brilliant and aimed at young readers.
It's not especially cheap - adults are £7.50, children (between 2 and 15 years) are £6.00 and a family ticket is £25.00 (2 adults and 2 children
or 1 adult & 3 children), but then zoos are not cheap to run.
There's also the obligatory cafe, shop and play area, and Battersea Park as a whole has a great over-5's free adventure playground, a normal play ground, boating lake, bike hire - lots to entertain the whole family. The zoo itself is ideal for very young kids, but my eight year old loves it as well, especially if it's followed by some time in the adventure playground.
This was my daughter's favourite book as a toddler, and was her final book before bedtime for probably about a year. I ended up learning it off by heart and would often be found reciting it at three in the morning to get her back to sleep.
Peepo follows a baby's day from waking up, through breakfast time, a walk in the park, bathtime and lots more right until he's fast asleep in his cot at the end of the day. We are allowed to peep on each of these scenes through a hole in the previous page, which is a great delight for curious toddlers.
Allan Ahlberg is one of our very best children's authors and this is one f his classics. There is a beautiful rhyme and strong rhythm throughout, as Ahlberg describes what you see in each picture, what all the other members of the family are doing. The distinctive pictures of Ahlberg's late wife, Janet tell more of a story, appealing to parents and grandparents. The artwork places this book firmly during the second world war and each picture is just crammed with period detail, there are barage balloons and gas masks to spot. There are buckets of coal and mum wears a hairnet. Poignantly, the dad wears an army uniform at the end, so we can assume he is going back to fight.
A lovely book, that is a great draw for toddlers and adults.
I loved Astrid Lindgren books as a child, and it was a joy to find this one to read to my own children. I had read all the Pippi Longstocking and Emil books to my seven year old, and though we had both really enjoyed them, I felt they went over her head a little, but the Lotta books are aimed at a younger child and are perfect for my five year old. I really struggle to find books for this age group, as they are starting to grow out of picturebooks, but don't quite have the attention span to follow anything too complex. And I just hate all those fairy and magic pony series that abound.
So 'Lotta Says No', despite being over 50 years old, is like a breath of fresh air. Lotta is four years old, the youngest of three children, and rather wilfull. The children are just like real children, which is quite rare in a lot of children books. Lotta's brother and sister boss her around and whenever they let her join in their games, she finds her role involves lying down, much to her distress. They get in all kind of scrapes and can be a little naughty, just like your own children. It's very sweet. I think it may have been an influence on Lauren Child when she wrote Charlie and Lola, because it's very much in that spirit and she did call one of her characters Lotta.
Chapters are quite short and each chapter stands alone, so it's a great book to dip in and out of and return to. It's an old book, but doesn't feel dated, because it captures the essence of a four-year-old so well, and also because Astrid Lindgren was obviously such a free spirit, so there is none of that preachiness you find in an Enid Blyton book, say. Tony Ross's illustrations, though rather ubiquitous nowadays, suit the book really well. Love it!
As a daily user of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, I had long been coveting a Wacom tablet, but was undecided which one to buy and how much to spend. In the end, I decided to plump for this one, the most basic and the cheapest, thinking I could always upgrade at a later date.
Six months on, I am more than happy with my purchase. It's great, very easy to use. You need to experiment a bit, changing the settings, so that it suits you and so that it is pressure sensitive when you draw. It comes with a tutorial on its use and also ArtRage software. It has two buttons that work as a left and right click, though I don't use these and use my mouse at the same time.
You can also use it in Paint and in Windows word processing software to write your signature.
If you wanted to create fine art, you would probably want a slightly pricier model, with more pressure sensitivity and an eraser, but this is a very good starter model.
My kids have recently received these as presents, they weren't the kind of thing I would have thought of buying. I have a bit of a problem with being sold games that we played for free as kids (ditto hangman). But I have been pleasantly surprised.
It is essentially the old word game of 20 questions, where one player thinks of a thing either animal, vegetable or mineral and the other players have to guess what it is. The 20Q is remarkably good at guessing your answer, no matter how leftfield it may be. It doesn't get it every time, but most times, it even guessed the emotion anger yesterday, which I thought was rather impressive.
They really are suitable for children as soon as they can read independently. There's a 'don't know' and a 'sometimes' button as well as 'yes' and 'no' buttons, so if your younger children are not sure of an answer, it won't ruin the game.
My children don't play with them that often, but it is a good thing to whip out of your bag on long journeys or at times you need them to stay quiet. I'm not sure if it's worth the full price, but if you keep your eyes peeled, you should be able to pick one up at the £6-7 mark. I often see them at that price at TK Maxx. In that case, quite a good present, when your child's been invited to a party.
They are rather compulsive, so I foresee you will be wrestling them off your children to have a go yourself.
Grobags were an essential bit of baby kit when my children were babies. I struggled with the cellular blankets for a few months until a friend pointed me in the right direction. Grobags are like sleeping bags for babies and toddlers, zipping up at the side, with a pinafore type top. They are recommended from 7lbs and up, so luckily my second-born was big enough to go straight into one.
You don't have to worry anymore about baby kicking off all their blankets, so they stay warm all night. My only concern was that their arms would get cold, so in winter I tended to dress them in long-sleeved vests under their babygrows.
I also found it a weight off my mind in relation to all the cot death advice. I knew she wouldn't overheat or wriggle under blankets. Night feeds were much easier, because she stayed snug in her grobag. Likewise the bedtime routine of story and last feed was all warm and cosy. On the nights she ended up in her bed, I was happier because I could keep her between us but on top of the duvet, which I thought was safer, but she was still comforted by our closeness.
Grobags come in different togs, so I had winter and summer ones. Grobags go right up to 36 months and my girls stayed in theirs until they were potty-trained, when they needed to be able to get out of bed a bit quicker than a grobag allows!
I remember' as a sleep-deprived first time mother, hearing about this parenting 'bible', and thinking I would idly thumb through it at Mothercare one day. But after reading just a few of prescriptive directions in it, I recoiled in horror. I think it was the thought of waking myself up in time to wake up the baby at seven that really scared me, and I didn't really appreciate having my whole day timetabled, even down to when I should have my dinner and when I should wash up the breast pump! Maybe it's just me, I never have taken direction that well.
So I didn't come across the book again until baby number two came along, and a well-meaning friend lent me hers, advising me that I could dip in and out and just use the bits I liked. So I tried to put a bit of routine into my daughter's feeding. Up till then she seemed to be constantly on my breast, and I tried to get her to go three or four hours between feeds. Well I did manage to get her to go a bit longer, but the next time, I took her to be weighed the health visitor was very worried that she hadn't put sufficient weight on, as she had always been doing up till then. So the book went back to the friend and we carried on following our own rules: feeding when she wished, sleeping in my bed most of the time. And do you know what? She turned out alright in the end.
Psychologists now have plenty of evidence that leaving a baby to cry is damaging to their brain development. They are only babies for a short time, it's important that you give them that time and respond to them sensitively, and you can't do that, if you follow this book by the letter.
After failing miserably to tantalize my first born's tastebuds and quickly resorting to baby food jars, when it was time to wean baby number two, I invested in Annabel Karmel's baby meal bible, and meal times were a joy.
Each chapter follows a different weaning stage, right up to the toddler stage, where often the recipes will serve the whole family. In theory, by the time they reach two, they should be more or less assimilated into family meals, though I find that most toddlers tend to get really fussy and go off mixed up foods that they used to eat with gusto.
Still, the recipes are great, varied and usually simple to make. Most recipes make several portions, often up to eight, so that you can freeze some, so that you're not cooking everyday. Some of the fruity puddings were gorgeous, and in savoury dishes, she uses sophisticated ingredients, such as gruyere cheese and curry paste. And my second child was a lot less fussy than the first one, as she got older.
It's full of weaning advice and nutritional advice. If I had another baby, I wouldn't be without it.
A good family game. I bought this for my daughter's eighth birthday on the strength of reviews I had read, singing it's praises. I couldn't really imagine how it could be so much fun, but it is - very simple and addictive. It's small, so great for taking on holidays, playing on long train journeys etc. You can play with as may people as you like, and it's easy for small children to play.
Basically, you have two little pigs and you take it in turns to throw them onto a surface. You receive points depending on how they land. Certain combinations will give you more points, but one combination is a 'pig out'.
Your turn goes on for as long as you dare. You can stick whenever you like. Your points keep adding up, but there is always the risk of getting a pig out and then losing all your points of that turn. The first person to reach 100 is the winner. It is not that easy.
Not great for bad losers!
If you have children, you must buy this game. It's a game you will actually enjoy playing with them, which can be a real novelty. We even play it without them sometimes! The box specifies its for ages 7 and up, but my 5 year old (and many of her friends) have mastered it, though they can't quite manage to keep their cards hidden.
The basic rules of the game are as follows: Each player starts with 7 cards, all cards have values on them, but some have consequences, ie the next player picks up more cards or misses a go. There are also wild cards. The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards, the cards your opponents are left with are added up and scored against them. So it's very simple, but there's lots of scope for strategy, and the children seem to win just as often as the adults.
What's also great, is that there are simply loads of cards in a pack, so lots of people can play, we've had a game with 8 people before. It's small, so perfect to take on holiday. And it's not just us, a lot of our friends are similarly enamoured.
Now when we decide to play a game, you always hear us parents calling "UNO!"