Monday, 18 September 2017

Review - Layered Cats Puzzle from Hape George Luck

Today I'm sharing a gorgeous wooden puzzle for toddlers that I have been sent to review. The Cats Puzzle is part of a range of wooden layered puzzles from Hape George Luck. Each puzzle in this range is built up from several layers, and as pieces are removed more and more is revealed. In this puzzle there are six lovely wooden cats stacked up on top of each other.

Review - Layered wooden Cats Puzzle from Hape George Luck

The puzzle is aimed at children aged 3 years plus, and is perfect for children that have cats in the family home or love to see cats while they are out and about. The wooden cats are colourful and friendly, toddlers will love playing with them and completing the puzzle.

Review - Layered wooden Cats Puzzle from Hape George Luck

When removed from the puzzle base, the cats could also be used for all sorts of imaginative play and games. The puzzle is challenging at first, but young children will soon work it out. It's durable, and will help young children with dexterity and shape recognition skills.

Review - Layered wooden Cats Puzzle from Hape George Luck

Other puzzles in this lovely range include Tractors, Buses and Animals, so you'll definitely be able to find one that suits the interests of your toddler, and one would make a lovely stocking filler this Christmas!

I received this puzzle in exchange for a review. The puzzle is available to buy online from Debenhams for £8. 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Share your #ChangingTimes with Tommee Tippee, and win a nappy bin and spa retreat!

Having a baby changes lots of things, and introduces you to plenty of new experiences. Tommee Tippee, the UK's leading baby feeding brand, has launched an Instagram competition for parents and parents-to-be to showcase their very own #changingtimes - and you will be in with the chance of winning a luxurious spa break and a Sangenit Tec nappy bin.

The newly updated version of the Sangenic Tec Nappy Disposal System is a compact, odourless and antibacterial unit for storing dirty nappies. When you have a baby, sometimes it can seem as if all you are doing is changing nappies, so a nappy bin is a great addition to the nursery. The bin is available in four different shades - Cotton White, Raindrop Blue, Powder Pink and Urban Grey - meaning that you can choose one which will fit beautifully into any nursery colour scheme.

The nappy bin is 100 times more effective at odour protection than just using a nappy sack, and the unit can store up to 28 nappies at a time. It has an RRP of £27.99 and is available at all major retailers.

Sangenic Tec Nappy Disposal System in grey from Tommee Tippee

If you'd like to enter the competition and have the chance of winning a Sangenic Tec nappy bin of your very own, all you need to do is share and embrace the inevitable lifestyle changes which accompany the journey of having your first baby. Upload a carousel to Instagram with two contrasting images highlighting how much your life has changed since becoming pregnant or having a baby. Maybe you've swapped your high heels for sensible trainers, or a tiny handbag for a stuffed nappy bag.

The #ChangingTimes competition launches on 4 September 2017 and closes on 30 September 2017. A Tommee Tippee judging panel will select a shortlist of finalists, with the winner voted for on Facebook. Valid entries to the competition need to include the hashtags #ChangingTimes, #Sangenic, and a mention of @TommeeTippeeUK, and you can see full terms and conditions here - Changing Times

I received a Sangenic Tec nappy bin in exchange for this post.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Encouraging toddlers to help around the home

If you are home with young children then it doesn't take long before the house ends up in a mess. Sometime it's the regular cleaning that needs to be done regardless, and sometimes it's the extra work that goes along with having children - the clothes washing, washing up and just general tidying.

I think it's really important that children get involved with helping out around the house. Obviously their age will determine the sorts of jobs that they can help out with, and there are lots of lists about which give some suggested chores for each age group, for example this one - Age-Appropriate Chores.

So here are some of my tips:

* Equipment - There are lots of toy versions of cleaning equipment about. I've linked to a few that caught my eye at the bottom of this page (affiliate links). They can be fun for play, but it's also worth investing in a few child sized versions so that the children can actually use them to help. For example, this cleaning caddy (affiliate link) is filled with toy cleaning materials, but you could easily top it up with some bits and pieces of your own that the child can help with.

For example, I've always given mine a small spray bottle and a duster and they love squirting it about, even if I do often have to go back and clean up the excess water! They are also thrilled with the opportunity to have a go with a feather duster, I'm quite short so I have one with an extendable handle that they love using to reach cobwebs high up.

* Incentives and bribery - I've always found bribery to be an effective parenting model. But where possible I try to make the incentive something that we would have been doing anyway. So I might say we'll go to the playground, but only once the living room is tidy. Or if they help to put their plates in the dishwasher after the first course of a meal I'll get on with cutting up some fruit for dessert. As they get older though, often some pennies for their money box also works very well!

* Clearly defined storage - It's easier to get on with tidying if it's obvious where everything goes. We have lots of crates and boxes where toys of the same type can be put, then I can carry them back to the toy cupboard. It's much easier to keep things tidy if everything has a home. An important part of this is keeping on top of the number of toys with regular decluttering sessions. I've shared some tips on dealing with clutter in the home, and I do a regular review of the toys that we have about.

* Timers - Times are fun to make the tidying and cleaning into a game. You can say that the children have ten minutes to tidy the room. However I've found that my children can get a bit stressed by a timer, they don't like the pressure and it can cause more problems. So my other solution is:

* Put away a certain amount of items. I've been doing this for a long time, even back in the old pre-children days when my husband and I needed to tidy our flat! I'll set a number depending on the state of the house, and say 'right, before we can do such and such you need to put away ten things'. Each item has to be put away where it belongs. You do need to set a few rules, for example putting away all the Lego counts as one thing, rather than counting individual blocks. Sometimes the children are happy to keep going to see how many things they can put away.

I hope that you found these tips helpful!

Amazon links are affiliate.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Educational toys you can make for your toddler

I love crafting, and I particularly like making things that have a purpose. Since having children I've found myself making lots of things for them, from homemade toys and games to clothing, blankets and accessories. I thought that I'd share some of my favourite educational toys, some of which they've been involved in making too.

Educational toys and games you can make for your toddler

I loved making these bright and cheerful tactile alphabet cards. The cards measure about 5 cm by 10 cm and were made using the cardboard from a sturdy nappy box. My toddler helped me to paint them in a range of colours, and together we gathered small items from around the home to form the letters. I made a lower case alphabet, and making the cards provided plenty of opportunity to discuss the shape of the letters. When they were finished we used them to practice the letters, with my toddler tracing the shapes with his fingers.

Educational toys that you can make for a toddler or pre-schooler

I made these embroidered felt numbers for my toddler using scraps of felt, embroidery silk, small beads and sequins. They were really easy to make, and a great tactile resource for number ordering.

Educational toys that you can make for a toddler or pre-schooler

Together my toddler and I put together this simple helicopter game. If you click the link you can find examples of the different games that we played together. His favourite was when I hid the coloured landing pads around the room and then gave him the helicopters, letting him match the colours to land the helicopter in the correct place.

Educational toys that you can make for a toddler or pre-schooler

Making a cardboard post box and letters is a great way to encourage early literacy skills with a toddler. We made a post box from an old carton, then we made lots of letters for family and friends, decorating them with stickers. A young toddler can have fun sticking pictures to paper to make postcards, and older toddlers can practice their writing, even if it's just writing their name at the bottom of a letter.

Educational toys that you can make for a toddler or pre-schooler

To help children begin to learn about their place in the world you can make a me on the map book together. It starts with a small circle with a picture of your house, then something to represent your street, your town, your county and so on, finishing with a picture of the Earth. Children can help find or draw pictures to represent each area, and when the book is finished you can flip through it together to help put each circle in context. I've also written more about introducing young children to geography.

Educational toys that you can make for a toddler or pre-schooler

Finally, we had fun making some simple flags together, inspired by a recent football tournament. There are plenty of places where you can print out flag blanks to colour, you can see where we found ours using the link above. We brightened ours up with collage and glitter and I laminated them to make them sturdy. Even with very young children it's interesting to look at the similarities and differences between different flags, and to find the different countries on a map.

Educational toys that you can make for a toddler or pre-schooler

You can find some more of the toys and games that I've made for my children here - homemade toys and games for young children.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Toys for toddlers that want to travel under their own steam

First transport toys for toddlers

Once your toddler is walking confidently, there are all sorts of fun ways that they can get themselves around, and it makes taking them out for a walk a lot more fun! I thought I'd share some of our favourite ways to transport toddlers about - all of these are products that we have owned and that I can personally recommend. Amazon links are affiliate.

We started with a 4-in-1 Trike. These tricycles have a handle which is fixed to the back and the pedals can be removed, so that younger toddlers can be steered about by a parent. As they grow you can add the pedals so they can drive along with you, and then when they are more confident you can remove the handle so they can travel under their own steam. Most models come with some sort of basket and some have a sunshade too.

Then we moved onto a Scuttlebug, and this was easily one of our favourite items of toddler equipment. The three wheeled sit on bug can be folded up for easy transport and storage. Once the toddler has worked out how to use it they can zip about quite quickly. We started using it in the house but it got up to quite a speed on our wooden floors so it soon became an outdoors only toy! It was particularly fun when ridden down small slopes.

Next it was time for a scooter, again another item which we had an enormous amount of use from. Mini Micro is a great brand, and the original three wheeled scooters that we have had lasted for years and years. We had one for each child, and they are still going even though my children are older now. This model aimed at younger toddlers has a seat and handle while they work up to learning to ride it as a scooter. Having a three wheeled scooter is great as young children don't need to worry about balance, and they soon learn how to steer by leaning slightly to the side.

Finally, before moving onto a bicycle, a balance bike is a great purchase. You can start off with a smaller lightweight one, and you can also get larger ones which are more like a bike just without pedals. They teach children how to balance naturally, and mean that they won't get stuck on a bike with stabilisers - they'll be able to move on to a proper bike quickly.

Have fun!

Amazon links are affiliate

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Are you ready for September sun?

We might be at the beginning of September, but after the hot August Bank Holiday weekend and with a history of Indian summers in the UK, the danger from the sun isn't over. With the children going back to school it's important to teach them about the importance of sunscreen when parents aren't around to apply it for them.

Young children can find it difficult to put on their own sunscreen without supervision - my son attempted it once and you can see the result here! It's not just worry about making a mess, it's also difficult for children to make sure that they have put it everywhere that it needs to go. Sunscreen needs to be applied 15 to 20 minutes before heading out and reapplied every two hours on sunny days, especially if children will be spending longer than usual outdoors, for example on a school trip or while doing PE. 

Kelli Aspland and Laura Griffin were concerned about how their children were protecting themselves against the sun while they were at school. They wanted to come up with a solution to allow children to apply sunscreen independently, as well as teaching them that it's important to learn and practice good sun cream habits.

Solar Buddies are great for children to carry in their school bags and are easy for children to use, meaning that they can top up their cream whenever the sun comes out. By making it a part of the daily routine it becomes embedded in their way of life instead of something that children try to put off. I think that this is a great solution to make sure that toddlers and young children are well protected against the sun. 

Solar Buddies sunscreen for children

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Felt toys that you can make for your toddler

I love making homemade toys both for and with my children, and I thought that today I'd share some of my favourite toys that I have made for toddlers and pre-schoolers using felt. 

Felt toys that you can make for your toddler

Play food is something that can be made really easily from felt. One of my first home made play food crafts was this felt sandwich. There is very little sewing required, and you could get away without needing to sew anything if you wanted because felt doesn't fray when it is cut. All you need to do is cut out shapes for different sandwich fillings from various colours of felt.

Felt toys to make for your toddler

There's a little more effort involved in these felt biscuits and cookies, but it's still very simple. You can easily make little felt versions of your child's favourite foods for them to play with in their own toy kitchen.

Felt toys to make for your toddler

I used salt dough along with felt toppings to make a salt dough and felt pizza for pretend play. The slices can be topped with whatever your child fancies, and my children have had a lot of play from this set.

Felt toys to make for your toddler

I've always liked making toys that are educational for little ones, and these embroidered felt numbers were very fun to make. Again, they were very easy and can be customised however you like, you could use your child's favourite colours or a scheme that matches their bedroom. I made a simple set with one of each number for numbering and sorting games, you could make more when your child starts to learn simple sums. Making an alphabet would also be a great idea.

Felt toys to make for your toddler

I've loved putting together busy bags for toddlers and young children, great for travelling or when you need to entertain children while out and about, for example while in a waiting room or on a plane. This monster busy bag can be put together using bits and pieces from the craft cupboard and around the home, and will keep little ones entertained for ages.

Felt toys to make for your toddler

I really enjoyed making this magnetic fishing game for the children. As well as playing fishing with it the fish have been well played with in the children's imaginative play over the last few years, they've decorated homes for mermaids and other under the sea activities.

Felt toys to make for your toddler

Finally, this little felt neck purse makes a great gift for little ones that want to carry small treasures around with them. This craft is better suited to slightly older children as it will be worn around the neck, and it can be customised however you like.

Felt toys to make for your toddler

I hope that I've inspired you to try out some felt crafting for your children!
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