As part of the Ravensburger Puzzle Club, the boys and I get the chance to test out and review some of their latest puzzles. I always find Ravensburger Puzzles great quality and have been buying them long before I ever started my blog so this is something I’m really happy to have the chance to get involved in 😀
If you have read the previous Disney Planes Bedding competition post, you will know that we are really looking forward to the new Disney Planes movie which is coming out August 16th. So it was great to see that the puzzles which had been chosen for us are from the new Disney Planes range, featuring some of the main characters who I am sure are set to become known in every household with small children very soon!
We were sent the 3 in a box set with 49 pieces per puzzle, which is marked as age 5+. I would say this is exactly right as it was just at the right level for Mr Z who has just turned 5. He was able to do the puzzles with not much help from me, and he really enjoyed them as they are just that bit more challenging than the 4 in a box sets he was doing at age 3 and 4. With these puzzles I was able to explain to him the technique of starting around the edges and then filling it in, as this will help him more as he moves on to more advanced puzzles.
The three puzzles in the set feature Dusty, Skipper, and Chupacabra, and each one has a different pattern on the back of all the pieces, so that you are able to quickly sort them and do one at a time.
In the words of Mr Z “We love it, cos it is so fun!” He said his favourite is the orange helicopter Dusty and he is really looking forward to seeing the movie.
Last Sunday we spent the morning in Hamley’s for some top secret toy testing. A new Tickety Toc toy range is coming out and we were among the first to see it and play with it!
You can see my boys here enjoying having a go with the Musical Pufferty Train and Clockhouse Playset. They love trains so these were the first two toys they were immediately attracted to.
The Musical Pufferty train plays the Tickety Toc theme tune when you press the funnel, and includes small figures of Tommy and Tallulah as well as Tooteroo the owl. My youngest (nearly 2) really enjoyed opening and closing all the doors and moving along the train, as well as hearing the theme tune which they all recognise from watching on TV.
The Clockhouse playset is immediately recognisable for anyone who has seen Tickety Toc, with the distinctive look of Tickety Town. It includes a pushalong pufferty the train with tracks integrated to the house, and Tommy and Tallulah figures.
There are also talking soft toys of Tommy and Tallulah, and smaller soft toys of Tommy and Tallulah.
Among the goodies in the goody bag (also including Tickety Toc sticker books and magazines which I’m sure will be available to buy soon along with the toys), my boys got to go home with one of these soft toys each. They chose to have Tommy and they have been enjoying playing with him, singing the Tickety Toc theme tune to themselves. These are a very handy size, not too big and not too small – Ideal if they want a small toy to take out in the car with them or anything like that.
As well as testing out the toys, there was more fun to be had. The boys took part in a craft session to make some Tickety Toc headgear for themselves (you can see my 5 year old modelling his top right in the collage below) and decorating some plates too with glue, feathers and all those crafty kind of bits and pieces. My 5 and 3 year old both love crafts. There was also dancing with the Milk Shake presenters Olivia and Kemi, delicious milkshakes from the Hamley’s milkshake bar, giant Tommy and Tallulah characters walking around and the chance to explore all the toys of Hamley’s before opening time – which is always great! There were some celebrity families there to join in with the fun too!
The new Tickety Tock range is coming out this Saturday 27th and will be available from Argos, The Entertainer, Smyths, Amazon and all good toy shops/online. Tune-in to Tickety Toc at 9am every weekday on Channel Five’s Milkshake! and daily at 8am, 4pm and 4.15pm on Nick Jr!
My younger boys have been really lucky this week, as they have been sent some of the new Fisher Price Bubble Guppies toys to try out. They enjoy watching Bubble Guppies on Nick Jr quite often, so I was not surprised that they took to the toys straight away.
For those who may not know, Bubble Guppies is an underwater educational and musical show for preschoolers. Molly and Gil are the main Bubble Guppies and it’s set in their underwater classroom.
The new Fisher Price range has loads of different Bubble Guppies toys, all suitable for around 18 months+.
The first thing the boys were immediate attracted to were the racers. We were sent: Bubble Guppies Nonny & Green Streak, Bubble Guppies Gil & Red Racer and Bubble Guppies Molly & Violet Racer
They love cars and anything transport related, so they were really excited by these. As soon as my 3 year old saw them he was so excited and started to sign “fish – car” (he’s non verbal due to SN) and I knew he recognised the characters, and was very very happy to see them! 😀
Each car includes one removable Bubble Guppy rolling figure, and these also work on the Rock and Roll stage which is really handy as you can mix and match. The Bubble Guppies are easy to put in and out of the cars, so my youngest (23 months) hasn’t got frustrated with it at all. The cars are an ideal size for this age group too and are very well made and look like they will last well. (I generally find this to be the case with Fisher Price!)
The boys have kept coming back to the Bubble Guppies racers and I think it will keep their attention over time, not something that they would get bored of quickly.
The next item we tried out is the Bubble Guppies Rock & Roll Stage. This was also pretty exciting for the boys.
Firstly, I have to mention you do need to assemble it once you take it out of the box BUT it is really easy and does not involve any tools. It’s just a matter of following the instructions and clicking everything into place, it took me a maximum of 5 minutes and I am not very good with instructions or assembly so it really is easy! You also have to add the stickers for decoration, which again is really easy as its very clear where each one goes. Then you will also need 3x AA batteries, as the toy has sound and lights.
The rolling figures really work well with the Rock and Roll stage. Each one has a little metal ball in the bottom which helps them to glide down the ramp, and this activates lights and sounds at the end. The set comes with a Molly figure, but as I mentioned any of the other figures from the racer cars are also compatible and you can buy more rolling figures sets separately.
It is easy enough to use for young children. The figures may fall off the odd time but 95% of the time they were gliding down the track smoothly. For any young children who like ball tracks or simple marble runs, they would probably enjoy this as its quite a similar action.
You get a few extra play pieces included – a drumset, a microphone and a rock lobster. These would be good for encouraging a bit more imaginative play.
I’ve made a short video just to see it in action! As you can see, my little boys really enjoyed sending the Bubble Guppies sliding down the ramp and hearing the sounds and songs
The last Bubble Guppies toy we were sent is one of the bath squirter packs: Bubble Guppies Gil, Mr. Grouper & Lobster Bath Squirters
There are 3 different sets available each featuring a Bubble Guppy and two of their underwater friends. For me, it’s ideal having 3 in the pack for my 3 boys – one each so no arguments! My 5 year old is getting a little old for the other toys and was happy to leave them more to his younger brothers, but he is not too old for a water squirter! These are simple fun but provide a lot of laughs and are great for bath time or just water play time. My boys find it hilarious to squirt each other with water!
Have a look on the Fisher Price page to see the other Bubble Guppies toys available. I am pretty impressed with the ones we have tried, and I am sure any young Bubble Guppies fan would love them. Which ones do you think your little one would love the most?
Crawling can be so tiring. And it’s not my fault if my knees are filthy – Daddy calls me his mucky pup – after a long day’s crawling around the house, in the garden, at play group and at grandma’s house. I’ve got to get around somehow. There is just so much to see and do, so many things to discover and so many new things to try out. I can’t help it if my hands get dirty and how else am I supposed to get down the stairs if I don’t shuffle down on my bottom? The grownups keep crouching near me and asking me to come towards them. They think I can get up on my legs just like that, but I don’t think I’m strong enough yet. What I need is a fab new wooden baby walker from WoodenToyShop.co.uk to help me strengthen my little legs and start walking on my own.
My older sister Emily had one of those walkers that looked like the pram that Mummy and Daddy used to push me around in, except that the one she had was for dollies and was pink.
I’ve heard Mummy talking about a walker that has lots of different colours and wheels that make patterns when they roll along. I like the sound of that! She said it also has these brilliant wooden blocks that are painted with something called letters which will help me learn something else called reading, but I think I would use them to build towers and then knock them down. There are some wooden beads at the front that you can move from side to side. They will help me learn numbers, whatever they are. Daddy said he would rather buy me something called a dumper truck. I saw a picture of it and I must admit I like the way it looks like some of my toy cars and lorries. I could put all my favourite toys in it and carry them around with me while I learn to walk. Then whenever I get tired, I can tip them out and play wherever I am. I’m sure no one will mind.
If I was allowed to make my own choice for once, I think I’d like to learn to walk with something that had lots of different things to do so that whenever I decided to sit down I would have a new game to play. My friend Ethan at playgroup has something called an Activity Walker. I don’t know what an ‘activity’ is, but I think it has something to do with playing games because there are so many different ones to play with Ethan’s walker. You can turn some coloured wheels, move some buttons up and down a bendy track, make some noise with a rattle (I like making noise) and play some other games that I haven’t quite worked out yet.
I remember Mummy saying at playgroup that these kinds of activities (there’s that word again) help with hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills, whatever they are. Ethan’s mummy also said that walkers are very good for developing gross motor skills. What are they talking about? These grown-ups really do talk funny sometimes. I just want to learn to walk and have some fun at the same time.
We recently had the chance to review some Djeco Toys from Crafts4Kids. It was not easy to decide what to try as they have so many great looking products but I chose the Djeco Enchanted Fishing for my younger two boys (aged 22 months, and 3 years)
It is a very simple activity, which can be done by one child on their own or as a turn taking activity. The box contains two fishing rods with magnetic hooks, and 12 beautiful wooden fish all with different designs and patterns on them. The box itself doubles up as the fishing pond, and is illustrated on the inside. I love the style of the illustrations!
The activity kept both the boys attention for quite some time. They were better playing separately, although there are 2 fishing rods, because these two do squabble! It worked really well as a one to one activity for me to do with each of the boys.
I love that this is simple enough for my youngest to do and that it is developing his hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. The activity can be adapted to focus on whatever you prefer, so if you want to support your child’s numeracy skills then you can focus on counting the fish as you catch them. If you want to focus on colour or patterns, you could sort the fish by asking the child to pick only the spotty ones, then only the flowery ones and so on.
The designs on the fish are really attractive and appealing. All 12 are different so there are plenty of patterns for the child to explore. The fish are all a good size, so no choking hazard as they would be too big for any baby or toddler to swallow. The magnetic piece is well attached and not at risk of coming loose at all. The magnet being right in the middle of the fish and fairly large makes it easier for those at the younger end of the age range to manage. After only a little practise, my youngest boy easily got the hang of it as you will see in our video. He then had to practise taking them back off the fishing rod again. This can be done by shaking the rod but with the younger ones it may be simpler for them to just pull it off with their hands.
The boys really enjoyed this activity and I can definitely see the early learning benefits in it for them, so that is a definite positive for me. It’s a brilliant activity to have for young children, and with it being so beautifully made this would make a lovely gift too.
Have a look at the short video below to see Mr R in action catching his fish and enjoying himself 😀
We were recently sent this Shelby’s Snack Shack game from Learning Resources to review, and my 4 year old (Mr Z) was really excited to get started.
The game comes in a large, shaped cardboard box and says it is recommended for ages 4-8 years. It helps to develop number and counting skills and it is for 2-4 players.
Inside the box you find:
One Shelby the Dog tweezers to pick up the bones
A packet with loads of bones (40)
4 different coloured bowls for the players to collect the bones
A board with two spinners
The rules of the game are quite simple and were easy for my 4 year old to pick up. It took him a couple of practises to get good at using the Shelby Tweezers but then he easily got the hang of it. I really liked the element of including these tweezers to help with fine motor skills. Both my 4 year old and 3 year old do have some difficulties with their fine motor skills and strengthening the muscles in their hands will also help give them skills for better handwriting.
When you spin the first spinner, you will land on either the bones symbol (the most likely option as it comes 3x on the spinner) which allows you to pick up a certain number of bones from the beach (this number is found by spinning the 2nd spinner), or you can land on a seagull so that some of your bones will be stolen back onto the beach, a dog with a bone which allows you to take bones from other players, or a lazy dog with a slipper which causes you to miss your turn. I liked that the game box doubles up as the beach for when you are playing the game. This is a clever use of the space and means less waste as the packaging has a double use!
Mr Z really enjoyed the game. He has loved counting since he was quite small, so counting the bones was not too challenging for him but he loves the competitive element in a game, and luckily for him he always seems to manage to win!
After playing the game with Mr Z, I felt it was not as difficult as I thought it might be with a 4+ age recommendation, so I decided to call my 3 year old (Mr T) along to have a turn. As some readers might know Mr T has some special needs and I would not normally expect him to be able to manage a 4+ game at all but he was able to grasp the concept, and with support from me he was able to play the game, and enjoyed it. I was so proud that he has managed to play this whole game, and it reinforces skills like turn taking which he is always doing in his speech and language groups. He is also showing an interest in counting at the moment so this game was really ideal for him. I do think the recommended age of 4+ is possibly a bit high and many children would be fine from age 3 years.
Learning Resources are giving one of you the chance to win a copy for yourself – Just click here and fill in your details. The competition ends July 9th.
I have just made a short video so you can see some of the game in action
I would definitely recommend the game. I love Learning Resources and have never been disappointed with any of their products, they have a massive range on their website – if you haven’t looked before go check it out but beware you might get tempted to spend a lot and buy everything! (its just too tempting!! they have a lot of unique and really good products)
We were recently sent ABC from Brainbox games from the Green board game co. This is a ten minute brain challenge game recommended for age 4+, so it was ideal for my 4 year old to test out and he was very excited to get started.
The Brainbox ABC box contains a sand timer, 1 die and 53 cards. There is a card for every letter of the alphabet plus others for two letter combinations producing the same sound at the start of each word – like “ch” “sh” “cr” “sl”
On every card the letter or sound is written prominently and there are several pictures of things starting with that sound. You use the sand timer and look at the pictures until the time runs out, then turn over the card and roll the dice. There are six questions on the back, so if you roll 1 then ask question 1, roll 2 for question 2 etc. It is quite simple and my 4 year old very quickly and easily picked up these rules. The questions on the back test how much information has been retained from looking at the card.
As as example, the card “Dr” has pictures of a dress, a drink, a dragon and a drum. The child could be asked
What’s the main colour of the drum?
Does the dress have short or long sleeves?
Is the glass less than half full?
What colour is the straw in the glass?
How many words beginning with “dr” are shown?
What is the main colour of the card?
The first couple of cards my son didn’t always get the answers but he soon realised he has to pay a lot of attention when looking and he quickly managed to improve his skills with it and he did really well and retained loads of the info so he was getting most of them right (and feeling pretty pleased with himself too).
This activity helps to improve children’s concentration, memory and recall skills, as well as reinforcing the letters and sounds. I like that the cards feature the combination sounds, as that is something it took my little boy slightly longer to get than the single letters and when sounding out words which do have two consonants at the start, it is easy for them to miss out the 2nd letter – eg snake, and he would miss the ‘n’. I have been told this is quite a common problem so focusing on these combinations is brilliant. It all helps develop their phonological awareness.
I also found this game quite handy for getting my little boy to practise his reading without him really noticing and feeling that he was doing a lot of work. After he had taken quite a few turns with the cards, I suggested that we should take it in turns so I ask him a question then I will roll and he asks me a question. Of course he then has to read the question himself. Although he is progressing quite well with his reading, he can be slightly reluctant at times. At first he did say “you read it mum” but after explaining to him that if I read it then I will be cheating because it’s my question and I must not look at the card then he was more eager to make sure I don’t see it and read it himself.
This was a great game for him, and definitely ideal for his age and stage. He found it fun and I was very happy with the educational benefits of it, so a win-win situation. I also really like the box, its very compact and handy and snaps closed with a magnet in the front fold of the box.
I also found the cards good for my 3 year old. Not to play the game in a structured way as he is not at the level to do that yet, but he was quite interested in the cards and wanted to look at the cards and attempt to repeat the words. (For any readers not aware of my family, my 3 year old has very delayed speech due to Verbal Dyspraxia and Autism). Anything which encourages him to vocalise and make an attempt at more speech is a definite thumbs up from me and he was quite interested in seeing what his older brother was doing with these cards. I was able to use some of the questions with him, not using the timer or expecting him to memorise, but just using them as a prompt while looking at the card, and he was then able to point at his answer or try to say the word he wanted. I was actually very impressed with how well he did with these!
I would say the game is pretty versatile and flexible in this way. It can be used and adapted for the stage your child is at and they will still get benefit out of it. If your child is slightly older and more advanced, then they can play as a written challenge where after turning over the card they have to quickly write down the answers to all 6 questions and see how high they score.
This is the first game we have tried from BrainBoxGames, and I am very pleased with it and will definitely keep them in mind for the future. On the BrainBoxGames website you can actually play some of the games online! This is a very interesting feature to help you out if you are not sure which one to buy, so well worth having a look.
Recently the boys and I had the chance to go to the Xbox Studios and meet the creators of the new Kinect Sesame Street Interactive TV. We had the chance to chat and hear all about the concept and also try it out for ourselves. Since then we have been enjoying the episodes at home too.
My husband is quite into gaming so we have had Kinect since it came out but so far me and the kids have mainly used it for playing dancing games. The Sesame Street Kinect TV is quite different. It’s not a game as such; it’s television but the Kinect allows the children to get involved and interact throughout, either by moving or shouting out. It transforms passive viewing to active participation and is a very different experience than normal television.
The interactive TV experiences are a lot more accessible for young children than even the basic dancing games that we have tried, because if they don’t get something or are not able to complete one of the actions it will just keep going and let them try the next bit. This means that you don’t get that frustration where they want to play, but are not managing something and the game won’t progress. It is recommended for age 3+ and I would say that is exactly right.
The content on the Sesame Street episodes is really educational. Each episode focuses on its own letter, number and move (eg jumping or throwing). It also really stays true to the feel of the original Sesame Street which I remember from when I was growing up.
Each episode is made up of a variety of short segments, about 5 minutes each, so this doesn’t allow the children to get bored, as they don’t spend too long on one thing before moving on to something new.
The episodes are introduced by a newly created CGI muppet and your child (or whoever is watching) appears on screen with them in the mirror. He prompts them to do the moves, for example throwing items to him and then he will juggle them. There are small details that add an extra element of fun, like whatever colour t-shirt your child is wearing the character will comment that and wear the same colour so that they are matching. These little details are really clever!
This feature is Elmo’s World which is another one where the child sees them self right inside the tv screen and is really cool. You go through loads of different scenes and can explore all the different elements, like jump up and touch the stars, sun and moon and they all react to the touch. Several people can interact at the same time with this, so I do it together with the kids and they enjoy seeing all of us in the TV together.
Some more of the activities which my 4 year old loves are the sections where you watch and look out for certain pictures to appear on the screen, when you spot them you shout out “Picture!” and it takes a screen shot and gives you your score at the end. He gets really enthusiastic with this! He also really likes the game show segments for letter of the week, and these are really good for my 3 year old too, to encourage him with learning his letters.
It feels like there is so much do within all the episodes, because each one has so many different little sections there is a lot of variety. I can’t see my boys getting bored with it any time soon.
The episodes also come with access to thousands of original Sesame Street clips through Xbox LIVE so you really do get a lot of content!
All the 8 new episodes of Season 2 are available to download directly from Xbox Live. You can choose to buy the whole series for 2400 Xbox points or if you want to just try one to see how you get on, you can buy individual episodes for 400 points. There are a few new features in the second season, like all of the music segments have now been made interactive so if the child dances then stars and effects will show up on the screen.
There is also a new SmartGlass app which allows you to use your phone, tablet or computer to remotely control the Xbox. This lets you make play lists as well as pause, fast forward, rewind and navigate the Xbox dashboard. This can be easier than using the kinect sensor controllers.
I would definitely recommend any family with an Xbox to try out these two way TV experiences. I have been really impressed with it. It encourages children to be active (which I think will come in really handy in the winter when stuck indoors), encourages learning in a fun way, and feels really exciting for the children to do because of all the cool features. It is brilliant, and really good value for all that you get!
We were provided with the Sesame Street TV episodes to keep and review while attending the Xbox event.
This is a great playset, suitable for age 12 months upwards. It’s quite large and contains 2 firefighters, 1 fire engine, 1 cord as a water hose, 1 cat, 1 ladder, 1 fire hydrant, and 6 more game counters – including fire pieces which show the fire on one side, and the ash on the other side for when the fire has been extinguished!
All the pieces are packed inside the box which opens out to show the fire station, with its door and the inside decor shown with loads of detail. The play pieces are all made of solid wood. The box/fire station is made of thick cardboard, which is still pretty strong and makes it lighter for the child to carry around. My younger boys enjoyed carrying it around by the carry handle!
I love the way that the set packs up into a self contained box, so it could be taken out if you are visiting friends or relatives who don’t have children so you need something to keep the kids occupied and entertained while you are visiting. You only have to grab the box and it’s all in there, which is so handy.
I found all 3 of my boys (aged 1, 3 and 4) enjoyed this play set and were able to play with it together, although there was some inevitable bickering about who gets to have a turn with the fire engine, as that is everyone’s favourite piece!
For one child playing alone, I think this is a really good quiet time activity, as its something calm that they can sit at a table and play, and really get engrossed in their own stories. I like to see my children doing this, to build up their concentration and to make a change from running round and making a lot of noise!
Another feature I really liked was that Haba have included a little booklet giving ideas of games which can be played using the set. This all encourage listening and concentration, to help build language development. There are some stories which you can read out and encourage your child to act along to it by moving the play pieces around as the story unfolds. There are also questions to ask to your child about details on the fire station, to practise their observation and conversation skills. All this expands the set further from just the obvious play ideas, and helps to give more educational value so it’s great that all these ideas are included.
If you want to see the set in action, have a look at the video below. My 3 boys all taking their turn at enjoying the “Fire” play set in the garden.
There is also a Farm themed play set in this format by Haba. I hope they bring more on all different themes, as it is a great product.
We will be getting together and taking about the new range of Haba toys (including fire set) in Playfest at 8.30pm on Tues 21st (twitter) and Thurs 23rd May (facebook) – Why not join us!
My little one has been testing out the Toddle Bike for a few weeks now, and he is still loving it and riding round the house on it regularly. It’s definitely not a one hit wonder, but something that is really keeping his interest as the weeks go on. I can not see him getting bored of it any time soon!
We have not yet taken it outside, but he is quite confident riding it inside now so I will take him out soon and I think he will be fine on it!
Here are some pics.
He does tend to sit quite far forward like this at times, but it doesn’t seem to stop him getting around, or be uncomfortable for him. I’m not sure whether its just because he is a bit small for his age (20 months), and this makes it easier for him to reach the handle bars.
My 3 year old is also very keen on the toddle bike, although he is over the recommended age of 36 months he has been using it whenever the little one is not looking! And he is also getting on really well with it, speeding around – so it would be nice to get a slightly bigger version for him. Although he is 3 years he’s not yet peddling and a bigger one of these would be just the right stage for him, and good for helping his coordination.
I will have to put up a video so you can really see it in action, but I’m really pleased with this bike and finding it brilliant so far!
It has rivaled this hippo for coolest and most-prized ride on, in the eyes of my younger two so that is definitely saying something!
The ToddleBike lets them go much faster and is easier for them to take around the house. Even the youngest is able to even take the toddle bike up and down the stairs easily, which is not something I would have expected from a bike!
I am looking forward to seeing how my youngest gets on with it out and about in the Park or Woods.
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