Little Genius Eco Systems – toy review

One thing is very clear – Arlo loves everything about the natural world. He can churn out animal facts all day long and this summer surprised us all when he revealed he had been keeping a secret pet snail in his bedroom for weeks. Having the opportunity to try out the habitats and ecosystems toy from I’m a genius science seemed like a great opportunity. As soon as he saw the box he was excited.

This is one of those toys I saved for a rainy afternoon, I’d already opened it myself to check the contents and read the instructions and so for the first project I made sure we had some stones and natural materials collected from a nature walk to use whilst decorating our little biorb. When I told Arlo we were going to create our own little world he knew exactly what he wanted to include.

The box comes with a biorb in two halves, with various lids a stand, borage seeds, various scoops and a bag containing peat moss and lichens. Plus a delightful little book which includes various ecosystem projects and all sorts of useful information about things like the water cycle. We set to work immediately and used gravel to line the bottom of our ecosystem.

Planting the seeds and decorating the habitat took us a very long time. Arlo kept running around to find extra bits and bobs to decorate with, eventually settling on a pine cone centre piece with a shell and some wood and moss. He even managed to sneak a bug in there too which I spotted at the last minute. We used water to spray our environment and then added the lid and have placed it on the kitchen windowsill so that we can check in on it every day.

The idea is that the seeds will grow creating a mini ecosystem which constantly changes. You can use different pieces on the lid to emulate a water cycle and even add ice to try and create clouds via evaporation. This is such a great toy for nature loving kids and I like that it can also be used repeatedly as a learning resource for different topics. Available to order from Toys and Bears now for £19.99, however I have been kindly given the opportunity to give away one of these to a lucky competition winner.

Terms and conditions apply – click here for details – live until 18/9/2021- products provided for the purposes of review however as always all opinions expressed are our own.

Steiff Teddy bear – Elmar review

Arlo has very kindly been sent out a beautiful Elmar bear from Steiff. To commemorate his starting school I thought he needed a special new friend and he makes the perfect gift because he’s just so huggable and soft. In fact this bear is the ideal gift suitable even for newborns. Available to order online from Steiff. They have a great selection of bears in all sorts of different styles and colours.

Steiff was founded in the 1880’s in Germany by a seamstress Margarette Steiff and originally they began life as pincushions would you believe? Of course the play value was immediately obvious and Steiff began to design and make prototypes herself and the business took off after the Teddy bear craze began after a cartoon of the American president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was published with a bear cub he refused to shoot on a hunt.

With such a great selection of bears on the website, to suit all occasions, at first it seemed like a daunting challenge choosing the perfect bear but this little guy jumped out at us because there was something familiar about him. Arlo’s grandma has a much loved Steiff bear from her childhood, which was purchased by her dad when she was a newborn. Fred is almost sixty years old but my mum recalls that when she was a child Fred had the same soft golden fur. Fred has been on some adventures in his life and is one of my mums most treasured possessions.

Theres just something so special about a childhood bear and the quality which comes from a Steiff bear really does mean that they will stand the test of time. My favourite feature of a Steiff bear is of course the iconic button in ear tag which was designed to prevent counterfeiting of the bears at the turn of the century and is a unique part of the charm of each bear.

Steiff stands for quality, with meticulous attention to detail and rigorous safety testing. The company motto is that “Only the best is good enough for children” with the materials being highly flame resistant and smaller pieces such as the button eyes have to be able to withstand tension tests and wear and tear. We have called our Elmer bear “Ben” after his great grandfather and we know that just like Fred his eyes will still sparkle brightly in sixty years.

Fred arrived to us as an online order and I must also add that the delivery was part of the high quality experience you would associate with such a traditional brand. Ben arrived resting comfortably in an ample sized branded box and wrapped delicately in layers of tissue, protected and secure. Watching Arlo open the box was a special experience and he couldn’t wait to pull him out. With the five way joints he can be positioned in sitting positions and he’s also great for a cuddle. This bear is an unmistakable original from the famous traditional house and already a much loved member of the family.

Steiff bear provided for the purposes of review, all views and opinions expressed are my own

Fuzzikins Home Makers Family Home Review

The award winning Fuzzikins sets are ideal for creative kids. They are a range of small creatures which have a fuzzy texture. Each animal comes with its own customisation kit including pens, felt, stickers and cardboard accessories. They can be coloured in, played with and then washed clean in water for the play to be repeated all over again. They are small enough to encourage fine motor skills and hand to eye co-ordination and inspire endless imaginary play concepts, and so the launch of the new home makers collection had me excited and I fetched these toys out to explore on a cousins play date.

The new Fuzzikins Home Makers range features modular homes to build and decorate. The Fuzzikins family home which is £19.99 and available to order from Smyths and retailers from September comes with two rooms and a garden, plus two Fuzzikins bears, felt accessories, flat pack furniture, stickers and pens – and absolutely everything can be decorated – from the tiny garden flowers to the walls of the homes.

There are additional houses coming to the range which are £9.99. These simple modular style homes are easy to put together and take apart – the three exterior walls slot in to the base Units and click together nicely, with the roof placed atop. We have stacked ours nicely and then arranged them neatly in a square to create a little neighbourhood with a courtyard.

The instruction leaflet contains all the details and a pictorial guide, which was so simple Arlo and his six year old cousin could be left to build it together independently. When they realised they could colour it all in they enjoyed taking it apart and putting it all back together several times. It’s clear that there’s been great care taken in the design of these toys, with the attention to detail on the furniture and with features such as the chimney of each house being hollowed out to store the colouring pens.

Paloma and Arlo, both aged four really enjoyed adding personal details to each of their Fuzzikins, and began playing with the family house and creating imaginary play scenarios about bath and bed time for their animals. I think their excitement bubbled over when I introduced the additional Home Makers kits with Hippo’s living room, Koala’s kitchen and Bunny’s bedroom. To view the full range ahead to Play Monster.

I’m really impressed with just how sturdy all of the “flat pack” furniture is, and because it is flat pack it can be neatly stored away however Arlo’s insisted I pop all of our houses on the window sill to display proudly in a neat little row so that he can check in on the Fuzzikins throughout the day.

We have had great fun with these and when I told the kids that all the Fuzzikins could be washed and cleaned they were in shock. We stood at the sink together washing away the colours from the animals and they asked for cloths to wipe down the walls themselves just to make sure I was telling the truth. (I wonder if this will inspire them to clean around the real house?). You can add even more Fuzzi Babies to your collection as they’re available from Amazon and HobbyCraft at £4.99

For your chance to be one of the first to get your Hands on the Fuzzikins Home Makers Family Home worth £19.99 enter my giveaway by clicking on the picture below.

Create. Rinse. Recolour

Giveaway closes 28/08/2021

For Terms and conditions click here

Products provided by Play Monster for the purposes of review

Curl up with a book this summer

(Books provided by Nosy Crow for the purposes of review)

We have had a wonderful couple of weeks filled with glorious sunshine, and it’s been great to enjoy the weather, I often write about our adventures when we get out and about but sometimes you need a day at home, especially on days like today when there’s a storm blowing outside. It’s always a great idea to have some indoor activities up your sleeve and there’s nothing better than curling up in the book corner for a moment of calm. These new books are available from Nosy Crow now.

We received this bundle of four stories from Nosy Crow and have been enjoying these at bedtime for the past week or so, reading them over and over again because that’s what Arlo likes to do, so that eventually he picks up the story for himself and likes to sit and read independently to the cat or his variety of teddies.

Ruffles and the teeny tiny kittens £9.99

Mousey our new kitten arrived suddenly one day, we had a call that some building contractors had found her in an empty house and she was totally alone, so of course we took her in and Arlo has had to adapt to life with a kitten very quickly. He’s very gentle with animals but our adult cats steer clear of this four year old whirlwind and so having a teeny tiny kitten wanting to follow him around the house and play all day, is a learning curve. This story by David Melling from the Ruffles series arrived at just the right time and together we’re figuring out how to get along.

The cat the rat and the hat £6.99

This paperback book is a delight for helping with word recognition and phonics – we have nailed the “at” sound now with so many repetitions. Arlo has been in hysterics with this one as I read it as fast as I possibly can getting tongue tied in the process. From Em Lynas and Matt Hunt, just like all Nosy Crow paperbacks this comes along with a stories aloud recording – a simple scan of the QR code and I can play the audio book out loud for Arlo to enjoy independently. I love how vibrant and eclectic the illustrations are in this book too.

When a dragon meets Baby £6.99

This story from Caryl Hart and Rosalind Beardshaw is all about a dragon who meets his newborn sibling for the first time, so I would highly recommend this to parents currently expecting and trying to figure out how to adjust their older child to the idea of a new baby in the House – especially if they think dragons are the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t have any plans here for another one but we’re going to be able to finally meet a lot of our friends and their new babies this summer for the first time and it’s great to prepare Arlo on how to set a good example, be helpful and to get excited about being around babies.

This is not a Unicorn £6.99

Our last book in this collection to review is by Barry Timms and Ged Adamson. Unicorns seem to be more than a craze and they’re simply everywhere – Arlo loves them but more often than not they’re gender stereotyped to pink and glittery products so it’s fabulous to see a unicorn in a book who can do all manner of things, but most of all this (not a) unicorn teaches us about friendship. The illustrations in this story are full of detail to explore and every page tells its own story provoking lots of discussion so this is a great read.

Fun to Learn Hey Duggee Magazine Review

(Magazine provided for the purposes of review)

This Fun to Learn Hey Duggee Magazine is an interactive magazine for boys and girls aged 3-5 so perfect for Arlo. We’re facing a long hot summer before he starts in reception and so I’m very conscious of the need to keep him active and engaged. He’s started to recognise characters from popular kids shows and sometimes asks for them, so these magazines are a great compromise, and bring the shows to life.

This edition’s theme is based upon a treasure hunt and so we really bought this to life, I took the coins, gemstones, dog bone and Duggee badge and hid them in long grass and sent him off with the map to find them all – with the promise of a Duggee badge if he completed the task. I did help by giving him “hot and cold” clues. This was a great little activity for a summer evening and equally could be played indoors on a rainy day.

Arlo flicked through the magazine himself and pointed out characters and images of interest, quickly finding the sticker sheet and awarding himself a Duggee hug. I noticed literacy and numeracy tasks, some of which he could play independently and others which required some collaboration, all of which are clearly signposted. Plus lots of creative tasks to save for another day.

This page for example following the families treasure theme was a simple find and count the objects – using the stickers to answer. There’s something about stickers and the concept of Duggee badges which Arlo seems to really connect with and so these are ideal to keep him engaged – the “finished” sticker for each activity/page was a fabulous extra touch too. There’s thirty six pages all in all so this magazine is something we can continuously come back to, and when he eventually completes it there’s also a certificate.

These magazines are available to purchase from all main supermarkets and newsagents at £3.99, which I feel represents good play value for the money. There’s been some real thought gone in to the development of the content and I’m a fan of any screen free alternatives which help facilitate positive interactions.

For more information head across to the Redan Website where subscriptions offers are available.

Kids against Maturity – review

Yes you read that right, I had to double take when I noticed this new card game on the shelves in my local Smyths Superstore. I’m familiar with the concept of the game as I’ve played an adult version many times and with the kids in our family having active imaginations and a crazy sense of humour I knew this would go down a storm, so had to pick it up.

I’ve managed to pack the box in my trusty backpack and take it out with me to a fair few places already when we’ve met up with the gang. It’s a perfect family game for the summer holidays and beyond – we can’t trust the British weather so when we’ve been stuck indoors because of the rain, or we daren’t leave the tent, this can be pulled out to create hours of belly laughs.

It’s super simple to play – there’s 600 cards in the box, a series of blue question cards and white answer cards. Each player starts with ten answer cards and you take it in turns to read out blue questions. So you can get started in the time it takes to deal out ten cards and figure it out as you go along.

All you have to do is pick the funniest answer from the cards in your hand. There’s all sorts of different responses and a potential 40,000 combinations to be made. As a family we judge the winner of each round by the volume of laughter, and they keep the question cards if you’re keeping a tally – but in all honesty the fun is truly in the taking part and it’s easy to lose track of scores and time when playing.

The kids have asked me to pull this out so many times and much to their dismay we got the grandparents involved too, and this just made the whole experience even funnier. There really is enough variety in the answer cards to appeal to anyone with a sense of humour.

The only requirement is that you need to be able to read, but of course the little ones can team up with an older child or adult to take part. For £19.99 this box represents excellent value for money in relation to the hours of play within the box, available to purchase now from Smyths Toys Superstore.

(This is a sponsored blog post)

Review – Nerf Bunkr Battle Cubes

These Nerf Bunkr inflatable cubes are the stuff of childhood dreams. We were delighted to be given the opportunity to review them. In the picture above Arlo is hiding right behind them, camouflaged and ready to take aim and fire with his nerf guns to unsuspecting mother over here who’s been the unfortunate target all afternoon, then we realised that these blocks also have targets on the underside which was a game changer.

The cubes are inflatables which come as a set of four and didn’t take long to set up at all, you simply fill with a little bit of water which acts as a weight to stop them flying away, and then continue to fill them with air using the clever double valve device which is wider for water and then thinner with a non return flow for air – Then away you go.

Arlo spent a long time arranging his cubes, making the perfect hiding place down at the bottom of the garden, and he quickly realised it was the perfect place to stop and reload so he ended up taking his nerf Bullet stash down there to hide too, and then he found a little alcove in the top of each cube which made the perfect bowl to store his stash of bullets for re-loading.

They’re a lot bigger than I expected them to be and such a simple idea to create lots of fun, great value for around £20. We’ve already decided to call the cousins and assemble in the local park tomorrow, and to prepare for battle, so I’ve deflated them down and popped them in the backpack ready for more action. As a side note the box includes a puncture repair kit which always comes in handy, and some battle strategy cards to inspire play.

The NERF BUNKR range is available from Argos, Very, Amazon and Littlewoods. The NERF BUNKR range includes the Battle Cubes as well as the Battle Fort, Challenger Pack and Battle Switch.

WIN A NERF BUNKR TOXIC BARREL & A NERF BUNKR CAUTION CRATE

To be in with a chance to win a NERF BUNKR Toxic Barrel and a NERF BUNKR Caution Crate (rrp £9.99 each), simply Click here or tap the picture below before midnight on 30th June to be in with a chance to win. I use rafflecopter to collate entries, you can enter once a day to increase your chances of winning.

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Summer Holiday boredom busters with Very

This summer is promising to be a good one. After a year of lockdown it’s fabulous that restrictions have lifted and we can head out and about on adventures, but of course we can’t head out to attractions every day as we don’t have the budget. I’m looking forward to sunny days in parks and long evenings in the garden with barbecues and friends coming over to pass the time, come September Arlo starts school and I’m going back to university and so I’m keen to make the most of every second.

When Very asked me to work with them to showcase some of their toy range I jumped at the chance. With so many different brands and products available I was spoilt for choice and I had a good think about the kinds of things which would keep Arlo busy this summer, as ideally I’d like him to exert enough energy to stick to his bedtime and I also love toys with educational value. Being in the U.K. I also have to consider toys which are suitable for indoor and outdoor use with out interchangeable weather.

So without further ado I’m going to delve right in to a review of the items I chose, consider the the ultimate gift guide for a four year old boy this summer.

1. The pool of dreams £34.99

Bestway Blue rectangular Pool

Paddling pools are a must for hot summer days, and we have had various different structures over the years with all sorts of bells and whistles but nothing beats a simple rectangular pool. It’s not too small or too big, the depth of water is perfect and its robust enough to withstand the craziness of Arlo. He invents his own games, “racing” lengths and adding in toys and during the spells of hot weather the pool is a permanent fixture in our garden. I often end up getting in myself to cool off. This one comes with a repair patch too. For my top tips to setting up click here.

2. Making a splash

Bunch of Balloons £13.99

If the pool doesn’t create enough of a splash then a good water balloon fight will, and these from Zuru are perfect for setting up a battle as they have a clever little mode of action to fill and self seal which saves tying lots of knots and means they’re ready to use in a matter of minutes. Better still they’re made from recycled plastic. There’s eight sets in the pack and so here’s hoping we get eight hot days this year.

3. Dino Time

Overseer the switch and Go T Rex from V Tech £69.99

If you didn’t know, Arlo is obsessed with dinosaurs and this is something he constantly points out. I have to admit I ummed and ahh’ed over the price point recently, I consider this to be a big toy which would be a great “main present” for a birthday or Christmas, but he does have some of the smaller toys from the switch range. I love VTech as a brand for their toys with educational value and find their toys manage to withstand the whirlwind that is Arlo.

As soon as Arlo realised that he was unboxing the dinosaur his face lit up, and so did mine. This robot comes with its own controller which is really easy to operate. You can direct it to walk in all directions, speak, transform and do a few stunts. It didn’t take Arlo long to get the hang of it and it’s absorbed his attention for days. I’m really impressed with how sturdy he is and how well he transforms.

4. Toys with educational Value

VTech Leapstart £39.99

This is something which comes highly recommended from friends with children the same age. It’s essentially a platform for an interactive book which works with a stylus which has some wizardry style magic. The box came with a sample book and you can purchase additional books which work with the leapstart on various topics. Arlo picked up the technique in no time and was particularly interested in pages where he had to spot the animals. I’m hoping that this will help support Arlo in his learning over the summer and as he enters reception, in fact the age guide states that it’s suitable for up to seven year olds. I’ve already been looking at books for phonics which I think will be perfect to add on, as well as the Amazing Animals one as based on the sampler this is the page Arlo liked the most.

5. Tech toys

The VTech Challenger Laptop £34.99

The reason I chose this is because I’m hoping it means Arlo will leave my laptop alone, after a year of working from home I’ve learnt to hide my own laptop up in high places because Arlo is really intrigued with all the buttons. I tricked him in to finding this by setting it up in my office and making him think that it was mine for “work.” In playing with this he thinks he’s getting a rare special treat and being really grown up. Toys like this provide a great introduction to tech and provide educational content through games which doesn’t make it feel like learning is a chore. There’s so many different activities programmed in that it’s going to take a while for him to get through them all.

6. Has to be Nerf

Nerf Rex Rampage £44.99

This is a special treat for Arlo. He’s played with his older cousins large guns before, I got him a much smaller one last Christmas because he kept pestering me and he got the hang of it quickly. We’re quite safety conscious so he knows all about not aiming for heads etc. With the kids enjoying nerf battles in the park together over summer I thought it’s about time he was prepared and it just had to be dinosaur themed. This comes with 20 bullets and is battery powered (x4 AA, not included). Read all about how we prepare for battle here with our stackr’s from Nerf.

As soon as he opened the box he went quiet and sheepish because he couldn’t believe it was in front of him. Setting up was super quick, and it took us about ten minutes of practice for him to learn how to load the clip and use the triggers and off he went. Running around the garden and hiding behind things to get me as I was weeding the borders.

7. Heaven is a half pipe

Micro Scooter Mini £79.99

Another requested toy from Arlo was a scooter. Hes had a very basic version but it didn’t stand the robustness test, He’s long since admired his older and has had a go on them but struggles to maintain his balance. This Micro Mini from Micro Scooters is the perfect transition scooter for the next stage. It’s got the rear break and adjustable handle bar like the big kids versions but still has two wheels to help balance.

Steering is done by leaning which is something which takes time to learn but helps develop co-ordination. He’s working on those gross motor skills, keeping him active and all whilst having fun. We have a long list of local parks to visit this summer and the scooter is light and small enough to pop in the car boot for all manner of adventures.

8. Getting creative with Crayola

The mega activity tub £24.99

We love getting our craft on, and so having an array of different materials to utilise is brilliant. You can’t beat Crayola for quality when it comes to kids bits and bobs. Arlo will be drawing and practising his writing skills most days in the run up to starting school, I always make sure that he has these materials accessible at the kitchen table as an unstructured activity, and I love displaying all of his work on our pinboard in the kitchen. He always says that his favourite colour is rainbow and so here he has everything he needs and it comes with a handy storage container too.

9. Continuing the crafts with play doh

16 tubs value deal £19.99

Another of Arlo’s favourite things to do is use play doh to make all sorts of models, we could set up our own zoo here! Playing with this is really useful for developing his dexterity skills, getting those hand muscles working and ready for school work and pen holding. Arlo likes to mix all the colours and keep his models rather than squish them back down so this handy set is great to top up the stash, and I actually chose these to use some in his birthday party goodie bags – we’ll be giving each child a tub of playdoh and some tinker tray accessories to take home.

10. Ice cream Dream

Kitchen creations drizzy ice cream set £16.99

This kit from Play-doh is perfect for summer. Arlo loves his ice cream and we’ve set up the mud kitchen with all sorts of activities but this set is second to none. With its own soft serve machine to create playdoh mounds of ice cream and accessories to make the toppings and even special sauce I can’t wait to see his face when I pull this out for him to play with. I’m going to save it for a rain by day, but when I pulled open the box to check everything I ended up making my own cherry for the top!

11. Count me in

Math Link Cubes £19.99

These remind me of my time at school and bring back all the nostalgic vibes. They’re such a fab resource for learning to count and do simple sums – clicking the cubes together is a great way for Arlo to engage as he likes construction and building so he gets to see a visual representation of numbers. There’s a hundred cubes here for him to count until his hearts content.

The box also includes zero “numberlings” and some activity cards, stickers and character cards, plus a parents guide which all sorts of ideas. This is a toy we will use over the summer and will also pull out to help with his homework for a long time to come. I can’t quite believe that I’m planning this far ahead already!

(Products in the blog provided for the purpose of review)

A very special kid – Grogu plushie review

As most of you know I’m a bit of a geek, and I’m proud of it. I love all things science related and so when it comes to covering educational topics such as “space” with Arlo of course I have involve some fiction along with facts to bring it all to life for him because can’t jump straight to the laws of gravity with a toddler.

The Star Wars films are a guilty pleasure of mine, my favourite character was always Yoda. Arlo isn’t quite up to watching a feature film yet, his attention span doesn’t last so long but he does love the Disney+ series “The Mandolorian” which takes place in the Star Wars galaxy and has of course fallen in love with Grogu. I love sharing things like this with Arlo which help create a sense of adventure and a thirst for knowledge too.

Grogu, is a Toddler member of the same species as the much loved Yoda and I was delighted to be sent out a brand new soft toy Grogu from Simba Toys. This plush is just £9.99 and available to order on Amazon, and ever since he arrived at our door Arlo and Grogu have been inseparable. I was planning on placing him up on a shelf in my office and keeping him for myself just to look at but he’s far too busy inspiring lots of new adventures with Arlo. He’s had him for cute cuddles at home but when I told Arlo we were going to visit the newly reopened Museum “Thinktank” in Birmingham, with an entire floor dedicated to all things space Arlo slipped him in to the backpack without me knowing. Of course Grogu was right at home.

Arlo held tightly to Grogu as we watched a movie in the awesome planetarium and invented a whole new story for him. We purchased some novelty space snack food to try out – dehydrated apple slices, Grogu didn’t get a look in. So we decided to branch further afield and show little Grogu all around the museum exhibits to teach him about our planet.

Nothing keeps Arlo occupied for longer than half an hour but Grogu oozing with cuteness seems to have captured his attention. He’s just the right size to be his new bestie and as I’m writing this he’s got him tucked in the crook of his elbow as he’s fallen asleep with him.

I think Grogu quite likes being a Brummie, and has been made to feel most welcome here!