A bee in your bonnet – A beehive hat DIY for the Easter bonnet parade

Easter bonnets are a tradition I remember participating in when I was a little girl. I was so excited when the nursery asked us to get craft as parents as they’re having a bonnet parade this week before the holiday break, but of course when I asked Arlo what he wanted to make he didn’t have any traditional ideas. In fact he was adamant he wanted to go as a dinosaur and so we were tempted to glue some feathers around a T. rex mask but I didn’t think that would go down too well with other parents.

So I began by reading for an Aldi brochure I’d picked up full of Easter food and the first thing he noticed was the giant beehive Easter egg and so that was his mind made up, and I’m not one to shy away from a challenge so I looked around for things I could use to make a beehive shape. Opting for a small plant pot and half of a plastic wine glass of all things.

The main thing to consider with things like for children is wearability – so you’ve got to consider the weight of everything and how to stick it all on securely. The plant pot we used had holes so I threaded wool through the base before sticking the two halves together so that I could tie it in place.

The beehive was wrapped in wool and I experimented with three different kinds of glue to make sure it stuck before we painted it a lovely golden yellow shade. It’s a little on the interpretive side but you get the gist of things. Then the next thing we needed was bees – and as it’s Easter it seemed logical to use some little egg decorations we had from Poundland.

So we added more yellow paint and cut out little cardboard shapes for wings – we left the little strings on the eggs and then it was easy to hang them up to dry, and then we dipped the bigger end in to white paint before using a chalk pen to draw stripes and smiles ….. and of course adding googly eyes to complete the look.

Meanwhile we set to work decorating the base of the hat – opting for a brim of fake grass and then some scrunched up tissue paper to make the base. I didn’t cover the top until we had secured the beehive in place as I wanted to make holes in the too and then hide these.

Whilst putting all of this together we had inevitable conversations about bees and Arlo confidently explained that bees make honey and so we had to add in a little honey jar too – a plastic shot glass with a roll of paper inside labelled “hunny” and then covered with a scrap of gingham paper tied in place with elastic .

Then once all of the little components were in place it was a case of securing it all to the hat, and then adding flowers and leaves to decorate.

There we have it – Arlo’s Easter bee in a bonnet! 🐝

Kouzina – Selfridges – A review of the Street Kitchen Brothers new Greek restaurant

Kouzina Birmingham (1).jpg

Kouzina opened its brand new restaurant in Selfridges Birmingham in May of this year and I was invited along to a special evening to celebrate their launch. Nothing could have prepared me for the feast which I was about to experience. With holidays abroad still being off the cards, I’ve been proactively experimenting with all sorts of cuisines to transport me away to warmer climates and for an evening I felt like I’d been transported to the Greek islands.

Upon arrival I was seated at a table by friendly members of the team. There’s nothing like a Mediterranean welcome, you almost feel as though your coming to visit old friends in their home. You can’t miss the venue, it’s on the ground floor of Selfridges and the open kitchen is central and decorated beautifully.

I was taken to a table which was set simply but beautifully with blue rimmed plates and simple fresh flowers, and invited to order a drink and so I opted for an iced tea. Upon reflection the next time I visit I will not drive so that I can enjoy the Ouzo. I made sure to try every fruit flavour of the iced tea, and they were all as refreshing and light as each other.

It was revealed to that the Street Kitchen Brothers themselves had created the menu for the evening, a full four courses showcasing the best from their menu and also creating some extra dishes, inspired by trips to Greece where they research the ingredients and recipes to create the most authentic cuisine. If you’re lucky these might appear on the specials board on the day of your visit. To be quite honest with you I was glad that I didn’t have to choose for myself because the whole menu sounds amazing.

Meze was first, and the flat breads were served with a selection of dips and olives. I have to say that I couldn’t place the flavouring of the houmous at first – delicately balanced with cumin this went down a storm and I had to remember to pace myself and prepare for the rest of the meal. I was glad that I chose a loose fitting outfit because I wanted to taste and savour everything. This kind of food is my favourite and it’s even better when it’s on small plates to share. I always fill up on starters though and you could visit for a small plates style meal with friends and swap and share the entire starter menu if you wanted to.

The starters were bought out to us on a platter, and I tried one of everything. I said out loud that I hoped Kalamari would make an appearance and as if by magic my wish came true. A Greek salad, halloumi, sausage and pork were served alongside and every single mouthful was beautiful. Ten delicate flavours and spices shone through but were in no way overpowering. It was wonderful to be able to sit back, chat and enjoy the atmosphere with a live musician playing. I’ve really missed eating out and I vowed to myself there and then to do this kind of thing more often.

Then the main courses came out and I almost regretted having filled up on starters but I sat up straight in my seat and made some space to go ahead – the main course dishes were lamb served with roasted new potatoes with a citrus zing, beef in a rich shallot jus, and the creamiest moussaka I’ve ever had the privilege to try. We also had a side of Orzo which was surprisingly light and complimented everything really well. As I mentioned these were special dishes prepared for the evening and showcasing perfectly just what the Street Kitchen bothers can do.

It was lovely to have the time to talk to the people behind the scenes – the Street Kitchen Brothers are genuinely nice people with a fascinating story to tell about their business and origins – family recipes being handed down through generations, a street food business taking the Midlands by storm and now opening a restaurant in the iconic flagship venue that is Selfridges, but pausing to recommend the best places in Greece to visit for food. These guys know their craft and the passion they have for Greek cuisine shines through in their food.

Desserts I have to admit got the better of me, the sweet and sticky orange cake was a delight but I had to request a doggy bag to bring it home. As I write this blog I’m sitting with my feet up and have put Mamma Mia on Netflix to continue my Greek Island day dreams, I’ve already called my mum to ask when she’s free so I can take her out and go back for more Greek food!

If you’re unable to make it to Selfridges in Brum then keep your eyes peeled as the at home meal kits will be available for national UK delivery very soon from Kouzina

Thank you so much for inviting me along to such a wonderful evening, and I wish you all the best in this new venture, I have a feeling it’s going to be an enormous success.

Cats Vs Pickles plushies review

When we were sent on a special mission to find and review a Cats vs. Pickles collectible plushie, Arlo was most excited and we went on a little trip to our local Smyths toy store to hint down these Mischievous characters. I have to admit that I had no idea where or why these have suddenly become popular but I must have been living under a rock. Seeing viral videos of real cats reacting to pickles has had me in stitches so it’s no wonder these toys are the latest trend for tweens, teens and everyone in between.

Cats vs. Pickles invites you to enter a world in which cats are nothing short of paw-trified of Pickles! But, for their green pickled adversaries, this fear is a cu-cumbersome burden to bear, because Cats have simply meows-understood! All they want is a bit of love! Arlo was very happy to pick pickles for his team and got himself ready to run in to Smyths to find himself a pickle.

Cats vs. Pickles already has a huge fanbase, thanks to the splendidly silly videos that can be viewed over on the Cats vs. Pickles YouTube channel. So pick a team, Team Cat or Team Pickle, and get ready to immerse yourself in this brilliant new world with this exciting new toy collection. Here’s what’s available in the range… 

Cats vs. Pickles Collectable Plushies

Available from Smyths Toys (RRP £4.99)

Collect all the silly and soft Cats vs Pickles characters – there are more than 100 different styles to find! Irresistibly squishy, each super-soft character has an adoprable print design that reflects its paw-sonality! Fans can collect different themes of Cats, as well as sought-after, rare plush Pickles. There are Foodie Cats like Paw-Purr-Oni; Sweet Cats like Mint Chippie; and even Smarty Cats like Mew-sical Meow! Each Collectable Plushie comes with a special hang tag that contains the character’s name and bio, with a QR code for a free app game download! (App and device not included)

Of course as soon as Arlo realised there were so many different characters he wanted to take them all home. We spent quite a long time looking through all the colourful characters before eventually deciding on Super Cat and switching to #teamcat (for now).

Cats vs. Pickles Collectable Plushies Themed Multipacks

Cats vs. Pickles Collectable Plushies are also available as multipacks! Choose from lots of fun themes! Great for little scaredy-cats, there’s a spooktacular Scary themed pack, and the Swimmy packs are sure to make a splash! Each multipack comes with a guaranteed, blind packaged Pickle character! And all the Cats are exclusive to the packs! 

Wondering where you can get your hands on these the Cats vs Pickles Collectable Plushies? Check out the shopping links below:

Single Packs (RRP £4.99) – Smyths Toys Superstores
Two-Packs (£9.99) – Amazon UK
Four-Packs (RRP £19.99) – Smyths Toys Superstores, The Entertainer and Amazon UK 
Six-Packs (RRP £29.99) – The Entertainer
12-Packs (RRP £59.99) – Amazon UK

Cats vs. Pickles Jumbo Plush Character Pillows 

Available from Smyths Toys Superstores (RRP £14.99)

For kitty cuddles of a grander scale, there are six Jumbo Plush Character Pillows to collect! Each 10” plush pal is super soft and snuggly. Be sure to keep an eye out for the lone Pickle character in the collection!  

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

Alfresco Dining in style

Summer has finally graced us with its presence and so naturally to make the most of the glorious weather it’s time to take the indoors out, and that includes the dining table and chairs for glorious dining.

Last week I hosted a ladies lunch with an array of barbecue foods including lamb skewers, corn on the cob, Padron peppers served with a fresh salad, and set up the table outdoors and added some little details to make it really special. A fresh bottle of my home made tomato ketchup was served alongside the meal. I used fresh flowers in a jam jar as a centre piece and then bought out my gold pineapple salt and pepper shakers, the napkin holder carboot find with lemon patterned napkins, my cutlery in an old tin and a jug of ice cold cordial with my fruit infused ice cubes.

Setting up an outdoor space is fairly simple, I have a drop leaf table on wheels which we pull outdoors and then drape with a tablecloth of choice and use little weights to stop it blowing away – I love colour so the brighter the better. My brand new dining chairs from Lakeland Furniture work really well with the retro look I was going for and created a welcoming and comfortable environment for my VIP guest (mom).

These chairs are available in all manner of colours and not being able to decide, I chose to order a set of four in clashing colours – red, yellow, orange and a slate colour. This replica style with its seventies vibe suits my eclectic taste but also seems to match a more modern aesthetic too. I’ve gone for plastic seats as they’re hard wearing and wipeable, which I need in my busy family home. The wooden beech coloured legs and black metal framing just adds to the vibe.

With my colourful chairs and my tablecloth it didn’t take much more to make the setting look and feel fabulous once we added the food, served in a selection of bowls which have been collected from all over the place and so once we had carried everything outdoors we could sit and enjoyed our meal outdoors in the sunshine for hours. When the sun was highest in the sky the chairs remained comfortable, the bucket seat style of the chairs is spacious and well rounded, so we simply topped up our drinks, sat back and enjoyed the delights of summer.

The chairs themselves arrived in two parts, the legs and seat packaged separately to protect them in transit and it’s a case of attaching them using four screws and an Allen key which takes five minutes to complete. They are lightweight and so easy to set up, move around and place where you need them, indoors or out. Be prepared to spot this colourful set in my pictures all summer long as I’m planning all sorts of celebrations in the sunshine

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

Home made Tomato Ketchup recipe

When summer arrives the best thing to do is take eating outdoors, and fire up the barbecue. Of course you just have to have all manner of marinades and sauces to pack in the flavour and ketchup is probably the priority for burgers and hotdogs. I’ve got my own tomato plant growing nicely but for this batch I visited Birmingham Markets and picked up a huge bag of sweet cherry tomatoes, amongst other things.

You will need:

  • Tomatoes – lots of them, about a kilogram
  • Cooking apples – two
  • Red onion – one
  • Garlic – 2/3 cloves
  • Celery – a stick
  • Extra virgin Olive oil – splash
  • Red wine vinegar – about 200ml
  • Brown sugar 50-70g (to taste)
  • Bay leaf
  • Fresh Basil
  • Garlic
  • Pickling spices
  • Seasoning
  • Water (amount varies)

The first thing to do is to pop red onion in a sauce pan on a low heat and leave to cook over a low heat, before adding the garlic, apple, celery and tomato and seasoning with salt and pepper. Letting everything smush down but not burning.

In the meantime prepare your pickling spices. You can buy this ready made, or come up with your own blend to create your specific flavours. I added cloves, cinnamon sticks, all spice , peppercorns, star anise, bay leaves, coriander seeds and chilli to a small saucepan with the red wine vinegar and let this bubble away for a little while for the flavours to infuse before straining it through a Muslin cloth. I had no mustard seeds so added whole grain mustard to my tomato pan instead.

Adding the infused vinegar to the tomato pan with a bay leaf and squishing the tomatoes down with my spoon was quite satisfying. Keep the mixture on a low heat for about an hour with no lid stirring occasionally before removing the bay leaf and going in with a stick blender. To create your sauce. At this stage if the consistency is too thick add a little water or if it’s too thin and runny then put it back on the hob to reduce down.

Taste as you go to add seasoning and adjust the flavours if you think it needs anything extra – more sugar etc. I chose to strain my ketchup through a sieve, rubbing it through with the back of a ladle to remove the seeds and any skin residue which makes for a smoother sauce. Then I used a funnel to pour it in to my sterilised bottles and storing in the fridge.

If stored correctly this can last for months, however if you’re anything like us then a bottle or two will not last long.

Setting up a garden padding pool – essential hints and tips

Paddling pools are the number one summer garden accessory. When you think about how many hours the kids spend jumping in and out of the water they’re fabulous value for money. My advice having had many different types of pool over the years is to go for a simple shape rather than one with all sorts of different inflatable options, because they’re more robust in the long term. Go for a pool which is big enough for the grown ups to enjoy too.

Use matting

First things first choose the space where you’re going to put up the pool. If you only have grass that’s okay, but I prefer to use my patio, so that (after mowing it) the lawn doesn’t get flooded. When we have spells of warm weather I like to leave the pool up so this can create patches on the lawn too. So predicting that Arlo would jump in to the pool immediately I got these mats to act as a soft barrier between him and the floor. It also protects the base of the pool from tears. These mats were £14.99 from Halfords.

Fill her up

We have an outdoor tap which is where we connect the hose. The water is ice cold and so when it’s looking like a spell of warm water is coming and its a pool putting up day this is done first thing in the morning. We have an attachment on the hose that you can clip to leave it running, but getting Arlo involved is just as fun. This pool took about an hour to fill up.

Warming the water

This is a tough one, naturally as the day progresses the water does warm up slightly. At first we tentatively dip our toes in to test the water and the chill takes your breath away and makes you think twice about splashing in. By the time the sun is highest in the sky however, that’s the exact feeling you want and theres no hesitation. I did try the binbag hack. Laying out black bags in the pool in the morning meant that the water did warm up as the sun shone down, only by a few degrees but it was noticeable. Boiling a kettle and mixing it in just doesn’t work for us. I’ve also seen hacks to use the kitchen mixer taps and putting warm water through the hose.

Time to Splash

Then it’s time to splash. I let Arlo invent the play – he was racing end to end and diving in and all sorts. I have some balls and other bits and bobs he can use in the pool and he also went and found some plastic water animals at one point. In the past he’s had a slide propped up over the edge of the pool too. I keep a towel hanging on the washing line for him to grab hold of and always put it back up there to dry out.

At the end of the day

I have used a bed sheet to cover the pool over night to reuse the water the next day. Before I do this we dip the watering can in the water and use it around the garden to water the plant pots and hanging baskets. This is a fab evening job for Arlo to do, and we top up the pool from the hose the next day. Water tends to last a good few days before it gets too grubby, because we reuse the water I don’t like to add any chemicals. I send Arlo out with his bug net to pick out any leaves and bits which are in the water.

Once we are done with the pool I empty it out completely and give it a good wipe over, hang it on the line to dry out and deflate it all before folding and storing inside binliners in the shed, ready for the next spell of warm weather.

Bestway pool available from Very at £34.99 – gifted for the purposes of a previous review.

How to make dandelion honey

This is a really simple way to enter in to the world of preserve making and is made from foraged dandelions, offering a vegan version of honey. The finished result is sweet and has a fragrant flavour, useful to use as a honey substitute in baking recipes and in things like salad dressings and marinades or added to toast and porridge. The applications are endless.

Begin by harvesting your dandelions on a sunny day when they’re in full bloom. You will need at least two cups full. Make sure to only take what you need and leave some for the bees and bugs. Head to the middle of a field and have a wander off the beaten track to avoid any pollutants.

The recipe

Ingredients:

  • A litre jug of water
  • A litre jug of dandelions
  • Half a lemon
  • Vanilla
  • 500g sugar

Method:

Give all your dandelions a good shake to remove bugs and trim away any stem and leaves before adding them to a saucepan of water. Do not soak in water as this removes the pollen and that’s where the flavour is.

Add your slices of lemon and vanilla pods and slowly bring to the boil before simmering for 20 – 30 minutes. Then you have to leave this mixture to infuse – cover and put aside overnight, or for at least eight hours in a cool place.

Strain your mixture through a sieve and then again through a Muslin cloth and throw away all the bits as these are no longer needed. Then add the liquid back to a saucepan and slowly bring up to a boil.

Add in your sugar and stir constantly until it all dissolves, let it simmer for a while to reduce down, it should still be quite runny in texture. I drip a little on to a cold plate and let it set to decide when I’m ready, and then I add to a sterilised jar, cool it down and then store in the fridge.

Dandelion honey is runnier than traditional honey and has a unique flavour. You can vary the flavour by omitting vanilla, or infuse with different citrus fruits and home grown herbs. I’ve been adding this to my salad dressings and also in to plain yoghurts for a delicious summery essence.

Virtual First Dates

I was asked to think about online dating by some of my friends when I became single a couple of years ago and I brushed off the idea very quickly. Then lockdown happened and suddenly I’ve become used to having my social life existing online. In fact technology made lockdown almost bearable and suddenly the notion of online dating didn’t seem quite so daunting to me. With a little bit of encouragement from the “group chat” I started to think about what my perfect man would be like and wrote a tongue in cheek list.

Of course I have other important non-negotiables and this was only meant as a joke but then the girls group chat got out of hand and we started planning imaginary first dates with my “perfect man” – and we concluded that I would have to visit Belfast! Where else can you find the original locations for the Game of Thrones Set and that accent which is enough to make you fall in love? In fact it’s worth checking out this Belfast dating site

Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

An hours drive from Belfast is this gorgeous scenic rope bridge and you can book a guided tour which takes you along to some of the Game of Thrones filming locations. I can’t think of a better first date idea than getting out and about, and doing something like this which gives you plenty of opportunity to talk about a mutual hobby and share a new adventure, a great opportunity to really get to know someone.

The Botanic Gardens

In the centre of Belfast the perfect spot for a romantic picnic for me would be on the lawns outside the Botanic Gardens. I would suggest that my date and I bring each other surprise baked goods. If the way to a mans heart really is via their stomach then I could impress – but I could also test out their cooking skills too and that’s important to uncover because I’m never going to be a housewife.

The Giants Causeway

Back to the great outdoors. I haven’t visited for a long time but I remember being overwhelmed by the scenery in this spot. I reckon you could get an awesome #couplegoals selfie at sunset in this spot and then find a nice quiet pub en route back to the city to have a cosy drink and meal. There’s plenty to be found in and around Belfast and that’s probably a more traditional date idea.

The Grand Opera House

I love live music and events, and so any date of mine would have to accompany me to various different kinds of shows – from mosh pits to river dance and everything in between. Belfast has many live music venues and none more special than the Grand Opera House which has hosted some awesome music events.

Of course the city is a vibrant place and there’s plenty of more traditional opportunities for Belfast Dating. A thriving restaurant community and bustling city centre for shopping, not to mention clubs and bars galore. What started as a little joke between friends has now firmly planted a trip to Belfast on to my bucket list.

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)