Wednesday, 19 September 2018

How do Modern Toy Manufacturers Successfully Reach Their Audience?

This article is written by Larisa Wong...

Major toy producers such as LEGO and HASBRO have existed for decades in one shape or form. While there is no doubt that they dominated the physical retail environment in the past, they have made an equally massive impression within the digital community. After all, parents are now turning to the Internet to shop for the latest and most popular items. Although kids will hardly care about the mechanics involved with online retail sales portals, parents could learn a thing or two. Perhaps you have been thinking about advertising your own custom-made toys to a virtual audience. If so, this article is definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Scrawl Grown Up Party Game Review for Big Potato Games (age 17+)

Our latest big kid adult game review for Big Potato Games is brilliant. It's called Scrawl and it's a grown up game (recommended age 17+) because it can all turn out a little risque or NotSafeForWork, in fact it's pretty much guaranteed. The game suits 4-8 players, but you can have as many as you want if you play teams. It's hilarious and makes an excellent party game, ideal for young people or when friends are round and the kids are in bed.


Inside the box is everything you need, including 8 white board pens and 8 little felt board wipes, 8 bulldog clips and writing boards, loads of 'Scrawl cards' for writing/drawing on, scorecards and game cards with 240 different scenarios to play.

Minecraft STEM Challenge Books Review (age 6+) For Carlton Books

This month's review for Carlton Books is a pair of books unlike any we've ever covered before - and they are a real hit! We've been sent 2 new Minecraft STEM Challenge books - Build A City and Build A Theme Park. These are exactly as they sound, books which will show your child how to complete some really complex projects within the game of Minecraft.


My boys love science and challenges, and STEM activities are something I actively encourage. Minecraft has been popular in our household since it was very first released and my eldest son played it. Since then all of our children have played, and as it's our policy that we should understand what they're up to online, we've also had a go.


I showed my 8 and 9 year old boys the books and they both chose one, then swapped, so were both excited by both books. I've never seen them both get into a project so quickly, and within minutes they had both chosen and made a good start on a project build.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

TBC Smiles...49 Months

I'm writing this month's Smiles post a day early because tomorrow we'll be delivering the second of our Freshers off to uni. It's been a more emotional time than I anticipated, I think I might even miss having to come downstairs at 2am to tell them to be quiet.

We gathered 6 of us together for a 'goodbye meal' of Veggie Tacos which my daughter made with me. It was lovely to spend the time with her before she went. I'm definitely going to suggest to our other two uni students that we cook something together too, maybe at Christmas. Cooking together is something we've always done and you don't think about the fact you'll miss it, until you realise it won't be possible.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Cooking And Eating Healthy Food at Uni with the Co-op And Britmums

I have 3 young adults off to uni this September and 2 of them are freshers in their first year. It's a scary time for them, but also for me, and I've tried to prepare them all for independence as best I can. This includes making sure they can cook themselves something hearty and filling without breaking the bank or missing out on the nutrition they'll need to stay healthy.


I'm delighted to be working with Co-op Food on a campaign to get students cooking and eating healthy meals. It really is something I'm passionate about and I've even put together all of my family's favourite and most-used recipes, as well as a few others, on my recipes page. I have tried to keep costs down, skill levels easy and nutritional value high. There is rarely a prouder moment than when I discover one of my young people cooking from one of my recipes.


The Co-op meanwhile show their commitment to students by offering a 10% discount at over 2000 stores nationwide with a TOTUM card (previously called NUS Extra). This starts at £12 a year, so you can get your money back very quickly just on Co-op food shopping. That's on top of the regular Co-op member rewards.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Minecraft: The Crash by Tracey Baptiste children's fiction book review (9+)

I know you are thinking 'A Minecraft novel?' and maybe think it's just been churned out because it'll sell on the back of that, but you'd be wrong. This official Mojang book by Tracey Baptiste is a great story which is really well written and offers adventure and real life in a mix which really pulls the reader in. We want to have a happy ending and right from the start we doubt that will be possible...


The Crash refers not a computer programme, but a real car crash, which renders our main character in a full body cast immobile in hospital. Bianca has a broken body and is desperate to know what happened to Lonnie, who was driving at the time. No-one will tell her and she begins to suspect she knows why.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

A Date With My Cat with Whiskas Cat Casseroles and Vegetarian Beefy Pie

Okay, a friend date with my cat is not something I'd ever have anticipated writing about and the people who have known me longest are entitled to laugh loudest. Go on, enjoy yourselves. Cats really weren't my thing until Gary landed at our door and forced us to care about him by being ill and cute. I've headed with his best model shot, you can see the cute...


I'm not made of stone, I tried to resist, but even I relented and it's taken a mere 2 years to get to this point... Cats will rule the universe one day. Whiskas have asked me to conjure up the perfect evening with my cat. Even Gary was surprised when I told him.


I'd have gone for the cinema, bowling and a nice sit down 3 course meal, but happily cats aren't generally allowed in restaurants or cinemas and they are rubbish at bowling, so I've settled for Gary's preferred choice, date night in. (That's a lie, but I'm not sitting on the back step for 3 hours watching the drizzle.)

Monday, 10 September 2018

Why we should talk about suicide #WorldSuicidePreventionDay

In the UK today, if you are aged 5-34 you are more likely to die from suicide than anything else. It is the biggest killer of our younger population. Just think about that for a minute. More people die by their own hand than for any other reason. It takes away our children, our parents, our siblings, our friends.

But we don't talk about suicide. No-one talks about suicide.

It's really hard to talk about suicide. It's really hard for me to write about suicide.


When our 16 year old died all of the older members of our family had counselling. We'd have been completely lost without that opportunity to talk. To sit away from the children and let it out and sob and be angry and say "it's not fair". To express our worries and fears, to find out if what we felt was 'normal'. To find out if our children's response was 'normal'. To keep us going.

My youngest 2 children were under 7 when they lost their sister and deemed too young for counselling. Children under 7 react differently and in general it's expected they should be able to cope. While that might work in some cases, our whole household was shattered and those young boys had a lot to try and understand.

As time went on and my boys still struggled with their sister's death, we were dumbfounded at how to help them. I built myself up and then emailed a UK charity for children who are bereaved.

I was given internet addresses where I could download information sheets and signposted to another well-known children's charity. The information sheets were more for advice immediately following a loss and didn't really help. They focussed on Cancer and long-term illness. I contacted charity no.2.

Children's charity no.2 simply suggested that what I needed was someone who was actually more used to dealing with our specific type of loss. They directed me to a charity for people who have lost loved ones to suicide. Maybe they were right. Maybe it wasn't children's charities I needed.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Mary And The Witch's Flower DVD and Book Giveaway

Mary And The Witch's Flower is a new DVD release from Studio Ponoc. Suitable for all of the family, but best suited to those school-aged or above, this is a beautiful animated retelling of the  book The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart. It features an amazing voice cast including Kate Winslett, Jim Broadbent and Ewen Bremner.


We were sent a pre-release copy of the movie to review and I watched it with my 8 and 9 year old boys. They both enjoy anime and a good fantastical story.

Mary And The Witch's Flower tells the tale of 10 year old Mary, who is living with relatives while she waits for her parents to return from working away. It's the school Summer holidays and she is bored and lonely, the most interesting thing in her day is being told folklore by the gardener.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Foxy Pants Family Game Review And Giveaway For Drumond Park (Age 4+)

It's September and one of our favourite brands are back with some new games for this Autumn. Foxy Pants from Drumond Park is a great active family game that makes your children squeal with delight and excitement. This is a fox who overfills his pockets and suffers the inevitable consequence. When his pants fall it's your job to grab and save as many of the chickens as you can.... It can get quite frantic.


The game is suitable for 2-4 players aged 4+ and as you'd expect, everything you need is in the box, including 1 fox with pants, 21 chickens, 4 chicken coops, 1 dice and instructions.