Wednesday, 29 July 2015

LEGO DC Comics SuperHeroes Jokerland Review set 76035

The LEGO DC Super Heroes Jokerland set is one of the most playable sets we've ever owned. Tons of fun to build, and as each part does so much the level of interest from my kids as we built was immense. It's the first ever time I've had to send them out of the room because they drove me bats! I couldn't build it quicker than they were taking it away to play with it....


Jokerland is a set recommended for age 8+ set with 1037 pieces which go together to form the Batmobile and all of the renamed fairground attractions. There are 8 fabulous minifigures in this set with lovely accessories.

For the SuperHeroes we have Robin, Beast Boy, Starfire and Batman...


For the bad guys we have The Joker, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and The Penguin....


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

PLAY it Manchester at the Museum of Science and Industry.

If you like games then this is for you. If you ever had an Atari, or played Street-fighter, or thought Sonic actually might be a hedghog, then this is for you. An event featuring over 120 games consoles from the last 30 years, all playable and with limited entry numbers to the hall so that everyone gets a turn...

Did we want to come and review ? Yes thanks!!

The Baby - The Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine
The first ever stored-program computer.

PLAY it Manchester takes place on the 2nd floor of the Museum of Science and Industry. Very apt that below us is The Baby - a replica of the first ever stored-program computer. PLAY it is in a huge space with loads of room, and the all important video games consoles and arcade machines. Tons of seating, a cafe area, and all of your favourite games from the last 30 years. It even has 2 player, 4 player and larger multiplayer games, and it's only £4 entry. Heaven.


My 5 and 6 year olds love their console games and have played and watched since they were tiny. Our  family don't watch a lot of regular TV, games are a living room event and we all join in. They've never played on arcade machines before though and the big joystick was a brand new thing to them!


Monday, 27 July 2015

Smarter Picnic Options (for kids who don't want to eat seeds!)

My 2 young children are pretty good eaters and will try most things, but they draw the line at "seeds". If it looks too healthy they'll moan and tentatively lick one corner before declaring it poison. But even without trail mix, cereal bars or home-made pots of interesting yogurty stuff, picnics and snacky hand foods don't actually have to be all bad, and maybe the kids won't notice...

Before we get to food let's consider drinks. We all function better when we're properly hydrated. Exerting yourself, being out in the wind and the (rare glimpses of) sunshine all steal our fluids. Water is great. Available everywhere it has no fat, no sugar, no allergens.


If you like a bit of flavour in your water it can be hard to find something decent add to it. We are not fans of Aspartame here (the taste and what it does to you) so we avoid it. Unfortunately, in an effort to keep calories low, most juices and cordials contain it. Not so with Stur. Sugar free, and with no artificial sweeteners, flavours or colours, it is sweetened using Stevia.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Smart Eggs Labyrinth Puzzles Review

Smart Eggs are a brand new toy brought to us in the UK by Esvedium Games. A 3D puzzle in the shape of an egg, and all you have to do is guide a barbell-shaped wand through the maze inside the egg, from the top to the bottom.

Smart Eggs Labyrinth Puzzles Review

Smart Eggs come in a range of difficulties, and for the more advanced puzzle-solvers there are even 2-layer eggs. We were sent two single layer eggs - Techno (level 7) and Lava (level 8).

Friday, 24 July 2015

Diary Doll - pants with a secret

Well, it isn't every day you get an email from Carol Smillie asking what size pants your daughter wears, and that alone was clearly enough for me to do this review. Carol wanted to know because she's one of the two figures behind Diary Doll Pants, a unique new pant with special features. It won't make you Wonder Woman, so blokes, you will probably have a better time if you go and read about Sprukits or Bacon Sandwiches or the Ventura Powerpack with Jump Start.

Diary Doll - pants with a secret

The packaging is really nicely thought out. When you order online they arrive in a little button fastening fabric pouch which is ideal to pop in your bag. These are expensive knickers, so these little touches make it more of a gift, and something you can see is different to normal.


Diary Doll pants have a hidden waterproof layer. They're super handy if you have heavy or irregular periods, or want to wear white trousers or an Elvis Presley style jumpsuit with confidence any day of the month.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Tiggly Educational Apps and Toys for children 2-8 Giveaway

Tiggly are a company making award winning educational apps with supporting tech toys for children aged around 2-8. Tiggly Shapes, Words and Maths are all designed to be fun to play with while your child learns, and will work on Kindle Fire HD, and most IOS or Android tablets.

The Tiggly apps and supporting toys work directly with the tablet touch screen - no batteries, bluetooth or anything else is required.
Tiggly Shapes is for younger children aged 2-5. Featuring 4 toys and 3 learning apps this set for younger children teaches shapes and strengthens fine motor skills and creativity.
Learning using shapes isn't just as simple as learning square, triangle etc. Tracing around (and inside) shapes helps with fine motor skills, and it teaches children that different shapes have a different name and different meaning, which is a tricky concept to grasp, but is essential if we want them to go on to learn letters and words.

Kids Don't Come With A Manual by Carole and Nadim Saad (book review)

I don't often review books for grown ups because it's incredibly hard to find the space in my day to read for myself, but I found a little extra time when the married co-writing team Carole and Nadim Saad asked me to make a look at their parenting book 'Kids Don't Come With A Manual'.


Kids indeed do not come with a manual, and I like the title, it implies this book is going to be a little chatty and less formal, and actually it is. The style is very friendly and understanding, with lots of personal anecdotes and examples of when the couple themselves didn't agree about how to handle a siutuation, and how they worked together to come to the best solution for all. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

We're going to the Just So Festival!

We're keeping busy this Summer and one of our busiest weekends will be the Just So Festival on 21st-23rd August near Congleton in Cheshire. An invitation to come and camp and join in the fun really was the email that made my week.

The Just SoFEstival, Congleton, Near Leek,Cheshire

We'll be taking 3 of our children to Just So Festival - our 5 and 6 year old boys, and our 15 year old girl. None of us have been before, so we're really intrigued as to what will be there and how it will be laid out. The boys haven't had much experience of festivals, and probably none that they can really remember, but my daughter is a pro - she thoroughly tested the kid's fields at her first Glastonbury at 2 years old, and has been to a ton of other UK festivals too.

Children love child-friendly festivals and music
Hopefully my daughter won't want a shoulder ride this year!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Tale Of City Sue Children's Book review and giveaway (10 winners)

The Tale Of City Sue is a really quite cute and charming story which has been commissioned by the Irish dairy company Kerrygold. It's a story about a city cow, Sue, who goes to live with the free-range country cows and discovers a whole new way of life. At first she's a bit scared of some of the crazy things they do - like eat grass - but she soon realises it's actually a pretty good way to be.


The Tale Of City Sue is actually a little deeper and more intelligent than children might realise, and it points out all of the differences between free-range and indoor factory farmed animals. We're very lucky that the majority of our large UK livestock does live outdoors, and it's something we here at The Brick Castle feel very strongly about.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Post 16 Education -Traditional A Levels, or something a bit more modern?

If you're a parent of a 16 year old about to decide which path they'll be taking next September, how would you react if they told you they wanted to go to college to study Games, Animation and VFX Skills?

This year our 4th teenager has completed their GCSE's and is moving on to further education, and next year our 5th teenager will reach this point. But what comes next? Traditionally for students who do well at GCSE A Levels were always the next step, but this is a completely different world to the world of 1951 when A Levels were introduced, and education is beginning to change in an effort to try and keep up.

Post 16 Education -Traditional A Levels, or something a bit more modern?

When I left school it had always been expected I'd do A Levels, and I didn't give it a second thought. University didn't seem to be an option to me when I left College as I had a house and mortgage, and I went straight into a full time job which actually required no qualifications. In the 27 years since, the vocational qualifications I have gained after I became an adult have all proven far more useful to me, and gained me more work, than my years at College studying A Levels.

Traditional learning often just isn't as relevant as it used to be. Which is a better life skill for a 16 year old in 2015 - memorising case studies and dates, or being able to separate fact from fiction when you do a Google search?

Let Me Google That For You