Sunday, 10 December 2017

12 Great Books for Children 0-11 this Christmas plus Giveaway!

Harper Collins have sent us 12 of their favourite books for children aged 0-11 this Christmas and asked my boys to take a look and see what they think of the selection. You shouldn't try to judge a book by it's cover, so I encouraged them to at least read the blurb and the first page too!


The 12 books we've been sent are all in the Harper Collins Gift Guide, and are a mix of fiction written by some of the most popular children's authors of recent times and with pictures from a host of excellent illustrators. Here's what my 7 and 9 year old boys thought...

Raymond Briggs and Lord Tennyson

On the face of it Raymond Briggs, cartoonist and children's writer, might have little in common with Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Victorian poet, but they both left us with the same over-riding message - it's just that Alfred did it in words.


Briggs lost his wife to Leukaemia in 1973, they never had children. He wrote The Snowman in 1978, when the wind blows in 1982 and The Bear in 1994. His works are full of loss, and it is shown in such simple terms that even the youngest of children can understand.

Characters enter your life and then they leave, and at some point you will leave too. Briggs teaches us that well, but he also teaches that it is better for the story to have happened. The story ends, but we are glad we were able to share it while it lasted.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Home-Made STEM Toys Of Christmas with Konnie Huq &the IET

If you watched Blue Peter any time between 1998 and 2007 you'll be familiar with longest-serving female presenter Konnie Huq. Konnie hasn't given up crafts and this Christmas has teamed up with the Institution of Engineering and Technology to bring us a series of easy and fun STEM toys that you and your child can make at home very inexpensively.


Head of Education from the IET, David Lakin has highlighted a significant shortage of engineers in the UK, which is posing a threat to the economy. The STEM toys of Christmas is designed to inspire children’s natural curiosity about how things work and why – a key principle in engineering. We were asked if we wanted to have a go at one of the projects and as soon as I saw the list, I knew which one I was choosing.

Friday, 8 December 2017

The Bear - Waterside, Sale, Manchester Theatre Review

Waterside Arts Centre might have rebranded as Waterside, but that was the only thing that had changed since our last visit. It was lovely to be back in the warm friendly atmosphere that this smaller theatre offers. We were there as guests to review The Bear, presented by Pins And Needles and based on the work of one of my favourite children's authors and initiator of my love of books, Raymond Briggs.


Before you even go into the auditorium itself, the whole building is decorated in blues and white and you walk on paw prints in snow towards the seating. It sets the scene in a brilliant way and my boys were bursting with excitement as they sat down. Pure magic. 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Drones - which is the best for your big kid?

Drones are likely to be a big seller this Christmas. We've reviewed a handful and the technology has moved on so far in the last year that they are almost unrecognisable - and the prices have come right down. Gyro stabilisation keeps them upright, ultrasound and other sensors help prevent crashes and bluetooth or other control systems have become so finely tuned that they can power your drone far beyond your own back garden.


Drones can be a real education for your child. Even the simplest drones teach hand-eye coordination, about electricity and direction commands. Drones teach about wind speed, friction, design and engineering - and how to get objects down from high trees. Programmable and VR drones with an array of sensors expand anyone's understanding of their world.

In case you are considering one this Christmas and are still confused by the choice, here is a comparison of those we've reviewed this year. These are not cargo drones or professional photography drones, these are for big kids of all ages. Please excuse the earlier videos - drones take a while to master, but once you've got the hang of it...

Monday, 4 December 2017

Toletis by Rafa Ruiz Book Review (age 7-107)

Toletis is a new book release from Neem Tree Press, themselves a new publishing house producing books that change and broaden perspectives.

Written by Rafa Ruiz, excellently translated from the original Spanish by Ben Dawlatty and beautifully illustrated by Elena Hormiga, Toletis is recommended for anyone age 7-107, and I think that's probably about right.

Nerf Zombie Strike Dreadbolt Crossbow Review (age 8+) for Very

We are huge Nerf fans, so I was more than happy to accept another for review from Very, the home shopping site. This is my first try of the Nerf arrows, with the huge and impressive, yet ridiculously light, Nerf Zombie Strike Dreadbolt crossbow.


Firstly, this was the most minimal packaging I've ever had on anything sent for review. I can't fault the Nerf crossbow because it survived the UK postal system, despite only being protected by a magic address label. Lightweight yet robust certainly!

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Gift Guide For Teenagers and Young Adults Christmas 2017

It can be ridiculously hard to buy for teenagers and young people, especially once they're earning their own money. It's made even harder if you don't live with them and aren't up to date with what bands or TV Shows they are into this month. My lot have helped me come up with a few ideas that hopefully won't spend the next year in the back of a drawer...