Sunday, 16 December 2018

Haynes Build Your Own Working Engine Model Kit Giveaway (age 10+)

I've got a really exciting toy giveaway today, and sadly it won't arrive in time for a Christmas, but it will make an excellent new year's gift for someone.

Now, you can relive the joy of lying under a van in a car park in the pouring rain at 10pm, but from the warmth and comfort of your own lounge and age 10+. Haynes are making model engines...


I haven't had the pleasure of playing with the Haynes kits yet, but at £36.99 for an Internal Combustion Engine and £49.99 for an almost 300 piece, fully functional motorised Petrol V8 with its own mini Haynes Manual, it's got to be a fair price.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

December.... 52 Months... #TBCSmiles

Christmas is almost here and 5 years in we are getting used to our new sort of Christmas. Some things change in more ways than others. I have a real problem looking ahead and I only started buying presents two days ago, but we're doing it. It'll happen. We're further ahead than this time last year.


We knew doing decorations would be hard and started at the beginning of December, so our living room now looks amazing and we have a huge LEGO Winter Village. When the tree is up it'll be perfect, and it's first time we've felt able to really go to town with the decorations since losing Elspeth.

She is constantly in our thoughts anyway, but now more than ever because she loved Christmas so much. She looked forward to it for months and every Christmas song on the radio or Christmas movie on the TV reminds us of her, and the fact she isn't here. Every gift idea seems it would have suited Elspeth best. In honesty we've kept ourselves busy to stay distracted...

December may be hard, but we've still managed to collect plenty of smiles and I've caught a few of them on camera. We've been to see Father Christmas, Black Beauty, Slapstick and The Forest Of Forgotten Disco's and we've definitely discovered the benefit of woolly hats....

Friday, 14 December 2018

The Forest Of Forgotten Discos! Festive Manchester Family Theatre (Review Visit)

Earlier this week we were guests of Contact Theatre to watch this year's seasonal production, The Forest Of Forgotten Discos! Contact's premises is undergoing improvement so this family performance, which is suitable for anyone, is being hosted by Hope Mill Theatre.


The Forest Of Forgotten Discos! is written by Jackie Hagan, a multi-award winning playwright who is herself disabled. It features a deaf performer and has sign language throughout, which only adds to the experience and makes it ideal for families or groups of friends who have a deaf member.

Scholastic Book Parties - earning money for yourself and books for your school.

If your childhood was like mine then a highlight of every term was the Scholastic Book Club Catalogue of dreams. Full of colourful and exciting books at reduced prices, my parents always allowed me to choose a book and the day the delivery came was something very special.


I've worked with Scholastic now for over 3 years and all of the children's books in this post were sent to us by Scholastic for review over that time. There are some excellent books from some amazing authors...


Nowadays we don't have to wait until the new catalogue release, we can buy from Scholastic online all year round. All of the books are available at prices that are discounted from the recommended price by up to 70% and they've been specially selected by Scholastic, so you know they'll be good.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Slurpees Snot Suckers Review Age 4+ (Sent for review).

If your children like gooey, slimey, horrible toys then they'll no doubt be hoping for Slurpees Snot Suckers in their stocking this Christmas. At £5 each, they're sure to be very popular - however disgusting they are. We were sent a delightful green package which excited the boys...


Inside were some Slurpees, plus a bogey green Winter survival kit. Socks, lip balm, hand warmer, hat, blanket and mug. The Slurpees Snot Suckers come in 4 different colour varieties and each has it's own 30g of coloured slime in a resealable pot.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

10 Quirky Christmas Gifts for Teenagers and Grown Ups.

Here at The Brick Castle we have the 2 young boys, but we've also got 4 grown up children. They are all still studying and haven't got their own families yet, so Christmas gift buying for us is more about finding interesting gifts for big kids than it is visiting toy shops...


Here are a few of the things we've been sent to review over the past year or two which have really impressed us and make a great Christmas present, especially if you aren't quite ready to grow up just yet. Oh, and Amazon links are affiliate. It only earns me a few pence each time if you order through my link, but it helps keep the website running and doesn't cost you a penny....

Mary Poppins Parrot Umbrella from Paladone

Monday, 10 December 2018

Owlet Press Children's Christmas Story Books (Sent for review)

We love books and Christmas is a great excuse to read together. Snuggling up under a blanket and reading is the perfect way to spend a Winter's evening and Owlet Press have sent us a couple of their Christmas storybooks to take a look at...

Both of our books have a very strong message about what is truly important:
Santa's Wish considers, what would Santa want for Christmas?
The Christmas Next Door is a book about a family coping with their first Christmas after losing a loved one and features a main character has Autism.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Maqio Toy Boxes And Storage Solutions Review (sent for review)

Maqio are based incredibly locally to me and have just launched a new low-cost toy e-commerce store specialising in Maqio Boxes. These are specially decorated storage boxes that will never peel because they use In-Mould Labelling (IML). During curing the labels are fused with the box, so your box can be washed and used for years, but the pictures and patterns won't ever wear away or look tatty.


We've been sent a big selection from the Maqio Box range to review - and the prices are good. This whole lot is well under £50, and if you buy before 20th December, there's an extra 10% off throughout the whole site.

We were sorting our Christmas decorations anyway, so they couldn't be handier - although they will mainly end up storing toys upstairs in the bedrooms.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Black Beauty At Z-Arts, Manchester Theatre Review (Review Visit)

Last night we were guests of Z-Arts to review Black Beauty - their Winter show presented by Red Bridge and Traverse Theatre Company. This is a modern and very imaginative retelling, but it'll satisfy true fans as well as newcomers and we all loved it.

Funny and honest but light-hearted, it's actually more of an homage as Black Beauty's life story is told in a different way than ever before...


I love Z-Arts because, as I said on social media last week, walking in is like going to the home of family you didn't know you had. The atmosphere is always happy and friendly, it's full of excited children and milkshake is 35p. You couldn't be in a more relaxed venue. It all changes once the lights go down though, audience behaviour has always been sensible and impeccable.

Gardensite £100 Of Christmas Decorations Giveaway (sent for review)

We've got a really exciting giveaway today - and it's about as festive as you can get! Gardensite sent us a bundle of Christmas Decorations worth over £100 and one of my readers can win the same! Apologies if you don't like what we chose, but we let the children write a big list of things they liked, honed it down to the options that didn't need a stepladder or a huge display area (sorry light up Moscow) and chose 5 items that can really add a bit of sparkle this Christmas...


Outdoor Acrylic Penguin Family (£33.99) was chosen by our 10 year old. In fact his wishlist had 6 items and 5 of them were penguin lights - I think he's trying to tell us something!


Suitable for indoors or outside and mains powered with the plug and transformer included. The cord is just over 1m long, which is long enough to be helpful for most jobs. There are 48 LED's in this set and the tallest penguin is 9 inches tall.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas Review, Waterside, Sale, Manchester.

Last year Waterside brought us Raymond Briggs’ The Bear and this year Lyric Hammersmith & Pins and Needles are back with another Raymond Briggs favourite: Father Christmas. We were offered the chance to review and I couldn't wait to say yes.


If you follow my blog you'll know what a huge fan I am of children's books and Raymond Briggs' is a true favourite. Father Christmas is in my top 3 books. I know every single word and frame of the book off by heart, so I was a bit worried it wouldn't be 'right'. I needn't have worried, it was spot on, right down to the sandwiches on the roof and the chattering false teeth.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Nickelodeon Slime Station Review (age 5+) Sent by Sambro

Slime is incredibly popular this year and pretty much all children love playing with it. We were given the Nickelodeon Slime Station and a large pot of delicious orange slime to review for Sambro. Suitable for age 5+, this is like a little factory for making non-toxic slime, with a big choice of different textures and glittery bits to add to it.


No batteries, packaging is mainly a big handy cardboard box and very little inessential plastic. Opens in seconds, you only need to add plain tap water and you can start immediately. Christmas morning-friendly.


You have the Slime Station itself, plus lots of other items:

3 Storage Tubs With Secure Lids
10 Activator Packs
!0 Coloured Slime Powders
Spoon
4 Beads / Confetti Packs
2 Packs Of Styrofoam Balls
4 Packets Of Glitter
Slime Shaker
Funnel
3 x Lidded 'Test Tube' Storage Tubes
Instructions.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Air Hogs Supernova Hand-Controlled Drone Review (age 8+) Sent by Spinmaster

For our latest review SpinMaster Toys have sent us the Air Hogs Supernova. This is a small indoor drone which is unlike any of the others we've used because it moves using the power of your hands. Mostly... Suitable for age 8+, this can turn anyone into a magician or give them the power of the force...


Packaging is attractive for shopping, doesn't take too long to open and you can use it for storage although it's not very traditional. No batteries needed, but you will have to charge the drone for around 1 hour before use, so bear that in mind for Christmas morning.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Staying Warm This Winter With Modern Fabrics (Sent for review)

Winter is approaching fast and the zero temperatures mean a change of clothes. Some of the best ways to keep yourself warm are by wearing sensible shoes and layers, and fabrics have become so clever that this is far more comfortable than ever before...

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Meccano Formula 1 SF71H Ferrari Kit Review (level 3, age 10+) Sent for review by SpinMaster

Meccano is a long time favourite construction toy in our house and the latest model they've sent us to review is the Formula 1 Ferrari Car. Based on the SF71H this is the latest model and at level 3 it's suitable for more experienced modellers aged 10+. A nice strong build and also a gorgeous shelf model that'll please fans no end.


Meccano boxes have changed and now have a rip off strip to help prevent theft from boxes. It will close snugly and is strong, so it's useful to keep for spares and dismantled models. No batteries, very little waste packaging and no fastenings - world and Christmas morning-friendly.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Botley The Coding Robot Activity Set Review Age 5-9 (sent by Learning Resources)

Learning Resources might not have the snappiest name in the business, but they have some of the most interesting toys. Designed, as you'd expect, to stimulate your child's brain while they play, the hardwearing and long-lasting toys and games from Learning Resources are not only used at home, they're also popular in schools and nurseries.


They've sent us the Botley The Coding Robot Activity Set to review. This is aimed at children aged 5-9. My youngest child is 8 and he's reviewed with a 9 year old friend.


Opening the box is exciting because it has a little window on the front and is full of colour. You will need 5 x AAA batteries (3 for Botley and 2 for the Remote Control) and a tiny Phillips screwdriver, otherwise it's ready to go straight out of the box. Minimal packaging, nothing to undo and a useful storage box for afterwards. Christmas morning-friendly as long as you've got those batteries.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Engino STEM Heroes Greenhouse Review for age 8-14+ (Sent by Engino)

I first fell in love with Engino at BlogOn Conference. Brand new to the UK, this construction system was developed by Costas Sisamos, a Teacher from Cyprus. He has degrees in Education and Engineering, and wanted to make a system of modular connectors that could be used to build quickly and easily, creating fully functional technological models.


The aim of Engino is to inspire children to become better problem solvers and future innovators, a message I wholeheartedly agree with... Teach your children to build and programme robots, not be one.


The Greenhouse itself arrives in a surprisingly small box and there is minimal packaging. You can open and start building immediately, so this one is definitely Christmas morning-friendly.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Magformers Special Sky Track Adventure Set Review Age 3+ (sent by Magformers)

Although Magformers are suitable for children aged 3+, they are such an easy to use construction system, with so much scope, that they can still offer a challenge to my 8 and 10 year old boys. We've been sent the  Special Edition Magformers Sky Track Adventure Set to review. This is a gorgeous and massive 64 piece set which contains lots of special components and a powered Sky Shuttle...


Opening this box is a pure joy. It's beautiful. There's so much colour and the layout is so exciting. Any child would be delighted with this on Christmas morning. You'll need 2 x AAA batteries for the Sky Shuttle and an incredibly tiny screwdriver.


Magformers are a series of geometric shaped frames which have rotating neodymium magnets safely encased in each side. Because the magnets aren't fixed, whichever way you try and connect, two or more of the shapes will attract and stay together.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

KURIO SMART 2 in 1 Tablet Review Age 6+ Sent for review

One of my favourite things we've been sent to review this year is the KURIO SMART 2in1 Tablet. Subtitled as the 'Ultimate Android Tablet for kids 6+', this gorgeous gadget has a 10" IPS screen, detachable Bluetooth keyboard and magnetic protective case. It looks gorgeous and performs really well. Set up was easy enough too...


Packaging is minimal and very effective. My parcel had clearly been thrown around and my tablet is thankfully undamaged. Inside the box are the tablet and keyboard, protective cover/case, quick start guide, power cable and adapter.


The Case is gorgeous. It has hidden magnets which hold it closed and also in place when folded as a stand. The keyboard is also attached by magnets. The tablet is held in position by small plastic corners which have a good tight grip without feeling dangerous against the screen.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Christmas Activities and Events for Families in Manchester and the NorthWest UK

It's Christmaaaaaaaaaaas.....well, it isn't yet, but if you are looking ahead at what you can do with the family over the festive period, here are loads of ideas for theatre and other events in the Manchester and NorthWest area of the UK.


I'm happy to add anything relevant that is in the NORTHWEST UK and is suitable for families of any age - please send me an email with NW Christmas in the subject heading...

Monday, 19 November 2018

intu Trafford Centre Christmas! Toy Parade plus Alpine Village And Grotto review

Last Saturday we were guests of intu Trafford Centre to be among the first to experience their Christmas attractions - and to catch the 2nd ever Christmas Toy Parade. We all had an excellent day out and it really did put us into a festive mood.


Our day started super early for a Saturday, long before the shops in the centre opened. It gave me a chance to take photos before everyone arrived though - so bear that in mind when photos look empty of people - it was only 8.30am!


We were repaid for our early start with a breakfast of saucy beans and truffle mushrooms, sausage and bacon for breakfast (the Gentleman from Leon hovering over the table was utterly lovely - as was his food!). We then got to meet some of the stars getting ready for the parade later in the day.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

The Grand Pile'O'Stockingfillers Giveaway 2018

My favourite Christmas Present giveaway of the year! The Grand Pile'O'Stockingfillers is an assembled box full of things we've been given for the site over the year. Maybe we were given extra, or already had one, it was a bit young or my boys just don't need another pink blind bag collectible...


Rather than waste all this stuff by putting it in a drawer or letting my boys open it and forget it instantly, I've put together a big box of goodies and one of my readers can win the lot. It is a random assortment, so you probably won't find it all useful, but there's something for everyone...

Rapidough Family Game Review and Christmas Giveaway Age 8+ (Sent By Drumond Park)

One of my final Christmas Present Giveaways for 2018 is from my good friends at Drumond Park, and it's for Rapidough - a family favourite here for years.

Suitable for 4 or more players aged 8+, this is a very funny family game which involves recreating items shown on a card in dough - and like a good cheese, it matures as your family gets older...


We really like this game and have played it a lot over the years, including reviewing it in early 2015 with my younger children. What I can tell you now is that it gets better as your family grows up. Models become more complex and gameplay speeds up.

Friday, 16 November 2018

StikBot Movie Set Christmas Present Giveaway (age 4+) Sent by Zing Toys

StikBots are great fun and we've reviewed them several times now. They are little poseable figures with sticky pad hands and feet, which are designed to be perfect for creating animated movies. There are lots of different themed sets available for amateur film-makers aged 4+ and I'm delighted that Brainstorm Toys (StikBot UK Distributor) have kindly offered 3 StikBot Movie Sets as Christmas presents for my readers.


Inside each box is not only the StikBot, but press out thick glossy card pieces to create scenery, backdrop, props and small plastic accessories to complete your scene. They're attractive, clever and don't need any glue or tape.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

51 Months #TBCSmiles...

It's an absolutely manic time of year for me just now with all of the Christmas toys and books, and the small matter of Christmas Present Giveaways. I've also just had a day off for my birthday, and an other day off to visit my daughter in Sheffield with the Co-op to find out what she's really been eating! Well worth it despite having to catch up...


Autumn has definitely arrived and your photos are very Autumnal!! It's lovely going back seeing all of the Halloween costumes and firework photos, because that already seems like it was months ago. Christmas will be with us before we can blink.

I especially love that we have so many grown ups in photos this month, it's nice to see you the right side of the camera, taking photos for your children to show their kids when they are your age. You don't have to have lots of followers or a fancy camera, ANYONE is welcome to join in and a HUGE thank you to everyone who does.

Healthy Meals for Uni Students (Paid Partnership with Co-op Food and Britmums).

Back in September we waved 3 of our young people off to uni, 2 of them as Freshers starting their 1st Year. Before she went I had a special 'goodbye tea' with my daughter and last Friday we turned the tables. It was my turn to visit her at Uni and she had to cook for me. I also had a peep in her kitchen cupboards to see if she really is eating healthily...


My daughter had mock exams until late afternoon, so I met her straight afterwards at the Student Union. There's a Co-op food store really close by and we headed over there and picked up the ingredients. It's a gorgeous Co-op with loads of space...


The Co-op are working with MOB Kitchen and you may have seen one of the crew, Ben, in the October issue of Co-op magazine (found in-store). They've put together a collection of recipes that are easy to make, healthy and filling, and so we decided to choose a recipe from the list.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Reveal Family Game Review And Christmas Giveaway Age 8+ (Sent for review)

This review and giveaway is for the family game Reveal, which is a bit of a special one for us. It's been sent for review by the inventor himself and he's also sending a copy to one of my readers as a prize in my Christmas Present Giveaways. Suitable for 2 to 4 players or teams aged 8+, this is a game which has no questions, only answers, and we first tested a prototype almost 2 years ago.


It's lovely to see the development of a game like this and I'm delighted that Reveal has been picked up by Paul Lamond Games and is now available to buy in Smyths.

Inside the box are the game board, dice, 3 packs of Answer Cards (Movies, TV and Music), a cardboard sleeve/slipcase to conceal answers and golden tokens to keep score.


Everything stores in the box and there's minimal single use plastic, plus no batteries, so Christmas-morning and storage-friendly. There's no set up time involved and no complicated rules to learn, just open up the board and place your counter at the corner Start Space.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Celtic Herbal Winter Woodland Gifts Christmas Present Giveaway (sent for review)

I've got a very special and somewhat traditional giveaway tonight. Courtesy of Celtic Herbal one of my readers can win Frankincense! Welsh company Celtic Herbal make excellent quality handmade products which last an incredibly long time and are indulgent just as much as they are relaxing.

They've offered a Pine & Frankincense Winter Woodland bundle with a soy candle and a very smart reed diffuser, as a prize in my Christmas Present Giveaways.


I have used Celtic Herbal myself for a while now. I love their products. They are not inexpensive, but they last so long and work so well, that you really get your money's worth. I've used their Exotic Wood & Ylang Ylang Bath Oil for the last 9 months and it's a true treat every time.

Sublime Slime Jumbo Activity Box Giveaway for age 7-11 (Sent By The Curiosity Box)

We had a great time exploring at The Digital Kids Show last weekend and one of the most exciting things we found in the STEM Zone was The Curiosity Box. I've heard of their boxes before and been impressed at the quality and range of activities at very fair prices. It was lovely to meet the people behind the project and bring home a box for my boys to try out themselves.


The Curiosity Box have a massive range of different Science and Engineering Boxes for children aged 7-11, and a new CuriosiTots Box for younger children aged 4-6. We were given a Jumbo Curiosity Box: Atomic for children aged 7-11. My 10 year old was ecstatic!