Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Rainbow Rush Family Game Review Age 8+ (Sent by Big Potato Games)

My next review for Big Potato Games is Rainbow Rush, which is suitable for anyone 8+. This is a really fast-paced game for 2 or more players. The winner is the first to collect a rainbow of colours, but it's not as sweet and innocent as it sounds - this is fairly frantic!

No wasteful packaging and everything is stored in a neat little specially shaped box, ideal for storage and transportation, which you keep in sight during play to remind players of the rainbow order.

Inside the box are 2 packs of cards (hard and easy), 7 coloured stacks made up of 10 blocks and instructions. Set up takes no time at all and nor does learning the rules - Christmas morning-friendly.

The Grumpy Gnome's Garden by Della Jane Hales Children's Book Review

The Grumpy Gnome's Garden by Dell's Jayne Hales is my latest review for Matador Books. A more traditional children's tale, it stars The Grumpy Gnome and his housemate, The Little Fairy.

Although The Grumpy Gnome's Garden is suitable for independent readers aged around 6+, I actually think this book works better for reading together and is ideal for bedtime with younger children who enjoy fairy stories.

The author wanted to encourage children to see the enjoyment and reward that comes with gardening, and the friends build a beautiful garden together. They grow flowers and vegetables and herbs, and working together as a team create something very special to them both, which also benefits the animals, birds and insects.

Monday, 15 October 2018

October #TBCSmiles 50 Months

It seems weird posting the smiles today because my Social Media feed is absolutely full of candles for a wave of light to remember babies who didn't have the chance to grow up. Today's collection of smiles are dedicated to everyone who ever lost a child, however small your child was.

The pumpkins are just starting to creep in, the nights are drawing darker and Autumn is here. It's my favourite season. I don't see it as an end, I see it as a necessary change, everything hibernating and buckling down for the Winter. I love the colours on the trees and snuggling up under blankets indoors while the wind blows. Movie nights are so much better when it's already dark outside and my youngest sleeps before 11pm....

Sunday, 14 October 2018

October Event Round up for Families in Manchester and NorthWest UK

The half term break is almost upon us and as usual there is plenty going on to entertain families in the Manchester and North West areas. Here is a round up of what's happening over the next 2 or 3 weeks - don't forget your local library and museum!

Guess How Much I Love You
Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre

Tue 16 and Wed 17 October
Selladoor Family and ABA International Touring UK bring this much-loved classic children’s book to the stage. Join Little and Big Nutbrown Hare as they settle down after a bedtime story and re-awaken to discover the delights and colours of each season, as they compete to measure their love for each other in this timeless loveable story.
Explore this playful story of love and nature as it unfolds on stage through puppets, live music and interactive play for children aged 3 and up.

Tue 16th October 1.30pm & 4.30pm, Wednesday 17th October 11am & 1.30pm
Tickets: Adults: £13.50, Children: £12.50, Family Ticket: £45

To book tickets please call 0844 888 4411* or go online at www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk * or in person at The Epstein Theatre Box Office from 12pm - 6pm Monday - Saturday.
*Subject to booking fee. All prices include a £1 per ticket venue restoration levy

Manchester Folk Festival
HOME, Manchester

18-21 October
Manchester Folk Festival takes place including events at HOME which will be of interest to audiences of all ages. Far too much to list and ticket prices vary, so find out more on the Manchester Folk Festival website, but including...

Sat 20 October
Family Song-Writing Workshop hosted by Manchester Sings -  on the theme of Manchester. What does the city mean to you? Whether you were born here or have made Manchester your home, the aim is to come up with a series of songs which pay tribute to our city. No musical or song-writing experience is necessary! This event starts at 3.30pm and is suitable for everyone aged nine upwards. £6.60 Per Person, book on the Home Manchester website.

Sea Life, Trafford Centre, Manchester

20th October – 4th November
Sea Life will be transformed into an Ascarium, with lots of special activities to help discover the spooky creatures that lurk beneath the waves, plus find the missing magic ingredients around SEA LIFE to help the Sea witch cast her spell and claim your reward!

Meet the Merwitch in her lair
Find the missing ingredients
Help cast the magic spell
Take part in our creepy creature twister game
Watch our spooky pumpkin show
Claim your FREE SEA LIFE reusable cup
Remember your visit with our fang-tastic photo boards

This event is included in the standard admission price and single attraction tickets start at £11.95 per child - combi tickets with LEGOLAND Discovery Centre are better value. Book online to guarantee entry and find out more on the Sea Life Events page.

Brick Or Treat
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Trafford Centre, Manchester

20thOctober – 4thNovember
Get into the Halloween spirit with our Brick or Treat event! Always fun - we've been many times.

Featuring some fun spook-tacular activities such as:
Creepy creations – Add your creation to our LEGO® pumpkin patch
‘Scarevenger’ hunt
Spooky stop motion animation
Meet and greet with our new Halloween character mascot!
Scarily themed mini land
Limited Edition pop-badges and factory bricks whilst stocks last
Not only that but all little Vampires go free! - All kids who come down to this event in Halloween costume will gain free entry into the attraction! Please note; 1 free child per paying adult.

This event is included in the standard admission price. Book online to guarantee entry. Find out more on the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Events page

Spooky Southport

Saturday 20 October to Sunday 28 October
From spooktacular Halloween events to scarecrow festivals and autumnal welly walks, there’s an array of exciting activities to keep everyone entertained! Way too much to list here, so these are just a couple of the things on offer:

Thursday 25 – Sunday 28 October.
Annual Halloween Festival, Little monsters will be spoiled for choice with all kinds of Halloween happenings including, a Haunted Maze in the Town Hall Gardens, a visit from a Ghostly Pirate Crew on Chapel Street and a ghoulish Fancy Dress Trick or Treat Trail. And for the first time two giant Dragons will swoop and soar through the streets to the sounds of original songs, breathing smoke as they go.
For full event details and timings visit: www.spookysouthport.com

Saturday 20 – Wednesday 31 October
Super Spooky Scarecrow Festival featuring an array of locally created creepy characters that line the street to both frighten and delight the crowds!  You can even take part in a scary scarecrow making workshop on Saturday 20 October.

Thursday 25 October
Crafty’s Halloween Spooktacular at The Atkinson - the golden pumpkin, the biggest Halloween party in town and trick or treating are just some of the ingredients of this brand new family fun show.
Tickets can be booked at: www.theatkinson.co.uk

 For further information and to plan your half term visit: www.VisitSouthport.com

Beauty and the Beast
St Helens Theatre Royal

Saturday 20 – Sunday 28 October
Regal Entertainments are bringing their enchanting panto to audiences in St Helen's, starring Channel 5 Milkshake’s Kiera-Nicole Brennan.
This family friendly pantomime that tells the timeless story of Belle – the beautiful young woman who falls in love with the most unexpected of princes, who has been cursed to look like a hideous beast. Will the beast learn to love and be loved? Will the spell be broken in time for all to live happily ever after?

Times: Daily 1pm / Fri – Sun 1pm & 5pm, Tickets From £12*
*All prices are inclusive of a £1 per seat booking fee. On-line bookings are subject to an additional 50p per seat on-line processing fee.

For more information, please visit: www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com

Z-Arts, Hulme, Manchester

Sunday 21 October, 10am-2pm.
Z-Access Free Family Fun Day
Specially designed for children and families with disabilities or additional requirements. Accessible creative activities including arts and crafts, music, drama and dance. Resources available to families on the day include a BSL interpreter, a sensory space, a quiet space, and a visual menu in Z-café.

Z-access is a free event, but booking is required to ensure Z-arts can make the day enjoyable for everyone. All those who book in advance will be sent a pre-event email which will include a map and social story of the day ahead.

Complementing the day will be a relaxed 11am performance of children's theatre show A Square World, which is all about changing the world so it is accessible for everyone to enjoy! Presented by Daryl Beeton and non-verbal. (Tickets are £6 - £9)

A Square World (Sunday 21 October) When the daily routine of three friends’ lives suddenly changes, they discover with a little fun and some mayhem how to adapt their world so they can keep playing together. Set to an original commissioned soundtrack, Daryl Beeton’s A Square World is an honest, touching and quirky story for ages 3 – 6 years looking at the unfairness of being left out in a world designed for everyone else but yourself.

Adrift (Tuesday 23 October) A poignant and important play from acclaimed children’s theatre company Action Transport Theatre and writer Beverley Hancock-Smith, Adrift tells the story of two children adrift at sea fleeing conflict, a heart-warming and touching celebration of the resilience and imagination of childhood for ages 8+ and their families.

Plink and Boo (Thursday 25 October) Some might be Plink, and others are Boo. Why does it matter, what’s the to-do? The topsy turvy world of Plink and Boo welcomes ages 2 – 5 years and their grown-ups. Using acrobatics, live music and mountains of toys, Plink and Boo is an interactive adventure exploring what happens when people don’t fit into boxes (even if it is the neatest place to put them).

For more information or to book tickets for Z-access or A Square World, please pop into Z-
arts in Hulme, go online z-arts.org or call Z-arts Box Office on 0161 232 6089.

Halloween Family Events
intu Trafford Centre

Thursday 25 October 10am- 2 pm and Friday 26 October 10am-2pm
The annual intu Trick or Treat family event in partnership with our stores and restaurants.
Get your fancy dress outfits at the ready and descend upon the centre in hunt for goodies.
Little Trick or Treaters can pick up their free special bucket from the customer services desk and then scour the centre for specially decorated pumpkins in spooky windows... if you're lucky these will be traded for some sweet treats!
Please note, there are a limited amount of Halloween buckets so they will be given out on a first come first served basis and you must be signed up to our family club to take part.

Saturday 27 & Sunday 28 October
To celebrate the return of the hit musical Wicked to Manchester this Christmas at the Palace Theatre, join us on  to experience the magic of the show with exclusive free performances of some of the most spellbinding songs on the main stage in The Orient.
There will be two shows on Saturday 27 October at 4pm & 5pm and three shows on Sunday 28 October 1pm, 2pm and 3pm.
And from Sunday 28 October until 17 November, 3 of the iconic costumes will be on display in the Main Dome.
Wicked flies back to Palace Theatre Manchester 4 Dec – 5 Jan.

Find out more on the Trafford Centre Events page

Spooky Screenings
Victoria Baths, Manchester 

Thursday 25, Friday 26 & Saturday 27 October

The Village Screen Pop up Cinema is bringing the ultimate Halloween movie experience to Manchester’s Victoria Baths with screenings of Jaws, The Lost Boys and The Witches.

Screenings are all held in the stunning Gala Pool of this iconic Edwardian Grade II* listed building. Fancy dress is actively encouraged, with autumnal food, drink and live DJs all combining to create a spook-tacular party atmosphere!

Thursday 25 October: Jaws – doors open at 18:30, screening at 20:30. 16+ only.
Friday 26 October: The Lost Boys – doors open at 18:30, screening at 20:30. 16+ only.
Saturday 27 October: The Witches – doors open at 16:30, screening at 18:30. Suitable for all ages.

Bookings can be made at www.thevillagegreenevents.co. Tickets £10-£15per person. Online booking fees apply

Snazaroo Halloween Book Reading Event
Waterstones, Manchester Deansgate

Saturday 27th October
11am – 4pm
Snazaroo will be transforming Waterstones into a Halloween haven where little ones will be able to listen to classic children’s Halloween stories and have their faces painted by Snazaroo’s dedicated team of face painters. The face painters will be able to share hints and tips so you can easily re-create the look on Halloween night too.
There will be regular storytime throughout the day as follows:
11am – Funnybones
12pm – A Werewolf Named Oliver James
1pm – Winnie the Witch
2pm – Bedtime for Monsters
3pm – Spider Sandwiches
4pm – Hortense and Shadow

The event is FREE and first come, first served. Tickets can be booked via Eventbrite, Halloween at Waterstones.

Storyhouse, Chester
The Gruffalo’s Child Live

Tuesday 30 October, and on Wednesday 31 October
No Gruffalo should ever set foot in the deep dark wood…so join The Gruffalo’s Child on her adventurous mission in Tall Stories’ magical, musical adaptation of the much-loved picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
This musical adaptation of the popular children’s book guarantees entertainment for all ages. Songs, laughs and scary fun for children aged 3 upwards and their grown-ups, in the hugely popular show that’s toured Britain and the world.

Tuesday 30 October 2018 at 2pm
Wednesday 31 October 2018 at 11am and 2pm

Tickets: £14 (each ticket is subject to a £1.50 booking fee)             

Suitable for youngsters aged 3 upwards
Duration approximately 55 minutes (no interval)

Book tickets Online at www.storyhouse.com, By Phone 01244 409 113 or in person

Further Afield (Over the border)

Sea Creatures Tour
Harrogate Convention Centre

30th October 2018 – 28th November 2018

The groundbreaking Sea Creatures exhibition which, in a UK first, allows visitors to explore life beneath the ocean, by viewing incredible cross-sections of REAL animals including ethically-sourced whales, penguins and Great White Sharks plus show-stopping centrepiece, 3 tonne Hai Hai the Minke whale - the first ocean mammal to undergo the complex plastination process developed by Gunther von Hagens in 1997, with the process taking 23 months and costing over one million pounds to complete. Sea Creatures is an interactive and immersive exhibition that takes you on a deep dive into the anatomy of some of the ocean’s most iconic marine species.

The exhibition also features unique digital experiences, including an interactive touch table, augmented reality installations, a mini cinema and even a giant ball pit with interactive games that allow children to learn about marine conservation while they play

Tickets £13.52-£19.99 per person. Find out more on the Sea Creatures website.

We didn't receive anything in return for the entries in this post. If you have anything you wish me to include, please contact me by email! 

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Secret Science by Dara O'Briain Children's Book Review Age 9+ (Sent for Review)

Secret Science: The Amazing World Beyond Your Eyes is a new release from Scholastic Books. Written by Stand-up Comedian, Mathematician and Scientist Dara O'Briain, it's like taking a foray through his head as he goes about his every day life, and if you know him from TV like I do, you'll read it entirely in his voice.

Subtitled The Amazing World Beyond Your Eyes, in this book we don't see the world as we would normally, we are shown the science behind everything we take for granted, from sleeping to flying to building sandcastle, and it is fascinating.

Simple Science is full of interesting illustrations by Dan Bramhall and they work perfectly. The whole package is incredibly funny and witty, with plenty of dry humour, but this is also an intelligent book.

Friday, 12 October 2018

MiniMaster Sports Company 1/8th Scale Football Review! Age 8-99+ (Sent for review)

I'm really pleased to bring you this review because MiniMaster Football is an excellently designed product with lots of care and attention and masses of added value. Miniature football you can play indoors, but big enough that you can stand up to play. You control the 1/8th scale footballer as if he's a real player, infinitely adjusting his angle and direction of kick - you can even chip, toe-poke and of course aim.

I first discovered MiniMaster Sports at BlogOn and they gave me a Football Set to bring home and review. Unusually for a family with 5 boys living in Manchester, although we follow football and watch a few matches, we don't have anyone who is footie mad, however everyone loves this!

No waste, very little non-essential or wasteful plastic, no batteries and everything is in a fairly compact box considering the size, which you can store it in afterwards. Christmas-morning and Earth-friendly.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Disney On Ice Presents Dream Big at Manchester Arena 2018 (Review Visit)

Last night we were guests of Feld Entertainment to review Disney On Ice presents Dream Big at Manchester Arena. We all love Disney On Ice and it's always a really good night. Dream Big saw the first appearance by Moana and her sidekick Maui, one of my children's favourite characters, plus classic characters Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, one of my favourites...

Before the show we got to meet and greet with Mickey Mouse, and for the first time in ages my youngest joined in with the photo. Hes not keen on dressed up characters and has avoided them for a while, so it was really brave of him and hopefully a sign of things to come!

We had seats to the right side of the arena and first up was the Fit To Dance warm up, with a host of skaters on the ice in sparkly costumes that were really impressive. They looked great and really had the audience joining in.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

GraviTrax Interactive Ball Track System Review Age 8+ (Sent by Ravensburger)

Ravensburger are well known for puzzles and although it can use some brain-power, GraviTrax is a completely different story. A fantastic and incredibly attractive interactive ball track system, this takes your imagination and engineering skills to new levels. Make coloured metal balls roll, fly, bounce and drop along a pathway of your own creation. You can even race a couple of your friends...

We've been sent the Starter Set which has an rrp of £49.99 and 3 of the Expansion Sets at £9.99rrp each, The Catapult, Magnetic Cannon and Hammer. All of the GraviTrax system is suitable for age 8+. Children younger (5+) will be able to play with it, but are more likely to find construction frustrating.

The GraviTrax Starter Set has an impressive selection of pieces, over 100 in all (listed at the base of the post), including lots of special parts and plenty of pieces to make a proper length of track. There are 6 metal 'Gravity Spheres' or balls included, so even if you lose one under the sofa you won't be devastated.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Winter Wonderland, Liverpool:St Luke's 'BombedOut' Church (Family Ticket Giveaway!)

I'm not getting anything in return for doing this giveaway, but it looks such a great event and the price is very fair, so I'm more than happy to promote it! Set in the centre of Liverpool at St Luke’s “Bombed-Out” Church at the top of Bold Street (one of Liverpool's most iconic Heritage sites), Winter Wonderland is a 4 week long spectacular which should create a Christmas Grotto visit to remember forever.

Set against a beautiful and atmospheric festive backdropsand with lots to explore, families will be escorted by an elf and immersed into their very own Christmas spectacular full of festive characters, workshops and fun activities,

Winter Wonderland at St Luke’s “Bombed-Out” Church will take place from Saturday 1 December and Sunday 23 December 2018. Sessions are available to pre-book now.

Fondly known as the ‘Bombed-Out’ Church, St Luke’s is one of Liverpool’s best loved heritage sites and the inside will be transformed into a Winter Wonderland. Families will take part in a whole host of festive activities, including meeting the big man himself. Tickets are booked in advance for a 2 hour timeslot and there is plenty included to keep anyone busy.

Monday, 8 October 2018

The Price Of Magic by Gavin Neale Young Fiction Age 9+ (Sent for review)

The latest children's book I've been sent to review by Matador is The Price Of Magic by Gavin Neale. A good old-fashioned fantasy with battles and fairies and elves, swordsmanship and guardians. It also stars a feisty young lady called Abby, who is no stranger to this bizarre and magical world as she had to rescue her mother from it a couple of years ago.

Backstory is provided, so although The Price Of Magic is a sequel, it is also a standalone story. Abby and her neighbour Thomas are being looked after by two elderly ladies, Daphne and Nora, while their parents work. It all seems very ordinary until the surprise arrival of Erykah, the Queen of the Land of the Fairy, and Bryonny, her Pixie Chief ally.

Daphne and Nora are in fact witches and Guardians Of The Peace Accord between dimensions, they just pose as ordinary elderly ladies. War is threatened, the gap between the Fairy Realm and our Earth has been breached. Thomas is kidnapped and it is up to Abby to rescue him, but her guardians are very reluctant to let her become involved in the impending war.

Smooshins Surprise Maker Kit Review Age 7+ (Sent for review)

My boys love all kinds of toys and they aren't scared by pink, so it was their choice to accept a Smooshins Surprise Maker Kit for review. The kit contains everything you need to make 4 different 8cm tall Smooshins - colourful, tactile and cute hand-sized characters - and you start with a Colour Pouch full of two-part liquid and a Smooshin Maker.

The box is a strange shape which isn't incredibly useful for storage and there are some necessary plastic bags, but unpacking is 5 minutes. You will need a small phillips screwdriver and 3 x AAA batteries (not included), but then you can read the instructions and start straightaway. Fairly Christmas morning friendly.

The Kit contains 2 Surprise Character Moulds in disposable secret surprise eggs, 4 Colour Pouches, 4 Headpieces, 4 Faces, 4 Bellies, 4 Character Stands and 1 Special Pouch Squeezing Tool which is also a 'key' to unlock the egg surrounding the Surprise Character Mould.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Hatchimals Hatchibabies Review age 5+ (Sent by SpinMaster Toys)

My boys were very lucky this week because they were sent a brand new Hatchimals Hatchibaby to review. I have done a video showing everything, including how long it takes to hatch and how to hatch your Hatchibaby, a link is below. Hatchibabies are, just like real babies, either male or female, and they also come in 2 varieties - Ponette or CheeTree.

There is an instruction booklet inside the box, which you should really read before you begin, as well as a Tips And Tricks sheet and a HatchiBirth Certificate which you can write the Hatchibaby's name and date of birth on, and add the secret slip of paper announcing 'Girl' or 'Boy' which you'll find once your Hatchibaby has hatched.

Your Hatchibaby is lots of fun straight away because it is really interesting even at the egg stage. It will interact and react from inside the egg, as soon as you have removed the locking keys at  the bottom, so play with it and make the most of this time.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Dixit Family Game Review (age 6+) for Blogger Boardgame Club (Sent for review)

This month's review for the Blogger Boardgame Club is Dixit from Asmodee and Libellud. Suitable for 3 to 6 players aged 6+, this is a family board game which we all really enjoyed and it's utterly beautiful.

Very easy to play as well as fun and funny, this is a great one for late into the evening when you don't fancy being physically active and want to calm the bigger kids (and grown ups) before bed. It's also a fascinating insight into everyone else's head!

Inside the box are 6 sets of press out cardboard voting tokens, 84 large Story Cards, 6 wooden rabbit player score markers, instructions, and the game board. There is very little waste packaging from the cards, the game is plastic free and the box is brilliant storage for your game afterwards. Full marks and Christmas morning friendly.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Science Museum Approved RoboMaker Pro Review for Clementoni (age 10+)

I spotted the RoboMaker Pro in the Toy Awards at BlogOn and it was one of the big toys that caught my eye. Clementoni construction sets are brilliant for encouraging STEM learning while having loads of fun.

Your child will practise engineering and design skills when building their model and then they'll learn about electricity, block programming and coding while they get to grips with controlling it - and with different sensors and lots of movement, there is absolutely loads it can do...

Cleverly there are instructions for 5 different models included, and they start fairly easy and become really quite complex. plus you can of course create your own models. Inside the box is everything you need except 4 x AAA batteries. Parts are still attached to the sprue, so you'll need 10 minutes to remove them before you first start.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Cirque Du Soleil Review: OVO Tour at Manchester Arena (ReviewVisit)

Cirque Du Soleil launched their UK Arena Tour in Liverpool and the tour continued at Manchester Arena until Sunday, followed by Birmingham and Belfast. Last Friday we saw the show in Manchester as guests in order to review.

The cast of OVO features 50 performing artists from 17 countries, including the UK's Alanna Baker, 2011 gymnastics European Champion and a host of incredibly talented artistes. This is theatre and circus with amazing costumes and lighting, rolled into one huge jaw-dropping bundle.

OVO means 'egg' in Portuguese and when we arrived we were greeted by a ginormous egg on stage. As the performance started, characters appeared and mingled with the audience, eventually settling on stage. The giant egg deflated and the performance proper began.

Light Stax Wireless Lights and Sounds Building Blocks Review (age 6+)

I've always felt miniature construction would be better with a little more light shed on the situation and Light Stax are a very clever and unintrusive method of achieving this. Wireless, you can barely see where the power is coming from and the way they attach together means you can safely make all kinds of amazing light up designs.

I was given some Light Stax to review at BlogOn and my partner opened them as soon as I got home. He set to work immediately producing my blog initials, which I posted on Instagram. We were both really impressed with the Light Stax - and yet we were both very sceptical before we tried them.

They've won us over. We've got the Snapping Crocodile, Hybrid Fire Truck and V2 Beginner Plus set. The power system is really clever, with metal built into the blocks to pass the current. You can barely see it and it doesn't interfere with building.