Thursday 31 October 2013

Counting Caterpillars Game From Orchard Toys

Counting Caterpillars is another new game for Autumn from Orchard Toys. Aimed at 2-4 players aged 3+ the gameplay is very simple and it's the act of putting the numbers into the right place on the caterpillar that is the tricky bit.

All players have their own 'board' which is a fairly large jigsaw with a 4 piece frame and 10 caterpillar parts which each have their own number.

For younger children the numbered caterpillar segments each have their own colour, which matches the caterpillars feet, so the numbers can be put into the right space even when they aren't in direct order yet.

Counting Caterpillars is an absolutely fabulous game for children who are learning numbers to ten, whether verbal or written. All children can learn to say the numbers from 1 to 10 in the same way as they can learn the words to Incy Wincy Spider, but it doesn't make them able to count and associate those words with items. Once they progress to reading and writing they need to learn to recognise all of the numbers, and this game is also brilliant for that.

Players take it in turns to take an upturned segment from the table and see if it matches a space on their caterpillar. If they already have that number/colour then they put it back on the table and their turn is over. If they need that piece for their caterpillar then they take it and put it into the right space.

At 3 1/2 and 5 my boys are the perfect age for this game. My younger one is not quite confident with counting to ten - although playing this has meant he's not far off now - and my older son is not quite confident with all of his written numbers - again, he's really getting there now that we've been playing Counting Caterpillars over half term.

Counting Caterpillars is not only brilliant for teaching and reinforcing numbers, it also has 10 different colours to learn. Because of the jigsaw layout it is brilliant for hand-eye co-ordination and problem-solving. It is a good game for teaching turn-taking and gameplay, and getting children used to winning and losing. Gameplay is quick, it only takes about 10 minutes for a game, so children don't wander off or lose interest. Because you have to remember where the segments you need are, it promotes memory skills and concentration.

Like all Orchard Toys games and puzzles this is bright and modern and designed and manufactured in the UK from thick, high quality 100% recycled board. It's built to be played with and will last to be passed on when your child has finished with it.

Counting Caterpillars currently retails at £9.50 and is available from all good toy stockists or online direct from the Orchard Toys website. My boys really enjoy it and get a real feeling of accomplishment when they finish their caterpillar whether they're first or not, everyone goes away happy. We give this one 5/5.

We were sent Counting Caterpillars by Orchard Toys for the review.

Don't Do That....Someone Will Get Hurt...

You know that thing when you repeatedly say to your kids "Don't do that, someone will get hurt", "stop play fighting", "get off the bed and stop jumping".....

Well that....

And today when they were jumping on the bed again....*sigh*

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Sew Personal To You ~ Hand Sewn Products From Your Child's Drawing

Sew Personal To You is a small business based near Bristol turning your children's drawings into hand sewn motif's on t-shirts, shopping bags, tea towels, cushion covers, vests and just about anything you can think of.

I chose a 'shopping bag' as we use them all of the time, and was asked to supply a design from one or both of my children. Before I'd had a chance to sit down with them and ask them to draw, my 5 year old brought home a treasure map he had drawn at school and it was perfect. This is the image that I emailed over.

I specifically asked for the extra 'n' to be left off because my son said it was accidental. 
A few days later and my parcel arrived beautifully wrapped...

 Inside was my embroidered bag, along with a cute little sticker for my son - which he instantly 'put somewhere safe'...

The picture was really impressive and he recognised it immediately as his own work...

He was very proud...

I can sew. I do in fact have several large embroideries and tapestries from the olden days when I only had one or two children and a few spare moments in the day, so I was intrigued to see how good it was. The answer is that it's lovely, it's really beautifully done and very precise. It must have taken a very long time.

 And how well does it compare to my son's original drawing? 

It's an exact copy. 

I'm really impressed with the needlework that has gone into this. It's a faithful reproduction, a useful item and a lovely keepsake. It's going to be my special bag, it won't be used for shopping, it'll be used for my treasure. It's my birthday next month and I would be delighted to have received this as a gift.

Prices vary depending on how much work is in the design and what you want to put your design on to, but Sew Personal To You Will happily reduce the size to fit your budget within reason and can work with any design, however crumpled or scribbled on. If your child makes a mistake, like my son's accidental 'n', that's fine. My bag would have cost me £25 and I feel that the work that's gone into it justifies that price.

My only regret is that I chose a shopping bag - it's far too good for a shopping bag!

I was sent my bag free of charge to review

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Halloween Plus Plus Challenge...

We were challenged by The Toadstool to make something special using Plus Plus for Halloween and I've got to say I found it a lot harder than I expected!!

Before he went to bed my 5 year old made us a great spider...

He then played with it for the next half hour, creating an entire scene and story about the spider hiding behind a wall and waiting to eat a bug who was eating grass....not exactly Halloweenish, but I was impressed.

With the kids in bed it was my turn. It was easy enough to make a 2D least I hope it's recognisable as a ghost....I didn't have enough white so I improvised, and put it through photoshop to reduce the colour of the grey...

But then I stupidly decided to try something more complicated and 3D. It really gives your brain a good workout trying to decide how to make the right shapes and put them all together...

2 hours and a movie later and this is my best shot. I'm pleased with it because it went through several different incarnations until it reached this point and this one is definitely the best looking! I hope you can tell what it is!

If you don't have Plus Plus then it is available to buy from The Toadstool and prices start at a stockingfiller rate of £5....

The Toadstool

Moderna Double-Walled Thermo Glasses from Ozeri

Heat-resistant glasses tumblers

Ozeri have sent us the Moderna 8oz Double-Wall Thermo Glasses to review. We've previously reviewed the Curva Double-Walled Thermo Glasses and these are a perfect compliment. Whereas the Curva all have an individual and distinct pattern, the Moderna glasses are more classic, straight-edged except for dimples on each side which assist with grip.

The Curva Glasses
The Moderna Glasses
The glasses are made from Borosilicate glass, which is the same as Pyrex and can withstand different temperatures. It means you can use them for everything from soup and coffee to ice cream sundaes. You can even put them in the freezer if you wish.

Borosilicate glass is far tougher than regular glass. They can be microwaved and washed in the dishwasher, and they're shatterproof, so if you do drop and break one, it shouldn't smash into a bazillion tiny pieces that spread across the whole room.

Because of the double-walled design, condensation doesn't form on the outside and hot liquids won't burn your hands. 

The glasses are hand-made, so each one is slightly different and unique. This really adds to the charm. 

We think they're a gorgeous thing. They look and feel lovely. They aren't cheap, but they're reasonably priced, something beautiful and special to have, and make a fantastic gift.

Ozeri Moderna Double-Walled Thermo Glasses are currently available to buy on Amazon for £24.95 with free delivery.

Monday 28 October 2013

Lego Batman: The Movie - DC Superheroes Unite Review

Holy Interlocking Bricks Batman!

There's a brand new family film hitting the shops today

Lego Batman: The Movie - DC Superheroes Unite

Lego Batman DVD BluRay Movie Tesco

 We were incredibly lucky and were asked to review the film and give our opinion before it's general release, so we put the word out and invited a few friends to watch it with us....fortunately they didn't all require a seat!

Sunday 27 October 2013

East Lancs Railway Halloween Ghost Train

For the last 2 years our highlight of Halloween has been going on the Halloween Ghost Train at East Lancs Railway in Bury. It's been so good that this year I bought our tickets as soon as they became available.

We went last night and for the first time took two of our bigger children as well as the little ones. We couldn't find the little boys, so we took the Grim Reaper and a Skeleton with us...

Our train was booked for 6.30pm, so we arrived when it was still light at 5.30pm and as usual the volunteers had done a smashing job of decorating and lighting the entire station.

A train was waiting to set off as we arrived on the platform...

We all had something to eat from the special food on offer - Eyeballs (Black Peas), Devils Fingers (Hot Dogs), Ghoul Hash and Fiery Pumpkin Soup (which was the best I've ever tasted!).
A brilliant Zombie Bride came over through the smoke to tell us how delicious and tasty we all smelled!

There were gingerbread skeletons and hot drinks in the buffet car ~ the prices are really reasonable and the food is great. I spent £21 on food and drink in total for 6 of us and we were all satisfied with our tea.

Halloween Skeleton Gingerbread

Then our train was in!

Halloween Special Train Service

When you book you choose your seats, so we were all sat together and near to the loo in case we needed it!

 The trains are all decorated and you have a sheet of paper on the table with local ghostly stories to set the boys practised their most terrified (terrifying) faces....

Throughout the train journey to Rawtenstall and back, which lasts over an hour, each carriage is looked after by a specific person who is there in case you need anything. They're always volunteers who make themselves known and chat to you, are really easy to spot and frankly lovely.

There are a series of visits from different characters inside and outside the train. The train stops several times and people bang on the windows or shout and try to make you jump, they walk past carrying a coffin and stay in character mainly despite the best efforts of some of the older children! They seldom take it too far though, they're pretty good at reading the children.

A Zombie Convict decided I shouldn't be taking his photo and turned the camera on me! Obviously I was terrified...

Every child over 3 is given a goodie bag about a third of the way through the trip with some great little Halloween goodies. In previous years this has included a glow stick and I'm not sure why they changed it this time ~ hopefully not because of 'health & safety'.

East Lancs Railway Halloween Ghost Train

One of the more surprising visitors, and beautifully costumed ~ Gandalf!

The character above was the most surprising for us. When he appeared carrying a severed limb was the only time that our youngest got genuinely scared. Boy no.4 wasn't happy until he'd gone, although he refused to move seats and come for a hug.

One of the last visitors to our carriage was a familiar face from the start of the evening...

We had an excellent time, I love the ghost train. The volunteers do a fantastic job and make it a really exciting experience for everyone. It's a terrific laugh and very well worth the money.

At times the Guards switch off all of the lights, there is a lot of noise and the costumes are brilliant. If your children are easily frightened then it may not be the thing for you, but if they get a thrill from being a little bit scared then it's perfect.

Our next planned visit to the East Lancs Railway will be in December....

We bought and paid for our tickets. The East Lancs Railway is a charity staffed in the main by volunteers. It relies on visitors and donations and has a massive programme of events throughout the year for children and adults including Thomas The Tank Engine days, Footplate Experiences, Real Ale Trails and Murder Mystery Evenings - Click this link to find out more.

Please excuse the fact that a lot of these photo's are a bit blurry - obviously it wasn't very well lit and I didn't want to use flash as it would spoil the atmosphere for everyone!

Saturday 26 October 2013

IWOOT Emergency Halloween Costumes In A Box

If you've spent all your efforts on the kids and haven't had a chance to arrange or make a fabulous Halloween costume for yourself then look no further! You still have time to send away for this gem from I Want One Of Those. 

Made from PE plastic, one size fits all (adults) and they just pop over your head and your normal clothes. Completely waterproof and wipe clean. Perfect for those adult Halloween parties. It'll even keep you dry on the way home

5 Emergency Spooky Outfits in a box for £7.99. Totally cheap, totally funny. 
Just add accessories and a sense of humour...

IWOOT sent me this box of costumes free of charge to review