Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Philly & Friends: Who Do I See In The Mirror? Children's Book Review and Giveaway (18m+) (Sent for review).

The latest book we've been sent to review is really a picture book and is suitable for reading together from 18 months to around 7 years or older. Philly & Friends: Who Do I See In The Mirror? is the debut book by author and Mum Vese Aghoghovbia Aladewolu and is beautifully illustrated by Irene Omiunu.

I don't usually review books which are a bit young for my children, but on this occasion I've made an exception because not only am I friends with the PR, but as soon as I heard the content, I thought it sounded like exactly what youngsters in today's world need...


Who Do I See In The Mirror? follows a young girl doing everyday activities. As she goes through her day, she notices parts of herself and comments on them. Everything is positive, "I love my full lips", " I love my curly hair". She knows that she is also amazing inside her heart and mind, and she can see just how beautiful she really is.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Easter entertainment for families in Manchester and the North West UK

It's Easter and the weather is likely to be predictably unpredictable. Inside or out, here are some of the things you could be getting up to in Manchester, Liverpool and the rest of the North West UK during March, April and May - for families with children of all ages...


If you have anything suitable you wish to add, please send over the listing plus a photo to thebrickcastle@gmail.com
It does not have to be huge, expensive, glamorous, famous or theatre - it can be any public event or activity for families in the North West over the Easter period. We especially like to add FREE and low cost events, such as those you will find at your local libraries and museums.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Choose Your Own Adventure House Of Danger Family Card Game Review Age 10+ (Sent by Asmodee).

Asmodee and the Blogger Boardgame Club have sent us House Of Danger to review this month. A really brilliant choose-your-own-adventure card game, suitable for 1 or more players aged 10+. All players work cooperatively, taking the role of a troubled amateur detective and psychic investigator. You've been having nightmares and believe the visions you see really mean something. It's the players job to find out what the cause of your nightmares is and what the visions mean...


This is a compact and neatly boxed game, which is entirely made from printed card and very Earth-friendly. You can start to play through the first mini-chapter immediately using the quick start guide, which worked very well for us. We were instantly hooked!

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Reviews Revisited March 2013-2018 2/2 Sorgenfresser, BioShock, Shiny Hair, Raptors and Star Wars...

I get a lot of pleasure from looking back at a review item later on and knowing I was right with my initial opinion. Some things stand out as being great, while others not so much. Here's a look back at some of the best or most reliable things we have looked at over the past 5 years....

These items we reviewed in the the second half of March 2013-2018...


Biff the Sorgenfresser or Worry Eater was a big hit here from the day he arrived in 2013, although to my knowledge my children have never actually posted any messages into his mouth. These were new and exciting 6 years ago and I'm delighted to say that they are incredibly popular now, used in schools, homes and other venues UK wide. He still looks as good as new, yet he's been a constant on someone's bed for 5 years, been fed a multitude of sticky things and been washed a few times. Nice one Biff...

Friday, 15 March 2019

6000 Smiles... #TBCSmiles - 55 Months.

It's that time of the month again and I think most of us in the UK can just about manage a smile, in spite of the weather, Brexit and the whole state of the UK. Politics eh, maybe we should just focus on the weather - and the smiles!

We've reached a really special milestone today and I'd like to thank every person who has ever added the hashtag #TBCSmiles to a photo. The hashtag has been going for a while now and when I started I never anticipated I'd ever be able to say we'd reached 6000 of your grins, laughter and happy moments, but as I looked this morning, that's where we are! It's got to be one of the best and happiest hashtag collections on Instagram and it really does make my face sore from grinning.

Thank you to all of you!

Monday, 11 March 2019

Reviews Revisited March 2013-2018 1/2 inc. LEGO storage, robotic balls, bangs and Yoxo

It's often a great idea to come back to a review item later on for a really informed opinion. You're unlikely to find anything we bored of quickly here, or anything which broke 3 minutes after the review went live, because I'd be a fool to remind you about it, but you will find some of the true gems we have looked at over the past 5 years....

Here's a look back at things we reviewed in the the first half of March 2013-2018...


In March 2014 The LEGO Movie was the biggest hit in the cinemas and in our house. Everything was awesome and that included the LEGO Storage Blocks, Lunchbox and flask we were sent by local shop and online retailer Store. Still in use, as good as they were 5 years ago and in fact our collection of LEGO Storage Boxes has even grown since then (please excuse the photo quality, it was the olden days)...

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Ultimate Minecraft Master Builder Book Review & Giveaway (Sent by Carlton Kids Books).

Our latest book review for Carlton Kids Books is the Ultimate Minecraft Master Builder. This is a mighty book with 320 pages detailing 30 awesome builds that you can create within Minecraft. Suitable for anyone who plays, there are also hundreds of tips and examples of additions to builds that you can try. Plenty of inspiration whatever your level...


The contents pages immediately tell you there's a lot in this book, and everything is split into different sections - Ride The Waves, Awesome Asia, Sky's The Limit etc. There's a 'welcome to Minecraft' section and then lots of explanation and hints for the reader, to give them a good grounding before they start.

Ultimate Minecraft Master Builder hints tips tricks

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Nerf Rukkus ICS-8 Nerf N-Strike Elite Review (Age 8+) Sent by Hasbro

It's Spring and the new Nerf are out! Hasbro have sent us their latest Nerf Rukkus ICS-8 Nerf N-Strike Elite blaster for review and we made the most of it by organising a Nerf War at Heaton Park with one of our favourite local families - Jane and the gang from Hodgepodgedays.

Because we've only got 2 Nerf Rukkus ICS-8 Nerf N-Strike Elite blasters and 7 people, we took other Nerf blasters for support - and fairness...

Nerf Rukkus ICS-8 Nerf N-Strike Elite from Hasbro in box

This is a mid-sized manually powered pump action blaster which has an integrated cartridge and is built for accuracy. Packaging is the now standard minimal with hardly any plastic at all - I love this Earth-friendly boxing and it's easy to get into. No batteries and 8 Nerf Elite darts are included, so you are ready to go immediately. Christmas morning-friendly.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Goodbye to the original Twisted Firestarter...

I was gutted when I heard this morning that Keith Flint had died. He was 2 years older than me. Something I loved to remind our big kids when they were teenage rebels listening to The Prodigy in their bedrooms.

I really hoped that we'd hear his previous excesses had taken their toll on his body and he'd quietly suffered a heart attack or other organ failure in his sleep. I hoped he'd worn himself out prematurely but at least he'd had fun doing it.

The news that he'd taken his own life made me very sad.

I used to feel so disappointed when a celebrity died from suicide. Celebrities have all of those young people hanging onto their words. Vulnerable, confused and impressionable youngsters who will be devastated to hear that they've lost a hero. Now I know there's no point in disappointment, it changes nothing and it's not the right emotion. A person dies from suicide just as surely as they die from cancer. They don't have a choice at the end, because they don't see any possible way forward. It isn't about giving up. They lose the fight.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Digital Kids Show 2018 ~ Review Visit

Last November we were invited back as guests to review the Digital Kids Show at Manchester Central. We adore it and I've used loads of information and photos from our visit in all kinds of posts since. Full of everything our family love, this really is a fantastic day out for children who are into all things digital.

Two boys arriving at Digital KIds show and standing next to huge sign

We arrived 5 minutes after opening, so were able to get some photos of the hall before other people's children were everywhere. By 11.30am it was full, but never packed, and it felt very safe to let our almost 9 and 10 year old boys wander ahead or go and play while we sat nearby with a coffee.

collage showing Ice rink, superhero area, huge size of Manchester Central, dinosaur world

Arriving early meant we got to play in the amazingly lit dinosaur kingdom without anyone else, and the boys could have been first to be superheroes, but said it was their day off. The ice rink was comfortably busy right from the start though.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Legend Of The Lost by Ian P Buckingham Young Fiction Review Age 9+ ( Sent by Book Guild)

Legend Of The Lost is Ian P Buckingham's debut children's book and it's a fantasy adventure story which is suitable for confident young readers aged around 9+ to teen. Set in a crossover world which is part Cornwall, part enchanted forest and part seashore, it pulls together all kinds of mystical folk in a way makes them seem highly likely to actually exist.

The book focusses on two families. One family live in local woodland and the others are staying at their holiday cottage. The holidaymakers discover a beautiful Moonstone and once it's no longer hidden they are thrown into a world of magic and mystery, with a more than a little mild peril.

Legend Of The Lost by Ian P Buckingham Young Fiction book cover with leaf design

The writing style is clear and easy enough for a 9 year old, but the first 1/3 of the book introduces a lot of new characters and darts to and fro between them, so to follow the events as they unfold, you need to be a fairly confident reader. Once the two families are established, as well as the friends and cohort they team up with, the real story flows well and has an increasing pace as everything, or everyone, begins to come closer together.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Space Race Children's AR Book By Ben Hubbard Review And giveaway. Sent By Carlton Books

Next Month Carlton Books release Space Race by Ben Hubbard. A fascinating fact book with augmented reality, which tells the story of man's obsession to reach the stars, from the very first satellite launch up to the present day. We've been sent a copy to review and Carlton Books have kindly offered a copy for one of my UK readers...


Space Race is supported by a free app. which you can download on Android or IOS and you need it to really get the most from the book, although there is still plenty to see and learn without using a screen.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

StickerYou Custom Sticker and Label Company Voucher Giveaway (Paid Partnership)

StickerYou is a website offering all kinds of personalised stickers. They sell custom printed die-cut vinyl stickers, labels, iron-on transfers, patches, badges, temporary tattoos, magnets and loads more, in any size, shape and quantity you need. They've offered a £40 voucher for one of my readers, so that you can create a whole load of stickers for yourself....


We've tried and tested many stickers over the years and StickerYou's stickers are made from vinyl which is waterproof, microwave and dishwasher safe, can be written on with permanent marker and removed without leaving a residue. They're super handy and I use these kind of stickers for all sorts of labelling, including my children's lunchboxes, shoes, glasses cases, school bags and jumpers...


A full page of vinyl stickers costs up to £7.54, which can be a lot of stickers for your money. They aren't only useful for parents of schoolchildren. With thousands of designs to choose from or your own designs and photos to upload, you can create photo stickers, bumper stickers, home produce and address labels amongst a bazillion other uses.


There aren't only regular vinyl stickers. StickerYou make customised window clings, tamperproof labels, iron on stickers, patches, badges and temporary tattoos - all with the design, shape and size of your choice.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

National Geographic STEM Dig Kits Review (age 8+) Sent by Bandai.

National Geographic make a huge range of STEM sets which allow your child to explore, create and discover something amazing about the natural world. Crystal growing, archaeology digs, sharks teeth, bugs, stones and my favourite - geodes. There's so much out there for us to discover and learn about. I'm proud to announce we've been chosen as Bandai STEM Ambassadors for the next few months and for our first job they've sent us the National Geographic Real Bug Dig Kit and the Dino Fossil Dig Kit for review.

National Geographic STEM Dig Kits in boxes Dino Fossils and Bugs

Any regular readers will probably be well aware that I'm no stranger to the National Geographic STEM activity sets. I love them and so do all of my family. I can't tell you how many of these sets we've bought and completed over the years with all of our children, but it's easily 50. They're a brilliant tool to get kids thinking about their world from a different angle, and they teach us all so much.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Carnival Games Family Console Game Review Age 3+ Sent by 2K (Plus Giveaway!)

2K are incredibly well-known in the gaming world and are the creators of 3 of my household's favourite games, Sid Meiers Civilisation, Borderlands and Bioshock, as well as a host of other sports and games titles. They've sent us the family favourite Carnival Games for review and I also have a copy to give away to one of my readers for the console of your choice...


Carnival Games is a compendium of 20 different sideshow games and an updated version of a previous, and incredibly popular, classic. It can be played by 1 to 4 players - although you need a controller for everyone who is playing at once. We have 2 controllers, played in pairs and swapped over. Games are very quick and mostly played individually, so swapping between players works really well and no-one is left bored waiting.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

New Moshi Monsters Egg Hunt Sets (Age 5+) Sent for review.

This Spring Moshi Monsters are back with a new range of toys for children aged 5+, with an Egg Hunt theme! We've been sent a bundle to review and my 9 and 10 year old boys didn't take more than a couple of minutes to get the whole lot divided between them and opened!


There are several sizes of sets available ranging from £2.79 to £19.99rrp. We've been sent the following:
3 x Single packs £2.79rrp (1 egg and 1 Moshling, 1 leaflet and 1 Egg Hunt code)
Moshi Monsters Egg Hunt 4 Pack £6.99rrp (1 egg and 4 Moshlings)
Moshi Monsters Egg Hunt 7 Pack £9.99rrp (2 eggs and 7 Moshlings)
Moshi Monsters Egg Hunt Monster Pack £9.99rrp (2 eggs and 17 Moshlings)
Blingo's Party House Playset £19.99rrp (1 Moshling - Blingo)

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Matr Online 1 to 1 Maths Tuition Review With My 10 Year Old (Paid Partnership)

Matr offer enjoyable and affordable home-based online one-to-one tuition with your own tutor for children in Key Stage 2, aged 7-11. They asked if we'd like to review the service and as both of my younger boys are in Key Stage 2, we agreed. Our 2 lessons were free of charge and we have been paid for some of our time, but if you have your own 10 year old you'll know that won't affect what he says in the video! Children can be brutally honest - they make the best reviewers...


Before the review I was sceptical that maths tuition would offer my son very much, but I've completely changed my opinion. He really, really enjoyed his time with the tutor, he's so much more confident in what he is currently working on in school and he learnt so much more on top of that. He's had a massive boost and we only did two sessions!

I've a review video below and the last 2 minutes are entirely my son's opinion on his sessions, so skip ahead if you just want to hear directly from him.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Reviews Revisited February 2013-2018 2/2 - Yoda, Mixels, Aardman, Books and Space

We've been sent hundreds of items for review over the past 6 years - here are a few which stood the test of time and are still being enjoyed, used or fondly remembered now. I'll be posting a couple of these revisits a month throughout 2019. We reviewed all of these items during late February from 2013-2018...


February 2016 saw my second most popular review ever - my Gary The Cat review. I knew nothing about cats at the time, other than that I didn't like them and couldn't understand why people would choose one as a pet. Left on our doorstep when he was ill, I'm a soft touch and couldn't leave him to suffer or be put down. He's taught me a thing or two over the past 3 years - mainly just how much people on the internet love cats! I've written about him a few times now - Gary the cat posts.

Friday, 15 February 2019

February #TBCSmiles... 54 Months

It's February and Spring is beginning to join us once again. The Crocus are beginning to peep out and the woolly jumpers are beginning their trip to the back of the wardrobe. The sun comes out and so do the smiles....

I've written loads of personal stuff this past week already, so I'll keep this post short and sweet. I wrote a post talking about pressure on children from the education system for Children's Mental Health Week and I wrote a post for Tuesday, our 'Double Cake Day', which would have been Elspeth's birthday - Not 21.

Smiles mean we are winning. They are the reason we carry on, and looking at them reminds us of what we can do. We are not failing.

You are all doing an awesome job and we've had some beautiful smiles as always! Loads of birthdays, Chinese New Year, snow days and lots of adults, which is lovely to see. Anyone can join in, just tag any photo containing a smile, chuckle, grin, giggle or laugh with #TBCSmiles. 

My youngest chose the final selection of big smiles this month and hardly included any grown ups - but if you go to the hashtag on Instagram you can grin along with them all - and there are almost 6000 photos now!

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Unlock: Escape Adventures Game Review (Age 10+) Sent by Asmodee

Our latest review for the Asmodee Blogger Boardgame Club is the very exciting collaborative card game, Unlock: Escape Adventures. This is along a similar format to escape rooms and requires the players to cooperate to solve lots of clues and puzzles, in order to escape before the timer runs out. There are 3 full 1 hour scenarios in the box, as well as a 10 minute taster game to get the hang of how to play.


Unlock: Escape Adventures is stored in a beautiful box which is a little big for purpose and very strong. The game is entirely played using a set of cards and a free to download app. The cards themselves are gorgeous, but you have to wait to see them as looking at them will spoil the game. DON'T LOOK AT THE CARDS until it's the right time...

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Reviews Revisited February 2013-2018 1/2 - Magic, bears, sausages and Batman..

We've reviewed tons of items, activities, movies, games, toys and foodstuffs over the past few years. Some things stand the test of time and prove themselves worthy of another mention. I've gone through my February posts from 2013 to 2018 and chosen a few of our favourites. I've split each month into two halves, this is everything we really liked from the first half of February...


February 2014 saw us film our most popular ever You Tube video. It's really pretty dire and not at all professional. His Dad still slept a lot after his Meningitis, but my 5 year old was desperate to show off his magic tricks, so I filmed him. The magic set was designed for age 8+, but I put the video on You Tube anyway. Some of the comments really do give you an insight into the less intelligent members of the public... Here is Drumond Park's Gross Magic....

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Not 21....

At 21 I imagined Elspeth to be in her 2nd or 3rd year of uni. She wouldn't have cut her hair short, and she wouldn't ever have been a person who wears loads of make up. She'd have learned to embrace her quirks a little more and found friends who loved her enough to get past her tantrums. She would still know more about Kanye West than his Mum and she'd still be the funniest person in the building whenever she chose to be.


At 21 she would love the freedom adulthood brings, she'd craved it for so long, but she'd also be a tiny bit terrified of the world and would need reassurance she was doing okay. By now she'd be more confident with the women she was, hopefully accepting her curves and not already spending her life on the eternal 'diet' we women come to accept and expect. She'd be an okay cook, and she'd live mainly on 3 different recipes, and cake. She loved cake. She inherited her father's love of sweeties too.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Children's Mental Health Week 2019 - and Education

Ironic really that it's during Children's Mental Health Week that I get called into school to discuss one of my children's attendance. This is a first for me. Up until 5 years ago I was the one with 100% attendance certificates all over my fridge and mantlepiece. I'm not unduly concerned, he's had a rough trot lately with several stomach bugs and it took about 6 weeks to clear the flu from his system. He's been ill. Hopefully that's our turn at everything done and we can have an easier time for the rest of the year.

Childrens mental health week and schooling in the UK 2019

My son has also just had a stressful time for other reasons than flu and associated headaches and vision problems. Over Christmas he saw his Dad rushed off to hospital again, this time with the flu, and he knows I have to have another hernia operation. In his world people he loves do really die, suddenly and forever. The last of his big siblings moved out in September and that's a really big change to our household. It's something that our doctor was concerned about for my partner and I, so it has to be a concern for the younger two as well.

My son has already had to live through far more trauma than most adults. Some days I look at our household and realise it's actually a miracle he ever attends school at all. I have always been quite strict with my kids about going to school, but I know I am slightly softer on the young ones than I ever was with their siblings. If in future they feel they can't cope with anything and can't even say exactly why, I wouldn't ever ignore it - but don't tell them that, they'll get ideas.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Toilet Trouble Flushdown Game Review (age 4+) Sent by Hasbro.

Bizarrely February 4th was National Poop Day and Hasbro very kindly sent us one of their family games to celebrate, Toilet Trouble Flushdown. This is one of the simplest games we've ever played, but it's also one of the funniest and it's been a huge surprise hit!!

Not what you might think, Toilet Trouble sees the two players battle it out to see who can spin the roll of toilet paper quicker than the other. The slowest has the forfeit - a face full of water...

Toilet Trouble Flushdown Game Review box front

I usually avoid games like this because, well, mess, water, crying children etc, but it simply isn't like that. The jet of water is very tiny, under a teaspoonful, it's just the surprise which makes you laugh, but you don't really get wet at all.

Toilet Trouble Flushdown Game Review box contents.

Everything is in the box except for 3 x AA batteries, for which you'll need a small crosshead screwdriver and assembly couldn't be easier. The unit can be disassembled really quickly so that you can store it in the box afterwards - yeeeay! There's also very little plastic packaging.

Monday, 4 February 2019

ReCyko+ Pro Rechargeable Batteries And High Speed Charger: Sent For Review

Like most modern families who like to play with toys, we use hundreds of batteries a year. There are loads of reasons why rechargeable is better than buying new non-rechargeable batteries, cost in money and materials are the main ones. It's much cheaper to recharge and we are all now painfully aware just how important it is to avoid throwaway consumables.

Selection of AA and AAA batteries and a high speed 40 minute charger in packaging

I've tried lots of different battery chargers and rechargeable batteries over the years, but hadn't heard of GP Batteries ReCyko range until I received the email. Their Rechargeable Batteries can be charged up to 1500 times each, but one of the things that makes them really special is that they retain their power really well, so that even after 5 years in a drawer you should still have up to 70% charge.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Charlie Green And The Knights Of The Round Table Review Age 9+ (sent by Matador Books)

Charlie Green And The Knights Of The Round Table is the third book in the Charlie Green series by children's author and real life pilot Martyn Blunden, and it was sent to us for review by Matador Children's Press.

With 336 pages this is a thick book and although the language is suitable for independent readers aged around 8+, you will probably need to be a couple of years older to follow the storylines. Truth meets fiction meets myth and then rewrites everything as we discover the 'true' story of what happened to King Arthur and Guinevere...


Charlie is your average 11 year old, he's friendly, kind-hearted and loves his family. He's also the sort of boy who can't resist anything interesting and at the beginning of Charlie Green and the Knights of the Round Table we find him on a school trip, capturing the attention of museum employee Mr Bernard Pugh.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Jumbo Games #NationalPuzzleDay Review and Giveaways!! (sponsored article)

Jumbo Games are a brand I've worked with several times in the past and they are the experts at jigsaw puzzles. They have a huge range including puzzles for people of all ages and abilities, including their fabulously popular Wasgij Puzzles, which offer a whole new level of puzzling...


I was sent a big bundle of puzzles to take a look at, including some of the Wasgij Puzzles. If you like puzzles and have never heard of Wasgij then you will be in for a treat. These are unlike any other jigsaw puzzles in that you aren't given the solution, you need to work it out yourself.


On the box are images and characters which portray a story or scenario and you have to use logic and imagination to work out how to complete the puzzle. These have humorous and modern cartoon illustrations and offer a real challenge. I'll be giving away 3 bundles of puzzles including some Wasgij and I'm testing a mini 54 piece puzzle this morning myself...

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Reviews Revisited 2013-2018... Was it really any good? Inc. Epson, B&B, Sausage, Drones

Sometimes something really needs a good looking at before you can say how good it was, so I often think it'd be more sensible to come back to it. Sometimes we review things which prove to be worth their weight in gold.

Reviews Revisited is a series of posts I'll do every couple of weeks to look at the best things we reviewed since the blog started back in 2012... Here's a look back at things we reviewed in the second half of January...


In 2013 when the blog started I was already a regular reviewer for Orchard Toys, so I have them to thank for this whole thing really. I reviewed a handful of games and puzzles for them in January 2013, including What A Performance, which is a brilliant game for any family with children aged around 5-10 and still one of their most popular.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Activities For Families in Manchester and the NW UK - Spring and Feb Half Term

It barely seems like moments since the Christmas round up, but February half term will be here before you know it, so here is my Spring round up for families of all ages in the North West UK. It's theatre heavy mainly because it's not the weather for spending hours outdoors at the moment!

Monday, 21 January 2019

Paperscapes: The Amazing World Of Animals Book Review/Giveaway (Sent by Carlton Books)

This February Carlton Books release a new range of Paperscapes nature books which have press-out pieces to create a 'parade'. They offered to send one for review and my 10 year old chose The Amazing World Of Animals by Moira Butterfield...

Book Cover Paperscapes The Amazing World Of Animals

This is a book which can be enjoyed by a really wide age group. The text is suitable for independent readers aged around 7+, but it is presented in short text boxes and there are also a list of facts for each animal, so even younger readers can pick out salient points. The facts are fascinating and I've learned loads. The writing isn't condescending at all, so a 12 year old or older will also enjoy this book.

inside page showing poison dart frog

Reviews Revisited 2013-2018... Was it really any good?

I try to be honest in reviews, but quite often what I'm reviewing needs a really good looking at before I can truly judge it, so I often think it'd be more sensible to come back to it. Sometimes we review things which prove invaluable or 5 years down the line are still just as fabulous.

This is the first in a regular series where I'll feature some of the best products we've reviewed since the beginning of the blog... Here's a look back at things we reviewed in the the first half of January...


The first ever published review on the blog back in 2013 was one I did for Izziwizzikids, which was a Facebook page which held discussion evenings on play. We focused on slow play, which nowadays would cover most STEM toys. It was LEGO, the Goblin King Battle set 70910. Obviously we still have it, although the Goblin has a loose hand nowadays...


In January 2016 I reviewed two really great things which have stayed with me ever since. Room the movie, an incredibly powerful film loosely based on real events, in which a young girl is kidnapped and held in a single room until she escapes many years later. Brilliant acting by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, lots of crying and a true sense that as long as we don't give up, we can win.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

10 Of The Best Construction Toys For Future Engineers #YearOfEngineering

It doesn't take much to spot that here at The Brick Castle we are huge fans of construction toys and we like to try everything. Construction is brilliant for encouraging imagination and confidence. It develops problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination. finger strength and it's a brilliant way to learn some of the skills needed to become an Engineer.

2019 has been labelled as the Year Of Engineering and it's about time because the other STEM subjects (science, technology and maths) get a much better press. What we don't always realise though, is just how much relies on engineers. They are the people who decide what we can safely and sensibly build or make, what quantities of materials we'll need, how we should start and how to test the end result.


The people who built the railways were engineers, the people who designed and built your car are engineers. Your Nan was an engineer when she made up her own recipe for biscuits. We really need engineers....

Here, in no order at all, are 10 of my family's favourite construction toys to support Engineering Skills and STEM Education...

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Treads Boys Black School Shoes 1 Year Guarantee Put To The Test

I promised I'd be back and I am! Treads are a relatively new company who make their children's school shoes as durable as possible. They're so sure your child won't go through the toes or scrape through the leather that they offer a 1 year guarantee. My boys Treads shoes still fit and they are now 9 months old... so what do they look like now?

Underside view of brand new shoe with rubber moulded sole

To refresh your memory, Treads make shoes in sizes from 12 1/2 to 'big foot ' 11, so fit most junior/Key Stage 2 children or older. This is what the Treads school shoes looked like when I first reviewed them and they were brand new - you can find my initial thoughts and an explanation of some of the technology in my Treads School Shoes Review.

My youngest son chose a quite traditional style with an easy to use 'hook and loop' Velco-type fastening.

Standard new black 'velcro' fastening school shoes in box

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

January #TBCSmiles

It's January, yeeay! All of my family are finally back at school and work - we are better! Yeeay! I've taken it easy getting back to writing, partly because I was so blooming tired after the flu, partly because my kids were off school, and partly because it made me too ill to take anything for my high blood pressure for 2 weeks, so my eyesight has suffered. The ripple effect is massive.

We are now playing catch up with just about everything. The boxes from all the deliveries before Christmas still fill my hallway and we owe one of the big kids their main Christmas present. The van didn't go to the garage and is now off-the-road waiting for it's brakes to be fixed. We still have Christmas goodies that need to be eaten and best before dates are getting incredibly close. As a bonus the LEGO Winter Village is still all out, something none of us are actually upset about (it definitely doesn't count as a Christmas decoration really).... and we are all well and that's the main thing.


Disappointingly we've had no snow to fill this month's photos. It's cold and slippy, but it forces changes to mundane routine and gets everyone's adrenaline pumping. It excites us and as nature shows it's power, it takes our mind off everything smaller. Instead the weather has reflected the mood of the nation in many ways. Dismal, poor and a bit blustery at times. Boring.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The Top 7 Tag: 2018/2019

2019 is here with a bit of a blur for me. I seem to have fallen into it rather than the usual meandering approach through Christmas, possibly because I've slept more in the last 3 weeks than I did in the previous 3 months. Back to Earth with a bang, and a little reflection on the year just gone.


I've been invited to join in with the Top 7 tag by Laura from Tired Mummy Of Two. It was started by One Frazzled Mum and asks me to look back at 2018. To share my favourite 7 blog posts, 7 things I loved about 2018 and 7 things I'm looking forward to in 2019. Then I get to tag 7 other bloggers to take part.