Our Mums' Network have been busy reviewing all sorts of products and services for the family including toys, health care and days out. These are real Mums (and Dads!) that have used these products and services to save you time and money.
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Fairytale Farm Review
It was a somewhat cold and foggy February morning when we excitedly set off across Oxfordshire to visit the Fairytale Farm. The forecast said the weather would be mild that day but there was little evidence of it as we drove into the car park. But no matter, our 2yr old daughter, Bailey, was rearing to go and explore the now infamous Fairytale Farm. So, wellies and coats on and armed with warming coffee for my husband and I, we were ready to begin our adventure…Read more about Fairytale Farm and our other 'days out with the kids' reviews here..
Sophia's Review: This was a real treat of a show for us! We all LOVE the movie version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang so we were very excited to see the live musical show (althought my little brother (6) was a bit nervous about the Childcatcher).
It was however all fantastic! The two spies (Goran and Boris) are hilarious and their disguise outfits (bushes, petrol pumps...etc.) had us all in stitches. Of course, we knew all the songs and they were brilliantly brought to life by the dancers - and particularly by the children playing Jeremy and Jemima (Henry Kent and Caitlin Surtees on the night we were there). It was a sell-out and there was a great atmosphere, we couldn't help but sing along ...and even found ourselves clapping when Chitty actually drove onto the stage (my little brother even said this was his favourite character!). Our favourite songs were 'Me Ol' Bamboo' and 'Posh'.
We won't spoil it, but the stunts are the best and what Chitty can actually do is amazing! My mum said it was one of the best shows she had seen for special effects. 10 out of 10 from us ...and we all skipped back to the car singing "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang we love you..."!
Directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining, with choreography by Stephen Mear and production design by Simon Higlett, this new production of the much-loved Sherman Brothers musical stars Jon Robyns and Amy Griffiths. The memorable score includes such standards as Truly Scrumptious, Toot Sweets, Hushabye Mountain and the Oscar-nominated title song Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse will be followed by a UK & Ireland Tour. Suitable for all ages 5+. See more at www.chittythemusical.co.uk
Harry's Review: My 7-year old loves constructing things but finds LEGO very fiddly and hard to deconstruct if he's made a mistake so the Revell Junior Kit was an absolute delight. He managed to create the Police Car all on his own using the very clear instructions and tools. He was over the moon! Once complete, the car is very sturdy and has been played with for hours and hours without coming apart. A great idea - we will look for more kits for future birthdays...
Designed for ages 4+, the multi award-winning Revell Junior Kit bridges the gap between Playsets and Construction Toys. Available from Amazon and all good toy stores. For details visit http://juniorkit.revell.de/en/, @RevellGermany or Facebook.com/revell.
Scarlett's Review: This is a great idea as my kids love sand art ...but it's SO MESSY! With the Sand Shaker, everything is contained so no mess. You can add up to four colours of sand to the shaker and you choose to release them once you have removed the relevant colour-coded paper to reveal the sticky part. It's great fun shaking...shaking...shaking to make sure the picture is coloured - the kids loved this bit (and no sand all over the carpet). Fab idea and it takes quite a while to make one picture so the set lasts for a long time.
The Sand Shaker offers girls and boys, ages 5 and many creative possibilities with coloured sand. Depending on the age of the child, the works of art can be created by different approaches: Stage 1: from lasered creative templates can the protective foil, step by step. The underlying, self-adhesive surface is then "sanded" in Sand Shaker. Stage 2: solid color preprinted designs are wetted by Gluepen with glue and sprinkled color by color with the sand in a shaker. Animal motifs or funny cartoon faces can get with accompanying stickers the perfect finish after that. Step 3: With Glue pen and own motives. Most preferably, the favorite motif first vormalen with pencil and then continue working with glue and sand. The imagination knows no limits! Available from all good toy stores. For details visit www.revell.de/en.
Films and popcorn go together like Thelma and Louise, like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor… you get the idea. Unfortunately, when you try and get popcorn at the cinema these days you often end up paying more than you did for your ticket! Well you can have cinema style popcorn right at home thanks to this nifty little machine. All you have to do is pour some un-popped kernels into the classically designed machine and switch it on. Once the air is hot enough the kernels will begin to pop into your favourite crunchy treat, then all you have to do is take them out, pick your seasoning (we like salted, we're sweet enough already) and enjoy! RRP £29.99. Available at http://www.stocking-fillers.co.uk/popcorn-machine.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach & Nickelodeon Land
Sam's Review: As you know there are many exciting theme parks in the world, but one that definitely comes at the top of my list is Blackpool Pleasure Beach - home for the thrill seekers and also the kid-friendly Nickelodeon Land!
There are LOTS of brilliant family rides and 19 rides that have no height restrictions at all, so anyone can enjoy them, but our favourites were: The Impossible house where nothing is as expected! The Alice in Wonderland ride; hop on your grinning Cheshire Cat and take a tour through the famous imaginary land of literature! The Derby Racer; no-ordinary carousel as you're racing against 36 other horses at top speed! If you want to do proper driving, head to The Grand Prix where you control your own sports car around a scenic track. One of the Pleasure Beach's oldest ride is the Flying Machines, rockets that spin around high off the ground giving you a scenic tour!
My little brother loves dinosaurs so he really enjoyed the River Caves where you get to travel around the world by letting your boat carry you down a time-travelling river through prehistoric jungles and even under the sea! Also bringing lot of laughs was the Wallace and Gromit's Thrill-O-Matic ride; go for a ride in Wallace's comfy slippers - but watch out for the Were-Rabbit...!!
For young children Nickelodeon Land is perfect with rides based on the popular kid's shows such as the Backyardigans Pirate Treasure, The Spongebob Splash Bash (where you hit everyone with your water guns) and you can also hop on a boat as you take a language-learning tour around the world with Dora The Explorer! Then face the thrill with the exciting wooden track rollercoasters; The Blue Flyer for little ones and The Nickelodeon Streak for daredevils!
And now, time for the true thrill rides where the bravest must rise up to the challenge! First is Valhalla where you hop on board a viking longship and sail through a dark world of giants and fire! For people who want to see the world at a different angle brave the twisting Infusion and Revolution and control your own flight with the Red Arrows Skyforce! A few old favourites (my mum remembers riding on these!) are the Grand National a bumpy twin-track coaster where you see which one finishes first and The Big Dipper where you bounce up and down without you having time to gather your thoughts! Not bumpy enough? Then take a ride on the backs of two white-knuckle animal coasters; rush to get to the finish line first on a curvy horse-back track in Steeplechase and try to remain in your seat as The Wild Mouse carries you on a twisty track! And finally - if you have the nerve - take on 'The Big One'... wait in suspense in the queue...nervously climb into your car...then face incredible height of over 300 feet before hurtling straight down with super-sonic speed around the whole park! Prepare your courage and practise your screaming - we can't wait to return!
Wow! What a jam-packed day we had at Blackpool Tower - there is so much to do, we had to stay up really late to cram it all in! We had never been to Blackpool before so myself and my little brother and sister were really excited - we weren't disappointed! As we travelled along the sea front there were so many brilliant things to do and when we saw the Tower and found out that we were going to go up it...well, we couldn't believe it!!
The staff at the Tower were really helpful, they explained all about our tickets and what we could do and they booked our seats for the circus later that evening. As we arrived they said the queue for the Tower wasn't too long so we headed off there first - it was really interesting to find out the history (it's been there a LONG time!) of the Tower as we queued and we had a brilliant photo taken which we could buy at the end of our visit and it made it look as if we were swinging from the top of the Tower!
There is a 4D Cinema before you actually take the lift to the top of the Tower and this was so cool! We felt as if we were flying, dodging the seagulls and getting wet on a powerboat. Such fun! The lift up to the top of the Tower is really quick and in no time we were standing on the glass floor looking all the way back down to the street - my little brother thought it was hilarious but my little sister just stood at the edge, she didn't want to look down. We booked a slot to visit Jungle Jim's soft play centre (huge!) and had a little break for lunch before coming back for a mad hour of running around in the 'Lost City' themed play area!
We still had the Blackpool Dungeon to visit so we did this next. My little brother is only 7 so it was a bit scary for him (it does say it's suited for 8 years+) but I thought it was brilliant. The actors were fantastic and I love a good spooky story so it was all great (scary) fun in my opinion! Lots of shocks and people jumping out on you...be ready!! Finally, it was time for a quick bite to eat and then we took our seats for the 7pm circus. The show was 2 hours long but it went so quickly as it was one nail-biting act after another. My sister screamed so much as she thought all the acts were going to fall off high wires and spinning hoops! The clown that came on and introduced each act (with his sidekick friend) was so funny - my little brother actually fell off his chair he was laughing THAT hard! My mum had told us that the circus used to fill up with water at the end when she used to visit as a little girl and it still does! She couldn't believe it...and neither could we. What a great day - we didn't get time to visit the Tower Ballroom, but our ticket is valid for a few months yet so we are going to go again!
For more details visit www.theblackpooltower.com.
Kid's Afternoon Tea at Dobbies Garden Centres
Abi's Review: Afternoon tea was really yummy! When the food arrived it looked amazing, different tiers of delish fun food. The bottom was our sandwiches (l had ham). I enjoyed the little jar with the carrots, cucumber and mayonnaise. I enjoyed it so much that I ate my friend Sophia's! On the next tier there was a chocolate cake with a clock face and a star biscuit with a face in chocolate too. After this tier I had to take a breather as I was rather full so I sipped my cup of tea. The top was just amazing there was a cone filled with cream, a jar filled with different flavours of Angel Delight and marshmallows covered in chocolate! I didn't manage to finish it off as I was ready to pop! I really enjoyed the afternoon.
Whether you are celebrating a special occasion or simply want to treat the kids, why not try Dobbies delicious Kids’ Afternoon Tea? Your little ones can enjoy a scrumptious selection of tasty sandwiches, veggie dips, sweet treats and a drink. A great option for a children’s birthday party with a difference! With three layers of treats to enjoy, all presented on a traditional tea stand, your little prince of princess can feast for just £4.95 per child. Perfect for a kids' party or a little reward, check out the menu for full details. Full details at www.dobbies.com. Booking recommended. Subject to availability.
Electronic Drum Mat from Hawkin's Bazaar
Sam's Review: What a brilliant idea! My son has always wanted a drum kit and we just don't have the room so this was so perfect. Josh loved the Drum Mat and was playing away within seconds of opening the box. It takes no setting up whatsover and there are various options for background music (or none at all). We could also plug in the mp3 player and he was able to drum along to his favourite pop tunes. Just one note - it's not possible to play without everyone else hearing. We thought the headset was a type of headphone, but it is a microphone for the player to sing along with. Great product otherwise!
Built for young children to enjoy with adult supervision, the Electronic Drum Mat is available at Hawkins Bazaar. The mat is battery operated and can be used practically anywhere thanks to its roll-up nature. The mat features four drums and three cymbals so they can enjoy a full range of sounds. You can even add a CD or MP3 player to provide a backing track for them to play away. Most mercifully of all, there’s a volume button so you can turn things down if they kick up a racket! Check out the drum mat here.
Jurys Inn Southampton & Paulton's Park
Why not combine at stay at Jurys Inn Southampton with a visit to Paulton's Park, home to Peppa Pig World, this summer? Located in the heart of the city overlooking East Park, Jurys Inn Southampton is just a 15 minute walk from the Central Train Station. The hotel is conveniently situated for all the city’s key attractions, from the City Art Gallery and the Mayflower Theatre, to WestQuay Shopping Centre and 02 Guildhall Southampton.
New Forest Aqua Park
Just 2 years ago, New Forest Water Park launched their state of the art Rixen Cable wakeboard system which proved to be a huge hit but on 2nd May 2015 they created an even bigger splash when they launched the UK’s first outdoor aqua park, in partnership with Heart FM. Similar to the assault course used on ‘Total Wipeout’, the Wibit consists of interlocking sections providing endless on-water activities from the likes of slides, monkey bars, trampolines and even a climbing ice tower.
Move & Groove from Coiledspring Games
Kate's review: The game is a family game that gets older siblings involved and encourages the younger ones to participate. The pouch to hold the cards it a great idea, especially when taking on a holiday! We have played it a LOT and my older daughter loves it just as much as her little sister! It is a fun interactive, educational game. Only negative is that the cards are very bendy and for an 18 month old may not last long! Overall a fun game."
Move & Groove is the perfect first game for toddlers! Designed to inspire movement, creativity, laughter and learning, it's a fun way to introduce the basics of game play and the joy of movement without the pressure of competition. The rules are simple; throw the plush cube to determine colour, choose a matching coloured card and perform the given move. There's no right or wrong way to boogie so players can use their imagination while improving balance, coordination and flexibility. The perfect game to build confidence and celebrate all the things your little one does so well! Find out more at http://coiledspring.co.uk. Also available on Amazon.
Why we love it:
• Helps children develop balance, co-ordination & flexibility
• Non-competitive play means it’s fun for all
• Perfect for siblings to play together
Sorgenfresser Worry Eaters
Beth's review: I'm sure my children are like thousands of others in that they always seem to have a list of reasons as to why they can't sleep/are frightened/have odd thoughts they can't get out of their heads/etc.... Yet now they are all eaten up with the Worry Eater! As well as being an adorable soft toy (they do look super-cute popped up on the bed) they are extremely effective and my children took to the idea immediately. Great care is taken writing the 'worry' down on paper to pop into the Worry Eater's mouth. It's all then forgotten and - as if my magic (ie. mummy) - the note and the worry along with it has been 'eaten' by morning. We can also then chat about what is bothering them at a more suitable time than bedtime. Genuis! We wouldn't be without one...
Sorgenfresser Worry Eaters: Children often have troubles and don't always tell their parents about them. Psychologists and teachers recommend Worry Eaters as a waste bin for problems – a problem shared is a problem halved after all! Children simply write or draw their troubles and feed them into the zip mouth of the Worry Eater. The idea is that when a parent or carer finds the note or drawing, they are then aware of any worries and can talk to their children about them. Worry Eaters are also brilliant for eating nightmares - but don't forget to supplement their diet with plenty of cuddles! More details at http://coiledspring.co.uk/product/wanda-worry-eater. Also available on Amazon
Why we love them:
• Sorgenfresser give comfort and reassurance
• GOLD Medal Winner - Best Soft Toy - Independent Toy Awards 2013
• SILVER medal winner - Best Soft Toy - Loved By Parents Awards 2013
Lantern & Larks, Sweffling Hall, Suffolk: A Magical Glamping Experience
Picture this if you will….you’re standing on a veranda, glass of wine in your hand, golden fields, light blue skies and poplar trees are your view, you can hear children playing in the distance, but you know they’re safe, their laughter accompanied by two woodpeckers chattering as they swoop from tree to tree.
This was our very first evening at Lantern & Larks, Sweffling Hall, Suffolk. As we were greeted on arrival by the friendly face of Laura, our host, we were shown to our Safari tent which was to be our home for the next couple of nights. There were four tents, very well-spaced on the large field, although the retreats were completely booked we were unaware of our neighbours.
Now, think Harry Potter and the way the tents are described by J K Rowling: “Most looked almost ordinary; their owners had clearly tried to make them as Muggle-like as possible, but had slipped up by adding chimneys, or bellpulls, or weather vanes….. A little farther on they passed a tent that had three floors and several turrets; and a short way beyond that was a tent that had a front garden attached, complete with birdbath, sundial, and fountain. “Always the same,” said Mr. Weasley, smiling. “We can’t resist showing off” The tents at Lantern & Larks are ‘showing off’ tents indeed, complete with double and bunk beds, comfy sofa, kitchen, warm shower, flushing toilet, you get the picture. They also seem incredibly larger inside than out.
What can you do?
We’d brought our barbeque food with us, after purchasing a bag of charcoal and essential marshmallows from the honesty shop we were set for tea. After which we took our dogs for an evening stroll across the fields, catching the flash of a small deer every now and then. We had seen that the nearby pub, just a short stroll along the lane, was highly recommended, but by this time we’d mesmerised the children with the fire pit and were too lazily relaxed to wander any distance from our tent.
Although the beds were extremely comfy, with fluffy duvets, cosy blankets and bedside lanterns, some of us rose early to catch the sunrise, which is a must when sleeping outdoors. Having ordered a breakfast pack, we busied ourselves with cooking bacon, eggs and sausages supplied on our log burning stove.
After establishing that there was little in the way of Wi-Fi connection and no TV the children sourced some board games from amongst the books and toys to swap in the honesty shop, so we spent the best part of the day playing. Something I think they were pleasantly surprised to enjoy. We laughed as the younger children from the other tents engaged in wheelbarrow races across the field. A ten minute car journey to nearby Framlingham supermarket meant that we could stock up on more bbq goodies for tea. Another late night around the fire pit was enjoyed by all.
Yes, you can buy yourself a tent and supplies, and book a pitch for a minimal cost at any of the hundreds of campsites in the UK. And honestly, Lantern & Larks does cost the same amount as renting a holiday cottage. But why, when most of us live in houses would we want to experience the same day to day routine on holiday? When you book a stay in these palatial canvas retreats you’re booking an experience, you’ll gain memories that will last a life time and you can rest assured that you’ll be warm, dry and you won’t have to share the conveniences with anybody else.
If you'd like to book your magical stay at Lantern & Larks please visit their glamping website here or call 01638 563 478
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Magic Tooth Fairy Game
The MAGIC TOOTH FAIRY board game (age 5+, rrp £19.99) ‘magically’ changes teeth into gold coins! When you land on a ‘Go To Bed’ space, place a tooth under the Magic Pillow, plunge the Tooth Fairy wand… and hey presto, when you lift up the pillow, the tooth has gone and in its place is a shiny gold coin! Both girls and boys become enthralled with this game – and it’s fun for the grown-ups to play with them, as well.
Paula's review: Both my children aged 3 and 6 were very excited when I showed them this game, and they were keen to help set it up. It is quick and simple to set up and both kids enjoyed sticking their plastic teeth in their plastic mouths. The game is quite simple to play and we all soon got the hang of it - it says on the game suitable for ages 5+ but with a little help my 3 year old played along quite happily. The most exciting bit of the game (according to the kids) is where you get to put your teeth under the magic pillow and it changes into a gold coin - they were both fascinated with this idea and were keen to keep playing so they could get to this bit. It was a great game which both ages could enjoy.
Research shows that reading with children for just ten minutes per day can make a dramatic difference in how well they perform at school. But finding enough interesting reading material at the right level for your child can be difficult, with few schools changing books on a daily basis and few libraries providing a solid selection of reading scheme books. However, now you can encourage children to develop their love of reading with Reading Chest, an innovative book rental service for primary-age children learning to read.
Carrie's review: The Reading Chest is a great resource for a my child who is nearly 4, before they get to school, and also once they are there if you are concerned your child is not getting enough variety of books from their school to keep reading fun. I was able to easily choose his correct reading level on the website as it shows a selection of pages from books in each group. You can also select the type of book (fiction or no-fiction) or specific reading programmes you wish to include in your selection. The books arrived within a couple of days of registering.The first package arrived addressed to my son, which he loved! He was delighted with his book bag and keen to see which books he had. He has also enjoyed putting a sticker on his book chart when he has read a new one. Every night he has read at least one of his books and has also proudly taken them to pre-school to share with his friends and staff. I will be sending his first four books back soon for a new selection!
The All About Party Bags Magical Bag contains everything any mini-magician could wish for, available in a choice of coloured cellophane bags with curling ribbon. The awesome delights inside include a magic wall walker insect which miraculously tumbles down any smooth vertical surface mimicking the action of a real insect and a magic painting book in which colours appear after simply sweeping a paintbrush dipped in water across the page. Also included is a wipe-clean magic slate, a classic childhood favourite , and a magical magnetic picture containing iron filings and a magnet pen for hours of fun. Sweets can be included as an optional extra if desired.
Carrie's review: As we all know, the party bag is the sole reason most children go to parties!
I requested to try the 'Magical Party Bag' from the selection available. The bag would have been £1.80 to purchase. My initial impression of the party bag was that it was nice and colourful and well presented.
The contents were pretty standard party bag type items, with the addition of the Chinese finger trap which I have not seen in party bags my children have been given before. Both children have spent hours throwing the tumbling wall-walker man at every available surface! On the whole I would say the bags were not bad value for the money, easy for busy parents planning a party and the range of themed bags available was very varied. It saves you the hassle of making up your own party bags but don’t bother with the chocolate!
Read With Me Violet
Read With Me Violet is an interactive plush puppy designed to build early reading skills. Violet offers an interactive story time experience filled with learning activities that build early reading comprehension, listening and vocabulary skills. Children simply press a button on the collar and choose one of five books. As the pal reads them the story aloud, children build comprehension skills and early vocabulary. They also learn about the relationship between print on a page and the story as they turn the pages and listen to 70+ spoken questions and audio responses. Parents can switch Violet into Sleepy Time mode to select a read-aloud story or eight minutes of lullabies.
Trish's Review: This friendly interactive toy provides many learning activities for children aged 2-5 years of age. Violet is a puppy made out of soft and brightly coloured material which the children loved to hold and cuddle. This toy builds up their ability to listen and follow the interactive instructions when listening to the stories. The books are hard board and robust, which allow younger children to look at them independently. The books are very colourful and simply illustrated. They teach children about every day activities and topic's which children come in contact with every day.
Tech Too Smart Phone, Tablet, Keys and Remote Control
For parents, losing your gadgets and technology to your toddlers is an all too familiar situation. KD UK is here to help and has introduced Tech Too – realistic child-proof versions of a smartphone, a tablet, a bunch of keys and a remote control. Each Tech Too item has educational benefits, teaching pre-schoolers about colours, numbers, the alphabet, phonics, spelling, and even first words in French! The Kooky Keys feature a fun flip-out car key; My First Remote Control offers discovery and quiz modes, as well as a French option; the Smooth Touch Smartphone introduces animals and numbers; And the Alphabet Tablet helps children begin to recognise letters, sounds and spelling.
Charlene's Review: We found this product very similar to the real thing and both my children enjoyed playing with it. Although its made for small children my 6 year old found it interesting as its bilingual and I found him learning to count along with it in French! Interested to see what the Alphabet tablet can do.
Glamping at Camp Katur in North YorkshireWe LOVE camping and of course we always pack 'everything but the kitchen sink', so it was a great luxury to visit Camp Katur where our gigantic Safari Tent was already erected and waiting! Not only that, it had sofas, rugs, beds, ensuite 'shower shed' and a log burner. We were amazed!
Camp Katur is part of the Camp Hill Estate close to Bedale and Ripon and offers a brilliant choice of activities for all. After settling into our tent, we parked the car back at Reception (great idea - no need to worry about cars driving by the tent while the children are out playing) and went off to find the Adventure Playground hidden in the woods. A BBQ followed and a cosy evening in the tent with the log burner going ended a great day (rain was unfortunately lashing outside, but we were happy...!) The next day, we were very excited to try out the Quad Bikes! We all had a go around the track, testing out our skills on the tight corners and bumps! Well recommended - or "Awesome" as Sam (11) and Sophia (7) put it....
Camp Katur is a great mix for a family break, the 'Glamping Village' is extremely peaceful and relaxing, yet only a short walk away, you can get active and enjoy a great range of outdoor adventure activities; climb aboard a Segway for a breath taking tour of the grounds, let yourself in for the latest craze – Water Zorbing or visit the award-winning home of Aerial Extreme and swing into action on the Adventure Ropes Course! We've already heard this many times: "When can we go again Mum..?!"
Camp Katur, the Camp Hill Estate, Kirklington, Bedale, North Yorkshire, DL8 2LS
Tel: 0843 886 0607