Thursday, 10 October 2019

Orchard Toys Review



I don’t know about you, but keeping my son happy and engaged in activities can be quite the task! Luckily, we discovered the award winning Orchard Toys’ amazing range of board games that encourage development in a range of social and strategy skills. Whether it’s teaching kindness and good manners, confidence, or numeracy and literacy skills, there really is something for every child to enjoy.

Orchard Toys products have been a genuine staple in my son George’s toy box for years, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to receive some of their products to review. 

As George has just started reception, he is busy learning phonics, how letters are formed and very basic maths. Magic Spelling and Counting Mountain seemed a fab fit to help promote these skills. 






Firstly we played Magic Spelling. This essentially helps children identify letters using a magic wand and put them together to form simple words - but it’s presented as though your child is taking part in a magic lesson, collecting magical ingredients to put in their spell books. Complete with a touch of illusion, this really is an enchanting way for them to learn and have fun. Catering to their imagination, as well as their logic is just such a winning combination - kids are learning and digesting the subject matter, without being aware they are actually developing word building skills. The game is easy to assemble, with colour coded word cards, so you can arrange the word cards into simpler and slightly harder piles. I just used the green cards to start with - the last thing I wanted to do was make him think he couldn’t achieve the task, so I’d say a good tip would be to pick out the 3 letter words first, to build up your child’s confidence - and then you can move up to the bigger words. Some of the ingredients really have that gross out element, which boys tend to like and rubbing the word cards to reveal the word was something George really enjoyed. 





Counting Mountain is a 3D board game that facilitates counting skills. Pick a climber and race to the mountain’s summit to win! Players must complete maths questions to work their way up the mountain and there is added jeopardy if they pick up a yeti card that makes players move back down the mountain. 
This is so fun and the 3D element really brought the concept to life and immediately garners the attention of little ones. We found it a little tricky to navigate our way up and across the mountain the first time, but regular play has helped our sense of direction! George felt a real sense of achievement and pride reaching the top. This is a simple, fun and addictive game that actually makes maths fun. (Never thought I’d say that!) 

Dinosaur race, sees players race their Dino characters around a 3D running track, competing for a medal. This again is a great game that encourages counting and matching skills. Even though players are racing around the track and striving for gold - I found this game actually teaches kids there’s still reward in second and third place. Children often get upset when they don’t win, but there was no real losers in this because there was a medal for everyone (if there are 4 players you could give another bronze to avoid any tears.) Turning the dinosaur cards over kept it engaging and interesting, George really loved playing this. 




And drumroll please...we were lucky enough to be sent Orchard Toys’ newest game, released just last month - Knights and Dragons. George laughed all the way through this, as he beat me 16 to 4! (He loves to win, this kid!) 
It’s a matching game, where you have a big pile of cards and take turns to try and match the top and bottoms of different coloured knights together. But...there are a couple of surprises in the pile: 
1) Dragon cards - if you turn over an awake dragon card, this chases your knights away (you have to surrender a set that you’ve made to the middle of the table)
2) Sleeping dragon cards -  these let you pick up a matching set that from the surrendered pile) 
3) Castle cards - hidden throughout the pile are the pieces of a castle jigsaw, once it’s built signals the end of the game - can you make the most knight pairs before the castle is finished?

These elements really keep the game engaging and it promotes problem solving and matching. The anticipation of getting those dragon cards kept George’s attention and we really laughed a lot playing this. 





I have always found Orchard products to be engaging, fun and easy to grasp. Each game is really considered, as well as being educational and they have a lovely traditional and wholesome feel to them. But what I love most, is how they promote independent thought and encourage imagination and confidence. 

The games from Orchard Toys catalogue are wonderful additions to your child’s game Cupboard. We often play ours in PJ’s, all cosy and there’s something really nice about playing inclusively with your children, instead of handing them a tablet to learn similar skills on an app.

*This is a super honest review, of a company I have supported for years and wish them every success with their future releases. It was a pleasure to review these games.

Our top picks: 

What a Performance
Where do I live 
Landmark Lotto 
Magic Spelling
Match and Spell
Knights and Dragons 

Next on our wish list:

Magic Maths
Bus Stop
POP to the shops 

Which Orchard Games are in your collection? 


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Wednesday, 17 April 2019

The Smartest Exhibit In Town






It’s not often that you get to see things from a child’s perspective, or step into a real life storybook. But the ‘A World Inside A Book: Gruffalos Dragons and other Creatures’ exhibition at the Z - Arts centre in Manchester, lets you do exactly that. Interactive, immersive and imaginative, this exhibition captures the magic of Julia Donaldson’s beloved books and brings Axel Scheffler’s iconic characters to life. 
It all starts with your little ones entering a room, dressed exactly the same as the living room from the story ‘Charlie Cook’s favourite book’. There, a narrator explains how, with just a little magic it’s possible to jump inside the pages of a book. The children are then treated to a reading of The Gruffalo, before a magical world is revealed.....

The exhibition that awaits your children to explore is truly amazing. Every nook and cranny features a quote, a quiz or a scene from a story. So whether your little babe wants to go to dragon school with Zog, feel like a giant walking through a miniature town or cast a spell with interactive ingredients from Room on the Broom, there is something for every child to enjoy. 
Children are encouraged to be hands on - explore, solve puzzles, even dress up as their favourite characters. It’s fully interactive, which lets face it, is what kids love.  

Little ones can work their through their favourite tales, with absolute glee - there is so much to take in and discover. Personally, I really like how the set up allows them to explore at their own pace - there isn’t a structured route around the exhibit and there’s enough to see and do that there doesn’t have to be a queue situation - although it may 
be a squash and a squeeze at times!

Attention to detail is what makes this truly memorable; hidden animals in trees, tiny adverts posted on the village notice board, even a glimpse of Tiddler under the sea, from portholes onboard a big red boat. The books really are brought to life. There’s even a screening of Stickman showing in an adjoining room.

The exhibition is very similar in feel and fun to another fab event we visited in the summer - ‘Roald Dahl’s Wondrous World’ at the Rheged Centre in Penrith, though ‘A World Inside a Book’ is a little more bijou in size.

In a world of iPads, this shows how it’s cool to be a bookworm. And there’s something really nice about letting your kids get lost in a story instead of cyber space. Heart warming, nostalgic and full of whimsy - just like the books themselves. 



The exhibition runs for 12 months until February 2020 - and we will certainly be visiting again. Simply magical.


















Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Down the Rabbit hole we go... A Christmas Peter Rabbit Adventure



It's the most wonderful time of year! CHRISTMAS! I find myself reaching for the christmas decorations earlier and earlier each year, trying to make the festive fun last more than the usual 12  days that those carol'ers harp on about! 


So, with George in full santa excitement mode now that he's almost 4, I think this will be the first christmas that he fully understands and appreciates December for all its magic!
I love embracing all things festive and love even more the opportunity to experience something through my sons eyes. All that wonder and joy! So, with that in mind, we simply had to visit Peter Rabbit's grotto at The Trafford Centre, promising festive family fun with the added sprinkle of Beatrix Potter magic.

Upon arriving, we were greeted by one of santas helpers, who ushered all us eager families through a door, straight into Peter's wonderful world. We found ourselves standing in a very cosy burrow, where Peter welcomed all the children into his home. It's important to note here, that this isn't a Peter Rabbit you'd expect. 'Peter Rabbit' the character isn't part of the attraction, though the costumes are all very much inspired by Beatrix Potter's characters and personally, I think it's actually all the more enchanting for it. It was almost like we had been transported into The Chronicles of Narnia - I loved that programme when I was little! But all the same, some children who may be expecting a giant Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny or Lily Bobtail to bounce out of the burrow, may need forewarning.


 

There's a lot of detail in the styling of the space. Kids can crawl through a huge log to access the main area, which is a great piece of interactivity for them. You are invited into (a rather cheeky) Mr Todd's Den, adorned with berries and twigs, to sing a christmas carol all gathered around his cooking pot - before decorating christmas gingerbread with Jemima Puddleduck, in her colourful christmas kitchen. (If your child has any dietary needs, then they can decorate a wooden christmas tree ornament as an alternative.)


Then you make your way through the snowy woods, past murals of beloved Potter characters and a huge talking tree to finally meet the big man himself...Father Christmas!  This is where George stood completetly star struck for a good two minutes...so cute!


I found the grotto to be a thoroughly charming experience that mixes the traditional Beatrix Potter fantasy and whimsy, with modern humour and christmas fun. The staff are attentive, the group isn't so big that you miss out on anything and even the gift at the end is a lovely and thoughtful memento of the experience itself. It's also not overly expensive, for those with bigger families. There's also the option at the end to purchase your christmas photo with santa - lots of options here, but I really liked the photo snowglobe for something a little different. We really enjoyed this as a family and I would definitely recommend that you hop to it and book this Christmas!


Bookings / Further info:

https://intu.co.uk/traffordcentre/events/peter-rabbit-s-christmas-grotto 

tickets@eskimojoevents.co.uk 






















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Saturday, 15 April 2017

Craft Tutorial: Easy (ish!) Easter Bunting.



Happy Easter weekend! I've decided to share a craft project with you that I've attempted this week. It is relatively easy - more so if you can sew! I love crafting and trying new things to make, but this was my first attempt at this bunting and FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT... I can't sew for toffee (or easter eggs).

Never the less, the results are super cute and you can replace the bunnies, for literally anything else to make gorgeous bunting for bedrooms /playrooms, even gifts - I'm going to *try* and make some felt dinosaur bunting for George's new room, which I'm in the middle of planning at the minute - more on that later!



Ok, so here's what you need;

Scissors
Plain paper (for templates)
Felt Sheets 
Felt balls
Embroidery floss
Needle
Thread / cotton
Soft Toy Filling


I started by drawing my bunnies onto A4 paper, to use as a template. You may not need to do this if you're a great at freehand and just want to go for it direct on the felt sheets, but if you're anything like me, you'll benefit from a template - and it's also a good way to ensure each bunny is the same size. If you're not confident with free hand drawing, there are plenty of great bunny outlines and templates online - you could even trace it straight off your computer screen!




Once you've made your templates, cut two bunnies from your felt sheets - I went for light grey and white felt, but you could choose any colour you fancy. I got all my essentials at Hobbycraft and they had a great selection of colours.

Put your two felt bunnies together and sew around them. This is the part that I really wished I owned a sewing machine, as you'll have this step sorted in minutes! Or if you're a first time sewer like me and hand sew each bunny, this can take a while! Leave a corner open and stuff with toy filling. I used the blade of my scissors to push the stuffing into every corner. Sew shut.



I then sewed a white felt ball on each rabbit, so they had cute little cotton tails. Once you've made as many bunnies as you like, then you can start to make the garland! I think an odd number of rabbits look great, but it's really up to you how many you add - obviously you'd need more if you were planning on a long length.



Now you can make felt balls yourself, but after watching a few tutorials on you tube, it just seemed far too time consuming, so I ordered online! I went for a mix of 1cm and 3cm balls from Amazon. I decided to go for spring green colours, but again, you can opt for any colour - I think that what makes this so lovely, as you can craft these to any specification you want.

Then, using a large sewing needle, I threaded the bunnies and balls onto some embroidery floss and voila! Your fab little fancy felt bunting is finished!







Wishing you all a wonderful Easter Weekend!


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