Most people are putting all their focus at the moment on making sure they have a nice Christmas despite the unknown that the Coronavirus has thrown at us. I know from lots of parenting groups and social media that a lot of parents are putting a lot of thought into the gifts that they are buying for their kids, with longevity, entertainment factor and fit for purpose being top of the list.
We’ve spent a lot of time at home over the last few months, so our choice of toys and activities for our kids have been a high priority to enable us to keep them entertained.
Here are some great ideas to keep your kids entertained with a selection of beautifully crafted toys, activities and subscription services for the gift that keeps on giving.
I’m not sure about your kids, but in our house the stockings are our favourite part of Christmas Day. We all pile onto our bed, and I usually nip downstairs to make tea and coffee in the hope that the coffee waft will wake Chris up enough at whatever insane hour they (I) wake up.
We try and make them a bit fun and silly as a nice way to start the day. Now that our eldest is an adult, the kids know that Father Christmas no longer fills his stocking, and that it’s us that fill it full of funny bits and bobs.
Here are some great finds that will put a smile on your kids faces, big and small.
This year has been pretty awful for many of us in many ways, so Christmas is the perfect time to show the women in your life how much you care by buying the perfect gift. I’ve been scouring local, independent and small businesses from around the UK and have found some absolute gems for all the women in your lives.
Pivot – handcrafted jewellery like these Eclipse Earrings made from Brass can be bought from Pivot, a social enterprise that empowers people experiencing homelessness to pivot their lives by designing, making and selling jewellery.
We’re not long out of the baby stage and into full on Toddler fun and tantrums. Two is my absolute favourite age as everything is new and amazing to them. It’s the perfect age to introduce role play toys and promote a bit of independent play.
Having looked through many businesses, I feel that we’re a bit spoilt for choice so here are a few of the vast gorgeous toys and gifts that I found.
Men are so difficult to buy for! Each birthday and Christmas I find it really difficult to buy for Chris and like most men, he’s rubbish at giving away any suggestions. We seem to have developed our own little family thing of putting together a ‘Goody Bag’ of all of his favourite snacks, treats and drinks which is our own version of pants and socks.
Nobody wants to buy a present for the sake of buying, so here are some amazing ideas from businesses either local to us in Exeter or available to buy online.
Our Peppa Pig journey started with Isabelle who is now ten years old and continues with Freddie who is two years old. Did you know that the show has been running since 2004? I had to google it!
Peppa Pig has come a long way since we first started watching it. There are a lot more characters, not to mention all the Peppa Pig themed everything from toys, hair accessories and bedding.
Freddie loves Peppa Pig but his favourite character is George Pig and his dinosaur, so we were thrilled to be sent the Peppa Pig Shopping Centre to play with.
What’s in the Box?
The shopping centre is set out across two floors featuring six different shops with the clever help of interchangeable signs. There is:
Ice Cream Parlour
Fruit and Veg Shop
There is even a working lift that the characters can go up and down in which I think was Freddie’s favourite feature. As with any supermarket, there is a tannoy with buttons with real supermarket sounds such as the ‘ding dong’ to alert shoppers to special offers, checkout sounds and lift music.
The shopping centre came with twelve accessories including a Peppa Pig character, shopping trolly, cash register, a plate of cookies, a restaurant table and chairs and a plate of cookies.
The shop areas can be changed by the clever use of swivelling signs.
I should give the restaurant table a special mention since the table rotates between having Pizza and ice cream on the plates.
I knew that the lift would be Freddie’s favourite feature. Pop Peppa in the lift and press the button for her to go up to the next level, and then push it back down to do it again……and again……and again! Freddie only turned two in June and is quite heavy handed, but this was robust enough for him to do on his own without any frustration.
What’s a shopping centre without real life noises. The microphone has working buttons with a check out sound, lift music and the kind of ‘ding dong’ that you hear before an announcement is made. The microphone is detachable, so could be accidentally lost should you need a bit of peace and quiet.
I really wished that I’d caught Freddies gasp when I showed him the shopping centre. He could not wait to get it out of the box and thankfully it wasn’t screwed to the box and didn’t require any assembly. The only thing we had to do was put the batteries (not included) in the microphone and it was good to go.
Freddie was two in June and so toys generally have to be quite robust for him to play with, but this playset ticked all the boxes in terms of sturdiness and managed to keep his attention for a long time, in fact I had to prise the pieces out of his hands so we could pick his sister up from school. His favourite feature was the lift which he was able to do without any help and enjoyed putting Peppa and her shopping the lift.
Overall, this has all the plus points that we look for when buying toys for Freddie. The only thing that would have been nice addition would have been if there was a Miss Rabbit character since she does all the jobs in Peppa Pig.
The Peppa Pig Shopping Centre is marketed at children age 3+ but Freddie has already been playing with Isabelle’s Peppa Pig toys and I’m quite happy that he is able to play with it as intended. It retails at £39.99 at Smyths Toys and other retailers and would make a great Christmas present for any Peppa Pig fan.
*We were sent the Peppa Pig Shopping Centre in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.
Freddie has only just recently been introduced to Fireman Sam, but as soon as I showed him the Fireman Sam Fire Rescue Centre playset he knew who it was and got very excited to start playing with it.
The Fireman Sam Rescue Centre unfolds to reveal the inside of the headquarters in Pontypandy featuring a working zipwire, the kitchen where the crew have their tea, a platform with a pulley and training dolly and best of all a working fireman’s pole. It also come with an articulated Fireman Sam Character.
Once you’ve finished playing with the set, it can be folded away for easy storage and has a carry handle so can be easily taken on a playdate.
The zipwire has a suction pad that can be suctioned onto a flat surface. We found it stuck quite well to our dining table leg. You can then clip Sam onto it and whoosh to the rescue.
Pulley and Training Dolly
As part of the rescue centre there is a pulley system and training dolly so that the fire rescue team can practice for live rescues.
The set comes complete with a Fireman’s pole which Sam clips onto before whizzing down to the rescue.
There are other characters and vehicles in the range which would make a great addition to this playset.
If you have a Fireman Sam fan, they’ll be pleased to know that there is a Fireman Sam Special – Return of the Norman-Man showing on Cartoonito at 5pm, Thursday 5th November. There are also some cool Fireman Sam stop from animation clips that you can watch on the Character Options YouTube channel.
Freddie really enjoyed playing with the playset but found it tricky to get Sam onto the firepole and the zipwire. Once it was set up he happily played with the set for a while and liked to carry it round from the lounge to the kitchen before setting it up again.
His favourite part was the zipwire, he would place the training dolly on different part of the playset before Fireman Sam came to the rescue after following Dolly’s pleas for help.
It’s great that there are additional toys and characters to add to the set as a Fire Engine would definitely complete this set up.
As Freddie is only two, he was a little bit heavy handed when it came to the zipwire so the suction cup kept coming off which led to a few wobbles, but this was a great set for us to play together and with a little bit of help was more than able to play independently.
*We were sent the Fireman Sam Fire Rescue Centre for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.
Coronavirus Diary – an update. I started this Diary as a way of remembering the things we did as a family during lockdown but it took a swerve into being long moany rants which wasn’t supposed to happen.
We really enjoyed the extra time it gave us at the beginning when our life pace slowed right down and all we needed to thing about was washing our hands and what the best meal was going to be.
Apart from having to switch brands and choosing different meals, we fared pretty well with getting all of our essentials.
What we hadn’t expected was the fallout of making choices to keep our kids safe. Choosing not to see family, sticking to social distancing rules and most importantly not breaking the rules has been something that we’ve done, but not without consequence.
Our choices have been challenged and belittled which has been the worse part of all of this. We’ve talked about and questioned all of our decisions but ultimately feel that we’ve made all the right choices throughout this whole thing.
We’ve seen friends and family add picture after picture of days out where no social distancing is taking place and, well that’s up to them and I haven’t commented that I think they’re wrong to do it, but following the rules apparently opens you up for ALL the criticism.
And there I go again…
See, I told you that these entries just end up as rants!
A New Normal
So we’re all trying to ‘get back to normal’ but what even is that anymore?
I don’t want to go back to normal. Going forward we intend to take advantage of any free time we get to do stuff together. We haven’t been out that much, but the days out we’ve had have been great. The kids have such a renewed appreciation for a picnic, going to the beach or even a trip to the park
Since Freddie has only recently turned two, everything we do is amazing as he doesn’t remember going to the park, beach or anywhere before corona kicked in. His little face lights up wherever we go which gives me the warm and fuzzy’s.
We’re both back at work, chris for quite a while and me since last month. It was weird going back and still feels a little bit weird having to wear masks but we knew being at home wasn’t going to be forever.
It is what it is….
Back to School is looming…
For us, going back to school was our turning point of re-entering the world, and now the scaremongering has started and the doubts have started to creep in.
Isabelle has been counting down to going back to school for weeks. This is partly because she turns 10 the day after she goes back and has a present list longer that a loo roll.
So are we all sending our kids back to school?
We are unless anything drastic happens in the next 10 days. We know what we’re doing in terms of drop off and pick up and what she’s allowed to take with her. I know that there are a lot of parents who still feel in the dark about the return to school, but our school have been great at keeping in touch.
So unless anything happens we’ve got new uniform and are good to go for the new school year….
I’ve been quiet on my blog for a little while now as this whole situation has me quite frankly raging.
So we’re now allowed to meet up with other people up to a total of six people. This means nothing to us as a family of five. We can meet one person, but who do we pick.
It didn’t feel like progress for us with a toddler who is not going to social distance, so we aren’t in a better position that we were before.
It makes me mad that when we’ve been on a walks we’ve seen oodles of groups of people (way more than 6) and definitely not social distancing from each other.
I’m losing sleep (literally) over the pressure to join these people and resume normal activities.
Did you jump at the chance to meet up with people?
I’m not judging you if you did (unless you’re not social distancing then I’m totally judging you) but I’ve got to say that it filled me with dread that there would be an expectation to socialise with family and friends.
I would rather wait! The world doesn’t come to a standstill like this on a whim. Thousands of people have died and thousands more will die unless it’s brought under control or a viable vaccine is discovered.
I’ve been called silly, over-protective and ridiculous and every now and again I do feel these things, and then I look at my kids and I know I’m not over reacting, I’m being their mum and I won’t apologise on any level for that. It’s my job to make sure they’re safe so that’s what I’ll do.
Usually I would say that it’s up to individuals to live how they want, but actually thanks to this selfish attitude this whole pandemic is likely to last longer so thanks for your ignorance (not you, hopefully).
Shops I’ve noticed have taken away the staff on the doors making sure that it’s a one in, one out policy. Our local shop has hand gel by the door, but there’s nobody making sure that the shop isn’t too crowded. The staff themselves don’t keep their distance and people in general are not sticking to the rules.
The fact that shop staff feel it’s ok to stand next to you or brush past you is surely the biggest no since they’ve been in contact with how many people during their working day!
Now you can see why I haven’t posted for a while. I can feel my anger rising as I type.
Life as it is
Life at the moment doesn’t feel that great. The days are long and behaviours have changed. We’re struggling to do any school work with Isabelle and have to really coax her out of her room to do anything.
I feel exhausted, dog tired each and every day. There doesn’t seem to be anything to look forward to at the moment with most days becoming a mundane blur.
Video calls and phone calls are becoming shorter and longer in between as there’s nothing to talk about.
It took us a good few weeks to go outside, but once we did it was quite nice.
However, the walks we go on are really hit and miss. We’ve had some really lovely walks where we haven’t really seen many people so haven’t had to do anything other than enjoy being outside. We’ve also had some awful ones where the playing fields we go to have been really crowded and we’ve given up and come home.
We know to avoid around and after dinner time as there are always lots of people sitting eating takeaways or picnics.
We went out today and as the sky looked set for rain it was really quiet so we had loads of space to run around.
I’m going to leave it that but I hope you’re all staying safe in a socially distanced way xx
Creating Happier more Mindful Children – How’s Lockdown Life going for you? We started off doing okay. We took Isabelle out of school the week before the schools officially closed, and it felt like a school holiday.
We joined in with online PE lessons, did lots of craft, baked and generally made the most of this unusual time off that we had. We’re in the garden a lot which has also been an absolute godsend.
We’ve only been on a grand total of four walks since the whole pandemic thing began. Isabelle is a sensitive soul and had overheard lots of conversations and some snippets of the news and had come to the conclusion that going outside was dangerous, and therefore hadn’t wanted to leave the house.
She does literally catch every germ going so I knew this was going to have her little worrying head spinning.
Fast-forward a few weeks and things aren’t so great.
We started to run out of craft stuff and I wasn’t sure if ordering it online was allowed as it wasn’t essential shopping. We binned off the PE lessons or it was just me standing there attempting it whilst Isabelle showed absolutely no interest.
The toddlers not sleeping great so my patience and ability to entertain both Freddie and Isabelle was being stretched to the limit. Picking activities to do with a nearly two year old and a nine year old is hard.
Spending so much time together each and every day has become a chore. The fun seems to have evaporated and we’re left with a tantruming toddler, a wannabe teenager and then there’s me who has become shouty frazzled mum.
Something has to change
We can’t go on like this so when I was sent a Little Can of Can-Do I was intrigued to see what this was all about.
What is a Can of Can-Do?
Life is hectic for most of us, we live in a world that never switches off. Technology plays a huge part in our everyday life, but it does make it harder to have much needed ‘down time’.
Whenever we were stuck my Mum always used to say “put can’t in your pocket and pull out can”.
A Can-Do is a can of 28 cards full of daily affirmation and mindfulness exercises for Children. Created by a husband and wife team with the input of their three daughters, the cards were made to instill important messages about confidence, mindfulness and gratitude. Each card has a lovely brightly coloured picture with a prompt or exercise to complete which you can use over and over again.
The Can-Do Can retails at £15.99 and is aimed at the 8 – 15 year age group but there’s nothing to stop you implementing this with younger children.
We decided that we’d start off by doing a daily lucky dip. These are best done at the end of the day so that you can reflect on that days activities.
The Sweet Game
Isabelle was thrilled with this challenge since sweets were involved so a lucky one to pick out first.
Red (something happy) – Played on my scooter in the garden.
Blue (something sad) – Being told off by Mummy.
Orange (a good choice) – Picking Teen Titans over the Loud House to watch on TV.
Brown (something you didn’t feel you did well and how you could have done it differently) – Not letting Freddie go first when we play games and knowing that’s it’s kind to take turns.
Yellow (something fun) – Playing in the garden.
Green (something kind) – Helping Freddie on the slide and letting him take his turn first.
Act of Kindness
Isabelle opted to buy a chocolate bar and leave it in her brothers bedroom for him to find, and as an act of kindness, I did the same for her to make her smile too.
This is such a simple thing to do, and making somebody else smile definitely makes you feel good.
Isabelle loves a task to do, so these simple tasks can be completed every day and can take as little or long a time as you like. It’s something that we do ‘just us’ and as she’s getting really frustrated at the moment it’s a good chance for us to talk about anything that’s worrying her. The sweetie one was difficult the first time we did it, as she found it upsetting to say her bad behaviour out loud.
I thought these were a great resource to get Isabelle to talk about how she’s feeling. She’s been doing a lot of shouting these last couple of weeks as well as storming off and door slamming. She’s not alone in this either. I feel like I’m with the kids 24/7 and it’s not a healthy combination. We’ve watched far more TV than usual as well as phones and tablets. Being out in the garden seems to be our happy place at the moment.
A new normal is needed. We need to get back into a little bit of a structured routine with some school work, craft and play time. We also need to get out of the house. We have some lovely places to go around us, but they do get really busy which is difficult to social distancing, but maybe we need to get up and out of the house earlier to set us up for the day.
We’re going to use the Can-Do tasks regularly and will hopefully be creating Happier more Mindful Children, particularly on tough days as a reminder to be kind to each other!
*We were sent a Can-Do Can for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.