An App For The Moshi Mad.

If you have children between 6-12 years of age, you’ll probably recognise these characters and the accompanying logo. If you haven’t caught the advert on TV, you may have seen magazines, toys or cards for sale in your local newsagents and supermarkets.

Moshi Monsters is an online game, supposedly aimed at the 7+ age group. However my 4 and 6 year olds love it as well, and enjoy playing alongside their older sisters. They do  struggle to solve the puzzles that need completing in order to earn the Rox used as currency in Monstro City. Luckily, DDs 1 and 2 are always happy to help the little ones out here. I tried once and failed big time! read more

4M Paint Your Own Mini Plates Review

When Great Gizmos sent us a Paint Your Own Mini Plates kit from their 4M range, DD3 was overjoyed.

Their suggested age range for this kit is 5+ and as our resident 6 year old, it was a perfect kit for her. She loves arts and crafts, and has watched her older sisters review craft kits for older children with a mixture of jealousy and frustration. But now, it was her turn. read more

Review: Japanese Best Friend Dolls

Since I did a review with DD1 a couple of months ago, DD2 has been bugging me to do one too, so I promised her that I’d accept the very next thing that was suitable for her.

So when we were offered MystyleJapanese Best Friend Dolls to review, I breathed a sigh of relief that it was suitable for girls 8 years +. DD2 loves crafty things, especially painting,  so she loved the idea of making something that she could give to her friends. It was perfect for her.

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Our African Cats Adventure

Growing up in small town New Zealand, the closest I ever got to a Big Cat was the traditional Sunday evening nature documentary. I loved these programs, even the mandatory chase scenes which inevitably ended up with some poor herbivore being killed and eaten, and my younger sister crying.

Now I’m all grown up, have travelled a bit and have seen plenty of lions in zoos and wildlife parks. I’ve even seen a leopard in the wild, but I still love a good nature documentary. Luckily, so do DH and the kids; our DVD shelves are peppered with them.

So when the opportunity came to attend the UK première of Disney’s African Cats, I jumped at the chance. I remember watching Disney’s documentaries as a child and I loved the idea of being able to introduce my children to them in such an amazing environment.

And not only were we going to be among the first people in the UK to see the film, this was going to be a Royal Première with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attending. The girls were very excited about this, although DD3 got a little confused and thought we were going to see one of the Disney Princesses!

Attending the première was an enlightening experience. I knew there would be a red carpet, but I didn’t think it would be for us. I assumed us common folk would be slipped in the side entrance somehow, but no. We had to walk down the heavily policed lane, with the girls gleefully capering and screeching like maniacs , onto the very wet red carpet, past a veritable wall of photographers, until we finally made it inside the building.

Once we’d had our bags checked and been scanned, we were ushered inside the theatre and had to wait a bit for the Royal Couple to arrive. There was an introduction, and a short film on the history of Disneynature but then quite a delay. My girls were a bored by the wait, and a little hungry. We had planned to eat before the movie, but severe delays of the Metropolitan line put paid to that and I had neglected to bring any snacks. Some seats had a small bar of chocolate on them, but ours didn’t. Luckily a lovely couple in front of us gave us theirs, which kept the kids quiet for a minute or two.

Finally the Duke and Duchess were announced , so we all stood as they walked into the room and sat down in the middle of the theatre, barely 100m away from where we were sitting.

Then the film began, and the entire audience was transported to Africa.

African Cats is the story of two mothers; one a cheetah and the other a lioness, and tells the story of their day to day struggles to bring up their cubs, and ensure their survival. It is filmed in HD and features some stunning slo-mo action sequences. Patrick Stewart is the narrator, and there are some scary parts, and a few sad bits (take tissues!) but nothing too gory for even quite young children. The cats have to eat though, so if you think your children may be upset by the concept of a food chain, you may wish to leave them at home.

African Cats was filmed over 2 years in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya; it then took almost another year of editing to get the film ‘just right’. And it is a great film. I found it possibly a little anthropomorphic, and over narrated, but nothing I couldn’t cope with. The kids loved it though, even DD2, who hadn’t been so sure about the idea of a movie that wasn’t animated.

After the film showing, the girls were hopeful of some food, but instead we had a speech from Prince William. I’d never thought of him of much of a speaker but he was pretty good, and the girls were very interested. Apparently, it’s not common for attending Royals to speak at film premières, so we were lucky .

Finally the filmakers came up on stage, spoke abut the movie, then had a question and answer session. This was an unexpected bonus to the evening, was very interesting and I felt it ended too soon.

Once the Royal Couple had left the theatre, and were safely in a less public part of the building, we were allowed to leave. The girls haven’t been into London that late often ( it was nearing 9pm) and so we wandered down to the London Eye beside the river, and then got a cab.

I rang home to let DH know we were on our way home, and was informed the Met line was still in chaos, so we crawled back to our closest tube station on the Piccadilly line and had a McDonalds ‘picnic’ on the train. Classy!

It was almost 11pm by the time we got the girls to bed. They were tired, but still full of energy and took a while to settle down.

And of course, this morning they had to be peeled out of bed and forced into their uniforms in time for school. Still, it’s not every night you get to go to the movies with a Prince and Princess!

We were kindly given tickets to the Royal Première of African Cats by Disney, but this review, and the opinions expressed within, are entirely my own.

 

 

 

 

Holidays For Easter: Jordan with Kids

We took our children, aged 4, 6, 8 and 10 years, to Jordan for a week, with Families Worldwide. We also took a Granny ( see photos below).

We accept this is not a traditional holiday destination when you have kids, but we all had a fantastic time and would highly recommend it if you would like to do something a bit adventurous and interesting with your family.

I’ve blogged about our holiday in detail here ( Click ‘next’ to read about the next days adventure) so thought I’d just go over a few general points about travelling through Jordan in this post.

1/ If you travel with a tour company, such as FW, you will be accompanied by a member of the Tourist Police. We were told this is a long-term arrangement and has nothing to do with the trouble in Syria at the moment. The Tourist Police are supposed to make sure your travels in Jordan are trouble free; ours didn’t seem to do much. But he was perfectly pleasant and tagged along with our tour, disappearing and appearing periodically on the periphery of the group. You can say no, you don’t want them to accompany you, but it’s considered best to just go with the flow.

2/ Jordan is a country of contrasts and there is always something to look at out of the window. Their approach to driving is fast and furious, and they seemed hoot their horns to say ‘hello, I’m here’ as well as ‘get out of my way’. Crossing roads can be tricky; if a car stops for you, then make sure someone else isn’t going to overtake it at full speed and plough straight into your group. Don’t assume you are safe on a pedestrian crossing either; keep your wits about you and remember they (usually) drive on the right hand side of the road in Jordan.

Jordanians also like to pack as many people as possible into a vehicle. Car seats are unheard of and seat belts are often disregarded. If you hire a taxi or car, you may be expected to squeeze more people into it than you feel comfortable with, so be prepared to have to insist on a bigger vehicle if necessary.

3/ There is a lot of litter in Jordan. Make sure your children know not to pick up anything they see lying on the ground.

4/ Things aren’t cheap in Jordan. Breakfast was provided with our tour, but we had to pay for lunch and dinner, as well as snacks and drinks. Tipping is expected, and although we were told that we should just give whatever we felt like, I had two occasions where I was told I hadn’t tipped enough. DH never had a problem with this, so I wonder if this was a different attitude to women? A 10% tip is a good rule of thumb. We spent around 20-30 GBP per person, per day on average.

5/ Petra is amazing but there is a lot of walking. If you have children, and want to explore a lot of the site, be prepared to hire a donkey or mule for your children to ride.

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After the end of a long day’s walking, you can hire a carriage in to take you back from the Treasury to the site entrance. You can squeeze 1 adult and a couple of kids into this, along with the driver, but it’s very bumpy along the Siq and the drivers whip the horses quite badly. Be prepared for any older horse-loving children to be upset.

6/ Food consists of alot of flat bread, chicken, rice and vegetables. The starters are often dips made of yoghurt, hummus and aubergine. None of ours starved but our youngest lived on bread and cheese for about a week. Take some boxes of cereal bars along with you if you have slightly fussy eaters.

Only drink bottled water, and wash all fruits and vegetables before eating. The water is safe to brush you teeth with though.

7/ If you are going to stay in the desert, make sure you have some warm clothes with you. It gets very cold at night. We slept in our normal clothes with a fleece over the top, and socks in our feet.

8/ Finally a word about the loos. All the toilets we used had seats but most of them had signs saying not to throw toilet paper into them. Used paper goes into bins to the side of the loos. Taking your own paper into any toilet is a good idea, but if there is someone handing out paper, you will be expected to leave a small tip. I got caught without money at one point and the attendant wasn’t happy.

So, if you haven’t seen Jordan before children, but wish you had, then don’t let your offspring prevent you from travelling to this country. Jordanians love children and our younger two were very popular with the local school children. The travelling isn’t arduous and it’s not a dangerous or unpleasant country to visit. What are you waiting for?

If you’ve blogged about a holiday you’ve taken during the Easter period, within the UK  or abroad, then please link it up here. It doesn’t even have to be this year’s holiday, post a link to last year’s destination as well if you want.

 

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Hotel Chocolat Extra Thick Easter Eggs; Big Enough For A Family Of Six

We were lucky enough to be sent a You Crack Me Up™ Extra Thick Easter Egg by Hotel Chocolat to ‘review’.

‘How do you review an Easter egg?’, you may ask. It’s a tough job, that’s for sure, but as they say; ‘someone’s got to do it!’

First you need to have some willing reviewers. It’s usually not hard to find volunteers.

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Ravensburger Lighthouse Puzzle Review

The kids all love jigsaw puzzles, so when we received a Ravensburger 3D Puzzle in the shape of a lighthouse a couple of weeks ago, it was the subject of fierce competition between DDs 1 and 2.

Both girls received and completed a Ravensburger Puzzleball for Christmas, so were keen to build a different shape.

The box clearly states the 214 piece puzzle is intended for ages ’10-99′ and as DD1 is 10 and DD2 isn’t, there should have been no argument. But DD2 was upset that a lot of the things we’ve had to review lately have been 10+, and she’s easily as good as the average 10 year old at puzzles, so I folded and agreed that she could help build our Lighthouse. Of course this decision didn’t please DD1 and after a meltdown and just a little bit too much attitude, she was sent upstairs to have an early shower and to get into her pyjamas.

This left the field open for DD2, who opened the box and had a look at the instructions before I could say ‘Wait for your sister’. She decided that, as this was the first time, she would use the numbers on the back of the pieces and sorted them all out into their number groups before beginning construction.

Then she worked from the bottom up. When she had done half of it, DD1 had calmed down enough to come downstairs, so she was allowed to finish off the top part of the lighthouse. It took them both about an hour in total. There was another argument about who would put the sticker on the plastic bit at the top, so in the end I did that myself.

Don’t they look like butter wouldn’t melt, smiling at the camera? Notice that DD1 has stolen DD2’s tie to try and disguise the fact she’s in her pyjamas.

The girls both loved this puzzle and are begging me to get others in the series; Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building. I would recommend a Ravensburger 3D Puzzle as a project for children to work on by themselves, although I’m sure a normally cooperative pair of children could do it together.

I think the age limit of 10+ is probably a bit too high as most 8 year olds would be able to build these 3D puzzles, especially with an adult’s help.

In fact, I quite fancy having a go, and intend on pulling our lighthouse to pieces and rebuilding it myself as soon as I have a child free hour.

We were given a Ravensburger 3D Lighthouse Puzzle for the purposes of this review but  the opinion expressed above is entirely my own.

 

Wild Science Lip Balm Laboratory: A Review

DD1 is my most girly girl. Despite my lack of interest in anything resembling fashion or make up, she seems quite clued up on these topics. I’m not that worried; there was a time when I too tried to keep up with what was ‘in’. I’m sure it’s normal for 10 year old girls and doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to morph into some little airhead who finds science and maths ‘too hard’.

So when we were offered a Lip Balm Laboratory by Wild Science to review, I was only too pleased to accept. It’s billed as ‘perfect for girls who enjoy scientific experiments to create fantastic, but professional beauty products.’ I might not be thrilled about the beauty product aspect but they had me with ‘scientific experiment’. DD liked the idea too so it was all good. read more

The Land Of Sometimes: A Magical, Musical CD.

One of the cool things about writing a blog like this is that people often send me things to try. I unwrap them, put them in my review box and try to look for a chance to use them within the framework of our daily family life. Then I write about them and give an honest opinion.

Sometimes we have to go a little off piste to use the product, but other times it slots right in there, preferably somewhere between bath and bedtime. Finding the time to try it out can be an issue.

This CD, The Land Of Sometimes, was very easy to review. Our kids love music and are always singing along to something or making up their own songs. They also like stories and go to bed most nights listening to their CD players. So it was perfect for us.

DD1 almost bit my hand off when I waved the newly arrived CD in her direction and retreated to her room. It was bedtime, and I hoped it might induce a restful night’s sleep.

But it wasn’t to be; I could hear the introduction wafting through the walls and so could her sisters. The sounds of unfamiliar music attracted them like flies to a honeypot and shortly they were hammering at her door wanting to know what she was listening to.

In the end I had all three of them sitting around the CD player, listening to the story and trying to sing along to the songs. I knew it was going to be a big hit in this house, but pretty much gave up on the idea of using it as a bedtime CD; it’s too exciting!

The CD tells the story of Elise and Alfie, twins who travel to the Land Of Sometimes, an enchanting island where the seasons change according to the time of day, not the time of year. There they encounter a myriad of weird and wonderful characters, all of whom have a song to sing!

Each original song is of a different style, so this CD is a great introduction to a variety of different music styles, instruments and voices. The recommended age is ‘2-99’ which had my very literal 10 year old feeling slightly aggrieved for anyone 100 or over. She has got a point though; I’m not sure they need an age recommendation on this CD.

Obviously the target audience is going to be children, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a child who didn’t enjoy it. But this is easy listening at its most pleasant, so expect to find yourself listening along with your children. This is not a CD you will want to send them to their bedrooms with.

Slightly off topic, but is it only my children who feel compelled to make up an alternative world populated by such creatures as ‘Little Stink’ ( the fairy who does the farts no one owns up to), Mr Taller than Taller ( who can touch the sky) and Mrs Blimp ( who routinely floats up above the clouds and needs rescuing by Mr TtT. They eventually fall in love and marry) ? No? It’s only my kids then…

But back to the CD. In my opinion, this is a Must Have. We’ve had the CD for 3 weeks now and its appeal shows no signs of abating. It is still played every day; we usually have a quick blast in the morning while they are getting dressed, then again at night, before the lights go out.

The Land Of Sometimes goes on sale on the 6th of February and will cost £8.99. You can preorder it here. It would make a great present for any child who enjoys music and stories and provides a wholesome alternative to TV and video games if you are wanting to earn some good parenting points.

But, be warned. You are venturing into earworm territory with The Land Of Sometimes and should expect to find yourself humming ‘Little Twink’ at least 5 times a day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giant Jenga: A Review.

We love our garden and the kids spend as much time out there as possible, but as winter approaches and the dark evenings draw in, it’s not always possible for them to play with toys and games that can really only be enjoyed outdoors.

So when we were offered a Giant Jenga game to review, I was a bit doubtful. If it was so big it had to remain in the garden until April, we weren’t going to get a lot of use out of it. But a quick look at the link reassured me its size made it fine for indoor use and I was hopeful it would amuse us for a while on what was threatening to be a rather grey and cold half term. read more