Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Sparkup Magical Book Reader - Review and Giveaway

We have just been given a Sparkup Magical Book Reader to try out, and are finding it a really useful little device!  It attaches to the back of any book, then can be used to record your voice reading each page of the book to your child.  It then saves the recording (of up to 50 different books) and when the device is attached to the book, it then plays the recording, page by page. (There's a little camera in the front of it that recognises the pages to identify which book to read.)  

It's great for us for a few different reasons; I'm able to record books for Ethan to then look at on his own when I'm busy doing things for Ivy, and it's also great for others who aren't here to record books for Ethan and Ivy.  Daddy can record books for them to hear his voice when he's at work, but I'm also looking forward to when we have any of the grandparents or aunts and uncles visit from overseas to record some stories for the kiddies as well!  It will be so nice for them to hear their relatives who live far away read to them whenever they like.

It's really easy to use, you just push a button on the front to start and a button on the side to record.  The device even talks you through the process to make it easier the first time that you're doing it!  My only concern is that the record button is easily accessible, so I worry that Ethan might record over a book accidentally.  He hasn't done it yet though, so hopefully he's just so happy reading the books that he won't be tempted to play with the buttons.  It does also come with a usb cord to connect it to the computer, so you can save your recordings, so if something does get erased you can restore the story.  

We are really loving using ours, I've recorded quite a few books for Ethan already, and he's quickly learned how to attach the Sparkup to the back of a book to listen to the story.  It's really cute to watch him sit and have a story read to him as he turns the pages.  I especially love that when I've done a few of the recordings he has been chatting away about the characters as well, so that's all in the recording (which I will now save to the computer and keep!)  The Sparkup Magical Book Reader sells for £39.99 and can be bought from shops as well as Amazon.

What's your little one's favourite book?  Would you like to have a Sparkup Magical Book Reader?  Enter below for a chance to win one of your very own!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open to residents of the UK. Winner will be randomly selected from all correctly completed entries and contacted by email. Prize supplied directly from Sparkup.

* This is a review post and also contains an affiliate link.  We were sent the Sparkup to use and write an honest review. *

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Shapes Treasure Basket for Baby and Toddler Play

Now that Ivy is more actively joining in with playtime, I find myself searching for ways that she and Ethan can play together. One thing that she has been loving to explore is any type of treasure basket.  I decided to have a go at making a treasure basket that they could play with together, by making it interesting and safe for Ivy with large smooth objects, while fun and educational for Ethan in learning about shapes.

Ivy loves to pick up all of the different items inside as well as holding onto the side of the basket  itself for extra sitting support! She was very intrigued by the shapes, picking them up one at a time, then putting it in her mouth for further examining.  We've also got a few blocks that have beads or bells inside, so they make a sound when shaken.  When she discovered this she was then shaking and rolling the different shapes around to hear the sounds they made as well.

Ethan knows all the names of the shapes, but does still mix them up sometimes, so it is something worth going over through play.  Even though we were using three dimensional shapes today I was still using the 2 dimensional shape names (saying square instead of cube) so as not to confuse him at this point.  I asked him to find certain shapes for me from the basket, to find a shape in a particular colour and to find shapes that fit in the outline.  He did quite well and enjoyed being able to play alongside his baby sister.

They did play together for a little while as well, Ethan would build little block towers for Ivy to then knock down!  It was actually very sweet, because he knew that she was going to knock them over, so he didn't get upset, he just thought that it was funny.  His goal was to try and put as many blocks on top of each other before Ivy could send them tumbling down, and they were both giggling away as they did!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Snakes and Ladders Indoor Adventure Playground - Review

We took Ethan and Ivy to the newly renovated Snakes and Ladders Indoor Playground in Brentford the other day to play.  It was closed for a few months for a huge revamp, and is now bigger and better than ever!  There is a baby and toddler play area, a small world play area and the massive climbing area for children aged 3 and over.  Ethan was so amazed when we walked in the door, he didn't know where to start!

We walked over to the big climbing frame to have a look, told Ethan that he would have to take his shoes off, and zoom he was off!  He was all the way at the top (the third level) before we could even blink an eye (when did he get so brave?) He was running around and looking down at us, waving excitedly!  It had all of the elements that you would expect from a large soft play frame, climbing, sliding, tunnels, trampolines, a maze and ball play area.  

Ethan loved playing with the balls as well, there were different places that sucked the balls in and then showered them down on the children waiting below or blew them up in the air.  Ethan was amazed!  We spent ages in there putting balls into the different chutes,  and rolling around in the balls on the floor.

My favourite area was probably the imagination play zone.  There was a house, a bus, a shop, a post office, a hospital and a construction site.  Ethan desperately wanted to drive the bus, but as it was so busy and other children can be a bit pushy he didn't get a chance.  We'll have to go back another day when it's not quite so busy so that he can get a real go at everything.  

We did have a look at all of the other imagination play areas, Ethan had a quick play in each, but to be honest he was just so excited to run around that he went straight back to the climbing area to explore some more.  He could have stayed there all day, there are so many different things to do and he just loved it all.

We had to tear him away from it for a little while to have some lunch and a bit of a rest.  He was boiling hot from running around, we really should have thought to dress him in lighter clothes, it does get quite hot in there!  We got lunch from the cafe, which to be quite honest wasn't fantastic, but we weren't expected gourmet food from an indoor playground!  I did see other families bring in their own food, so that is an option as well.

Ivy also had her fun in the baby and toddler area, she loved sitting in the ball pit and rolling the balls around.  There were soft climbing apparatus for smaller children, a small climbing frame and little bikes to ride on.  Those were still a bit advanced for Ivy, but she did get to try her first swing while we were there as well, she had the biggest smile on her face swinging back and forth!  It's a nice little area for the smaller children, and I liked that the staff really made the effort to keep the older children out of this area to make it safer for babies and toddlers to play.

* This is a review post, we were invited to visit Snakes and Ladders and provided with a family ticket in order to try out the new equipment and write an honest review. *

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Our Sunday Storybook - Curious George

This week Ethan is loving his Curious George books and asking for them to be read to him everyday before his nap and at bedtime.

His favourite is probably Curious George and the Firefighters, because he really does love firefighters and he is quite the little monkey!  The stories are a little bit silly, but Ethan likes to have a little giggle while we read them, and I'm not too worried that he's going to try to imitate the things that Curious George does!

* This post contains affiliate links if you are interested in purchasing some Curious George books from Amazon. *

Friday, 15 August 2014

101 Kids Activities That Are The Bestest, Funnest Ever! - Book Review

I often look at other blogs for inspiration of activities to do with Ethan, and one of the ones that I can always count on is Kids Activities Blog.  Well, the good news is that the creators of the blog (Holly Homer and Rachel Miller) have now written a book, 101 Kids Activities That Are The Bestest, Funnest Ever!  

From 101 Kids Activities by Holly Homer and Rachel Miller, printed with permission of Page Street Publishing June 2014.
We were lucky enough to be given a book to look through and try out some of the activities ourselves!  There are such a huge variety of activities that it was difficult to choose which one to share, but as I find it difficult at the moment to do anything that involves much preparation (life with a toddler and a baby can get hectic!) I was pleased to see that there are quite a few activities that require little planning.  Ethan and I flipped through the pages of the book together, and the first activity that we chose to do was the 'Bird Zip Line'.

Ethan was so excited to be making something from the book, he went straight over to our arts and crafts drawers to collect the supplies.  All that we needed was some card (folded over) and scissors (to make the bird shape), a straw (stuck inside the bird), some string (to put through the straw and tie to two chairs) and some coloured pencils to decorate the bird.  Ethan quickly scribbled on the bird, he was more excited to see the bird fly than to make it pretty!

I quickly tied the string to the backs of 2 chairs and within minutes Ethan's bird was zipping away from one side to the other.  He was having so much fun, and it kept him busy for ages as I had to tend to Ivy.  I really do love a simple activity that keeps Ethan happy and occupied for more than a few minutes.  We can't wait to do more activities from this great book!

* This is a review post, I was sent a copy of 101 Kids Activities That Are The Bestest, Funnest Ever! to read and try out some activities and write an honest review.  This post also contains an affiliate link to buy the book from Amazon *

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Play With Your Food - The Three Bears' Porridge

I was looking on Pinterest and found hundreds of different recipes for overnight oatmeal! I thought that this would be the perfect food to prepare with Ethan, and what could be more fun than making porridge for the three bears? Reading through many different recipes I noticed that the ingredient ratios varied, but some were close, so I decided to simplify things and try equal parts, and it worked! 

The Three Bears Easy Overnight Porridge

Equal parts 

  • oats
  • milk
  • Greek yogurt
(We measured 1/4 cup for Baby Bear, 1/2 cup for Mama Bear and 1 cup for Papa Bear)

(We used strawberries and blueberries)


I set out 3 different sized bowls for each bear, and Ethan started measuring out the ingredients and pouring them into each bowl. As we combined everything together we told the story of The Three Bears.  It's a story that Ethan knows well, as we often tell it to him when we're trying to pass the time and have no books around (in the car, restaurants, waiting rooms, etc).  That made it easy for him to focus on making the porridge as well as joining in with the story.

The next morning he was very excited to eat the oatmeal, he didn't even want to play with his toys first thing, he just asked to have 'the breakfast we made.'  Without any prompting Ethan started reciting the story as he ate his breakfast! He was also very insistant that Mama Bear and Papa Bear eat their porridge as well. A fun and easy way to play with our food, and Ethan loved it! 

Learning Through Play

Knowledge and Understanding of the World

  • cooking - combining ingredients to make a finished dish
Communication, Language and Literacy

  • storytelling 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Chessington World of Adventures - Azteca Hotel - Review

After our first visit to Chessington World of Adventures a couple of weeks ago (I wrote about it here) we loved it so much that we got ourselves invited to the launch of the new Azteca Hotel!  It was a great opportunity to see the new hotel before anyone else, to have a mini family getaway, and to get another day in the park!

The Hotel

The Azteca Hotel is attached to the Safari Hotel which was already on the resort.  They share a reception area and other facilities (such as the pool and soon to open splash area) between them. There are a few animals to see and huge giraffe statues in the reception area, to get you into the adventure spirit right away!

There is also a kids club in the reception area which can be accessed (but we didn't get a chance to try it out).  The hotels are in a great location within the park, close to the Wanyama Reserve, and Amazu Treetop Adventure which gives you lovely views from all the areas of the hotel, so you feel more like you're on a safari than in a theme park.

The Hotel Room

We stayed in a Discovery room of the hotel, they are less themed than the other rooms, but still fantastically decorated and fun.  All of the rooms in the hotel have a separate area for the children to sleep with bunk beds, and in our case a cot as well (more about baby and child friendly facilities later).  There's also a tv and a safe in the kids room, as well as a third mattress under the bed for another child to sleep.  It's really nice to have a separate area for the kids, it makes it much easier in the evening to have lights on and watch TV in the main area without worrying about waking them up or disturbing them.  The rest of the room is lovely, as you would expect in a good hotel, comfy bed, kettle, iron, bathroom with nice products, etc.  

Baby and Child Friendly Facilities

As I mentioned, the children's area of the room has bunk beds (which Ethan loved!) and we requested a cot for Ivy in advance so that we wouldn't have to bring our travel cot with us.  There is a TV in the children's area, as well as one in the main room, so you could be watching different shows at the same time (if you have any time to watch TV!)

The hotel provides a kids club and plays children's movies near to the reception area in the evenings, so that parents can have some time to relax as well.  The hotel is fully accessible and easy to get around with a pram, there are ramps everywhere as well as lifts to get to the various levels.  

Each hotel has a restaurant, the new one in the Azteca Hotel is called the Temple Restaurant and serves a buffet dinner as well as a full buffet breakfast. 

The restaurant is jungle themed, with sights and sounds of the jungle surrounding each table.  There is a large fountain in the centre, which all of the children loved to look at.  There are screens all around, showing different animals moving around and interacting with each other.  There were sounds of the jungle, and every once in a while there was a big storm, with lights flickering and thunder crashing.  Ethan was very entertained by all of this (as well as a bit distracted from his food) but for Ivy this really wasn't ideal.  We had intended for her to sleep in her pram while we had dinner, but it was just so noisy that she couldn't settle, which meant we had to pace around with her and couldn't fully enjoy dinner ourselves.  I am happy to say that the restaurant was much quieter in the morning, while still keeping with it's fun jungle theme.

The food was very good, there was plenty of selection (even for a picky toddler) and we all found food that we enjoyed for dinner as well as breakfast the next morning.  Breakfast is also special because characters from the park come to visit!  When we were there Alex from Madagascar joined us for breakfast, and Ethan was very excited to meet him!

Perks of Staying in the Hotel 

As we stayed for the launch of the hotel there was a lot of wonderful entertainment in the evening, including tribal dancers and a fire show (which we missed as we were putting the children to bed).  They also had face painting and even caricature drawings being done!  

They regularly have animal meet and greets, evening access to the Amazu Treetop Adventure (you get to climb through different areas with monkeys swinging in the trees around you) as well as the Wanyama Reserve, where animals such as the meercats and zebras live.  

You also get early access to the park the next day, which is a huge bonus and you can get on so many rides before the park opens and the queues start to build up.  That in itself is reason enough to stay in the hotel!

Another Day of Play at Chessington World of Adventures

We were very excited to get another day of fun at Chessington, as even though we were just there two weeks ago, we didn't manage to do everything that we wanted to.  And I'm disappointed to say, that yet again we couldn't fit it all in!  

Last time we did loads of rides, so we said that we would spend the day doing the Sea Life Centre, soft play and animal areas (zoo and petting zoo) but Ethan is completely obsessed with the rides, so of course we had to do them all again, he is a serious adrenalin junkie!  We did get a chance to go to the aquarium this time though, and Ivy absolutely loved it, she could have just stared at those fish all day long.  Ethan loved it too, but that may have been more about the Octonauts themed areas!  

We loved being able to get into the park early, as it was a Saturday and lovely weather it was very busy, so getting onto a few of the more popular rides first thing was a real bonus.  We can't wait to go again, it's such a fun park and staying in the hotel makes it into a whole weekend of adventures!

* This is a review post, we were invited to the launch of the Azteca Hotel and provided with a night's accommodation and passes for the family to explore Chessington World of Adventures in order for us to write an honest review. *