#Win Alternative Easter Gifts for Cool Kids

Cool stuff kids march

It is always good to have alternative Easter gifts up your sleeve, that aren’t chocolatey…I have some to win too!

Okido is the arts and science magazine for kids. I had banned kids’ magazines in our house because they are generally impossible to actually write on with any pen known to humans, a bit rubbish, focussed soley on telly watching, pink/blue, covered in plastic tat, expensive, insulting, boring and lacking in anything that is going to set my children’s minds on fire.

How refreshing then to receive Okido. Beautiful pages you can write on, lovely layout, bright colours, colouring pages you would want to colour, art, cooking, science ideas. The stories, poems and illustrations explore emotions beautifully. Continue reading

Drawing is Cool! Miles Kelly #WorldBookDay Givers

DSC_0006 DSC_0007 DSC_0008 DSC_0009 DSC_0010 DSC_0011 DSC_0012 DSC_0013 DSC_0014 DSC_0015Drawing is Cool! came to us beautifully wrapped from our secret giver, courtesy of the Miles Kelly secret booking giving for World Book Day.

How refreshing to have a non fiction book to celebrate on World Book Day.

If I suggest my kids draw something then it is a stupid idea, but if a book suggests it that is GREAT!

Mr G used it mainly for inspiration, Miss L followed the techniques. She is good at art and wants to be an artist, so although this is challenging and she got frustrated, she also learnt an awful lot more than she would just drawing. We talked lots about how artists have to practice to make perfect.

She and I were pleased with the dogs we sketched, it was a really therapeutic activity for the whole family.

With animals, dinosaurs and lots of cars this will appeal to boys and girls and provide ongoing challenge as children develop their drawing skills. There is a whole series of books on animals, bugs, fairies, cars to appeal to individual tastes and continue the challenge!

Thanks to Miles Kelly, our secret giver and Happy World Book Day!


Party – Harry Potter style!

Check out the video above, in which I learnt how to cast a spell like Harry Potter at Britmums Conference back in June, a useful party trick to have up your sleeve for a Harry Potter themed party. There are lots more ideas for a Harry Potter style party in this guest post: Continue reading

Four ways to reward yourself after a hard week

Since I had kids Fridays haven’t really had the same winding down ritualistic appeal. More a case of crashing in a heap on the sofa after a gin and tonic, than going out on the town. I loved the tips in this guest post I think it is really important to mark the end of the week and wind down.

We all deserve a break after working hard all week and there is no shortage of ways to achieve this. Whether you like indulgent baths or a little bit of beautification; planning how to unwind after a difficult week can give you something luxurious to look forward to while you count down the hours to Friday. Continue reading

Learning about feelings with HABA

The German toy brand HABA are celebrating their 75th anniversary. I fell in love with German wooden toys as a teenager curiously enough. I used to visit Munich every Summer to visit a family friend, and bought a tiny wooden dog on wheels, from a book by the German author Janosch, that I used to wear on a necklace.

Even though I was a teenager, there was something beautiful and appealing about the German toys I saw, they were so unlike children’s playthings I had seen in the UK. Nowadays HABA is widely available in the UK, they launched a full range via a UK website in 2009.

When my daughter was born I bought her first HABA toy, a little clip on wooden mouse with beaded arms and legs, it was a special moment and now we keep it in her memory box.

To mark their 75th anniversary HABA sent me some products to review. We loved Come with Us, a clever book about learning about feelings, that is much more complex than its board book format suggests, and perfect for Mr G right now..

image Apparently, at age 4 boys get a hit of testosterone bigger than they do at puberty. Mr G keeps losing his temper, afterwards he tells me this is because ‘my body is cross’, then he gives me a huge hug and plants about a hundred sloppy kisses on my cheek. So talking about feelings is something I am trying to focus on.

Come with Us has a little wooden magnetic mouse which, as you read the book, you are prompted to stick to the bear in the picture feeling a particular emotion. Although it is a board book, the text is comparable to a pre school picture book in length, so aimed more at older toddlers and pre-schoolers than babies, Mr G really likes the concept.

It definitely held his attention long enough to get us talking about emotions. The other characters in the book display lots of emotions to talk about to, and Mr G and I talked about why the characters might be feeling that way, and what they might do to feel better about things.

More on what HABA has to offer tomorrow, something to get my two playing together, that fits neatly in ruck sack or bag.

What have you got planned for the Easter break?


My strategy for the school holidays is to write a list with the kids of the things they want to do. This normally means I cannot fail disappoint them, and when they get to the end of the holiday they have a sense of accomplishment. At this age their ideas are normally not too ambitious, the picture above is Miss L’s list from last half term. The worrying stick man pose denotes yoga in case you were wondering. There’s a trip to the park, an indoor picnic and meeting some friends.

This time for once, I am ahead of myself and I have some tricks up my sleeve too.

See a show

I really want to take them to a show in London at some point, if not this holiday then in the Summer.  Travel Zoo have some cheap deals for the theatre in London.

Closer to home,the stage adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s I was a Rat premières at Nottingham Playhouse over Easter, Miss L are looking forward to seeing it this week. I’m excited about taking her to theatre that is a bit more grown up and sharing a more physical style of theatre with her. I fell in love with physical theatre, when I was a drama student.


photo by Oriana; via Flickr http://bit.ly/10A0fAR

This is a right ‘trick up my sleeve’, but thanks to the Bolognian Tourist Information I am taking part in a #socialmediafreetrip to Bologna, Italy. My Dad, a huge foodie, is excited about joining us. The kids are beyond excited about eating Bologna out of ice cream, tortellini and pizza. Expect lots of Instagram shots of Dad drinking expressos to try and keep pace, me wearing sunnies and sitting in beautiful plazas and the kids chasing pigeons.

Make a Kite

MAKE AND FLY A KITE from robcowen on Vimeo.

I’ve been reading Skimming Stones by Rob Cowen and Leo Critchley.after meeting Rob at a National trust event, so when he sent us all a video on how to make a kite I was inspired to try it myself with the kids. Skimming Stones is all about finding simple, forgotten skills that help us to interact with nature and achieve a deeper connection with our surroundings. Which leads neatly onto…


I want to explore Nottingham Forest, (the woodland, not the football team). It is sad to think so much of this area must have been woodland in Robin Hood’s time, and I feel like every time we try and find the forest I think ‘Is this it?’ but I think we must have missed a huge chunk, so that can be our quest. I am hoping the Forestry Commission can help me find it.


I have Maggy’s new book Red Ted Art up my sleeve, along with tea and biscuits, for a couple of afternoons of happy family crafting.

What you up to?

Post in association with Travel Zoo

Easter Survival Pack

National Trust/ Simon Burgess

I’ve been sent some lovely bits and bobs recently which I thought might come in handy for the Easter holidays. Best bit is lots of it is free, or really cheap and can be ordered, or organised online. It’s the little things right? Continue reading

100 Easy ways to be a Thrifty Family

Becky has a wonderful way of effortlessly combining budgeting tips with the wisdom and skills to ensure you can enjoy the creativity of budgeting without succumbing to social pressure to spend.

Whether you are approaching thriftiness from a reducing what you spend angle, or trying to reduce your carbon footprint, or trying to change your children’s attitude to consumerism, there is so much wisdom in Becky Goddard Hill’s new eBook 100 Easy ways to be a Thrifty Family to inspire you.   Continue reading

Boosting children’s memory and language using photobooks

At this time of year my head always turns to the exploding files of pictures on my laptop. A while back I decided to embrace being part of the digital generation and to stop worrying about them. My kids as grown ups would only ever want to see so many pictures of themselves as kids, so if I lost a few hundred along the way no problem, representative bits were printed out, framed or on the blog.

But I promised myself I would still make some photo books online. Continue reading

How do you like to read?

Reading magazines in bed

It struck me towards the end of last year I had been so busy writing I had done very little reading. So in 2013 I am trying to put that right, I need one of those reading diaries they give you at school to spur me on. Anyway, I started by thinking about my favourite ways to read… Continue reading

Discover the Awesome World of Books

You know when children make sudden leaps in their thirst for knowledge that require you to furnish them with information quickly? Well, this week my attention was drawn to an excellent value Miles Kelly Discover the Awesome World iBook, a collaboration with the Discovery Channel. Don’t worry if you don’t have an iPad though, I’ve found a competition, plus some really good value Miles Kelly books which would make great Christmas gifts and stocking fillers.

Now L has started Year 1 her head can’t seem to absorb enough facts and information. She wants to know about how bodies process food, how long it takes to get to space, which animals live in Africa, what the Victorians invented, how tall she might be when she grows up.

I keep finding myself saying, ‘Ask Daddy’, or ‘Let me look that up’, when really what we need to do is introduce lots more non-fiction into our reading together. So being invited to review an eBook was a perfect challenge for me.

Discover the Awesome World iBook is a really enjoyable way to discover together, because rather than waiting for me to Google an answer, or find a suitable You Tube video, L and I worked through the multi touch eBook learning together. It is good value at £2.99.

The content is simpler than the physical book, which I was also sent to review, a ‘multi-touch’ book means it features slider picture shows, close up sections and videos, perfect for children like L, who are learning to read, but equally effective for independent readers, in that they can interact with the awesome world and make it come alive.

Mr G, who is 3, enjoyed making the emperor penguin video work and scrolling through the amazing images in the penguin photograph gallery.  A great introduction to interactive media and a fun reading experience for a boy who is always on the go.

If you don’t have an iPad there’s a fabulous Discovery Competition/Miles Kelly competition here to win one, open until 2nd December. Miles Kelly also have a great range of soft and hardback books including the jam-packed, bumper hard-back, Discover the Awesome World, at just £10.99.

I was sent some of these Miles Kelly books to review. They are all arranged by age on the website, they are also organised into series so you can easily find an appropriate level of information for your child. I love the first questions and answer series, at £3.59, which should answer many of Miss L’s recent questions, like:

I also loved the Junior Encyclopaedia, £9 and My First Animal Questions and Answers both of which have come with attractive holographic covers and a lovely mix of bite size facts, cartoon and photographic illustration:

Miles Kelly do a series of 100, 500 and much more comprehensive fact books. Over 1000 Fantastic Earth Facts, £8.99 is more complex, but definitely an easy one to dip into as the facts are numbered and bite-size, and sure to keep older children engrossed over the holidays.

I have been despairing recently of some modern chapter books L found in the library full of stinky pink, substance less tales of mermaids and princesses so it was refreshing to see the magical stories collections featuring renowned authors such as Rudyard Kipling, the Brothers Grimm, Joseph Jacobs and Andrew Lang at only £3.59 for 4 stories.

Miles Kelly books are available online and also sold through The Works outlets. There are also sticker books, science experiments, how to draw guides, flip quizzes, 5 minute stories and lots of great value larger collections of themed bedtime stories.

The Discover the Awesome World eBook is available to download here.

I’m off to create an easily accessible non fiction book shelf in the living room, and have promised we’ll check out volcanoes via the eBook.