Thursday, 31 May 2012

POPchips - Great after school snacks!

If there is one thing you quickly learn when your children start school its that they always come home hungry.. well mine do anyway! They eat a good breakfast and have a cooked school meal, which they tell me they eat all of and often have seconds, but they always come home at 3.30pm like they haven't eaten all day. I guess its not surprising really because when they are at home all day they would happily snack constantly!

So when we were sent a box of POPchips to give our verdict on they arrived just before I went on the school run, which meant before I had a proper chance to look at them they were opened and being tested by three hungry little people.

Popchips are the latest food craze in America becoming one of the fastest growing food brands, and now they have arrived in the UK

These great crisps are not baked, nor fried which means they have less than half the fat of regular crisps, but they still have all the flavour, infact these are the tastiest crisps I have tried in such a long time they are simply FULL of flavour. They come in single serving bags with around 18 crisps in each priced around 69p or share bags priced around £1.89 which would be perfect crisps for the jubilee celebrations!

My youngest tried the sour cream and onion flavour and enjoyed them, although he did say they were spicy, although i tried them and they are not hot and spicy just full of flavour tasty!

My daughter tried the Original variety and gave them a massive thumbs up, my eldest devoured the barbecue flavour commenting on their spicy taste, but both saying they preferred them to ordinary potato chips.

So what is different about them, and how are they made if they are not baked or fried? Well they are POPchips so they are quite simply popped! Using a bit of heat and pressure the potato is popped producing these crisps, using natural flavouring to produce a great tasting snack that will leave you without the greasy orange fingers, and they have less than 100 calories per single serving bag!

 They are thicker than an ordinary potato crisp and have more of a rice cake look about them, (although they are nothing like rice cakes in texture or taste!) and are quite a filling but moreish snack, with 5 great flavours to choose from you are sure to find a favourite!

Overall we loved them, but to get the full picture you will just have to pop out and get yourself some POPchips and I'm sure will love them too!

Here is my childrens initial reaction to POPchips in a quick vlog (and please excuse my youngest slightly un enthusiastic responce, he was more interested in saying hello to our budgie than giving me his verdict!)

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Keeping children entertained

Toys and activities are a massive part of my life and have been for the past 10 years, when you become a mum you start seeing lots of bright coloured toys and amazing character playsets and before you know it your house fills up and can rival the best toyshop.

But what really do children like to play with? what actually keeps them entertained?

We have just about tried out every style of toy imaginable, and we really enjoy playing with them all, my boys are happiest with their figures and playsets. My ten year old will still play with his star wars figures and lego is a constant hit, dressing up outfits always been hugely popular here for my boys too, in fact my boys will entertain themselves with pretty much any toy and there are very few things which  get left unloved, Chloe however is much harder to please.

I'm not sure if its because there is only one girl and so she has no one to play with like her brothers do when they both grab hand fulls of power ranger figures or sit and transform Optimus Prime from truck to Robot whilst defending off the goblins attacking the castle together chattering away in their imaginary worlds, or if its just the way girls are.

Chloe has never really been very toy oriented, she has a box full of littlest pet shop figures which get left untouched, Zhu Zhu hamsters and grooming salon playsets which have only been taken out of their boxes a couple of times, a massive collection of Sylvanian families which I adored as a child and can still happily spend hours sorting out and setting up, but Chloe isn't interested in them, or the Bratz, Build a Bears or any number of other toys we always end up piling into the back of her wardrobe.

So what do tween girls play with? If Chloe is anything to go by then art and craft stuff is the only thing which she actually comes too time and time again, she is happiest with a pad of paper some coloured pens and some stickers, infact anything crafty will get her time and attention over and over again. We always have glitter glue and pom poms and googly eyes galore but the problem with this is that there is often not a very useful outcome to Chloes efforts.

and when the outcome is poor Chloe is frustrated, we get sticky pompoms and pipe cleaners poking out all over the house and it gets sweeped up and piled together as the ever growing pile of clutter.

But when crafts are the one thing that holds your childs attention the best way to keep them happy is by buying a craft kit, and there are loads of craft kits available.
Last week we were sent the Japanese Doll Kit to review, and this went down a treat, keeping Chloe entertained for several days as she painted one doll at a time and then wrote the notes and messages to match. The end outcome was lovely and could be proudly displayed (not like the scrunched up pipe cleaner covered pom poms!) Another great kit was the My Clippy Bags of style set, again this was easy for Chloe to do herself kept her entertained for a while and the end result was worth keeping.

This week we have been sent a mini plate decorating craft kit by 4m to review. It is a lovely little kit and exactly the sort of thing that really grabs Chloes attention.

The box is small but pretty with pastel coloured designs on the front, upon opening the box your met with three little porcelain plates (approx 6cm diameter) 4 tubs of paint a paintbrush and three cardboard stands.

Chloe initially was slightly disheartened by the size of the plates, saying there tiny! but this didn't stop her enjoying the kit.

The four colour pots of paints you receive are red, yellow, blue and white. and on the back of the box it gives you a mixing guide which is a nice touch and Chloe enjoyed mixing some colours.

The paint painted well onto the plates and Chloe copied the design from the box with the cupcake first. She was eager to complete the plate and was a little hasty with the layers of paint she could have got a better finish with a little patience waiting for the paint to dry before adding some of the detail.

The paper stands are great for display purposes and Chloe was really pleased with the end outcome, she then went on to paint a second plate with a simpler design and she has kept the third plate for the time being to design for her next friends birthday present. The kit kept her happily entertained for a good hour and there is still a third plate to paint which is great as she is doodling designs for this one on paper before she jumps straight in to paint it.

 Overall she loved this kit and I would happily purchase it again for her or any of her friends and with it priced around £5.99 from Amazon  it really would be a great birthday gift or activity to have to entertain over the summer holidays.

There are other great kits in the 4m Range including a make your own jigsaw kit which looks great too, I will be looking out for some more kits for Chloe birthday next month.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

money makes the world go round...

I often wonder what memories my children will have when they are older, will they look back fondly on the sunny days we spent sitting in the park, the walks through the woods and the paddling pools in the back garden, will they look back and appreciate the times I choose to spend our last available spare change on ice creams for them, and  tirelessly worked out how to ensure food was on the table each evening, or will they forget these things? Will the little things be over looked as they embark on their futures and see what else the world has to offer or will they remember the wonder they saw in even the simplest of pebbles imagining them to have come from another world full of wonder and magic.

We don't have loads of cash to splash around and travel the world, we cant afford to spoil them with luxury cuisines or meals out in posh restaurants, exploring new cultures and seeing new places. I have never even been abroad. Hey, I haven't even been to London! My children therefore too haven't seen or experienced some of the most amazing things that life has to offer them. Living is expensive and each passing month sees me wishing that we had just that bit more to spare.

I try my best even up against all manners of obstacles to make sure they have the opportunities which hopefully will enable them to become adults who can follow their dreams and travel if they wish to, see so much more of the world that's waiting to be discoverd. But for now the only form of activities we can undertake have to be the ones which cost as little as possible as we constantly are finding ways to afford the dance lessons and never ending stream of new shoes and clothes as the growth spurts mark a daily reminder the years are passing by alarmingly fast.

And with each year that passes I see them growing up so very quickly, I see opportunities which we have to pass up because finances wont stretch and that pang of maternal guilt creeps in. Am I providing them with a childhood they will look back on fondly or will it be tarred with feelings of missing out and wanting to do so much more?

The sunny weather always brings smiles and laughter and the children spend happy hours outside, climbing trees or in the park finding friends to windle away the day with, as they show of their skateboarding skills on the hump at the bottom end of the park and I sit under a tree with a book in my hand; happy enough, but secretly longing to be beside the sea or travelling the country soaking up new sights sounds and tastes.

I don't believe money makes you happy, but it sure does bring opportunities, without it there is so much you just can't do, no matter how much we'd like to believe it isn't the case.

So today I'll spend a little time wondering what life could be like,  and cling to a dream of a different world where money is no worry and a new opportunity is waiting each day, just for the day I will wish that life was abit different. Then  I'll wake up tomorrow and enjoy what we have, appreciate everything that we are so fortunate to be able to experience and remember that the true meaning of life and wonder and discoveries are not only possible with a wallet full of cash.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Walk to school and get some stripes!

The other week I posted about Living Streets and their Great British Walking challenge encouraging everyone to get walking, this week is national Walk to School Week (21st May - 26th May 2012)
and everyone is trying to promote the benefits of getting out and walking to school.

I love to walk to school, and always try to walk, bike or scoot to school as much as possible, I find it can be hugely beneficial to start the day with a bit of exercise, not to mention the environmental benefits and reduced stress from navigating a car around a busy school gate! But statistics say that only around 50% of Primary school children and 38% of Secondary school children walk to school each day, which is a staggeringly low amount compared to the 98% of pensioners who say they walked to school at the same age.

So its understandable why its important to get people thinking about promoting walking to school with your children, most schools are celebrating walk to school week in some capacity, my youngest has a scooter day on Friday where all children are invited to bring their scooters into school, my eldest two have a travel smart week with an incentive for children who walk everyday.

UKmumsTV have teamed up with Schleich to offer a great incentive to get your children eager to walk to school this week too, Schleich make wonderful animal models (like the dinosaurs we had fun with last week!) and have 100 stripy Zebras to offer to the first 100 pupils who send in a photo of themselves walking to school this week!

Zebras are such a fitting mascot to get people walking to school, with them being avid walkers in the animal kingdom and their young have mastered the art of walking just an hour after birth, also with zebra crossings being on of the iconic street symbols that children recognise as a safety crossing there couldn't be a better mascot and the schleich Zebras are beautifully hand painted figures that every child is sure to love.

So if you want to get yourself some walking stripes then be sure to take a look at the UKmumsTV website, get your walking shoes on and grab your camera as you set off out to school tomorrow!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Silent Sunday

Japanese Best Friend Dolls

When you have a tween daughter you will be familiar with how important Best friends are,  because when you're an 8 year old girl having a BFF (best friend forever) is just about the most important thing ever, someone to giggle with and chatter too in the dinner hall, someone to send notes back and forth too and someone to team up with when you need a partner in the drama class, but being 8 years old means  there is that ever increasing surge of emotions and that quite often results in  the relationships between groups of girls being volatile to say the least!

Friendships can be extremely strong and certain friends will be mentioned over and over again, then suddenly friendships break, its a tough time and a stage that all children have to learn to deal with, finding a way to master the ability to be friends with more than one girl at a time, trying to fit into a new group and not being too heartbroken when your BFF doesn't sit next to you isn't easy.

My daughter has had numerous trouble in the friendship department over the years, having to deal with a new girl coming into her friendship group which upsets the balance; to moving schools and being the new girl herself. I've had times of tears and upset as she says she has no friends, and moments of anguish as I hear stories of her excluding others from her circle.

girl outdoors against skyThe need to be accepted by someone can be overwhelming when your in this stage of development, and finding ways to bridge the gap and make friendships is sometimes difficult and it can really seem that you have no friends at all if you don't have that best friend.

So when we were sent a Japanese Best Friend Kit to review I knew Chloe would instantly see the appeal, friendships are important and she spends much of her life penning notes to her friends, scribbling secret messages to each other.

paint your own kit aimed at girls
This lovely kit is based on a old Japanese tradition called Kokeshi, where wooden dolls are hand painted and passed to friends to treasure.

paint pots and paint brush

The kit contains 3 lovely little wooden dolls, and everything you need to paint them. The designs are simple and delicate with stickers for the details making it very easy to achieve the designs.

contents of mystyle japanese best friend doll kit

Included is secret message paper and gift cards to add to the dolls which have a small hole underneath them to hold the secret note.

best friend doll kit painting
 Chloe loved painting the dolls, taking her time and putting in the effort to make a fitting gift for her friends, this is a really lovely kit and I'm sure girls of all ages would enjoy the creative nature of it and its appealing friendship building motive.

wooden japanese doll painted

 The Japanese Friendship Doll Kit is from MyStyle and aimed at girls aged 8 and above, there is no reason why younger children wouldn't enjoy this kit. This kit retails around £9.99 which I think is good value for the quality of the wooden dolls and extras.

We received this kit free to review, but all opinions are my own.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Boys have long hair too.

This post was written as a contribution to the Boys Have Long Hair, Too Blog Carnival.  The participating bloggers are sharing their experiences, struggles, and opinions surrounding having a son who has long hair.

I few months ago I wrote a post about my experience with the attitudes of people when they see my boys with longer hair and wearing their sisters clothes and playing with dolls making comments such as 'you'll make him gay!' or 'you must have really wanted a girl' you can read that post here. I have a firm belief that children should be given the freedom to grow up and enjoy everything that life has to offer without the restrictions and boundaries of societies perceptions, and I adore the natural free and wild hair styles to match the free and wild adventures!

So when I was invited by Crayon Freckles to join in with their blogging carnival boys have longhair too I really wanted to join in to talk abit more about the various hair styles my boys have had over the years.
I was never eager to get my boys hair cut, and both had very blond hair in their first years and it looked really cute, so simply I didn't want to cut it, these first few years are the only ones really where you as a parent get full say on what your childs appearance is as they are too young to argue, and although you get comments such as 'oh for heavens sake cut the boys hair he'll grow up thinking he's a girl!' I never wanted to give them extremely short hair cuts in the early years selfishly maybe but purely because I much prefer the longer hair styles.

 But  eventually the comments great on you,  'oh SHE's a pretty little thing, or such like, and  my mother always asking when I would cut their hair, so I did trim their beautiful baby locks and for the main part they both sported long graded wedges.

Everytime they would have a trim I would wish we hadn't cut it, but hair is lovely and always grows right back, and then I would leave it a little longer until the next cut, meaning for a percentage of the year they would both be sporting hair that flowed down the back of their necks onto their shoulders.

But then more comments as time went on they were more aware of the comments would say 'I'm a boy!' with defiance and would question hairstyles themselves and occasionally ask for a haircut  so we would trim it again, each time after a trim the hair would thicken up, my eldest is now 10 and has had more haircuts than my youngest and as a result has much thicker and darker hair, but his hair cuts go in the same once a year sort of style, letting the hair grow long in a rough and ready unkept style inbetween.

This photo is one where his hair was perhaps at its longest just over a year ago when he was aged 9.

Then either someone would say something resulting in one of the boys asking for a haircut, or they would just decided perhaps it was getting a bit too long and ask for a cut, so the scissors would come out again neatening it back up into the regular long  graded wedge.

Me personally, will always love the long naturally scruffy hair styles, but I have always said I will never inflict my preferences onto the boys, so on the occasion they ask for their hair short like their dads, or a school friend,  with a lump in my throat I allow them to have it cut even to a very short style. I will never force them to have a haircut, nor will I ever refuse them to try it shorter.

But after having their hair cut short, they say they prefer it longer and then soon enough the beautiful long hair is flowing down the back of their necks again.

Hairstyles really are very personal and it is a tricky one to decided where you trust the childs opinions and follow what they ask for, or do you as a parent have the right to push your opinions onto your children? In my opinion I think long hair looks so much better so for me I will always smile each time my boys hair reaches that untidy wild stage I have grown to ignore the she and her comments which used to bother me so much more than they do now. However as much as I love the longer hair on my boys, I have to and grit my teeth if and when they ask for it to be cut but thankfully they both, for the moment at least, like the longer look too!

Be sure to check out the other amazing bloggers and find out what they think of boys hair styles :)

My Happy Hippie Boy Andie from Crayon Freckles shares why she and her husband have chosen to let their 3.5 yr old son’s hair go uncut.

Boys Have Long Hair, Too: A Father’s View Alex from Glittering Muffins says it happens that not only does his son, Nico have long hair, he as the father has no problem with it either. He personally does not find that long hair emasculates a boy (or adult alike)...

Boys Have Long Hair, Too: A Maman’s View Valerie from Glittering Muffins son has been called a cute little girl for about a year and a half (he’s 2.5 yo). So she corrects people and tells them he’s a boy and loves his long hair (Once in a while she even throws in a “he also loves to watch Strawberry Shortcake”)

Boys Have Long Hair, Too The Monko from Taming the Goblin explains why she likes it when her son is mistaken for a girl and asks the question "Do mums of girls feel this guilty when their child doesn't like having their long hair brushed?"

Sampson Kellie from Our Mindful Life reflects on how long hair gives her son power.

Trials and Tribulations of a Boy with Tresses Carolyn from Mama's Little Muse talks about her experience in raising a boy with hair too beautiful to cut short. It is about how people have reacted; how she has created keepsakes featuring his hair; and also how they have arrived at a game that they play so that the hair brushing experience goes more smoothly.

His Hair, His Decision Lyndsay from Our Feminist {Play}School asks the question “why shouldn't a boy have long hair?”. Her 'answers' are historical, personal and family-specific.

Dinosaur in the Woods!

Dinosaurs are one of them forever intriguing creatures, and they are a sure fire attraction to children everywhere, I guess it is the intriguing unknown nature of these truly amazing creatures which makes them so attractive to children.

dinosaur real toy
So when we were sent a set of prehistoric playmates to review my three couldn't be happier

dinosaur in grass realistic toy real

These toy Dinosaurs can add into almost any role play game creating endless imaginative adventures especially when the dinosaurs are as realistic as the Scleich models, which have amazing details and movable jaws.

looks so real dinosaur toy
These fantastic dinosaur friends are a perfect handbag size which means they can come along on days out,

boy playing donosaur toyThey will entertain on long car journeys or enhance a walk through the woods with added imaginary play as you watch the dinosaurs stomp through the brambles and jump from the boulders, giving children something to occupy them whilst you enjoy the scenery.

triceratops dinosaur toy realistic
Dinosaurs will always be popular, a timeless toy with loads of books and films centred around the iconic prehistoric time period spanning each generation from The Land Before Time to walt disneys Dinosaur, and with Jurassic Park set to be re released in striking 3D next year the dino fever is sure to strike, not to mention the ever popular walking with dinosaur live spectacular tour you cant go wrong with dinosaur gifts for people of all ages.

boy with dinosaurs

And with such an extensive range of dinosaurs to choose from you will find a dinosaur to match everyones desire be it a fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex, monstrous Allosaurus and Giganotosaurus or the less fearsome herbivore the Brachiosaurus still is a formidable creature weighing in at 80tones thats more than 16 elephants!

brontosaurus long necked dinosaur realisitc photo toy

These amazingly detailed models are priced from £2 at all good retailers so be sure to get your hands on some to make a humongous impression in the imagination of your children.

group of dinosaurs together toys realistic photo spoff

Monday, 14 May 2012

Little Rascals need to protect their skullz

Last year I really wanted to teach my youngest to ride without stabilisers, but for one reason or another we never spent much time out on the bikes, and now its once again nearing summer and yet again I hope this year we will manage to crack the 2 wheels!

I love encouraging children to get out on their bikes, and have helped several children learn to ride without stabilisers in the past, but it certainly isn't an easy process and some children just aren't as interested as others about getting out on their bikes.

So to encourage Mikey we decided to buy him a brand new shiny bike for his 5th birthday the other day, we went for a 16" wheel bike, which he can mange fairly well and will hopefully last him a while. He picked out a marvel hero design bike sporting his favourite Spiderman and incredible Hulk characters, and was as proud as could be to have a brand new bike to take out.

Obviously he thought the new bike would mean instant ability to ride, but that was never going to be the case was it, and so falls and bumps are a given for a good few weeks while he masters the unsteady 2 wheel riding.

So when we were sent a Raskullz helmet from Ozbozz I knew that he would instantly love the design and I'd have one less worry about making sure he is protected, because anyone with a youngster who has took an interest in bikes and scooters will appreciate the need for a good quality helmet which the children are not going to moan about wearing, and Raskullz is exactly that.

These super cool helmet designs are instantly appealing to children, we were sent a shark attack design but there are loads of other equally as funky designs in the range including a unicorn,  Mohicans and ladybird.

The Helmets have a adjustable strap which allows you to correctly fit the helmet and removal pads inside, be sure to follow the instructions for correct fitting. The shock absorbing EPS inner shell provides maximum protection and the helmets have aerodynamic cooling vents to ensure they stay comfortable.

But looking good isnt the only reason for having a quality safty helemt, wearing one means you are helping to protect your child, statistics say that wearing a proper safety helmet can reduce the risk of brain injury by 88% should your child have a really nasty fall so it really is important to encourage children to wear the correct head protection, and Raskullz have so perfectly combined the need to look good with the need to be protected, so fashionable in fact that even the celebrity children are wearing them!

Be sure to look at the range of funky fashionable helmets if you are purchasing your child a bike or scooter, they can be found in good retailers such as Argos and Toys R us priced around £19.99
everyone who has seen the raskullz shark helmet has commented on it and Mikey really does love it!

Check out Ozbozz on facebook to see updates on new designs, competitions and much more.
We were sent a Raskullz Helmet to review from Blogmatch but al opinions are my own.
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