Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Imaginext Fire Station Review

We absolutely adore Fisher-Price in our house, they are a brand that we personally chose for Leo when he was too young to make those choices. The play mat, the swing and some of his very first toys, were Fisher-Price. As Leo has grown we have added many more to his collection, and very recently when we were asked if Leo would like to try out the Imaginext Fire Station, we leapt at the chance.

Leo is almost 3 and is loving everything emergency service related, when we are out in the car he loves coming across a fire engine, police car or ambulance with their sirens blaring. There have been a few instances where he has almost demanded that I follow them, and gets very irate should another vehicle block the emergency service vehicle from his sight. I had already foreseen just how excited Leo would be at the prospect of having a play fire station to play with, and the arrival of the Imaginext set only confirmed my expectations.

The Imaginext Fire Station comes pretty much assembled and is just a case of..

1 – Restraining the toddler long enough for you to get all the bits and pieces out of the pack.

2 – Popping in the accessories, like the water pump, flag and hook onto the fire station.

3 – Letting your imagination run wild!

Assembly is always an aspect that I consider when purchasing a new toy, it usually falls into one of two categories. Is it something I can assemble myself… Or will I need Luke to do it? Thankfully the Fire Station is so easy, I wouldn’t really say it needed assembling. As soon as it was all out of the box, Leo was free to speed the fire engine around and put out as many fires as he pleased. He marched the little firemen up the fire escapes into the fire station, he swung them from the hook (for reasons only he will know).  He put the water into the water pump and pressed the button launching it across the room. In fact he was so engrossed in his game that he didn’t even say goodbye to me as I went back to work from my lunch break.

Granny advised that he played all afternoon with his fire station, and the truck that had its sirens on more than off (it even came with batteries so it was ready to rock and roll).

When the time came for me to take Leo home, I found him clutching the fire station in his arms. He was worried that I would forget to bring it home with us. Since the arrival of the Imaginext Fire Station Leo has not stopped playing with it. He absolutely loves it. Leo has always loved imaginative games, so this is the perfect toy to really get his creative juices flowing.

It has been so lovely watching Leo dream up games, and acting them out with the firemen, the fire engine and of course the station itself. When putting out a fire you hear Leo making the nose for the water as he spurts it out of the hose, and onto the burning building. He has balanced the fire-fighter’s in the lift on the back of the truck…And when they have fallen out quickly called an ambulance to come and pick them up! It is a toy that he can use his imagination with completely, he can make absolutely anything happen and I think this is precisely why it is such a big hit.

In an age where everything is going digital, and where kids toys have so much technology, it does really make me appreciate the simple toys just like this one, that just allow kids to be kids.

From a parent’s perspective I think this is a great addition to the toy collection, nothing beats sitting down on the sofa and watching Leo play out his games right in front of me. Hearing him play so happily and just making the rules up as he goes along. The quality of the toy it’s self is great, it’s sturdy and made for little hands. I adore all of the detail that has gone into it, and on the right hand side you have a fireman’s pole that the firemen can actually use! My favourite bit of this set has to be that it comes with everything you need to play straight away. There are 3 firemen included, the fire engine with working lights and sounds, the station and the accessories. I have found in the past with some sets that you have to purchase everything individually, so it is a real bonus that everything comes in the one set. There are so many different aspects that keep Leo interested, and of course playing for hours.

The Imaginext Fire Station retails at £50.00, and when I first saw the price tag I have to admit that I thought it was a little steep. Having actually seen the play value that is to be had with this set, the quality and of course having everything included, I now think that you would end up paying more, either buying a cheaper version and it breaking… or buying one that doesn’t include all of the accessories that are included in this set.

Amazon currently have the Imaginext Fire Station for sale at £47.99, at the point of writing this review.

Leo adores it and I love watching his imagination come to life. This is a toy that is going to continue to be very well played with, and as Leo continues to grow I am guessing that games will too.

Disclaimer: We were sent the Imaginext Fire Station for the purpose of this review. All views and opinions are completely honest and my own.

Five reasons for your kids to play football

Today, the range of sports and activities that kids can get into is huge, but there’s a lot to be said for choosing a traditional team sport like football. Here we list five reasons why 2014 is a great year to get your children started playing the ‘beautiful game’.

1. It’s a World Cup year, which means there will be football mania in the media leading up to the World Cup in Brazil. If your children are learning how to play a sport that’s going to dominate the TV and internet for the next few months, they’ll feel much more a part of what’s going on. Betfair has the host nation Brazil as the favourite team to win the title with odds of 3/1, with Argentina as second favourites at 9/2. If you’re feeling patriotic and want to back England, they’re more of an outsider on Betfair at 33/1.

2. Football is a great sport for learning skills such as kicking and dribbling a ball, passing to other players and the skills you learn in football will improve hand-eye coordination in general.

3. Playing a team sport teaches children about the importance of team work, the fact that you have to work together to win the match. It can also help kids understand that it’s not just winning that counts, and that the fun of taking part is just as important.

4. Going to football practice will mean meeting a whole host of new friends. Even if your child is a little shy and reserved, if you can persuade them to try out a team sport like football, they will get to meet new people and make friends. Social skills can really be developed through team sports. 

5. Football is good old-fashioned exercise. If you have children who prefer sitting on the sofa and playing games on the tablet to spending time in the great outdoors, putting in a weekly exercise fix will be really good for their health. Having to run around for an hour will use up excess energy, encourage their appetites and should mean they get better sleep too.

There are lots of local football training sessions that you can take your kids to for a try-out. Football is often a sport played in PE lessons throughout their school years too. Give your kids the chance to try out this fun and skill-building game.

Disclaimer: This is a featured post

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A Trip To The Farm

Each year since Leo was a baby, we have taken a trip to the Cotswold Farm Park. I absolutely love seeing the difference that comes around in the space of a year. Each year new doors open to Leo, new opportunities that he was too small to understand or appreciate during the last time we visited.

This year Leo is 2 months shy of turning 3 years old, and can be a real cheeky little guy. The whole ride there, Leo was so excited at the prospect of giving the lambs a bottle, in fact it was all he would talk about. Arriving early Leo had a lot of time to think about feeding is baby sheep, or Timmy as he likes to refer to them as. When the lady came to open the gate I was pretty sure Leo would have already scaled it and been deep within the farm… But luckily we kept Leo on the right side of the fence until the gates were opened up.

Being the Easter holidays we were among a big crowd of farm goers, who had all seized the good weather to pay a visit to the Cotswold Farm Park. I do much prefer to visit during term time when all of the older kids are at school, you get to see so much more and have a much more hands on experience. Going with Leo who has no concept of waiting in line, this suits us and everyone else for that matter, much better.

You know those days where toddlers are nothing but trouble? Our trip to the farm was one of those days! From entering the park to the time we went home, Leo had a bee in his bonnet. I put this down to it being so incredibly busy, Leo thought everybody who spoke, were directing conversation towards him. In matter of fact those conversations were between other people’s families… but of course Leo and this bee in his bonnet had lots to say. One man said ‘Come on kids! Let’s go and feed the lambs!’ and the next thing I know.. Leo is piping up and saying ‘NO! I FEED THEM!’. This pretty much sums up how Leo reacted to people generally that day… Moody little monkey!

Our first point of call was of course to the play areas, Leo is at an age where he is just drawn to these places. You can’t possibly walk past them… You have to bypass all of the animals and go for a play. Leo could have quite happily spent his entire day just within the play areas if we had given him half the chance. After prising Leo out of the first play area… He discovered the electronic tractors. He was over the moon, he was still under the advised height to play, but you trying explaining that to a toddler who wants to drive a tractor! Keeping him off the tractors was quite simply not going to happen. Before it got really busy this wasn’t such a problem, he could make the tractors move by putting his foot on the accelerator, but steering was his downfall. Leo bumped into walls and needed pulling out, he caused traffic jams when other little children refused to go around him…It was wall to wall mayhem for my little farmer.

Of course Leo thought it was hilarious that he was causing such a palaver, the more traffic that came to a standstill the better. We very, very quickly got Leo away from the tractors as  my toddler along with his road rage were just going to get us into trouble!

Leaving the play areas behind we ventured into my favourite part of the farm park, the area where all of the baby animals are housed. They have all sorts from lambs, kids and piglets, to baby chicks and rabbits. It is a great hour to get really hands on with the animals, and also the area where Leo’s wish to feed a lamb was to come true.

We grabbed a spot in line near the very front, and Leo was having a great time patting the baby goat as we waited. He got so engrossed with what he was doing, that he seemed to think that he was the only one who was allowed to stroke the animals. I caught my mischievous 2 year old shooing other little hands away from the goat. I had to explain to Leo that the animals were there for everybody’s enjoyment and he had to be kind to the other people who wished to get involved. Luckily the bottles were now being brought out, so Leo was very soon feeding the sheep as he had been promised.

Leo’s mood didn't improve much even when we moved on into the next part of the farm, the only smile that spurred across that beautiful face of his was when he was climbing hay bales! Leo and his Aunty were watching the milking session that was being put on when Leo decided to stumble and take a little fall. Hearing Alice scream I ran over to see her pulling Leo back up, he had fallen down one of the hay bales… But thought the whole experience was fantastic. I on the other hand had my heart firmly in my throat…

Moving quickly away from the hay bales we thought it best to make our way to the bouncy pillows, it was apparent that Leo had lots of energy that needed to be let off. Along the way we came across the zip wire…. Of course Leo wanted to have a go. I explained to my dare devil toddler that he was too little to ride alone.. But Mummy would take him on. Because obviously.. That was the safer option. Right?

We took our place in the line, and we waited patiently. Leo took this opportunity to growl at a man and his children who were talking about how it was their turn next… Being a stickler for the rules Leo growled ‘NO! MY TURN!!’ at them. I once again apologized for Leo’s waspy behavior and hoped they would just ignore his bad tempered ladybird attitude!

So it was now our turn to ride the zip wire. I sat on the seat and placed Leo on my lap, I got him to hold on and made sure he was safely on. Then… I pushed off. We quickly began to pick up speed. We went faster… and faster.. Until I thought ‘Oh dear! We are going to bump at the end!’. And with that thought we went *BUMP*!

Our combined weight had hurtled us down the zip wire at a speed no one else had picked up! Had I seen what was going to happen to us before I considered taking Leo on… I probably would have thought twice! The bump at the end of the zip wire swung us upwards, and we were pretty much upside down by the time the swing had reached it’s peak. All I could think about was falling off and taking Leo with me. It really was an ‘oh sugar moment’. 

As luck would have it I managed to keep us both on the swing. We came to a stop and we both dropped to the floor, and do you know what the toddler said? He said 'MORE! AGAIN!' There was not an ounce of fear in his voice at all. Just pure excitement!

Obviously... I didn't really fancy going for a second ride!

The rest of our time at the farm was spent on the swings and of course the bouncy pillows, and then we decided it best to take my tired, grumpy two year old home. The general public had endured more than their fair share of Leo's attitude for one day!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Millionaire Genie with 888Ladies Review

I am not one to usually play games online, heck I don't think I would have the time even if I did want too. This all changed one evening this week though, when I was asked to share my thoughts on the new Millionaire Genie Game over at 888Ladies

Having never used their site before I had to register, this was a simple and stress free experience, and within a few minutes I was up and running. Ready to give the new game a whirl. For the purpose of this review I was provided with £5.00 credit, so I located the game and then wondered what I was supposed to be doing!

Thankfully there is a information section that explains exactly how the game works, because I really did have no idea. In fact I didn't realise straight away that this screen existed, and sat there scratching my head for a little while while the games music played in the background.

Millionaire Genie is a slot machine type game, so the aim is to line up matching symbols. You can play spin by spin or you can set it up automatically so that it just keeps on spinning until the automated turns run out, or your money does! Whichever happens first.

The game is made up of 15 tiles, each with a different symbol on, you can bet as little as 1p per tile (15p per game) and this is exactly what I chose to do. Even after reading the instructions I had no idea what I was doing, but decided to give it a go and see what happened. I wanted my £5 to last as long as possible so the 15p per game seemed like a grand idea, I set the automated spins up so that I could just sit back and see what happened. 

Every so often gold lines would link up some of the tiles, and I guessed that meant I had won. I couldn't work out the connection between the symbols though and still don't really know what it meant. I could see that when the gold lines connected the tiles up I had won small amounts of money, but I don't know exactly what for.

On one occasion I got a bonus game which resulted in me winning a couple of pounds, which of course made my game last a little longer, but eventually all of my credit had disapeared and my game came to an end.

On a personal note for me it didn't really tick any boxes, I watched the money go down and came away from the game with nothing to show for it. It isn't a game that I would play again with my own money, but at least now I can say I have tried my hand at online gaming.

You can now vote for your favourite UK bingo games, this could be for Millionaire Genie or your own favourite game. You can vote right here.

Disclaimer: I was provided with £5 to play Millionaire Genie and have been compensated for writing this review, but all views and opinions are completely honest and my own.

Visiting Edinburgh

Back in my college days we took a class trip to Edinburgh. It was a place I had never really considered visiting until this trip, and a place I haven't been back to since. But it was a fantastic few days, there is so much to see and do in this beautiful city, and it is a destination that we have spoken about returning to as a family. 

During my jam packed visit I pretty much ticked every tourist attraction on the list, all except Edinburgh Zoo. Edinburgh Zoo was a attraction that I was sorry not to visit, but between Edinburgh Castle,  The Dungeons, Our Dynamic Earth, the ghost tour and the National Galleries... I wasn't left with much spare time. In fact I could have done with a break to get over the college trip!

In those few days being in Scotland's capital city, I did fall a little in love with the architecture and being around so much history. The atmosphere was buzzing and I found myself enjoying every moment. I would love to go back and visit in the near future, and the zoo is already on my list of 'must visit places' for when I do. This is a place that is sure to be a big hit with Leo as he adores nothing more than peeking into the enclosures to see what he can see. 

There is a possibility of baby Panda's coming to Edinburgh Zoo at some point this year. I have recently read that the zoo has artificially inseminated a female Panda. No one will know whether or not the insemination has been a success or not, potentially right up to when the Panda has her baby. This could be anytime from August to September... So if you are thinking of visiting the zoo, baby Panda's could be on the cards!

One of the great aspects about visiting Edinburgh is that there is accommodation to suit every budget. When I visited back in 2006 as a student we actually stayed in a hostel, this suited us all perfectly. As students we didn't really have the money to spend on hotels, and for the amount of time we were actually at a standstill was for those few hours of sleep we fit in before we hit the tourist attractions again. This time around when we do visit Edinburgh again we will be going as a family of 3, so we have completely different expectations and requirements. On this occasion we will be looking for a comfortable base where we will potentially be spending much more time, given that Leo's bedtime is 7pm... So from then we would be in for the night. 

I don't know exactly when we will be setting a date to take a trip, but it is something that we will definitely be looking to do in the not so distant future. I love showing Leo the world, and sometimes you don't have to travel to far away to find some magical destinations. 

I for one will be keeping my eye on the Edinburgh Zoo website to see if any baby Panda's are on the horizon...

Disclaimer: This is a featured post

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Football Mad? This Could Be For You...

Football mad? Have a child who is?


If you are 12 to 14 years of age, enter the Football for Friendship competition and you could be in with the chance to become an internationally-known junior sports journalist!

The winner will fly to Lisbon to represent the UK against finalists from 15 other European countries in the quest to be crowned Europe's Best Young Sports Journalist.

To enter just click on the link below and follow the on-screen instructions:

Remember the deadline for entries is Friday, 18th April.

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated for sharing this post.

The Dyson Digital Slim DC59 Review

Back in December I was invited along to visit Dyson so they could un-veil their latest cordless vacuum. The Digital Slim DC59.

I was really looking forward to seeing what changes had been made, as I had been using the DC44 for a year and absolutely loved it. So I was certain that I would be as equally impressed if not more by the changes that they have implemented in this time frame.

Before I used the Digital Slim for the first time well over a year ago, I have to admit I didn't think I would be a fan. We have a full size Dyson so surely I wouldn't need anything else? Before long though I was reaching for my cordless vacuum over the big one each and every time. I found it so convenient, especially with having a toddler around the house who literally just seemed to magnetically attract crumbs in his wake.

While we were visiting Dyson’s Marketing Head Quarters we put the DC59 to the test against a number of competitors. I found this really interesting because some of the models prices were very similar to the Dyson, yet the performance was absolutely abysmal. We were vacuuming up flour and other objects that we had placed on some tiled flooring. Some of these competitor models couldn’t even get it all up off the floor, and I found this rather shocking. The DC59 rocked it, and even managed to get the flour that had fallen down a crevice.

Seeing the DC59 up close and personal I could see instantly where some of the changes had been applied. The first thing I noticed was how it looked, in comparison to my DC44 it looked more modern and visually better. In terms of power, they have cranked it up a notch so that it now sucks up just as much dust as a corded vacuum, thanks to its 2 Tier Radial Cyclones.

What’s in the DC59 box?

Crevice Tool
Combination Accessory Tool
Removable Wand
Mini Motorised Tool
Docking Station
Battery Charger
Quick Start Guide
2 Year Guarantee

I have been using the DC59 since December 2013 and have been really impressed with it. I can definitely feel the extra suction while I am vacuuming, and it sucks up so much more efficiently. I use it all around the house and very, very rarely get the full sized vacuum cleaner out these days. I leave it on charge via the handy docking station that you can attach to a wall, so that it is always ready to go.

In terms of the actual use and handling between the DC44 and the DC59 there isn’t much difference. You still have the same button that you have to push in to turn it on, and then release to turn it off. For me personally the biggest improvement is that it has better suction.

The DC59 is completely cordless and runs on battery power (Nickel Manganese Cobalt battery). The battery life on these may not sound very long but I think you would be surprised when it actually comes to using it around your house. We live in a reasonably sized house, it’s not big but there is not a room in the house that I don’t use this vacuum cleaner. The run time for the DC59 is 26 minutes (This has been improved from the 20 minutes run time on the DC44), but thanks to the run time enhancing trigger you can get the very most out of your Dyson. Un-like many other hand held cleaners that stay turned on from start to finish, you can get more out of your handheld because it doesn’t have to stay on. So in between cleaning tasks you can turn it off, for instance when you wander from the living room to the dining room. This means that the battery time is only used for vacuuming and you aren’t loosing precious time.

Of course there is a boost mode, that gives you more suction but decreases your running time. I find that it is handy to have the boost, because there are occasions that warrant it. The dust collection compartment may seem small, but I have never struggled with emptying it frequently.

I recommended the Dyson DC69 to my partner’s family after I was so pleased with it, and they went out and bought one. I was really surprised to find out that they weren’t as impressed with it as I had been. They didn’t think that the suction was that great in comparison to their full sized vacuum. The only instance I have found the suction a little lacking is when the head is off, but with the attachments are on, it definitely lives up to my expectations.

The filter should be washed and air dried each month, admittedly I am guilty of forgetting to do this, but it is so easy to do. Instructions on how to do this are included within the manual.

As this is a hand held vacuum you can use it for absolutely everything, and that is exactly what we do. From cleaning the entirety of the house, from the cobwebs on the walls, to the stairs and of course the rooms. We even use it when we clean the cars. The number of different attachment’s that are included make it a great all-rounder.

Over all I have really benefited from the improvements, and really like the DC59. I just love the convenience of being able to un-plug from the dock and get on with the cleaning. There is no hauling the big vacuum out, plugging it in and slowly going from room to room. It is just easy.

Disclaimer: I was provided with the Dyson DC59 for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are completely honest and my own.