Schleich Dino Set with Cave - Review

My son C has always been interested in dinosaurs, ever since the age of 2 when he became obsessed with Andy's Dinosaur Adventures on CBeebies and proudly told me that his favourite was a parasaurolophus (which I promptly had to Google - how could a 2 year old outsmart me?) Four years on, his love of dinosaurs is still there so he was very excited to get his hands on the Schleich Dino Set with Cave (recommended for age 5+).

I love the Schleich range and you can tell just by looking and holding them that they are a great value, well made and will stand the test of time. We reviewed some Schleich animal figures two years ago and they are still going strong, have been borrowed by C's nursery for a while and now enjoyed by both of my children with not a breakage in sight.

The Dino Set with cave comes with four pieces to build the cave (cave, column, stone and stone slab), a Herrerasaurus with a moveable lower jaw, a Psittacosaurus, a Microraptor and a fossil head. Upon opening, the first thing I noticed was the sheer weight of each piece, you know that this is a fantastic quality toy. The cave itself was simple enough for 6 year old C to build alone and he loved that you can transform the front part into a catapult when the stone column is moved.

The dinosaur figures themselves have been crafted with exceptional attention to detail. The colouring on each is second to none and I was surprised to see that they are all handpainted because they look so incredible. The size of the cave and figures are decent too.

C, although a lover of dinosaurs, wasn't actually aware of these types so we had a quick Google about their backgrounds, what they ate and he was very interested in learning more. Watching C's imagination come to life when he is playing with this set is wonderful. He will have them fight each other, try to run or fly away, have one dinosaur remove the stone trying to crush another, all while roaring as loud as he can and you can just feel his excitement.

We love the Schleich Dino with Cave Set as it combines two of my favourite things; playing and learning. I even learned a bit more about dinosaurs too! This set retails at £44.99 but for handpainted, high quality toys that encourage creativity and imagination, it's definitely worth it. You can purchase your own at the Schleich website.

(We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.) 

Peppa's Laugh and Learn Laptop - Review & Giveaway

Peppa Pig is one of those shows that I don't think has been off my television for a single day since I became a parent six years ago. Kids are just drawn to the show and, I'll admit, she's grown on me a little. My four year old daughter E loves Peppa so we were excited to receive the Peppa's Laugh and Learn Laptop and it was perfect timing with E starting nursery.

E began nursery at the start of the month so we will be focusing a lot on her numbers and letter sounds at home to go along with what she's doing at nursery. The four game modes focus on colours, numbers, letters and word recognition so it sounded fantastic.

The laptop is full of bright colours, as well as an image of Peppa on the front, perfect to pique a small child's interest. It also has a little handle so it can be carried around easily. 

Upon opening, you are met with a whole host of buttons and E couldn't wait to see what everything did. Along the side, there is a slider to change activity; Discover, Quiz, What Can You Find? and Music. It's really easy for a young child to choose their activity by themselves and E happily played around with the buttons to see how they'd changed for each different one. 

When in the Discover mode, pressing one of the six buttons in the centre corresponds to one of the images on the backlit screen eg. telling you that there were "three red clocks" - great to teach both numbers and colours. The Quiz activity asks questions such as "What is the first letter of the word 'coin'? At 4 years old, E did need a little help with these but I definitely feel that when she gets playing more and more, it will teach her a lot of things that will get stuck in her head and aid her learning.

What Can You Find? is similar to the Quiz mode but will ask questions based on sounds, so it will play the sound of an aeroplane taking off or a clock ticking, then the child has to choose the correct button. E loves this setting and it would be great for younger children too. The Music mode transforms the main six buttons into piano sounds so when they are pressed, you can create your own tune.

The six buttons along the bottom add a little extra to each activity. Whether it be musical sounds from the bongos, recorder or saxophone or just telling you the character names of George, Danny Dog or Suzie Sheep.

I think this is a great little toy for children aged 2+. I love a toy that is both fun and educational and the addition of a well loved character helps. The Peppa's Laugh and Learn Laptop retails at £19.99 from all good toy shops.

(We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Want to win one for yourself? Just enter via the Gleam widget below. Good luck!

  Peppa Pig Laugh and Learn Laptop

  • This giveaway will run from 13th September until 30th September
  • One winner will win one Peppa Pig Laugh and Learn Laptop
  • Open to entrants aged 18+
  • UK residents only
  • One entry per person
  • No automated entries  


Ravensburger Paw Patrol Four Large Shaped Puzzles - Review

Both my children love reaching for a jigsaw puzzle when they are feeling a little bored and want something fun to do. We have a huge pile already in our house and they love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with seeing the full image at the end. It helps when it's a fun character that they like! 

Ravensburger very kindly sent E one of their Paw Patrol Four Large Shaped Puzzles sets and she was so excited to get started. Paw Patrol is one of her favourite shows with a special love of Everest and Skye. 

Inside the box you get 52 puzzle pieces in different sizes, depending on what puzzle they are for. One puzzle has 10 pieces, another 12, one 14 and finally one at 16 pieces. 

As E has only just turned four, I gave her a little help. She was able to split the pieces into piles happily, knowing which piece was for which puzzle just by looking at the image on the box. 

In the end, it took her no longer than around 30 minutes to complete all four, letting out a little shriek of excitement and pointing out which characters she could see. Each puzzle depicts a different scene and I liked the addition of words as, now she has started nursery, we are working on letter sounds. All four are full of colour and so pretty to look at. 

The Ravensburger Paw Patrol Four Large Shaped Puzzles retail at £9.99 and is suitable for children aged 3+. You can purchase your own at Amazon.

(We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Planning Our Dream Garden

Chris and I have lived together for the past seven years and during that time, we have only ever lived in terraced housing with little to no outdoor space. We've since had two children and we are at the stage where we are looking to buy our own house, as opposed to privately renting like we are right now. We have a few "must haves" such as living in a suitable area close to the children's school, having a third or maybe even fourth bedroom, a garage and most important, a garden!

I feel like I'd love a garden for the children to run around in and play whenever they like as outdoor time is so important and it's much easier than taking a trek to the park. I would also really enjoy having a more grown up space for us. I've put together a little plan of what I would have in my dream garden (although I doubt I'd get the size!).

Outdoor Toys
 Photo by Luana Azevedo on Unsplash

This is probably the most important for me. I'd love to get the children one of those huge outdoor frames that comes with a swing, slide and lots to climb - it would keep them entertained for ages and would feel just like being at the park. Both children have also expressed interest in having a playhouse so I think we'd opt for a wooden one just so it lasts a little longer. I've also seen some companies that specialise in outdoor chalkboards that fasten to a fence. C and E would both definitely love that and it saves them from using chalk on the patio. Win win!

Food Area
I spend a lot of time on Instagram following home accounts and I am completely envious of Mrs Rackley Home's food area outside. Beforehand, I'd happily just have a patio with some gorgeous rattan furniture and a fancy barbecue, but she has gone that little bit further and installed her own built in pizza oven. I need one of those in my life too! It would be lovely to invite all the family around for a nice alfresco meal in the summer with the children playing next to us.

Grow Your Own 

This is one thing that Chris and I have always said that we would like to do - grow our own veg! There is no way I could have a garden without cordoning a little part off just for growing vegetables. It would save us so much money and it would be a great way to get the kids interested in it and teach them where our veg comes from.

Home Cinema
This is another thing that I didn't know I needed until Instagram came along, this time courtesy of Lust Living. Okay, it probably isn't realistic because you'd need a huge amount of space but hey, a girl can dream! Just imagine sitting outside as the sun goes down, with your favourite movie playing via a projector. Bliss!

I admit, I am not green fingered at all and wouldn't know how to keep a plant alive but it's definitely something that I'd love to learn if I had a garden. I'd probably opt for artificial grass for the main part (just so it looks pretty and green all year round!) but I'd love a "frame" of beautiful, brightly coloured flowers around the edge of the garden. I think it would really set the whole area off and just make it a lovely place to be.

What would you have in your dream garden?
(This is a sponsored post.)

The Hard Side of Parenting

When you first plan on having children, it's easy to think of your life with a cute, little baby to cuddle, kiss and dress, teach it new things and help it explore the world. The thought of unconditional love between you both is second to none but although you do get all the lovely stuff, there are definitely some harder times too.

I have been a parent for close to six years now, with my eldest being four so we are well out of our "baby" days. I would like to think that I am experienced enough at all aspects of parenting (minus teenage years of course, I imagine that's a whole new kettle of fish) and I'd like to share some things that, in my eyes, can be tough and have you reaching for a glass of wine on an evening. Life isn't always as it's portrayed on Instagram!

Illnesses and Ailments
This is something that will be ongoing from newborn right up to teenage years and it is the one thing that I still struggle with now. Both of my children had colic as newborns and if you haven't had a child with colic, you are lucky! It was probably the first time that I thought, "This parenting thing can be kind of tough" and I'm not ashamed to admit that I did cry on occasion both out of frustration of not being able to settle the baby to sleep so that I could get some sleep, but also because I felt bad that I couldn't take that pain away quick enough. It's a lot harder when they can't speak and tell you what's wrong too.

As the children get older, you have many other things to contend with, especially when they start school. Threadworms and nits are always lovely, especially when you have to disinfect your entire house and my absolute favourite, sickness bugs where you are the parent so if your child is up in the night vomiting all over the bed and floor, guess who's gotta clean that up?

Of course your child may have skin condition such as eczema, or like my daughter E, keratosis pilaris (sorry kid, you got that from me!) but all I can say is, thank heavens for online stores like The Independent Pharmacy where you can browse and buy in the middle of the night when you're up comforting a child with sore skin.

I am all for letting my children make their own decisions, know their own minds but sometimes it comes back and bites me in the @$$. I've written before about how C has ASD and one thing that he does a lot is question authority. If myself or his daddy give him an instruction or tell him to do something, he will challenge it a lot and "answer back" (we get a lot of "You can't control me"). A lot of the time he doesn't realise that he is doing it, he's mostly mimicking us and as much as it gives us The Rage, we have to acknowledge that it stems from the ASD and try and explain why he can't do that as the last thing we want is him getting in trouble at school.

E, on the other hand, is the definition of a Sassy Diva who thinks she can do what she wants, when she wants. Now, after four years of parenting her compared to six years with her brother, I'm willing to bet that this is a girl thing and will only get worse as time goes on. Lord, help us with the tween/teen stage!

Potty training
Those words almost give me shivers and I am so glad that I will never have to potty train again. There is so much to think about; is my child ready? How do I introduce a potty? Are they too young/old? Should I use pull ups or go straight to pants? And don't even get me started on night time!

C was a late bloomer and didn't train until he was around 3 and was out of bedtime pull ups by 3.5, just before nursery started. Although he took his time getting there, it was relatively easy and it only took us around a week to be dry in the day. I went in feeling optimistic with E because I'd done it before. Wrong. She was terrified of the toilet, would keep having accidents even though she knew where the toilet or potty was but I knew that it was just because she liked the security of a nappy and introducing a potty was daunting. Obviously, we got there in the end and it was like a switch had been flipped. 

Mum Guilt
This is something that I get a lot and it's usually over the silliest of things. I didn't spend a lot of one on one time with the kids because I had a ton of cleaning to do, we didn't leave the house for two days because it was pouring down, we had a busy day so it was McDonald's on the way home rather than a nutritious home cooked meal, I lost my £%$& because E kept kicking her brother and C hit her back so I was a bit of a shouty mum. It happens and that's okay

Would you add anything else to my list? What do you struggle with?

(This is a sponsored post.)

Finally Getting Myself in Shape

My weight is something that I have always struggled with. As a child, I was quite chubby with a round face. My "puppy fat" phase, if you will, which kind of disappeared as I got older.

When I was in my mid-late teens I was always slim, no bigger than a UK size 10 but of course, I was obsessed with my appearance and thought I was fat back then. I definitely put this down to the celebrity culture in the 2000's making me feel like I had to look a certain way.

At the age of 17, I got my first job in a large discount retail store and that's where I met my lovely, long-suffering partner Chris. I spent a lot of time either in work, relying on Boots Meal Deals, Burger King or crisps for lunch or at Chris's house where we would sit in, watch a lot of DVDs in the evening and order takeaways. Needless to say, although I was busy on my feet and spent my time walking to and from work, the weight did pile on and by the time that I fell pregnant with my first child, I was at my heaviest weight of 11st which wasn't good for my 5'4" frame.

I didn't pile too much weight on during my pregnancy which I was really happy about but if you've read my birth stories, you'll know that he was born prematurely at 33 weeks. Both of us were very ill so we had hospital stays, meaning that I lived on hospital food for a few weeks. I ended up losing a lot of weight which I definitely put down to eating better when I was in there and I finally felt comfortable again.

I managed to keep the weight off until I fell pregnant with my second child. This time round, I had a really bad relationship with food and I definitely saw pregnancy as an excuse to eat and it has only gotten worse since I had E. I put all the weight back on, plus more. E is turning four next week and I really have no excuse - I can't call it baby weight! I don't suit carrying a lot of extra weight and I definitely don't feel comfortable in my own body anymore. It's affecting my mental health and I don't enjoy clothes shopping as I don't think anything suits my shape.

With both of my children being out at school as of next week, I am going to find myself with a lot of extra time and I will definitely be spending a lot of that getting myself in shape. I have already suggested joining a gym with Chris (I don't feel confident enough to go it alone just yet!) and I own weights and kettlebells for working out at home - YouTube is amazing for finding fitness videos!

I also want to spend some time meal planning and changing how I eat. I am terrible for skipping meals, especially breakfast, and I know it's true what they say about breakfast being the most important meal of the day. I never feel like eating proper food first thing in the morning so I may even opt to buy a My Juicer UK and make a nice fruit smoothie in the morning to kickstart my day.

I absolutely love most foods, especially vegetables, so I know I won't struggle with that but I know that I need to reduce my portion sizes and eat more frequently throughout the day. Hopefully this means that I won't find myself getting peckish and wanting to reach for an unhealthy snack!

I think what I will find most difficult is cutting out my fizzy drinks but I am hoping that with time, I won't miss it once I lose that craving for sugar.

I'll keep you guys posted with my progress!
(This is a sponsored post.)

Summer Infant Slumber Buddies Deluxe Puppy - Review

Back in February this year, my eldest child C was formally diagnosed with autism. I've written about the possibility of his diagnosis in the past and I will go into more detail on receiving his diagnosis in a separate post soon.

C is very much a sensory seeker meaning that he loves different textures, sounds and lights. I was recently offered the opportunity to review a Slumber Buddies Puppy from Summer Infant and although that might seem a little strange for me to accept for an almost six year old, I felt that it would be something that he might enjoy and may give him that sensory stimulation that he looks for.

  The Summer Infant Slumber Buddy is effectively a sleep aid for babies. The one we received was the Puppy but it is also available in a range of different animals from dinosaurs to bunnies. As well as just looking like a puppy soft toy, you have the plastic "shell" on its back with cut outs of stars, moons and planets with three buttons at the bottom. The first button shines a coloured light through the shapes, projecting them on the ceiling and walls. If you continue to press the same button, you can switch the colour (red, blue and green).

  The second button plays a sound. There are five different ones that you can flip through from heartbeat, lullaby and nature. C tends to always opt for the nature sounds as I think they can be more calming for him, especially when he is starting to feel himself getting upset or angry. The final button is just three different volume controls, we tend to keep ours on the lowest to make it more peaceful.

  C took to the puppy straight away, mostly for the light aspect. He is very aware of feeling himself getting angry or upset and recognises that he needs to take some time away on his own. He's been taking his puppy to his bedroom and burying himself under the duvet, playing a sound and light of his choice. Usually this does help diffuse his bad mood and he gets a lot happier faster - it definitely cuts down on meltdown time!

  Recently he had been a little bit afraid of going to bed and would come downstairs at least four times a night, in hysterics, and we found it difficult to calm him down. I started leaving the Slumber Buddy next to his bed with the light and sound already on, hoping that it would make him feel 1) sleepy and 2) safe with the lights. There are three settings inside the puppy where the battery pack is where you can choose whether to shut it off after 15, 30 or 45 minutes which is great as you don't need to worry about it being left on all night and wasting the battery. I don't know if it's a coincidence or not but we have had no issues with sleep since!

I think this is absolutely amazing and it surpassed my expectations. His little sister E loves it too, the fact that it is cuddly is a massive plus! We have been using it all through the day, not just at night time. It's great for anyone with sensory issues and I can definitely see it being brilliant for smaller babies too.

The Slumber Buddies retail at £24.99 each and you can find out more at the Summer Infant website.

(We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Mrs Wordsmith Social Journey Subscription Box - Review

I am fortunate enough to be able to bring you a lot of reviews from toys to homeware products and very rarely do I come across something that I fall in love with instantly, but that's exactly what happened with Mrs Wordsmith's Social Journey.

Mrs Wordsmith Social Journey is a subscription box suitable for children aged 2-5 years old and its aim is to develop deeper social and emotional intelligence through introducing new vocabulary on the basis of words that the child will already know.

Instantly, anything with the word "social" in it, and I am like a moth to a flame. One thing that I haven't written much about on the blog yet is the fact that C has been officially diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder which really affects his ability to interact socially. Before receiving our one month's subscription to the Social Journey, I thought that it would be a great way to help him add to his vocabulary (even though he is at the higher age range and will be 6 next month) and maybe help him verbalise his feelings and emotions better. I went into this review with positive thoughts and it has completely blown that out of the water and excelled my expectations.

Inside your box you receive:

  • Instruction booklet
  • A Picture Book
  • Word of the Day Activity Book
  • Word of the Day stand
  • Word Cards
The first thing that you are instructed to do is read your picture book. Inside that book there are five sets of words and for this month's box, they were: Self-awareness - hungry words (hungry, peckish, starving and thirsty), Resilience - eat words (eat, nibble, gobble, gulp), Creativity - make words (make, invent, design, concoct), Communication - funny words (funny, silly, hilarious, hysterical) and Community - share words (share, collaborate, include, together). Each set of words begins with a short explanation of the types of word you are going to learn about then each individual word has its own short story and beautiful illustration. You are also prompted to ask your child a relevant question at the end of each story.

C absolutely loved the illustrations and found himself in fits of giggles at some of them (mostly the bubble beards in the 'Hilarious' story). The stories were well suited to his age and he understood them all. It was really lovely to see the same characters throughout the book as it held it all together. Involving your child at the end with a question is a great idea. A lot of the time, C would just say "I don't know" but once I pushed a little more, he really thought about it and gave me some great answers. For example, in the 'Invent' story, you are prompted to ask your child what they would invent if they could invent anything. After a few seconds of thought, C replied, "A robot that would do all of the things that I don't like doing."

Once you have finished your picture book, next up is the Word of the Day Activity Book. This book contains a sheet of paper focusing on each of the 20 words that your child has been introduced to in their picture book. You place your activity book on the stand with the first word displayed for a day or two so that your child can soak up the meaning.

Each word has three activities: Say It (where you will read the word aloud and encourage your child to repeat it, focusing on the pronunciation), Trace It (having your child trace around the outline of the word. This is configuration and will help your child become familiar with it and be able to recognise it when it's in a longer text) and Pencils At The Ready where you rip off the activity sheet from the book and do one of four activity types.
  • Letter jumble - circling the letters which appear in the word to recognise letters and identify letter shapes
  • Colouring - colouring the illustration to boost the retention, develop fine motor skills and improve concentration
  • Free writing - practising forming letters independently
  • Drawing - encouraging your child to engage with and interpret their newly learned word

This is a great way to get your child learning. C has had so much fun doing these that it doesn't even feel like he's learning. After we have finished our word for the day, we put another up on display until the next morning, where he can't wait do his activity sheet. The fact that it's one a day for 20 days is a good thing as I feel like he has enough time to take in and remember what he's learning, rather than being bombarded with a lot at once.

Finally, the Word Cards. These come in their sets and, as you can imagine, each of the words that your child will have learned previously has it's own individual card with the word and accompanying image from the picture book. There are different tasks that you can do, depending on how difficult you want it to be.

  • Peek-a-boo - look at the card and read the word aloud. Cover the word and see if your child can remember the word based on the picture.
  • Storytime - see if your child can tell you a story based on the picture and you can help by asking a question that is relevant.
  • One player game - set all the cards out and see how fast you can put them in the right category
  • Two player game - place the cards in a pile face down, each player draws one card each then race to see who can get their card into the correct category first.

I loved doing these with C and truly felt like it was a little bit of a bonding moment. One thing he really struggles with is losing a game so the two player game is definitely one we will be playing a lot of to try and get him used to it and not have a meltdown. I've also discovered that he has a eidetic memory and the covering of the words is simple for him!

I honestly cannot recommend this enough and I would go as far as to say that it is probably my favourite thing that I've reviewed to date. For someone like C with ASD, visual stimulation and learning is fundamental but your child doesn't need to have ASD to really benefit from this. It will be amazing for starting school and if you begin this early on, they'll be flying when they do eventually go into school. I've since overheard C ask his little sister if she is feeling peckish and telling her that he is starving. It is really nice to hear him using his new words and putting them into context.

The Mrs Wordsmith Social Journey is £21.95 per month but you can choose one bulk payment of £233.40 which works out at £19.45 a month and they also ship throughout Europe and the US.

You can find out more about the subscription at the Mrs Wordsmith website.

(We received this subscription for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

PJ Masks Lights & Sounds Robot - Review

Ever since PJ Masks hit our screen, my kids became instantly obsessed. Our home is filled with PJ Masks merchandise with everything from pyjamas to toys and even duvet sets! 

If you've watched the show, you'll be familiar with the main PJ Masks characters; Cat Boy, Owlette and Gekko. One of the villains of the show, Romeo, created a cute robot that the PJ Masks would be drawn to in the hopes of them bringing him to HQ so that Romeo could infiltrate it. This backfired for Romeo as PJ Robot genuinely liked the PJ Masks so joined their side.

We were sent the PJ Masks Lights and Sounds Robot to try out and being massive fans, both kids recognised him straight away. He looks like he's been plucked straight out of the show with his blue cat print on his front, coral red wings and green lizard tail - all the PJ Masks colours.

As well as just looking like the robot from the show, he does everything that robot does too. Each time you press his head, his face lights up a different expression, he makes his typical, what I call "beep boop" robot sounds then spins and darts off across the floor. Just like having the character in your home!

I really like that there is a switch on the bottom so you can stop the rolling movement. On occasion, especially when the kids are playing in a restricted place with the robot and their PJ Masks figures, they like to just have the sounds without the movements. The robots arms are poseable too and C especially has liked the texture of these and changing them depending on how he thinks the robot might be feeling.

Both C and E have fallen in love with the PJ Robot - anything with lights and sounds is always an instant hit in our house! You can purchase your own from Argos and The Entertainer at a price of £29.99 and it is suitable for children aged 3+.

(We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

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