Friday, 27 November 2020

Gift ideas that are perfect for children and teens of all ages { Gift Guide }

*AD - Some of the products in this post have been gifted. 
These items are marked with a * but inclusion has been on my terms and selection. 
All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. *

This time of year we are probably all thinking of the same thing, gifts! I usually share at least 3-4 gift ideas posts in the run up to Christmas. This year it is going to be a little bit different. I will be sharing just two gift ideas posts and they will both come over this weekend so be sure to keep an eye out for those. 

It's hard to buy gifts, particularly for children, you never know if it something they will enjoy or may already own if they don't give you a specific idea. I wanted to share some ideas that I think children and teens would like, in this gift guide of ideas I have tried to include something that will be good for as many ages as I could. Some will even be versatile to cover all ages but there is something for everyone. 

Mama Designs muslin squares - Geometric Hearts

Let's face it, babies just aren't that into Christmas. They love the lights and the excitement but what do you buy for a baby who is just weeks - months old? The answer is muslin squares, I can't even begin to explain how many times a day in the early months I reached for muslin squares. They can be used for anything from cleaning up or catching baby sick, milk dribble through to a soft light blanket to put over baby. I love these muslin squares from Mama Designs, they are cute while being really soft, 100% cotton and a good size too. The Geometric heart design is just one of the four designs available so you can find a design you like. 

Moon and Me 20cm soft toy from Playskool - Pepi Nana and Sleepy Dibalo

Moon and Me has been a huge hit in the last two years, recently it's been a favourite for Avery in particular and I have found these adorable soft toys. The whole character range is available but you can see the Pepi Nana and Sleepy Dibalo soft toys above that I have for Avery. They are so soft too! Each soft toy in the range is 20cm tall with it's own fabrics and design for each character to match those in the show. I think they are of a good quality although the Dibalo is a bit smaller in height I think it's still perfect for small hands, it is super soft and cuddly too. Perfect for toddlers since the range is suitable from 18 months. 

Busy Things - 1 year's subscription *

Getting online to learn has seen an increase like never before this year. I have found that my children are really enjoying this online learning at home. So I had wanted to include a learning tool or site that can offer that learning in a safe way. We recently reviewed Busy Things and we have loved it.  
Busy Things offers access to hundreds of curriculum based games and activities on their site. It is all done in a safe way with children even having their own log in's under the family umbrella to help build online knowledge and independence. Each family can even have up to 5 children added so you only need one subscription for the whole family. 
I think Busy Things would be a fantastic gift and would be particularly good for those who will be getting a big gift of a tablet or laptop this Christmas. A gift subscription to Busy Things also includes a certificate that can be printed out and gifted in an envelope to be opened since that is all part of the Christmas excitement.

You can purchase a gift subscription to Busy Things for £34.99 (currently on a special offer for £24.99!)

Two Pack of Kids Headphones with microphones

This one kind of connects to the last gift so if you are co-ordinating gifts for a child or children with tablets or laptops as a gift then this two pack of earphones for children would be perfect. You get two different colours in the pack, which also includes a splitter. What makes these headphones great is that they are made specifically for children so they have a noise dampener which will ensure they never go higher than a safe level for children's ears, even at top volume! The noise level is capped at 91dbs which makes it perfect for travelling on a plane or in a car as it will cover the engine sounds.
One feature I really like about these particular headphones is that they are foldable! You can fold down each side and nestle them inside the head band area to make them much more portable for travel and great for storage. The headphones also come with a 2 year warranty. 

You can purchase your own Two Pack of Kids Headphones for £22.99

The Gruffalo Jigsaw Book 

Books and puzzles are always a surefire way to strike gold in our house. Scarlet has been particularly enjoying The Gruffalo lately and I knew when I found this Jigsaw book that it would be a big hit with many fans out there too. Inside you can read along to the whole story on one side of each page while the other has a 12 piece puzzle you can take out and complete. They fit snuggly back in place so they can be stored right inside the pages of the book. Each jigsaw features a big picture you can find inside the original story book so is easily recognisable to fans. Even so there is a smaller image on the adjoining page for reference

Lego sets - Lego and Lego Friends 

Many children are fans of Lego, who can blame them, it is so much fun! One disadvantage is that it is quite expensive for the sets which is why I really like that you can get smaller sets like the ones above. Each year we have at least one set as a request and I think they can be a really good gift too. 
The smaller sets available for both Lego and Lego friends are different but still create a small world that be added to or used with other sets or alone. I think this element is really important as it doesn't have to depend upon them having other Lego. 

The first set of the two above is the Lego City Forest Fire Response Buggy and Firefighter set which includes all the pieces to create a Fire Response buggy with water blaster, Firefighter, Tree, Flame and an owl. Which creates the perfect scene for a fire rescue when the building is complete. 

You can purchase this set for £9 at The Entertainer using the link above.

The Lego Friends Heart Box set above is the Emma's Summer edition but there is one for each main character in the Lego Friends range. This set includes the pieces to make a heart shaped box, Jet ski, underwater seaweed/ coral with a crab holding a gem and Emma with flippers and a snorkelling helmet. Which is not only everything you need for an under water adventure but the heart box also doubles up as a storage container making this set perfect for on the go play too! 

You can purcase this set for £7.99 at Amazon using the link above.

Fine Art Pins and Prints from Pulse Gallery *

Last but by no means the least is a gift idea that is perfect for older children, pre teens and teenagers. Actually these gifts are even perfect for adults! Which is the incredible fine art pins and prints from Pulse Gallery. This year they have released a whole limited- edition  range of fine art pins and prints that are Disney and Pixar themed! They are officially licenced by Disney and Pixar themselves.

You can see two of the fine art pins from the extensive series available in the Disney collection above. Each collection has it's own theme and style of pin available but each design is limited edition and even comes with it's own certificate of authenticity which will be on the back of the card the fine art pins come on. I was honestly completely blown away by how amazing these fine art pins are. I do collect pins myself but I don't have any which are of the quality and detail that goes into those from Pulse Gallery really shows the Fine Art quality you are guaranteed from their collections. 

Firstly I am going to talk about the Mad Hatter which is from the ACME/Artland cutout series. The fine art pin stands at 1.5 inches in diameter and is made with a gold edging and outlines. It is full of vibrant colours that perfectly show the Mad Hatters uniqueness from the original Alice in Wonderland Disney Movie. Even the backers for the fine art pins are Disney themed with the iconic Mickey Mouse shape. This Mad Hatter fine art pin has only 200 pieces in the edition making it a very limited edition. 

The other fine art pin featured above is honestly even more impressive. The Aladdin Carpet Ride pin from the Aladdin series is made with a gold back and outlines which are expertly filled in not only with the vibrant colours but you see transitions of colour in the clouds which of course don't have a clear outline.  If you look closely you can even see the brown iris of Princess Jasmine and Aladdin's eyes. This is so impressive especially since this pin stands at a 3 inch diameter, it is about the size of my palm!  Just like the other Disney themed pins you can find Mickey Mouse shaped backers, this large size has three on the back. The Aladdin Carpet Ride fine art pin is one of the 250 in the edition created.

If pins are not what you are looking for then you can take a look at the whole range of fine art prints available from Pulse Gallery instead. They are just as impressive when it comes to quality and detail. There is a very extensive range available including those which are licenced by favourites including Disney, Harry Potter, Starwars and more with prices starting from £55.

I hope you've gotten an idea or two for some of your Christmas Gifts this year from our selection in this guide. It really does cover something for all ages from the babies all the way up to the teenagers in your life. There are some really lovely gifts included but if you have another great idea why not share it with me and others in the comments down below? 

Merry Christmas!

Learning fun with Busy Things {AD - Review}

 * Disclaimer: The subscription featured has been gifted for the purpose of this review. *

* However all thoughts and opinions are our own. *

This year has completely changed how I view learning at home, We've homeschooled and seen a new online learning system for homework become the new normal. Now with Christmas and a New year on the horizon I have been looking into finding out apps and online sites that are good for educational games and learning content in a safe way. When I heard from Busy Things I was really interested to see how their whole system worked. 

Busy Things is an online learning system that allows your household to access learning games and activities using their own logins without losing control of what children are accessing. The site is set up to allow children access to games and activities with independent login details, easy to navigate pages and the content available is based on their school curriculum. It's a perfect combination of safety and technology based learning at home. 

When you first log in to Busy Things you open up a new window and your parent account is able to access a bar across the top with options including talk to us, my children's profile's and settings. In the my children's profiles section you will be able to add up to five different children. Each child profile lets you add a unique username and password for independent log in, their own name, age/learning level and a customisable icon for their profile. 

In this children's profiles area you will also be able to edit which areas and activities are available for your child on their profile. This is perfect for if you want to ensure your child focuses on certain learning areas or if you need to remove anything for any other reasons. I like that this is a feature although I can't see it being one we make much use of. 

Once everything has been set up your child or children can get in using their own login details (you can also access through the parent account too). Their screen is set up with easy access in mind, the home screen is designed with large square shapes that contain both an illustration and a category name, these can be subjects or a general idea of what activities will show up when you click it.

Throughout the whole Busy Things site there are hundreds of activities and games to play that cover the learning ranges from nursery (age 3-4) up to year 5-6 or Primary 6-7 here in NI (age 9-11). Depending on the age and learning level you will be able to choose and see different activities and games. Scarlet  (nursery) sees a very different options than Dylan (Year 3-4) does. However some of the activities are very similar across the board, for example the current festive games and activities are the same across the board but are altered for each learning stage.

While there are many educational areas inside Busy Things you can also find activities that are just for fun, Scarlet in particular enjoys playing the games in this section. She is still exploring all of the areas and activities available on Busy Things but she has particularly liked the Personal, Social and Emotional development games like building a sandwich. Now that doesn't sound to you and me like something under that category but the pop up for opening the game gives you talking points that makes the game relative. I like that Busy Things has thought the games and activities through enough to provide points for conversations and engagement with children to add on to the learning.

Dylan so far is enjoying the maths based learning, he likes being able to use his strengths to make the games work. He has particularly enjoyed playing the newer Christmas themed game Santa's Sleigh Dash - Mental Maths. It encouraged him to get his sleigh to the end and advance more on his maths in a timely manner to finish the game. I actually think we'll use this games words version once he's got his goal of hitting 5 stars on the Maths game. 

I am honestly surprised by how great the Busy Things site is. I feel secure knowing what the children can access and not having to doubt myself on if it is suitable for them. Scarlet is happy with the games she can access while many are similar enough to Dylan's games that they can both play at the same time without fighting, which is a huge plus for me! 

Another great thing about Busy Things is that they offer the option to gift a subscription, with Christmas coming up I think this can be a great gift. It even comes with a printable certificate. This year both Dylan and Scarlet have asked Santa for a new tablet, being able to add on to that with a subscription to Busy Things adds on an excitement and an instant playability with minimal setting up. 

I am delighted with Busy Things and I think it is something that will be able to work for every family, you can easily access and change the learning level of each child so even those who are more advanced in learning can still be involved and challenged to learn. 

You can purchase a subscription to Busy Things for just £34.99 but over this Black Friday weekend they have a sale for just £24.99 what a bargain! 

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Our favourite books - The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & the Beast

Taking time to read in the evening for our bedtime routine has always been a big thing for us as a family and it's a part of our daily lives now. I really love that having this regular reading time means all three children are often found with a book of their own through the day at some stage and it's these books that I like to think of as their favourites. Our favourites tend to change along with the book selection which I swap out at least once every month, from here on out I wanted to start regularly sharing what books are big hits and end up being read over and over again. Let's face it, we all have those books our children just can't get enough of!

The big favourite book this last month was The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & the Beast written by Abuse Longstaff and illustrated by Lauren Beard. It's actually one that has been in our collection for a while but has been recently rediscovered and enjoyed, particularly by Scarlet. She found it in the bookcase first and has been found almost every day sat at her little table looking through all the pages. 

The book is from The Fairytale Hairdresser collection which currently has eight books published with the wonderful main character Kitty Lacey, a hairdresser who lives in Fairyland. Her clients are all familiar characters found inside our beloved children's fairytales. Each story has it's own little twist from the originals and I find we all enjoy the little differences. I think The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & the Beast is actually my personal favourite from the series too. 

In The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & the Beast you follow the story of Bella, Kittie's friend who is a painter. There is a big ball coming up in Fairyland to celebrate the birthday of Cinderella and Prince Charming's son. It's as you can imagine a very busy time for Kittie Lacey getting everyone ready for the ball. While on a picnic break with Bella to test out hairstyles it begins raining. They escape to Beast's castle for shelter, well I'm sure you know most of the story from there. Although this version contains a few more twists and a whole lot more hair! 

We see Beast's feelings coming out in The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & the Beast as he expresses his fears and confides in his friend Kittie Lacey. You can read all about who Beast was before the wicked curse was cast upon him and watch his transformation as Kittie Lacey works her hair magic just in time for the ball and his true transformation but will Beau be able to find his own perfect style once he is no longer a Beast?

I have so many favourite pieces to this story but one that I really enjoy seeing is that Bella is actually a person of colour, she has beautiful dark skin and her hair is a voluminous afro. Kittie Lacey can be seen to use the right combs and hairstyles for Bella's hair. It's refreshing to see a whole mix of characters and skin tones featured inside a story based on the fairytales we all know and love. 

The story also touches several times on the various jobs people in Fairyland have, the jobs are vast with Bella herself being the official royal artist. How cool is that? There are many jobs in Fairyland which have wonderful characters with their own stories. Usually in fairytale style books the things like jobs are quickly rushed over or completely left behind. This aspect adds to the reality comparisons in The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & The Beast. 

All in all I think it's a great book, it's diverse, full of great characters and has the whole fairytale experience but in a different way than the classics. The bright colourful illustrations bring the whole world to life on the pages of the book too. We would defiantly recommend this book to any fairytale style book fans. It makes a great addition to any collection and would even make for a good Christmas gift.

You can purchase your own copy of The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & The Beast for just £5.94 on Amazon. 

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