Buying birthday gifts for 5 year old girls

Since the small boy started the school nursery in September he’s made a whole load of new friends (26 of them to be precise) which is great obviously, but it does mean that most weekends my little social butterfly is invited to two or three birthday parties, which can mean only one thing. I need to buy lots of gifts for 5 year old girls and boys.

Birthday parties are an expensive business. When we first started attending we’d merrily spend £10-£15 on each party gift, but as the year has progressed the birthday budget has shrunk somewhat. Obviously special friends and relatives do get a bigger share, but these days my budget is around £5-£7.50 mark depending on what I’m buying.

Because I am the mother of a boy, I find buying presents for boys pretty easy, I look at what he’s playing with and then buy something similar for his friends. Girls on the other hand are a little more tricky to buy for. They seem a little bit more particular than boys, and there’s a whole raft of Princess politics I do not understand, it doesn’t help that I am still unable to grasp which is Anna and which is Elsa. Leave me be, I am a lost cause.

Happily I’ve found a really useful website designed especially for busy people who need a bit of guidance for when they’re present buying –  What2buy4kids. Searching for what you need is really easy,  you just narrow down your search criteria by age, gender, price and the kind of gift you’re looking for and everything which is suitable appears. If you search for gifts for 5 year old girls and there’s a really good selection of toys to choose from.

gifts for 5 year old girls

What I especially like is that not all of the toys are pink, fluffy and covered in glitter. There are some gorgeous toys, games and puzzles which would make lovely birthday party gifts for 5 year old girls. There’s plenty to choose from even in my reduced budget and they offer free gift wrapping no matter how much or little you spend and free delivery if you spend over £50, and if you go to as many birthday parties as us that is easily done.

What2buy4kids is definitely worth checking out, especially if like me you’ve turned buying birthday gifts for 5 year old girls and boys into a strange kind of hobby. Life’s too short to spend too much time on the hunt for presents for other people, What2buy4kids helps take the stress away from it all. Anything that makes life easier is always a winner!

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Dreaming of a Bella Bathroom

Growing up in the 1980s I have had the honour, nay the privilege to bathe in some rather special bathrooms. When I went to uni in the mid 90’s, we had a delightful mustard bath in the first year, before moving into a flat which had (brace yourselves) a maroon bath with matching tiles. It was so dark it didn’t show the dirt, so I suspect it wasn’t cleaned by us for the duration of our tenancy. Please don’t judge me, I was a student, not cleaning was what we did best.

After uni I bought a little house with the boy I love, we didn’t have much money but the bathroom was appalling, I could barely find the courage to sit on the toilet. It was mint green suite with matching tiles, some of the tiles had pictures of galleons on them, but most of them were falling off the wall. One of the first things we did was rip that bathroom out. We bought the cheapest white suite we could find and the cheapest white tiles, it was the whitest, brightest bathroom in the world.

We’re now in our (hopefully) forever home. It’s a lovely house, light and quite spacious, but having handed over one arm and one leg to buy the place, our redecoration budget was limited. The bathroom is fine, serviceable, it works, but it’s not especially what we would’ve chosen.

If I could have my dream bathroom would I go maroon again? Would I crave the kitsch of the green galleon bathroom? Or would I go white and bright? I checked out Bella Bathrooms to see if they had any pirate ship themed bathrooms (they do not) and found what I’d choose if I could design my dream bathroom.

Bella bathrooms

My first thought was how am I supposed to pick just one of these gorgeous bathrooms? I went for white obviously, (you didn’t seriously think I’d go maroon again did you?) after mulling over a huge range of traditional, modern and gorgeous contemporary bathrooms, I listened to my practical voice and went for this beautiful suite, the Frontline Pano. I’m drawn to it’s clean modern lines, stylish but not so fashionable it’ll be out of favour by tomorrow. I don’t want a big chunky bath suite, I have an average bathroom which this would look fabulous in.

Being a family bathroom it’s important that we have a laundry basket the size of the moon, regrettably I’m yet to find a company specialising in moon sized laundry baskets, but I think this Premier High Gloss White Laundry Basket should hold a couple of loads at least. To be honest I’d be tempted to buy two and have one for lights and the other for darks, but that may be a logical step too far for my boys.

Bella Bathrooms

Ours is a chilly bathroom so a radiator is essential, this Reina Nerox Single Polished Stainless Steel Designer Horizontal Radiator bangs all the right buttons for me. It’s gorgeous, practical and stylish. And the finishing touch to my stunning new fantasy bathroom? It’s got to be the HiB Vibe Portrait Bluetooth Bathroom Mirror. It’s not just any bathroom mirror. Oh no, it plays music. I have to have this musical mirror. It must be mine!

My dream family bathroom, clean, white, contemporary and practical, but with a mirror which plays all my favourite music so I can dance my socks off in the shower. What more does a girl need?

This is my entry into the Bella Bathrooms Blog Competition, more details about the competition can he found here.

Toot the Tiny Tugboat app review

Since we discovered Toot the Tiny Tugboat on Channel 5, the small boy has embraced life on the ocean wave and now wants to forge a career as a harbour master, or similar. It was with some joy that I was given the chance to try out the Toot the Tiny Tugboat app. I’m always on the look out for apps and games which my four year old will enjoy playing, especially ones with a hint of learning about them, so I was keen to see if the Toot the Tiny Tugboat app would fit the bill.

The Toot the Tiny Tugboat app is aimed at pre-school age children, so it perfect for my four year old. It is designed to help little ones improve their sea-faring skills as they help guide Toot around the harbour to meet his friends, play some fun games and collect some rewards along the way.

Toot the Tiny Tugboat app

The app is lovely and colourful, with simple but striking graphics. Players can explore Toot’s Harbour using the easy controls. There is music (with options to mute if it all gets too much for you) from the series as well as seaside sound effects such as the sound of seagulls and waves crashing and lapping against the harbour walls.

The app has a few games to play with, you can explore the harbour, play I Spy (our favourite) where you use some special binoculars to spot characters from the show who are dotted all over the harbour and there’s a towing game where you can help tow the boats in and around the harbour using the control buttons. This game is a bit more difficult than the I Spy game but enjoyable once you get the hang of it.

Toot the Tiny Tugboat app

I really liked the I Spy game the best, which is just as well because we played it over and over. It changes every time and it’s a good way to explore the harbour and learn more about the characters. The towing game took a little more to get the hang of, testing our understanding of left a bit, right a bit and following the green line an and out of the harbour.

It’s a lovely, simple app. Currently priced at £2.99 it has no in-app purchases, which is something I always look for because we’ve all heard those horror stories. It’s available from the Apple store. It’s a sweet app which he had played with each day and is great for keeping little ones entertained for a few minutes when you need them to sit still for a short while. Our love affair with Toot the Tiny Tugboat continues!

For more information about Toot the Tiny Tugboat, visit the Toot website.

Note: We were given the app free of charge fore review purposes, all opinions and app screenshots are my own.

My Sunday Photo 19.4.15

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I will write hard and clear about what hurts

Sometimes I sit at this laptop and write words, sentences, paragraphs, essays about my pain. My physical pain less so, but my emotional, mental pain is often eased by writing those words down so that someone, anyone will read them and hear me and understand my pain and suffering.

I feel very selfish writing that about MY pain and MY suffering, but my mental health makes me selfish in that respect. I am in almost every other aspect of my life selfless, but my illness makes me selfish for wanting to be heard.

When I write about MY pain I am writing MY story. Everyone has a story, ten people trapped in a room together will share a story, commonalities, but their individual accounts will differ. It doesn’t mean that the other nine people are wrong and I am right. This is MY truth. Their version is their truth and I’m fine with that.

When I sit at my laptop, sometimes choking on my tears, or chewing my lip raw with anxiety, I tell my story, I spew out my pain, my shame, my demons onto the screen knowing that someone somewhere will relate and they will often reach out, and together, even for a few minutes we know we are not alone feeling these feelings and thinking those thoughts.

I have no doubt that since writing this blog nearly two years ago I have scared some old friends off, I’m too candid for them or they are scared of my darkness. Equally I know for a fact that I have made far more friends for being open and being me than I have lost.

Sometimes what I write can be raw and emotional, or too near the knuckle for some, but that’s how it is inside me, in fact some of my writing only hints at the darkness inside because I am mindful of who may read this now and in the future and that my words are a record, but a record of MY truth alone.

I will continue to write as Hemmingway suggested, I will “write hard and clear about what hurts” because I will not be ashamed of what I feel, I will not hide away in the shadows because my mental illness is somehow shameful to others. I speak for me and I will not be forced to be ashamed of myself. I have enough demons of my own to slay without being stigmatised by others.

Do not start with me, you will not win.

write hard and clear about what hurts

Heroes of the City YouTube Channel Review & Giveaway

We’ve been enjoying playing with the Heroes of the City app for a good long while now. It still gets played with regularly, especially now the small boy has inherited my old iPad. He has also discovered YouTube and we let him watch cartoons and things on it sometimes. He was really delighted to discover that Heroes of the City had their own YouTube channel. I was delighted too because it’s been the school holidays and it’s kept him happy for half an hour while I’ve got on with a few chores.

Heroes of the City is an animated TV-series for preschool children about rescue vehicles, it is set in a small town where everybody gets to be a hero. The TV-series contains a lot of warmth and teaches the importance of friendship and what we can be achieved by helping each other and working together.

I love that there’s a proper Heroes of the City YouTube channel now and so does the small boy. He loves watching the adventures of Pauli Police Car and Fiona Fire Engine as well as the clumsy Calamity Crow. He loves emergency vehicles so anything emergency or rescue themed is always a winner.

On the Heroes of the City YouTube channel there are already 6 hours of video including music videos, compilations, Crafting with Calamity Crow, Memory Games and a range of full episodes and shorter clips for smaller children. The videos are high quality and are suitable for children 2-6 years and the YouTube channel is available in 18 different languages.

It is now firmly part of our YouTube repertoire and it’s something he can enjoy alone, or watch with us and we can talk about the themes as a family. If you want to take a look at the Heroes of the City YouTube channel you can find it here.

I’m really pleased that I have a selection of Heroes of the City goodies to giveaway to one lucky winner. You could win a kids T-shirt, a DVD with episodes from season 2, and a die cast car by entering using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Heroes of the City YouTube

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Terms & Conditions:
1. This competition is open to residents of the UK only.
2. There is no cash alternative offered.
3. To enter, please use the rafflecopter widget above.
4. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries. The winner will receive a Heroes of the City kids T-shirt, a DVD with episodes from season 2, and a die cast car.
5. The competition will close on 15th May 2015.
6. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this competition.

Helping children cope with bereavement

Whatever age you are, dealing with the death of someone close to you isn’t easy and is one of the most emotionally painful things a person can go through. When we lose a loved one as an adult, we usually have an understanding of why they died and we’re able to work our way through the grieving process. Children, no matter how mature they are, can really struggle to understand why their loved one died and deal with their complex emotions in the weeks, months and years following their death.

Co-operative Funeralcare have teamed up with CHUMS the Child Bereavement, Trauma and Emotional Wellbeing service to create a DVD and resource pack to help families and children aged 7- 16 cope with the loss of a loved one. There are four DVDs in the series, ‘Our Year Since Mum Died’, ‘Our Year Since Dad Died’, ‘Our Year Since Gran Died’ and ‘Our Year Since Grandad Died’. I was sent the ‘Our Year Since Mum Died’ DVD to watch and understand.

The DVD, which can be picked up free of charge from any Co-operative Funeralcare Home is a well put together package. The DVD is animated which makes the content more accessible to the children it is meant to help. Each DVD comes with a booklet of guidance notes to help families, schools and other professionals support the bereaved child.

Each of the DVDs follows the first year following the death of a loved one and talks about how different family members may react and cope with the death of a relative, as well as looking at how Gemma (the girl in the DVD), copes and tries to get back into normal daily life, including dealing with big family occasions and anniversaries like Mother’s Day, birthdays and Christmas.

Bereavement is such a difficult subject for anyone to talk about, having this DVD is a great way to open up the conversation and help children to understand that what they are going through and how they are feeling is all perfectly normal and it’s fine to feel angry or abandoned or just incredibly sad.

The DVD has some downloadable resources which have been developed to help teachers, adults, support workers etc. offer the support a bereaved young person may need. This includes a lesson plan, a PowerPoint presentation and some questions and answers.

The booklet of guidance notes comes with the details of a range of organisations that can help with child bereavement, offering counselling, advice and support where needed.

Bereavement is a difficult subject for many and the reality is that in the UK a parent of a dependent child will die every 22 minutes, leaving 41,000 children without a parent each year. These Co-operative Funeralcare DVDs are an excellent resource and one which will help many children through an incredibly difficult time in their lives.

If you, your family or organisation are interested in obtaining a copy of any of these free DVDs, you should contact your local Co-operative Funeralcare Funeral Home directly. There are previews of each of the DVDs on the website, as well as more information about how and why it was made and further information about the child bereavement charity, CHUMS.

child bereavement

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My Sunday Photo 12.4.15

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Room on the Broom at The Lowry

We’re on half term this week and next and it can be quite difficult to find things to do to entertain a small lively child. Thankfully I had the foresight to get some tickets for us and a couple of his school friends (and fellow blogger Expression & Confession) to see Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson at The Lowry in Salford Quays.

Julia Donaldson is a real legend and a fantastic author, her stories are great to read out loud so it’s no surprise that they work so well on stage. Her most famous book, The Gruffalo is brilliant and we went to see the theatre adaptation last year, it was a Tall Stories’ production and we were all transfixed from start to finish.

Room on the Broom

Room on the Broom is a lovely story of a good witch and her cat who whilst off on an adventure lose a hat and gain a dog, lose a bow and gain a bird and lose a wand and gain a frog. The witches broom is soon overloaded and snaps, leading to a dangerous encounter with a dragon and with a decent bit of teamwork and a sprinkling of magic the dragon is sent packing and a new, luxurious broom appears.

It was a wonderful, colourful story brought to life incredibly well by the four talented actors, with some lovely puppetry, funny voices and some great songs which we had in our heads all the way home. There was a genuinely funny moment when one of the actors used the wrong funny voice and all the actors corpsed and the audience fell about laughing, but they recovered well and earned a deserved round of applause.

The show lasts a little under an hour and is suitable for children aged three and above, my four year old and his friends loved it, especially the animals. There’s some nice audience interaction, great songs and enough little snippets of fun to keep the grown ups happy (quoting sections of Bohemian Rhapsody etc). It’s fun, it’s lively and it’s a lovely thing to do over half term.

It’s a great show and well worth catching if you get the chance. It’s on at The Lowry in Salford Quays until Sunday 12th April. More dates in other theatres are on the Tall Stories’ website.

Note: We were given free tickets to see Room on the Broom at The Lowry for review purposes. All opinions are our own.

Fun with Photo Booth Props

As a family we are fond of many things, chocolate, cute puppies, going on the swings and indulging in a considerable amount of silliness. Over lunch this Easter we cracked open a box of Photo Booth Props from The Little Things and had a bit of a giggle.

Dressing up is one of the small boy’s most favourite things ever anyway so having a selection of facial hair, funny mouths and wacky glasses to mess about with was his idea of post dinner perfection.

Photo Booth Props

These funky Photo Booth Props come in boxes of twelve and cost £5.99. I think they’d be great fun for parties for adults and children alike. Each piece is made from fairly sturdy felt stuck to a stick as you can see in the pictures above.

There are a good variety of glasses, moustaches and mouths to choose from and you can mix and match to create your own silly characters. We liked them a lot and we had great fun playing with them, since Easter weekend they’ve been played with a lot which is always a good sign. Thumbs up for these Photo Booth Props!

Note: We were sent this selection of Photo Booth Props from The Little Things free of charge for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.