Tag Archives: toys

Review: Orchard Toys What’s the Time Mr Wolf?

This month the small boy started Year 1 and his learning has definitely stepped up a level. One thing his class are starting to look at is learning to tell the time. We’ve been talking about the time all year and trying to figure out what the time is on our kitchen clock, but Orchard Toys have just brought out a new game – What’s the Time Mr Wolf? to help 5-9 year olds learn to tell the time. We were sent one to put to the test, so what did the small boy think?

Orchard Toys What's the Time Mr Wolf?

What’s the Time Mr Wolf? is based on the popular playground game and is for 2 – 6 players, aged 5 to 9. It contains a jigsaw game board, character pieces and stands, time cards (with analogue and digital times on them), a slot together wolf and a large clock face with movable hands.

The game has been designed to help children to learn to tell the time and it is also fun and easy to play. Like many of the Orchard Toys games, it can be played at different levels. First play and learn to tell the time on a clock, once that skill has been mastered you can move onto learning to tell the time on a digital clock.

Orchard Toys What's the Time Mr Wolf?

When you open the box and get the game out, there are a lot of different elements, so it might look more complex than it is. The first version of the game (which is what we are playing, as the small boy is only 5) is pretty simple.

Choose a character counter (I was badger, he was hedgehog), go to the start and roll the dice. Move however many squares and if you land on a question mark you pick up a card from the stack of time cards. Then you read out the time, for example “ten minutes past ten” and without looking at the clock face on the back you move the hands on the big clock to that time. If they match then you can add your card to your collection board (with the matching character on it). The first one to fill their board wins.

If you don’t get the time right, then you have to return the card to the pile and the next player has a go. If you land on the wolf you shout “dinner time” and you must take a card from your collection board and feed it to the wolf. The small boy especially liked the shouting part, but I guess shouting is optional.

What's the Time Mr Wolf?

We played after school and the small boy couldn’t wait for his dad to come home from work to play it with him too. It’s great that the What’s the Time Mr Wolf? game is so enjoyable for him, it really helps with his learning. He’s got the game out most days after school which is really encouraging for me. I do have to watch him, I’m not saying he cheats, but I am saying that cheats never prosper!

I can’t really comment on the other version of the game for older players, as we’re not there yet and we’ve not played it, but it does help to teach older kids how to tell the time on a digital clock.

The What’s the Time Mr Wolf? game from Orchard Toys is made with sturdy recycled board and has a wipe-clean finish. All Orchard Toys games and puzzles are really robust and we’ve still got some which are four years old and have been played to death.

What’s the Time Mr Wolf? is another cracking educational game from Orchard Toys. If you can make learning fun, then it doesn’t feel like learning at all.

To find out more about the What’s the Time Mr Wolf? game, visit the Orchard Toys website.

We were sent the Orchard Toys What’s the Time Mr Wolf? game fore review purposes. All Images and opinions are our own. 

Win a Baby Annabell Newborn doll

With gorgeous new additions for Spring 2016, my first Baby Annabell – part of the Baby Annabell family, the UK’s most popular large doll brand – allows little ones to learn all about nurturing role-play from birth. With dolls and accessories suitable for children aged 0, 1 and 2 years +, your baby can enjoy cuddling, feeding and playing with their very own my first Baby Annabell dolls.

My first Baby Annabell Newborn doll is the perfect first doll for newborns and very young children. Her super soft body is made from cuddly material, featuring a cute facial expression. Suitable for children from birth, she even comes with a rattle inside her tummy to soothe your little one. Age 0 months+

Baby Annabell Newborn doll

Win a Baby Annabell Newborn doll 

I have one lovely Baby Annabell Newborn doll to giveaway. To be in with a chance to win one, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5.The winner will receive a Baby Annabell Newborn doll.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 15th August 2016.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winner, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
11. Your email address may be passed on to to the promoter for marketing purposes, you may unsubscribe at any time.
12. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
13. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Review: The Baby Annabell Brother Doll

My five year old is a lovely kind boy (he has his moments of being a horror, I’ll not gloss over that). One of the nicest things about him is that he’s brilliant with younger children. He is very caring and likes to “look after” them. He helps them up when they fall over, he will cuddle them if they’re upset and as a result he’s very popular with his friends little brothers and sisters. Alas he is destined to be an only child, but we were sent the Baby Annabell Brother doll to play with and he’s been in his element ever since.

Baby Annabell Brother Doll

I don’t think I’ve ever had a doll like this before. The Baby Annabell Brother from Zapf Creation is incredibly lifelike. The doll, which he named “Samuel” gurgles, coos and cries, sucks when he’s drinking or sucking his dummy, he cries real tears, drinks real water and can be soothed by rocking him and patting his back or stroking his face. Not only does he blink but he closes his eyes and snores when he’s asleep. It’s incredibly lifelike.

Baby Annabell Brother Doll

My son loves it, he coos over it and tries to soothe it when he cries, feeds it and tucks it up to sleep in his bed. He’s very proud of baby Samuel. The Baby Annabell Brother doll actually responds to whatever is happening around him, rather than just making noises at random. Whatever technology is inside it to make it be like a real baby is very clever.

Baby Annabell Brother Doll

The Baby Annabell Brother doll comes with a baby-grow, a hat, a bottle, a dummy, a bib and a heart shaped pendant. You can play with the doll without the batteries in, but without them it won’t interact with you. It takes 4AA batteries and there is an on/off button just below the back of his neck, which is useful for when you need it to stop.

Baby Annabell Brother Doll

The Baby Annabell Brother doll is suitable for children aged two+ and you can buy extra accessories for the baby if you need to. The doll is widely available for around £50 and given how much it gurgles and interacts with you, this is a very special doll indeed.

You can find out more about the Baby Annabell Brother doll on the Zapf Creation website.

Note: We were sent the Baby Annabell Brother doll for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Review: Kinetic Sand Build – Crash ‘Em Cars

Working in a toy shop I’m very aware of the allure of a box of kinetic sand. It’s been one of the biggest sellers since before Christmas and people are fascinated with how it feels and behaves. It’s 98% sand and 2% silica oil and behaves a bit like playdough but without the sticky horror if it gets walked into your carpet. It’s a real winner for me and the small boy can’t keep his hands off it when he visits me in the shop.

kinetic sand

We were sent one of the newer kinetic sand products to try out, the Kinetic Sand Build – Crash ‘Em Cars. The kit comes pretty much ready to go and contains moulds to make the cars and cones, two car bases, a couple of ramps and two packs of coloured sand – red and blue. Always tough colours to choose from in a Mancunian household.

We opened the box, the inside of which is a colourful track and we began to build our vehicles. You press the sand into the plastic moulds and then put them onto the chassis. This takes a little bit of time, but it’s fun to do because you’re playing with the colourful and tactile sand. 

Once you’ve “built” your cars and made your cones then it’s up to your imagination to run wild with it all. The boys raced around the track smashing into the sand cones and crashing into each other. There was lots of giggling and fun being had.

kinetic sand

The kit had them thoroughly engrossed building and racing their cars for a good hour or so, and they’ve gone back to it several times since, though the different colours of sand are all mixed up now. I think kinetic sand is brilliant. It’s nice to have a kit to play with and do something more than build and shape with it. Kinetic sand continues to be incredibly popular and you only have to play with it for a few minutes to understand why.

The Kinetic Sand Build Crash ’Em Cars set is priced around £14.99 and is available in toy shops and online now. To find out more about the Kinetic Sand range, visit the Spin Master Toys website.

kinetic sand

Note: We were sent a set of Kinetic Sand Build – Crash ’Em Cars for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Top Ten Toy Picks from Spring Fair 2016

Over the weekend I went to Spring Fair in the Birmingham NEC, if you’ve never been, it is THE event to attend if you’re a retailer looking for new suppliers and stock. I went with two hats on, as a blogger and as the Marketing and PR person for a toy shop I work for. The Spring Fair was huge, every hall in the NEC was filled with a different category, but we (me and That Lancashire Lass) were primarily interested in the children’s toys. It was a  long and tiring day, but it was incredibly interesting and I’ve got a better idea about what will be under everyone’s Christmas tree this year (too soon?). 

Here are my top picks from the toy hall at Spring Fair 2016 (Hall 5).

Hippychick Ltd (stand 5Eo1) – Pl-ug Den Building Kits, retailing from £12.99, it is an innovative den building kit, by using the specially designed hooks, suckers, clamps and pegs you can build your own indoor or outdoor den. All you need is a sheet or blanket and some imagination. 

Bigjigs (stand 5G01) – I’m a big fan of the Bigjigs wooden toys, but their “Green Toys” were new to me. The Green Toys are classic toys constructed from recycled plastic and other environmentally friendly materials. I particularly liked their selection of chunky vehicles which had a nice retro vibe. Suitable for ages 1+ I know my 5 year old would very happily play with these.

Fiesta Crafts Ltd (stand 5L04) – Fiesta Crafts are well worth looking at full stop, but my favourite new thing on their stand were their “Stickabouts”. A bit like modern day fuzzy-felt, the Stickabouts have a scene on a board and a load of “stickers” to place, but these glue-free stickers easily peel off and re-stick anywhere you want. If they stick to the wall then they easily peel off. This is a bit of a welcome sticker revelation to me, all the fun of stickers but without having to spend hours scraping them off the wall. 

Clockwork Soldier (Stand 5M49) – these are a new brand to me, but I loved the look of the products and I want mentally picturing them on the wall in my son’s room and seeing him playing with some of the craft kits. They have a beautiful range which includes space, dinosaurs, robots, superhero and dress up. I’m going to campaign hard to see these in the toy shop, I think they’ll sell incredibly well!

Keel Toys (Stand 5D20) – I can’t resist a cuddly toy, but my eye was drawn to the Christmas Elves, these are soft, cuddly and smiley Elves which would be a great gift for December, they’re reasonably priced and would be a jolly visitor from the North Pole is you were going to do Elf on a Shelf this year.

Brainstorm Ltd (Stand 5L27) – one word, StikBots. I think these are going to be pretty big this year, these are small pose-able plastic robot figures with suckers on their hands and feet which you can use to create stop-frame animations with using a downloadable app. They come in an array of colours and will be great for creative kids.

Orchard Toys Ltd (Stand 5K41)  – this stand is worth visiting just to see the Giant Railway Puzzle linked up to the Giant Road Puzzle, and the village and the airport. The Giant Road Puzzle is a classic, and they’ve recently launched a whole raft of new puzzles to accompany that and I know that these will sell incredibly well in the toy shop and kids will love making their own town and transport system at home. Fantastic.

Marbel Ltd (Stand 5K50) – the Marbel stand was showing off some of their new Hape wooden toys products, I’m not sure what if anything I’m allowed to say, but if I use the words “wooden train”, “xylophone” and “just awesome” you know what to look out for later this year. Hape products are really well made wooden toys at a good price, great for babies and toddlers.

Stepping Stones Marketing (Stand 5L47) – are the UK distributors for Lilliputiens baby and nursery toys, these are quite captivating soft toys, but with hidden surprises designed to stimulate the child’s senses. We were quite taken by the lemur cot and pram toy as well as the adorable fox, we liked the gender neutral colouring and the quality of these products.

Jamm Toys (Stand 5L10) – I’m new to Jamm Toys and I was impressed by their range, in particular the cool retro wooden scooters stood out to me, they look like Vespas but for small children. I’d be surprised if I don’t see a few of these being scooted around our local park come Christmas!

spring fair 2016

Spring Fair was enormous, if you’re going then go with a game plan, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a very long day. 

I’ve picked out just ten things I loved from my day at Spring Fair, but honestly there were hundreds of fantastic toys to go and marvel at. I had a really interesting time and I learned an awful lot about toys and what will be big this year. Fantastic!

Review: Nick Baker’s Snail World by Interplay

We had our first proper parents evening last week, we weren’t really sure what kind of report the small boy would get, but it was all very positive, he’s settled in well, he’s made good friends, he’s interested in the world around him. We were both really pleased with his progress this term, we only really want him to be happy, to keep up with his peers and to not be naughty, all of which seem to be the case. As a reward for his good report we gave him a little (and secretly educational) present – Nick Baker’s Snail World by Interplay.

Snail World is a lovely little kit. It contains a clear tank with lid, tweezers, a magnifying glass, a pipette and an information booklet all about snails and how to look after the snails you collect for your tank.

snail world

We followed the instructions and set about finding moss and suitable leaves for the tank, then the snail search began, looking under flowerpots, in dark corners and under piles of leaves. The small boy was really excited to go on a snail hunt, thankfully it had been a rainy day so there were snails lurking in the garden. We found two tiny snails and two medium sized snails. We put them in the tank, fixed the lid on securely and settled them into their new home in our cool kitchen.

snail world

The small boy really loved looking for the snails and using the tweezers to gently pick them up and put them in the tank. We used the magnifying glass to look at the snails more closely, and whilst we were outside we also spotted a spider in its web so we had a good look at that too. The magnifying glass is great for looking at other insects and it’s helped to develop his interest in entomology, which is no bad thing.

The kit comes with an information booklet, it’s really important that you read the booklet carefully before you collect your snails, it contains information about washing your hands and how to use the magnifying glass safely and so forth. The booklet also covers the different kinds of snail you may encounter, plus all about their biology, caring for your mollusc as well as lots of facts about snails. It’s a well put together booklet, informative but accessible.

There are quite a few different kits in this range including ant, triop, worm, ladybird, spider and butterfly, so if snails aren’t for you then there’s probably something else more to your taste.

The small boy has enjoyed caring for his new snails, feeding them leaves and bits of cucumber, and dropping water into the tank every so often. Things like this are interesting for him to do and have a number of stealth educational benefits for him, and even I’ve learned a thing or two about our garden snails.

Note: We were sent the Interplay Nick Baker’s Snail World kit free of charge for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Review: Orchard Toys Shopping List Game

One of the most popular games we have at home is the Orchard Toys Shopping List game which we’ve had for about a year now.  It’s been all over the place with us and has kept us entertained during family meals out or quiet afternoons at home. The Orchard Toys Shopping List game was probably the best money we’ve ever spent on a game.

We first discovered it in the school nursery, where the children played with it with the teachers to help develop a range of skills including matching and memory, personal and social skills as well as observational skills. I think it’s also really good for language development, as we always use it to talk about going shopping and what we are putting in our basket or trolley.

orchard toys shopping list game

I was really pleased to see that Orchard Toys have recently released an updated version of the game,the rules are the same as ever,  but there are a few different items to put in your trolley and some different, modern shopping list options. It’s not vastly different, but it’s different enough, so much so that we all got excited about the new game.

Orchard Toys shopping list game

As you can see from the photo above the Orchard Toys Shopping List game has had a bit of an update – I love the shopping list on the smartphone, because that’s how I shop!

Orchard Toys Shopping List game

Playing the game is really easy. You just select a shopping list and a trolley or basket, turn all the shopping cards over so you can’t see what they are (each one has something from the shopping lists). Then you take it in turns to pick a card and see if it’s on your list, if it is you put it in your trolley, if it isn’t you put it back and whoever does have it has to try really hard to remember where you put it when it’s their go. Everyone takes it is turns to turn over a card and whoever fills their basket or trolley first is the winner!

We couldn’t wait to get the box open and get playing, Grandad joined in too and we played three games in quick succession and have played it every day since! The Orchard Toys Shopping List game is as good as, if not better than it ever was! We love it!

Review: Big Alphabet Puzzle from Orchard Toys

A month or so ago I found out that I’d been selected to be an Orchard Toys Toy Tester (check out the lovely badge in my sidebar). I was so excited about this as we’ve been very keen on Orchard Toys puzzles and games since the small boy was nought but a tot. My local toy shop Giddy Goat Toys stock a brilliant range of them, so he’s grown from doing the chunky 2 piece puzzles to conquering huge 40 piece jigsaws from Orchard Toys. We were sent the brand new Big Alphabet Puzzle to try out.

Big Alphabet Puzzle

The Big Alphabet Puzzle predictably has 26 pieces, each with a letter from the alphabet on and a colourful picture. The puzzle is printed on good thick board so it’s hard to damage and scuff them, the pieces are also a good size to be easily picked up and placed by little hands.

Big Alphabet Puzzle

The Big Alphabet Puzzle also comes with a matching poster which we’ve stuck on his wall. The Big Alphabet Puzzle is suitable for ages 3-6 and is made in the UK. We already have the giant alphabet puzzle, so I was pleased to see that they were very different from each other.

Big Alphabet Puzzle

The small boy (aged 4) was very excited to get his hands on a new puzzle, so much so that every picture I tried to take of him doing it was really blurred. We sat down and did it together. He took the lead and I just helped him when he needed me.

The Big Alphabet Puzzle helps to improve hand eye co-ordination, encourages observational skills and helps to improve his literacy. As we did the puzzle we talked about words that began with each letter, not just the word pictured, and we tried to remember what the next letter in the alphabet was.

Big Alphabet Puzzle

Since we received the puzzle he’s gone back and tackled it by himself, and with our help most days. He enjoys the challenge of a jigsaw puzzle and he likes doing them with us, especially talking about the pictures and what he’s doing. I know he’ll enjoy doing this puzzle for a long while yet.

He’s just moving to reception at school, so this kind of puzzle is perfect for cementing his learning and helping to extend and develop his existing skills and knowledge. It’s everything I would expect from a company like Orchard Toys – interesting, engaging and well made.

The Big Alphabet Puzzle from Orchard Toys is widely available online and in good toy shops.

Note: We are Orchard Toys Toy Testers and we were sent this product free of charge for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

BigJigs Play Patrol…fingers crossed!

It’s not unreasonable to suggest that we love toys in this house. In the last three and a half years our house has slowly but steadily filled with all manner of colourful things to entertain our small boy. One thing we were dead set on was that where possible his toys should be pretty good quality, preferably wooden, durable and ideally they shouldn’t beep, sing, or play teeth-grindingly annoying tunes.

Alas some of those have found their way into his toy-box, but largely the things that entertain him most are his cars, his wooden kitchen, a Manchester United scooter (for shame) and his pride and joy, his BigJigs train set.

A couple of weeks ago we applied to be one of the BigJigs Play Patrol Agents and today we heard that we made it through to the final 21. Excited is not the word!

There’s no voting, so I’m not begging for your support, but I just wanted to share our collective joy and excitement. Whether we get picked or not we’ll still always be happy and loyal BigJigs fans. We should hear in the next few weeks or so, we’ll keep you posted, but please keep your fingers crossed. Exciting times.

BigJigs Play Patrol

Some of our BigJigs Track

Properly Published!

I love writing, I always have. I like twisting words into sentences and I like putting my thoughts and feelings on paper and getting them out of my head. That’s probably why I love blogging.

Just before I started writing this blog I was asked by a good friend to write an advertorial piece for her shop, Giddy Goat Toys in Didsbury, Manchester for a local parenting magazine Mums & Dads. The article was about keeping kids of all ages entertained during long journeys.

I was incredibly honoured to be asked and I was really, really pleased with the finished article which was featured in the June issue. You can read my article here. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Mums & Dads