I am really looking forward to going to Into The Trees over the weekend of the 9th and 10th September. We have never been before but it looks like it is going to be a fantastic family adventure.
There is loads of different activities going on- Slacklining, Story Telling and Den Building. I am most excited to try out Archery, Axe Throwing and Mountain Boarding which all sound awesome!
It looks like there is going to be plenty to do for all the family at Into The Trees including pond dipping and mud monsters which even my little brother will be old enough to join in with and will love doing.
My sister, Lottie, has been doing a little bit of a project with our latest Aquabead set.
She is making a 3D Lightning McQueen from the Aquabeads Cars 3 3D range. It is more complicated than the Aquabead sets we have reviewed previously because it is built up in layers, so you do a layer, spray it with water and leave it to set before taking it off and starting the next one.
Lottie has really enjoyed this and has done a layer each day over the last week. You only need to leave it for a short time before you can remove each layer but we have found the longer you can leave them the better they set so doing a layer each day has worked well.
Lottie is really pleased with how Lightning McQueen came out- it’s brilliant how ‘real’ it looks when made out of Aquabeads. You can even drive him around because the wheels really turn but Lottie is so pleased with it she is going to put it on display in her bedroom.
We had already been enjoying our Aquabead sets but Lottie enjoyed the challenge of making a more tricky set. She did need some help with stacking the layers to make the final car but otherwise, other than needing Mum to cut up the templates which are on the instructions for her she was able to do it all herself. Her tips are to use loads and loads of water (far more than you think you need), leave them to set slightly longer than you think they need and be really careful to not use the grey beads instead of white! We also found that you need to try and squash the layers together a bit so it’s useful to have a heavy small box to put on top of them to keep it all flat.
We really like the 3D Aquabead sets, and they do some other ones as well as Lightning McQueen, including Cruz in the same range so you could have a pair! They are aimed at children age 4 plus and I think a four year old could make this with some help but we think they are perfect for children age 6-8 and would make great birthday presents for children of this age group.
Disclaimer: We were sent this awesome Aquabeads Cars 3D set to review but all views are my own and my sister’s.
We recently discovered Hamerton Zoo Park is on our doorstep and were pleased to be invited for a day out there so we could see for ourselves what it was like.
We found it easily met up with our friends before heading in. Even though the car park was really busy it quickly felt quite peaceful and quiet once we got through the gate and although there were plenty of other people there it didn’t feel at all crowded like lots of places do in the school holidays.
I really liked the set up of the zoo. There were lots of animals I had never even heard of before as well as some that I had that were very rare. I really liked the white tigers, they were awesome and I had only ever seen one before in a zoo in France.
I especially liked Hamerton Zoo because it felt more like a conservation place than a zoo. The animals all had nice big enclosures and plenty of things to keep them busy- some had long tunnels and runs going off their enclosures too. There was a lot of information about the animals and their habitats as well as explaining how their population was in different parts of the world, this was really interesting to read and some of it was quite shocking.
My very favourite animal was the white tiger but I also loved the chipmunks who were great fun to watch, the monkeys and meerkats who are really entertaining, the kookaburra who made a brilliant noise and the tortoises who are actually surprisingly fast and have an enormous enclosure that they race around. Actually I am sure there are lots more animals that are on my favourites list!
Along with the enclosures and information we were also very impressed with how the zoo managed to blend with the environment generally. We saw two nests with baby swallows in and my friend’s Mum, who loves all things to do with nature and wildlife pointed out that there was lots of plants like buddleia that were good for bees and butterflies and plenty of bamboo and other plants too so it was good to see that Hamerton are supporting all the other wildlife too.
One of our tests as to if somewhere is a good family day out is whether or not it has something that keeps us all happy and Hamerton Zoo seemed able to do that. My brother, Sam is two and liked being able to see the animals himself through the little windows in the side of the enclosures- he also absolutely loved the train. My Mum felt this was a little pricey at £2 per person (although she is judging this for our family of 5 which can make things seem expensive) but she said it wasn’t too awful because it was a longer ride than we expected and you got to see quite a few animals on route. Lottie and I also loved all the animals, I especially liked having all the information to read but also we both really enjoyed the play area too, this had a great selection of play equipment, with a huge climbing frame and a zip wire. There was a smaller play area for under fives too which had much better things than a lot of areas aimed at small children and kept Sam entertained for a fairly long time. There is also a stone maze within the play area which we all had fun walking on.
There is a café which served a selection of snacks and things like hot dogs and sausage rolls as well as lots of benches that you could use if you had taken a picnic so it had a good set up for having a long visit.
We spent most of the day at Hamerton, it was a great place to visit, we loved the fact that there was plenty to do but also liked the fact it wasn’t so big you couldn’t go back round and see things again.
My Mum felt that although a zoo visit is always quite an expensive day out Hamerton Zoo was good value for money at £13.99 for adults and £8.99 for children with under 3’s going free- we will definitely be going back again and have already suggested it to lots of our friends for the Summer holidays.
Disclaimer: We were lucky enough to be given free entry to the zoo in return for our honest review and all thoughts and comments are our own.
Please note several pictures in this post were taken by Diana Evans. For more of Diana’s projects or to contact her directly please visit Diana Evans Artist
We have been quite lucky so far this holiday, despite there being heavy rain every single day we have only had one day where we really felt a bit stuck in and have so far managed to avoid getting soaked.
I do have lots of things ready to do if it does rain though and these are a few of my ideas.
Build a Den
We love building a den- it’s something you can do indoors or outdoors and it can be as big as you have space for or tiny and cosy. You don’t need loads of equipment, blankets and a clothes horse are fine or you can use other furniture and bedding or picnic rugs. If it’s outside then logs, sticks, string and tarpaulin are perfect. Once you have built it you can decorate it and make it comfortable and then decide what you want to do in there- read a book, have a picnic, do some writing. I am not sure den building is something you ever completely grow out of!
Tip out a big box of LEGO, set a timer and challenge everyone to make something on a theme (vehicles, space, food, animals etc) when the time is up you have to stop and can pick a winner. This is great because you can have quick builds or longer builds with more difficult themes. For younger children you could do this with Duplo or even using Playdoh and you don’t even need to pick a winner, it could just be for fun.
Agree on a film, and then plan to spend an afternoon watching it. Younger children might enjoy making tickets but everyone can get involved with making cinema snacks. You can pop some popcorn and make some crispie cakes to eat while you enjoy your film.
Spend the day doing lots of baking and hopefully you can enjoy it all for a picnic the next day when it’s nicer!
Games and Puzzle Challenge
Invite some friends over and set up lots of boards games, card games and puzzles and have a tournament. If you are allowed then you could do the same type of thing on a computer or games console.
Play Rain Games
Get your raincoat and wellies on and go and splash in the puddles and dance in the rain. You can then come back in and dry off while having raindrop races on the window!
I would love to know what sort of things other children like to do when the weather is bad?
I have been interested in learning about both World War One and World War Two since I went to Ypres last year and have read a lot of books about history and fighter planes. I am now really looking forward to going to see the new Dunkirk film with my Dad, I have read some really good reviews of it.
I was very excited when Airfix asked if I would be like to try out their new Quick Build Sets ahead of the release of Dunkirk. They sent us a Spitfire and a Messerschmitt in the Quick Build version and the same in the normal Airfix starter model sets.
I had tried Airfix a couple of years ago when I was 6 or 7 but had found it quite tricky at that time and so although I love any building toys and activities it hadn’t really been a range I had looked at recently. When the sets arrived both my Dad and sister were keen to get involved. The Airfix Quick Build Sets are aimed at children age 5+ so it seemed like it would be alright for Lottie to try and we set a challenge to see if we could build ours quicker than Dad could. I got started on the Quick Build Spitfire, Lottie on the Quick Build Messerschmitt and Dad on the original sets.
I was able to get straight on with the Airfix Quick Build, the instructions were really easy to follow and it went together really well. Lottie found it slightly more complicated but still managed to follow the instructions and build it mostly herself with just a little bit of grown up help- sometimes she wasn’t quite sure what she needed to do next and a couple of times she couldn’t quite clip the pieces together fully . We think it was still very good for the first time she had made something like this and we also think if she was more used to building construction type models she wouldn’t have needed any help so think the guidelines of 5+ are about right- she is 5 and didn’t need too much help really. We were both very pleased with the finished models and Lottie was really proud of her building.
We easily beat my Dad in the challenge- mainly because we kept stopping him to ask him questions but he and I were able to sit down and build the Airfix Starter Set Spitfire over the next couple of nights. I think I am nearer to the right age to be able to do these now too. It is still a bit tricky to do the fiddly bits but I was able to follow the instructions easily enough and had enough patience to sit down and do it over time including letting it dry. My Dad also really enjoyed it, he likes doing practical things and making things but hasn’t done any model making since he was a child
Once we finished Dad let me paint this one- I think it came out quite well for our first attempt!
We will definitely be revisiting the Airfix range- I loved the idea of the Airfix Quick Build sets. It was good that we were able to get on with it ourselves and it didn’t need lots of setting up or worrying about paint, glue and making a mess. I also like the fact that it comes with a display stand too so you can play with it and also display it like a proper model. I really loved doing the Airfix starter sets too as although I found bits of it difficult I really enjoyed this as an activity to do with my Dad.
Disclaimer: We were sent these Airfix kits to review but all thought are our own
I was really excited when I was asked if I would like to review a brand new word game. If you have been reading the blog for a while you will know we often have family game nights and this Fletter sounded exactly like the type of game we would enjoy.
It arrived the other day and I was excited to test it with my friend this afternoon when he came round for a play. I asked if he wanted to try Fletter out and he shrugged and said we could give it a go. Within 5 minutes my Mum said she had never heard us both laughing so hard when playing a game and by the time it was time for him to go home he was telling his Mum that Fletter was brilliant and really, really funny and that they had to get it to play with his big sisters.
You get two boxes of cards with letters, each worth a certain number of points and these get divided out between the number of people playing (at least two). Each player puts down a card in turn and then it is a race against players to find words whilst adding more cards to the game. The first person to make a word from the letters gets to claim those letters and the points they are worth but if two people shout the same word at the same time then neither can claim and the cards get taken out of the game. If you shout out a word that doesn’t exist then the other players can give you a special card that makes you ‘Flettered’ and this means you have points to deduct from your total. Once you have put down all the cards and made up as many words as possible you can tot up your total from your letters, deduct any ‘Flettered’ cards and the person with the highest number of points wins the round. The game winner is decided after four rounds.
You can even make the game more difficult by playing in specific rounds- so on round one you make three letter words, on round two you do four letter, on round three it’s five letters and on round four it’s six letters which would really make your brain work! If you get the wrong length of word you would also be Flettered!
I like the fact that it’s an exciting game, you are immediately in the middle of playing without waiting round. It’s quite noisy with words being shouted out and very funny with silly words and trying to shout the loudest the fastest. I don’t think you have to be an amazing speller but you do need to be a quick thinker and be able to make yourself heard. It’s also great because you could take it and play it anywhere. I also think lots of people could play it together so it would be great for a holiday, sleepover or school trip.
I really enjoyed playing Fletter and I know my friend did too, it is my turn to choose the game for our game night on Saturday so I will definitely be getting my parents to play this with me. I think grown ups will enjoy this game just as much as children. I think the age rating of 8 plus is probably right but my little sister will join in and make a team with my Mum – she will enjoy being in charge of the dictionary and giving out the Flettered cards for any made up words! Lottie and I just had a practise run of playing a round together and she really liked it.
We will definitely be introducing all our friends to Fletter and would recommend you keep an eye out for it’s arrival in the UK as this is the perfect game for a family celebration.
Buttoonies arrive in small packets priced at £3.99 each and contain everything you need to make your toy. They don’t need any glue, scissors or needles and you can get straight on with making it. There was a good choice of toys within the Under The Sea range including a Clown Fish, Crab, Frog, Octopus, Pirate and Turtle. The packets are all marked with a difficulty rating out of ten.
Once we had decided what we were making to start with we unpacked the parts and had a look at what we had to do. Each pack contained thread, buttons and foam shapes. It was really easy to understand the instructions- they were pictures of the parts in the same size as they actually were and then these were numbered with a diagram showing exactly where each number had to be threaded on.
I thought the Buttoonies would be really quick to make but actually it took a little while- they weren’t difficult but they did feel like a proper craft activity rather than something easy that was over and done within a few minutes. We did have to slightly enlarge the holes in the foam parts but otherwise threading the buttons on in the right order was simple if you concentrated.
Once we had finished threading the parts on the models looked really good and my sister took them to school to use as puppets. She absolutely loved making these and really liked having a craft she could get on with on her own with hardly any help. I enjoyed them too- I liked the pirate as that was more complicated to make (it was rated as a difficulty of 4/10) and Lottie loved them all.
Buttoonies also make bigger versions which are made from MDF which can be decorated- these look good fun, they are £9.99 each.
We really enjoyed the Buttoonies Under The Sea range, they do several other ranges too including witches and bats. These crafts are great for children age 5 and upwards and I think they would be perfect as rainy day activities. My Mum suggested they would be nice to give instead of a party bag so we might do this at one of our birthday parties- she likes the fact there is no mess and that we didn’t even have to get the glue out to make something!
Last week I posted about things I had learnt from blogging over the two years I had been doing it and today I am going to share some of the amazing products and places I have discovered thanks to blogging.
As I mentioned blogging can be hard work sometimes but the experiences I have had from it have been well worth it.
There are lots of things that stand out as being great but these are some of my very favourite things from the last two years.
So many great books. I have read too many awesome books to list them all individually but have loved having lots of brilliant books to review and it has been fantastic to discover new authors who I might not otherwise have come across. One of my favourites is Abi Elphinstone who I am a huge fan of since reviewing her Trilogy on my blog.
Finding new games- I especially like games that the whole family can enjoy together and we have found some great ones through the blog. One of our family favourites is the Randomise Game If you haven’t come across Randomise before then you should read the review I wrote a while ago- it’s really great fun and so very funny to play. We have played it so many times since and I would recommend it to any family that enjoys playing games together.
Things that other people enjoy. It’s awesome finding a new product that I love but I have really enjoyed finding things my sister and brother love too. My sister has especially liked Aquabeads and Pusheen, both of which is she has been lucky enough to review for the blog.
Challenges- I would never have even known about the kids version of Tough Mudder without the blog. My friend and I were lucky enough to do the Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder last year and it was an amazing experience. I would love to do it again and it got me into running a 5K run for charity too and helping as a steward at another.
New experiences. It also falls under points 4 and 5 too but was so amazing it deserves a heading of it’s own! Our favourite experience as a whole family has been our visit to Camp Wilderness– the bushcraft day was so unlike anything that any of us had ever done before, we all learnt loads and came away having had a really fantastic day. It was such a different thing to do with my Mum and Dad- I would recommend the camps to anyone!
As you can see I have been very lucky over the last two years, I have had lots of fantastic experiences, met some brilliant people and learnt a lot. I have loved having my own blog, even though at times in has been hard work and I have caught ‘writer’s block’.
I can’t believe I have managed to keep it up for two years and am holding a competition to celebrate this! One of our lucky readers will win their own copy of the brilliant Randomise Game, a copy of a fantastic children’s book -my current read- The Midnight Gang, by David Walliams, a £10 Amazon voucher to treat themselves to one of the amazing products we have reviewed and a 3 day place for a child age 6 to 15 at one of the awesome Camp Wilderness camps during the Summer Holidays- the lucky winner can choose between Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cheshire or Kent subject to availability.
As we get towards Summer people are starting to get excited about their holidays. I thought I would give you some ideas of games you can play on a long journey so you arrive on your holiday without too much shouting and grumpiness!
This is our on-going car game for any journey. My Mum’s friend told us about it and we have played it ever since. There is no winner and no loser (except my sister and I still manage to argue about it!) and the game never ends. Basically it doesn’t matter where you are in the World or what you are doing, if you see a yellow car you have to shout ‘YELLOW CAR’. My little brother does not yet know his colours but he does recognise yellow! The only time this game gets old is when driving past a post sorting office in France!
I went to the Shops…
This is a memory game that runs through the alphabet- the first person starts with ‘I went to the shops and brought an apple (anything beginning with A), the next person says ‘I went to the shops and brought an apple and a banana (anything beginning with B) and so on through the whole alphabet… by the time you get halfway through it gets very tricky to remember whatever everyone else has said.
Everyone knows how to play ‘I Spy…’ it’s the perfect game when you are on a long drive, especially on country roads where there is lots to see.
My friend and I created an alphabet of all the cars we could think of and managed to cover every letter and now we both use them to either play bingo with or I spy with when we are out in the car- you get the most amount of points for a yellow lamborghini!
You have to think of a thing or a person and the other people can ask up to twenty questions before they have to guess what you are thinking about.
Name that Tune
You need a spare adult in the front who isn’t the driver for this one, they just have to play a few seconds of a song and then everyone guesses what they think it is. You can do it just for fun or you can give points to how quickly the correct answer is given.
Hopefully these ideas might make long journeys go a bit quicker-we would love to know if you have any others you play in your car- especially before we go on our ten hour drive to France in a couple of months!
My sister was recently sent a Disney Princess Aquabeads set to review which she loved. I wasn’t so sure if it would be my kind of thing but I kept watching over her shoulder and helping her out with bits and pieces so I was pleased when Aquabeads asked if I would like to review a set myself.
I was happy to have a go but wasn’t sure if they would really have anything for older children- although I would have been happy with just making patterns I wasn’t so keen on princesses! Aquabeads got it just right though by sending me their Star Wars set so I could make C3PO, R2D2, Darth Vader or a Stoorm Trooper.
This set is great, like the others it is all set out in compartments so you can find the right colours quickly and easily and is really easy to set up. I was able to get straight on and decided to make C3PO. My sister gets a lot of craft type gifts and while I like doing this sort of activity there aren’t really many specifically aimed at my age so I really enjoyed having something to make, not only to doing some craft but to make something I was happy to have in my bedroom afterwards.
I actually found it quite relaxing to sit and put the beads in the right place and follow the colour patterns, it was a nice activity to do after I had finished my homework. My Mum enjoyed the peace and quiet of my and me sister sitting together doing our Aquabead sets!
I had no problem with getting it to set, I just used plenty of water and left it before removing it from the template ready to make another one.
I was really pleased with how C3PO came out and am going to be making R2D2 next. I thought this was a great set as it appeals to both boys and girls from age 4 right up to my age and it was easy to get on and do it without needing an adult around to help.
Disclaimer: I was sent a set of Star Wars Aquabeads to review but all thoughts are my own