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My latest project (plus how to be a baby whisperer)

30 Jan

Eagle-eyed readers will notice I’ve posted far fewer blog entries this month. That’s because I’ve been working on a little project… meet Baby Treasure Hunter!

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Yup, having a new baby means I’ve been slightly busy of late, but I promise normal blogging service is now going to be resumed.

In fact, she’s helped me with this post!

Among all the lovely baby bits I’ve bought or kindly been given recently, I wanted to rave about one in particular. The Gro Hush is a cunning portable device that makes one of three white noise sounds (a heartbeat, ocean waves or rain falling on a tin roof) at the press of a button. You simply slip the oval padded cushion onto your hand using the elastic strap, then hold it against your little one’s head as you cuddle them – the idea being that the sounds, which are pitched at just the right volume, soothe and calm your baby when they’re fussy or having problems sleeping.

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I liked the idea in theory, but having tried louder – admittedly less high tech methods – with my first child (like a vacuum cleaner and turbo hairdryer!), I was more than sceptical about whether it’d work. And, while the Gro Hush hasn’t been that successful at soothing my baby when she’s in full-on scream mode (to be honest, not much would), it has been an absolute godsend in getting her to settle down for naps or at night.

Not recommended for use in the cot or crib (supposedly in case the baby rolls onto it), I’ve been placing it on a shelf next to her Moses basket, or tucked behind her easy chair. She LOVES the water-on-a-tin-roof setting, and by the time it automatically switches off after ten minutes, she’s usually fast asleep. Fantastic!

I’ll give the last word to my little assistant. Here she is, giving a demonstration…

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The Gro Hush costs £34.95 from John Lewis here, or you can find a full list of stockists here.

Sweet dreams!

 

 

Baby, you can drive my car

11 Dec

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Our son Sam is nearly three and, being a ‘big boy’, he really needs a ‘big boy’ car seat. But anyone who’s ever tried to buy a child’s car seat will know that there’s not a huge amount of choice out there – most are boring black in colour, and you often have to choose between one that clips into the ISOFIX points between the seats; and one that works in any model of car (but that may not feel quite as secure).

So, I was really excited to be asked to try out a new breed of car seat from trendy company Cybex. Winning rave reviews almost everywhere, the Group 1 Juno 2-Fix model (above, being modelled by Sam) not only includes a unique, specially-designed safety lap cushion, which works a bit like an airbag; plus extra side impact protection, but also comes in a whole host of cool colourways:

unnamedAt £185, it’s not the cheapest on the market, but it will last from nine months to four years’ old (9-18kg, way longer than many other car seats) and what’s more, the lightweight design can be used with or without ISOFIX, meaning it’s great for taking away on holiday or using in Granny’s car when she’s doing babysitting duty.

So, what did Sam and I think? The seat was ridiculously easy to fit and took under a minute – you either clip it into the ISOFIX seats, or simply place it on the back seat of your car (below left). Then, once your child is sat down in it, you slot the safety cushion in front, and thread the rear seat belt through the slots in the cushion (below right):

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While Sam took a bit of coaxing to try the new seat out, he could climb into it by himself, and soon got the hang of the ‘special table’ cushioned section. In fact, he seemed quite snug and cosy, as you can see below. My only reservation is that the lovely cushion with its fancy embroidery may not look quite so pristine after he’s rested his grubby paws on it a few times!

Now we’ll just just have to see whether he’s still happy in it after a three-hour trip to see relatives in the New Year. Fingers crossed…

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PS: Cybex make other designs too, including two rear-facing designs, the Aton Q (below, left, from birth to 18 months) and the award-winning Sirona (below, right, from birth to four years), which, like other rear-facing car seats, reduce the risk of injury in a head-on collision by more than 80% when compared to a conventional forward-facing seat with harness. You can read more about them and several other cool designs at cybex-online.com

Autumn Gold Aton Q, £185 - CYBEX

NB: Thanks to Cybex for providing the Juno 2-Fix car seat for Sam to try out!

 

The wheels on the bus

15 Feb

Bernie wooden toy bus from Jammtoys

A week or two ago I wrote a post about what to buy a one-year old for their birthday for under a tenner.

And a tenner is all you really need to spend. However, if you really want to push the boat out for a very special baby, I now have another suggestion. Yesterday, my little boy was given this gorgeous wooden bus as a late birthday present. And he LOVES it:

Bernie's bus with baby

I’ve always poo-pooed wooden toys to a certain extent – while they look lovely on a shelf, and adults go loopy over them, many of them simply aren’t interesting enough to hold babies’ attention. However, this bus (called Bernie’s Bus, £29.99 from http://www.jammtoys.com) has changed my mind.

It’s designed to be suitable from 12 months old, yet at first glance, it looks too complicated for a one-year old – but my little boy had it sussed immediately. You can take the roof off and the top deck, and there are six different coloured little passengers to arrange in the seats – or just chew. It’s well made, rolls along beautifully and can withstand even the most exuberant toddler.

Add to that the fact it does indeed look lovely on a shelf, and it’s the kind of thing both big and little kids will enjoy for several years to come.

Bernie wooden bus passengers

 

What to buy a one-year-old

28 Jan

Presents for first birthdays Tomy hide n squeak eggs

Who’s he hardest kind of person to buy for? Dads? Grandparents? Teenage boys? Nope. One-year-olds.

Buying for babies is easy – there are so many cute outfits, fluffy teddies and handy gizmos that you’re spoilt for choice. But one-year-olds are different. It’s a tricky age where you can’t be sure clothes fit (some are still in age 9-12 months; others are in 18-24 months already) and the toys you think they’ll like all turn out to have scary labels on saying they’re: ‘not suitable for children under 36 months’.

I realised this when my own little boy turned one recently – along with lots of his friends. However, having been given some amazing presents and having had to buy for six one-year-olds (and counting) in the last couple of months, I’ve become a dab hand at it. So, I thought I’d share my findings with you.

Here’s my list of perfect pressies guaranteed to be a hit on a first birthday – and what’s more, most are under a fiver and all of them are under a tenner. Bonus!

(above) Tomy Hide’n’Squeak Eggs, £4.50 http://www.amazon.co.uk. Not only are these eggs different colours with different funny faces, but the tops of their shells come off, they ‘squeak’ when pressed, and their bottoms are different shapes, for babies to sort. Oh, and the plastic egg box carry case is a toy in itself. Hours of fun.

(below) Fisher Price Chatter Telephone, £4.48 Tesco Direct http://www.tesco.com/direct. An old skool toy that’s still great decades on. My little boy loves to make the dial ‘ring’ and pulls it along everywhere with him.

Presents for first birthdays Fisher Price telephone chatter phone

Early Learning Centre (ELC) Bath Stacking Cups, £4.80 (was £6), http://www.mothercare.com. Unlike normal stacking cups, each one is in the shape of a sea creature. Cute and perfect for little fingers to grip.

Presents for first birthdays ELC bath stacking cups

My First Book of Things to Learn (published by Tiger Tales), £5 http://www.amazon.co.uk. My little boy was given this by an aunt and he is obsessed with it. The round tabs make turning the pages easy, the thick cardboard pages can withstand a lot of wear and tear and the pictures are fun as well as educational.

Presents for first birthdays My First Book of Things to Learn (tiger tales)

Gowi Watering Can, £4.99 http://www.amazon.co.uk or http://www.ebay.co.uk. Another great bath toy – little ones love seeing the water pouring out, and when they’re older, they can use it at the beach or to help out in the garden.

Presents for first birthdays Gowi bath watering can

Halilit baby Tambourine, £6.67 http://www.amazon.co.uk. It looks classy, doesn’t sound too annoying, and has no sharp metal bits.

Presents for first birthdays Halilit baby tambourine

Mega Bloks classic Big Builder bag, £9.50 Tesco Direct http://www.tesco.com/direct. A toy that’ll last for years. One year olds will enjoy playing with/chewing the bricks and will grow to love building stuff ages before they can be let loose on proper (and much tinier) Lego.

Presents for first birthdays Mega Bloks big building bag classic

‘BUSA’ Play Tunnel, £10 Ikea http://www.ikea.com/gb/en. My son got one of these for his birthday, and while he’s not mastered the hang of crawling through it yet, I certainly have, and it’s ace! It concertinas down to a hoop shape that you can store under the sofa when it’s not in use. Phew.

Presents for first birthdays Ikea Busa play tunnel

PS: Not entered my competition to win a designer framed butterfly print worth £45 from http://www.art.co.uk? There’s still time! Check out last Friday’s blog post (25th Jan) for details.

It’s only Flock and Roll but I like it!

30 Nov

My friend Kirsty is very talented. She’s one of those people who just knows what looks good, and after years of designing things (magazine pages, wedding invites…) for other people, she’s finally struck out on her own and created her own range of prints, tea towels and greetings cards.

They’re all bright, cheery, fun and great value, featuring everything from retro ice lollies to gnomes. She’ll even make up any of her designs in your own choice of colours if you ask her nicely. I’m planning to place an order for one of her “Cup of tea and a slice of cake” art prints and a batch of her ‘You’re the Bee’s Knees’ cards, as they’re so sweet, and well, the bee’s knees.

Her company is called Flock and Roll – named after a seagull’s favourite type of music (best not to ask!) – and you can view the whole range at http://www.flockandroll.co.uk or buy her stuff from Etsy.com (visit http://www.etsy.com/shop/flockandroll).

Cards cost £2.50 each (see immediately below); Prints cost £15-25 depending on size (shown framed, below the cards); and tea towels are coming any day now. However, Kirsty’s doing a special 20% discount for all Treasure Hunter customers until Christmas. Simply enter code FLOCKANDROLL1 at the checkout.

PS: Good news for overseas readers! Kirsty will ship outside the UK – email her at hello@flockandroll.co.uk for details and prices.

Buy Buy Baby

28 Nov

One of the biggest – and most fun – shopping tasks you can be faced with is buying a present for a new baby.

Having had a little boy earlier this year, I’ve been privileged to be on the receiving end of such gifts – and people are amazingly kind and generous. I was given enough hats, socks, babygros and woolies to last the tiny fella for months. Really cute, beautiful outfits that I’d never have been able to justify buying for myself.

The thing is, with so many people getting clothes for the new baby, what do you buy if you want to go for something different?
The ideal new baby present should be memorable, thoughtful, look neither too cheap nor embarrassingly expensive, long-lasting and most of all, be something for the new parents will find useful.

So, bearing in mind the gifts I was given, and having quizzed several fellow mums about this, here are my top non-clothing baby present ideas. If you end up buying one of them for someone, let me know how it goes down!

Skip Hop Pronto travel change mat, £27-29 http://www.amazon.co.uk or http://www.johnlewis.com (see also pic at top of post)
This clever, stylish fold-up travel change mat has two pockets as well as a fold up mat all in one – it’s big enough to hold four nappies, wipes and nappy sacks so that they’re all in one place (no scrabbling around in a big buggy bag). You just fill it up, chuck it in your bag or basket, and grab it when baby needs a change. It comes in several cool patterns and is possibly the best baby accessory I own.

John Lewis star blanket, £16, http://www.johnlewis.com
Available in bright red, pale blue or pink (with hearts instead of stars), this soft, thick, snuggly blanket looks and feels amazing and will get tons of use on the buggy, car seat or wrapped round baby in the sling. It’s brilliant – I love ours.

Freddie Firefly and/or Captain Calamari, £7.95 each, http://www.amazon.co.uk
Not only do these two toys look amazing, but the clip on the top means you can attach them to your buggy, baby gym, or playpen and they’re great for amusing little ‘uns when out and about. Younger babies love looking at the bright colours and feeling the different textures, while bigger babies love chewing on the teething rings.

Philips Avent Bath and Room Thermometer, £12.99, http://www.amazon.co.uk
When you’re a new parent, you become obsessed with temperatures. This sturdy, cute, portable thermometer works in the bath and also “on land” and is small enough to take with you when travelling.

Brights Teether Links, £3.48, http://www.tesco.com/direct
Babies have to learn to grasp things; so most toys are too sophisticated for them at first. When they do start to play, they need things that are thin enough for them to hold in their tiny hands and chew with their little mouths – and plastic links are perfect. Not only that, but  links are also handy for attaching toys (like Captain Calamari) and teethers to a buggy or baby gym. You can buy versions of these from several places, but Tesco’s are the best, as they have rubbery teething bits on as an added bonus.

Jelly Cat Bredita duck or bunny chime, £9.98, http://www.play.com; or £8.99-10.99, http://www.amazon.co.uk
These sweet little fellas are a great first toy for similar reasons to the baby links – their squishy fabric legs are spindly enough for tiny hands, and their soft arms and wings are perfect for nibbling on. They have a gentle chiming bell inside too.

The Hungry Caterpillar Very Special Baby Journal, £14.98, http://www.amazon.co.uk
Baby milestones such as that first smile, first tooth and first crawl fly by so quickly that it’s a great idea to keep an official record of them. There are lots of baby record books out there, but this is one of the best, with lots of pages to fill in, an envelope for a lock of hair, and lots of room for photos. It comes in a presentation box too, making it a lovely gift.
Want something slightly cheaper? The Baby Journal from KTwo products (£9.99, also from Amazon) has cute illustrations and a set of stickers saying things like ‘first tooth’ to stick next to your photos.

“That’s not my…” books, £6 from bookshops; around £4 from http://www.amazon.co.uk
These fun board books are brilliant for babies and toddlers – the pages are sturdy enough for them to turn themselves, and they love stroking and scratching the touchy-feely patches on the pages. There are dozens to choose from, including “That’s not my Bunny”, “That’s not my Train”, “That’s not my Reindeer” and even “That’s not my Monster”. The author must be loaded by now, they’re so popular. My favourite? “That’s not my Pirate”!

Stick ’em up!

3 Oct

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Top Drawer, a trade show for people who own gift shops and homeware stores, where I met some brilliant designers including the lovely Adele from Nutmeg Wall Art (www.nutmegwallartstickers.co.uk) who makes removable wall stickers/decals.

I’d first stumbled upon her website when I was looking for a way to brighten up my son Sam’s nursery. I emailed her a picture of his room, which has very tasteful, but not very kid-friendly tree wallpaper on the walls. She came up with the idea of making brightly coloured parrot wall stickers to perch in and fly around the trees. Cute! She even superimposed the parrots on the picture I’d emailed her (above), so that I could see what the stickers would look like before I commited to buy them.

So, I thought I’d share her site with you. She sells ‘normal’ wall stickers like these:

But what is particularly fab – and what sets her apart from many of the other wall decal companies out there – is her bespoke service.

If you drop her a line at sales@nutmegwallart.co.uk, Adele will make you a personalised sticker for a very reasonable price. For example, a personalised London street sign sticker (immediately below – you can make up your own street name and postcode) is £30; a bespoke kitchen sticker (below, middle) is £26; and a personalised script sticker (below, bottom) is £19. But of course you don’t have to, erm, ‘stick’ to words and text – you can copy me and pick anything you like, as apparently Adele likes a challenge!

Some guys have all the ducks

14 Sep

Everyone, no matter their age, needs a rubber duck. When I was born, so family legend goes, my dad was so excited he went to a toy shop and bought the biggest one he could find. I remember that duck – at about 10cm wide, he was fat, friendly and sunshine yellow. He  lived in our bathroom for years, making everyone smile.

If my dad went on the same shopping trip today, he wouldn’t believe his duck – sorry – luck. I’ve just spotted this Giant Bath Duck on Amazon.co.uk for just £14.70. At a whopping 32cm wide and 26cm high, it’s a beast of a bird. He quite literally blows all other ducks out of the water.

Of course, at that size, he’s bigger than a baby (!), so the manufacturers reckon he’s better suited to swimming pools and ponds than baths. One reviewer on Amazon even uses it in their horse’s drinking trough to keep an eye on the water level – if they can’t see his bright yellow head from the other side of the field, the trough needs filling up.

But I think it’s a shame to banish him outdoors. Ducks live in bathrooms. And besides, imagine how cool he’d look sitting in a corner! He’d brighten the place right up and be a real talking point.

I’m placing my order now. Once the word gets out, everyone will want one, so if you fancy getting one too, you’d better be quack – sorry – quick!

Put a lid on it

24 Aug

Everyone needs some small Tupperware containers in their lives.

Since I was given a set of four cute nesting tubs with lids from Paperchase, I’ve used them constantly – for taking biscuits or snacks to work; holding loose change; taking face cream away in on holiday; storing herbs in the kitchen; and providing hours of entertainment for visiting children (who love stacking them inside each other then taking them apart again). In fact, they’re so useful I’ve bought another pack.

Aside from all this though, they just look cute!

Paperchase bring out new designs all the time, and they cost £7 for a set of four instore or at www.paperchase.co.uk.

My favourites at the mo? The fab London Underground map set “All Change” (above); the abstract creatures of “Cheeky Chops”; the passport stamp-inspired “Stamps” and for kids (both big and little) the lozenge-shaped “Sunshine Holiday” (all below).

PS: If you like these, you’ll also love the Bright Mini Food Boxes by Rice, just £6.25 for a pack of 12 from http://www.nettlegreen.co.uk – perfect for transporting snacks.

Open the door, get on the floor, everybody buy this dinosaur!

3 Aug

You don’t have to be a little kid to love dinosaurs – big kids love them too. For five years, I was lucky enough to live just a few minutes walk from the famous dinosaurs in Crystal Palace park (below). The huge, lifesize, fibreglass beasties were built in the late 1800s by the Victorians, when scientists still hadn’t worked out exactly what different species really looked like. As a result, they seem quite sweet and friendly, and everyone who goes to see them falls in love with them.

So, when I saw the gorgeous corduroy Steggy the Stegosaurus (top), above, I had to get him for my son, Sam. And I reckon he and his other friends from the “AAAH! Dinosaurs” range by top German soft toy company Gund, would make an amazing present for any dino fan. Choose from Tristan the T-Rex, Terry the Pterodactyl, Adam the Ankylosaurus, Trevor the Triceratops or the brilliantly-named Bret the Brontosaurus.

They’re an impressive 40cm tall/wide, and cost £15.90 each from http://www.delveswoodbears.co.uk (plus free P&P) or £14.45 (plus £1.99 P&P) from http://www.teddybearfriends.co.uk.

A lot on your plate

11 Apr

Whether you buy just one for a very lucky child, or several for a grown up’s picnic, these brilliant, bright, kitsch 1950s/60s-inspired melamine plates by Swedish designer Ingela P Arrenius will go down a treat. There are nine designs and they’re £6.50 each at www.peanutandpip.co.uk or £7.95 each at www.hunkydoryhome.co.uk.

Love her designs? You can also buy posters that complement the plates for £18.95 and an amazing set of six wooden matryoshka-style wooden nesting animals for £19.95, both at www.husandhem.co.uk; plus gorgeous ready-to-hang canvases (below) £46 each at www.happyspaces.co.uk.

Animal magic

21 Nov

Want an unusual gift for a new baby? Or decorating a nursery and want something that’s not predictable pastel pink/blue?

I’ve fallen in love with these quirky prints by French illustrator Nathalie Choux. They’re just £5.95 each from http://www.amazon.co.uk or http://www.easyart.com.

There are several friendly-looking animals to choose from, including a giraffe, elephant, hippo, zebra, lion, frog and donkey. Frame one as a present – at 30 x 40cm, they fit perfectly in an Ikea Ribba frame, £7.99 – or buy three and hang a set across a nursery wall.

A little idea

10 Aug

Babies. Love ’em or hate ’em, your friends are going to have ’em. And you’re going to need a present. Only thing is, the parents are going to be bombarded with clothes, ‘useful’ things like baby baths  and bibs, and those eco-friendly wooden toys that all yummy mummies seem to have at the moment.

What you need is something with personality, that’s memorable, yet that doesn’t cost a bomb. I’m a big fan of Trumpette sock sets, £13.95 from www.tinytotshop.co.uk (seven tiny pairs of socks printed with days of the week, coloured to look like mary jane shoes, or available in different animal prints) but  for my three friends who are set to pop any minute, I’ve got my heart set on one of these new ‘T-Shirt Toys’ from Muji (www.muji.co.uk), available from next month.

Soft, quirky, cute – and easy to post – the giraffe and elephant cost just £12.95 each, but are such great quality they look far more expensive. Perfect!

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