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Down with the kids

2 Aug

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The summer holidays are in full swing, and if you’ve got kids – of any age – that means you’ve got a dilemma.  What on earth to do with them now that school’s out, the playgroups are closed, and you’ve got six or more weeks of empty days to fill?

The answer, my friends, is to get yourself down to HEMA (or shop online here). My new favourite place to go for brilliant, bright, bargainous bits’n’pieces, it’s a treasure trove of a place for kiddy craft bits, stickers, paper, stampers, paint… you name it, they have it. And all for just a few quid.:

HEMA kids stickers and stamps

Take the amazing glitter foam alphabet stickers above (£2.50 for a massive pot); or the fun ink stampers below (£2.50 for a big box):

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Then there are these animal-shaped foam stickers (£1 per pot), which my toddler LOVES; big packs of coloured paper, and this fab air-dry modelling clay (£1.50 a pack):

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We had hours of fun with the modelling clay, making ‘energems’ from Power Rangers Dino Charge, which we then painted with sparkly nail polish (not a Power Rangers fan? Try pressing leaves into a rolled up piece of clay, cutting round them and leaving them to dry to  make little trinket dishes instead):

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HEMA also sell pavement chalk in a handy reusable storage box (£2), which keeps my two happy for hours in our garden, and went down a storm at our recent summer street party:

HEMA playround chalks

Ooh and they also sell fab pineapple or camera-print tin suitcases for your kids to stash all their crafty bits in, for just £2.50 each:

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So, if you’re stuck for something to do with the little ‘uns this summer, take a tenner and load up your basket in person or online. And if you’re on Instagram, tag me in (I’m @woodyjen here), and show off your goodies with the hashtag #HEMAhaul.

Happy holidays!

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Life’s a beach

29 Aug

quut_alto_gallery2If you’ve been on holiday with kids recently, you’ll know the range of beach toys available – from cheap’n’cheerful Brit seaside shops to beachside boutiques abroard –  is, well, pretty limited. You get buckets, spades, blow-up dolphins… and that’s about it. I don’t know why, but it’s an area there doesn’t seem to have been much innovation in for years. Until now.

A cool Belgian design company, Quut (pronounced ‘cute’, www.quutbeachtoys.com) has created a new range of six clever gizmos that also work well in sandpits, the bath and even in the snow. In sturdy plastic, bright colours, and with very reasonable price tags (from £6.99 to £14.99), they’re well thought-out and a lot of fun.

While writing a piece for a magazine recently, I got the chance – along with my very helpful assistant, Sam, two-and-a-half – to try out the Alto, a sandcastle-making toy inspired by professional sand builders, in the glamorous location of our local sandpit. In three sections, you fill each one with sand, before placing the next section on top…

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…and then carefully lifting the whole lot upwards, starting at the bottom, to leave a three-tier architectural masterpiece!

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You can use the sections on their own, or in pairs, to create different-sized sandcastles; or group them together into a huge sand city  (as we did, before a passing toddler crashed into the lot). Not only did we enjoy ourselves immensely, but we attracted lots of envious glances from the other parents in the sandpit, which made Sam very proud indeed.

Other toys in the range include (below, clockwise from top left) the Ballo, a new take on a bucket; the Cuppi, a scoop, sieve and catching game all-in-one, which also works well in the bath; the Scoppi, a cool spade with sieve attachment for serious digging; and the Ringo, a ring-toss game you can also use in the park or playground:

quut_ballo_pooringThe full range is available from Toyella (www.toyella.com/quut), which is offering free postage at the moment; or you can also buy a selection of the toys from Notonthehighstreet.com

 

 

 

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

 

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