Category Archives: review

‘One Thing’ – One More Absolutely Wonderful Charlie and Lola Book by Lauren Child

 

one thing

Don’t turn the page yet! Let me start with the biggest number; so 7 plus 3 is 10, plus 2, plus 1 is 13, plus 4 is 17, plus 5 is……. 22.  Now turn the page -Yes! I was right, 22.

This wasn’t a maths homework exercise but a bedtime story for my 5 and 7-year-old.

Regular readers will know that I am a huge Lauren Child fan.  Her version of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears features in my top 5 books for the Under 5’s, my eldest daughter read and re-read the Clarice Bean series and our visit to Lauren Child’s exhibition was like a step into Wonderland.

As  I was browsing books for the younger ones for Christmas, I discovered a brand new Charlie and Lola book called ‘One Thing’. With great excitement, I quickly contacted friends from the UK who were coming to visit and asked them to bring a copy. I didn’t know what it was about but as the Charlie and Lola books are amongst our favourites, I was looking forward to finding out.

As an additional surprise, a new Ruby Redfort book popped into my recommended items. It may seem a little sad, but I react in the same way to a new Lauren Child book as I would to news of a concert from my favourite artist. My eldest daughter loves Ruby Redfort and I usually pre-order them but somehow I had missed this one. Her face was a picture when she unwrapped it on Christmas day. She says this is her 2nd favourite in the series, beaten marginally by the first book. On finishing the book, she immediately wrote a letter to Lauren Child, explaining how much she enjoyed it, asking her questions and telling her about her own life. Through Lauren Child’s writing, children sense a genuine interest in what they think, feel and do which I believe, compelled my daughter to correspond.

One Thing is Lauren Child’s 5th Charlie and Lola book. Most Charlie and Lola books are adapted from the television scripts. The television series is based on Lauren Child’s characters and she collaborates closely with the script writers but there are only 5 Charlie and Lola books written by Lauren Child:-

Charlie and Lola: I Will Not Ever Never Eat A Tomato

Charlie and Lola: I Am Too Absolutely Small For School

Charlie and Lola: I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed

Charlie and Lola: Slightly Invisible

and the new book  Charlie and Lola: One Thing

We love the television series but the Charlie and Lola books from the series don’t have the same sparkle for me, so I am always brimming with excitement when a new one from Lauren Child is released.

‘One Thing’ did not disappoint my giant expectations. In usual Lauren Child fashion, ‘One Thing’ captures perfectly the workings of a young child’s mind. The story begins when ‘mum’ promises Charlie and Lola ‘one thing’ when they go shopping. The book takes you on a number journey, tapping into the minds of children like my own, who count everything and work out number problems in their head.

Lola talks about numbers and Charlie gets frustrated, adding up the time it takes Lola to get anywhere. All of the number references are displayed as sums, puzzles or hidden numbers in the illustrations.  It is a wonderful introduction to maths for young children but ‘One Thing’ is more than an educational number book. The book recognises the natural way that children see numbers everywhere  and is full of discoveries for an inquisitive mind.

One Thing is a delight for adults to read. I particularly  identified with Lola’s constant distractions and Charlie and mum’s negotiations with her,

“What are you doing?” I say.

Lola says “I am just trying to count the dots on my dress but I am not sure what comes after twelve.”

I say “Missing going to the shops comes after twelve.”

It is a perfect example of a picture book where text and illustrations are dependent on one another, each enriching the other. I asked the girls what they liked about the book,

“I like finding all the numbers” said my 5-year-old “and I like Charlie and Lola”.

Each time we read it we find something new, from the title page with handwritten numbers,

Why did someone write on it?... Oh, I think it's meant to be like that. I think it is meant to be Lola's writing.
Why did someone write on it?… Oh, I think it’s meant to be like that. I think it is meant to be Lola’s writing.

 

…to discovering the number of minutes it takes Charlie to get ready hidden in the pictures,

“Oh look the toothpaste is a number 3”.

This was their favourite page.

one thing

They returned to it multiple times, trying to find the numbers hidden on the birds.  We couldn’t find a number 3, perhaps you will have better luck.

Thank you Lauren Child for another book to treasure.

One Thing is available in hardback in the UK and for pre-order in the US.

Disclaimer: This is a personal recommendation. I  completely, absolutely did not get paid or get free stuff for writing this post.

 

 

 

Woodland Park Zoo for Under 8’s

zoo offer

When I ask the girls where they would like to go, a popular response is the zoo.  In the UK we were members of Bristol Zoo and visited there regularly.  Having membership made our visits more relaxed, we didn’t have to run around trying to see every animal and if the children wanted to play in the playground all day that was fine too.

Woodland Park Zoo is more spacious than the zoo back home so we are able to see larger animals. Recently, we were invited to Woodland Park to see some of the activities available  in the Zoomazium  – a nature inspired play space for the under 8’s.  To be honest we have always avoided Zoomazium during previous visits, expecting it to be a large, noisy soft play.  I was pleasantly surprised however, to see a mix of play spaces and activities.  There is a designated space for toddlers, fully enclosed and safe, with a library  area to the side.  The children can also explore the cricket exhibit.

toddler play space
toddler play space
library area
library area
cricket exhibit
cricket exhibit

The play area for older children has rope bridges, places to climb and lots of little caves that are perfect for hide and seek.  There are also tables with toys for building, a stage area and a sensory area to explore.

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Zoomazium is the perfect place to explore if you want to escape the heat (or cold) for a while but it is also a good starting point for your visit to the zoo.  Creature Feature occurs every morning at 10.30 and encourages children to get close to some of the smaller animals at the zoo and learn about them from zoo staff.  Our visitor was an armadillo.

armadillo

My favourite Zoomazium offering was activity backpacks that the little ones can take with them around the zoo.  Each one has a different theme and they are packed with activities, toys, books, magnifiers and things to look out for during your visit.  After a lot of deliberation,the girls chose one each; the back yard and big cats.

zoomazium backpack

I love the design of the backpacks, they look so cool and we had lots of comments as we wandered around.  The backyard backpack had a number of activities to complete in the backyard of the Zoomazium or  when exploring the rest of the zoo.

Can you find these things?
Can you find these things?
“This feels smooth”

The big cats backpack was a good starting point for exploring the new Banyan Wilds exhibit.

finding big cat markings

tiger markings
I found a tiger.

Having the backpacks, encouraged us to take it slowly as the girls wanted to stop and take in the contents of their packs.

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The squirrel puppet from the Backyard pack was a definite favourite and was a constant companion.

IMG_0802Completed activities can be traded for Nature points at Zoomazium’s Nature Exchange.  The points can be exchanged for interesting, rocks, fossils and natural materials on display.  Nature loving children can also create projects at home to earn additional points. Older children are not left out, there are activity sheets to suit all ages. My eldest chose a worksheet relating to the otter exhibit.

otter exhibit worksheetOur favourite part of the day was having the opportunity to feed animals.  Bird seed on sticks can be purchased for $1 and the birds fly down to feed from your hand.

Feeding the birds

The best experience of all though was getting close to the giraffes and hand feeding them. The keeper was great at encouraging the children to ask questions and it was a truly memorable experience for all that I will definitely do again.  Giraffe feeding is $5 per person and under 5’s go free with a paying adult.

giraffe feeding

A day at the zoo was perfect for my nature explorers.

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Membership Offer

Zoo membership is perfect for families with young children. There are a number of membership options to suit different needs and admission is free for children under 3.

Right from the Start readers can benefit from a special offer.

Quote MOM15 at checkout to receive a 10% discount plus entry into a draw to win 2  giraffe feeding tickets and 2 tickets for a carousel ride.

Disclaimer:  Complimentary tickets for 4 people were received.  All opinions are my own and we were under no obligation to write about our visit.

Introducing Children to Welsh Through Song, with Babi Bach the Album

babi bach

My 4-year-old has just learned her first Welsh word ,’canu’ meaning to sing.

How does a child living in the US with non- Welsh speaking parents learn such a word?  From the wonderful, bilingual album, the girls received as a gift.  The album was created by a friend of mine who runs ‘Babi Bach’ a bilingual music group in South Wales.  The girls are fascinated by this unfamiliar language and love it when I tell them the meaning of a Welsh word.

The songs are familiar favourites, including, row, row ,row your boat, incey wincey spider and one finger, one thumb and are sung by male and female voices, in both English and Welsh.   The Welsh versions brought back distant memories of my days as a student teacher in Wales. As an added surprise, when browsing the cover,  I recognised one of the singers as a child who attended my after-school club in the 90’s.  My friend confirmed that it was him, all grown up and singing professionally. More happy memories of home.

Living in the US, my children are unlikely to hear the Welsh Language.  I’m not a Welsh speaker but the Welsh language was at the forefront of my early school years. We had Welsh assembly once a week, played games in Welsh and learned the Welsh language. The girls are fascinated that there is this strange language that is only spoken in Wales.

The girls sing along in English and try their best to join in with the Welsh.  Initially, they spouted  gibberish, laughing hysterically at the complicated words in ‘head, shoulders,knees and toes. My Welsh isn’t really strong enough to help them but I point out the words I recognise. My next step is to print off the Welsh lyrics , so I can sing along. The songs are separated by enthusiastic conversations between a group of friends in both languages, so it is easy for them to follow.

After hearing the songs a few times, they are already beginning to sing along in Welsh even without my help.

I can highly recommend this for Welsh parents who have moved away from Wales. It is the perfect  introduction to the Welsh language.  Equally, it is a simple and fun way to learn Welsh for children living in Wales.

Digital copies of Babi Bach yr Albwm are available from Amazon Music and other digital music platforms.

Disclaimer :This is not a sponsored post no payment was received.

Shrek the Musical

shrek the musical

At the age of 2 my daughter would insist I play ‘Evita’ every time we got in the car.  Her favourite DVD was Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat and she is often heard singing ‘Close Every Door to Me’ in a fake vibrato.  A recent favourite is ‘Pirates of Penzance’. At the weekend she waltzed downstairs in a party dress,singing in a falsetto voice and declared ‘I’m Mabel’.

The girls love of musicals is such that I knew they would enjoy ‘Shrek the Musical’. I’m a fan of musical theatre too but I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it. As a classic animation I wondered if it would really translate to the stage, why turn it into a musical?  Isn’t everything being made into a musical these days? I was however, pleasantly surprised.

It took a while to get into the songs, at first I felt it was a nice alternative to watching a pantomime, but as it went on I became more and more absorbed. Just as in the animation there are some great characters and the original Broadway cast are spectacular.  I particularly loved Pinocchio, the cross dressing Wolf and Donkey who was even more camp, flamboyant and hilarious on stage than in the animation.

The girls were fascinated by Lord Farquaad’s costume.  They spotted immediately that the legs weren’t real (they thought his tiny feet in the bath were hilarious) but couldn’t work out how they made him so small. The show received a Tony Award in 2009 for best costume design of a musical and I can clearly see why.

I loved the tap dancing rats at the start of Act 2 and the girls were up and dancing along.

It is so expensive to take a family of 5 to a live show these days, so it is refreshing to be able to watch one from the comfort of our sofa.  I thought it was a great family show, I’m not singing any of the songs after the first viewing but I’m sure it won’t be long.  There is a sing-along section on the DVD once we become really familiar with the music.

Musicals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but this one was funny, visually stunning and highly entertaining.  There is something for everyone (with a large dose of cleavage for the dad’s).  I’ll definitely see it live if  it ever comes to town. The UK tour begins in 2014.  At about 2 hours long it is a little long for very young children (my 3-year-old struggled to sit through it) but my 5-year-old was mesmerised. The DVD is a sensible alternative to taking very young children to an expensive live show.

Shrek the Musical is available In the UK from 2nd December 2013 in DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD.

Disclosure: No payment was received for writing this post.  A copy of the DVD was received for review purposes.

Tots & Bubble Friday at Dr Maze’s Farm

Dr Maze's FarmIn a bid to meet new people the girls and I sometimes join groups of other mums and their kids through meet up groups.  Our latest venture was to Dr Maze’s Farm.

Dr Maze’s Farm is a family run working farm that grows seasonal crops. What I loved about it was that it was a no frills day of outdoor fun.  It was lovely to visit a farm that didn’t have rides, softplay or large playgrounds, no café or extras to pay for; a place that encouraged exploration and being at one with nature.

Dr Maze’s farm is open during the Summer months on a Friday and Saturday from 10am till 2pm. Opening hours are extended during their special events such as Lavender Festival in July and Pumpkin Patch during October.

On a Friday morning Tots Friday is included in the admission price ($6 increasing to $9 from 12th July) and runs from 10.30 to 11.30. Tots Friday is aimed at the under 5’s but my 9-year-old was welcomed and enjoyed herself too. Each week they have a different theme with activities set up under cover. The theme when we attended was goats, which included goats for the children to pet. There was also a large mud pit for the children to dig and find worms, various sensory bins containing grain and a cut and stick caterpillar activity.

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Towards the end of the session they took the children out to pick crops from the field. They picked kale, sugar snap peas and chard and were encouraged to fill a bag to take home with them. This was a great opportunity for the children to see how crops grow, how to harvest them and experience some new plants.

Once we had filled our bags the girls enjoyed petting and feeding the animals before going on a tractor ride around the farm.

We explored the grounds further. There was plenty for them to do from giant Jenga, mazes, a chicken show, a giant spider web and various things to ride on.  My personal favourite was the music garden. They had perfectly utilised household objects to make a great little sound garden that would be an inspiration to any pre-school or someone like me who now wants to build one in the garden.

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Next came the girls favourite part of the day ‘Bubble Friday’.  A  station was arranged with all kinds of bubble wands and trays of bubble mixture.  The girls started with familiar ones and then learned how to use more elaborate methods to make giant bubbles. They had an  amazing time experimenting with the different types, supported by 2 very friendly ladies. They were so proud of their huge bubbles.

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When it was time to go, they didn’t want to leave but I promised we would go back. We are going to sample the Lavender Festival tomorrow armed with a picnic and with extended opening hours I’m sure we will have a very busy day.

It feels like you are visiting the farmer’s family, who give the impression that they are people who love children, being outdoors and sharing their farm with the public. They even gave us a freshly laid egg to take home with us.

There is a small shop in the entrance selling plants, lavender products, honey and drinks but I would recommend taking a picnic or at least snacks if you intend to stay until closing time.

This is a personal recommendation, no payment of any kind was received for writing this post.

Spitter Spatter Stain Free Anti-Bacterial Children’s Clothing Giveaway

spitter spatter logoI have an exciting giveaway for my readers today from a new children’s clothing company Spitter Spatter.

What is Spitter Spatter?

Spitter-Spatter is a new children’s clothing range for 0-5 year olds with anti-bacterial properties woven into the fabric and also claims to be stain and odour resistant.

Spitter Spatter builds revolutionary antibacterial performance into the fibres of every fabric, without altering the natural breathability or feel of the fabric. Using a proprietary process to modify fabric at the molecular level by creating an invisible barrier on the exterior of the fabric to defend against over 100 different types of germs.

As you can see from many of my posts I love to get my kids outdoors in the dirt. Getting dirty and picking up germs are a natural and necessary part of childhood fostering independence and  building up their immune system.messy play outdoors

So what on earth am I doing reviewing anti-bacterial clothing?

  • I love my kids to get messy, but that doesn’t mean I want them to ruin their clothes.  Through the weaning stage I lost count of the number of t-shirts that had to be thrown away because the stains wouldn’t come out.

Stain Free, Odour free clothing; that interests me

  • I have twin nephews who were born prematurely. Their immune systems are weak and since attending nursery they seem to pick up every bug going and of course pass it to each other. I can see that for children like this Spitter Spatter clothing could be a worthy investment.
  • Many moons ago I worked as a nursery teacher. As any teacher will tell you in the first few months of working in a new school you pick up all of the children’s germs. Working with young children involves lots of sitting on the floor, playing with messy materials, wiping noses and cleaning up spills.  I would always go home feeling grubby, needing a shower and a change of clothes.  If Spitter Spatter had made our uniforms it may have made a difference.

spitter spatter parcelOur Spitter Spatter parcel arrived beautifully presented in a cake box, wrapped in tissue and a note attached.

It contained a dress for my 4-year-old and a t-shirt for my 2-year-old. The clothes are pretty yet practical.  The dress can be worn on its own or with leggings and the t-shirt with pretty ruffled sleeves is great for wearing under sundresses or with trousers.

On the first day the dress was worn my neighbour invited the girls to play. She gave them a home-made slime mixture to play with coloured with blue colouring. A  few spots got on the dress but after washing I was impressed to see that they were gone. I gave the girls permission to eat chocolate ice-cream and get it on their clothes to test it further. Again the dress came out clean.

I only have one small suggestion for improvement. My 4 -year-old chooses her own clothes. She doesn’t often choose the Spitter Spatter dress because she only chooses her ‘prettiest dresses’. I think if it had a patterned fabric she would put it in this category.

Giveaway
The competition is open to readers in the UK and the US.
One reader will be chosen at random to receive a piece of Spitter Spatter clothing in the form of a voucher code that can be redeemed on the Spitter Spatter website.

Competition closes on 25th May 2013 at 12pm PST

To enter follow this link:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Day in the Snow at Hyak Sno Park

hyak sno park

When I was a kid we waited all year for snow, sometimes we were lucky but often we would have a year of disappointment. When the snow came we would head to the local park with our sledges spending hours speeding downhill until we could bear the cold no longer. How amazing it is for our kids to be able to travel to snow within 40 minutes of home.  We headed for Hyak Sno Park for a great family day in the snow. They wore snow boots, salopettes and warm jackets so they avoided  the freezing feet in wellies and soggy trousers that I remember as a kid.

Getting ready to go down the small slope designed for under 5's
Getting ready to go down the small slope designed for under 5’s
Sometimes with dad...
Sometimes with dad…
.....sometimes on their own.
…..sometimes on their own.
Then we all went down the big slope.
Then we all went down the big slope.
The little ones loved it , even when they jumped the ramp at the end and almost ended up in the fence. A face full of snow didn't put them off.
The little ones loved it , even when they jumped the ramp at the end and almost ended up in the fence. A face full of snow didn’t put them off.
There they go
There they go
At the bottom they could wade through snowdrifts.
At the bottom they could wade through snowdrifts.
Then we climbed back to the top
Then we climbed back to the top
to stop for a rest
to stop for a rest
 A snack to fuel more fun. NB. There is nowhere to get food or drink at the snow park so a flask of hot soup and some snacks is a good idea.
A snack to fuel more fun. NB. There isn’t anywhere to get food or drink at the snow park so a flask of hot soup and some snacks are a good idea.
Before heading home we build a little snowman.  Goodbye - see you again soon.
Before heading home we build a little snowman. Goodbye – see you again soon.

Hyak Sno Park can be found in Easton off exit 54 of I90.

Open 8 am to 4:30pm
The parking lot has 150 spaces.  Parking permits are
required, Daily Sno-Park Permit and Daily or Annual
Discover Pass or a Seasonal Sno Park Permit plus Special Groomed Trails Permit
sticker without Discover Pass. These can be purchased at the park.