Tag Archives: Review

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical

charlie-and-the-choc

 

I took a blogging break this summer to concentrate on travelling with my family and now I am back, I have lots to share from my busy summer.  Today is Roald Dahl day and would have been Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, so I thought it would be fitting to share my thoughts on the West End musical production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

This was our first visit to London with the children.  We only travel home every few years, so we wanted to show them the sights and experience a West End show.  To be honest, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wasn’t our first choice of show and we arrived with a little uncertainty.  We couldn’t have chosen anything more memorable or spectacular.  From curtain up it was visually mesmerising.  Costume and set design were out of this world and totally lived up to the company’s aim to astound the audience.

Roald Dahl’s original story was preserved throughout but was cleverly tweaked with  modern touches. The children were characterised perfectly and wonderfully portrayed by the cast.  My kids spent time discussing who they would like to play;  ballet dancing Veruca Salt, video game obsessed Mike Teavee or Violet Beauregarde the acrobatic child star. The parents were also brought to life in quirky and interesting ways.

Directed by Sam Mendes, this is the first stage adaptation in 50 years and completely surpassed my expectations.  We all came out of the theatre feeling a little emotional. We had clearly witnessed something  unique and special.

If you get a chance to see it before it closes at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 2017, I highly recommend it.  Don’t despair if not, a UK tour is coming soon and for US audiences, the Broadway production will open in 2017.

Disclaimer: This is a personal recommendation, no monetary compensation or complimentary tickets were received for writing this post.

 

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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

Activities to Build Children’s Language Development from Ages 3-5.

A few years ago I ran training sessions for early educators and parents on communication, language and literacy. Many of the resources we recommended, including the excellent dvd Chatter Matters, came from the Communication charity I CAN. One of the key messages of this training was that ‘reading and writing float on a sea of talk.’

Kate Freeman, I CAN Communication Advisor and experienced paediatric speech and language therapist says:

Given the right support, many children learn to talk without too much effort. There’s a golden age for learning to talk – this is before 5½ and so skills learnt at this age bring great benefits later on. Evidence has shown the early years to be a vital time for supporting all children’s communication, as well as a time to identify any difficulties and put support in place to improve a child’s overall life chances.

I was very excited to review I CAN’s latest resource Chatting with Children.  This is a really nicely presented set of 30 cards with activities for promoting speaking and understanding for children aged 3-5. The activities are simple and require no specialist resources. Some are copying or guessing games of the kind we often play in the car, some require household objects and a couple that I played with my 4-year -old and 2-year-old  used our musical instruments box . These games would be great for including in my music groups.

Each card has ideas for making the activity easier if your child is struggling or more challenging if it is too simple. The activities are equally suitable for large groups or one child. They are a great resource for families and could provide a wealth of ideas for small group times at pre-school. Many of the cards remind me of games I played with the autistic children I worked with, helping them extend their vocabulary and comprehension and categorise language. These cards would have been an invaluable resource for these families.

The cards focus on a number of skills, listening, developing vocabulary, social skills and understanding what is said. The games are varied  and can be played for a few minutes or half an hour or more.listening games My 4-year-old loved the listening games, playing hide and seek with our timer and listening carefully for the soft tick to help us find it and making sounds with household objects and guessing what they might be.

Chatting with Children is also available as part of a brand new boxset being launched this month by I CAN – the Early Talkers Boxset (£19.99). The boxset contains the original Babbling Babies and Toddler Talk as well as the new Chatting with Children, and has been created especially for parents and Early Years practitioners supporting babies, toddlers and young children in learning to talk.

The three packs between them, contain activities for children from birth to school age. I  was so impressed that I am going to order the box set for my brother to play with his one year old twins.

Chatting with Children is available in paperback for £7.99 paperback and hardback for £12.99 .

All proceeds go towards I CAN’s work with the 1.2 million children in the UK who have long-term speech, language and communication difficulties. To purchase Chatting with Children or the Early Talkers Boxset comprising all three activity card sets visit www.ican.org.uk/bookshop .

“Any parent with a question or concern about their child’s communication can contact the I CAN Help Enquiry Service for a call or email from a speech and language therapist – visit www.ican.org.uk/help

This is not a sponsored post, a copy of chatting with children was received for review purposes

Kate’s Top Tips for Chatting with Children aged 3-5 years old

Be quiet Take time to talk to each other in a quiet room. Turn off the TV and radio, and shut the door to block out any other background noises. Children have to learn to block out background noises, so they need a quiet environment to focus on the sounds they hear.

Be face-to-face Help young children to see your face – make sure you’re at the same level as them. Sit or crouch opposite them as they play, or sit them on your lap. Sit opposite the child so you’re face-to-face with them. Being face-to-face means that the child can see you and your facial expressions. Also, you can see them and their responses and reactions to the games you play together or the conversations you are having.

Don’t rush – take plenty of time Young children take longer than adults to process what they hear – sometimes up to 12 seconds. They need plenty of time to respond to you.

Be patient Young children can easily lose interest in what you’re doing – this is perfectly normal, especially for 3-year-olds. Don’t worry – just stop the game that you’re playing together and try again another time.

Be prepared for anything Follow the child’s lead and adapt the game or conversation to fit in with what they’re doing. This can help maintain attention on particular games.

Ditch the dummy A dummy gets in the way of attempts to talk during conversations and games. Children of 3 and over don’t need to use a dummy.

Use the language you naturally use at home It’s important that you speak naturally to young children; this helps develop their language skills.

Enjoy it This is a special time together, so have fun playing, chatting and learning about each other.

Chatting with Children, a new activity pack for adults to help develop communication skills in children aged 3-5 is available from I CAN www.ican.org.uk/bookshop

THXQVYT9UN4K

 

Fed Up With the Same Old Books for Your Kids? Try Something Different From Quirk Books.

monkey fartsI had never heard of Quirk books before but when I was approached to review a couple of their titles, the concepts grabbed me. As the name would suggest, Quirk books publish titles that are a little different. They are most well-known for the Worst-Case Scenario series and have a large catalogue of slightly off the wall books.

The first book I was asked to review is ‘Monkeyfarts – Wacky Jokes every kid should know’. My kids love jokes and joke books and we are always on the look out for new jokes so I knew this would be popular. The book begins with typical boyish toilet humour jokes that young boys will love and my girls did too. With a mixture of well-known one liners, longer story type jokes and old favourites that make you groan, there is something for everyone The book itself is a lovely little hardback edition, light durable and easy to hold. With a rrp. of £5.99 ($8.99 USD) it is very good value and ideal for a party present or stocking filler.

The second book would be attractive to children and adults alike. Fill in the Blank – An Inspirational Sketchbook contains a wealth of ideas to inspire creativity and design. Each page begins with the slogan ‘You are a….’ and then a design prompt. Some of my favourites include

 

 

  • You are a street artist – and won’t be arrested
  • You are at grandma’s – who’s in the family?
  • You are a genius – these ideas will make you rich
  • You are a tattoo artist – make your mark
  • You are an autobiographer – start telling the story of your life
  • You are in detention – confess your crimes

Most of the designs are for drawing but some involve writing or a combination of written and illustrated thought.

gingerbread menWe picked out some of the simplest pages for my 4-year-old, she loved designing ice-creams and she shared the gingerbread man page with her 8-year-old sister.

My 8-year-old loves this book, it is an inspired transition from colouring books for older children. There are some lovely projects that we could work on together and it is a wonderful way to encourage children to draw for pleasure. With such a huge variety of blanks, boys and girls of all ages will find plenty to hold their interest, from designing a hat to creating a city at the end of the road.

This would also make a great coffee table book, a resource for teachers or an interesting addition to a waiting room. Additional blanks can be downloaded from the Quirk website where you can also create a profile and share designs.

Fill in the blank is currently retailing on Amazon.co.uk for £11.70

Competition

I have one copy of each book to give away to my readers in the UK

Simply leave a comment stating which book you would like and one winner for each book will be drawn at random on 3rd November

Terms and conditions

This competition is only open to entries from residents of the UK

One entry per person

one additional entry can be made by commenting on rightfromthestart’s facebook page under the link to this post

winners will be notified by email and first names published on the site.

Butlins – A Great British Family Holiday

A few weeks before leaving the UK I had a very special farewell holiday with my family at Butlins Minehead Resort courtesy of Butlins Ambassador Programme. It didn’t quite begin as planned but once we arrived and the sun came out we had a great time.

Our party included myself and my 3 children (aged 8, 3 and 1), my brother, his partner and their twins (aged 1) and my dad, stepmum and one of her grandchildren (aged 7).

Our gold apartments were almost identical to the one we stayed in during our Christmas break , so I won’t repeat myself.  I would however highlight a few things if you are taking toddlers.  Firstly the doors are very heavy and sprung , my youngest children managed to avoid trapping limbs but I didn’t feel very relaxed.  My crawling nephew who is into everything managed to pull a heater off the wall, knock the television over and get into every cupboard in the kitchen, so needless to say they didn’t spend a lot of time in the apartment. That said, with the true Butlin’s spirit at heart,  you will get the most out of your break by getting out and out enjoying what it has to offer. My dad stayed in a silver apartment and was more than satisfied with the size and comfort.

The whole party were very impressed with the quality and choice of food, a difficult task to provide something to suit everyone in such a large party.

Swimming

We were so lucky to have a day of glorious sunshine that we could spend in the outdoor pool, this was suitable for all ages and they all had a great time. The indoor pool was even more fun for the older children, though I didn’t get  a chance to go on the slides this time as I had to stay in the shallow pool with the little ones.  Getting 4 under 5’s ready for a swim was a bit of a military operation but they loved every minute.

Fairground Rides

bob the builders yardThe outdoor fairground was perfect for the 2 older children and the indoor playground in Bob the Builder’s yard was enjoyed as much by the younger ones.  The twins were a little young so went for a walk instead but my 1 year old had a wonderful time . We spent a good few hours there, there were hardly any queues and as it was undercover it would have been fun in any weather.

Shows

Primarily the shows that we watched were in the Skyline Pavilion . This was an easy place to head to each evening. The children were happy watching shows, running around on the amusements or playing in the softplay and we could get a drink from the bar.  My 3 year old was so excited when she met characters from the Skyline Gang. My youngest 2 avoided getting lost by wearing a wristband with my phone number on it provided by the red coats,  a great idea for peace of mind in a busy venue. Our favourite show was ‘I Can Cook’.  Katie was brilliant with the children and really energetic and engaging.  There was lots of audience participation (arrive early for a good seat if your children would like to get up on stage) and we all got to taste the produce at the end.  My 3 year old was excited to meet Katie and wanted to ask her if she could come to our house to cook with her.

Activities

In some ways it is difficult in a mixed aged party to get too involved in activities.  Many would have been suitable for the under 5’s or for the older ones but not all together.  The idea of this holiday was a final farewell before we head off to the states so we didn’t really want to split up.

There were quite a lot of paid activities, we chose a few , the children had donkey rides, my eldest climbed the climbing wall and the older girls went to the cinema with their nanny.  We felt the cinema was a little expensive, costing around the £20 mark for 3 children and an adult. The cinema was almost empty and may have been busier if it had cost a few pounds each.

Billy Bear

butlinsThe highlight of the holiday for the littlest ones was meeting Billy Bear everyday at mealtimes. My one year old now calls all teddy bears Billy Bear.

With 4 children under 5 it wasn’t always the most relaxing holiday in the world, but the perfect way to involve all the family and say goodbye to the UK.

Thank you so much to everyone who made our year as a Butlin’s ambassador a wonderful experience and all the best to the current group of ambassadors.  Perhaps we could bring Butlins to the US?  Somehow I don’t think the Americans would get it.

This review is based on a term time 4 night break during June in a gold apartment with premium dining.

A Little Princess – A Tots100 Film Club Review

There were some lovely classic films to choose from this month and my 8 year old had a difficult time choosing, but as we had enjoyed the Secret Garden so much she chose another Frances Hodgson Burnett story – A Little Princess.

I watched some of it with my 3 year old who told me in great detail about why the Little Princess was sad

Her daddy died and the nasty lady made her do all the work and took all her things.

a little princess dvdThe story is a tale of imagination, positivity and hope but don’t expect to come away without shedding a tear or two. The key message of the film is that all little girls are princesses no matter what they look like or who they are -maybe not one for the femininist movement, but teaching girls that they are special is fine in my book.

There is a beautiful scene towards the end of the film involving the little princess and her dad – it brought tears to my eyes, especially pertinent as my girls had been without their dad for 3 weeks when we watched the film.

I was a little confused as to why the girl playing the little princess was American and the father was clearly British.  However, this has only encouraged me to read the book to discover where the original novel was set.

I think I’m becoming a bit of a Frances Hodgson Burnett fan.  Her stories talk of orphaned or lonely children and I’d be interested to read about her own life to see if any part of this is autobiographical.

The Little Princess is a stunning film visually as was the Secret Garden and is a family film in its truest form.

Tots 100 Film Club – Looney Tunes Big Faces Box Set

Following the success of last months Bugs Bunny Review, this month I chose to review a Box
Set of Looney Tunes favourites. As I have an Upcoming 10 hour flight to Seattle with 3 kids, I thought this would be perfect for keeping them amused.
What a fabulous box set this is. It contains 10 DVDs featuring Looney Tunes favourites such as Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Porky Pig,Road Runner and Taz. Each DVD focuses on one character and features at least 10 episodes. The Tom and Jerry one kept them going for 2 hours in the car.
The episodes include all the old classics that we remember as kids, in fact the Porky Pig DVD begins with black and white episodes. It’s been great watching all the old Tom and Jerry classics.
My 3 year old loves the road runner and kept commenting on the fact that Wile e coyote kept getting hurt.
They have watched Tom and Jerry before but on the whole the Looney toons concept was new

Mummy why aren’t they talking?

I can highly recommend this DVD great value for money and it will definitely be accompanying us on our plane journey.

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