Thursday, 5 October 2017

Getting Crafty with Goodnight Spaceman #WorldSpaceWeek

To celebrate World Space Week (4th - 10th October) we have been getting crafty with Goodnight Spaceman thanks to Puffin Books and Ora. We made a fabulous space scene following this very easy tutorial on Puffin's website, which takes advantage of Ora's uniquely shaped round kitchen towels (although any paper towel could be used). This little project is suitable for the whole family, even Mini Reviewer, Poppy (1), got stuck in! Just take a peek at how we got on.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Language Learning Part 3: Flashcard Fun with Lil'ollo

Welcome to the third part of our Language Learning series: Flashcard fun with Lil'ollo, if you are joining us for the first time "Hello" or rather "Hallo"! We have previously looked at introducing languages through song and stories with an emphasis on learning German. However, the resources and products we have shared are available in many other languages too, so you may wish to take a look at our earlier posts: Language Learning Part 1: Singing with Lingotastic and Language Learning Part 2: STORIES.

Today's post is all about learning through play and we are delighted to be featuring some fun and versatile products from Lil'ollo. You may remember that we had been struggling to get hold of language resources in German and that was one of the reasons for starting the Language Learning mini series. A little while ago we stumbled across Lil'ollo and you can imagine our delight when we discovered that their beautiful range of flashcards come in many languages, including German! 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Hello October: Books to welcome Autumn and celebrate Halloween

Hello October! Autumn is well and truly here and with it those chilly mornings and dark evenings. However, with plenty of puddles to splash in; leaves to throw; and conkers to collect, we think it could be our favourite time of year! So we are really looking forward to the half term holiday at the end of the month and, of course, Halloween!

Last year we celebrated Halloween with some spooky book-inspired baking and crafts, before dressing up and going trick or treating. We also read a few "not-so-scary" Halloween books. You can read all about last year's stories here and, in anticipation of this year's celebrations, we have already added a few more "not-so-scary" books to our collection.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

wash, wear, repeat... #EcoverLaundry

Looking back to my childhood, I recall that the washing machine was constantly on the go and there were always clothes drying on the line outside. Fast forward 30ish years and not much has changed. As a busy Mum of three, it seems like the laundry basket is never empty and so continues the inevitable cycle of wash, wear, repeat... 

I spend a lot of money on washing detergent every month and, due to the eczema issues in our family, I am very particular about the products we use. I usually choose a non-bio formula manufactured by a leading brand and avoid fabric softener. I need a detergent that is tough enough to deal with all the weird and wonderful stains and smells that come with parenthood yet is gentle on sensitive skin.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Everything Unicorn - Plus a Smiggle Giveaway!

It's official, we have got unicorn fever in this house but there's no need to panic, this is not some sort of tropical disease, no, this is the unicorn craze that seems to have been sweeping the nation for some time now. So this week we are embracing everything sparkly, cute, shiny and even gooey that this magical, horned creature has to offer!

Something Sparkly...

Add some sparkle to storytime with these two fabulous unicorn-themed books. Sugarlump and the Unicorn is written by one of our favourite authors, Julia Donaldson. The cute and whimsical illustrations are the work of the extremely talented, Lydia Monks. Together Julia and Lydia have created several other brilliant children's books together, including The Singing Mermaid; The Princess and The Wizard; and the What The Ladybird Heard trilogy.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Our story so far... #EctodermalDysplasia #JeansForGenes

Tomorrow it's Jeans for Genes Day and, around the same time each year, I reflect upon the impact a tiny faulty gene continues to have on our family's day-to-day lives. For those of you who don't know, I have a condition called Ectodermal Dysplasia (ED) as does my son, Theo. I have previously shared a little about the condition and my concern's for Theo's future here: Along Came Poppy: Word of the Week: Kindness 

I'd like to emphasise from the outset that I consider our family to be extremely lucky not to be more severely affected by Ectodermal Dysplasia. However, having reviewed last year's post, I now realise that in just over twelve months a lot has happened regarding Theo's condition and treatment. I hope that by sharing our personal experiences, we will raise awareness of ED and may even help other families looking for answers.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

10 Budget Ways To Grow Your Child's Library

These days our bookshelves are overflowing with beautiful children's books but this has not always been the case. When I was pregnant with Mini Reviewer, Izzie, I started to look for ways I could build up a little collection of books for her but without spending a fortune. Here are my tried and tested ways to grow your child's library on a budget...

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Bath Time Adventures with Cocobubble - Review & Giveaway

Cocobubble is a family business based in South Wales that is reinventing bath time with a range of child friendly bath bombs, soap paints and mini character soaps. Cocobubble also sell innovative activity bundles, eco friendly toys and, yep you guessed it, a bath time book! 

The Magical Wood is described as a bath time adventure book. It is made using a flexible, waterproof material so it can get splashed or even be fully immersed in the tub. Cocobubble also sell The Magical Wood bath bundle, which can be used along with the book to promote imaginative play and storytelling. We thought this sounded such an amazing way to brighten up any bath time.

As the Mini Reviewers have mild eczema, we have to be quite careful what products we use on their skin. We were pleased to find out that Cocobubble products are not only made in the UK, they are 100% vegan and gentle on skin. They are made from many natural ingredients and are free from parabens, mineral oils, SLS, SLES and phlalates. So of course we were happy to try out some of their bath time range.*

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Lollies Blog Tour:The Prince of Pants #Lollies2017

Nothing quite beats a book that gets you giggling, so we are delighted to be taking part in the LAUGH OUT LOUD 2017 Book Awards Blog Tour. The Lollies were created by Scholastic to celebrate the funniest books for children and are awarded in three categories: Best Laugh Out Loud Picture Book; Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 6-8s; and Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 9-13s. The winning books will be announced early next year and are decided by children's votes. To view the shortlisted books and to place your vote visit the Lollies website.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Read with Lottie - Review & Giveaway

Lottie Dolls have been on our radar for a while now. We first came across Fossil Hunter Lottie in the shop at The Natural History Museum in London and loved the concept of dolls that are fun yet educational. Then we discovered that Puffin had released a series of books featuring Lottie, Finn and some of their friends. So, when we were asked to review Lottie Dolls, we happily agreed because we just couldn't wait to read with Lottie!

If you take a look at the full Lottie Doll collection you will see that there are boy and girl dolls, as well as dolls with different hair and eye colours and skin tones. There is also a whole range of different accessories, so your doll could be anything from a ballerina to a fossil hunter. He or she could go fishing, ride a scooter or even gaze at the stars. The vision behind the dolls is that childhood should be an inclusive place and Lottie Dolls are designed to empower children to be themselves. The tagline Be bold, be brave, be you! is therefore very fitting.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Books to Inspire: Meet Lucy and Jack

It has been quite a while since I wrote a Books to Inspire post but you cannot get more inspirational than the story behind the Meet Lucy and Jack series. Just over 12 months ago I reviewed a very special book called "H is for Haemodialysis" written for children whose families are affected by kidney disease. It was the debut picture book of Anita and Simon Howell, who had been inspired by their own experiences of dealing with kidney disease and the impact it had upon their own family life raising two young children. Simon himself suffers from kidney failure and receives dialysis. He is currently waiting for a second kidney transplant.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

New Books for Little Heroes

The Mini Reviewers have always loved to dress up and they have certainly come up with some imaginative outfits in the past but recently it seems to be all about crime fighting heroes and pesky bad guys. So when we saw The Rainbow Factory were holding a Superhero Extravaganza this summer, we had to book tickets. 

If you are local to Leeds and haven't visited The Rainbow Factory yet, do check out their website as they offer some incredible storytelling adventures. We have been a few times now and each visit is always a little different. During our last visit the Mini Reviewers got to make their very own Supertato, decorate masks and shields and, of course, train to be Superheroes. I think they looked pretty convincing, don't you?

Since our visit we've been keeping an eye out for some new "super" reads. Here are five of our favourite new books for little heroes...

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Novel Non-Fiction for Younger Kids

The Mini Reviewers are now 1, 3 and 5 years old. Over the past year there have been some incredible non-fiction releases aimed specifically at the younger end of the children's market. Here are five non-fiction books that we feel really stand out from the crowd...

Five Favourite School Books and a Back To School Tradition

The summer holidays have flown by and as August ends our thoughts turn to the start of a new school year, an exciting time but also one that can be uncertain and nerve-wracking for so many. Here the uniform has been purchased, tried on and (almost) labelled and Mini Reviewer, Izzie, is raring to return to school. However when Izzie started school last year, we all had our fair share of nerves! So if you have an apprehensive school starter or a child that is a little reluctant to go back to school, don't panic! There are lots of books out there offering gentle reassurance and showing that school can in fact be lots of fun! Here are our five favourite books celebrating school life as well as a little "Back To School" tradition of our own.

Going To School by Rose Blake is a great new book for children starting school or who are in their first few years of primary school. The colourful double spreads show a day in the life of a young school girl and her classmates. Starting with her journey to school and finishing with home time, we join her for playtime, lunchtime as well as all the lessons in between. With so much to spot and discuss, this book will help talk about starting or returning to school in a positive and cheerful way.

Buy here: Going to School, Rose Blake, Frances Lincoln Children's Books

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Language Learning Part 2: STORIES featuring a review of One Third Stories

Welcome back for the second part in our Language Learning series. Last time I shared how we started learning German through song using the fantastic CD from Lingotastic. If you missed it, you can read all about it in my original post here.

Today I'd like to share the next step in our language learning journey... learning through STORIES! As you know we enjoy a good book, so it seemed only natural to start reading in German to the Mini Reviewers. Once I had purchased two simple books (as recommended by Sarah from Lingotastic), I got to grips with the pronunciation with a little help from YouTube! I then tried them out on the Mini Reviewers.

Die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt or The Very Hungry Caterpillar to you and I, proved to be a bit too much for us all at this stage. However Kleiner weisser Fisch was perfect as there is such a lot of repetition and after just a few times reading the book together, the Mini Reviewers started to join in too - pretty impressive!

KINFO App Review

KINFO is a new FREE app available on the App Store in iOS (an Android version is in development). The app has been designed by Isabelle, a mum of three, to help other parents find great activities for their own children. There is no sponsored content, all the recommendations have been added by parents. On KINFO you will find fantastic ideas for days out, holidays, recipes, games and crafts. As well as reviews of brilliant films, toys and of course, BOOKS!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Language Learning Part 1: Singing with Lingotastic

Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing a little about our language learning adventures and reviewing some of our favourite language resources with giveaways too! Learning languages at a young age can apparently boost brain power and increase memory but the main reason I decided to introduce languages to the Mini Reviewers was to promote a deeper understanding and awareness of different countries and cultures, which in today's diverse society seems increasingly important.

Sadly I am not a gifted linguist or an expert in language learning. However what I lack in skills, I make up for in sheer enthusiasm and I thought that by sharing our language learning journey from the start, it may encourage others to have a try. So what are you waiting for? Pick a language and here we go...

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Five Favourite New Books for 2017

Hello July! The first six months of 2017 seem to have whizzed by and the summer holidays are quickly approaching, so I thought it was about time I shared a round up of some of the amazing new picture books that have been released so far this year. Perhaps it will even inspire you to pick up a new book this summer...

These fantastic five books have all been published in the first half of 2017 and, in the interest of full disclosure, we have been lucky to receive some from kindhearted publicists but others we have simply stumbled upon in the library - it's quite an eclectic mix!

We're All Wonders written and illustrated by R.J. Pallacio and published by Puffin.

This heartwarming picture book features Auggie, the hero of Pallacio's bestselling book Wonder. As I'm such a huge fan of the original Wonder, I was concerned that Pallacio's picture book may be a bit of a disappointment. However, I needn't have worried, Pallacio has produced yet another incredibly special book and this time she makes Auggie's story accessible to an even younger audience. For those of you who are not familiar with Wonder, Auggie is not an ordinary kid. Although he does ordinary things, he looks a little different from other kids. He understands that he cannot change how he looks but hopes people can change the way they see. This book promotes the importance of kindness and is a beautiful celebration of our uniqueness. It reinforces the message that We're All Wonders and, as a mum of three little wonders, this book is a must read for all.

Inspector Brunswick: The Case of the Missing Eyebrow written and illustrated by Angela Keoghan and Chris Lam Sam and published by Tate Gallery Publishing.

There's a mystery to solve at the art museum, something's gone missing from the Admiral's portrait but there's no need to panic as Inspector Brunswick is on the case and with his top hat and magnifying glass he looks the part too! This story follows Inspector Brunswick and his side kick Nelson as they follow the clues to track down the Admiral's missing eyebrow. Just when they think they've solved the mystery, there's a bit of a twist! This book is full of humour and quirky illustrations but we can't say too much more as we don't want to spoil it for you!

My New Room by Lisa Stickley and published by Pavilion.

If your little one is moving to a new room, a big bed or even a new house, this book is well worth a read. Join Edith and her array of toys as they move into their new room together. Each toy has it's special place to sit and role to play to ensure Edith settles in. The vintage-inspired collage illustrations capture the personality of each character perfectly, This is a really fun book to read aloud, with lots of different voices of course!

Goldilocks and the Three Potties written and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson and published by Nosy Crow.

In this story a very little Goldilocks is looking for pants and a potty that are just right! Will she find them? And will she get to grips with potty training? This brilliantly illustrated book really gave the Mini Reviewers the giggles. They found Goldilocks' potty possibilities (a teacup and a welly) very funny indeed. Leigh's illustrations are bright and expressive and really capture the imagination. I particularly like the fact that Goldilocks keeps trying and eventually gets potty training just right! This really is a fantastic take on the traditional Goldilocks tale and although it may not solve your potty training dilemmas (can any book?!), it certainly adds a little fun to what is otherwise a pretty soggy experience! 

Marie Curie written by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Frau Isa and published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books.

This beautiful book is part of the Little People, BIG DREAMS series and is our non-fiction choice for the first half of 2017. With simple text and engaging illustrations, this series is perfect to introduce young children to the inspiring stories of some of the most outstanding people that have ever lived. This new book outlines the lengths Marie Curie went to to secure her education and celebrates the discoveries that she made explaining how they have helped future generations. At the end of the book there is a detailed fact section with a timeline and photographs. This series is great for both girls and boys and show that with hard work and perseverance, incredible things can come from a childhood dream.

We recently featured the series in our top five books on female heroes:

Have you discovered any fantastic new books this year? 
Please do share your recommendations below!

*This post contains affiliate links.

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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Mandy & Mitch and the Big Brave Boots - Review and Giveaway

Mandy & Mitch and the Big Brave Boots is the debut picture book from Little Boot Books.  It has been written by Alison Hanson and illustrated by Samantha Theobald-Roe. The team at Little Boot Books hope to create a series of stories for little readers that tackle big ideas and their first book explores the feelings of worry and anxiety. Here's the blurb...
Mitch loves Mandy Mondays, but not even his best friend can stop the worry in his tummy from bubbling out of control. As Mitch's worry bubbles grow stronger, Mandy knows that she must help her friend to pop those worries once and for all...but how?
Mandy and Mitch invite readers everywhere into the complex world of early emotional development. Exploring feelings of worry and anxiety, this book's visceral imagery provides a resource for storytelling, conversation and play. So dive in, boots first!
The story uses worry bubbles to explain to little ones how we all worry from time to time and there are useful discussion prompts available on the Little Boot Books website. At the beginning of the story Mitch is left by his mummy at his friend's house. Mitch becomes anxious and the worry bubbles start to build up inside him. I shared this book with Mini Reviewer, Theo, who is 3. He immediately understood how Mitch might feel if his mummy left him and we went on to talk about how he feels when he is worried.

The story then shows how Mitch's friend, Mandy is feeling. She is clearly fed up as Mitch won't play with her. Mandy's daddy advises her that she should try and put herself in Mitch's shoes, which confuses Mandy. We discussed the meaning of this saying and talked about how Mandy could help Mitch before we continued with the story.

As Mandy is unable to fit into Mitch's shoes, she puts on her Brave Boots (her wellies) and tries all sorts of things to burst Mitch's worry bubbles. Eventually Mandy realises that Mitch needs to share his worries with her. We talked about what it means to share a worry and why this can help. Together, Mandy and Mitch are able to pop and blow the rest of bubbles away and they go on to play for the rest of the day.

We enjoyed sharing this book together. I particularly liked the use of worry bubbles to explain  and visually show how anxiety can bubble up and become out of control. The book made a good conversation starter and I found the discussion prompts on the Little Boot Books website helpful. As a Welly fan, Theo loved the idea of popping bubbles in his own Big Brave Boots so maybe this is something we should try!
Credit: Little Boot Books
If you would like to get your hands on a paperback copy of this book, why not enter the giveaway at the end of this post? If you do not win, do not panic, Mandy & Mitch and the Big Brave Boots is available now from Amazon: £5.99 (paperback) £2.99 (kindle) £0.99 (audio book). There are also activity ideas available on the Little Boot Books website.

*Disclaimer: We received a copy of this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are as always our own.

Mandy & Mitch Book Giveaway

Sunday, 18 June 2017

My Little Book of Big Freedoms - Review and Giveaway

When this small yet incredibly important book arrived in the post this week, I was extremely excited and I could not wait to share it with the Mini Reviewers.

My Little Book of Big Freedoms portrays the 16 different freedoms of The Human Rights Act in a series of enchanting and very beautiful pictures. Each picture is accompanied by simplified text taken from the act itself. The book has been illustrated by awarding winning writer and illustrator and former Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell. It has been published by Buster Books in partnership with Amnesty International UK, the world's largest human rights organisation.

As a former lawyer, I am impressed at how effortlessly this little book conveys the importance of The Human Rights Act and explains how the special rules look after all of us, keeping us safe and free. Although aimed at children, this is a book to inspire generations and I cannot see how anyone, young or old, could fail to be moved by such poignant illustrations.

This special little book is undoubtedly my favourite release of the year so far and I can see it being read in homes and classrooms up and down the country.

My Little Book of Big Freedoms is available from 22nd June 2017, RRP £9.99. If you would like to win your own copy please enter the giveaway below:

My Little Book of Big Freedoms

*We received a copy of My Little Book of Big Freedoms for the purpose of this review, all opinions are as always our own.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Bamboozled by PHONICS? Read with Fonics App - Review and Giveaway

Until Mini Reviewer, Izzie, started school in September, I am a little embarrassed to admit that I was bamboozled by these "PHONICS" everyone was talking about. When I learned to read we used sight words - basically repeating the same word over and over again until we could remember it! Of course, I knew what the letter sounds were and had taught these to Izzie but that was pretty much the extent of my phonics knowledge! I now know that learning to read using phonics (sounds) is a much simpler method than using sight words as there are only 44 sounds to learn. Once these sounds are understood then most of the English language can be decoded so it gets children reading more quickly. Sounds easy, doesn't it?

Well fortunately for the most part it has been (phew!) but I am always looking for new ideas to keep learning fun and so when we were asked to review a new phonics app, I jumped at the chance!

Designed by teacher, Sophie Cooper, Read with Fonics is a fun new app to help children learn to read. It is aimed at primary school children aged 4-7 years old (Reception - Year 2). The app consists of a series of games for the different letter sounds that when completed unlock further sounds. There are four stages or worlds to complete: 1. Water World; 2. Forest World; 3. Lava Land; and finally, 4. Jelly City. The sounds in the stages get progressively harder.

Over the past few weeks Izzie has enjoyed working her way through the different stages of the app with Albee the Alien. Initially I was concerned that the games were a little repetitive as it is the same format for each sound. However, this has not bothered Izzie in the slightest, in fact, I think it has enabled her to get to grips with the app quicker and allowed her to work through the later stages independently. The games help to improve recognition, comprehension, segmenting and blending. They consist of finding the correct sound; completing words; matching words to the correct pictures; and, in the later stages, identifying nonsense (pseudo) words from real words. The app keeps track of progress and so it has been easy to identify any areas that Izzie has found more difficult.

I have also had a little play with the app and I found it to be extremely user friendly and the games easy to follow. I particularly like that the font is very clear and the voice used has good pronunciation in UK English. My three year old has also been able to complete some of the easier games and there is this fantastic phonics song available online, which is also great for younger children:

Overall we have been incredibly impressed with the app and, as we approach the end of Izzie's first school year, I am pleased to say we are all getting to grips with our phonics!

Sophie wanted to create "the ultimate learn to read resource for the classroom", however she has created an app that is perfect for home use too. So if you have a child starting school this year or are a bit bamboozled by phonics, I really recommend that you take a look at the Read with Fonics website. As well as the great song, there is also a free phonics guide and resources for parents and you can of course purchase the brilliant app for £7.99. 

Now for the best bit... I have three codes for full access to the app (Google or Apple) to giveaway to three lucky readers! See below for entry details:

Read with Fonics App Giveaway

*Disclaimer: We received free access to the Read With Fonics App for the purpose of this review. All opinions are as always our own.
SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Unique Board Books for Babies and Toddlers

At the beginning of May, Independent Children's Publisher, Nosy Crow launched a new range of books with The British Museum. The range, aimed at ages 0-12, includes these two incredibly interesting and unique board books:

Filled with fascinating photos of items originating from all over the world and from throughout time, these robust first concept books are designed to introduce children to letters and numbers. Although aimed primarily at babies and toddlers, Mini Reviewer, Izzie (5) found the images very engaging and she desperately wanted to know all about the different items on each page. Fortunately we were able to scan the QR code to find out a little more - although apparently not enough for Izzie! She particularly liked the collections of different keys, dolls, beads and kites and was in fact more interested in the books than her two younger siblings!  Although they too enjoyed looking at the pictures; counting the objects; sounding out the letters; and, of course, turning the pages themselves. Below are just a few of the images we found to be the most eye catching:

Friday, 19 May 2017

Five Favourite Colourful Books #top5friday

This week we've been considering our favourite books about COLOUR prompted by our #top5friday twitter chat with The Happy Book Club and Acorn Books, boy do we have some amazing titles to share with you!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Cultural Diversity in Children's Books

In our search for diverse and inclusive books we came across Lantana Publishing, a London-based independent publishing company that champions cultural diversity in children's books. Last week the company's Founder and Publisher Alice Curry won the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize, which recognises the achievement of women in publishing. Therefore we thought this would be the perfect time to share our round up of Lantana's beautiful and inspiring stories.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Five Favourite Train Stories #Top5Friday

Mini Reviewer, Theo (3), likes anything with wheels but he really, really LOVES trains. We are incredibly lucky to live close to the National Railway Museum in York and we have made many a trip to look at the "giant wheels". On Theo's second birthday we even managed to see "The Flying Choo Choo" otherwise known as the Flying Scotsman!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Once Upon A Time Book Bundles - Review and Reader Discount

We were delighted to be contacted by Kelly from Once Upon A Time Book Bundles to review a bespoke book package. Kelly has recently set up her online book service to provide children's book bundles for all ages. Her customers include parents, as well as, childcare providers and businesses. She offers a variety of book packages but ensures that each bundle is suitable for the recipient's age, interests and reading ability.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Books to make you ROAR (like a dinosaur)! #top5friday

This week we are joining The Happy Book Club along with some other book lovers on Twitter for #top5friday and we are discussing the best dinosaur books around. We thought we'd share our top five choices as selected by Mini Reviewer and dinosaur fan, Theo (3). We hope these get you roaring...

Thursday, 27 April 2017

One Silver Summer: A modern fairytale for teens

One night last week I stayed up especially late to finish One Silver Summer by Rachel Hickman. Now although this modern fairytale for teens is not the usual type of book I review, as it is aimed at children much older than my own, I felt that it really deserved a special mention. So as my five year old would say "here is the blurb..."

"After losing her mother, Sass is sent to live with an uncle she barely knows. Far from her native New York, the rocky Cornish shoreline seems an unlikely place to hide her grief. Yet when she stumbles across a silver horse in a sunlit meadow, Sass feels a surprising sense of peace... only to have it broken by a boy with a secret."

Books to Beat the Bedtime Blues #BathBookBed

Sleep deprivation has to be one of the hardest things to deal with as a parent and, with three children of my own, it is safe to say I have endured plenty of sleepless nights over the past 5 years. When we have had a bad night, parenting the next day seems so much harder. In fact everything seems so much harder! My patience levels hit rock bottom and I end up on autopilot fuelled by tea and biscuits.

In my sleep deprived state I have been known to drive to the wrong place, to find my car keys and phone in the fridge and I have even discovered (half way through the day) that my clothes are on back to front AND inside out! A sleepless night also means grumpy, tantrum prone children and the morning school run becomes a battle of wills. So a good night's sleep not only benefits the whole family but also anyone else that is unfortunate enough to encounter us the next day! 

A post shared by Kate (Along Came Poppy) (@kate.eccles) on

Getting desperate?

Over the past few years there have been times that I have gone to somewhat desperate lengths to settle my little ones. I have rocked, sang and fed them to sleep. I have carefully transferred them to their cots and beds. I have loving held their hands through the cot bars and even slept next to their beds on the floor. My funniest bedtime memories are of covertly creeping out of their rooms on all fours whilst desperately trying to avoid the dreaded squeaky floor boards. There was also that time I climbed over the cot bars and actually sat inside with my eldest daughter. Simply ridiculous and, if you are wondering, no it didn't work!

Establishing a routine

The BookTrust has recently launched this year's Bath, Book, Bed campaign by publishing their simple steps to achieve a better night's sleep with guidance from, parenting expert, Jo Frost. You can read all about their Bath, Book, Bed routine here. Establishing a similar routine certainly helped my children know what to expect at bedtime and therefore settle more easily on a night. Here are our tried and tested tips for a successful bedtime:
  • Keep bedtime as calm as possible, everything you do should take the children one step closer to falling asleep. 
  • Dim the lights where possible and, if children require a light to fall asleep, use a nightlight. We also have blackout blinds in the children's rooms.
  • Choose a bedtime story that is good to snuggle up with. I try to keep our choices engaging yet not too exciting. You can find our recommendations below. I let each child choose a book and then we read them all together.
  • Try white noise if little ones still struggle to settle. I'm not sure whether this is controversial but it has worked wonders for us. When our youngest was a baby I noticed she liked the sound of the vacuum cleaner and hairdryer so we started to use a white noise app to help her drift off to sleep. Now she is a little older (almost 18 months) she has a Sleep Tight Puppy that we programme to play the noise of waves. The best part about this is she has learned to touch its tummy to restart the waves if she wakes in the night.
  • Finally, once you find a routine that works for you and your family, stick with it as consistency is key.

Now for the best bit, our favourite bedtime books. For those of you that regularly read our blog you will know that we love stories, all types of stories but at bedtime I have started to try and keep our choices to books that are as calming as possible. Here are some of our current bedtime favourites:

1. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd 
2. Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
3. Pip and Posy The Bedtime Frog by Axel Scheffler
4. Goodnight Digger by Michelle Robinson and Nick East
5. The Last Book Before Bedtime by Nicola O'Byrne
6. The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark by Jill Tomlinson and Paul Howard

You can find many more bedtime book recommendations from the BookTrust here

Have you tried the #BathBookBed routine? 
What helps you get a better night's sleep? 
Please do share your bedtime tips 
and especially your favourite bedtime books in the comments below. 
We love to hear from you!

*Disclaimer: This post is part of the TOTS100 #bathbookbed blogger challenge in conjunction with The BookTrust. All opinions are, as always, my own.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

What's So Special About Dinosaurs?

Do you have little ones that love Dinosaurs? Then you may be interested in this fantastic series of non fiction books by Nicky Dee. Each book is packed full of information about a different dinosaur. The fun facts are presented in an engaging and accessible way with lots of exciting illustrations. There are currently 8 titles available: Megalosaurus, Diplodocus, Leaellynasaura, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Coelophysis, Ankylosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex. The layout of each book is exactly the same so you can easily compare the stats of the different dinos - everything from their height and weight, to just how they measured up when it came to speed, braininess and even scariness! Eek!

Last year we were lucky enough to visit the Natural History Museum in London as well as also the summer dinosaur exhibition at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Since then I have been keen to find interesting dinosaur books that are very reader (mummy) friendly. We received two books from this series to review and so we have been able to compare the huge, plant eating Diplodocus with the much lighter, quicker and scarier, meat eating Megalosaurus. 

Initially I thought The Mini Reviewers (5, 3 and 1) may find the images in these books a little frightening but, no, instead they loved them! They took great delight in placing the books side by side to compare the different dinosaurs as they looked at each page in turn. It is safe to say that the kids' thought the books were fantastic and even though they are a little young to fully appreciate all the information, I think they will learn more and more from this series as they get older. I am also pleased to tell you there is even assistance in pronouncing the dinosaurs' names making the books extremely reader (mummy) friendly so we can ALL enjoy our dino education together!

We have also signed up to the What's So Special Club which is completely free and you get sent regular fun activities, such as colouring sheets and puzzles, to compliment the books. To find out more about the series and the What's So Special Club click here.

*Disclaimer: We received What's So Special About Megalosaurus? and What's So Special About Diplodocus? for the purpose of review. All opinions are, as always, our own.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Storytelling Fun #WorldBookDay

What's better than reading a story? Well how about playing with one? Sharing stories in a variety of creative and imaginative ways can really help children with their early literacy skills and speech development. So to celebrate this year's World Book Day, here are just a few of our favourite ideas for storytelling fun.

1. Story Stones
There are lots of different versions of story stones about - just take a look on Pinterest!  There are beautifully decorated ceramic pebbles and even stones that have been decorated using magazine pictures. If you create the stones yourself they can be as versatile or as specific you wish.  Our own very basic stones were created from pebbles we collected in the garden. We then decorated these using acrylic paint before sealing them with varnish. They are great for playing with in a group or alone. We usually put them in a basket, take them out in turn and as we do, we each add a little to the story.

If you don't fancy making your own story stones, stunning sets can be purchased from The Story Spoon Company. (This is not an affliate link!)

2. Story Cubes
Similar to story stones, story cubes can be used to get your creative storytelling juices flowing. We have been playing with the Rory's Story Cubes for a few months now. As The Mini Reviewers are still very young, they just interpret the pictures how they wish and we have found the best way to play is to create stories together. The sets of Rory's Story Cubes can be purchased from Amazon (affliate links below) but if you fancy making your own then check out this great post from Red Ted Art.

3. Storytelling Baskets
Storytelling baskets are such a fantastic way to play with stories. We recently had fun with this little basket of goodies to help us retell the traditional tale of The Three Little Pigs. As well as a set of finger puppets, the basket contained shredded paper for straw, lollipop sticks for the wood and Duplo blocks for the bricks. We had fun building the three houses as we shared the story together.

Story baskets are again very versatile and can be adapted to suit any age. Here is a very simple story basket created for the youngest Mini Reviewer.

4. Take to the stage (well sort of!)
Why not grab a puppet or a mask and practice your best voices before acting out your favourite story? We find costumes, masks and props really do help to bring books to life. All three Mini Reviewers love getting into character so we've had lots of storytelling adventures including: hosting a "The Tiger Who Came to Tea" tea party; making a shoe box theatre; taking a trip around London; and exploring some twisted tales with puppets.

5. Finally - Get arty!
Not everyone's cup of tea, but grabbing your craft supplies and getting messy can be a great and fun way of exploring stories together. We have been taking part with some of the #KidArtLit challenges on Instagram where we have chosen a book and accompanying craft activity to fit a particular theme. Below are a few of our photos (1. Penguins 2. Diversity 3. Snow 4. Chinese New Year). Do take a look at the #KidArtLit community on Instagram as some of the choices are so inspiring!

So have a Happy World Book Day and we hope you all enjoy some storytelling fun! 
Please do share any storytelling activities with us, we'd love to hear from you. 

And if you are wondering, we thought we'd leave the World Book Day costume inspiration to the experts, as we are still trying to finish off this little creation... argh!

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