Sylvester and the New Year – children’s book review

New Year is always a hard concept to get across to little ones, particularly Miss M who’s birthday falls on New Year’s day.  She finds it hard to grasp the concept that her birthday is next year when it is only a few weeks away.  So when I was offered to review the updated version of a traditional German tale by poet Eduard Mörike about the magical journey of Sylvester as he travels by moon horses to Earth to deliver the New Year and return the Old Year back to be rejuvenated by the River of Life, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to talk about the change from one year to another with Miss M as well as enjoying a story with lots of lovely colour illustrations.

The book is a lovely size with many more pages in it than I expected.  The pages are strong and of high quality, with each one beautifully illustrated.  The story is a good length too, being aimed at a child of 5+, it is neither too short or too long with just a couple of lines of text on each page ensuring the child stays focussed and interested in the story.

I enjoyed sitting down with Miss M in the evenings to read this magical tale, it is perfect for this time of year, with a festive feel to it – although Miss M did ask if Sylvester was Santa at one point with his long white beard!!  It has given Miss M a better understanding of the concept that as one year goes, a new year comes in and she did enjoy the magical tale that went with it.

I think this is a really enjoyable story to sit down to read especially in the run up to New Year and has a traditional feel to it without being dated.  I look forward to reading this many more times with Miss M on the run up to her 5th Birthday at New Year!!

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Sylvester and the New Year is published by independent publishers Far Far Away.  You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

And if you wish to purchase a hard back copy of this book for £9.99 it can be found here on Amazon.

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Vtech’s InnoTab 2 v Leapfrog’s LeapPad 2

When asked to compare and contrast Vtech’s Innotab 2 against Leapfrog’s Leappad 2 for the Izziwizzi Kids Playfest, I certainly had a challenge ahead of me, and together with my 4yr old daughter Miss M we were very excited to get stuck into. So after a week of playing games, taking silly pictures of each other, videoing little brother Mister B dancing and downloading Miss M’s favourite songs I feel we finally had a grasp on how each tablet behaved and the opportunities available on each.

I was initially surprised to find how similar they are, so when it comes down to which is best, I think really it is down to personal preference along with several differing factors of which I have highlighted below for you:

Design/looks: The Innotab 2 has a more chunkier feel to it – great for little fingers compared to the sleeker look of the Leappad 2 which I think would appeal to the older age ranges.

The Innotab 2’s touchscreen seemed a bit less sensitive than the Leappad 2 which seemed a lot more responsive.

Memory: The Innotab 2 comes with an inbuilt memory of 2GB although is expandable with an SD card compared to 4GB on the Leappad 2 (no SD card slot)

MP3 player: The Innotab 2 comes with a ready to use MP3 player, the Leappad 2 doesn’t but an app is available to buy for £3.50

Your own film and video content can be downloaded onto the Innotab 2 for your child to watch although the Leappad 2 can only have paid for content downloaded onto it.

The apps for each are similar although there are some cheaper games available for the Innotab 2, but my initial view of these are that they are short lived and a child will lose interest quickly.  Overall cartridge games can cost up to £20 each for both tablets therefore I feel they are fairly equal although the Leappad 2 does have a larger library of downloadable apps.

Please watch our comparison video to make your own mind up:

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Innotab 2 by Vtech – Review

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Upon opening the box containing the Innotab 2 by Vtech which we reviewed for the Izziwizzi Kids Play Fest,  Miss M couldn’t wait to get her fingers on the children’s tablet and get started.  The chunky, sturdy casing immediately grabbed her attention and she couldn’t wait to see what happened when she switched the unit on.  The first thing you are asked to do is set up a profile under which it saves all your own gameplay.  Then we were required to attach the Innotab 2 to a PC via the USB lead in order to register the product and set it up within the Innotab Learning Lodge Navigator which is the download centre in which you can download further apps, see your child’s progress and download/upload photos and videos between the Innotab 2 and your home PC.

This did take around half an hour to set up during which time Miss M did grow a little impatient but when I finally gave her control of the Innotab 2 her face lit up and she couldn’t wait to get stuck in.  It comes with 15 apps:

Camera – Rotating twistable lense – fun at all angles!
Video Camera – Miss M loved capturing us unaware and then playing it back to us
MP3 player – easy to transfer music from PC – perfect for littles ones to play and dance to or use in the car
E-book Reader – interactive books which highlight words and provide facts and animation
Art Studio – fabulous choice of tools/colours – kept Miss M occupied for hours
Photo Editing – lots of fun scenes, accesories and fun effects – we had lots of fun with this
Game: Face Race – motion sensor game although we found it didn’t hold interest for long

Clock
Calendar
Notes
Friends
Calculator
The final 3 apps come on the included cartridge: E-book ‘What’s that noise?’, camera game Alien Rescue and Colour & Pop

Two further apps can be downloaded of your choice from the £2.99 selection in the Learning Lodge Navigator.  Although we did find these games fun, they were short and we reached the end within 20 minutes.  It would have nicer to see more depth to them to help maintain interest as the levels we played were entertaining and fun.

Cartridge games are also available which although retail at anything up to £20, I believe they would probably have a lot better games, with more depth to them and a wider variety of activities – Miss M would definitely like to try some of these in the future so I suggested she add them to her list for Santa!!

Miss M thoroughly enjoyed the Art Studio and spent a lot of time using the wide choice of coloured pencils, paints, stickers etc. but the thing that caught her eye most was the special effects – tubes of stars/hearts, rainbow effects etc.  Another app that really appealed to Miss M was the Colour & Pop app which is basically just black and white pictures and you select different coloured paint to colour them in.  I did notice in this particular app the screen did sometimes require a couple of taps from the stylus when selecting an art tool rather than an immediate response which although I would have found frustrating, it didn’t bother Miss M in the slightest.

The camera is also great fun, with a rotating twistable lense Miss M found it fun to take pictures of not only her family but herself.  And what she found highly amusing was making our faces look silly with the special effects.  Although not the best the quality, the photos are perfectly acceptable for a child.  They are able to use them within the games to give faces to characters which is a nice touch.

Another highlight for Miss M was the MP3 player.  I downloaded some music that she likes from my PC to the Innotab 2 and it was a simple, straightforward process.  She was then able to play her own music and dance around the front room with little brother Mister B copying her every move.  This would be ideal with headphones for long car journeys.  You can also upload videos and  films for them watch – great for keeping little ones entertained!

We have had lots of fun trying out the Innotab 2 and definitely think it will be a hit this Christmas, it’s lots of fun for little ones in more ways than one although you do need to bear in mind the costs over and above initial purchase.  To get longevity out of this for your child and  to make it last a few years I do feel you would need to purchase a number of games and apps to keep them interested and occupied.

All in all the Innotab 2 has proved to be a great multi-tasking product giving little ones an introduction to technology thats full of learning opportunities!!

Please watch our video review to find out more:

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

LeapPad 2 – Review

Reviewing the Leappad 2 by Leapfrog for the Izziwizzi kids Play Fest was met by 4yr old Miss M with a “Wow – that’s one of those computer things I really wanted”.  And so she was very excited and couldn’t wait to see what activities lay ahead.  We did have to spend around 30-40 minutes setting up the device by connecting it to the Leapfrog download centre , to receive updates etc. to the unit so bear this in mind if you have a little one who will be excited to open this on Xmas day.  Then it was time to play – yay!!

The Leappad 2 loads up quickly on pressing the start button to reveal an attractive touch screen menu.  This is very easy to navigate and select which app or function you require.  With eye catching pictures it is easy for a young child to recognise what each icon is and Miss M was soon able to find her way around unaided.

Miss M loved the Pet Pad app (1 of the 5 included apps) where you can personalise a pet and then feed, treat and bath it.  A rather fun interactivde aspect of this required you to blow down the microphone in order to dry your pet and there also a section where you can draw along the dotted lines of letters of the alphabet to get your pet to perform a little trick. This is just one example of the educational elements we have found throughout the games on the Leappad 2.  It is totally geared towards fun, but carefully incorporates a learning aspect into each game – a great way for kids to learn without realising it.

Also within the Leappad 2 is a front and rear facing camera along with a video camera which proved lots of fun especially when using the editing suite to add lots of fun special effects.  The quality of the pictures is ok and certainly adequate for young children. There is also an E-book reader with a wide selection of interactive books available to download – great for helping your child to learn to read or if they already can then progress their reading skills further.

The Leappad 2 comes with 4GB of memory giving you plenty of space to download your choice of over 225 apps that are currently available. The Leappad 2 also comes with a cartridge slot which opens up the choice for games even further.  These games cost up to £20 but I would imagine the variety and depth of play on these would be considerably more than the downloadable apps.  And you can use cartridges from the previous Leappad Explorer console – they work on both.

Durability was a big question I had with this.  With it’s sleek grown up design it did look and feel fairly sturdy but I still consider that it essential to purchase a case for the Leappad 2 particularly if being used out and about.  We did have little incident in which Miss M left the Leappad 2 on the kitchen worktop and later when she reached to get it, it slipped out of her hands and fell straight onto the hard tiled kitchen floor!!  I think my heart stopped pumping for about 5 seconds while I took a deep breath and turned the unit over to see if the screen was still intact. And thankfully it was – therefore passing the durability test 100% for me!!

One thing I will comment on is battery life – it is poor therefore if used heavily across a day, would need replacing.  I therefore highly recommend rechargeable batteries, although an AC adaptor is available to purchase but I feel part of the appeal and fun with this is for it to be portable allowing a child to sit wherever they wanted. I particularly think the Leappad 2 will be very successful in entertaining children on long car journeys and great to take on holidays etc.

We have really enjoyed reviewing the Leappad 2 and Miss M has really taken to it.  At her age of 4 (soon to be 5) I feel this is the perfect age for a child to get to grips with using the device and gaining the most value from it in terms of the types of activities available and the longevity of her wanting to use the Leappad 2 before growing out of it.  At the moment our downloadable game of choice – Roly Poly Picnic – has proved a huge hit with Miss M, by far the most time spent playing it – I love the innovative way in which the game is played operated through motion, slanting the Leappad 2 around and shaking it accordingly. Also as the Roly Poly bug rolls down a hole, a spelling or number question appears which you need to get correct in order to get the next item of food for the picnic. Great educational fun and we definitely recommend this game.

Overall I would definitely recommend the Leappad 2 as a great introduction to technology for little ones and I feel it has the perfect learning curve for Miss M now that she has started school to give her the best of educational fun along with an introduction to photography and editing. It will provide great company for her in the car on the long 5 hour journeys we make to visit grandparents and be a toy she can occupy herself with when mummy is busy doing the housework!!

Please watch our video review below:

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Jumping in Muddy Puddles Peppa Pig – Review

Having two huge Peppa Pig fans in the house I was pretty sure that Jumping in Muddy Puddles Peppa Pig from Character Toys would be a success.  As soon as I removed her from the box it was a battle as to who could be the first to touch her.

Muddy Peppa

By pressing an area near the top of her dress Peppa comes alive and delivers various phrases such as :

‘Oink, I love jumping in muddy puddles’
‘Splish Splash Splosh Splish’
‘1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, Ready or not here I come!’
‘Tee Hee’

whilst at the same time jumping up and down in muddy puddles!  I thought this was a really clever idea and was surprised at how stable she was.  I thought she may have tipped over but no, she remained upright every time she jumped.  Peppa comes in her traditional red dress but is covered in muddy splashes from head to toe which have been very well replicated and do actually look like crusty dried on mud stains – something which 4 yr old Miss M was convinced were real!!

Muddy puddles PeppaThis Peppa toy is aimed and boys and girls aged 3-5 years although I would say that 2 yr old Mister B was absolutely fascinated by her and his first words on seeing Peppa in action were “I love it”.  The fact that Peppa can also count up to 10 is a really helpful way for toddlers to improve their numeracy skills and Mister B copied Peppa straight away repeating 1 to 10 after her which is great as this will help him master his numbers in a fun, enjoyable way.  He also loved jumping up and down alongside Peppa.

Although her feet are solid the rest of Peppa is plush and Miss M insisted on taking her to bed for a cuddle.  I think the Jumping in Muddy Puddles Peppa is a fantastic toy encompassing a plush and interactive play.  Both my children enjoyed listening to Peppa chatter away and either copied her, laughed with her or made their own fun up around what she was saying.

This would be a perfect Peppa toy for any young Peppa Pig fan and is sure to keep them entertained whether jumping around chattering with her or snuggled up in bed with her.

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Almost Naked Animals DVD – Review and Giveaway

Although I had heard of Almost Naked Animals, the popular CITV children’s show, it is not a programme that we normally watch so I was interested to find out if Miss M would enjoy the new DVD of the show Almost Naked Animals – It’s My Party by Abbey Home Media.

Naked Animals

The DVD contains six episodes centering around the Banana Cabana, a beachfront resort hotel and home to mayhem, destruction and all round general fun.  There is also some bonus material included on the DVD.

It’s My Party
One Star Hotel
Employee of the Month For Life
Saliva Drive
What Would Batty Do
Duck Vinci Code

I let Miss M watch the DVD a few times while I was busy and then sat down with her a few days later to watch it for myself.  As soon as the music started she starting singing along to the catchy theme tune which surprised me a little as I’m fairly sure she hadn’t seen the program before but had picked up the little tune in a just a couple of times of watching.   I then found her concentrating on the episode and telling mummy to be quiet so she could watch and listen!!

Maisy watching Animals

Almost Naked Animals definitely agreed with Miss M and she thoroughly enjoyed watching the hilariously comical antics of Howie and his friends, from laughing at their pants being too tight to them all sliding around in cake batter after spilling a huge vat of it across the kitchen floor.

This DVD would bring great entertainment value to a wide range of children and would make an excellent stocking filler this Christmas.
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If you fancy getting your hands on a copy of the Almost Naked Animals – It’s My Party DVD, then Abbey Home Media have kindly offered me 4 copies to giveaway to my readers – so just follow the instructions below.

To enter, please comment below to say you’ve entered (compulsory entry)

To gain up to a further 3 bonus entries – Please leave a separate comment for each entry for it to be counted:
1.Subscribe to my blog (at top right of page)
2.Like my Facebook page
3.Follow me on Twitter and tweet   I’ve entered to #Win Almost Naked Animals DVD with @star100x http://wp.me/p1UDjA-j2

Terms & Conditions
Winners selected at random

If a selected winner has not fulfilled the first entry criteria or any others to which they made comments they will be disqualified
No automated entries
Competition ends Friday 23rd November at 9pm
If a winner does not make contact within 48 hours an alternative winner will be drawn
UK only

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All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Mister Maker – Watch & Make DVD – Review

When we received the latest Mister Maker DVD from Abbey Home Media to review, Miss M’s eyes lit up – she loves making things and craft – and always loves watching Mister Maker create his masterpieces with gloopy glue, googly eyes and pom pom’s. 

Mister MakerUpon opening the box containing the DVD, we also found a craft kit to make Twiggy the giraffe – this contained lots of pom poms, a glue stick, googly eyes and sticky felt circles amongst other bits so Miss M was in her element and couldn’t wait to start making.  I suggested she watched the DVD first and we would do the crafting later.

The DVD lasts for approx 95 minutes and contains five episodes with 20 different makes – lots of great ideas to inspire little ones on things to do when the craft box comes out!!

Miss M loved it and at the end of the DVD she jumped up and said “Can we make Twiggy now?”.  I kindly obliged and we got to work on getting crafty.  Miss M was very excited and wanted me to read out the step by step instructions for her to follow.  To be honest I thought it would take 5-10 minutes and it would be over but we actually sat there working on Twiggy for a good 40-45 minutes as we carefully glued the bits together – Miss M did find it a little tricky and required some assistance but insisted I had as little involvement as possible!! 

TwiggyThe final result was a yellow and brown giraffe called Twiggy – little Miss M was very pleased with her achievement although did feel a little downhearted that he was a little tricky to stand on all fours but did enjoy wiggling his head around using the attached stick.

The Mister Maker DVD is an excellent way of inspiring children to get more interested in crafting with lots of ideas and simple materials used.

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Horrid Henry DVD – Review and Giveaway

With Christmas looming, there is nothing better to get you in the festive mood than a Christmas themed DVD.  So when we were sent the latest Horrid Henry DVD from Abbey Home Media, Miss M couldn’t wait to watch it.

Horrid Henry and the Early Christmas Present is the latest in the series of Horrid Henry DVD’s to be released and will be available from 12th November 2012.

It contains six exciting episodes:

Horrid Henry and the Early Christmas Present
Horrid Henry and the Silly Siblings
Horrid Henry and the Tickly Treats Thief
Horrid Henry Alone At Home
Horrid Henry So not a girl
Horrid Henry Bogus babysitter

Miss M is a huge fan of Horrid Henry and it never fails to disappoint.  She thoroughly enjoys sitting down to view his naughty antics and I always catch her giggling to herself – she finds his naughty behaviour hilarious and with his lively personality he is constantly up to mischief to keep Miss M entertained throughout each episode.

Miss M’s favourite episode on this DVD is ‘Horrid Henry and the Early Christmas Present’ about the build up to Christmas and Horrid Henry’s naughtiness leaving him in jeopardy of receiving no presents on Xmas Day.  The contrast between Horrid Henry and his younger brother Perfect Peter is a great example for Miss M to take on board as to the consequences of bad behaviour!

This is a great DVD to keep young children entertained – they’ll love all the fun and antics that form the everyday part of Horrid Henry’s life and it is definitely a DVD that will be watched again and again.

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Abbey Home Media have kindly offered me 4 copies of the New Horrid Henry DVD to give to my readers – so if you fancy a copy, just leave me a comment below.

To enter, please answer the following question and comment below (compulsory entry):
I would love to see a comment about something naughty your little ones have got up to recently or perhaps something naughty you got up to when you were younger.  If you’d prefer to just say you’ve entered then that’s fine too. 🙂

To gain up to a further 3 bonus entries – Please comment for each entry for it to be counted:
1.Subscribe to my blog (at top right of page)
2.Like my Facebook page (newly published today – I’d love to get some likes please)
3.Follow me on Twitter and tweet   I want to watch Horrid Henry’s latest Xmas antics and #win the new Horrid Henry DVD with @star100x http://wp.me/p1UDjA-it

Terms & Conditions
Winners selected at random

If a selected winner has not fulfilled the first entry criteria or any others to which they made comments they will be disqualified
No automated entries
Competition ends Friday 23rd November at 9pm
If a winner does not make contact within 48 hours an alternative winner will be drawn
UK only

Listed on theprizefinder.com

Disney Princess Cinderella Musical Jewellery Box

Most little girls love being princesses, dressing up as them and wearing replica jewellery so the Cinderella jewellery box from Disney Princess is the perfect place to store their jewels as well as being a pretty box to accessorise their bedrooms into the perfect princess boudoir.

DSCF5112The Cinderella jewellery box, although made of plastic has been beautifully designed with lots of detail.  The main body of the jewellery box is shaped like Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage with intricately designed wheels with a pink ribbon on the centre.  The outside of the jewellery box is very ornate including a very pretty lace effect across the lid with small pearl like beading around the edge.  On top between a couple of blue scrolls is a silver coloured Cinderella shoe which is detail that Miss M loved.  Around the edge of the carriage is a pretty pink ribbon effect and on the front of the carriage is a Cinderella button that is used to open the jewellery box.

Cinderella

Upon opening the Cinderella jewellery box a glass like Cinderella and Prince Charming start twirling around in the centre along to music – This was Miss M’s favourite feature of the box and she loves to open the box again and again to watch the figures dancing around and listen to the music.  Around the centrepiece figures are two pink trays to store jewellery on and these swing open to reveal 4 storage compartments.  There is also a mirror on the inside of the lid.

Cinderella3The Cinderella jewellery box also comes with some jewellery which Miss M was thrilled with.  There is a blue beaded charm bracelet – the charm being a Cinderella shoe and a large blue heart shaped ring.  Miss M couldn’t wait to try these on and even did the bracelet up herself!   They are a lovely addition to any little girls jewellery collection and Miss M loves wearing them each day ( I had to refuse for school!!).

Overall we really like the Disney Princess Cinderella jewellery box and think it is the perfect accessory to any little girls bedroom.  Not only does it have great storage for all their jewellery but looks great on a shelf and plays appealing music to any young princess.  This would make a lovely Christmas present and gets Miss M’s seal of approval with a big thumbs up!!

Please watch Miss M’s quick overview of the Cinderella jewellery box:

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Bubbles – back garden fun!!

With the weather so unpredictable and the husband working I was on my own at the weekend and didn’t really fancy venturing out, so in order to let the children enjoy some fresh air, I took the opportunity when the sun made an appearance to get out in the back garden and do some bubble blowing with the new set that Miss M won in pass the parcel at a party the weekend before.  Miss M was so excited as this was a giant bubble blower unlike the little sticks you poke in a pot.

So we poured the liquid into tray and waved the bubble wand in the air – Miss M loved the giant bubbles and the volume of bubbles she could produce so quickly.  She was jumping all over the patio with a delighted look on her face that was such a pleasure to watch.  It was great to see so much fun being had with an inexpensive piece of plastic and some bubble solution.  And she was getting some fresh air and exercise at the same time.

BubblesWe soon finished the entire bottle of bubble solution and as Mister B was having his afternoon nap I suggested we try some skipping (With only having limited space in the back garden skipping is not an activity suitable for when Mister B is running about!!).  Miss M has had a skipping rope for a while now but has never got to grips with it so we put it away until she was a little older.  I started off by demonstrating – and soon realised I’m not half as fit as I was back in the days when I loved to skip and count to 1000!!  So I quickly handed the ropes over to Miss M.  She put all her effort into jumping just as the rope came down in front of her and eventually she got it – hooray!!  It was so sweet to see her skipping around and the delight showed in her face that she had finally mastered it.

skippingThe clouds soon came over dark and dreary again but I was really glad that we took advantage of the few hours sunshine that came our way.