Saturday, 12 July 2014

Awesome toys - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles playset

As you know if you've read my blog before, I was a massive fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I was a kid - back in the day they were heroes, and not ninjas. 

I've been encouraging my kids to like them, too, and so far it's going well - though they think the old cartoons are hilarious because they're SO OLD as much as because of the characters! 

So when we were offered the chance to review a TMNT (as those in the know call them) Z line ninjas deluxe zipline playset (oosh, what a mouthful) I jumped at it. 

The set arrived with two turtles (phew, one each for the kids, no fighting!) and I immediately set about reading the instructions while the kids had an epic turtle battle on the stairs. 

I picked the space below the stairs to set ours up because it meant they could zip from wall to wall - and then got totally confused by the instructions, before realising they're actually much simpler than they made it sound. 

Actually setting the toy up is fairly easy - but the instructions are a bit baffling. Top tip - make sure the main water tower piece is at chest height for your kids, not head height, as the dragon piece has to be higher and I ended up having to get their little stool from the bathroom to play with the set. Not a huge problem, as it can be removed and replaced, but you'd need to buy replacement wall mounting stickers to do that (they're those magic ones that stick like cement but can be pulled down and removed without damaging the wall; I have to admit I've never managed not to damage the wall but we've only had them once before and the kids ripped the toy off the wall, along with paint and patches of plaster, so be strict and use them properly!) 

Anyway - it took about twenty minutes to totally set up, and has been up for a few days now, and they've not pulled it off the wall, or broken anything, despite playing almost constantly with the set. 

The strings pull off really easily, so your kids can't accidentally hang themselves on the toy - which is a good safety feature, but once my boys figured out they came off they just kept pulling them off and tying their turtles to the stairs, or the door handles, or each other, which has meant I'm doing lots of untangling, and it's frustrating because it's not how the toy is meant to be used, but at the same time great because the turtle figurines have really been involved in some serious imaginative play, with story lines, and other characters, and adventures - and it's been fantastic watching the kids come up with all the details and create a new world to play in, using the set as inspiration. 

This morning the turtles had to rescue some hot wheels cars from the water tower - they brought in the hot wheels track (the one that was the set they damaged our walls with, actually!) and used the strings as a pulley system to get the track to the tower so the cars could escape before the bad guy (Ben Ten) caught them to take them to the crusher man (a giant stuffed elephant) it's been exciting to watch. 

I was worried that the set might be damaged, because it has some pretty dainty looking parts, but it's actually really well made and sturdier than it looked - and it hasn't pulled off the wall, which was another concern. It's survived a lot of hard play in the last few days. 

On the dragon base there's a pull string that opens and closes the grabbing arms that hold the turtle in place - the string on that did break at one point because Midget Gem tried to swing off it - but the base stayed on the wall and that was preferable. We had words about not swinging your entire body weight on something held to the walls WITH A STICKER and tied it back on and it's been used more appropriately since. 

The turtle figurines all come with their own individual range of weapons, and there's two zip wire methods included in the kit so both can play at once. One has a harness that fastens around a turtle, the other has handles for a turtle to hang on - these have been a huge hit, and Spiderman has had a go, and the harness has held all manner of cars, Lego machines, other characters and even a banana. 

The set retails at an RRP of £34.99 and is currently available on Amazon for £26.53 which is a great saving and well worth picking up if you have any TMNT fans at home. You can get the brilliant, very pose-able figurines we were sent for £5.99 each. 

(These images link to the Amazon pages where you can buy the toys)

Overall this toy has been a huge hit - probably one of the most popular the kids have ever been sent. I take the strings off at night so the kids can't get up to unsupervised mischief if they wake and go straight downstairs to play, so they can't hurt themselves, and they clip right back into place when we're ready to play again. This has also not limited the play with the set, because the kids use the water tower itself as a play set even if the strings aren't attached. 

I don't think it's suited to younger kids - my boys are three and five and if Midget Gem didn't have Jellybean to help him set the zip wires up I'm not sure he'd get much out of it - but for five year olds and up this is a brilliant, brilliant set that we've all had a lot of fun with. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Sports day

Jellybean's first sports day was yesterday - and it was hilarious, and awful, and brilliant, all at once. 

The kids were put into groups of reception class, year one and year two, and then walked from event to event to take turns competing. 

Like his mother my Mum and big brother, Jellybean is a sore loser. He is adamant that he's the fastest runner in all the world, but can't really back that up. By - for example - running fast, say. 

So in his running race he was VERY cross when he came last. Rather than finishing and taking the cheers for being a good sport, he threw his hat on the floor, swiftly followed by himself. 

I blame me other people. Um...

Aside from that one small blip, though, he did great. 

In the sack race he missed his group (loo trip) but didn't want to miss out - so did a solo race, with a big grin on his face because everyone was cheering for him. 

In the parachute thing (what IS the point of that? Who wins??!!) they all ran around and sat back in their original spot - but he missed his spot, so ran around the whole way again on his own, which made everyone laugh - so he did it again, and would have done it AGAIN but Daddytwo intervened and sat him down! 

And he won the egg and spoon race, with hardly any cheating at all! 

They gave stickers to the winners and best sports in each event, and he ended up with loads of stickers - far more than he deserved, if I'm being honest, because he didn't win, and he's a TERRIBLE sport! Entirely my genes.

He did have a blast, though, and has been encouraging us to do more exercise at home, which can only be a good thing, though the long walk I took him on after school today didn't go down too well until I bribed him with sweets when his feet got too tired! Not sure that's the point...

They also put on a race for all the younger brothers and sisters who had come to watch - and Midget Gem was THRILLED, because he'd been desperate to join in the whole time and been so good watching, and he ran and ran and ran, laughing the whole time, and has no idea whether he won or not but was THRILLED that he got to race on the real track, and just wanted to keep going, so did a lap of the entire field! 

After the kids events there was some parent races. I was, unfortunately, holding my friend's baby (what a shame) so couldn't enter the Mum's race - which was very competitive indeed. Less so than the Dad's race, where the Dad of a boy in Jellybean's class was definitely going to lose - to huge cheers from his delighted son because he was taking part - but some uber competitive Dads barged each other ahead of him and two fell over, and he used them as hurdles and didn't come last at all! 

Then came the tug of war - and up stepped Daddytwo - in his element! Not only did his team win (best two out of three) he got very into shouting at them all to pull together and encouraging them! He should be some kind of sport coach - he got terribly excited - but not as excited as Jellybean when he saw his Daddy win! 

Then the kids all lined up to head back into school and we headed away. Midget Gem fell asleep as soon as we got home before I had his lunch ready, and when we went to get Jellybean he said they spent the afternoon lying on the floor watching The BFG while the teachers drank coffee - which sounds very sensible to me! 

They all made some medals, too, but none were actually given the accolade of 'winner' of any event officially - and they all got certificates for taking part in sports day. That kind of annoys me because if he's this sore a loser when there are no losers, how's he going to cope when there really ARE losers later in life? So we had a talk about sportsmanship, and supporting other people, and taking part being important, and that winning is great, but we don't always get to win. 

Then my brother said (and I quote) "If you aren't the winner, you're a loser." and my Mum said "The others cheated, or he'd have won." and I see exactly where it comes from! Poor genetics ;-) 

I'm not as bad a loser as they are. Obviously. Unless it's scrabble. In which case, if you beat me, I WILL CUT YOU.

And if you think we're bad when we lose, you should see us when we win! Victory dance, anyone?

(The images in this post are a bit odd looking because I was being careful to take pics without other kids in, and had to crop them to ensure there wasn't a picture of anyone else's child because I don't think that would be right)

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Love your local library

We're starting a new linky this week on Mommatwo - Love your local library. You'll see a page above that each week's post will be added to and I'll get this live by the end of the day on Tuesday every week, leaving it open for a week so that you can add your link on any day that getting to the library is easiest for you. 

We are book crazy here and all love to sit and read books. Jellybean is mad about reading now and will sit and read to Midget Gem who, at three, can sound out a couple of words but isn't able to read yet, and is super impressed that his brother can. 

This week we selected some great books and have already worked our way through all but one (since Monday afternoon) and this is what we came away with. 

Zak Zoo and the Hectic House is a great, silly book that Jellybean is able to read alone. 

He's loving independent reading and loves having a bookmark and reading a book in two or three sittings. 

He read most of this book to me just before bed, and finished it when he woke up, reading to himself. 

There's lots of laughs and silliness, and cheeky animals, and a big brave boy in charge of it all.

The second book I chose for Jellybean to read independently was 'Scout and Ace; The scary bear' - we haven't started it yet but it's another he can confidently read to us, to his brother, or alone before bed. 

It's also from the 'Orchard colour crunchies' book range, as was the Zak Zoo book, and is ideal for young readers just beginning to read alone.  

Next we chose 'Pumpkin soup' by Helen Cooper. This is a big picture book about three friends who share a special job, but have a falling out, and how they make up again after their argument. 

It's about sharing, friendship and taking turns, and it's a great, fun book with some lovely pictures. 

This is a sweet story and we all loved the animals together.

'My blue is happy' is a great story about perspective, and how we all see the world differently and can choose our own way to look at things, and all have different things that make us happy. 

Jellybean in particular likes this book, he likes the philosophy of it, and it's really made him think about the way we all interpret things in our own way, and how that's ok, and it's nice to be able to decide for yourself how you really feel about things. 

Being a very thoughtful little boy, this is a perfect choice for him. Very simple, with beautiful artwork and great use of colour, it's a very emotive book.  

One of our favourite illustrators is Nick Sharratt and this book, written by Kes Gray, is full of his fabulous drawings. Bright and colourful, and with a funny, silly story that had all of us giggling as we read it together (taking it in turns to read a page) it really got the boys imaginations going. 

After reading it Midget Gem wanted to paint his face, and both boys made their bunk beds into a jungle den to play tigers. 

Any book that creates a desire to play and use their imaginations to make their own stories is a clear winner with kids of any ages. 

Midget Gem is a massive fan of the 'Diego' cartoons (he thinks Dora is for babies now that he's discovered a big boy version) and sleeps with a toy Diego every night.

So when he spotted 'Diego's wolf pup rescue' we absolutely had to borrow it, and read it right away, and read it again in the park on the way home, and read it again as soon as we got through the door. 

The book is just like the cartoon and has some information on the animals featured at the back, and Midget Gem loves it. 

The next book is the biggest success of all this week; the boys have read it with me, with their Dad, together and both have read it alone (though Midget Gem created his own words, because of the whole being three and not able to read yet thing) and it's just glorious. 

'There are cats in this book' is by Viviane Schwarz and is brilliant. 

With fun flaps on each page and three cheeky cats that play together and encourage your children to join in, the illustrations are funny and each page is a different shape with lots to engage children of any age. 

All of us laughed out loud as we went through the book, and the boys wanted to read it again immediately after the first time through, and keep coming back to it for more. 

The next book was a great one for my two boys. It's called 'You're too small' and is by Shen Roddie, illustrated by Steve Lavis. 

The story is all about Pip the little mouse, who desperately wants to help on the farm, but is too small for a lot of the jobs. In the end he finds something he's just the right size for - and Midget Gem, who wants to do everything his big brother does, was thrilled. 

Jellybean was very thoughtful through this one, too, and talked about the things HE was still too small to do, and said that he used to be too small but got big. Then Midget Gem insisted he isn't small, because he's seven - which is an age so far away he can't quite fathom how enormous it really is - and talked about the things he can do because he's seven, and seven is a really, really big boy. 

Our last book this week is called 'Little beauty' and is by Anthony Browne. It's a fantastic, big book all about a lonely gorilla who wants a little friend. 

The images are the main draw of this book - and Midget Gem wants to say "The gorilla looks JUST like Grandad Dad Dad" - and the story is a sweet one of friendship, but we spent most of our time looking at the beautifully detailed pictures and talking about gorillas in captivity and animals in zoos. 

This book is one we'll read over and over and is really very lovely - and is another that makes the boys think and talk and play new games.

That's it for this week - our full library haul - and we hope you've liked what we read. We'd love to see what you're reading this week so I'm going to make this post a linky - open until next Tuesday - so you can post on your own blog and share your library books. 

Grab the badge below to add to your post then add your link to the box at the bottom, and love your local library. 

If you want to read any of the books we chose this week all the images in this post are links to the books on Amazon; these are affiliate links but that just means they give me about 2p if you buy a book, it doesn't cost you anything to click the links.



Monday, 30 June 2014

A trip to the cinema

This weekend we went to the cinema to see 'How to train your dragon 2' and it was blooming brilliant. 

I loved the first film, and Netflix have the shorts that are based on the other books, which I regularly make the kids watch despite them not liking the series as much as I do. We've also got a couple of the books, which I read to the children a chapter at a time at bedtime while they repeatedly ask me to read 'Thomas the tank' books instead. 

There's an independent cinema in Dorchester, The Plaza, that charges £3.50 per person at weekends (£2.50 on weekdays) even if you choose a 3D showing, so we headed through to see it in full shiny 3D, and I was more excited than everyone else. 

Daddytwo isn't very good at watching films, he can't sit still and pay attention for that long without needing to wander about or do something else, and both kids have inherited that trait. Jellybean can now sit through a cinema showing with just a little encouragement and Midget Gem is a fidget bum so we agreed before we went in that if he got fidgety, Daddytwo would take him for a wander then come back in, and neither would mind missing a little of the film. 

In the end, though, Daddytwo was totally engrossed and watched the film beginning to end - and Midget Gem climbed onto his knee and fell asleep, rather than wanting to leave, so it worked out perfectly!

There's a big fight scene in the film that might frighten more genteel kids - Jellybean (who is five) was a bit worried, so he came to sit on my knee for a hug during that part, but wasn't frightened enough to be upset, just a bit concerned. 

The film has a great story, the animation is lovely, the characters are really engaging, and the 3D makes it just that little bit more exciting, and if you liked the first film you'll like this even more. 

Apparently it isn't doing all that well by box office standards, but if you're not too bothered about going I really think you should - it's honestly fantastic. The best film we've watched in ages, and if it can make my husband, who has the attention span of a drunk goldfish, sit still for two hours to watch that says a lot! 

The kids had a lot of fun choosing sweets before we went in, and eating them all within thirty eight seconds, and trips to the cinema could be SO expensive (and the last time we went to the cinema in Yeovil it cost £40 for all of us, which is INSANE compared to the £14 this trip cost) but this cinema in Dorchester is just brilliant - clean, with cheerful, friendly staff, with a great selection of titles, independent films and theatrical shows, and unbeatable prices. 

It was a brilliant, fun day out that we all enjoyed more than we expected, and the film was totally fantastic. 

We haven't been asked to promote this film, or the cinema we went to, but I loved the film and think the cinema is a brilliant place and deserves to be shouted about. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Jellybean wrote a book

Yesterday I picked Jellybean up from school and we had an hour for just the two of us to spend some time together before we had to pick Midget Gem up from pre-school, and I asked him what he wanted to do. 

The first thing we did was go and get a milkshake in his favourite cafe (Oliver's Coffee House in Sherborne) and then he wanted to go and look in the independent stationery shop a few doors down. 

He's definitely mine! 

We wandered around the shop and he got giddy looking at all the fun things, notebooks, pens, stationery, stickers and more. I told him we didn't have much money with us but he could choose one thing to buy. I thought he would choose a novelty pencil sharpener, because they had some shaped like vehicles, but instead he said "Can I buy a new empty book and write a book?" - and that's exactly what we did!

He chose a simple exercise book and a cute novelty pen and then started planning the story he was going to write when we got home. He skipped the whole way to the pre-school to collect his brother and all the way home, carrying his new book and pen, and coming up with ideas for his story and the characters. 

And here, for your reading pleasure, is my five year old's first book, written and illustrated all by himself. The only help he had was asking if 'tractor' was a C or a K in the middle - the rest is entirely and completely his own work with no input from anyone else. 

'Tom the frog and the castle' by Jellybean, aged 5. 

 The chosen book and novelty pen complete with title
 (Tom is a frog - he is with a dog)
 Clearly this is Tom, the Frog
 The dog is his best friend, Dan
 Inside the castle
 On the adventure with Tom and Dan...
 A book we're ALL stars in
 Uh oh...
 Tom is in the road
 And there's more traffic coming
 You shout to Tom
 Tom gets behind the line with you
 Back at home

I don't think I've ever enjoyed a book as much!