Chalkola kindly offered us some of their brilliant chalk markers to review. We were sent their newly launched pack of 21 markers, which includes 15 colour chalk pens and 6 metallic markers in the set, and also a pack of their chunky 15mm platinum series markers too.
These funky chalk pens can be used on any non-porous surface; such as glass, mirrors, whiteboards, chalkboards or plastic. You simply wipe them off again when you are done. They are non-toxic and child-friendly so are therefore great for a range of purposes. Lots of fun!
Squiggle and I decided to get creative doodling on our patio doors! When you use the pens for the first time it takes a bit of shaking and pressing down to get the flow started. However, once they get going, they then work very well.
The colours come out nice and bright, and there is good variety within the set. We really enjoyed using these chalk markers, and even our cat got involved in the fun! Squiggle loves any opportunity to get creative and is a big fan of these. (Oh and using the patio door is great for doing lovely big gross motor movements too by the way!)
The Chalkola chalk markers then rub off with a damp cloth, although I am sure my landlord will be very pleased to know that I did test this out before letting Squiggle loose on our patio doors just to be sure! I made a little video clip to show how easily it wipes off…
One lucky reader can win a set of these 21 markers by Chalkola. To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, enter the competition via rafflecopter below. T&Cs apply. Competition ends on 20th March 2017.
When bakerdays tweeted me asking if I would like to review their letterbox gift cake I was quite excited! Admittedly, I am not a particularly big fan of cake generally (I know, I know… it’s weird) but I was really intrigued by the concept of a cake that can literally be delivered straight through the letterbox. Would that really work?! I had to find out. And I knew that Squiggle would jump at the chance to share some cake with me too!
The website is very user-friendly and there is a massive selection of designs to choose from for all different occasions, including options to personalise with text or an image. I spent ages trying to pick my favourite design because there are so many great choices!
I finally settled on this design with my own personal message that I knew would make Squiggle giggle…
There were a selection of sponges to choose from too. I really like the fact that all of the designs in their entire range can be ordered as a gluten-free or dairy-free option, rather than there being a restricted selection of choices, as is often the case. It is worth noting that the dairy-free option is not vegan, as it does contain eggs.
Whilst we avoid gluten as much as we can, medically we do not need to be strict about it, so I decided on the dairy-free option instead. We do generally try to eat as closely to vegan as we can manage anyway but, apart from anything else, I was keen to test how the dairy-free version tasted!
The cake didn’t take long to arrive and, as promised, it plopped through my letterbox without fuss. The box landed face down and I must say I felt a slight wave of anticipation, as well as excitement, as I picked it up to check the contents!
I need not have worried; the cake comes very well packaged, secured in a cake tin, inside the cardboard box. It also has plastic packaging to keep it fresh and well protected within the tin itself. It even has thoughtful instructions on how to remove it carefully without damage!
The cake itself was delicious! The sponge was light and fluffy, with a lovely buttery filling (which incidently is on the bottom of the cake as opposed to in the middle, due to the letterbox design!) and the icing was soft and tasty. Squiggle was very impressed too; she declared “thank you for sending the cake, I love it!”
We demolished it pretty quickly, but the 5″ letterbox size is easily big enough for 3 or 4 generous portions, as it suggests. We really enjoyed it.
I like the novelty factor of getting a cake delivered directly through the letterbox, it was nicely presented and it was yummy too! So I think a letterbox cake would make a great unique gift for Valentines Day, or any other occasion.
Squiggle was given Shut The Box game for Christmas as a stocking filler. We hadn’t heard of this particular game before, until very recently when I spotted it on a gift guide and thought it looked fun. I was right!
Shut The Box is a lovely wooden dice game that also has good educational value. The aim of the game is to successfully get all the numbers down from 1-9 so you can ‘shut the box’. The simple version is to roll both of the dice and then flip down one or two numbers to match the total on the dice. If you are unable to put down one or two numbers then it moves to the next player’s turn. There are different versions too, I found other instructions by searching online.
The game can be single player or played with any number of people and is suitable for all ages from approx 6+ years. This means it is great for some family fun together, but it is also handy that it can be played alone, as it is great for those moments when someone needs to occupy themselves for a few moments! The version we have is pocket size, which also makes it useful to take when travelling too.
I like that it is a simple game, nothing fancy about it, but yet is still both fun and educational. It is fab for practising maths skills, such as calculating and number bonds. I also love wooden toys and games, so that’s a bonus too!
Our verdict:big thumbs up!
You can be in with a chance of winning your own Shut The Box game by entering my prize giveaway via rafflecopter below.
Competition ends at midnight on 31st January 2017. T&Cs apply.
Bidvine is a tech start-up based in London that connects customers to the local service providers they require. Like most people, I don’t have spare time to spend looking up services and getting quotes when I need something done. This website takes the hassle out of it and is a real time saver!
It is really quick and easy to use; you simply type in your postcode and the specifications of the service you require, submit your request, then wait for the bids to come in. It is simple to do this via the website on desktop, tablet or mobile, or you can download the app if you have an IOS.
I have been thinking about getting some professional headshots done, since I am determined to continue developing my blog further this year. However, it always ends up being put lower down my priority list, and therefore not getting arranged, because it takes time to organise and there is always so much else to do. But with Bidvine, I just pulled out my mobile, tapped in my postcode and selected that I need a photographer. It then asked me a series of questions in order to ensure that the service would meet my requirement; such as budget, travelling distance or whether I wanted them to come to me and a few other details. They were tick boxes and only took a few seconds to answer, it really was so straightforward.
Once I had submitted my request, it was simply a case of waiting for photographers to email me with their details, while I continue with my busy daily life. Simple!
Generally, responses take anywhere from 4 hours to four days. However, I was surprised to find bids came in almost immediately, and I was contacted by five different photographers within a few hours. They all met my exact criteria and provided all the relevant information without the need for further correspondence. So it was then just a case of comparing them and choosing one. It made the entire process incredibly quick and stress-free. Great life hack!
Bidvine covers a range of services too. You can search for anything from cleaners to painters, and piano lessons to plumbers. I can see myself using this alot in future because it is so user-friendly and makes life so much easier!
Squiggle loves getting creative, so we were delighted to be given the opportunity to review one of Crayola’s exciting new games. We were sent 3, 2, 1 Draw!which is a fun versatile game that can played in several ways. It retails at £9.99 rrp and is for 2-8 players, ages 6+ years.
This game is part of the Crayola Games collection, which consists of three fast-paced games to test your creative skills. Like 3 2 1 Draw, Scribble Scramble is also aimed at ages 6+ and focuses on drawing, whilst Doodle Delirium is for children aged 8+ and includes both drawing and modelling challenges. All of them sound like hilarious family fun, just the sort of thing that would be great for Christmas gatherings, or at any other time of year!
3, 2, 1 Draw has an almost retro feel to it, reminiscent of etch-a-sketch style toys, but yet has it’s own unique style in that it has been made into a funky game. It comes with a wipe-clean screen, pen, sand timer, eraser and three dice. The timer fits neatly onto the end of the pen, which can be abit hard to see while you’re drawing with it, but it does mean less to juggle if you are playing on the move! And of course it can be removed from the pen if you’d rather put it down elsewhere like we did. Either way it’s a nice feature that gives you the option. The dice and eraser are stored in a little flip lid compartment at the top, which is really handy.
There are various ways to play, based on the level of difficulty and length of game. In all versions, the aim of the game is to guess the drawing before the little sand timer runs out. You then just rub away the picture with the eraser and play again! The only thing I noticed is that the pen doesn’t wipe off with the eraser as easily as I would have thought. However, a damp tissue or cloth seemed to remedy that.
The simple version allows the freedom to draw anything at all, whilst the rest of the team (or the other person, if playing as a two player game) tries to guess what it is before the sand timer runs out. Or roll the dice for a silly challenge to make the game harder, such as drawing with your eyes closed; which proved much harder than I thought, my doodle looked very abstract and impossible to guess!
You can also make the game even more difficult by rolling the category dice, or use the third dice to determine what letter the drawing should start with. Squiggle personally found the topic dice harder than the letter one because she doesn’t really watch TV. But this was no issue, we just didn’t really bother using that one, and chose to play with one of the other two instead. Still plenty of fun to be had!
Whilst it states on the box 2-8 players, it could also be played by an individual too. If playing alone, just race against the sand timer to finish your drawing before the time runs out! Squiggle likes using it just to doodle before the timer runs out.
The game definitely made us laugh and it turns out that Squiggle’s creative drawing skills are so much better than mine! (Not that I doubted that for a moment anyway!) I also particularly love how portable and compact it is, meaning it can be played on the go, as well as at home. It would be good for car or plane journeys, which is extremely useful; we all know how much more peaceful a journey can be when there are things to do! It’s a fun little game if you fancy something creative that doesn’t take too long.
More information about all of the games can be found on the Crayola site.
Disclaimer: I received this game free for the purpose of review, all opinions are my own.
Squiggle received a Snap Circuits set for her 8th Birthday back in May from a kind family member. There are lots of different kits available, but the particular one she has is this one…
Snap circuits are designed for children aged 8 plus and are a great educational resource to help to teach STEM science. The lights set comes with 55 parts to do over 175 different projects. There is also a detailed instruction booklet that has clear diagrams and useful explanations.
Squiggle and I really like this set. Some of the projects are quite similar but there is enough variation to keep her interested. We have used it together quite a few times since she got it and there are still plenty more projects left to do. Depending on how much discussion there is over it, how long it takes to read and follow the instructions, and how many times it is used, each project could last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours!
Whilst we have always chosen to do this activity together, it is probably suitable for most children to do independently. Some children may find the instructions difficult for some of the more complex projects, depending on age and ability, but the instructions are very child friendly with clear visual diagrams. The parts have codes on that match the pictures so this is also very helpful. Occasionally some parts can be a tiny bit tricky to snap into place at first, mainly if a child has any fine motor difficulties. But the design makes it as easy for children to do by themselves as possible, and the parts are very sturdy and well made.
Overall, it is a really good quality product with great educational value. It feels to us like a good investment and it certainly made a lovely present! We would recommend.
I also noticed that there is an eco set now available too. I have not used this one so am not able to comment but I would certainly love to add it to Squiggle’s collection! Green living is a keen interest in our family so this would be a great way to teach about alternative, clean energy sources.
If you are looking for an alternative to Snap Circuits for any reason, Cambridge Brainbox Electronics is another similar kit that I have heard other home educators recommend, but we have not tried it personally. There is a car and boat themed set for transport enthusiasts aged 8 plus…
Last month we went to Weymouth for a mid week short break to Littlesea Haven Holiday Park. This was our second trip to Littlesea and, given it was one of our favourite Haven sites, we were very keen to return! It certainly did not disappoint.
Littlesea is a lovely site, with scenic views and nice little ‘Tiger Trail’ nature walks. Squiggle really enjoyed following the Rory footprints on our map, so good for developing her map reading skills too!
There are also several playgrounds on-site, with a variety of equipment suitable for a range of ages. It is great that there are different play areas dotted around the park, as it encouraged us to explore further to find them all!
The holiday park is set next to Fleet Lagoon nature reserve, with pretty nature walks and coastal paths. We did find that some of the paths were abit too overgrown (and that is baring in mind we often explore wild overgrown areas!) and it was not always clear where to walk next, so better signage might be useful. However, I am not sure how much of this belonged to Haven, as it wasn’t clear at what point we left the site. Regardless, we had fun exploring and enjoyed a wonderful walk to Chesil beach.
The caravan itself was clean and spacious, with everything we would need for our stay. We were also very kindly upgraded, which meant the quiet but central location of the caravan suited our needs perfectly. (A quiet area of the park is absolutely essential for Squiggle).
There is a good range of on-site amenities and facilities including; a Spar shop, gift shop, coffee shop, take aways, restaurant, bar, arcades, soft play, pool, golf, sports courts, entertainment venue and multiple play areas, as mentioned.
The swimming pool was newly refurbished last year and is lovely, with fun water features that Squiggle loves. Both indoors and outdoors there are shallow paddling pools, as well as the deeper family swimming pools. The changing rooms are quite small but adequate. There is also a separate pool for water sports and activities, for an additional charge, which we didn’t personally take part in but they do seem to be well recommended by others who have, and having a separate area dedicated to this is a great idea.
The showbar has been refurbished even more recently, just this year. It is a spacious venue with a good size stage and dance floor. The entertainment held in the showbar is a fun mix of discos, shows and competitions. Squiggle adores the Seaside Squad shows and she loves to meet them for cuddles; this is one of her highlights of Haven Holidays. Because of the nature of her needs, it is important that she feels unhurried during these meetings (otherwise it triggers her severe anxiety and OCD), which can be difficult during busier times or with certain members of staff present (and is difficult for me because I can’t mention it around her, as that also makes it much worse!) However, the majority of the team seem very understanding of SEND in many ways, and do a wonderful job generally. And Squiggle had a fantastic time meeting several of the characters!
The characters also give some great positive messages through their songs, shows and activities, for example about exercise, healthy eating and taking care of our environment. Squiggle often sings lines from Greedy’s songs such as ‘pick up all the rubbish and put it in the bin’ and dances around to keep fit like Rory. These are great role- models for children!
This emphasis on healthy lifestyle and environment etc… runs throughout many of the daytime activities on offer too; with plenty of sports and games, and outdoor activities such as den building, exploring nature and wildlife spotting. I also really liked the information displayed in the corridor between Reception and the entertainment complex too.
Overall, this was an absolutely wonderful holiday and we would highly recommend it. Thank you Haven for another brilliant time!
(Photos of our previous trip to Weymouth are here).