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A Few Christmas Gift Ideas for 1 Year Olds

Archie will be one four days after Christmas so I have been looking at toys aged 1+ for him for both Christmas and his birthday to give ideas to relatives for what to get for him. Here are some of the top toys I have seen from our afternoon at Dream Toys and from scowling the internet and shops.

Archie is a big fan of the Twirly Woos and his little arms and legs go ten to the dozen when he hears the theme tune. We have quite a few of the cuddly toys but on his Christmas list is the Twirly Woos big red boat playset which his Great Auntie has got for him and hidden it away. It has an RRP of £49.99 and is cleverly designed to combine developmental learning with imaginative play with fun sounds, songs, flashing lights and activities galore! The pull along feature will help to strengthen children’s legs and aid their overall balance. Learning elements within the Big Red Boat reflect the educational content of the show itself, providing children with reinforcement through simple word learning. Great BigHoo and Peekaboo figurines are included and you can buy the rest of the characters separately.

We were shown the Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo at Dream Toys last week and I think he is great! He has a large LED tummy that lights up and flashes to the beats as he has a dance. He will get your baby grooving and also teaches the ABC, colours, different games and much more. My favourite thing was that you are able to record yourself saying something and BeatBo mixes it up and sings it back to you. It has an RRP of £36.99 but Toys R Us have it reduced it only £24.99 at the moment.

As Archie’s main present we have brought him a beautiful ride on fire engine from My 1st Years. We saw it at their Christmas preview a couple of weeks ago and Oscar was riding around on it. With My 1st Years you can have free personalisation on everything so we had Archie’s name put on the side of it. I also ordered some personalised ‘Archie’s first Christmas’ ribbon too. It arrived last Thursday and I put it all together and have hidden it in the loft room until Christmas. Both the boys will love it and it is something that Archie will be able to keep for years, maybe to hand down to his children one day.

You may of seen on my blog a few weeks ago that Little Tikes launched a lovely range called Lil’ Ocean Explorers. Within the range all the toys are perfect for a babies first Christmas gift. Archie already has a few of the toys but is absolute favourite is the Dunk ‘N’ Juggle seal. He gets so excited when we play with it. When your baby puts the ball in the hoop the seal starts clapping its fins and plays music. The seal then releases the ball to the floor via the little ramp and Archie rolls himself across the floor to get it. The balls are the perfect size for his little hands. The Dunk ‘N’ Juggle seal is £15.99 at Smyths Toys.

The Vtech Toot Toot Friends Busy Sounds Discovery House is a great toy. Again I saw it at Dream Toys and it has lots of different functions to keep your little ones entertained. MagicPoints interact with the different characters showing their friendly personalities, fun phrases, motion, lights and much more. MagicChat feature in the playroom allows Miss Norah and other MagicPoint characters to talk and sing to each other (other characters are sold separately). The lift magically moves up and down to take Miss Norah to the next floor of the house and Interactive MagicPoint locations in the house encourage imaginative play and teach cause and effect relationships with movements, lights and friendly phrases. It has an RRP of £44.99 but is reduced to £28.99 at Smyths Toys.

In The Night Garden have a fantastic range of toys to compliment the show. Archie already has the activity table which he has great fun with and on his Christmas list is the In The Night Garden Musical Ninky Nonk Track and Train Set and the Ninky Nonk Musical Activity Train. The train is great and is jam packed full of activities:  The musical train has 5 colourful carriages; Musical Pull Along Engine, Spinning Shape Sorter, Stacking Blocks Carriage, Pop-up Igglepiggle and Peek-a-Boo Carriage. The carriages link together to form pull along train, encouraging little ones to walk and become active. The brightly coloured chunky plastic is ideal for little hands to grasp, helping to strengthen their little fingers and promote fine motor skills. Archie will love it!

In The Night Garden Ninky Nonk Train & Track Set     In The Night Garden Ninky Nonk Musical Activity Train


Merry Christmas!




We Were Born To Socialise……

I read some interesting articles this weekend from Vtech who have been working with leading family psychologist and development expert Dr. Angharad Rudkin in line with the launch of their new Toot-Toot Friends range which includes the Busy Sounds Discovery Home which I saw myself at Dream Toys and it featured in the Dream Toys top 12. I wasn’t surprised!One of life’s most important skills for children which develops early on is to socialise and make friends. Something that is so important and key to everyday life and a skill that will stay with you and be needed throughout your whole life. From the moment of birth baby’s prefer human faces rather than drawings of faces and they turn towards their mother’s voice, suggesting that they are innately wired to be with other people. As children become toddlers they use this innate sociability to make connections with others. Learning how to make friends is one of life’s most important skills and it is one that develops very early on. This was so interesting for me to watch as Oscar started school as he chose who he wanted to play with instead of before he would just play with our friends children. I found it fascinating how two little children were drawn together to play and be ‘best friends’.

There are some important things we can do as parents to help our pre-schoolers have a positive experience of making friends.  Firstly, we have to understand that pre-school children do not think in the way that older children do. Their brains are still rapidly developing and so they see things differently. For example, pre-school children will find it very hard to take on another person’s perspective. This is called ‘egocentrism’ and it means that it can be hard for little children to understand why other children don’t want to play a game their way or play with a certain toy right now. Because of this, pre-schoolchildren often spend a lot of time playing on their own or engaged in ‘parallel play’ (where they areplaying alongside, but not with, their friend). This does not mean that your child is unsociable or has some difficulties in socialising. Even when they are playing alone, children can still learn about socialising. For example, play sets such as the VTech Toot-Toot friends allow children to learn about social skills such as turn taking and communicating. They are just being small children who can only take short bursts of playing together before needing some time alone.

Oscar playing with his friend 

Children are born with different temperaments. Often, these temperaments are reflections of their parents. So, for example a confident, chatty mum is more likely to have a confident, chatty child. When this is the case, it is relatively straightforward for a mum to support their child in making friends, because they do it in a similar way. It can be less straightforward however when a confident, chatty mum has a quiet, shy child. It is harder for the mum to know how to guide their child, as the strategies they use will not be the same as the ones their child will benefit from. It is particularly important in this case to for mums to accept their child for who they are (even if they do feel quite frustrated by their child’s shyness) and to get support and advice from the other parent, other family members and friends.

If your child is quiet and observant, you will need to take particular care in how you introduce them into new social settings. Expect them to want to sit on your knee and hold on to you for the first few times. Stay positive and encourage them to join in. If they don’t want to join in, chat to them about what the other children are doing so that your child remains interested. As your child “warms up” they will be happier to move away from you and play with other children, and once they have built up some friendships in that setting, they will feel far more comfortable. Regular and predictable play sessions are important. Quiet children are often attracted to more confident louder children, as they can be taken charge of, and these children find it easier to join a game in a passive role initially.

Confident children who are natural leaders can play with other confident leaders, but expect quite a few power struggles during these games, as both children try to take the dominant position. The majority of learning at this age occurs through watching and imitation. So, it is very important that you model positive friendships to your child from the very start. If you are someone who finds it hard to make friends, it can be difficult to build up a strong network of mum friends around you. This gets easier with practice though and not only does it mean that you have a supportive network but it also means that your child is learning a very valuable lesson. Children who grow up seeing their parents have positive friendships that – even if they are going through a rough patch – involve time together, having fun and caring are more likely to build up those positive friendships themselves.

When it comes to arranging time for your child to spend with their friends, remember to keep it short. Small children get tired very quickly, and it is much nicer to end a playdate on a high than wait until both children have melted into sobbing heaps. Finally, don’t expect the path towards friendship to run smoothly. There are a lot of mistakes to be made, and these are necessary for children to grow into adults who know what to do and what not to do when it comes to making friends. Even very good pre-school friends will frequently squabble and fight. Your refereeing will help your child to learn the essential skills of turn taking and negotiating.

As Oscar is 5 now how he plays with children has changed massively in the last two years. He now has best friends and instead of playing with lots of different groups of children he stays with his little group and his ‘best friends’. ‘Best friends’ mean different things to different people. It can be the person that you turn to as soon as something bad happens, or it can be the person that you do fun things with. Whatever it means to you as an adult there’s a good chance your child will have a very different idea! A best friend to a toddler may be someone who plays the same games that they do, or someone who they see twice a week, or someone who they look like. They will talk about their best friend a lot, want to say goodnight to them as they go to sleep, or want to have things that their best friend does.

As every adult knows, even best friends can be annoying or bewildering. However, a best friend is someone who is there through thick and thin, and who doesn’t hold a grudge. The same is true for little children. They won’t always get on with their best friends, and in fact may squabble with them quite a bit. However, their connection means that they make up easily and are quick to forget what made them cross. Children can also rehearse how to make up with friends by playing with dolls or figures such as the VTech Toot-Toot friends. Children, for example, can pretend that the Toot-Toot friends have had a disagreement before helping them to make up. Such imaginary play helps children to build up their confidence in making and keeping friends.

Another thing I have learnt is that Oscar mimics our behaviour and sometimes you forget this but they learn most of what they know in the home and showing children positive behaviour in the home is so important!  Pre-school children learn through watching and imitating. They will repeat what they have heard from home and will adopt their parents views very quickly. That’s why it is so important that parents act in the way they would like their child to. If you are a tolerant, curious and open minded person then your child is more likely to be too. Pre-school children are full of “why?” questions. Often these questions will be about why someone looks different or does something different. Answer these questions honestly and if you don’t know the answer or you’re a bit flummoxed then it’s absolutely fine to say “you know what, I don’t know. I’ll have a think about it and then we can chat about it more, later on this afternoon”.

Children are being brought up in increasingly multi-cultural societies. The globalisation of family life means that, more than any other time, children are being exposed to people from different countries, cultures, religions, ethnicities and abilities. Helping your child to tolerate and accept difference is an important part of parenting in the 21st century.  Being the same as someone is comforting to a little child. Help your child to understand that although someone might look different, talk differently, dress differently or just do things differently, there are still a lot of similarities. Encourage your child to spend time with a wide variety of people so that they can build up their confidence. Children can also learn about difference by playing with a variety of toys. The VTech Toot-Toot friends for example are a mix of boys and girls, all of whom have different strengths. While playing with all of these characters, children learn what it feels like to be each one and empathise with them. Children will then transfer this experience into their day to day interactions with others. As children’s brains grow, they become more aware that others can have different views and ideas about things and this can be quite frightening for a child. Most children will naturally steer their way through these feelings by experiencing situations where they learn to negotiate, take turns, compromise and communicate. All of these skills are essential for forming friendships throughout life and they also contribute to a child’s sense of belief in themselves and their abilities.

Children have a strong need to fit in, to be a part of a peer group and to be accepted. This need increases throughout childhood and reaches its peak in adolescence. When they are young, children try to fit in by being like other children, they may want to dress like them, talk like them or do the same things as them. As a parent you need to acknowledge this need to be like others in order to fit in, but also help your child to understand that they are loved and accepted for who they are, as someone unique. Use story books or TV programmes to start conversations with your child about differences and similarities and how it is important to accept yourself. Embrace your child’s individuality – just because you think pink spots and red stripes don’t go together, it doesn’t mean your child does. Let them explore and experiment – then they will grow up to be more in tune and more accepting of who they really are.

I hope you found this as interesting as I did and it gives you some hints and tips to help your little ones to socialize and make friends.

What do we really need for our baby?

When I was expecting Oscar I went completely over board buying all sorts of unnecessary stuff that I didn’t really need. If and when we have another baby my list of its to get would literally be halved. Over the last few years when friends have been expecting one of the questions I always get asked is what do we really need? So I thought I would put a list together of some of the bits that we brought and the stuff that you really do not need.

We brought our actual nursery furniture: cot/bed, wardrobe, changing table/chest of draws, toy box and cot/bed mattress from Mamas and Papas. To be honest I never looked anywhere else and have been really pleased with it all. Even four years on, their customer services team sent me out new draw runners as one of mine broke under the weight of all of Oscar’s clothes! We also got our Zeddy and Parsnip moses basket, cot bedding, cot mobile and changing mat from Mamas and Papas too. We went with a unisex theme and have cream walls and added the Zeddy and Parsnip border around the room. I had the BT 150 baby monitor and it had a built in room temperature indicator and lullaby songs.

I stocked up on Pampers nappies and cotton wool when I was pregnant. I brought the Braun 4520 Thermoscan thermometer which is great. It has been used loads and would defiantly be a gadget I couldn’t have gone without. It gives an accurate reading and is easy to use what is a must when you have a wriggling crying teething baby! Keeping a bottle of Infacol in the cupboard is always a good idea in case your little one suffers from colic. For when your baby is teething I would totally recommend Anbesol. My Auntie suggested it to me as it is something that has been around for years and my Mum used it on me. We used a few different teething aids but this one defiantly seemed to work the best. A top and tail bowl is always useful for nappy changing and I used mine all the time. In regards to nappy rash I always used Sudocrem or Bepanthen.

Let’s be honest no matter how many people tell you don’t buy lots of clothes for your baby as you get given loads when baby is born, we never listen! When I was pregnant with Oscar I brought loads of cute outfits, half that were never used as he got tons of clothes when he was born. The only clothes I really needed to buy was vests, sleepsuit’s, hats and mittens for in the hospital and an outfit to bring baby home in, then a couple of other bits. I brought a newborn starter kit from BHS and it had everything you needed in it to last a few days and it was less than £20, I would really recommend getting something like that. Don’t forget to wash it all first! Obviously depending on the time of year you might need a little cardigan or pramsuit. When Oscar was first born I used a Gro swaddle blanket and then Gro bags when he was old enough. My most extravagant baby buy was my Gucci changing bag.. I LOVED IT! I will use it again and then pass it on to one of my friends when they have a baby.

Bath Time
As I said above a top and tail bowl is a must. We also brought a bath support to make it easier and safer when bathing baby being able to have your hands free. Obviously when Oscar was first born we only used warm water and cotton wall to clean him but when he was old enough we used Johnson’s baby shampoo and bedtime bath wash. I also used the bedtime oil to massage into his skin after his bath. The cuddledry bath towels are great as you wear it like an apron then have two hands free to pick baby out of the bath and wrap them up safely. Avent also sell a good bath water thermometer but to be honest I didn’t use one as I just tested the water myself. As Oscar has got older he has a bath mat in the bath with a temperature indicator on it.

I tried hard to breast feed and use the Medela electric breast pump. Unfortunately I just didn’t have enough milk and ended up using Aptamil baby formula instead. We used Avent bottles and the Avent steam steriliser and bottle warmer. They worked great and have now been passed on for someone else to use. I have seen that Avent have a new steam steriliser out and I will be getting that one next time around. I also used the thermal bottle bag when out and about. When I started weaning Oscar I used the brother max freezing tray and prepared pureed meals and froze them. My In Laws brought us a high chair from Mamas and Papas which was great with different height adjustments and the seat had three positions so when Oscar sometimes crashed out in his chair I could tilt it back to make it comfier for him. I have also seen the new Tommee Tippee perfect prep machine and this will be my must have gadget for when we have another baby! We used the Tommee Tippee soothers and bibs with Oscar too and then I ordered personalised dummies for him with ‘Mini Maycock’ on them. They were only 3 for £10 and you can choose colours, wording and designs.

Pushchair/Travel System
I started off with a Silver Cross travel system that my parent’s kindly brought us. It came with the pram/pushchair, car seat and changing bag and I think it was around £500. I loved the pram, hated the car seat and wasn’t overly impressed when it turned in to a pushchair. I ended up selling it on Ebay and getting a Bugaboo Cameleon instead. Yes they are expensive but I loved it! I could have Oscar facing me when we were out and about so I could talk to him and it went completely flat when he wanted a nap. Next time I would buy a Maxi-Cosi Pebble Infant car seat and the isofix base. You can then get adaptors to connect it to the Bugaboo. I will defiantly get a Bugaboo again I want the Buffalo this time though. As a stroller I had the Silver Cross Fizz from John Lewis and loved it. It was great and I also found it amazing when we went on holiday as it had a mesh back and it allowed the air to flow through it in the hot weather. It also folded small and had removable/reversible seat insert which made it easy to keep clean. I also have a Maclaren BMW stroller which is just a great stroller and looks good too. Oscar liked it as it had the same wheels as Daddy’s car.

Newborns don’t do much but the months fly past and it is nice to have colourful and stimulating toys for them to chew on or play with. I got a lot of Lamaze toys and Fisher Price cookie jar sorter and a Fisher Price Sing and Go choo train. Of all of the baby toys we had (the lounge was full) these are the only ones I have kept for another baby. Oscar’s favourite toy was his Cuski Comforter which went everywhere with us and he still has it at bedtime now. From Mothercare I got a Blossom Farm sit me up cosy which was really useful and when we went to visit grandparents and friends I took it with us as Oscar could play comfortably. Oscar’s Uncle Simon brought him a adorable Barny Bear play mat which he used loads too and I have packed it away for the next one!

Things I brought and didn’t really need:

  • Loads of baby clothes (you will get loads as gifts)
  • Bath Thermometer (use your own judgement)
  • Loads of baby toys (just get a few and change them every few months)
  • An air purifier (had one and used it for about a week)
  • Baby walker (the Vtech push along walker was better)
  • Cuddly toys (they just sat there collecting dust)
  • Baby bouncer (Brought one and never used it)
  • To many blankets (I had two favourites and the others just didn’t get used)
  • Expensive clothes (I stupidly brought lots of baby Ralph Lauren clothes, when the carrot puree or a leaked nappy gets on them they were completely ruined. Looking back I wasted a lot of money on silly designer clothes. Don’t buy anything that your not happy with having to throw away.)
  • Baby/pregnancy books (They didn’t have these 50 years ago and managed ok!)
  • Movement baby monitors (I brought one then took it back, I just felt it was a bit unnecessary and opted for a normal BT one instead).
  • Buggy arch toys (Oscar never used it and loved his Lamaze ones that clipped onto the pushchair when we were out and clipped off to play with indoors).