Mellow Mummy: June 2015 : Taking life as it comes...

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Eco Kids Planet - Magazine Review

Eco Kids planet is a new monthly magazine for children but with a bit of a difference – targeted at children aged around 7 to 12 years old, Eco Kids Planet is a factual magazine packed full of science and nature facts, activities and games. I think its an excellent magazine which has the balance between education and fun for this age group just about right.

Lara is just a touch on the young side for Eco Kids Planet and was a little overwhelmed by the volume of reading content but you could tell that she desperately wanted to get going and find out more – finding out science “facts” is a big theme at school for her at present and you could see her eyes light up when she realised that this magazine would allow her to practice her new skills AND learn about the world.  She very much enjoys he challenge of reading new words and since reading these magazines she has been able to add a few tricky ones from the regular glossary feature including "meteorological", "meander" and "mollusc"!

Eco Kids Planet has a different theme each month – sometimes a part of the world such as the Alps, or the Amazon river, and sometimes a scientific phenomenon such as “light” in nature or animal “superpowers”. Each edition features animal facts, geography exercises, lots of beautiful images from the natural world, board games, puzzles, stories and step-by-step instructions for creative activities on the same theme. One copy of this magazine would probably provide enough entertainment for a week of school holiday fun for Lara.

I think it is brilliant to see a children's magazine that isn't covered in cheap plastic toys, or the beaming faces of television characters – this science and geography magazine really appeals to Lara's inquisitive and active side and her current thirst for knowledge. I also think its good value for money, certainly compared to other children's magazines – an annual subscription currently costs £29.90 but there are special offers for your first few editions if you subscribe by direct debit.

The magazine is glossy and packed full of material – it feels much more like an adult's magazine than a kids one, except for the noticable lack of advertising (this, we like).  

Lara has most enjoyed the puzzles in Eco Kids Planet but she has also enjoyed looking at the pictures of giant amazonian fish (great when your mother is a fish-a-phobic) and awe-inspiring birds of prey. For the pages with lots of text, we've read the magazine together and on a couple of occasions this has prompted Lara to ask to go online to find out more about the topic – we've used the magazine as a starting point for learning about different types of dolphins, or what the biggest bird is. As an adult, on the surface, the facts in the magazine are quite high-level but for Lara, these are her first introduction to topics such as rainforests, or avalanches and these facts are just the beginning of her learning adventure.

If your child is interested in science, nature or geography, or if you are looking for something which will spark their interest in a different type of reading (perhaps you've a keen reader who normally sticks to fiction) then I'd highly recommend Eco Kids Planet.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Summer Crocs We Love

This weekend we've been camping.  A new experience for all of us.  The girls have spent the entire weekend in their Crocs as they're so flexible for easy play, comfy evenings and fast turnaround when you have to take a late-night trip to the facilities!

The girls were sent a pair of Crocs from the summer range of children's Crocs, designed to help you #FindYourFun this summer.

Holly's Crocs are a pair of Girls Creative Frozen Clogs with a solid panel over the top of the foot showing her two favourite heroines, Anna and Elsa!  There are sparkly snowflakes and lettering across the foot and on the foot strap.  Holly was speechless when she first saw them and has worn her Crocs more or less non-stop each weekend as they're sturdy enough to be suitable for almost anything we throw at them during a normal weekend!  On our camping trip, they were so easy for Holly to slip on and off whenever she went in and out of the tent.  She was equally happy climbing trees in them as she was racing off across the fields.

Frozen is just one of the children's themes you'll find on Crocs this summer, look out for Minions, Star Wars, Turtles and Hello Kitty.  The Frozen clogs are available from an infant size 4, through to a junior size 1.

Lara's Crocs are a thing of beauty.  And, once again, Lara would quite happily live in these if she were allowed to wear them to school!  The brightly coloured butterly and heart design isn't the only feature of these traditional Crocs that appeals to Lara - they light up as well!  These are CrocsLights.

CrocsLights clogs are available in a number of bright children's designs and they feature a series of LEDs around the butterfly design which light up as you walk.  I had thought that our light-up shoe days were behind us and was surprised to see that CrocsLights were available in larger children's sizes (they are available from size 8, upto a junior 3).  To be very honest, I think both Lara and I have been far more impressed with the design of the shoes than with the lights!  On most sunny days you can't even notice the lights but during our camping trip, as the light dipped you could see the lightning flash of LEDs travel around the band on the shoes as she ran across the field.

These CrocsLight butterfly clogs are a beautiful, comfortable shoe that is light and flexible and perfect for summer days, holidays and... I can now confirm... camping trips!

The CrocsLight butterfly clogs cost £34.99 and the Creative Frozen Clogs cost £26.99 are are available from

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Family Car Review :: smart forfour

Ever since the smart car was first launched, I've thought they've had the wow factor.  And now, with the launch of new smart forfour, families can really get the most of the smart brand.  The new forfour has more doors and more space and is an interesting option for families in cities and built-up towns whether they're on the school run, or a family weekend away.

As the driver of a huuuuuuge estate car, driving the smart forfour came as a bit of a shock to the system.  It is really very compact and all my normal worries about finding a reasonably sized parking space instantly melted away!  Inside, it doesn't feel compact at all, in fact, the rear seats feel airy and spacious because there are only two of them...leg space was at a premium though, even for Lara (who is tall for her age) and I probably wouldn't choose to travel in the back myself!

For me, the two biggest plus points of the new smart forfour, in terms of family friendliness were the wide opening doors and the ISOFIX seating.  When you're trying to put a toddler into a small car, you need all the space you can muster and I found the best-in-class extra wide opening doors to be a godsend and something which sets this car apart from others.  I also found the rear seat ISOFIX connectors to be astonishingly easy to use - by far the best of any car I have tried to date, even in my ParentWheels days.  One of the things putting me off finally buying a second car is the need for two sets of kids car seats; but when it is this easy to move the children's car seats in and out, I'd have no problem keeping just one set for both cars! For a compact car I was impressed by the sturdiness of the chassis of the car and the chunkiness of the tyres.  Check out Tyre Shopper UK for tyre options if you are looking to replace yours online.

I will admit that I wasn't wowed by the driving experience in the smart forfour - the ride was smooth enough but the lower gears weren't responsive and, despite the gear-change indicator, I never quite got to grips with the gearbox and found the shifting to be lumpy.  The smart forfour comes with a digital display, as well as a digital central console (which allows access to phone connectivity, radio and satellite navigation) but Mr. B.'s favourite part was the eco score.  For him, the challenge of keeping his eco score above 90% was a daily motivation and we ended up competing to see who could get the best acceleration, anticipation and shift scores.  The smart forfour can give you up to 67.3 mpg which means that it should be economical and cost-friendly to fill up.

General maintenance of a vehicle such as the smart forfour is more affordable these days if you are happy to shop around online for parts such as tyres or exhausts, all with mobile fitting. Online suppliers such as offer very competitive prices and mobile fitting means you don't have to do it all yourself.

From the outside, the smart forfour is bright and fun and looks just as eye catching as its two-seater cousin.  On the inside though, I was a bit disappointed by the trim.  We drove the middle-of-the-range prime trim with panoramic sunroof and leather interior.  The quality throughout was excellent, but the facilities felt a bit...basic, and didn't seem to fit with my image of the smart, luxury Mercedes brand.  The door trims and dashboard layout didn't tick very many boxes; decisions such as the display of  the rev counter as a separate analogue dial, rather than as part of the digital display didn't seem to afford much cost or space saving, but did contribute to an overall feeling that I wasn't being spoiled.  My biggest negative of the smart forfour was the noise levels within the car - I know this is to be expected in a small car where you are close to the road, and the engine, but I found it really noticeable, especially when I was trying to talk to my girls while I was driving.

Despite this, both my girls very much enjoyed the novelty of the smart forfour - the colour and the compact size certainly turned lots of heads on our travels over the week.  For a small car, the boot space is reasonable - we easily fit in our family shop for the week but I think you'd have to be picky about choosing a pushchair to ensure it fit in the boot comfortably.  The back seats recline to make more space if you need it.

The smart forfour is available in three models – passion, prime and proxy – plus a choice of 71hp or 90hp turbocharged petrol engines, the smart forfour is priced from £11,265 OTR.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

My Own Fairy Door

Every once in a while, you need a little bit of magic that you can work as a parent.  Fairies.  Perhaps not every parent's solution to bad behaviour but for us, the idea of a Christmas fairy has worked very well in the run up to Christmas, in terms of encouraging good behaviour. Now, with a magical fairy door from My Own Fairy, Lara is enjoying fairy magic even in the summer!

A My Own Fairy Door is a little wooden, re-positionable door that your child can place around your home or garden to invite a fairy to come to stay.  The door comes in a special presentation box with a tiny fairy door key and a bottle of fairy dust.  On the first night, Lara placed her door at the base of our tree mural in the living room and added a few tiny stepping stones leading up to the door.

We went away for the weekend and, lo and behold, upon our return, the key had disappeared...meaning a fairy had moved in.  Lara was flabberghasted.

Once your fairy has moved in, you can register them on and assign them a name.  Lara chose "Diamond".  Once registered, you can download a certificate to prove that they live in your home.  Lara filled in her part of the certificate and then wrote a very polite letter to Diamond to ask her to sign her part of the deal!  As well as the certificate, there are colouring sheets and dot-to-dot puzzles that you can download on the myownfairy website.

The idea is that, every so often, the fairy can leave a note or a gift for your child, perhaps as a reward, or as an incentive.  And, when your child chooses to, they can move the door to a different part of the house to offer a little bit of variety.

Holly and Lara have totally bought into the magic of their fairy and I'm hoping that, with a few well-timed messages of support and encouragement, we can achieve great things together!

A My Own Fairy door costs around £19.99 and you can also purchase accessories such as wall stickers and stepping stones to accompany the door.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Leapfrog Imagicard and the Leappad Platinum - Exciting Stuff!

One of the things I enjoy most about being on the Leapfrog blogger panel is finding out about the latest new products; around this time of year, Leapfrog announce their headline-grabbing new release that is almost guaranteed to be at the top of the Christmas present lists this winter.  This week, Leapfrog announced the launch of LeapFrog Imagicard, a ground-breaking digitial learning experience.  The Imagicard from Leapfrog offers a whole new way to play through a magical collectible card experience that brings characters and learning to life on the next generation of LeapPad learning tablets – LeapPad Platinum.

With LeapFrog Imagicard games, children are presented with new ways to solve problems with 30+ interactive collectible cards that come to life on their LeapFrog tablet. Children use the camera to simply “capture” the card on the screen, bringing one of their favourite characters magically into the game and unlocking more ways to play. 

LeapFrog Imagicard launches with three interactive games that feature favourite characters including LeapFrog’s Letter Factory, PAW Patrol, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Each game features LeapFrog’s adaptive learning technology which personalises the experience for each child. LeapFrog Imagicard is also backwards compatible with all LeapFrog LeapPad tablets with the exception of LeapPad 1. In addition to the multi-levelled downloadable digital game and interactive cards, LeapFrog Imagicard comes with a tin for easy storage, and a play mat for card sorting and offline games. All 30+ cards are also digitally included in the game, so children can still play the full games while on-the-go - meaning you don't have to risk losing the cards when you're out and about.

I'm sure we'll discover more about the Leappad Platinum in the coming months but on paper the LeapPad Platinum is LeapFrog’s most durable tablet ever with a shatter-safe screen and a wrap-around bumper. It includes 8GB memory to hold up to 40,000 photos or 100+ game apps*, two cameras and video recorders and 10 apps.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Children's Book Review :: Little Bell and the Moon

Little Bell and the Moon is a touching, gentle picture book by Giles Paley-Phillips and illustrated Iris Deppe.  It is the type of book which brings a little lump to my throat every time I read it to my two girls, and yet, by the end of the book I am beaming with an enormous smile, looking into the eyes of Lara and Holly, knowing that they understand the magic of it too.

Little Bell is a little girl who has a strong bond with the Moon who shines down on her.  Over the years, Little Bell and moon share a lot together but eventually Little Bell isn't quite so little any more.  As she grows old and frail, the moon stays with her until she eventually passes away.  Little Bell's soul drifts up to the moon for one last adventure and she becomes a star, shining brightly in the sky.

The first time that I read Little Bell and the Moon to Lara and Holly, I was a bit taken aback by the topic of death - it just isn't something that often features in children's story books and I was worried that it would raise a lot of questions from the girls, just before bedtime!  However, the story tackles the topic of old age, frailty and death with such sensitivity that Lara really stopped to think about what happens to you towards the end of life.

The illustrations in the book are quite dark with layers of blues and blacks to add detail.  The moon, and Little Bell are bright and light additions to each page which really stand out.  On each page there are also one or two brightly coloured additions such as hot air balloon, boat sails, butterflies or leopard eyes and it gave the girls something to look out for on each page.

I think Little Bell and the Moon, by Fat Fox Books, is a delightful children's picture book and, with its gentle rhyme, is perfect for bedtimes.  I don't think it is a book that the girls would necessarily pick as their first choice for bedtime (big, bold and silly tends to be their thing) but it is a book I would choose to read to them and which I hope will leave them quietly smiling to themselves for years to come.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Holiday Fun with Peppa Pig and Friends

Half term feels like a distant memory.  We took the girls away to France for fun and frolics on the beach.  It was a blimming brilliant way to spend the half-term holidays but now we're back and on the downhill slope towards the long school summer holiday.

This spring there are lots of holiday inspired activities to be found on the Peppa Pig grown-ups website.  There are downloadable counting worksheets, i-spy travel kits, a recipe for homemade lemonade (perfect for sipping in the garden) as well as instructions for how to make your own paper kite.

Not only are there plenty of Peppa Pig activities for your family to take part in, but this summer sees the launch of some special holiday essentials from Peppa Pig.

First up is a new range of Peppa Pig toys with a holiday theme from theme parks to beaches, Peppa and George will be busy this summer.  This Peppa Pig Jumbo jet really struck a chord with Holly having arrived just after we had returned from our own holidays on an aeroplane.  Holly has enjoyed packing Peppa's suitcases into the hold of the plan and then letting Peppa take turns acting as a passenger, or as the pilot in the plane.  There are three seats in the plane so you can pair this Peppa Pig Jumbo jet with one of the two-packs of holiday themed collectible Peppa Pig figurines featuring your child's favourite stars in their swimming cossies!

Also new in the Peppa Pig holiday range are these great travel accessories.  This clever Peppa Pig travel pillow is reversible and turns into a soft cuddly toy.  You can use the pillow to support your little one's head when on a plane or a long car journey.  It is available in Peppa colours or George colours.  Holly is just at the age now when she wakes from a sleep when travelling with an awfully sore neck so this will be perfect for our long drive up from Berkshire to Cumbria during the summer holidays.  It has the added bonus that it can be used at bedtimes as a cuddly toy once you reach your destination!

Also in the travel range is a handy car seat organiser.  I've wanted a car seat organiser for some time because I know (having taken a fair few epic road trips over the last few summers) that my car normally fills up with food and drink debris, crayons, leapfrog games and i-spy cards.  This Peppa Pig brightly coloured car seat organiser straps over one of the front seats of the car and straps in place.  It has one large pocket with a transparent lining which could house a DVD player or a magazine or larger items such as tablets or games.  Lower down there are pockets of several different sizes which can house pencils, paper, drinks and snacks to help you make it through your journey!

And finally, to provide a little bit of in-flight entertainment, or an evening distraction when you are on your travels, these Peppa Pig travel colouring and re-usable stickers sets are a simple, light weight solution that you can put in your suitcase or hand baggage and use to keep the peace when you are travelling!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Ring Handheld Vacuum Cleaner Review

I never thought I would become the kind of person who had a messy car but parenthood does strange things to us - quite why I ever thought it would be a good idea to offer my toddler a packet of raisins while she was sat in her car seat, I really don't know.  I have been finding squished raisins on the back seat of our Audi for the past 12 months!

Travelling with kids seems to inevitably result in dirt, debris, food and bits of sparkly stuff strewn all over the car.  The trouble is, I really don't have the time or the inclination to be dragging out the vacuum to the car every weekend to put it back to rights and I definitely can't afford to get the seats and carpet cleaned professionally more than once in a blue moon. I've been contemplating getting a handheld vacuum for some time and so the new Ring Rechargeable Vacuum Cleaner was perfectly timed for the challenge.

A small, handheld vacuum, the Ring Rechargeable Vacuum Cleaner is cordless so you can charge it up on the handy charging unit inside the house and then take the vacuum out to clean the car.  It is very compact and light, so if you know you are going on a family journey that could get messy, you can take the Ring cleaner with you.

For me, a handheld vacuum in the car is perfect for keeping on top of the mess.  After a journey to the park, or a trip to the grandparents I can quickly whizz the vacuum cleaner around the back seat of the car to put it back to rights.  It is powerful enough to pick up the main pieces of dirt and debris but I'll probably need a professional clean every few months to really get the car clean.  This is the perfect solution to reduce the frequency of "big" cleans in that back seat.

The Ring Rechargeable Vacuum Cleaner has a couple of nifty features that make it ideal for use in a car.  Firstly there is a set of LEDs which you can switch on to light up dark nooks and crannies.  Perfect for that void down the edge of Holly's ISOFIX car seat where the raisins collect!  Next, it comes with a set of attachments which make it stand apart from many handheld vacuums; these can allow you to really get into the pile of a carpet (either inside or outside the car), into tight corners or hard to reach places.

The charging unit itself is also sleek and compact; you simply slide the vacuum onto it so that it sits upright while it charges.  I was a bit surprised to find out that the Ring vacuum cleaner only held 16 minutes of continuous charge but then I stopped to wonder when I would ever think of spending more than 16 minutes cleaning the back seat of my car!!!  The cleaner is easy to empty (you simply click off the end piece) and you can see into it to know when it needs emptying.

Ring also make a 12V version of their handheld vacuum cleaner which has a 4m cable and you can run it directly from the car power supply.  Both are perfect for cleaning up the children's crumbs and sparkly bits in the back of the car!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Childrens Book Review :: Spot a Lot Vehicle Adventure

Both Holly and Lara absolutely love spotting books right now. In fact, I'd go so far as to say, spotting is their favourite past-time! Spot A Lot, Vehicle Adventuree by Steve Smallman and Nicola Slater is the latest addition to our spotting collection and instantly inspired both girls to get spotting.

I KNEW Lara and Holly would enjoy Spot a Lot, Vehicle Adventure because they both very much enjoy the prequel, Spot a Lot, Animal Escape.  This picture book features a parcel that is struggling to make it to its destination because the delivery vehicle broke down... follow the parcel on its journey using lots of different types of vehicles.

On each page, not only do you have to spot the parcel but there is also a little dog on every page as well as lots of puzzle prompts to help you search for other vehicles and creatures too.  Both Holly (3) and Lara (nearly 6) enjoy the challenge of spotting and counting all of the things they have been asked to.  When I'm reading with them, I set them other challenges beyond the words in the book because the illustrations are packed full of different cars, buses, diggers, boats, people, buildings and animals to search for.

Each page features a number which increases as you move through the book - this is good learning practice for Holly to remind her what comes next.

We love the Spot a Lot books and we all notice something new on every page each time we pick up this book.  Its a great book for children from 3-10 years who like spotting, or who like vehicles of all sorts.  Find out more through the paragon books social channels on twitter and facebook.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Keeping the Girls Entertained When Travelling Abroad

Last week, we took the girls to France for what was one of the most enjoyable and relaxing family holidays we have had to date - it was brilliant.  Before we traveled, I had been apprehensive about flying with Holly; she can be a handful even when sitting in the living room for five minutes so I wasn't relishing the though of even a 2 hour flight with her!  Thankfully, both of my girls were angelic for the flights both to and from the South of France.  Phew.

Holidays are meant to be relaxing but research commissioned by Airport Parking and Hotels has shown that flying can be a fairly stressful experience from check-in, through the queues at security all the way to waiting for your bags at the carousel on the other end.  So here are my top tips for how to reduce the stress of flying with children.

1.  Pack Light
Travelling with children is hard work.  Don't make it harder by packing everything you can ever think of.  Have you ever tried carrying three suitcases, two car seats, three handbags, a camera AND herding two children onto an airport carpark bus at 2 o'clock in the morning?

This holiday we consciously packed light.  We are lucky that we no longer need to pack baby food, nappies and wipes but even so, we made a decision to pack only enough clothing for half the week and bank of there being washing facilities.  This meant at least one less suitcase to take.

2. Know the plan!
Travelling with the girls is always so much easier when we know exactly where we are going, and how we will get from A to B. This is partly because it offers the promise of the next exciting thing to come - first the car, then the bus, then the plane, then the hire car and then the hotel.  The girls thought it was great fun to tick off each of the different forms of transport on their travels... for us, it was about being organised and prepped for the journey ahead.

3. Take Snacks.  Lots of them.
Flights are only survivable with small children through the medium of food. We took muesli bars and bought crisps and treats at the airport to last the journey.  Our flight did offer a small snack but the girls didn't enjoy it so I was glad that I had backup.

4. Buy a Magazine or Book at the Airport
A kids magazine with colouring or puzzles and stories is a great way of passing the time on a flight - the magazine also provides entertainment during the stay.    We enjoy taking the girls to the bookshop in the airport to chose a picture or story book to take with us that we can read in the evenings of our holiday, or on the plane for a bit of quiet time.

5. Tech Trumps Everything
I never thought I would be the sort of Mum that relies on kids tech to keep the kids entertained but I'll admit that on this holiday we let the girls take their Leappads on the plane with them.  This meant they each had to carry a bag, which gave them a sense of responsibility.  They played on their tablets for a short while on each flight, each wearing the headphones.  Peace and quiet!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Oilatum Comfort Skin Tips

It is nearly 6 years since I first became a Mummy - back then, one of the very first things that I became un-mellow about as a parent was Lara's incredibly dry skin. Over the years, I've learned that dry skin is, in fact, very common and because a baby's skin is more delicate than that of an adult, it can be more susceptible to becoming dry and sensitive. I've learned a few tricks of my own for tackling Lara and Holly's dry skin over the years and so I was delighted to be involved in the creation of the Oilatum Comfort Skin Tips.

The Oilatum Daily Junior range is a set of skincare products from Oilatum, the dry skin specialists, but which is specifically designed for babies and small children with dry skin. I have, over the past few months, fallen a bit in love with the Oilatum Daily Junior Moisturising Lotion which I use on Lara, Holly and myself to keep arms and legs feeling smooth.

Oilatum Daily have teamed up with the British Skin Foundation and have listened to mums of children with dry skin in order to create the Oilatum Comfort Skin Tips, 10 easy-to-follow pieces of advice which can help parents to manage the problem of dry skin every day.

You can read the full set of tips at but here are a few of the tips to get you started:-

Tip 2. Try to keep your little one's bath time to 5-10 minutres as too much time spent playing in the bath can cause excess drying out of the skin.

Tip 5. Moisturising cream can be especially effective when your child's skin is damp, so apply it as soon as you've patted them dry to lock all that moisture in.

Top 9. Wash clothes and bedding with non-biological products that are kind to dry, sensitive skin and rinse clothes twice to be extra sure that all traces of soap residue have disappeared.

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