A Review of Tots Too and the Anantara Apartments Dubai, The Palm.

This year we decided to go away for February half term and we also decided we really wanted to be warm, so, as Ferg’s brother lives in Dubai with his lovely wife, we decided to go there.

Last time we went, we stayed at the truly impressive, Atlantis hotel which is also on the Palm. The Atlantis is bonkers. It has a water park, an aquarium, several pools, a small shopping mall and lots of restaurants. When we had two kids it was fine, but with three it’s really hard to get a room big enough to fit us all in or a suite that doesn’t break the bank. To be honest, I was struggling to find availability as well, as we were trying to book in December for travel in February. I had no idea, holidays to exotic places were so popular in February, but they are, so don’t be caught out if you also decide to travel then.

Anyway, I’d been receiving mailings from Tots Too for a while so decided to see if they could get us anything suitable. They were fabulous. I dealt with one person, a lovely, patient lady called Helen who did all the hard work for us. Tots too aim to provide, “Tailor made, luxury family holidays and child friendly resorts.” What I liked most is that they only recommended hotels that could definitely meet our needs. So for example, I asked if they could get us a suitable room in the Atlantis and she said all she could do was ask for an interconnecting room, they could not guarantee it. Bearing in mind how busy the half term week seemed to be, I would NOT have liked to leave that to chance. Imagine turning up at your hotel after nearly eight hours on a plane to find that one half of the family is on one side of the corridor and the other on another. No thank you sir. The idea of leaving anything so important to chance when you have young children, is not an option.

Helen sent us through a list of suitable hotels that either offered interconnecting rooms or 2 bedroom apartments. All the hotels she showed us had a kids club and a sheltered play area, they also all had lovely pools. Initially we wanted to go for the Sofitel Apartments on the palm which looked gorgeous (also had a water slide in one of the pools) but that got booked up before we got a chance to make a reservation. The next we looked at were the Anantara Apartments which I can tell you, were fantastic.

On arrival, we were shown to our apartment which is a short walk from the main body of the hotel. The service was fantastic and so, soon after arrival we were shown to our room. The apartment itself was beautiful. We had a large dining/sitting room, a small kitchen, two separate bedrooms (both with an en-suite bathroom). For us, this was pure luxury. To have that much space in such a beautifully designed room, made me feel straight away that this was going to be a great holiday.

However, all was not quite perfect in paradise. When we opened the curtains and looked beyond our balcony, we were confronted with a gigantic, dusty building site, complete with humming machinery and bright lights. Bugger, so very nearly glorious! Anyway we decided the building site wasn’t so bad as we’d spend most of our time by the pool and didn’t bother complaining. We just ordered room service, ate in the room and toddled off to bed.

At 7am we were woken up by the sound of heavy machinery. It was at that point I complained and requested another room. To their credit, they managed to find us another room by the end of the day and were supremely apologetic. From that point on I had no other complaints, it was all good.

Here are some images of the apartment we ended up in.


The apartments themselves are slightly separate from the the actual hotel but still on the same site. This wasn’t a problem though, part  of the lagoon was just outside the exit of the apartment building which is also where the apartments have their own gym.

To reach the hotel lobby, you walk from the apartment building through various lanes that go through the lagoon accommodation. If you were feeling particularly fatigued you could call for a golf buggy to pick you up and take you to the other side of the resort. We didn’t do this as the walk was very quick.

The main pool was lovely, not hugely deep so good for little ones as well as those learning to swim. There’s a jacuzzi area on one side and a baby pool on the opposite side.

The beach, although man-made was lovely with plenty of tiny shells in the sand. It had a great view of the Atlantis hotel, and at various points during the day there were activities such as football and volleyball for the kids to get involved in. There were also plenty of water activities to choose from, including waterskiing, wind-surfing, pulled water rings and pedalos.

Despite the fact that 3 out of five of us got ill during our stay, I thought the holiday was amazing!(I wasn’t one of the ill ones…) the food was great, the service impeccable, the facilities top-notch. I did wish there was a water slide in the pool, but to be honest, the kids just loved what was on offer. We only used the kids club once, but it was great. There’s a mini pool, sand pit, lots of activities, films to watch and computer games. They also offer an excellent baby-sitting service so if you fancy a meal alone, where you actually finish some sentences then be assured the babysitters who are also part of the kids club, are friendly, sweet and experienced.

I have to say that the weather was also phenomenal with a high of 36 degrees during our stay which was in mid-February. There was a sand storm on the day we left and although it was very exciting and fascinating to experience, it meant our flight was delayed for three hours. Ho hum, when are long flights ever easy with three kids?

I would definitely recommend the Anantara Apartments if you have kids. They’re large, comfortable and feel very luxurious. You have all the benefits of being part of the hotel but with more space and facilities for all those family needs. There’s always the danger you’ll end up overlooking a building site if you holiday in Dubai, so just make sure you ask at check in for a room away from any possible building work.

Tots Too were also fantastic, make sure you talk to Helen if you call them. She Rocks.

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A Review of Hotel Chocolat’s Mingles & Jingles Bag

I’m very excited. I love chocolate and have been given the opportunity to review some Christmassy Hotel Chocolat Choccies! The Mingles & Jingles Bag contains 35, individually wrapped chocolates in white, milk and caramel chocolate. This particular gift costs £21 and would make a really lovely present, especially for those difficult to buy for people.

I love the fact that they’re individually wrapped because as they’re slightly bigger than your average chocolate they can be used as stocking fillers, treasure hunt prizes or bauble fillers if you don’t want to give as a gift, (see below!)

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The penguin chocolate is quite a dark, milk chocolate. It’s thick and chunky and incredibly moorish. I’ve never had Hotel Chocolat chocolate before and as a bit of a chocco connoisseur I have to say I’m very impressed.

The white chocolate bell is creamy and delicious with a lovely hint of vanilla, you can actually see the little vanilla dots in the chocolate.

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The caramel chocolate Angel, is definitely my favourite though. It’s melt in your mouth scrumptious and unfortunately there were fewer of these than the other two!

I have to be honest, although we only opened the bag 5 hours ago the chocolates have nearly all gone. The kids were obviously fighting over them and even my husband found them hard to resist. All in all, these are fabulous Christmas chocolates, they’re a bit special and definitely worthy of a little splurge…
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A Rather Exuberant Review of The Hama Beads Group Suitcase.

I like to think of Hama Beads as a gift from God. For me and my family, they are literally like Hama from heaven (quite pleased with that). Apart from Lego and Play Dough (Dough Dough), they are the only toy we have that all the kids like playing with together. If I’m totally honest, Izzy seems to prefer throwing them around, but sometimes when she’s not feeling destructive, she almost gets it. I give it three months and she’ll be sitting with her bro and big sis, making equally impressive creations. Another wonderful thing about Hama Beads is that the whole process of making the little mosaics is fantastically therapeutic. Forget the kids, parents, if you’re feeling stressed, get the ol’ Hama Beads out, turn on the radio and make away. You’ll find yourself in a much better place after creating a day-glo dolphin or a psychedelic princess.

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For those of you who don’t know, Hama Beads are tiny beads that you place on a frame to create a sort of mosaic. Once your child has made a mosaic they like, a grown up covers it with some special paper and irons over it so that the little plastic beads all stick together. I discovered them by accident a few weeks ago during a play date. The mummy host (Hi Kinnary!) wheeled out her Hama beads and all of the kids were instantly entranced. After that, I decided we needed them in our lives and went on the hunt to get some.

We ended up getting the Hama Beads Group Suitcase from Argos which costs £39.99. It has loads of beads and plenty of templates to use, but prices do start from as little as £7.99 for the Little Princess set which also makes them brilliant stocking fillers or gifts for kids birthday parties. It looks like Argos have loads of deals on these at the moment but I’m not sure how long they’ll last for.

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What I don’t understand is, how did I not know about Hama Beads before?? Everyone else seems to have them and love them, but they’ve completely passed us by until now so we have a lot of making up to do. Here are some of our beautiful creations…

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We recently had our cousins over and after the initial excitement of running about and giving Maisie and the baby an extraordinary makeover, they noticed the Hama beads and immediately wanted to play with them. What ensued was an hour of peace and companionable quiet.

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Hama Beads are a bit like Lego, kids are happy to play with them for hours without squabbling or more importantly parental guidance. If you’re after some inspiration for Christams gifts then do consider these as an alternative to all the robots and crazy electronics that are about this year. If however, you’re feeling the need for some electronic craziness then check out Argos’s Dream Toys 2013 list which has loads of inspiration.

An Overview of Tablets available at Argos.

I was recently invited to test a selection of tablets available at Argos, with some other bloggers. We all brought our own tablets and had the chance to compare the ones on display. We also talked about what we look for in a tablet and what sort of tablet would suit our children.

In our household we have 2 iPad’s. One that belongs to me and one that belongs to my husband. The kids are allowed to play games we select for them but they aren’t allowed to have their own tablets or games consoles. I think the reason for this is that we feel it’d be harder to monitor or fight against screen time, without the excuse that we need our iPads back! I think at some point we’ll get my son (age 7) some sort of computer to play games on but we’re putting it off for as long as possible.

It was really interesting to look at all the different tablets, especially as when you get the chance to actually play with them you get a better idea of whether or not they would suit your kids and also if they’re the sort of gizmo that they’ll just tire of quickly. The first I looked at was the Leapfrog LeapPad (kids) £109.99 (info in italics copied from Argos).

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The LeapPad looks like your tablet but it’s kid-tough with an ultra-tough frame and friendly controls. They can write, draw, take photos, make videos and have access to 500+ games, eBooks and music which have all be approved by LeapFrog learning experts. The browsing option even has parental settings for easy fine-tuning.

• Child safe LeapPad Ultra offers extra parental settings and tools that allow parents to easily control exactly what experiences their child has access to.
• LeapPad Ultra comes with 11 custom apps including: photo fun ultra, art studio ultra, pet pad party, utility suite, pet chat and LeapFrog learning songs.
• Features rechargeable lithium ion battery, Wi-Fi, peer-to-peer play, front and back camera/video recorders and MP3 player.
• LeapPad Ultra works with LeapFrogs award-winning library of hundreds of educator-approved apps, games, eBooks, videos, music and more.

I liked this tablet but felt that it would have a short “interest” life. The trouble is that our kids are so tech savvy these days, that if they’re used to playing on an iPad for example, this just looks a bit babyish. I think in reality is would suit from 18 months (that sounds shocking but Izzy’s been playing on the iPad from at least that age!) to about 4. So unfortunately, although I think all of them would like to own one, the fact that we won’t buy them a tablet until they’re older rules it out for us. If you want to get a tablet for your little ones though, this is fantastic and very hardy!

The second one I looked at was the VTech Innotab 2
VTech InnoTab (kids) £49.99.

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Here’s the blurb.

With the InnoTab 2 kids will have so much fun they won’t even realise they’re learning! This multimedia handheld tablet combines educational games, creative activities and e-books. The InnoTab just got better; it now features a built-in twist camera!

• Features a 5 inch LCD touch screen and G-sensor for fun game play.
• Now includes a rotating self-portrait camera, for photos and video and features a microphone for enhanced game play. Includes USB cable.
• Children can develop core skills in reading, spelling, maths, logic and creativity with the many included activities such as an e-reader, art studio, video player and photo viewer.
• InnoTab 2 is also compatible with the Kidizoom range of products.
• Parents can download additional games and learning apps from their computer (SD card required, not included) via the VTech Learning Lodge Navigator site.
General information:

• Size H28, W33, D6cm.
• Batteries required: 4 x AA (not included).
• For ages 4 years and over.
• EAN: 9086692.
WARNING(S):

• Not suitable for children under 3 years old.
• Only for domestic use.

I though this was pointless. It was very basic and not a patch on the Leapfrog LeapPad. The screen was very small and it just looked like a cheap product. I wouldn’t recommend it as I felt it had a short interest life and wasn’t sophisticated enough for the kids of today.

The Bush 7 Inch MyTablet Now £49.99.




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Bush MyTablet is a sleek 7 inch tablet designed for fun and tailored to you, with free pre-loaded games and apps, social networking, internet browsing, and a home screen that you can personalise with your favorite apps, photos and with your name.
• Expandable up to 32GB.
Display:

• 7 inch screen.
• Resolution 1024 x 600 pixels.
• 1.6GHz processor.
• 1GB RAM.
• 8 GB internal storage.
• Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system.
General features:

• Webcam.
• Wi-Fi enabled.
• Bluetooth – enabling you to easily and wirelessly connect with other bluetooth enabled devices.
• 3.5mm stereo headphone jack.
• microSD memory card slot.
• Mini HDMI.
• Micro USB.
Additional information:

• Up to 5 hours battery life (depending on usage).
• Bush.

I thought this looked like a nice piece of kit but fundamentally it’s a budget tablet with very poor battery life and low storage capacity. Where this may well come into its own though is for a child who wants to play games and have a smart looking tablet. Feedback from these has been that they’re not ideal for watching films or videos but they’re fine for basic use, which for kids means games. Overall I’d say this would be fine for a child who wasn’t expecting it to be able to everything an iPad can do.

Nexus 7 £149.99
The ASUS Nexus 7 is all about having your favourite things available, even when you are not close to WiFi. It features a mobile data connection that allows you to access your favourite media content in non-WiFi areas. The 7 inch screen is the perfect size screen for commuting – small enough to fit into your pocket or bag.
• 1.2MP front camera.
7 inch screen.
• Resolution 1280 x 800 pixels.
• IPS technology.
• LED backlit display.
• 1.2GHz NVIDIA – Tegra 3 Quad-core processor.
• 1GB RAM.
• 16 GB internal storage.
• Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system.
General features:

• Webcam.
• Wi-Fi and 3G enabled.
• Bluetooth – enabling you to easily and wirelessly connect with other bluetooth enabled devices.
Additional information:

• Up to 9.5 hours battery life (depending on usage).
• Weight 340g.
• EAN/MPN/UPC/ISBN: 4716659260691.
• Google.

I though this was a fantastic little tablet and definitely my favorite of the selection I looked at. It may be £50 more expensive than the Bush but it’s leagues better. The screen definition is excellent and it’s a joy to watch video on. Of all the tablets I looked at. This was my favorite and the one I would recommend. Having said that, when all’s said and done, I’m an iPad gal and this lady’s not for turning.

Ewwwww! Did you know…

…a survey commissioned by Dettol discovered that bacteria linked to faeces is found on 1 in 4 items of children’s washed clothes when washed at low temperatures? Well, I suppose this is only true if at least one person in your family regularly poos their pants, but for those of you with tiny ones and/or hot-curry consuming husbands, this is a distinct possibility. Thankfully in our family it’s only Izzy who occasionally has a little leakage now, but when there are leakages I hate the idea that the bacteria on her stuff is transferred onto everyone else’s clothing in the washing machine! Bleugh!

So what’s the solution I hear you cry!! Well, thankfully for all of us, Dettol has brought out a new product that “…kills 99.9% of bacteria, for hygienically clean laundry even at low temperatures”. All you do is add a capful to your normal wash and carry on as usual. I have to say, this has also been really good for my sweaty gym gear, although there’s no poo on it obviously, there’s usually lots of sweat and the low temperature washes don’t always clean as well as they might (TMI?).

Dr Pixie McKenna endorses this product and explains in her video some rather unsavory facts about bacteria on our washing. if you want to take a look then please click here for some nasty revelations!

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A Progress Report on My Gym Gerbil Antics and an Incidental Review of my new Super Ozeri Precision II Bathroom Scales

So, as some of you will know, (as I rock up to the school gates, clad head to toe in Lycra…) since June I’ve started going to the gym. Not once or twice a week, but up to 4 times a week. Even to me this seems a little extreme but I’m really enjoying it, going to classes like Body Attack, Body Pump and Body Combat which are all part of the Les Mills fitness programme.

So far, I’ve lost about 10 lbs which I’m pretty pleased about, especially considering I haven’t been following a specific diet! One of the surprise upsides to this, other than having a bit less junk in my trunk of course, is that my knees are less creaky and painful than they used to be. Apparently, according to a family friend who’s a physio, every 7 lbs of extra weight you carry is the equivalent of having an extra 3 stone for your knees. If you think about it that means I’ve actually lost about 5 stone! Ha, ok wishful thinking, but it’s made a noticeable difference to how my knees feel physically.

Despite all that, I do feel like I’ve hit a bit of a weight wall, I want to lose another 7lbs but am struggling. Izzy’s sleeping has been a bit off again recently so I’m really tired which makes getting up to do Body Bitch Slap of a morning a fairly dismal prospect. But I’m gonna grit my teeth and press on. They say (not sure who “they” are but “they” are probably very slim) that when you feel like you’ve hit a wall, the best thing to do is just keep going, otherwise, if you stop going at that point you’re much less likely to get back into the rhythm of regular excersize again. This rings true to me, so I’m going to pray for more sleep and press on. It would be so easy to give up now but realistically I think it’s going to take about a year in all to get to where I want to be in a healthy and steady way.

When I started this whole process I didn’t own any scales, I just used to weigh myself at my mum’s house every Friday. That’s probably the right way to do it, but as I’ve become a little more obsessive I caved and got some. They had to be digital, slim and easy to use so I opted for the Ozeri Precision II Digital Bathroom Scales which tick all those boxes and are currently only £17.95 (£28.07 when you include postage) on Amazon.

Here’s what I like about these scales;
1) They’re slim enough to tuck under my bedroom drawers which is important to me as I didn’t want them to clutter up the bathroom floor.
2) They’re really easy to use. Literally all you do is step straight onto them and your correct weight comes up. With my previous set of electronic scales you had to tap and wait for them to get ready, quite often an error message would appear and you’d have to start all over again. Not these baby’s. One step and you’re off!
3) They look pretty cool!
4) You get a consistent weight. Sometimes with my old scales you’d get on and they’d say one weight, but if you weighed yourself again a second later (don’t ask me why I did that…) a different weight would come up.
5) It’s really easy to change from stone to pounds only to kilos, you just press a little button at the bottom. No fancy press and hold, then release then do a jig whilst holding your breath etc etc, easy von peasy.
6) It weighs you in quarters of pounds too so you can tell if weight is creeping up to the next pound and do something about it!

Although getting scales hasn’t made me lose any more weight, it’s great to be able to weigh first thing, last thing, with clothes and without whenever I like. So overall I’d say that these scales are fantastic and I would thoroughly recommend them. Good times!

Please note, this is neither my current nor target weight. It’s how much I weigh when hanging onto the sink.

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A review of the party offering at Cheeky Monkeys Play Barn in Fulbourn

I’ve been meaning to write this up for ages. Maisie celebrated her 4th birthday at Cheeky Monkeys and we had such a fantastic time that I wanted to shout about it!

We’ve been going to Cheeky Monkeys for nearly seven years now and one of the things I love is that at least 2 of the key staff have been there for at least as long as we’ve been going. The lady who looked after us during the party even knew my children’s names which was above and beyond in terms of good customer service.

There are 2 offerings, exclusive use, which is £10 per child (Mondays only) and shared use where you share with the public. This costs £7.50 for weekday parties and £8.50 for weekend parties. Included in the price is 90 minutes in the Playbarn or outside and 30 minutes for the party tea. The party tea includes a selection of sandwiches, mini sausages, crisps, cheese cubes, grapes, cherry tomatoes, cakes, biscuits, raisins and unlimited jugs of squash. All parents have to do is to bring a cake and the party bags.

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There are 2 venues for the party tea, one is in a little barn just outside of the main Playbarn. This is decked out with twinkly lights and party decorations and is a lovely cosy room for a party. Ours was in the extension on the right hand side of the Playbarn and was perfect as it was large enough for our group and nice and bright so we could enjoy the sunshine and the view of the fields.

The day of Maisie’s party was beautifully sunny so we were all able to make use of the fabulous outside space. There are climbing frames galore, tractors, roundabouts and slides so the kids certainly didn’t struggle for entertainment. Inside is ideal for smaller kids as it’s not huge like some of the other local play barns. This means you can easily find and/or control the children and they don’t tend to get overwhelmed.

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The party tea was stress free, I just sat back nattering to other mums while the team served food and drink to the children. The food itself was fine, just what you would expect for a party and with enough fruit and veg to help you feel you’re at least tipping your cap to healthy eating.

They’ve got the whole party thing down to a fine art. There’s a box for presents when you arrive and all the staff are keen to help and make the party run as smoothly as possible.

I would definitely recommend Cheeky Monkeys as a party venue and it’s not just ideal for the tiny ones. In fact Sam’s going to a friends 7th birthday party there next week and I’m sure they’ll have a blast.

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One of the best things about it is that I trust the staff. I know that if I leave one of my children there for a party they’ll be absolutely fine, because the ladies who run it are quietly authoritative and don’t put up with any dangerous play or nonsense.

Thanks Cheeky Monkeys, Maisie had a fantastic time and so did we!

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Balance bike review and comparison list.

There are loads of balance bikes on the market, but this is a list of the ones I liked the most. In the end I chose a Ridgeback Scoot for Sam and a Bikestar for Maisie and I was really pleased with both of them. I haven’t listed any wooden bikes as I didn’t think they’d last as well as a hand me down, but two good friends have a wooden likeAbike and swear by them so if you’re looking for a wooden balance bike, that’s the one I’d recommend.

Islabike Rothan

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Frame – Aluminim
Weight – 3.6kg
My impressions – If this bike came in pink then I’d have bought one second hand from eBay, as it’s a lovely piece of kit. It’s designed for children rather than using parts designed for adults so it rides really nicely for kids. It’s a quality product and so pretty expensive, but if you love cycling and bikes then you might not be able to resist this! Loads of kids here in Cambridge have them and the parents I speak to about them think they’re fantastic. I chose not to spend so much on a balance bike as they all pretty much do the same thing, but many people I’ve spoken to think they’re worth every penny. At the end of the day, the more expensive they are, the lighter they are and the longer they’ll last. Resale on these is excellent.
Price – £120 from Islabike. Secondhand you can pick them up for around the £70 mark on eBay.

Ridgeback Scoot

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Frame – Aluminium
Weight – 12.1bs, 5.49kg
My Impressions – It seems long and was harder for my petite little girl to get to grips with when she tried to ride her brother’s one. My son loved it though and he only started using a balance bike when he was 4 and quite big. This is a fabulous bike but definitely not the lightest out there. It’s great for bigger kids who aren’t going to struggle with the extra weight. The rear break is pointless but the kids like the look of it. New models have a carry handle on the seat which is a brilliant feature for those frequent meltdowns!
Price – £99 at most places where it’s sold, but I bought my son’s one 2nd hand from eBay for £52.

Strider

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Frame – light gauge steel tubing
Weight – ST3 (old model) 2.9kg. ST4 3kg.
My impression – This is a fun little bike and it’s the lightest on the market. it’s a great choice for small kids as the seat height starts at 28cm and goes up to 40cm. My hesitation was that after reading reviews it seems as though the EVA polymer, foam-like tyres, tend to wear down so are not ideal if you want to hand them down to a sibling. They have also just launched Super Strider which has 16″ wheels for older or bigger kids. If this had existed when I bought my son’s balance bike then I’d probably have bought it as his Scoot was always a bit small for him.
Price – ST 3 currently being sold for £69. 99. The ST 4 is £84.99, from
Balance1st.

Puky LR1

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Frame – Steel.
Weight – 4kg
My impressions – This is a good solid bike with a great reputation. It’s heavier than other comparable products but it’s also cheaper than the lighter bikes. You’re unlikely to go wrong with a Puky, but my daughter found it awkward which is why we didn’t go for it. I like the footrest and the kick-stand which is really useful and you can also get a strap to carry it when your child suddenly refuses to go any further. This bike also has pneumatic EVA tyres which don’t puncture, but loads of kids around us have these bikes and they don’t seem to wear down much. Puky also do a smaller balance bike called the LRM which is more suitable for tiny ones, the seat height on these is 28cm.
Price – £65.99 on Amazon. You can also pick these up on eBay for around £40.

Likeabike Rosalie

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Frame – Aluminium
Weight – 3.8kg
My Impressions – This bike wasn’t around when I was looking for a balance bike for Maisie, I’ve just discovered it tonight! I’d have bought this if it had been available, it’s, light, it’s pink (the Kokua was the only one available when I was looking and it didn’t come in pink!) and It’s not outrageously expensive. Gutted.com – I love this bike! They also do a red version called the Likeabike Hardy.
price – £99.95 from Likeabike.

Specialized Hotwalk

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Frame – Aluminium
Weight – Approx. 8.63lbs (3.91kg)
My Impressions – This is a really good bike, it’s light and (crucially for us) comes in pink. I didn’t buy it because the Bikestar balance bike was half the price and had similar features, but if I wasn’t trying to save a bit then this is the bike I’d have bought. The Hotwalk is one of the lightest bikes on the market, it also has a footrest to encourage balancing.
Price – 2012 model currently on sale for £89.99 from Freeborn The 2013 model seems to be £100 in most online shops.

Ketler Speedy
imageBalance bike comparisons
Frame Steel Tubing
Weight 4.1kg
My impressions One of Maisie’s friends from Pre-school has one of these bikes so I asked her dad what he thought of it. He said he was pleased with it, it seemed easy enough for his daughter to ride but his only issue was that the wheels (made of a tough synthetic foam), sometimes “chip”, i.e. a little chunk sometimes comes of when she rides over rough ground. That said, his daughter likes riding it and it’s pretty light so what’s not to like? It has a padded seat which is adjustable – 33-43cm, so it’s not really small enough for tiny ones but still a good size for your average two year old. This is a good little bike, it’s not expensive, it’s not too heavy for little ones to maneuver and it comes in both blue and pink!
Price £44.99 from Amazon

Bikestar

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Frame – Steel tube.
Weight – 4.8kg
My impressions – This is the bike I chose for my daughter for Christmas when she was 3 1/2. She’s small for her age so the bike had to be fairly light but more importantly it had to be mostly pink. This bike is really pretty and nicely made. I’m really pleased with the quality of it and Maisie loves it. The wheels seem really wide but this doesn’t seem to make a difference to how it rides. The Bikestar has a kick stand which I find is a really useful feature as it just means the bikes isn’t always just lying around. This brand, like Puky, offers a smaller version with 10″ wheels for tiny ones. The price is excellent and Maisie picked up the technique after a few tries. It must be said that this does feel quite heavy to carry home, but she’s only given up once which is a credit to the bike (and her!) in itself.
Price – Currently £49.99 on Amazon.

Arnie and Barney on Nick Junior

We were recently sent a goody bag from Nick Junior that included a DVD of an episode of Arnie and Barney, which is now in its 7th series. I’d never heard of this programme before, but Maisie (who is 3 nearly 4) had watched it before and already knew the characters. It’s basically a bedtime story show where the same author, Becky Overton, creates a story, often based on a traditional fairy tale, that has a fun twist at the end. Each episode is read by a celebrity and this episode was read by Konnie Huq who did a lovely job of creating different voices for all the different characters.

We were sent episode 2 of the 7th series, which was called The Three Princes and a Pea. The heroine, called Georgina, is a Tomboy Princess who doesn’t want to get married. I won’t reveal the twist at the end but it’s quirky and non-traditional and a break from the endless pink fairy princess nonsense that Maisie loves so much. What surprised me, was that she really liked this story even though it wasn’t twinkly and dreamy. This has actually inspired me to actively veer her away from her preferred pink girlishness and attempt to interest her in alternative stories or characters. Fat chance, but I’m gonna give it a go!

The illustrations were gorgeous and I was hoping that Becky Overton had written some actual books as I’m always looking for good books for the kids, but after a little look on Amazon it seems that that she currently only writes for television.

All in all, I really liked the show and more importantly so did Maisie. It’s only about ten minutes long but was a nice way to end the day before going up to do our own stories.

Arnie and Barney is on Nick Junior every Friday at 6.30pm.

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A Review of Our Time at Center Parcs, Elveden Forest.

So, we’ve just got back from Center Parcs and although I wasn’t overwhelmed by the experience, I thought the whole set up was great. The accommodation was fantastic, really well thought out and modern with a beautiful view from the patio doors. We even saw deer and ducks every day, as they’d come up to the window, obviously after some grub.

20130405-173733.jpgOne morning we actually had the pleasure of front row seats to some amorous ducks having a “special cuddle”. Who knew male ducks were so, err, forceful? Anyway, randy ducks aside, the setting was lovely.

The holiday itself though… I just don’t know. It didn’t help that it was FREEZING. There was loads to do outside but outside was basically out-of-bounds because of the weather, so we ended up in the pool every day and the pool was cold for my now, delicate disposition. The kids loved it though and Sam basically taught himself to swim in the shallows which was great without a doubt.

We managed to book Sam in for a go on the indoor rock climbing wall, which he really enjoyed, so hopefully if we go again he’ll be up for the outside version.

20130405-173858.jpg It was lovely having time all together, but it just seemed like after the pool, we would end up in the rather “Wetherspoon-esque” Sports Cafe, which didn’t leave me feeling like we were having a special holiday experience. Having said that, it was super convenient as it had a mini play-barn and plenty of free seats. In fact pretty much all the restaurants had mini soft play areas for kids which was brilliant.

I had a couple of spa treatments in the Aqua Sana, and they were really good. The atmosphere there was very luxurious and peaceful so that did feel like a special experience.

We put Izzy into child care for 3 afternoons and I was very impressed with the set up. The women in the crèche were all lovely and enthusiastic and considering that was Izzy’s first experience of child care, they all did a wonderful job of making sure she was happy. The crèche facilities were fantastic, bright and spacious with loads of great toys to play with.

Now that I’m writing it all down and gathering my thoughts I’d say that on the whole, it’s a great place to go with kids, there are loads of activities and the pool is amazing. Also, Center Parcs can’t help the weather and the weather was just too cold to be outside. If we go again and I think we will, we’ll book more activities for the children as there were things they wanted to try but couldn’t as they were already booked up. If you’re thinking of going then make sure you book activities in advance and also book restaurants if you plan to eat out as they also often get booked up. I think my lack of enthusiasm stems from the fact that the Sports Cafe and Pancake House were a little “tired” and the pool area was chilly as there wasn’t any sun to warm up the pool dome. Next time I’d love to explore outside more and maybe hire some bikes.

All in all, a good family time was had by all, I think it may just take a while for my frozen body to tell my frozen mind how much fun we had.

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