Tag Archives: review

Review: Raising Children – the Primary Years

19 Sep

Liat Hughes Joshi

Can any parent fail to be drawn to a book subtitled ‘Everything Parents Need to Know’? With the pressure to be perfect, the promise of ultimate knowledge packed neatly into 240 pages is even more appealing than a child-free weekend lie-in.

Liat Hughes Joshi’s book addresses the key challenges that parents of primary school children face, from playground friendships and behaviour to homework and pocket money. It provides practical, common-sense advice and avoids, unlike some parenting ‘manuals’, the temptation to preach. As the author says: “Sometimes there’s more than one approach to an issue … as all families are different”.

The author, a journalist and mother, is assisted in the book by two child psychologists. There is enough formal psychology to be interesting but not so much as to scare away parents looking for quick, accessible tips they can use every day. The trickier issues it covers, for example bullying, make for unsettling reading but, as any parent with crayons and paper supplies in their bag knows, forewarned is forearmed.

Hughes Joshi’s realism and humour throughout the book are a godsend for any parent bashing their head against a brick wall. She acknowledges, for example,  that kids would rather be “boiling their own head” than do homework. She also utilises the expertise of those at the coal face – real-life parents. Over 400 were surveyed, the results of which are included in the book as invaluable ‘Parent Panel’ tips. Few things make a parent feel better than knowing others have been through the same and survived.

If you’re looking for reassurance that what your kids are “up to (probably) is normal and that you (probably) aren’t rubbish parents who are getting it all wrong” then you’ll find it here. Set down the medicinal wine bottle and pick up this book.

Raising Children: the Primary Years: Everything Parents Need to Know – from Homework and Horrid Habits to Screentime and Sleepovers by Liat Hughes Joshi, Pearson Life, paperback, RRP £10.99 (Kindle, £5.66).

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Review: John Lewis outdoor LED lighting

11 Sep

My garden wouldn’t get within a mile of Chelsea. It is a plain square of grass with a few flowering weeds, some rotten apples (currently) and the usual detritus that accompanies children (trampoline, slide, residential complexes built for ants from sticks, grass and probably cat poo). Imagine my green-fingered delight then when I was asked to review some of John Lewis’ latest outdoor LED lighting. Goodbye wasteland, hello fairy dell!

The traditional lantern

Outdoor lighting

Arrrr! Holding this lantern aloft I have been a scary pirate and a fisherman so with the kids it’s safe to say it’s popular. This battery operated lantern has 21 LED lights (non-replaceable – I guess they last a long time) and mimics the style of a good old-fashioned lantern that you might see aboard ship (ahoy there). It’s not smooth and slick by any means – bits move, twist and go up and down (intentionally) as if it were a 50-year-old lantern that had been dragged into the 21st century and pimped with LEDs. That is, it looks authentic. This does lead me to wonder how long it will stay looking good – here you need to trust John Lewis’ tradition of quality.

Although the LEDs are on an adjustable dimmer switch, you couldn’t eat your ship biscuits and drink grog by the light of this lantern. It’s not enormously bright, but, as decorative rather than functional lighting should do, it casts an acceptably bright glow with no danger of turning your garden into a landing strip. (Believe me, I have neighbours who have to turn away 747s …)

The rattan line lights

Rattan lights

To me, ‘rattan’ evokes images of basket weave bathroom furniture, the cracks in the weave dusted with old talcum powder. Fortunately, these rattan line lights are far more appealing than that. Think glamping in a yurt; think secret garden; think … well, in my case, think ‘these are a darned sight better than our faded butterfly lights that have endured several winters and wet summers and have now seen better days’.

It took a couple of days in the garden to get these 10 solar powered LED light ‘balls’ up to their full strength, but once they were I was pleasantly surprised by how attractive they are. As with the lantern, they are not exceedingly bright but, really, you don’t expect more from decorative lights. They have a pretty glow and an equally pretty shadow. I was slightly concerned that the rattan balls would become rattan pulp after a couple of days in the garden but they seem to have survived the last few days of wind and rain in tip top condition.

I did wonder though what to actually ‘do’ with these lights. Whilst the total length of the lights (including the wire leading to the solar box) is 10.7ft, the length of the lights themselves is only 4ft. This isn’t quite long enough to make a real feature of them (for example, wound along a decking area or draped in a tree). John Lewis – I like these lovely lights very much but I would have preferred them to be longer. More balls please!

These products were sent to me free-of-charge and I was asked for nothing other than an objective review. The products are not currently available on the John Lewis website but keep your eyes peeled for them in the outdoor lighting section!

Review: Walkers Hoops and Crosses

8 May

crisp snacks

My kids like eating crisps but, in my well-meaning motherly way, I’d rather they didn’t. They think happy thoughts; I think tooth decay and the obesity epidemic. Yet I’m a firm believer in not denying food stuffs that err on the naughtier side as long as it’s in moderation and stops my kids from developing a forbidden fruit complex. It was with excitement and some trepidation then that I let a new crisp product through my door and into the mouths of my kids.

Walkers Hoops and Crosses are a new baked corn snack aimed at children but also at parents like me who are keen to have their guilt allayed by the promise of wholegrains (a wholesome 56% in the case of Hoops and Crosses). Apparently some kids don’t get enough wholegrain – unlike my offspring who are able to consume their own body weight in Cheerios. If you’re less than 4 foot tall and easily seduced by something in a shiny packet then it might as well be a snack that gives a nod to the dark side of healthy. Hoops and Crosses are free from artificial colours and preservatives and are only 85 calories a bag – tick, tick, tick.

Walkers Hoops and Crosses

Monkey not always included. 😦

My 4-year-old and 2-year-old didn’t need much persuasion to give Hoops and Crosses a go, particularly as they’re shaped like … hoops and crosses. (Novelty factor – tick!) We got our grubby mitts on the Roast Beef flavour and, once we’d discussed that not every packet comes with a toy monkey (thanks Walkers!), the packet was almost evenly divided between brother and sister. Sister was full of praise: “yummy”, “they taste like carrots” (errrr …) and “no, NO, they’re mine!” Her brother doesn’t say much yet but I assume his silence was evidence of both happiness and a rather full mouth.

Walkers Hoops and Crosses

You can even eat them out of shoes.

After wrestling the packet from the children, I also tried a few. I couldn’t taste roast beef, although I rarely can in a non-meat format. I wouldn’t buy Hoops and Crosses to eat myself but I can see why my kids enjoyed them.  They are also pleasantly free of the voluminous (and luminous) crumb dust that other well-known children’s snacks emit – the death knell of many a white t-shirt. I’m not overly convinced though by the flavours that Walkers have chosen: roast beef, prawn cocktail and salt and vinegar. I would have preferred the blander classics like cheese and ready salted. After all, kids relish bland, as evidenced by the roaring trade in those tasteless little ricecakes.

Would I buy Hoops and Crosses again? Yes. I’m not sure they will replace our beloved Pom-Bears (another product that proves that kids like shapes as much as, if not more than, taste) but Hoops and Crosses will be an appealing alternative. If my kids will on occasion insist on turning their noses up at fruit in favour of crisps then I say “hooray” for a snack that will force a little element of something good into them.  And who am I to argue with this face?

Eating crisps 

This is a sponsored post for Walkers crisps and I received the products pictured as well as compensation for writing this review. However, all opinions are my own and I was under no obligation to write a positive review.

Review: Fun to Write

27 Jan

Fun to Write box image

Arriving home from the post office with a parcel and announcing to my 4-year-old that “I’ve got something for her” has the potential to lead to disappointment. Whilst her eyes lit up, I was less expectant as I knew the box was going to reveal something educational. The reaction upon seeing the contents of the parcel was as expected. Silence. Then a question:

“Maybe you could have got me something a bit more like what I wanted.”

Ah. You’d have thought I’d pulled a lump of coal and a rotten carrot out of the box. What I had produced, kindly sent by the people at Galt Toys, was Fun to Write, described on the box as a “simple and enjoyable method of letter and number forming … to encourage young children to develop basic writing skills”. I suspect my daughter queried in her mind how such a thing could possibly be fun.

Aimed at 3-6-year-olds first starting to write, Fun to Write consists of 6 double-sided writing cards (wipe clean and so reusable) plus pen, pencil, notepad and some really helpful instructions on how to best use the product. Each card covers a selection of letters or numbers (with an illustrative picture for each), breaking the process of writing into three stages. First, trace the dots and follow the directional arrows. Next, the arrows are gone and your little Shakespeare has just the dots to follow. Finally – and here is where your budding scribe gets the opportunity to really shine – all that remains is a dot to indicate the starting point of the strokes. Cue some back patting of your pre-schooler (or at least some back patting through gritted teeth when, at stage 3, they insist on writing all the letters backwards). The lined notepad and pencil are presumably added to the pack to use when your child can go freestyle and leave the comfort of the wipe-clean cards. Most people have paper at home but a nice addition to the pack anyhow.

E Fun to Write

Back to the 4-year-old guinea pig. My daughter is the oldest in her nursery class and is more than ready for school in September. As hard as nursery tries, they don’t have the resource to spend much one-to-one time with her developing her writing and reading skills. Likewise, although I’m a well-intentioned mother, I’m also a part-time working mum and have a busy little nearly-2-year-old to deal with so any props that can help me help my daughter enjoy some ‘educational time’ needn’t knock twice on my front door. “Just give her some paper and a pen!” I hear you cry. Unfortunately, with expectations driven by relentless toy advertising, the humble pen and paper sometimes just don’t cut the mustard with my little princess.

Following the disappointment when I opened the parcel and explained what her surprise was, I didn’t have high hopes for Fun to Write in the Crumbs & Pegs household. Yet, to my surprise, she agreed immediately to have a go and soon completed one of the cards, asking me then to wipe it clean before she proceeded, unprompted, to tackle the reverse side. She’s always had a fascination with anything wipe-clean so I suspect this was a contributing factor in grabbing her attention. However, I think the 3-stage process of writing that the cards set out genuinely gave her a sense of achievement as she moved from stage to stage. The test will be whether her enthusiasm is still there when I next suggest getting the cards out or whether she will have seen through my ploy to get her to spend time on something that doesn’t involve a remote control. There’s a lot to be said for using the novelty factor to get kids to do things that might ordinarily seem a chore and for that reason I’m confident that the Fun to Write pack will get some regular use. As one of my favourite parenting gurus once said: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”.

Thank you to the lovely people at Galt Toys who sent this product to me free of charge and expected nothing in return other than an objective review. Fun to Write retails at around £6.99.

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