Hape Sand Toys Review

Summer holidays are coming! We love time at the beach, paddling and building sandcastles! We always try to pack our sand toys to take with us as I don’t want to waste money on plastic toys which will break easily. My children have several beach toys which I remember buying with my parents in France as a child. So, buying with care means any toys we do buy, can be handed down.

I was asked if we’d like to review some sand toys from Hape, we already own a couple of their wooden toys, so I was keen to see what their sand toys would be like.

The sand toys we received are made from thick plastic, and they look very durable. As well as feeling quite comfortable to hold.

Robust sand toys.

We were sent a bundle of three toys to try out. Initially we tried the Hape dune buggy in the sitting room.

It was an instant hit, the handle makes it easy to manoeuvre for my 17month old. He loves being able to take charge of steering it around the house. It’s been very cleverly designed so it is very easy to steer. The large wheels make it easy to push through uneven surfaces – e.g. sand!

The Power Paw was popular with my 4 year old, she said it was easy to hold and spent ages digging with it. It is easier to use than a conventional spade so great for younger children.

My favourite item was the rain shovel. This is versatile for play in sand or water. It could be used to dig with or create a shower with water poured into the handle. It has been hours of fun! Cleverly designed so it fits comfortably in little hands, it is great for use in the sand pit too.

We can’t wait to take our Hape sand toys to the beach this summer!

8 Ways to have fun this summer without spending a fortune!

The summer holidays, can be a stressful time, how to keep the children busy and happy without spending a fortune!

Keep things simple…

Grab the face paints and eco glitter and have a festival in your garden. If you’ve space put up a tent, or make a den with sheets a chairs! You could even decorate your tent with pom poms and paper flowers- or even daisy chains! Then turn on your favourite songs and enjoy!

Splash about!

Eva from Captain Bobcat Blog suggests getting the paddling pool out;

Paddling pools and splash pads are great, you can kill quite a few hours there!

We love splashing about, and if you don’t have a paddling pool – improvise! An old baby bath or even a plastic storage box can be hours of fun to splash about in. (Do remember to always supervise children near water!)

Use that National Trust Membership!

We took out a membership when we were on holiday as it meant it was cheaper than the day visits to two places we wanted to see. If you already have a membership, grab a picnic and head off to a local property! Also remember to investigate your local garden centres as many offer special events or Maria from Suburban Mum reminded me that some even have a soft play area!

Get Outdoors with the family!

My children love going on walks, but I know some hate it! So, make walks fun by either planning where you’ll go – perhaps you will walk to a picnic spot? Or maybe write a simple scavenger hunt list? Shel from The Willow Tree suggest Geo-Caching;

” Download the app for free and go on a search to hunt for hidden treasure! It may be a little time capsule or a box with a message in. You can even leave a message for the next person!  “

Go camping!

If you have a tent lurking in the shed, what’s stopping you from taking it away for the weekend? Use a site like pitchup.com to find a campsite pack up your basics and take a weekend away! Can’t afford the pitch fees but have a garden? Pitch your tent in the garden! No tent? Check out camping pods, not quite as cheap as pitch fees but still a cheap option for a night away.

Kids Summer Courses!

One of my fondest memories of my own summer holidays as a child was going on a ballet course for a week. I loved having an intensive dance week, and making new friends! Emma from Fashion Mommy suggests keeping your eye out on local events, especially sports clubs;

Most football clubs run weekly soccer camps over the Summer. My son does WBA one, and it costs £60 for 5 days, which is basically cheaper than childcare. For that he gets qualified coaching, a certificate and trophy at the end of the week and loads of fun. Perfect for boys and girls and totally enjoyable.”

 

Bake Off!

Rainy afternoon? Get baking! Maybe organise a bake off with other families? Or perfect your favourite cake? If you aren’t keem on baking keep it simple! Cornflake cakes and flap jacks are easy to make and require minimal equipment.

Kids crafts

So one of our favourite holiday activities is to get crafting. Funcraftskids.com is full of some great ideas for all the family. Perfect to keep everyone busy!

If you’re not into complicated craft projects, grab an old roll of wall paper and roll it out on the kitchen floor or in the garden. It’s perfect to draw or paint on!

8 Man Tent Camping

I posted a while ago about the problems I was having deciding on which 8 man tent. I finally made the decision to opt for the Arpenaz 8.4 XL from Decathlon, as I think it offers value for money as well as ample space. But while I was clearing the garage, I remembered something which has been stored there for years. Unloved and forgotten about, but the solution to our camping conundrum!

Back in 2010 we purchased a second hand Cabanon Espace 8 man tent. We had one child and the tent was a ludicrous purchase as it was huge! It filled the entire boot of the car, and we felt we may get lost inside it. It is HUGE! So, it went on one holiday and was stored. Until today. Today it has been dragged out of hiding, and is about to be put into use. Yes, it really could be the answer to our camping conundrum!

Cabanon 8 Man Tent

However, it does bring its own problems. Primarily, how to transport the tent! It’s a canvas frame tent, so it comes in several bags, and is heavy! (It is the same tent you might use if you go to stay in a ready pitched tent in Europe.) Unfortunately this means it doesn’t actually fit in our car. (Or it might, but we wouldn’t be able to fit anything else in.) A roof rack wouldn’t work as I have no plans to be lifting the weight of the frame and canvas onto the roof of the car. Which leaves a trailer as the most sensible solution to taking our tent anywhere!

Camping Trailer

I’ve avoided thoughts of trailer tents and caravans, so I’m slightly amazed by my own decision to invest in a trailer just to transport our camping stuff. I also worry that it will make ferry crossings more expensive, plus keeping the trailer secure whilst we are away from camp – how easy is that? So, I’ve lots that I need to think about still – and plan!

Munch Cats Magazine – Review

In our journey towards reducing our single use plastic consumption, I’d put a ban on kids comics as they are often wrapped in plastic or contain a plastic toy which inevitably is soon unwanted. But having a 4 year old who loves to read and really wants a comic made this tough! Until we were sent a copy of Munch Cats magazine.

Munch Cats Magazine is plastic free! Our subscriber edition is delivered in a brown paper envelope which can be recycled. The magazine itself can also be readily recycled. There’s no plastic toys or wrapping included. Stickers are still included but the backing is paper not plastic!

The magazine is full of fun craft activities and ideas. There’s plenty to cut out and colour in too, so great for developing fine motor skills. My daughter loves it! We have yet to see it in an actual shop, but we will be looking to continue her subscription as she really enjoys the Munch Cats adventures!

Reducing your plastic #GoPlasticfree

I sometimes think I should be able to function completely plastic free by now, as we have been trying to reduce our plastic for a while. But, with a busy family we sometimes slip up. Today is 1st July, and the start of Go Plastic Free. So I’m using that as the motivation I need to really assess the areas of our life where we could further reduce our plastic reliance.

Plastic Free Victories

I think our biggest victory has to be our plastic free home baking. I am not someone who is a natural star baker, but I’ve learnt to bake bread, biscuits and cake. This saves a huge amount of plastic, and money too. I have to admit we ended buying shop bought for a few weeks, and it was astonishing how much plastic accumulated. in a matter of days.

Areas to reduce our Plastic Use

The kitchen is still an area we can reduce our plastic consumption. We try to buy things plastic free, but it is a struggle when you’re on a tight budget.

I’ve noticed some tins are lined with plastic and I’m uncertain as to whether they can be recycled in the same way as non-lined tinned or not. I also wonder why tins which are plastic lined are not clearly marked.

I’ve a very guilty pleasure of keeping frozen fruits in the freezer for days when I am in a hurry. But, those fruits generally come in plastic bags. I have found a local farm shop who sells frozen fruit loose, but the price is much higher. So, my intention is to freeze some of our own crop of fruits this year. We have a big crop of fruit, so I need to create freezer space! I also think we could reduce our plastic and carbon footprint by only eating locally grown fruit and vegetables in season.

I’ll be writing daily about our efforts. You can also follow me over on instagram; DANCINGINMYWELLIES


How to Make the Most of Gran Canaria

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Planning a family vacation to Gran Canaria? This is a superb destination for a family holiday as it has a lovely climate, it is very welcoming, there is plenty to see and do and it is an island of outstanding natural beauty. It can also be hard to know how to make the most of a vacation here as there is so much to keep you occupied. Read on for a few tips.

Beaches

The beautiful beaches are one of the main selling points of the island but you will want to find the best ones for your family. Las Canteras is, arguably, the best beach for kids with lots of great facilities and water which is perfect for splashing around in or learning to surf to the south end. Other good beaches include Amadores, Maspalomas and Playa del Ingles.

Restaurants

Food is a key part of any holiday but it can be tricky when you have kids who may not be too adventurous when it comes to cuisine. Gran Canaria has dozens of family-friendly restaurants serving food that both kids and adults will love. This includes VIP Pizza, Cacao, Delhi Darber and ique GUAY! You will also find plenty of friendly cafes and familiar fast food establishments around the island.

Activities

Gran Canaria is a great place for families as there are so many activities and places to visit. Palmitos Park is one of the biggest attractions as a fun aviary and zoo filled with all kinds of beautiful and majestic creatures. Aqualand in Maspalomas is a great way to cool off on a hot day while Holiday World is nearby and somewhere with rides, bowling, karaoke and all kinds of other fun activities along with a variety of food options.

Travel

It is a good idea to book Gran Canaria airport transfers in advance so that you can go straight to your accommodation from the hotel and avoid any major queues. If you plan on travelling around the island then you could look to hire a car as this will be the quickest and easiest way to get around.

Gran Canaria is the perfect place for a fun-filled family vacation. It is a kid-friendly and very welcoming place with endless attractions and things to do. The above are a few of the best options for families but there is much more to discover here so it is somewhere that you will certainly make many happy memories.

Gatorade – Sports Drink Review

I have been loyal to a brand of sports drink for quite some time. I like to have a sports drink when I’m exercising. I want a sports drink which really hydrates me, while giving me enough energy to go just a little further. But, I’ve never really thought to try an alternative to my normal drink. Until last week! I was given the opportunity to try Gatorade and share my thoughts.

Gatorade

Gatorade I’ve always thought of as for athletes, but strangely never considered using it myself. Gatorade has 50 years of heritage! It was invented in 1965 by the University of Florida for their football team – the Gators! (Hence the name!) Most recently it’s been used by soccer teams such as FC Barcelona and Manchester City!

Gatorade is designed to aid athletes, and it contains 6% carbohydrates alongside electrolytes to aid hydration and recovery.

I was impressed with the flavours on offer, the orange is really tasty and more thirst quenching than my normal brand. I found the bottles easy to drink from on the go, and I felt hydrated and energised after drinking Gatorade!

The pack I tried contained a squeezey reusable bottle – this is great if you’re trying to drink on the go! Also a handy Gatorade branded towel which is the perfect size for my gym bag!

Am I converted? I think so! I like that I can easily buy Gatorade on Amazon, and there’s powder versions available too – perfect to mix and use with the reusable bottle! It does what I need it to as a sports drink, and I feel it’s a more refreshing alternative to my usual brand of sports drink!

Travel guide for an active holiday in Italy

Written in collaboration with Emily Jones

Italy is a unique country home to some of the most beautiful landscapes. While you can spend a simple holiday here focused on relaxing at the seaside or eat and drink your way through the country, it is a great place to enjoy an active holiday. The country is full of scenic views and places to hike, and you’re rewarded with unforgettable experiences when you get out and really explore Italy.

When planning an active holiday in Italy, here are a few things to keep in mind:


Accommodation

Where you stay can make all the difference while on holiday. So book your accommodation ahead of time so that you know you have a nice place to rest at the end of your busy exploration days. If you are in Sicily for example private villas are very affordable and there are websites like Wishsicily for example that specialize in showcasing the rental villas available in Sicily. This kind of accommodation is very common all around Italy and also highly recommended because and you can have your own schedule and independence in general.

Planning ahead

Before you depart for your holiday, check out where you would like to visit by scouring the Internet, checking out helpful websites and asking recommendations from people you trust. This way, you can check out any details about where you would like to, such as whether or not you need to pay or whether or not a specific hike or route is in fact open. It is fun to decide things spur of the moment, too but you don’t want to spend precious time on holiday looking for places to go and things to do.

Destinations for an Italian active holiday

Dolomites

The Dolomites, located in the north of Italy, is a destination of astounding beauty. The mountain range is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and provides the perfect backdrop for an active holiday. For a gorgeous hike that is moderately easy, The Tre Cime di Lavaredo is a wonderful day hike. A famous hike in the Dolomites is Alta Via, a 150km high-level trail.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is a well-known and well-loved destination, where you can go swimming in the gorgeous blue Ligurian Sea and hike the Sentiero Azzurro, which leads you through all five colorful villages.

Sicily

Sicily is a wonderful destination, especially for water-based activities. Here you can dive among sea grottoes along the volcanic Aeolian Islands, go snorkeling at Isola Bella Marine Park, go sea kayaking, go body-rafting in the Alcantara Gorges, etc. For something on land, be sure to trek your way up Mount Etna for stunning views.

Tuscany

Does cycling through rolling hills with vineyards, olive trees and cypress-lined driveways in the distance sound like your style of an active holiday? Bike tours that lead you through Tuscany are rather popular in this region. There are even some that stop off at wineries! If you prefer being in the water (or want to do both), a great diving spot is the Parco Nazionale Arcipelago Toscano.

Como

At Lake, Como, you can make your way around the beautiful surrounding towns. There is Bellagio, Tremezzo and Varenna, all worth visiting and taking the time to explore.

Amafli Coast

On the Amalfi Coast, you can of course do water-based activities. There is also the Sentiero degli Dei, Path of the Gods, in Campania where you get gorgeous views of the backdrop mountains, sea and Capri Island.

Rome

Though not what you may imagine for a traditional active holiday, if you really ‘do’ Rome, you will be walking miles and miles and climbing many stairs. A classic Food Tour will even get you out and about exploring all parts of the city, and before you know it your step count will be higher than anticipated.

Do you like going on active holidays? Any suggestions on where to go for one?

What to Do With An Old Smartphone

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What do you do with your old mobile phone that’s been gathering dust in your drawer, storage box or garage?

Good question. Truth is, you can still use old smartphones that are way past their prime. Here are 5 of the best ways to get started.

1. Put Your Phone Up For Sale

Turn your smartphone into quick cash by listing it up for sale on the internet.

Test the device first and see if it works. Hold the “on” button and see if it powers up. Then, plug in the charger and any accessory. Your old cell phone can still fetch a tidy sum if you have the box, manual and cables along with the unit.

Post your old tech up for sale on Facebook, Craigslist or eBay. Upload a clear photo so interested individuals can take a closer look. Include a helpful description regarding its condition and hardware specifications, for example. Wait for the perfect offer to come up and you’ll have your device exchanged for money.

Recycling sites such as Plunc can give you a reasonable quote for used tech. Fill up a form online, then send the gadget in. Once they receive the item, you’re immediately given the payment.

2. For Backup Purposes

Smart phones are usable as long as they can still make a call, download an app or browse the internet. If your phone can do any of these, then you can use it as a sort of backup when your primary device fails.

Power up your phone, give it a full charge and activate its network. Keep it within easy reach, such as your locker, glove compartment or bag and charge it up once or twice a week. You’ll rest easier knowing that you have a backup phone that can call, send a text or give you directions when your main smartphone’s battery is dead.

Do you have a son or daughter that doesn’t have a phone yet? Give them your old cell and you’ll have a line between you at all times. If it’s an old model, teach them how to initiate a call or how to send an SMS.

3. Turn It Into A Cool New Gadget

The beauty of mobile phones is that they can be made into a specific device, for example a radio, a remote control, a dedicated music player, eBook reader and others.

Music Player. Slot in an expansion storage, add your favorite playlist and you can have a music player. Download your preferred streaming app or music subscription service and connect the phone to a speaker system. Plug it to a static charging dock or a 2-in-1 Bluetooth speaker and dock and turn it on for a wonderful acoustic experience.

eBook Reader. Access the Play Store or App Store and download a suitable e-Reader app. Sideload some books and open it up when you’re in the mood for some reading. For added value, you can also download podcasts or audiobooks and listen to them on the go.

VoIP Device. Do you do a lot of Facetime or video calling for work? A dedicated VoIP device will keep you from seeing a “low battery” phone at the end of the day. Get your old smartphone and affix it to a nearby Wi-Fi area and a charger, and your primary phone will never run out of power again.

Remote Control. TV and set-top box manufacturers have apps that turn any smartphone into an extra remote. You can go on Play Store or the App Store and get these for free (or for a nominal price) so you won’t have to spend a long time searching for the remote.

4. Donate Your Old Phone

Donating your old tech for a good cause is a great option if you have more than one old device. Visit the local hospital, charity organization, school, library or goodwill centers and hand your item as a gift. You can be sure they’ll put it to good use.

5. Recycle And Help Reduce E-Waste  

Recycling your old gadgets is the most responsible thing you can do to save mother earth. Don’t just throw it in the bin or it will end up in a landfill and pollute the environment. Give it to recycling centers and they’ll be able to extract valuable materials and dispose of it in a proper manner.

Remember, you can always sell your phone for cash, donate it to charity or re-purpose it into a new device. Be responsible and you’ll save the environment in your own special way.

Destination; Liverpool One

COLLABORATIVE POST

With the long summer holidays looming, if you’re anything like us you’ll no doubt be planning things to do to keep the family happy. Day trips, weekend breaks or the big summer holiday, none of which are quite as spontaneous as they used to be! Instead I do like to plan things to make sure we all have a great day out.

With a busy family, days out need to provide us with a variety of activities to suit everyone in the family. I don’t want to be driving from here to there just to keep everyone busy. It uses up valuable family time, and adds to the stress every time we have to battle with car seats and collapsing the buggy! I want a destination which has lots to offer for all the family.

So, a family destination like Liverpool One is ideal. Offering more than just shops and restaurants, it really is a hub of activity. Boasting 170 stores, perfect for picking up the a cinema, Roxy Ball Room (think pool or ping pong, not dancing!) and even over 5 acres of gardens – perfect to relax in. There’s lots for everyone, but that’s not all!

Liverpool One also has an extensive events programme, covering everything from Sports events to favourite kids tv character appearances! They even host their own Comic Con – as a self-confessed Star Wars geek I think this is really exciting! There really does seem to be something to keep everyone busy, check out the guide below showing you what’s on!

It’s been a while since I visited Liverpool, the last time I was there I remember vividly thinking I needed more time to spend exploring. There’s so much to see in the city, and I especially loved the Cathedral and seeing the Eleanor Rigby Statue. But I think Liverpool One was still under construction – I said it was a long time ago I visited!