Dora’s Ballet Adventure – the review

H is only just two, so only just entering into the world of Dora the Explorer – so we’re all learning as we go along. What I have to say, most of all, is I love how we get dialogue in spanish and english – we’ve both been teaching bits of french to H, so we’re all learning random words (and bits that crop up in Nick Jr trailers).

Dora's Ballet AdventureSo, Dora’s Ballet Adventure – H has a fairly low attention span, and usually gets bored around 15 minutes into longer programmes – but we found with this one that the characters all have their own individual parts (the map, for example) that there was enough going on we were able to sit and watch in one sitting – plus Dora getting the shoes and getting back again had plenty of different things happening.

The songs are catchy, and simple and repetitive – which is perfect for H as she picks things up straight away at the moment. The story was easy to follow, and the dialogue not too complicated – even the spanish bits. There were plenty of interactive sections which H joined in on, and Dora would reply (obviously on the review DVD we were sent, so an appropriate gap is left) – which in turn made her feel a part of it.

All in all, a fun and enjoyable episode – and we’re already looking forward to the Halloween Special I’ve started to see being trailered… (which may well be an old episode, but to us it’s new!)

The Baby and Toddler Show for Traders, Olympia, 2011.

It was a last minute decision to go to this, and one I’m glad we did – it’s step-free for the majority of the journey which is a bonus. So H and I descended on Olympia, and I started to scan the room for names of businesses I recognised…

First up was Cheeky Wipes – we’d bought a kit for H from the Baby and Toddler Show, I’d seen a demonstration at an earlier one but left it, but I knew I wanted to get some – it’s such a good idea and fitted in with my idea of us using reusable things as much as possible. Our old wipes were the first lot made, and to see how much Cheeky Wipes have changed is great – the tubs you put your wipes and water in are much easier, plus have water levels marked (I could never get it right in our tubs!)- and now have easier lids to deal with – though this is set to change again earlier next year. The tubs will also be stackable, as well as toddler-proof. After chatting with Helen about things we’d done where I felt we’d done it wrong (putting too many wipes into the containers), I came away looking forward to seeing the new wipes – ohh and there’ll be some pink and blue ones too! More news when we have it…

Next to Cheeky Wipes was a stall Naturally Cool Kids, who I’d never heard of – but do five really simple products, and they’re all really good – plus they’re all natural and not tested on animals. After a good chat we came away with a sample of their menthol cool stick (which we’ve rubbed on H’s feet, then covered with socks and it’s worked a treat, stopping her from coughing all night) – they’ve got a nice cream which works as a barrier for dribbles and chapped noses too – I like. I will be buying from there soon…!

Hippychick had a stand, and it was full of all their great things – I love what they do, and am often taking up their Facebook offers – I didn’t get to chat to anyone really though I do want to get H one of their all in one waterproofs – a friend found one in TK Maxx once, so I’m hoping one day they’ll be discounted there again soon…

Excitingly, Baba Me, who are based in Belfast had a stand – and had a really prominent Bum Genius display. Our first reusable nappies were Bum Genius, and I’ve always been pleased with them – though we tend to use disposables more these days, unfortunately. What caught my eye was they’re about to launch (well, in January 2012) some reusable toilet training pants – with elasticated sides (in a different colour), and three different sizes (three sets of poppers/buttons – I can’t remember which), as well as three liners – so you can use the same set of pants three times. I’m liking this a lot… that could potentially be a pair of them (six liners in total) for H for nursery, for example as and when we do potty training – the liners are designed so your little one can feel they’re wet, but are designed to be removed and replaced with another liner, without getting rid of the outer. I approve!

We were pushed for time, so headed upstairs – where I saw a stand for Baby Swap Or Shop which is an excellent site and idea, but they were busy.

We skipped the buggy section, due to lack of time, but saw the Strider Rider stand – and finally got to see one of the bikes properly – oh they’re good – and really nice and sturdy too. The Strider UK people have just been in the US checking out some new bikes that are to be added to the range in the near future – don’t forget, if you were thinking about buying one, then there’s a Mum Friendly discount – check our discounts tab.

We had a brief stop at the BuggyTug stand, where the strap which they’ve had a while is getting an update – there’s now three in one, The TugTrio – and all for £9.99. You get a wrist strap which can be attached to a buggy – great for wandering toddlers who aren’t keen on backpacks but like to help push – the Buggy Tug, which connects the parent to the pram, and a Teddy Tug which connects a favourite teddy or toy to the pram.

We found the BundleBean stand – and introduced ourselves – the BundleBean is great – H even announced “that’s mine!” when she saw it – and an excerpt of my review on The Baby Website is now on their stand display! The BundleBean is something I wish I’d had a long time ago, and was perfect for the day we were out – Olympia was really warm, outside was chilly, and I had a toddler who needed a nap – and it did the trick in keeping her warm (but she got too excited about the train to actually have that nap) – check out BundleBean – they’re in lots of stores up and down the country, I’ll try not to gush too much, it’s an excellent idea.

After BundleBean, next door was the Hamster Pannier Buggy Bags stand – I’ve always been intrigued by them as it’s a good idea – plus they give your buggy more stability (something I need when I do the shopping…), and seeing them in person, they make so much sense – and are really easy to put onto the buggy and take off. I wish I could have stayed there for longer, but we had to get back.

On our way out we walked past the gorgeous designs on the Ruby and GINGER stand, and chatted with the lovely ladies there – some really neat small changing bags as well as a cover for car seats – and gorgeous fabrics too.. another one we’ll be splashing out on at some point. There was a gorgeous tabard too which I wanted to get for H right there and then…

Our last stop was at Music For Baby – they make CD’s and they’re distributed the regular way, as well as being available digitally – including Spotify. There’s various versions of nursery rhymes done in different genres – their most current one being jazz versions of the songs. It’s done really well too – one that I like the sound of and will have a proper listen to is lots of percussion – the CD’s are all made with preschoolers in mind – and most of all, fun! The people involved have a good musical background too – they know what they’re doing, they’re really friendly and nice, and with the music on Spotify you can try before you buy – what’s to lose?

We were waiting at Clapham Junction and I got chatting to another mum who had been at the show. Ends up she’s a director for the company Olive & Moss – and they do some gorgeous baby and toddler clothes – plus they illustrate books and cards – it’s all really really lovely stuff.

I’ve managed to get tickets for The Baby Show this weekend, so I’m going to have a good nosey around, see what other goodies I can find… I suspect I may end up a bit skint…

Dora’s Ballet Adventure

Dora's Ballet Adventure
If you watch Nick Jr you can’t fail to have spotted the trailers for a new Dora The Explorer – Dora’s Ballet Adventure! Read on for more info… and we’ll add a review (with input from H) very very soon…

Break out your dancing shoes because Dora the Explorer’s dance class is having a big show! In this brand new special Dora Ballet Adventure, Dora is opening the ballet show and she can’t wait for her family to see her perform. She just needs her dance slippers, but by mistake the Delivery Duck has brought scuba flippers instead! The show can’t start without the slippers. Can Boots help Dora find a pair of dance slippers and save the show?

Dora micro site:
http://www.nickjr.co.uk/dora
Preview link here:
http://www.nickjr.co.uk/watch/dora/dora-ballet-adventure-preview/
There’s a game over here:
http://www.nickjr.co.uk/play/dora/ballet-adventure/#!
A drawing activity sheet here:
http://www.nickjr.co.uk/create/dora/ballet-dancing-colouring-sheet

To celebrate this special there are a number of repeats throughout the week, so fans of Dora won’t miss out on the show. Here is the full line-up:

Friday 30th Sept at 4pm and 6pm
Saturday 1st Oct 10.30am and 5pm
Sunday 2nd Oct at 1pm
Monday 3rd Oct – 8.30am and 4.30pm
Tuesday 4th Oct – 10.00am
Wednesday 5th Oct – 2pm
Thursday 6th Oct – no show
Friday 7th Oct – 4.30pm

The Bopps

It’s a rare occasion when someone involved in music you grew up with would then have an influence on music your child is currently growing up with (especially when she’s only 2) – but it’s already happened. Stan Cullimore, formerly of The Housemartins can be found these days on Nick Jr as Stan Bopp – alongside Keith Littler (producer of hit UK kids shows such as Merlin and Little Red Tractor) aka Keith Bopp – collectively known as The Bopps (in case you hadn’t already guessed!).

Each episode begins with a slapstick comedy sketch usually featuring Stan Bopp playing a trick on poor Keith Bopp. Expect squirrel costumes, invisible bikes and even a magic remote control that changes people’s clothes! The Bopps then perform one of their catchy songs, which will bring out a love for music in pre-schoolers. Songs include Hungry Squirrel, Dizzy the Dragon and The Holiday Song.

I was given an opportunity to ask them some questions – please read on…

Firstly I have to say, back when I was in my teens, one of my favourite bands was The Housemartins. It’s kind of weird and good that a member of a band I grew up with is now someone my daughter is growing up with! Have you had many people say this since the show started?

(Stan Bopp – SB) Hiya – glad your daughter likes the show, and glad you liked The Housemartins. Does that mean good taste runs in your family? Hee hee. Actually I have had a few people say similar things and I think it’s fantastic. Makes me feel all warm and cosy! My kids were growing up when I was in the HM’s and now I’ve got grandkids it feels like a pleasant evolution. Also, since we’re trying to make a show that both kids and their parents will like – you and your (extremely clever and tasteful) daughter are living proof that we’re on the right path!

(KB): I wasn’t in The Housemartins but Stan Bopp did give me a sock and a Diarylea triangle he found in the car park – near the studio they recorded in.

The first series and accompanying album featured four of you – the current series only two – what happened?

(SB) Keith told the others they had a choice – either they had to start calling him “Sir Keith Bopp of the Regal Gloucesters” or they had to leave. Luckily I was on holiday that day so I got to stay in the show. Over to you KB for the more fact filled version….

(KB) The true, and not so funny answer, is that the new minimalist style of series 2 and the decision to include dialogue meant 4 would have been overcrowded on screen and impossible to write for in 2 min. segments. Mike, Jo and I started playing together in the early 90’s so we’re very good chums. They were ok about it. Mike continues to produce our records and provide techie stuff on our live shows, Jo still sings on the songs (beautifully) and, as a animation voice over person, is very busy anyway. So there has been no fall out and we still play together from time to time

Watching a lot of children’s TV programmes these days I have to ask, do you get inspiration from shows such as The Wiggles – they are excellent at getting messages across, each person has their own colour, and the songs are catchy – all of which I’d say applies to your show too.

(SB) I would agree that the Wiggles are excellent. I’m also a big fan of Justin Fletcher. Truth is, I’m just grateful that you would mention us in the same breath.

(KB) That’s a good question. Never sure where inspiration comes from but The Wiggles have come up a lot in conversation since we went on air. I share Stan’s view that it’s lovely you should mention us in the same breath but they are in a different class…..I think they’ve been going nearly 20 years and are pretty global whereas we are pretty well known in Stan Bopp’s house!

When you play gigs, what would you say your target audience age would be? Is it something that would be suitable for a 2 year old who likes to listen to music, is it just the music, or are there sketches too?

(SB) On telly our main target audience is supposed to be 3 to 5 years old – plus any parents who are watching! But my youngest grand-daughter is 18 months old and I think she would love to watch one of our live shows. (When we play one close enough to her home!) We pretty much do on stage what we do on the TV show – a mix of sketches and songs – though we also interact with people; getting them to sing along and get up and dance. So really – anyone who feels like joining in and having some fun would be very welcome.

(KB) I genuinely try not to think about it. Whilst common sense dictates certain things one can and can’t do the rest, in my opinion, should be spontaneous. As dads, and Stan Bopp is also a granddad, we do what we know works with our kids and their friends. We also make a point of trying to create songs that won’t drive mum and dad bonkers… not straight away anyway!

Stan, what made you move from music into writing books? Was it something that was easy to do? I’ve found I want to write books from making up stories with my daughter – was it that kind of a progression which then led to where you are now with The Bopps?

(SB) Yes, it’s definitely been a progression. I started writing books for my children. Then as they got older I started writing kids TV shows that I thought they would like (mainly so that they would think I was a “cool” dad – not that it ever really worked!) And when I got grandkids I started writing songs for the Bopps which I thought my grandkids would like to listen to. So my advice to you would be – keep on with the making up of stories!

(KB)The market for kid’s books is a difficult one to crack and one has to think carefully about prose style, illustration and content. My books have all been based on TV series I have made (which helps) but all have a theme… the little guy beating the odds. Stan Bopp is right… focus on what you like and do that well. The minute you try to make something “for” the market it tends to go horribly wrong.

We’ve found that a lot of the time with the show it’s on at the wrong time, so we’ll catch it at weekends, or record it in the morning to watch later – do Nickelodeon have any plans for repeats later in the day?

(SB) We don’t know yet… but we shall ask them – and mention your name!

(KB) There might be plans for the series to be on later in the day. We’ll tip you the wink when we get the details.

(me – hurrah!)

How long would you say it takes to create an episode, and how easy do you find it?

(SB) I would like to say it is very easy and doesn’t take much time. But that would NOT be true! It takes ages to do every single episode of The Bopps – because Keith Bopp won’t stop telling everyone stories about his train-set. No – really!

(KB) Oooo! That is so…er…well…true really. Dull answer is about 3 hours for a sketch and then half a day for the song. Of course composing and recording the songs, writing sketches, post-production and all the techie stuff adds time (and money). But we do enjoy it and hopefully you can see
we’re having a good time. The crew is excellent – very friendly and we are looked after well for a couple of old’uns.

(KB) Lastly, on behalf of us both…a massive thankyou for the questions and your kind words….about Stan Bopp!

Ha, sorry Keith!

If you’ve not yet seen The Bopps, then head over here where there’s lots of video to watch. Their official site is over here and you’ll find tour dates here!

Catch The Bopps every morning on Nick Jr’s Wake Up World at 7.35am

Thank you to Stan and Keith for answering the questions, and to Louise for your help!

London Aquarium

London Aquarium was perfect for H – somewhere there was plenty going on and to look at, and given her love of fish, turtles, starfish, seahorses, jellyfish, sharks… oh there was so much to point out to her, and every time she was transfixed.

It’s a nice safe area, though children under 12 must be accompanied by someone over 18. We had the buggy with us and access was good – plenty of lifts.

The areas with open water had barriers high enough that H could climb up but not be in danger – and there were so many different things to look at she didn’t get bored. Plus for adults it’s a nice calm, serene kind of place. It was quiet enough to let H walk around freely as well.

One thing we forgot about was the Aquarium goes two floors down – so there’s no mobile phone access – so bear that in mind if you’re going to meet someone when you leave!

Annoyingly I hadn’t planned in advance to go there, so paid full price at the door – if you book in advance you can make a good saving – and it also qualifies for the 2 for 1 National Rail deal (you just have to show your rail tickets and have the correct voucher) – so definitely worth doing.

We didn’t use the facilities, so I can’t comment on those unfortunately, but given everything else was easily accessible, I’d like to think they were excellent too…

Official website – http://www.visitsealife.com/london/

[googleMap name=”Sea Life London Aquarium” description=”Sea Life London Aquarium”]SEA LIFE London Aquarium, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7PB[/googleMap]

Claremont Landscape Garden, Esher

Claremont Landscape Garden has recently had a kids area put in – which consists of lots of soft play area, and a few wooden things to climb on.

The largest one has the best things on it – alas, it’s meant for over 5’s which we didn’t realise until H had been up it and gone down the slide several times (beware the sides, which are quite open, which was a bit worrying) – there’s also a smaller hut, and a larger one to the side, as well as a couple of one person see saw’s, and a large play area.

Best of all, with National Trust Membership you get in for no extra cost than your yearly membership (don’t forget the Quidco deal, which works out around £35 ish a year) – plus in the park itself there’s lots of space to walk around and plenty to see.

I didn’t get a chance to check out changing facilities, but generally National Trust places are pretty reliable and good.

For more info, head here.

Mayfield Lavender, Banstead, Surrey

What you have here are fields of lavender – it’s not a pick your own kind of place, but it’s lovely to wander and take photos and have your kids run around (watch out for bees and nettles though).

It’s free entry and there’s plenty of parking – there’s a small refreshment area and shop towards the entrance which has plenty of lavender bundles you can buy at a very reasonable £3.50 each.

Don’t forget to take sunhats, cream and water on a hot day – there’s very little shade!

http://www.mayfieldlavender.com/

Wakehurst Place

We’re National Trust members (you can get a very very good deal via Quidco) and often visit Wakehurst Place – for free entrance you can be a National Trust or Kew member.

For this you get acres of green to walk around (and hills too, there’s some very buggy unfriendly ones, but we did it!), lots of plants, flowers and trees.

We’d not spotted them before, but there’s a few areas which are marked with an asterisk (on the map) which are designed for younger visitors, H being almost two enjoyed two of the ones we went to.

There’s also two cafe’s, both very child-friendly. There’s changing, and the whole area is pretty much safe for a child to run around (beware, there are ponds and a lake though), as well as plenty of ducks.

The shop at the end is also good space wise to get your buggy round!

Cheam Park, Cheam

This park is a good large space, though disappointingly a lot of the playground equipment seemed geared towards older children.

There’s plenty of swings for the young ones, mini see-saw’s, and a large one and a Fire Engine they can climb inside, and slide down – but the best bit of all has to be the enormous sandpit.

Previously a paddling pool, it’s huge, with a little hut in the middle.

H loved running around, but I found she was more attracted to the rides which were a bit too old for her.

Bonus – the car park right next to the park is free.

Lady Neville Play Area, Banstead

This park is situated to the rear of the new Waitrose store. Facility-wise there’s a large cafe (complete with acoustic guitar playing this afternoon), and plenty of space to sit down and have some refreshments, as well as Ikea highchairs for your kids.

In the play area itself the majority of the playground equipment is for older kids (H is almost 2 now), but there’s some swings for really small children (that don’t swing too much), as well as two similar ones which go a bit higher. H’s favourite bit was a climbing frame which is pretty child-friendly, but has good climbing support and a slide on it – perfect for the 2-4 age range, I think – something most parks around here are lacking!

The biggest downside is that there’s nowhere with any shade within the play area – generally not a problem for most of the year, but today was a really hot one, there is a large grassy area which has shade outside the park which is great space for the kids to run around.

There’s also a younger child friendly climbing wall (but I’d not recommend them doing it on their own!).