We Love Books – The Ultimate Baby and Toddler Q&A Book – Netmums

The Ultimate Baby & Toddler Q&A I remember back when we were preparing for H to come into this world, and one of the first things we did was nipped to Mothercare and checked all the baby books. I had no idea what to buy, and opted for a hardback book which I thought would be useful. I guess it probably was, but it was pictures and words and actually, once H was born it was never opened.

A more useful book was the ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ book and the follow-up ‘What To Expect – The First Year’ – but there was a lot in there, and it covered everything – to the point it was overwhelming.

Add to that a Miriam Stoppard book my sister gave me which had me in tears when I’d read a page as everything felt so terrifying, and really it was the internet which gave me the support I needed and information I wanted.

Which is where this book comes in. This is exactly the sort of book a new mum should have – it doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but you don’t need that – there’s plenty of places that cater for that. I found that other people’s experiences and advice (even if I pretended I didn’t need to hear it, I just needed to be ready on MY terms) were what helped me the most when I was trying to ‘get it right’. So you have fifty questions with answers from the experts, and additional comments from Netmums contributors – or should I say, parents who know, and have been through it.

The Ultimate Baby & Toddler Q&A - taking notes
“ah, so that’s what mummy’s trying to do when I have a bit of a screaming tantrum. Bwahahaha”

It’s again very much the kind of book you can dip in and out of like ‘Toddlers – An Instruction Manual‘ by Joanne Mallon – and there’s different perspectives on each question – there’s never a 100% correct way to do something, and it’s reassuring to know others understand or have done things in a way you wouldn’t have thought about – which to me is what communities like Netmums are about.

The book is put together by Hollie Smith a freelance journalist who has already written six books for Netmums.

As for us, I wish we’d had it sooner! The toddler section is a lot smaller than the baby one – so I’m going to be doing the neighbourly thing and passing the book onto my next door neighbour who will definitely get a lot out of it with her seven month old. I’d highly recommend the book, regardless!

I was provided with a copy of the book for review. (which has since been passed on to next door!)

We Love Books at Mum Friendly

The Leather Satchel Co – Bags We Love

I have discovered the wonderful hand crafted skills of The Leather Satchel Co – read on for more!

The Leather Satchel Co Purple

The Leather Satchel Co are a family-run business who make hand crafted leather satchels.

My old record bag I use for work slowly started to fall apart. I reckoned I had about a month left until one of the straps broke, so knew it was time to move to a new bag. I have a few bags, my Mia Tui ones don’t quite work for work (I sometimes have an evil commute with no seat on the train and rammed in a carriage with loads of others), so I wanted something which could carry my essentials – those being my MacBook Pro, Kindle, iPod Touch, purse and random toiletries. So I did as I have been doing lately, and asked for advice from other parent bloggers.

This sent me in the direction of The Leather Satchel Co – who provided some fabulous bags for Cybher (I didn’t go.. but I’ve bought a ticket for next year), and after spending approximately two minutes looking at the purple one, I had to try to get Jo who I sit next to at work to convince me not to buy it. (I had a load of Amazon vouchers)

Then came the next issue – would it hold everything I need it to? After having had a huge record bag I was pretty good at carrying around loads of junk I didn’t need (three packs of tissues, gloves, toddler leg warmers, a CD, badges I’ve been carrying in there since Christmas, etc. I even found a tampon in the side pocket which I think is meant to hold your mobile phone),

so actually downsizing and being careful would be a good thing – and I’m now using my Mia Tui clutch bag for my toiletries – so when I switch bags between work and parenting it’s even easier – brilliant! In the end after getting more advice and emailing the Leather Satchel Co people, I went for the 14″ version at £81.

Inside the satchelI placed the order on the 21st May, and it arrived on the 25th – in a beautifully wrapped up package. I tore it open, and realised that actually, the size I ordered is only just the right size, and actually I need to do some serious downsizing (in retrospect I probably should have gone for the 15″). Weighing things up, this isn’t actually a massive problem as I do have back trouble, so I wont overload my bag in any way – as the photos show! There’s exactly the right amount of space for everything – but nothing else! It’s an extremely snug fit.

I’m not complaining though – and the colour – it’s a gorgeous purple. It arrived on the same day I was wearing a purple striped t-shirt which matched which amused me and probably nobody else at all.

The Leather Satchel Co PurpleTomorrow the bag makes its official commute debut, so we’ll see how we get on… (I’m secretly hoping everyone who gets on gasps at the satchel’s gorgeousness while I grab the last available seat, but we’ll see)

The things I like about the Leather Satchel Co :

It was so well packaged – standard delivery, and it arrived the next day too.

There’s a beautiful choice of colours, and this purple is good. Very good.

It’s handmade.

They’re a british family run business – read a feature over here with more information about them.

This will be a good bag for my back. A very good bag for my back, and that in turn is a very good thing.

Jo at work is full of lots of very sensible advice. One of her flatmates likes to think that for anything you buy you should get £30 worth of use per year out of it. So going on this you’d expect just over two and a half years of wear – it comes with a five year guarantee – which gave me a lot of confidence in purchasing from them.

You can order from Amazon – as well as several other places – which is good if you’re like me and save up your gift vouchers for something really nice.

Check them out anyway, they’re very friendly and helpful and there are tons of options for your satchel too. (I didn’t get my initials embossed, I couldn’t decide what to get, and just ‘Jo’ felt a bit weird).

** I have a Leather Satchel Co affiliate code now – if you place an order using this code you’ll get £5 off your satchel – pretty bloody good, don’t you think? Use 0NDZPI2N6FZUO at the checkout process! **

App Time – Olly the Little White Van

Yeah, so I work for this cool group of labels which releases cool music. For the last two weeks I have spent my entire working days whistling the theme tune to ‘Olly the Little White Van’ – and this is all thanks to a new app which we’ve been testing out.

Olly the Little White Van appOlly the Little White Van is currently available at iTunes for free – so firstly, go and get it before it costs something – I’m a firm believer in trying things out when they’re offered for free. It’s a nice simple game and while the theme tune might end up stuck in your head for the forseeable future, it’s proved to be one that H keeps playing and doesn’t need too much supervision.

A big bonus is there’s no buttons which send her off to the internet to buy things that she shouldn’t – there’s a link to Facebook and Twitter pages that are hidden away in the information section – so it is possible to click outside of the programme but no more than that.

Olly the Little White Van appThere’s two games. ‘Delivery Race’ involves you directing Olly around the roads to pick up packages in Bumpton – one which I started playing dragging the car (this can be done, and easily) before I realised you could also tap where you want the car to go. H picked this up straight away and had no difficulties and had a sense of pride when she did each level.

The second game ‘Fix It’ has three of Olly’s friends who have broken down, and you need to help fix them – a simple drag and drop the car part into the right bit. H did struggle a bit with this one, but it’s not difficult – I think it’s something that will come as she’s older (she’s nearly 3).

Olly the Little White Van appOverall the game is quite short, and very straightforward. It doesn’t have any bonuses for completing levels (like, say the City of Friends app), but that’s not a problem – it just means you’ve finished quickly. On the plus side this works if you want to limit the time your child plays on apps, as they’re not on for a long time.

We like it – although I wish I could get the theme out of my head!!

We played the game on the iPad – the app is compatible with the iPod, iPhone and iPad as long as they’re running iOS 4.0 and later.

Olly the Little White Van airs weekdays on CiTV at 9.45am and 1pm. Did I mention that Justin Fletcher is the voice of Olly?

App Time at Mum Friendly

Toddler Mum-Mum Strawberry Rice biscuits

Baby Mum-MumWay back in February we were at The Baby Show, where I’m always eager to try out new things – food wise, that is – especially if there’s free samples being given out. We go out a lot so always need handy snacks, although I think we need to branch out a bit more after keeping Organix in business with their bars! (probably)

We came across the Toddler and Baby Mum-Mum stand – a new rice biscuit which has recently launched in the UK.  They were handing out boxes, and we were lucky to get a couple for H to try. H of course was a willing tester, and on being given a packet happily scoffed both of them, asking for more.

A few weeks later I had my mum friends over, and handed the toddlers a pack each to try. I wish I’d taken a photo – the room went quiet and they all sat munching away – a definite hit!

Toddler Mum-Mum

One of my mum friends is from Canada, where the Mum-Mum biscuits are huge – there’s a lot more flavours available over there, and she was pretty pleased to see they’ve made their way over here.

Here’s the good stuff about the biscuits:

• Great taste, no mess
• Dissolves easily
• No artificial colours or flavours
• Baked, low in fat and no trans fat
• Gluten, Egg and Peanut free
• No preservatives
• No added fats or oils
• Each serving is individually wrapped for convenience
• they’re made using only the highest grade, non-GMO rice

In the UK they’re currently available in Original flavour (for babies) and Strawberry flavour (for toddlers). They’re spot-on with the convenience of them – and so far we’ve found even with broken biscuits there’s no mess to speak of. They’re handy to put in my changing bag and they keep fresh as they’re sealed in packets of two. They come in boxes of 16 biscuits – packed into packs of two.

Toddler Mum-MumEven better, they’ll send some sample packs to your door. We got two baby packs and two toddler packs to try – and passed the baby one on to a newly weaned bub, who took to it straight away (and whose mum was very impressed too at the lack of crumbs).

Baby and Toddler Mum-Mum’s are currently exclusively available through Amazon , and can be found online at www.mummums.com/uk  plus Facebook and Twitter

We’re delighted to offer a case of Mum-Mum biscuits (you can choose from toddler or baby ones), a grand total of 8 boxes, as a competition prize here at Mum Friendly. Our buddy Paula over at Mummy vs Work is also giving away a case right now, so we’re sharing the love and you can double your chances of winning!

We like them, and there’s so many good reasons you should try them out (the free samples is a no-brainer!), so give it a go!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom ‘The Elf Games’ DVD Review

Ben and Holly Logo

We love Ben and Holly in this house. I love it when H makes a friend called Ben so there’s a Ben and Holly reference, though I also realise this could be just me who finds this funny.

Anyway, it may have escaped your attention, but this summer we’re hosting the Olympic Games in the UK. This means anything and everything is going (or getting ready to) Olympic Crazy. (there’s also the Queen’s Jubilee which we’ll come to another time)

Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom The Elf Games DVDBen and Holly’s Little Kingdom are no exception – there’s a brand new DVD ‘The Elf Games‘ due for release by Entertainment One on May 14th, with a RRP of £8.99. You get ten episodes (coming in at around 11 minutes each), including The Elf Games, Cows, The Toy Robot, Dinner Party, Big Bad Barry, The Wand Factory, King Thistle’s Birthday, Daisy & Poppy’s Pet, The Elf Rocket and Picnic on the Moon. There’s no new content, but in true Ben and Holly fashion there’ll be plenty of magic, exploding or expanding jelly, mischievous princesses and elves and some proper laugh out loud moments in all the episodes.

Ben and Holly The Elf Games

Most of these episodes are being aired on Nick Jr at the moment, though there’s a few we haven’t seen. Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom is made by the makers of Peppa Pig – so you know you’re onto a good thing.
We received a preview DVDR for review.

App Time – City Of Friends

City of Friends logoFirst off I should admit, we haven’t (yet) watched City Of Friends. It’s on Channel 5 on Milkshake at the early hour of 6.20, when we’d be fast asleep  – so we have very little background on the programme this game is adapted from. However, having the opportunity to play this game we’re learning – and we do have it programmed into the V+ box now – and I’ve just read a second series has been commissioned.

City of Friends game options

The programme is based around three characters – Max the Police Officer (who is a monkey), Ted the Paramedic (who is a bear) and Elphie the Fire Officer (who is an elephant) – and this app is based on their various skills. Each game is made of three parts – one star (the easiest), two star (a bit harder) and three (the hardest) – once you’ve cleared all three levels you can earn one big star which unlocks some episode content on another page (which I quite like).

 

City of FriendsThe individual games include :
•collect things in Max’s helicopter
•Ted’s first aid kit needs tidying
•Put out fires with Elphie’s trunk
•Matching pairs
•Emergency vehicle play
•The unlockable episode content

H was handed the iPad, and we selected a few games. At two and a half I thought they might be a bit advanced for her but actually, she picked them up immediately. The Elphie game was a hit (she actually got all three stars with minimal help from mummy), and she really liked matching pairs. The helicopter game was a bit more difficult so we’ll come back to that one in time, but I don’t see that as a huge problem – the age range for this is 2-6 years, so it’s something we’ll get a lot of play from (which is a very good thing). She also really enjoyed tidying up the first aid kit – the games really suit her age without her feeling too out of her depth.

City of Friends flowersAs a music-loving mummy the biggest plus point for me was the music – I’m not sure if it’s the original Norwegian tunes, but it wasn’t in any way annoying and was really quite pleasant – plus there’s more than one tune in there, so it’s not the same few bars on repeat.

Having no background on the programme, it would have been nice to know a bit more – there’s credits, but no biogs (though there’s links to the official website and Facebook – though I’m not so sure about H clicking through to my Facebook page – I couldn’t find a way to disable it). Having lots of emergency vehicle toys and books has meant she was immediately interested – she just likes it without having any history (the graphics and colours are lovely and bright and appealing too). There’s no instructions how to play the games, although we picked them up quickly so that shouldn’t be a major issue.

City Of Friends app

To sum up, it’s a hit in our house, and now we’ve another new programme to learn about…! Would it help knowing about the programme first? Possibly – but on the plus side like a lot of tv programmes these days YouTube and the ITV Player is your friend, with many to catch up on. The game is so user-friendly, which is all that matters!

City Of Friends is available at iTunes for £1.49.

We were sent a code to try out the game.

 

apptime-150x150

App Time – Read Write Phonics

Read Write PhonicsRead Write Phonics was released in April 2012 – and for us a slightly different approach, as it has been launched for Android phones first, rather than heading the Apple way (that’ll follow towards the end of the year). This isn’t a problem for us, as we both have Android phones, hubs was able to put it on his (I’m still on 2.1 for my OS), and we got it up and working quickly.

I’m often quite paranoid about H being an August baby, and that she’ll be the youngest in her year at school (when she starts in September 2013, erk), so we’re encouraging as much play with learning as possible – and Read Write Phonics is an app we’ll be spending a lot of time on. Also, the app isn’t a full programme in it’s own right – it’s designed to be played and used alongside other products – it’s there to complement it.

Read Write Phonics bee

The ‘Read’ section has words which are sorted into various categories – explosive, nosey, friction, short vowel and long vowel – and there’s plenty of words to choose from. H isn’t really reading much at the moment (she’s very much read to), but this is a great way to learn, plus there’s so many different ways of saying a lot of letters. Each word is accompanied by an image – for example the letter ‘m’ features with ‘map’.

Write with Read Write PhonicsThe ‘Write’ section is a favourite in our house, if only for giving you the chance to write some letters. H is only young (at two years and almost nine months) so occasionally got frustrated when she couldn’t quite get it right – but we found it was a lot easier for her to do with her smaller fingers, than our larger adult ones, so we were often met with a “you’re nearly there!” and “try again!” type comments, which were encouraging and didn’t frustrate her when she didn’t quite do it. I think this aspect would work a lot better on a larger tablet than a phone – but probably for adults (and our big fingers), as H had no problems other than she’d never written anything before. She did manage to write a lot of the easier letters (i, j, o, a, t) so that’s a really good sign!

The ‘Phonics’ section is divided into two sections, small words and big words – and both spell out individual letters you’ll have covered on the earlier sections. I really liked how they’re regular words you’d use every day so there was a good context to it – and nothing too difficult. Also – the way they’re phonetically spelt out is really good – as I’ve found a few games we have will only have one option of how a letter sounds. There’s also combinations, such as words like ‘queen’ breaking it up into qu-ee-n sounds. If you slide your finger quickly along the word it sounds like the actual word, rather than a weird amalgamation of letters – another plus point!

Another bonus – no Comic Sans has been used. I hate that font so much, and while I accept it’s used a lot in child related things it still drives me mad – so to see the much more appealing Sassoon Infant font is a major thumbs up for me!

Writing with Read Write PhonicsI was pleased that the phonics are all British English – H comes from a Yorkshire Mum, an Australian Dad and has nursery with people from Sutton and Croydon, so her accent is all over the place at the moment (though definitely London), I found the accent here to be nice and clear and with no regional variation. The app features all 44 phonic sounds of the English language, plus all letters and combinations.

As far as how easy the app is to use, it’s simple tapping, swiping and drawing – something H picked up immediately – it’s very intuitive.

I think this is something that we will benefit from hugely – as we’re just getting into all of this at nursery, plus she’ll be starting pre-school this year which will have a lot more learning going on – so everything is helpful right now.

The target range of this app is ages 3-7, though don’t let that put you off – it’s definitely very user friendly for younger children (and older too!). The Apple version is launched later this year and we’ll definitely be getting a copy for the iPad when it is!

You can buy Read Write Phonics at the Google Play store now for £1.49

Read Write Phonics official site is here, they can also be found on Facebook and Twitter

we received a free download of this app for review.

Photo Books

Bonusprint, Albelli and Photobox books
Bonusprint, Albelli and Photobox

You would never know unless you were my husband or daughter (or indeed, friends with me on Facebook) how many photos I take. I have a theory that out of every ten photos you’ll have a good one, and if you’re lucky, maybe more. This also comes from almost twenty years of taking photos at gigs – swap bands rocking out for fast-moving toddlers and actually, its not a billion miles apart.

I’m also one of those people who tries not to pay full price for something – there’s often deals and cashback deals to be had, so when they’re offered I’ll make the most of them – and lucky for me I’ve had two in the last few months for Photo Books, so decided I should give them a mention – plus I have no brand loyalty, so nothing will sway me other than good quality books.

Photobox Photo Book

In the past I’ve made books using Photobox. They offer a wide variety of books, all you need to do is upload your photos which can be time-consuming, though I do have friends who use Photobox for photo storage, which would work out quicker and easier than uploading loads at once. I ordered a photo book way back when H had just seen in her first Christmas and was extremely pleased with the quality – though I found with all the uploading I had very little time or energy to think about captions for each photo – so I ended up with a really nice A4 book, hardcover and a picture of my newborn baby in a window on the cover. Lovely! The downside I found with Photobox was not knowing how good a print quality some of the photos were (I found Snapfish were good for this), so a couple of pictures are a bit pixellated. (though I must add, this could be me not spotting it and things may have changed since I placed this order).

Bonusprint bookBonusprint sent me an offer for a book, so I snapped it up – a smaller book, more like A5 (though really it’s smaller than that) – and again, lots of individual uploading of photos, though this time the design I chose had no space for captions. I do find that I’m not keeping my ‘best’ photos to one side to then upload, so again the uploading side of things slowed me down a lot, although when it arrived I was really pleased with the quality. This wasn’t a hardback book, just a soft cover but still good.

Albelli photo bookAlbelli are a new name to me (though since I placed my order I’ve had a discount code via Vistaprint), and oh, I wish I’d set myself more time to put together my book. Albelli have a programme you can download to your desktop – it’s Mac compatible (a huge bonus for me) and even better, it links into iPhoto. I was able to set up an album in iPhoto of 49 photos, download and open the software, select my book and click and drag the photos. It was too easy. For that alone Albelli get my vote – there was no uploading times, you’re designing your book immediately, and if I’d set myself a bit more time then I’d have added captions too. The book arrived, hardback and the same size as the Bonusprint book and again, I’m loving the quality. I got a fabric backed book, and it’s really nice and sturdy. I really liked the layout offered and didn’t need to change very much to customise the book to my liking – in fact, of all three books this one was the quickest, and once I’d got my book ready all I had to do was leave the computer open to save it while I got on with other things.

Lidl Photos should have a special mention here. I’ve ordered tons of prints from them as they offer the best quality at the lowest price I’ve found – but their photo books aren’t Mac compatible (you have to download the software first). I keep checking for a Mac version, but it’s been well over a year now and alas, nothing. They do have Linux though (as well as Windows).

Snapfish I’ve still not tried – though will. There was meant to be an extension which allows you to upload from iPhoto to your account, but it has never worked for me (and reading online it looks like a few people have this problem) – so next time I need to make a book I may well try them and see if it’s working (and if not, then based on experience and speed, I’ll be using Albelli again.)

All books were delivered quickly, and were well protected.

This is not a sponsored post, though I did recieve a code from Albelli and Bonusprint to try their books. My opinion is based on what is quickest for me; as I have so little time; and easiest to format. All my books I’ve received are excellent, and you may find with more time available that some of the other books suit you.

iPod vs iPad and games

I previously mentioned my new iPod Touch – I had a second generation one and was starting to find I was out of date with apps – and with a toddler who is starting to show more interest in learning and playing games, this was not a good thing – plus I had a load of Amazon vouchers which need spending!

I’d been following a few groups where everyone alerts each other when a game is free – and saving up the apps for when I got some updated Apple gadgetry.

My fantastic friend Jos has given us her old iPad – so within a week we have a brand new iPod Touch and a 1st generation iPad – and all of a sudden a whole new world has opened to us – the world of apps.

I’ve bought for myself in the past and haven’t thought about games for H – but there’s so much good stuff out there at the moment – and the majority of it is educational too, so from time to time we’re going to review apps we love.

Actually, as well as the iPad and iPod, we both have Android phones. Mine is stuck in a vintage Android system, but Shaun’s runs on 2.2 or something higher, so can do more modern things with it – and we’ve already got a few games we’re testing.

Funimal Phonics on the iPod
Funimal Phonics on the iPod

Over at Mummy’s Space there was a giveaway for a fabulous app by School of Happy called ‘Funimal Phonics’. We played this for a while on the iPod Touch, not realising just how great it is – and found it lovely – english accents  and beautiful clear graphics too (there is a US accent option).

But then! We loaded it onto the iPad and everything was so much larger and clearer – each animal moves, you get to hear the letter it begins with, as well as the name. We’re really impressed – but even more so H loves it too. I love you can feed a carrot to the rabbit and flick a switch to watch a bubble in the X-Ray Fish.

H is learning more animals and on one of her first plays had already corrected the game “No Mummy, O is for Owl!” and so on… it’s a game we’ll be playing for a while – and one H picked up immediately. H is two and a half and while her speech is excellent there’s words she needs to work on – this is perfect for that – and it’s something she can control.

 

Funimal Phonics is out now, and costs £1.49 from the app store.

Mia Tui iPhone/iPod Purse

Mia Tui iPhone/iPod purse

Okay, so the most irresistable offer landed in my Twitter feed on Monday from that wicked Rachel lady (you know the one, she persuaded me to buy bags – she’s always right, and is very wise, she knows me too well!) – Mia Tui are selling their iPod/iPhone cases for £5 – they’re normally £12.99.

I bought myself a new iPod Touch for my birthday, and got a lovely retro cassette type case for it – but it didn’t feel completely protected, and I’m not 100% happy with it – how I wish I’d bought this from the start. It’s the perfect size, but most importantly of all, now iPod Touch players have a camera, there’s a correctly positioned hole, so I’ll never need to take it out of the holder!

Mia Tui iPhone/iPod purse
inside the purse, with iPod Touch inside!

There’s a suitably sized gap at the bottom to recharge it, and there’s also space for three cards and receipts I’ll no doubt pick up along the way – and if I really wanted to pose I could pretend I’ve got an iPhone (well quite frankly anything would be better than my current Sony Ericsson Experia X8 right now…).

I bought the black case which matches my Mia Tui bags perfectly and once again I’m impressed with the quick delivery, and the fantastic price – so another huge thumbs up from me – my iPod is really well protected.

If you do go for the purse, don’t forget I’ve a Mia Tui code you can use for your first order!