Friday, 27 October 2017

Toy State Marvel Avengers Hulk Hero Rider™ Toy - Review

Our Christmas preparations are now in full swing and the Christmas shopping has begun. All of my children have written their gift wish lists, that were expertly created by each of them with the use of endless toy catalogues, multiple trips to the shops and some online reviews. I rely a lot on reviews to help me make an informed choice about which products I would like to buy and determine whether a toy is actually as good as it looks in a picture or on an advert. Therefore, over the next few weeks, I am going to be sharing our own reviews on some of my children's favourite toy products out on the market at the moment and I hope that you will find these useful in the run up to Christmas.

You may have seen me mention previously, that my son Riley has a love for vehicles. It doesn't matter what kind of vehicle, as long as it moves and it can be used to create a story or a little town based around one of his road rugs. Cars, trains, planes, boats, quad bikes, helicopters, diggers, you name it, I can pretty much guarantee he will have one in his collection. He is a big fan of imaginative play, so he uses his vehicles to create pretend scenarios where he can also introduce some of his favourite characters and get creative with his toys.


He was therefore delighted, when we were recently sent the Marvel Avengers Hulk Hero Rider™ by Toy State, as this incorporates one of his favourite Marvel characters riding a truck and has the benefit of a character and a vehicle in one toy. The product came nicely presented in an open front box, so you can see exactly what you are getting before purchasing. This also gives access to the buttons on the top, so you can also hear the sounds that the toy makes.


The box describes the toy has having a Hero Swivel Driving Action which is also highlighted on the side of the box, using graphics to show that the figure on the top of the truck can move from side to side. There is also an age recommendation of 3 years+.


The box was very easy to open and I was pleasantly surprised to find it very simple to detach the Hero Rider™ from the packaging. It is one of my pet hates at Christmas when the children want all their toys open, to find that you then need about twenty different tools just to get the product out. This item has a very simple twist and pull mechanism though, so Riley was able to have the toy out of the box in less than a minute. Another huge bonus for us, was that batteries were already included in the product. It does state on the bottom of the box that these are included for store display purposes, however Riley has played with this toy regularly over the past two weeks and they are not showing any signs of running out just yet.


Riley found the Hulk Hero Rider™ to be very straightforward to use and was able to push it along manually, or alternatively, he could press one of the buttons which would then allow The Hulk to power the vehicle. We have had a couple of similar toys in the past and found that sometimes these kind of toys only work well on hard floors such as laminate or tiles, however, this one flies across our carpet with no problem at all, which was a big plus point for me. This means that Riley isn't limited to where he can play with it and it is suitable for all the floor surfaces in our home.

When you press the buttons on the top of the The Hulk Hero Rider, this also activates some great sound effects which include Hulk noises and music. The buttons also make The Hulk move from left to right as he controls the vehicle at speed.

The product dimensions are approximately 19cm in height, 10cm width and 17cm depth. This makes it a really nice sized toy to play with as well as being the perfect toy to store away with ease. It is chunky and well built, ideal for small hands and more than capable of withstanding the toddler test.

Overall I have found this to be a really good quality product, which Riley thoroughly enjoys playing with. There are a couple of other Hero Rider's available in the range, so we are thinking of purchasing another so that we can have Hero Rider™ races and see which vehicle can move the quickest. The RRP of the product is £22.99 which I think is a reasonable price for a Marvel themed product that offers several play options.

The product is currently available to buy at Argos and further information can also be found on their product page.


Disclaimer: We were provided with this product on a complimentary basis, for the purpose of providing an honest review and opinion.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Why I Love the Family & Friends Railcard

If you are a regular reader to the blog, then you will know just how much my family loves to get out and about, exploring new places, visiting attractions and just generally enjoying time together as a family. It is therefore important to me, that we always look at the best cost effective ways of travelling to places and whilst using the car may be easier for us to use on local trips, we have found that catching the train to places slightly further afield, can be both a cheaper and more stress free option.

I was first introduced to the Family & Friends railcard two years ago, when my daughter won a place on a presenting course in London. It is a 4 hour car journey from my home in North Wales on a good run, not including the time taken to get into the city centre and finding somewhere to park. It was therefore obvious that a 2 hour 5 minute train journey from our nearest main station in Chester, would be the much better and easier option. I checked the price of tickets online and they were coming up quite expensive, not suiting my budget at all, although still cheaper than fuel, tolls and parking. I therefore visited our nearest ticket office to see if there were any deals or offers to help reduce the price.

The lady in the ticket office showed me a leaflet for the family and friends railcard and explained that for a charge of £30 I could save 1/3 off rail fares plus 60% off kids fares. We checked it against the tickets to London and what the ticket price would be and it worked out that with the rail card, our return trip to London would be £50 cheaper. This meant that even after deducting the cost of the railcard, I had already saved myself £20! I therefore signed up there and then at the ticket office and over the next 12 months we used our railcard regularly making some huge savings. We received a reminder when our card was due to expire and I was given the option to renew, which was an easy decision to make.

About the Family and Friends Railcard

The Family and Friends Railcard costs just £30 for a 1 year Railcard, or alternatively you can purchase a three year railcard online for just £70 offering a saving of £20 compared to purchasing three individual yearly cards. It can be used by up to 4 adults and 4 children aged 5 to 15 on each journey and you can have two adults named on one railcard which means either person can use it as long as there is at least one child travelling with them.

It offers fantastic discounts and gets you 1/3 off Standard Anytime, Off-Peak and Advance Fares across the National Rail Network (some exclusions apply), as well as 60% off kids fares. You can also save 1/3 off Anytime Day Travelcards, when purchased as part of your ticket to London from outside London Zones 1-9*, in addition to 1/3 off Off-Peak Day Travelcard Zones 1-6*. One aspect that we have found particularly useful, is the ability to also save a 1/3 off bus travel to and from the station, as well as around town when we purchase a PLUSBUS day ticket along with our train ticket online. We find this a great saving when we visit Manchester and want to venture slightly out of the city centre to places like Salford Quays or The Trafford Centre.

*Minimum fares apply to Anytime Day and Off-Peak Day Travelcards.

Why do I love the Family and Friends Railcard

There are a few reasons why I love the Family and Friends Railcard. The most obvious one is the savings I have made by using ours over the last couple of years. In the last 12 months we have used ours to travel from Chester to Liverpool, Glasgow Prestwick Airport to Glasgow, Shotton to Liverpool, Chester to Manchester, Chester to London, Crewe to London and Shotton to Llandudno. As a family of five, it offers us some fantastic savings and in the last 12 months alone we have saved over £200 off the cost of standard fares.

There is also a handy journey planner to help calculate the savings you can make on your journey when using a Family & Friends Railcard. If you are a regular train user, then this is a great tool to help you see how much you could be saving over the year.

For example if I was to purchase a train ticket for 2 adults and 2 children from Chester to London Euston for the 26th October 2017 at 12:35pm, returning on the 27th October 2017 at 13:40pm, this would cost me £239.90 without a railcard. Using the Family & Friends Railcard the price comes to £136. That is a HUGE SAVING of £103.90! (Price obtained 11:35am 25th October 2017).

In addition to the savings, our children simply love the train experience. The kids are always excited to be travelling by train as it makes the adventure even more fun and they love looking out for things through the large windows and spotting animals or landmarks in the distance. It is also much more relaxing for Mr F and I as parents. There is no worry about a long drive home, getting stuck in traffic, or how many loo stops we will need to make at motorway service stations. We can simply enjoy the experience the same as the children, as well as being able to enjoy a drink or a bite to eat from the comfort of our seats.

Where can you purchase a Family & Friends Railcard?

You can visit your nearest National Rail staffed station to purchase a Railcard in person or alternatively you can visit the website to apply online or obtain further information. The website can be found here: Family & Friends Railcard

Disclaimer: Written in collaboration with the Family and Friends Railcard. Opinions are my own.



Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience DVD - Review and Competition

When I think back over the last few years, it is hard for me to remember a day that has not involved an episode of Peppa Pig at some point. Whether that be watching it on television, on the kids tablet, or my mobile phone, all three of my children have grown up watching and enjoying the cheeky yet lovable Peppa Pig. She is a character that most children love and her popularity is proven through the huge selection of episodes, merchandise and even attractions available.

Earlier this year, we learnt that Peppa Pig would be heading to the cinema in an exciting new big screen adventure. It was described as a perfect introduction to the cinema for preschoolers and offered an hour of snorts, giggles and Peppa fun. This sounded like the perfect opportunity for me to introduce Riley to the cinema and we both enjoyed a lovely morning out to watch it, shortly after its release. It was great to be able to watch some new stories and to also be introduced to some new characters who were Policeman Panda and Mrs Crocodile. There was also plenty of interactive elements to join in with including singing and dancing, which Riley really enjoyed.


Last weekend, we received a lovely package through the post that contained a copy of the Peppa Pig My First Cinema Experience DVD along with a cute plush toy. Riley was really excited as he remembered our little trip to the cinema and was now happy that he would also be able to watch it at home. I made some home made milkshakes and grabbed a bag of popcorn and we snuggled up on the sofa to watch the new DVD.

The DVD features nine episodes which are London, The Police, Canal Boat, The Zoo, The Outback, Surfing, The Great Barrier Reef, Boomerang and Move to Music.

In between the episodes, there is interactive live action content that encourages you to sing and dance along and the DVD also includes some fun songs such as Wheels on the Bus and The Muddy Puddle Song. If all that entertainment wasn't enough, the DVD also contains a free activity poster which features some puzzles and colouring in fun.


Riley really enjoyed the DVD and I am sure it will be one that will be watched over and over again. He giggled away through all the episodes, with his favourite ones being The Zoo and London. As the DVD is only 70 minutes in length it was also the perfect length of time to keep him interested and entertained. We would definitely recommend Peppa Pig My First Cinema Experience to any Peppa Pig fans!

The DVD is available to purchase from Amazon, as well as other good retailers.

Competition

I also have a copy of the DVD to give away to one lucky winner. If you would like to enter, please do so using the gleam form below. Good Luck!

Win a copy of Peppa Pig My First Cinema Experience DVD

Terms and Conditions

  • There is 1 (one) prize available of a Peppa Pig My First Cinema Experience DVD
  • Entry is open to UK residents aged 18 years or older.
  • The prize is as stated and no cash alternative is available. Approximate prize value is £8.
  • Competition closes on Wednesday 14th November 2017 and the winner shall be notified within 7 days of the closing date.
  • The winner will have 7 days to respond to the winning email to confirm their acceptance of the prize, before an alternative winner is drawn from the remaining eligible entries.
  • No bulk or third party entries.

Disclaimer: We were provided with a complimentary copy of the DVD and plush toy for review purposes. This post contains an affiliate link. Opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dates for your Diary - Peter Pan at the Epstein Theatre

The swashbuckling adventure of LHK Productions' panto Peter Pan, comes to the Epstein Theatre this Christmas from Friday 8th December to Monday 1st January 2018.

Children and adults alike will be whisked away on a sensational journey to Neverland this Christmas. With a sprinkle of fairy dust from Tinkerbell, join Peter, Wendy and The Lost Boys on an adventure full of Pirates, Mermaids, Indians and a devious tick-tocking croc, in this enchanting story of the boy who never grew up.

Headlining Peter Pan is Another Level's Dane Bowers, who will have audiences hooked this festive season as Captain Hook. Dane began his career as a member of Another Level, one of the most successful boy bands of the 90's - achieving several platinum selling albums and singles. He has also made appearances on Celebrity Big Brother, Celebrity Come Dine with Me and ITV's The Big Reunion, which saw him form a supergroup boy band with the likes of Gareth Gates.

Photo credit: David Munn Photography

Set to take audiences by storm is Liverpool's own Lewis Pryor who will be playing the lead role of Peter Pan. Lewis appeared in the 2016 series of Britain's Got Talent, finishing 3rd place in the Live Finals as a member of dance troupe Boogie Storm. Supporting Peter Pan will be Radio City 2's Claire Simmo, starring as the lovable Tinkerbell.

No LHK Production would be complete without everyone's favourite dame, Michael Chapman, who returns for 2017 as the Darling Family Cook and is guaranteed to bring his usual hysterical capers and comedy antics. New cast additions also include the incredibly talented Joanne Harper as Wendy Darling and local performer Georgia Austin as Tiger Lily.

As ever, audiences can expect a huge production from LHK Productions with dazzling sets, sparkling costumes, laugh-a-minute scripts, brilliant songs and exquisite trade-mark choreography that everyone has come to know and love from Liverpool's acclaimed panto production company!

Listing Details

Dates - Friday 8th December 2017 to Monday 1st January 2018
Venue - The Epstein Theatre, Hanover House, 85 Hanover Street, Liverpool, L1 3DZ
Times - Times vary, please visit www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk for more information.

Tickets
Opening night ticket offer: Friday 8th December all tickets £13
Special Offer: Tuesday 26th December 5pm & Sunday 31st December 5:30pm all tickets £15
Sat & Sun performances and Monday 1st January (excluding 31/12 5:30pm performance): Adult £19/ Concession £17/ Family £63
All other performances: Adult £18/ Concession £16/ Family £59
Limited number of £11 tickets available on all performances (except Fri 8th Dec 7pm, Tue 26th Dec 5pm and Sun 31st Dec 5:30pm).

*Subject to booking fee. All prices include a £1 per ticket venue restoration levy.

How to Book

Call 0844 888 4411, visit www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk or book in person at the theatre box office (open 2pm-6pm Mon-Thu & 12pm-6pm Fri-Sat).

Alternatively you can book via ticketquarter on 0844 8000 410 or visit www.ticketquarter.co.uk

Disclaimer: Information correct at time of writing, but can be subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the venues own website to obtain the most up to date information.

Monday, 16 October 2017

My Birthday Weekend!

For the past couple of weeks, my family and I seem to have caught various sickness and cold bugs and so I was really looking forward to spending the weekend together, now that we are all back to good health. A few years ago, my ideal birthday weekend would have involved a meal out with friends, drinks in the city centre and a selection of hangover cures at the ready for the following day. However, things have definitely changed since having children and all I really wanted to do this weekend was spend some time together and also take some time away from my computer to just sit down, relax and have a lazy Sunday.

On Saturday, my son Ben went fishing. This is his new favourite thing to do at the moment and he has really been enjoying going down to the local fishing pool with his Grandad. He idolises him, so as well as doing something he enjoys, he also gets to spend time with his best friend and enjoy some fishing together. With Ben out for the day we asked Emma and Riley whether they would like to go out for breakfast. It was a silly question really, as I knew what the answer would be, and they both quickly asked whether we could go to Chock's Away Diner in Broughton.


Chock's Away is one of our favourite places to go for breakfast. The ingredients are locally sourced and really tasty, the prices are reasonable and the diner also overlooks the Hawarden Airport runway. This means that you can catch a glimpse of the planes taking off and landing, as well as the fascinating Beluga air plane, which has a very interesting design. A few miles away from the diner is Broughton Shopping Park and so after enjoying a delicious breakfast, we decided to head to the shops to buy the children some new autumn & winter clothes.


It was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday morning and we enjoyed a couple of hours shopping and treated the kids to a few things, whilst also getting some ideas together for Christmas presents. I also took the chance to check out the Christmas range in Primark, which was a massive mistake as I literally want to buy every single Christmas item they have in the store! Their selection of Christmas decorations are just gorgeous and I have already decided that I am going to pop back next week and stock up with some new festive goodies.

On our return home, Riley was pleasantly surprised to find a little parcel waiting for him on the doorstep. Inside the package was a lovely Peppa Pig plush toy along with a copy of the new DVD Peppa Pig - My First Cinema Experience. The weather was dull and dreary outside, so we enjoyed snuggling up on the sofa and watching his new DVD together with some popcorn and home made milkshakes. When Ben returned home we finished the evening together watching football, playing games and enjoying some reality TV.



On Sunday it was my birthday and my morning began with the children bringing me breakfast in bed and singing Happy Birthday at 8:30am. This may sound early, but in our house, this classes as a big lie in! Ben had a football match later that morning, so the first part of the day consisted of being a footy mum and cheering from the sidelines. The afternoon however consisted of nothing! That's right, absolutely nothing. Just my family and I chilling at home, watching movies and not moving off the sofa. We are usually so busy and out and about pretty much all of the time, so this was literally my perfect birthday, with a home cooked meal by Mr F and a nice glass of wine to finish the day.

Happy Birthday to me!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Five Reasons Why I Love Autumn

The summer holidays now feel like a distant memory and as much as I love the sunshine, trips to the beach and al fresco dining, I can't help but feel happy when Autumn arrives. To some, Autumn can be a bore as the nights draw in and the weather gets colder, but personally I love it and here's why:

1) Colours - I love the bright sunshine and greenery that summer provides, but Autumn brings a whole host of different colours everywhere you turn. Leaves on the trees start to change and a simple walk down the street can bring such a wide selection of calming shades and tones to your eyes. Our walk to school consists of going past numerous trees, all of various sizes and shapes. Just before we reach school, there is a small grass area that is home to a beautiful large tree, which turns a stunning red and deep purple colour every October. Riley calls this his favourite tree as he just loves the colours it brings.


2) Weather - Whether it is cool and dry, or wet and windy, Autumn is great for puddle jumping, woodland walks and exploration. The heat of the summer has subsided and it makes for a much more relaxing and cool experience when venturing out of the house. My children love getting their wellies and waterproofs on and heading down to the local park, where you can be sure to find plenty of puddles, squelchy mud and woods to explore.


3) Events - October and November bring lots of events for us. Both my daughter and I have birthdays in October, my husband and I celebrate our wedding anniversary, we have October half term to look forward to spending together as a family, as well as getting dressed up for Halloween. Then of course, we have the enjoyment of bonfire night and fireworks displays, as well as it being the time of year that we start to also prepare for Christmas.

4) Cosy Nights at Home - As much as I love to travel and get out and about, there literally is no place like home. I absolutely love it when it gets dark early and you can enjoy the sunset, put the fire on and cosy up in your pyjamas with a nice glass of wine or hot chocolate. I love the feeling of being warm and comfortable at home, whilst it is cold or raining outside.

5) Clothing - I love to shop, so Autumn gives me a great excuse to hit the retail park and purchase some new clothing from the Autumn/Winter ranges. I love being able to throw on a cardigan or oversized jumper and wave goodbye to the figure hugging tops of summer. I always love the Autumn kids ranges that come out in Next and Primark, so it is nice to be able to splash out on some new clothes for the kids and purchase the compulsory Autumn/Winter coat for each of them.


Sunday, 8 October 2017

Dates for your Diary - Manchester's Biggest Indoor Christmas Attraction is Back!

One of our favourite annual events on the festive calendar has to be Winter Wonderland, which is a wonderful indoor attraction, held at EventCity, next to the Intu Trafford Centre Manchester. This fabulous family event will be returning for it's fifth consecutive year and looks set to be the very best yet.

The giant 22,000sqm exhibition space at EventCity will be transformed into an unbelievable wonderland extravaganza, featuring over 50 family rides and attractions all under one roof.  As well as the rides and the bright lights, there will be a dazzling array of colourful shows and this year, Winter Wonderland is delighted to welcome the nation's favourite children's TV characters Zippy and George from Rainbow, who will no doubt bring lots of magic, mayhem and comedy capers!

The spectacular Christmas Circus will also be making a welcome return and is sure to have audiences marvelled and amazed with their daily performances.

Santa Claus and his reindeer will also be taking time out from their busy schedule for meet and greets with all the children, every day up to and including Christmas Eve. In addition to all of this, there will also be fairies and elves on hand to chat and play with the children, a host of games stalls and an array of food and drinks stalls where you can purchase hot snacks or sweet treats.


Winter Wonderland operates on a session basis to ensure that visitors can enjoy the experience without overcrowding, offering families four hours of non-stop fun and entertainment. Organisers Kingpin Events are urging families to book now to make sure that they don't miss out on this magical festive family adventure and to ensure they secure tickets for their preferred date. Last years event saw record ticket sales of 100,000, so it is sure to be popular once more for 2017!

Group, family and individual tickets are on sale now for this wonderful Winter Wonderland event, which is guaranteed to create that enchanting Christmas spirit and spread joy across the whole of Manchester.

You can book your tickets now at www.winterwonderlandmanchester.com

Listing Details

Event - Winter Wonderland Manchester
Venue - EventCity (next to Intu Trafford Centre), Phoenix Way, Off Barton Dock Road, Urmston, Manchester, M41 7TB. Free Parking Available.

Ticket Prices - 
Adult £20.50 (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee)
Child (3-16) £20.50 (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee)
Family of 4 (2 ad + 2 ch or 1 ad + 3ch) £70 (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee per person so total fee of £6)
OAP £15.00 (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee)
Under 3's are Free (Ticket not required).
Groups 10% discount (when booking 15+ tickets)
School rate: £9.50 per child (under 12's) with some teachers free from Tuesday 13th to Friday 16th December (morning session only).

All rides and attractions are included in the ticket price (excluding games and food stalls) and each session lasts for 4 hours.

Session Times - 

December     
Sat 9th & Sun 10th: 11am-3pm and 4:30pm-8:30pm
Tue 12th, Wed 13th & Thurs 14th: 10:30am-2:30pm
Fri 15th: 10:30am-2:30pm and 5pm-9pm
Sat 16th & Sun 17th: 11am-3pm and 4:30pm-8:30pm
Mon 18th & Tue 19th: 10:30am-2:30pm
Wed 20th: 10:30am-2:30pm and 4:30pm-8:30pm
Thurs 21st, Fri 22nd & Sat 23rd: 11am-3pm and 4:30pm-8:30pm
Tue 26th: 1pm-5pm
Wed 27th, Thurs 28th, Fri 29th & Sat 30th: 11am-3pm and 4:30pm-8:30pm
Sun 31st: 11am-3pm

January
Mon 1st: 1pm-5pm

To book please visit www.winterwonderlandmanchester.com or alternatively you can make a booking by telephone on 0843 208 1842. For group bookings please call 0843 208 6003.

Disclaimer: Details can be subject to change, so I would always recommend visiting the events own website to obtain the most up to date information.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Dates for your Diary - Christmas at Dunham Massey

My family and I absolutely love attending Christmas events and we are always on the look out for something new and exciting to visit. Like most families, Christmas is a really magical time for us, so we try and enjoy as many festive activities as we can together, in the run up to Christmas Day.

We were therefore really excited to find out about a brand new Christmas Light trail, which will be at Dunham Massey in Cheshire, from the 1st to 30th December 2017. This magical, after-dark illuminated trail, will be brought to you by leading events producers Raymond Gubbay, in partnership with the National Trust and will see Dunham Massey transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland.

The trail has been specially designed to appeal to visitors of all ages and there is something for everyone at this festive time of year, as the one mile sparkling path winds its way through the historic Dunham Massey woodland. Greeted by the sights and sounds of Christmas, visitors will wander beneath tree canopies that will be illuminated in seasonal shards of light and larger-than-life snowflakes and baubles.


Father Christmas sees you on your way through twinkling tunnels and a swaying lawn of colour reflected in the water. Duck between sparkling hedgerows, discover the Singing Trees rising high into the night sky and experience Pealight Heaven, a canopy of over 100,000 fairy lights. Once you reach the festive finale, you can take a moment to pause and enjoy the brightly coloured water jets dancing in time to some much loved Christmas classics.

Complete your stroll under the stars with a hot drink or some mulled wine, enjoy a ride on the vintage carousel* , toast your own marshmallows at one of the fire pits, or even take the opportunity to do a spot of Christmas shopping in Dunham Massey's shop.

*Separate charges apply.

For further details please visit: National Trust - Dunham Massey

Listing Details

Event - Christmas at Dunham Massey, the magical, after-dark, illuminated trail

Location - Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire, WA14 4SJ

Dates - 1st December to 30th December

Admission

Advance - Adult £16.00, Child (5-16) £10.00, Family £48.00
On the day - Adult £18.00, Child (5-16) £12.00, Family £56.00
National Trust Member - Adults £14.50, Child (5-16) £8.50, Family £42.00


Disclaimer: Details correct at time of writing, but can be subject to change. Therefore please always check the events own website for the most up to date information.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Cat Machine Maker™ Junior Operator by Toy State - A Review

It is only 11 weeks til Christmas, I repeat 11 weeks til Christmas! Eeeek! For some people this may seem a long time away, but for others like myself, it is now the time to start preparing for another magical time with my family. I have read a few articles lately about how Christmas theming, products and advertisements seem to be in the shops earlier and earlier every year, and whilst this may be true, personally I love it!

From October onwards my children get excited about all the Christmas events we attend, the family we get to visit, the shows they get to practice and perform in school, the fact that there is stockpiled chocolates everywhere they turn, spending time together as a family, and of course writing their Christmas present gift lists.

My son Riley who is 4, loves vehicles and every day consists of building a new train track and placing his trains, cars, diggers, boats and planes anywhere he can around the track and creating a little city of his own. He loves to organise, create and build and so his Christmas lists usually consist of toys that can help him to develop his creative skills, improve his coordination and most of all, offer some fun! Therefore, when we were asked if we would like to review a product from the Toy State toddler range, it was a very easy decision to make.

Toy State are an industry leader and innovator of highly-stylized licenced "lights and sound" and radio-controlled (RC) vehicles. They have recently revealed a fantastic selection of Christmas toys which encourage co-ordination and imaginative play, as well as being designed to be tough enough to cope with toddler play. One product in particular from their range that really stood out to us, was the Cat Machine Maker™ Junior Operator, which is suitable for children aged 3+.


When the product arrived, Riley was firstly very impressed with the box. He loved the fact that he could carry it around and that it would give him somewhere to store all the pieces. The image on the front of the box was very clear, so Riley could see exactly what the toy would look like once built and he was also very excited to be getting his very own screwdriver! The front of the box stated the age recommendation, the number of pieces in the box and a picture of a screwdriver, to signify that assembly is required.


The rear of the box provides some further images that show you the individual pieces before construction, as well as another image of a partially built model.


Riley couldn't wait to get the box open and once inside, he quickly cast aside the instructions declaring he would be building it on his own and that he didn't need them. This is what my husband Mr. F still does at the age of 37, so I guess it runs in the family. We arranged all the pieces out, so he could see exactly what he needed to put together and he began picking things up bit by bit, trying to connect them all.


The pieces are a really nice hand held size. Not too big, but not too small, just quite chunky and the ideal dimensions for a toddler. Riley did take a couple of glances at the instructions, but ultimately he managed to construct the toy quite easily using the image on the back of the box.


Once he had finished building the toy, I expected him to instantly play with it constructed, however Riley had different ideas and instead decided to start using role play and pretend he was a mechanic. He asked his brother Ben to bring the vehicle to his garage, so that he could take it apart to then fix it again. It was actually quite fascinating to watch and great to see him creating his own little story about how the vehicle had broken down on a very important job, so Riley the mechanic had to fix it urgently. He continued to take it apart and rebuild it again for nearly an hour, before beginning to play with it fully constructed alongside his other toys.

The Cat Machine Maker™ Junior Operator, is part of a line of Build-It-Yourself construction sets, with a total of 5 in the range to collect. Models include an Excavator, Dump Truck, Bulldozer, Service Truck and Wheel Loader. They each come with their own chunky screwdriver, as well as a reusable carry case, which is useful for storing away all the parts neatly. The Machine operator is also included and fits nicely into the driver's seat. The clever aspect of this range is that you can also mix and match the parts as you collect each model. This means that your child can also get creative and make their own marvellous machine!

The RRP of the product is £11.99, which I think offers excellent value for money. It is a nice sized gift, that also doesn't cost a fortune, so it is the perfect price for a good quality, low cost gift idea. This product can currently be purchased from Hamley's, Morrisons, The Range, Toymaster and Smyths and I am sure, they will prove to be very popular this Christmas.


Disclaimer: We were provided with this product on a complimentary basis, for the purpose of providing an honest review of the toy. All opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Dates for your Diary - Slava's Snowshow Brings a Blizzard to The Lowry Auditorium

Slava's Snowshow, produced by Matthew Gale and Mark Goucher, returns to The Lowry, Salford this autumn from Tuesday 24th to Sunday 29th October. The multi-award winning show offers a combination of theatrical clowning and a stunning visual spectacle, which is sure to entertain and enchant the audience.

The world-renowned company of clowns is led by Slava Polunin, Artistic Director of the St Petersburg Circus, who recently visited the UK to launch his new book Alchemy of Snowness. The book follows Slava's artistic journey and exhilarating exploration in his creation of "a show that would bring us back to our childhood dreams; a show which would help spectators be released from the jail of adulthood and rediscover their forgotten childhood."

The show first premiered in the UK at the Edinburgh Festival in 1994, and has since toured all over the country, picking up a host of awards along the way. Slava's Snowshow is the internationally acclaimed winner of the Time Out, Olivier and Drama Desk Awards for the most unique theatrical experience.

Influenced by artists such as Chaplin, Marcel Marceau and Engibarov, Slava and his company have taken clowning out of the world of circus and brought it to theatre lovers, fellow practitioners and families worldwide. It's global popularity has seen the show perform in 80 cities including New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro and Moscow, so don't miss your opportunity to watch it at The Lowry, Salford this October.

Listing Details

Slava's Snowshow
Venue - The Lyric Theatre
Box Office Address: The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ
Dates: Tuesday 24th - 29th October 2017
Times: 7pm with 2pm performances available on Wed, Thurs, Sat, Sun.
Running time: 2 hours including interval.
Tickets: £13.50 - £41.50 (including booking fee)

To book tickets please visit The Lowry website here: The Lowry or alternatively contact the box office on 0843 208 6000


Disclaimer: Information correct at time of writing but could be subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the theatres own website to gain the most up to date information.