Friday, 30 September 2011

Fisher Price Booster Seats Review

As most people do, when we had our baby a few years ago, we went out and bought a highchair at the point I decided I would start weaning. We had a look around and settled on a fairly cheap one as we had already made our minds up that we would get booster seats when our baby was old enough as they seemed more practical. If invading armies had to get past a barrier of the highchairs we purchased, they would have given up and gone home. We bear the stubbed toes and bruises to show how aggressive our highchair was ;-)

Two months after buying it, we bought our first Fisher Price booster seat and wished we'd never bothered with the highchair in the first place!

Our first seat is the Fisher Price Healthy Care Booster Seat. This seat fixes to a normal dining chair with a strap underneath and another that goes around the back of the chair. All adjustable, all very secure :)

The seat has 3 adjustable height settings so it suits most tables and also can be lowered as your child grows. It has a 3 point lap harness which also adjusts. The back of the seat can also be removed for older children (it goes up to 50lbs so will last a while). The seat can be used with or without the tray.

The tray itself consists of a large blue, flat tray; a white insert tray that fits into the blue one which is a little small but has a cup holder built in and a green cover. Again, all designed to fit your growing child. They are all dishwasher safe or, in this house, me safe! ;-) It is ideal also as the large tray can be used for play and my daughter has often been busy playing with some Soft Stuff on it whilst I've had an opportunity to do something exciting like ironing or hoovering (oh, the thrill of it all).

The seat itself is totally portable and you can use the larger strap to carry it over your shoulder. I wouldn't want to walk with it for too long though, as it is a little bulky, even though it's not as heavy as my handbag can be ;-)

With the arrival of our new baby (who is now 9 months old), we decided to use the old highchair for a while (yes, it's still as evil as it was when we first bought it) and then purchased our second Fisher Price booster seat. This time we got the Precious Planet Lion booster seat. As you can imagine, as soon as it arrived, our toddler decided it would be great for her to try it out before her younger sister and said they could "swap" seats. It was a hit!

This seat is a little more simplistic. Again the back, which is a cute orange lion face, can be removed for older children. The tray is a simple, single flat one. There is no height adjustment either. However, it does the job and was priced accordingly.

You can see our two seats in the attached photograph. Doesn't our new one, particularly, look so cute!

If you are limited on space, value your toes and would like portability, then opt for a Fisher Price booster seat as you really won't go wrong :)

Monday, 26 September 2011

A little bag of baby

When I had my first daughter some......years ago, we used sheets and blankets tucked into the Moses basket/cot/bed* (*select appropriate bed size for age) and that was the end of it.

When I had my, now toddler, some 3 years ago, we discovered that this particular little lady did not conform to being tucked in. In fact, the only time we actually tucked her in was in her Moses basket! This was purely due to the fact that she could not move around as she was simply too small to do so, but she still used to kick the covers off her feet in the night so she needed constant checking. OK, that sounded like harder work than it was but even leaning over the side of the bed to peer in at her laying next to me was tiring at times ;-)

When she got to around 5 months old, sheets and blankets were hopeless. She would kick them off and end up laying across the cot or upside down. I was more worried about her disappearing under them and getting too hot than her getting a bit cooler. I had even tried putting the sheets across the cot instead of the way they should go just to give more tuck-in at the sides but nope, she still got out. No matter how much I tried to tuck her in, she escaped - usually within minutes!

This is the point I looked at other things that would keep her warm and found Grobags :) Brilliant. Why did I have about 20 sheets and blankets in my airing cupboard when I could have one or two of these? I immediately went out and bought two Grobags, one 2.5 tog and one 1.0 tog. These are now known as the "Day and Night" set. My daughter seemed to love her Grobag and settled down to sleep in whatever position she liked - upside down or sideways - and I knew she would be warm. There was no danger of her getting it over her head as it's got poppers on the shoulders (adjustable) and zips up to under her arms. Perfect!

The other thing you need to consider, of course, is access to little bottoms in the night when they are so tiny and the Grobags have this sorted with zips that undo from the bottom to the top across one side so that you can open it up completely to get to your little one without disturbing them too much. If they wake in the night you don't even have to get them out of it for a nice cuddle :)

Of course, I have bought some cheaper 'Grobag style' bags and they have been OK but you really don't get the quality unless you buy the real thing. Yes they cost more but you do get what you pay for. They wash and tumble well so you could even make do with one (although two really is best just in case of accidents).

We used our Grobags up until my toddler was almost 2 years old when we moved her into a toddler bed and bought a duvet set. Our baby now has the Grobags and we're about to buy her a new one for winter. A definite must for parents of wiggly little ones :)

Monday, 19 September 2011

Evil Dummys and Big Sister's Bed

For a little while now we have been considering how to part toddler from her dummy - or 'bubby' as it was known. I'd tried making holes in it (as one website suggested) which meant it didn't remain inflated when she sucked but I don't think she even noticed.

We had managed to 'lose' the one that we had carried around in my bag. When I say bag, what I really mean is miniature suitcase. Smaller in size than a real one but with about the weight allowance most planes give you to the max. Come on, you know how much you need for a baby and toddler every time you go out! So, to lose a dummy in there was not hard ;-) Toddler was very good about that one going.

A few weeks later, the fairy arrived and took the one she had in her car seat too. The fairy left a Gruffalo in its place as I...sorry, the fairy....knew she wanted one of those having seen the cartoon of it. The fairy was a little disorganised though and the Amazon delivery took slightly longer than planned. Fairies are very modern now you know ;-)

We started to talk about her final dummy going. She is coming up 3 and has started nursery so we began to chat about ways the fairy might take her final 'bubby'. Sometimes, apparently, they take them for fairy babies; other times for human babies that don't have one. Toddler wanted to give hers to Rudolph at Christmas! This is not one of the more traditional ways I've heard of disposing of a dummy but hey, we could go with it.

As it turned out, the cold-sore fairy arrived yesterday morning and it was a stonker :( Toddler immediately blamed 'bubby' and marched downstairs and threw him (yes, it was a him) in the bin. Gone. Just like that. I contemplated fishing it out, sterilising it and keeping it in case of emergency but opted to leave it in the bin as, let's face it, she was the one who threw it out.

Bedtime came and I began to wonder if she'd get through this bit. Bedtime was the only time she had this dummy and it really was a comforter for her. She wasn't bothered. Off she went to bed but then stopped and asked where it was. "You threw him away as he hurt your mouth" said I. "Yes, nasty bubby" she said and got into bed. YIPPEE!!!!

She snuggled down and started to go to sleep when disaster struck. A neighbour's dog barked. Now, this is no yapping dog. It is a big, old labrador that does the occasional 'woof' in its back garden and then is silent again for another 3 weeks. Unfortunately, tonight it decided to bark about 3 times in an hour. She was in pieces. This is mostly to do with an unfortunate incident in Spain with barking dogs all around our villa and one slamming itself, growling, into a gate when we went past. It made me jump and she was absolutely terrified. She hates dogs now (her words). So, poor old doggie had her falling to bits and screaming in her room. This, in turn, woke her baby sister who also screamed the place down. On the 3rd race to the bedroom, I decided on an option to try as she was also without her comfort you will recall.

"Would you like to sleep in your big sisters' room?" I said. "YES" came the reply. What a special treat that was. Not only in big sisters' room but also in her bed, under her duvet and on her pillow. Within 15 minutes she was asleep :) YIPPEE again.

Today we, not the hopeless dummy fairy, took her into town and bought her a special little present for being a big girl and throwing her dummy away. One happy camper is now playing at home.

Tonight we have said she can have one more sleep in her big sisters' room and she is really excited about going to bed. See, big sisters can have some uses ;-)

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Tears and tummy aches

Both of which were mine. OK, almost tears I should say. Why? Well, yesterday was todder’s first day at nursery. This is not just the first day at a new place, it’s pretty much the first day she’s been away from me in 3 years. So, as you can imagine, the night before her initiation to ‘school’ there was stress, tummy aches and almost tears. This was nothing to do with toddler who was just excited about going.

Part of me wanted to hang on to her until she reached legal school age and they pulled her away from me and forced her into a school. The other part of me (occasionally known as the sensible part) knew that by almost 3, she would need more interaction, learning skills and activities than I could probably give her. More so now that she has a little sister too.

The iron was out the night before school so her uniform was pressed and neat. A bit big, but beautiful nonetheless.

The morning of the first day, my tummy was in turmoil. You’d have thought it was me going to school not her ;-) The other reason for the turmoil was ‘what would I wear?’ I had a wardrobe crisis that took up most of the time I had given myself but I got there in the end (I even wore a pair of low heels – catch me huh?!). I could hardly eat any breakfast and just about managed a cup of tea. She, on the other hand, scoffed her breakfast and asked for more orange juice. I considered the latter may have been a bad idea as she’d not used school toilets before – eeekkk!

Off we went about 15 minutes too early so we stood around outside the school with other, seasoned, parents and a few more newbies. The bell went, the gate was opened and off we went. I headed in slightly the wrong direction and then turned around, at which point it seemed some other parents had spotted a ‘nursery girl’ and were following me! Oops. We had a laugh about it and I was pleased to say the other mummy also had a tummy knot of nerves so I didn’t feel so daft :)

In to the classroom we arrived, hats and coats on the peg, wellies and plimsoles in the appropriate slot underneath and names found. We settled her down at the plasticine and gave her a kiss goodbye. As we walked out and gazed into the classroom, she wasn’t looking for us at all but had rolled her plasticine and was engaged in a deep conversation with another little girl and playing with the plasticine cutters.

It was a long day as her first day was a full one. I stared at Facebook on and off and wandered around the house. Hubby did some writing and baby did...well, what she normally does but without her sister confiscating the occasional toy.

Picking up time came near and we headed off, early again. Well, we didn’t want to be late to collect her as the road could be blocked/shut/diverted/collapsed into an unknown mine shaft, etc. We sat in the car outside the school for 20 minutes letting baby have a sleep before we got out and went to the gate, 5 minutes before school ended, trying to look relaxed.

As we almost bounded up to the classroom, she was delighted to see us and I could hear her shout “my mummy and daddy”. She sat quietly at her desk waiting for her name to be called by the teacher, who told us what a good day she'd had and what she had done. She had painted us two lovely A3 pictures and was very proud of herself. Apparently she has a friend called Kimmy (no-one in the class by that name so I’m not sure if they are invisible or she got the name wrong) and dinosaurs roar she told me quite categorically.

She had lunch at school but didn’t eat the chicken because it was ‘chewy’ (this is the latest phrase for anything she doesn’t want and ‘chewy’ things range from toast through to orange juice). It was turkey by the way, but she did eat the pudding which was ginger cake. Suffice to say she was starving when we got in.

Day one over. She wants to go back again please. Yes!!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Tips for Photographing your Kids

P&O Ferries is running a competition to win a family break to Disneyland Paris. All you have to do is
upload a video or photo of your family having fun to their Facebook page and get your friends to vote for it!

To give you a head start, we asked award-winning travel photographer, Steve Davey to give us his top tips for shooting great photos of your kids.

Kids are a compelling subject for photographs, but too often the pictures are disappointing, conveying none of the emotion or fun of the moment when you took them. Follow these simple rules though and you can be rewarded with great shots that you will treasure for ever!

• Make it fun. Make sure that your taking pictures doesn't turn into a mission for you, and a long boring drudge for them. If it does then you will get disappointing pictures, and very petulant kids!

• Work in short bursts. Kids have a very short attention span. They can get bored with anything if it goes on too long. If you bore them senseless, they are less likely to cooperate with pictures in the future.

• Give your kids something interesting to do. If they are doing something, like colouring or painting, then they are not going to be leaping around quite so much and you should be able to take more, considered pictures.

• Try to use natural light for better pictures. Flash can freeze movement pretty well, but it gives very ugly, harsh light. Try to photograph in natural light for more atmospheric images. Outdoor light is perfect for photographing kids, but avoid direct sunlight in the middle of the day.

• Don't try to pose your children. The pictures will often end up looking false and staged. Allow them to do what they want and photograph the result. The pictures will show their characters better.

• Always keep a camera on you. Often things will happen when you aren't expecting them, and you want to be able to take pictures of them wherever you are!

• Get them used to being photographed. If you get into the habit of taking a lot of pictures then your children will become more comfortable with the camera, and will learn to ignore it, leading to more relaxed images.

• Don't monopolise the camera. Let your children take pictures too. It will make them more comfortable and happy with the presence of a camera!

Use a relatively fast shutter speed to avoid your kids’ movement showing as blur in the picture. Anything from 1/125 to 1/1000 second, depending on the speed of movement. You might need to increase the ISO sensitivity to make this possible in low light levels.

• Use a continuous auto focus mode. This will cause the camera to continuously refocus, meaning that no matter how much your kids are moving, the camera should manage to keep them in focus.

• Choose your aperture carefully. A wide aperture will give you a pleasingly blurred background, but if the aperture is too wide, then the depth of field might be too shallow to keep the whole of a moving face in focus. An aperture of f5.6 or f8 is a good balance.

• Shoot a lot of pictures. You will probably get a high failure rate, especially if your kids are jumping around all over the place. Sometimes they will have their eyes closed or the focus or composition might be wrong.

• Photograph sad moments as well as happy ones. Don't just be a 'fair-weather' photographer. Your children won't always be happy, and you should take pictures to show this. Pictures of a tantrum could give you all a good laugh in the future.

• Show them the pictures. Most kids love looking at pictures of themselves, so remember to show them what you have taken. Make them feel that they have an ownership of the pictures, and they are something that you are doing together.

• Remember to put the camera down and join in! Whatever they are doing will probably be more fun than taking pictures. Spending time with your kids is probably more important and rewarding than always being their personal archivist!

Now why not put what you’ve learned to good use!? Enter the P&O Ferries Facebook competition now!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Wooden toys that last

When I had my first baby (she is almost 13 - where did the time go?) we decided we wanted to get some toys that lasted and looked for wooden toys. There is something special about a lovely piece of wood made into a cute toy.

Our first toy was given to her when she was about a year old by my sister. She purchased a lovely trike in striking colours. It was identical to the one shown here from The Wooden Toy Shop. She loved it and I am delighted to say that, 12 years later, it is still going strong and still being sold in the same colours!

When she was around 5 years old, we decided to invest in a dolls house for her and again chose a wooden one.

It was quite expensive to buy with the original base unit costing around £50 as I recall and we added to it over a few years with Christmas and birthdays. I would estimate that it has cost us well in excess of £250 all told but what a great investment!

She still has it in her room and occasionally (when she thinks we aren't looking) plays with it :)

We originally purchased it from the Early Learning Centre and I believe the make is Pintoy. I see that they still have them on the Wooden Toy Shop site but now the pieces are coloured whereas hers are purely a light wood. She has just about every accessory including multiple families, pets, garden shed, balcony, garden furniture, childrens rooms, duck pond, etc. It is now being used by her younger sister who is just coming up 3 and is well loved. Here's a picture of it on the left. I can see it being handed down to her siblings if she doesn't decide to keep it herself.

We have wooden blocks, hammer sets, push along cats and rolling balls with pop out faces. Yes we love wooden toys :)

The latest addition to our wooden collection was bought by my sister from the Wooden Toy Shop for our baby. We have just put it together and you will see it's a gorgeous, brightly coloured rocking horse.

It is ideal for her as she can just about sit in it now (8 months old) and when she is a bit bigger, the support rail comes off and she can get on and off when she likes. Of course, the toddler has also managed to get into it and rock around the room!

If you are looking to buy toys that are colourful and built to last, I would highly recommend you invest in some wooden toys. They will be played with for years to come (as the dolls house proves), are sturdy and well worth the extra cash.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Wobbling on furniture

That's not me. I've not been at the cooking sherry again, honest.

Baby has discovered her feet. Well, to be more precise, her legs. This means that a whole new world has opened up to her. Clearly, this also means I now have to check everything that is in arms' reach. Now even putting a glass onto the table is going to be a calculated event whereby I have to place said glass as follows:

arms reach +1 inch = glass safe
glass safe = arms reach -1 inch on opposite site
up +24 inches = glass safe

This morning I had to put a gate on the stairs as she’d decided this was an excellent place to practice standing up. All well and good whilst I was with her but I was sure that by this afternoon she would be attempting her very own Everest. I could see it in her eyes.

We have already had to tuck the tablecloth up pretty much into a pile on the table as she could reach it when crawling. It looked more like that mound that Richard Dreyfuss built in Close Encounters than anything you could eat off.

Oh heck, I’ve just realised I didn’t take the mobile bit off her mobile (did that make sense?). I’d better go and do that now as I can imagine her hanging off monkey’s tail swinging around with it like a wrestler on WWF smackdown! I bet she’s even got a tiny chair in the cot in case she gets monkey into the ring with her ;-)

Now, where is my screwdriver....

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Fit Fruit & Vegetable Wash Review

I was recently sent a 350ml bottle of Fit to review.

Fit is an antibacterial fruit and vegetable wash made of all natural ingredients.

The concept behind Fit is to clean away all pesticides and bacteria. Articles in the news recently such as the E.coli outbreak in France have made many people think harder about where their fruit and veg has come from and who has been handling it. We have all seen the TV programmes where experts demonstrate how many nasties are living on our foods haven't we!

Fit is used by spraying directly onto the produce which "removes 98% more chemicals and wax than water alone", wipe and then rinse under water.

As a person who always washes fruit and vegetables anyway, I wondered how Fit could benefit me.

Before receiving the product, I considered that it might be useful to families such as ours that go out and about a lot and sometimes stop to buy fruit for the children to eat. Unfortunately, the need to still wash under water even when using Fit negates that idea, which I think is a shame.

Having used it on a variety of vegetables and fruit, my initial thought was that it was an extra step that I did not really need to do. My apples seemed to have far less shine (a sign that Fit has removed the wax no doubt) and I did have trouble cleaning it off strawberries and raspberries enough that the bitter taste completely disappeared. Even rinsing under the tap for a good 10-15 seconds didn't quite do the trick. My expert taster (2 year old toddler) complained that her breakfast "tastes funny mummy" and wouldn't eat it. I had to agree with her that there was a bitterness to the strawberries. I rinsed them again, giving them as good a rub as you can with a soft fruit, and after another 10 seconds or so, they tasted fine but she would not eat them.

It should also be noted that Fit removes preservatives that are sprayed on fruit and vegetables so you should only use it just before eating. Do not spray on everything you buy and expect it to last as long. In effect, Fit reduces the item back to it's natural state in this respect.

Looking at the website, a spray bottle of Fit retails for £4.99 for 350ml. I would consider that quite a luxury in today's economy when you can simply give all your produce a jolly good scrub under the tap.

I cannot see this product being for me but I could see it being of benefit to those who have a sensitive digestive system.

As I said earlier, if there was a version of Fit that didn't need to be rinsed off, I could see it being of far more benefit and use.

Thanks to Healthy PR for contacting me and sending the product. This review is, as you would expect, entirely my own opinion.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Kiddiproofing the house....or not really

As most 'new' parents do, we began to think about child-proofing our house once our, now toddler, began to move around. I had purchased one of those 'safety kits' where you have socket covers, cupboard stoppers, etc. In fact, it seemed to have more stuff than the average Swiss Army knife! According to this kit, nothing in my home was safe. I was unsure how my toilet could be such a problem but the kit implied it was.

I decided to crawl around at baby height seeing what the problems could be. It was a horror story! Plug sockets, stairs, kitchen cupboards, CD cases....the dangers were everywhere. What could we do other than cover everything in cotton wool and then cover that in plastic to stop her eating the cotton wool? Of course then we'd have to make holes in the plastic to stop her suffocating if she got to close. Arrggghhhh.....

I then reflected back on the time when tween was a baby and what we did to babyproof the house. Pretty much nothing. Well, that made life easy then.

Sensible heads on, what did we *really* need to do. Easy!
  • Stairgate at kitchen door. Easy access for us. No annoying cupboard locks. No access for baby/toddler. It's one of those tough gates that keeps toddlers and elderly family members out ;-)
  • Stairgate at...well...stairs.
  • A few socket covers just in case but none of my girls have ever shown any interest in poking things into those. They have far too many toys!
  • Attaching all shelves/CD cases, etc to the wall. Whilst they are heavy and pretty much unmoveable, no chances being taken. All of them had wall attachments as part of their design so it was easy just to drill a few holes.
That's it then! :)

The girls are allowed to move around the house. We don't have door slam prevention - toddler knows how to close a door carefully and has always been told to keep her fingers out of them. She is also very aware of her little sister crawling around and will call me if she's too close to the door for her to shut it.

We have never left medicines out of the bathroom cabinets so no need to panic about those.

Hot drinks are put up high out of the reach of small hands and away from edges. This does mean the coffee table is for everything *but* coffee now though (or tea if you're me).

Part of the reason for not going overboard with table corners, oven covers, etc is that I take my children to see other people in their homes too would you believe!? So, unless I can have a portable version of every cover/clip/gate with me, they will have to learn won't they and I think that is a far better way :)