Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Make learning fun with educational games.

I've long been an advocate for learning through play. I believe kids naturally stay focused for longer, and subsequently learn more, when they're having fun... and what's more fun than playing?

I've fostered my kids passion for play and learning in many different ways over the years and their stand out favourites have always been sensory play and small world play. However, since my big girl started school she's been exposed to more structured ways of learning and she's getting more capable of doing structured play activities like board games. Board games provide an easy, structured, yet fun and engaging way for kids to play... with a lot of incidental learning thrown in. They're a gentle way to introduce them to playing with instructions in order to reach a desired outcome, however they also have an element of chance, so each time they're played the game will be slightly different.

I have fond memories of sitting around the dining room table playing games of rummy and scrabble with my family on school holidays and I'd love to create similar memories for my girls as they get older. I've started investing in board games and we have regular games afternoons to wind down after school. Obviously at 5yrs old we're not up to any complex games yet, so I've been researching and collecting some simple, educational board games for preschoolers {we'll move onto scrabble in a few years}.

Learning made fun with Orchard Toys

When I think of iconic educational games I automatically think of Orchard Toys. I first discovered the brand a few years ago, thanks to some teacher friends, and I've literally been counting down waiting for my 5yr old to be old enough to play some of the games. We would have a huge collection of Orchard Toys games already if it wasn't for her dad constantly reminding me she won't be old enough to play that for years, you don't need it yet. Well finally, after years of waiting, she's old enough for most of the games... and so our collection begins!

For those not familiar with the brand, Orchard Toys are a UK manufacturer of educational games and puzzles. Based in Norfolk, they've been around for 40 years, and now ship to over 50 different countries. They're recognised worldwide thanks to distinctive, colourful cartoon illustrations and known for high quality educational products.

Learning made fun is Orchard Toys motto and at the heart of product development. The company work in conjunction with teachers, educational professionals and children to ensure their games and jigsaws provide the perfect balance between educational benefits and play value {aka fun!}. Their product range covers a diverse number of interests including animals, fairies, pirates, dinosaurs and vehicles {amongst others} and various scenarios such as shopping, cooking, travelling, parties and solving mysteries. Each game or puzzle focuses on a certain developmental skill such as language, literacy, numbers, colours, shapes, cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, fine motor skills and imaginary play; with many products covering multiple skills. Below are a few of our favourite Orchard Toys games, how to play them and how they help build different skills through play.

Shopping List Game + Shopping List Extras

The Shopping List game is probably the most well known and popular Orchard Toys game available and has been on our wish list for some time now.  Shopping List is a fun, engaging and age appropriate memory game where children have to find {and remember} where the groceries from their shopping list are in order to fill their shopping trolley or basket. The game comes with 4 different shopping lists, 2 shopping trolleys, 2 shopping baskets and 32 super cute individual grocery tiles. It's recommended for 3-7 year old children {and adults who are big kids at heart} and can be played by 2-4 players at a time.

How to Play:

Each player chooses a shopping list and either a shopping trolley or basket to collect their items into. The grocery tiles are placed upside down and each player takes turns turning over a tile until they've collected all items on their list. If a player picks an item that isn't on their list they turn it back over and play moves onto the next player. The first player to collect all items on their list is the winner.

How to extend play:

Games sometimes seem a little one dimensional as they have a particular way of playing and a specific outcome, however Shopping List can still be tweaked in a number of ways to change it up. If playing with less than 4 players, the game can be made easier by only using the tiles from the lists being used; or harder by using all tiles {making the game last longer}. Other ways to change the Shopping list game include:

> Adding the clothing extras pack or fruit and veg extras pack to allow up to 8 players by adding different lists and groceries to the game.
> Categorising food in different ways - e.g. by types {dairy, fruit, veg, packaged} or by colour.
> Matching the tiles with play food/empty packaging at home.
> Taking one of the shopping lists grocery shopping and getting the kids to find the items while in the store.

Learning Opportunities:

- Cognitive skills {memory & matching}
- Strategic thinking & problem solving
- Improves concentration & observational skills
- Hypothesising {where will the correct card be}
- Categorising groceries
- Pincer grip practice {picking up the tiles}
- Language development
- Reading comprehension
- Interpersonal skills {turn taking}
- Counting

What we think

The quality of the Shopping List game and extras packs are really good, all of the play pieces are on thick cardboard making them quite durable {even when rough little toddler hands get to them}. The cartoon style images are really cute and I love how the shopping lists are depicted on different pieces of paper, and even a smartphone version, making them familiar and realistic for kids. 

As Orchard Toys are UK based, some of the names of the items are different to what we use here in Australia, e.g. aubergines for eggplants, which has been a great way to expand on my 5yr old's language base and has opened up discussions about how foods and items can have different names in different parts of the world. I've noticed her concentration levels have increased as she tries hard to remember where her items are after I've flipped them over and put them back down. She loves playing the shopping list game and so do I, her favourite part is the little grocery tiles and how you get to collect all different items {the monster toy is the best apparently}.

Pop to the shops {International Edition}

Pop to the shops is a traditional board game where children get to travel to different shops to purchase different items. The game includes a jigsaw game base with 4 different shops, 4 characters, 48 different grocery items and play money. Throughout the game children get to take on the roles of both customer and shopkeeper both buying and selling items. There's also a designated banker in charge of the remaining coins. Pop to the shops is a great way to introduce children to money value {using 10c, 20c and 50c piece coins} and simple calculations as they work out how many coins are needed to purchase an item and how much change must be given to each customer.

How to Play:

Each player picks a character which determines their shop colour. Grocery tiles are placed upside down and each player chooses a tile, then rolls the dice to travel to the correct shop and purchase that item, ensuring they have enough money to do so. Once they've purchased an item they pick another grocery tile as their next item. The player that fills their shopping bag first is the winner.

Learning opportunities:

- Counting
- Money values
- Addition & Subtraction
- Language development
- Interpersonal skills {turn taking}
- Pincer grip practice {picking up the tiles}
- Imaginary play

What we think

Pop to the shops reminds me of a really simplified kids version of Monopoly. While playing the game you travel around the board {albeit in different directions, not clockwise} and collect money for passing a certain point from the bank. Instead of buying and selling property you buy items from different shops.

My favourite element of the game is the play money as it's been a great way to introduce my 5yr old to simple monetary value, without overwhelming her. The game only uses 10c, 20c and 50c cardboard coins and each items purchase value can be made with different derivatives of those coins, making the money calculations quite simple. My daughter is almost 6 and can count to 100, however she's not sure how to count in units of 10 or 20, so it's been a bit challenging for her and she's needed help to work out how many coins to use. I fully anticipated this though as while she knows what money is, until now she's had no understanding of it's monetary value. Despite needing help with the coins, she still really enjoys the game and asks to play it often.

We got our Orchard Toys games from Toy Universe an online only Australian kids toy store. Founded in 2011, Toy Universe was born out of a passion to provide high play value toys for newborns through to teenagers, at super affordable prices. Toy Universe is 100% Australian owned and source worldwide toys for Australian and New Zealand children from their regional warehouse in Sydney. They stock a wide variety of toys including games and jigsaws, dress ups, electronic games, action figures, animal figurines, outdoor toys and many other educational toys.

Toni x

Disclosure - We were kindly gifted the Orchard Toys games shown in this post from Toy Universe for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are based on our experience playing the games. I did not receive monetary compensation for this post.

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Friday, May 24, 2019

Mum For Sale by Zanni Louise & Philip Bunting

*This post contains affiliate links.

My involvement in the Australian parenting blogging community for the last seven years has lead to some wonderful connections with so many creative women, many who I now call friends. Some of them have gone on to do great things, like become best selling children's authors. One of these women is Zanni Louise who I first met online a few years ago reading her My Little Sunshine House blog. Even though we still haven't met in person, I'm fortunate to have Zanni as one of my friends and I've seen her writing career evolve from her very first published book to where she is today. I still have a little fan girl moment every time I see one of her picture books on the shelves in stores or in online book catalogues. One of the perks of knowing an author is I've also been able to review a few of her amazing books when they've been released and this month we received a copy of Mum for Sale, her new picture book.

In Mum for sale familiar characters Errol, a cheeky penguin, and his mum {from Zanni's popular children's book Errol!} return for a new picture book adventure. Errol is desperately trying to get his mum's attention, but like a lot of us at times, she's fully engrossed in a phone conversation and doesn't respond to him. Errol tries numerous times to grab, even demand, her attention but it all falls on deaf ears... so he decides to take things into his own hands.

Author Zanni Louise holding a copy of her new childrens book Mum for Sale featuring popular character Errol
Children's book author Zanni Louise with her new book Mum for Sale

Mum for Sale is a story we as parents can all relate to. I know for sure there's been times where I've unintentionally {and sometimes intentionally} ignored my own children whilst on the phone. Sometimes it's necessary, like when I was trying to sort out child assistance on the phone to Centrelink and needed to pay attention to what was being said. Other times I'm simply oblivious to the fact I'm doing it.

It's so easy to accidentally do, especially with modern day technology where our phones aren't simply for talking anymore. Now they're our diaries, camera, inbox, pretty much our whole computer and occasionally I even use it to call people {just kidding, I usually only text}. Ever been watching a YouTube video on your phone and not heard your child calling out? I'm guilty. Sometimes I just get so sucked into what's going on on my phone screen, I forget the world around me.

Mum For Sale highlights an important everyday issue facing parents, in a subtle and humorous way, and gives us a gentle reminder to be more aware of our children and their needs. Zanni has achieved this in a much more interactive way than a lot of ads and videos I've seen targeting the same topic. The book provides an opportunity to start a conversation with your child about being noticed, being heard, how much time is spent on technology etc. It gives them the opportunity to open up a dialogue about their needs in a non confrontational setting.

Minimal words make it easy for young readers to digest and Philip Bunting's simple illustrations allow those who aren't yet reading to follow along with the story. Of course the best way to enjoy Mum for Sale is to read together. We like to read it during quiet time in the afternoons after school, or to help calm down before bed time. The first time we read it I asked questions to expand on the story with my 5yr old.

"How do you think Errol was feeling?" 
"Do you sometimes feel like Errol did?" 
"Is there a way mummy {or daddy} can make sure you don't feel that way?" 

Asking these type of questions after reading the book gives a great insight into your child's own perspective and can lead to some interesting conversations.

I know you're all wanting to know if Errol actually sells his mum... To find out you'll have to read Mum for Sale for yourself {sorry, no spoilers here}. Good news though, Zanni has kindly given me a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader, so you can find out exactly what happens.

Book review and giveaway of Mum for Sale the new childrens picture book from author Zanni Louise featuring popular character Errol.


For a chance to win a copy of Mum for Sale follow the prompts in the rafflecopter widget below and answer this question in the comments: What item do you think your child would sell you for? 

For an extra chance to win you can also enter on this post on Instagram. Get creative and think like a toddler... the most creative answer {as judged by my panel of experts, aka kids} will be the winner.

Toni x

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions: Giveaway commences upon publication and closes at 10pm {AEST} 31st May 2019. One winner will receive a hardcover copy of Mum for Sale {RRP $17.99}. Finding Myself Young will not be held liable should the prize be lost in transit. Competition is open to Australian residents only, excluding ACT. This competition is a game of skill and will be judged as such. All mandatory entry steps must be completed to constitute a valid entry. Incomplete entries will be deemed invalid and excluded from judging. Entries can be made via and Instagram and one winner will be selected from the total entry pool. Winner will have 48hrs to respond or prize will be redrawn. This competition is in no way endorsed, promoted or administered by Instagram.

Disclosure - I was gifted a copy of Mum For Sale in exchange for this review and giveaway. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions expressed are my own. 

*This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.
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Saturday, April 13, 2019

How I protected my baby before she was even born

This post is in collaboration with Brand Meets Blog

April is a pretty big deal these days in our house. Not only is there all the excitement of the Easter bunny coming to visit, it's also birthday month for baby girl. With all the Facebook memory photos popping up on my phone each day, I can't help but reminisce about my pregnancy and all the emotions I felt awaiting her arrival. I remember those last few weeks so vividly as I was so close to finally having our very longed for second baby in our arms. The sheer happiness and excitement that we were going to meet her was also mixed with fear and trepidation as the weeks kept ticking by. The photo below was taken at exactly 40 weeks, I thought for sure she was close, but I still had 5 more loooong days to wait.

I think it's a natural instinct for all mothers to want to protect their baby. For me that instinct kicked in very early, long before she was actually born, in fact it was from the very moment I found out we'd finally conceived {which was at just 3 weeks pregnant}. We'd spent so many agonising months trying to fall pregnant so I was determined to do everything I could to foster a healthy pregnancy hoping to have a healthy baby in my arms 9 months later.

I ate all the right foods. Ok, a better way to phrase that would be I avoided all the bad pregnancy foods. As hard as it was, I avoided soft serve ice-cream, seafood, sushi, soft cheese and pretty much anything that could even remotely give me food poisoning. I did succumb to cheeseburgers and chocolate quite often though.

I consciously avoided sick people {as much as possible}. I was a stay at home mum during my second pregnancy so it was a lot easier than when I was working. I cancelled play dates when necessary and even stopped doing the grocery shopping during the later months of my pregnancy so I wouldn't pick up germs from trolleys at the shops.

In addition to avoiding germs, I also got the pertussis {dTpa} vaccine again while pregnant {after 28 weeks} so baby girl would have protection against whooping cough. New babies can't be vaccinated against whooping cough until 6 weeks so having the vaccination myself while pregnant gave me some relief knowing she'd have some protection should she be exposed to it before she could get immunised. I'm petrified of needles myself, but the thought of her getting sick terrified me more, and to be honest after the constant barrage of weekly blood tests and daily hormone injections while trying to conceive, a once off vaccination needle didn't seem that bad. 

We also made sure all other family members were up to date with their boosters to limit the chance of her being exposed, even to carriers of the disease. Any chance she might contract it was too high a risk. The thought of spending years trying to get pregnant, then 9 months growing her inside me, to possibly lose her to a potentially fatal disease scared the hell out of me. My grandmother has had whooping cough and I've seen videos of infected babies battling to breathe in hospital and it's beyond heartbreaking. I've had severe asthma all my life so I know what it feels like gasping for air and I wouldn't wish that on anyone, especially a tiny baby.

I would have got vaccinated for influenza while pregnant as well {both vaccinations are free for pregnant mothers under the National Immunisation Program} but there was a shortage of the flu vaccine when my GP recommended getting it and it didn't become available again before I gave birth. Influenza can affect mothers quite severely in the second and third trimesters and it can affect the baby in the first few months after birth, even causing death, so it's worth discussing the vaccination with your GP, midwife or obstetrician once you fall pregnant. I'm so grateful that I live in a day and age where we have the medicine available to help protect not only ourselves but also our vulnerable newborn babies from diseases which could have devastating consequences. 

Thankfully our gorgeous girl arrived safe and well in April 2017 and while we've had our share of hardships with allergies, tongue tie and sleep issues, we haven't had to deal with any major life threatening health concerns. It's hard to believe my tiny little baby has been with us for two years already and is now a rambunctious toddler causing havoc and plenty of laughs everywhere she goes. 

Unfortunately the need to protect her and constant worrying didn't stop once she was born, so I just have oh the rest of her life to continue worrying! This parenting gig sure is a tough one.

Toni x

Disclosure - This is a sponsored post as per my disclosure policy. For more information regarding free vaccinations during pregnancy please visit The Immunisation Coalition is a not for profit organisation, and is the leading voice in whole-of-life immunisation in Australia, protecting all Australians against communicable diseases.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Dig, dump, roll sensory bookish play for preschoolers

*This post contains affiliate links

Ever since I was really little I've always had an innate love of books and reading, so it's no surprise that my children have developed their own love of reading at a young age too. It's probably directly related to the number of children's books we have all over the house. You can never have too many right? Unless you ask their dad, he definitely thinks we have too many... and yet I keep finding even more to add to our collection {sorry, not sorry}. Our latest addition is Dig, Dump, Roll by Sally Sutton.

Dig, Dump, Roll is the follow-up to the wildly popular picture book Roadworks. In this book Sally Sutton uses interactive, rhyming text to entice children to guess what kind of vehicle is at work on each page. Bright cropped illustrations work alongside the descriptive text to give further clues before all is revealed over the page.

Crash-a-rumble Smash-a-grumble 
What’s at work? 
Here’s a clue: It will clear the ground for you. 

 Bulldozer! Coming through! 

My 5yr old can't read herself yet, but she very much enjoyed the descriptive text {it's entirely possible I'm a little too enthusiastic when reading aloud} and guessing what would come next. To my surprise she was very quick to guess the final surprise, but then she admitted to me they'd read this book before at kindy {cheater!}. Clearly that proves that it's a book kids love to read over and over, even when they somewhat remember what comes next. 

Dig, Dump, Roll has been selected for the prestigious 2019 Storylines Notable Book List. Since 1999 Storylines has produced an annual list of outstanding books for children and young people published in New Zealand by New Zealand authors and illustrators during the previous calendar year. The annual list of Notable Books ensures that children, parents/grandparents, teachers, librarians and the public are all made aware of the large range of high quality New Zealand books being published.

Dig, Dump, Roll -  Sensory Bookish Play

After we finished reading the book together I brought out a little small world bookish play activity I'd prepared while she was at school. Bookish play is a general term for any play based activity that is centered around a particular book. Its a great way to extend the story or main theme of a book beyond the pages and onto the craft table or into the playroom. With its descriptive, interactive text, Dig, Dump, Roll is the perfect starting point for some messy, fun, construction themed sensory bookish play. Of course I went with a cutlery tray construction small world because the girls love sensory play and small worlds, so it was a no brainer. 

<<< Please note this activity poses a choking risk to children under 3yrs of age due to small parts. This activity is intended for children aged 3+ and to be done under strict adult supervision >>>

What you will need:

~ A cutlery tray {we use this Ikea one}
~ Construction vehicles {ours are from Kmart}
~ Construction loose parts {rocks, sticks}
~ Sensory construction bases {chickpeas, blackbeans}
~ Chocolate playdough {ours is from Wild Dough Co}
~ Chocolate dirt {recipe further below}
~ Wooden letters

If you've been following me on Instagram for a while, you'll know I love using cutlery trays as a base for small world play {search #cutlerytrayplay for some of my other play ideas}. They're particularly perfect for scenes that use many different sensory bases as each compartment contains the individual bases so they don't mix together {until the kids get to it anyway}. The tray slots are also great for defining separate play spaces like animal enclosures for a zoo, or in this case different construction zones. 

I deliberately chose sensory bases that would all be taste safe, just in case my 1yr old was awake when we did this activity and she wanted to explore it as well. While I never encourage the girls to eat any of the sensory materials I put out for play, I know with a mouthing toddler it's inevitable that it could happen, so I'd rather use items that won't cause harm if accidentally ingested. I chose beans, chickpeas, edible dirt and playdough specifically because they all work in well size and texture wise with the construction vehicles I paired them with. I included the rocks and sticks because this set up was for my 5yr old, however if I intended to do it with both girls I would remove the rocks and sticks to be safe.

We've lived with fake grass for years now so my kids have never really had the chance to play with real dirt or mud. I substitute mud by making oobleck, but until now I've never had a substitute for dirt. This week I watched Lycie's video about how to make cloud dough on Instagram and decided to try and make a chocolate edible dirt version. Full disclosure, I only watched Lycie's instructions up until finding the ratio of flour to oil needed, then made up my recipe amounts based on what I had in the cupboard.

Edible dirt recipe

1 cup flour
1/3 cup chocolate powder
1/8 cup canola oil

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl with a spoon and add oil slowly until it resembles a crumbly dirt consistency. Squeeze mixture with hands, it should hold its shape under pressure, similar to kinetic sand. Add more oil sparingly if required.

For our chocolate flavouring and dirt colour I simply used chocolate powder sachets that I've been keeping for sensory play. You could also use cocoa powder, drinking chocolate or Milo. Just insure your chocolate element is powder based so the cloud dough mixes properly.

I added in our small wooden letters to spell out the title of the book, with hints from the vehicles, for some bonus word recognition for my daughter. After we read the book together I brought out the tray and at first she sounded out the words trying to figure out what they were. She got dig and dump relatively easy and needed a little bit of help with roll. I think she did pretty well considering they haven't started on sight words yet at school and they haven't finished learning all the letter sounds. She then drove all the letters around in the different vehicles which was great incidental letter recognition. Eventually her play moved on from reenacting the story to planting the chickpeas into the dirt and using the sticks as plants that sprouted from the seeds. I love how bookish play uses a story as a springboard that leads to all sorts of other imaginary play. An added bonus of this particular activity is that the aroma of chocolate was ah-mazing.

 Learning Opportunities

- Hypothesising {how do the machines work, how can we build with each material}
- Categorising types of construction materials
- Sensory input {touch, smell and taste}
- Hand strengthening {squishing the sensory materials}
- Pincer grip practice {picking up the beans and chickpeas}
- Hand/eye co-ordination

- Language development
- Sight word practice
- Letter recognition
- Imaginary play

Toni x

Disclosure - We were kindly gifted a copy of Dig, Dump, Roll by Walker Books for the purpose of review. All other products featured within this post are part of our personal sensory play resources and were previously purchased by myself. Puggle and Kit {who we got our wooden letters from} have kindly offered Finding Myself Young readers 10% off all purchases, simply use the code YOUNG10.

*This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Small changes at home can have a big impact on the environment

This post is in conjunction with Brand Meets Blog

Since having children, I've become increasingly aware of my environmental impact. It was always instilled in me from a young age to reduce, reuse and recycle. Long before water tanks were mandatory, my mum had us saving our shower water in buckets to reuse on the garden. She'd make us use every last piece of anything and everything so we weren't inadvertently throwing out things that were still useful. Consequently, I've always been quite environmentally conscious when it comes to my life choices, but having little people and thinking about their future really brings home just how important it is. We're all responsible for taking care of the environment and leaving behind the best possible planet we can for our children, and I want to play a positive part in that.

We don't have the cash flow to make big changes like installing solar panels on our roof, or the backyard to cultivate a big veggie patch and compost {I really wish we did}, but our lack of space and funds hasn't stopped us from making other smaller eco friendly changes in our household. Not all environmental changes have to be grandiose and expensive, but they can still have a significant impact on the environment over time. I'm hopeful that making these changes as a family will give our girls the same eco friendly mentality that was instilled in me as a child.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

One of the simplest ways we help is by recycling almost everything that we can. I say almost everything because some of our old packaging like cardboard, tissue paper, bubble wrap and egg cartons are squirreled away to be transformed into weird and wonderful crafty masterpieces. One man's trash is quite often two little girls treasure.

Speaking of treasure, I'm also an avid op shopper and love breathing new life into other people's discarded objects. You could go as far as saying it's a bit of an addiction. I've never met a monkey pod tray or basket I didn't like, and I can find a million uses for them. We also regularly donate our unused items to charity so that someone else can get some benefit from them, instead of creating waste. I really love that the girls are developing a genuine desire to help others {and an appreciation for their own circumstances and belongings} each time they choose to donate some of their old things.

Minimising the plastic in our household

For years now I've been very passionate about choosing sustainable open ended wooden toys for the girls as opposed to single use plastic toys that chew through batteries. Most of the toys we own now are extremely versatile, and will likely be passed onto my grandkids at some stage. Instead of adding to landfill with discarded toys the girls have gotten bored of quickly, we invest in quality toys made from sustainable wood that will be used for years {and eventually breakdown much quicker than plastic alternatives}. An added bonus is they also don't randomly start flashing and singing in the middle of the night {thankgod}.

One of the more recent changes we've made to reduce the plastic in our home, is switching to environmentally friendly Boo Boo bamboo toothbrushes, instead of using plastic supermarket ones. Boo Boo toothbrushes are made from organically grown Moso bamboo which is naturally antimicrobial and biodegradable, so it's great for both our teeth and the environment. I'd never really considered toothbrushes to be an environmental issue before, but then I found out approximately 350 tonnes of plastic toothbrushes are thrown into landfill, in Australia alone, each year. It certainly puts into perspective how something seemingly insignificant to one family can have an immense detrimental impact overall.

Thankfully we're no longer adding to this waste as we've all got our own bamboo brush, including the girls. Seriously, how cute are these toothbrushes?! I love the minimalist black and white design and they even have cute sayings on the back that you can read while brushing {and anything that helps motivate the kids to brush their teeth is a winner}. They also get delivered straight to our door with free shipping. Yep free shipping. I love it when being eco friendly is convenient and doesn't cost the earth {see what I did there}.

I'm by no means a greenie, or an environmentalist, but I'm hoping that these small changes we're making as a family, will have a positive impact on the world around us. Imagine the cumulative effect if each one of us took small steps in our respective homes. It would undoubtedly result in a better planet for our children to grow up in and that's one of the best legacies we can leave behind.

Have you made any changes at home to help the environment?

Toni x

This is a sponsored post as per my disclosure policy.
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Monday, January 14, 2019

Back to School with Smiggle

In just over 2 weeks my biggest baby is starting school.

* Insert all the "I don't know how this happened, she was just a baby" clich├ęs here *

Truth is both her and I are more than ready. She had to wait an extra year as she missed the age cut off here in QLD and I think that extra year has well and truly helped us both prepare for the separation anxiety that's to come. In fact I think we're more emotionally prepared than practically prepared. It's been the monumental list of things I've needed to buy/get ready that's been stressing me out the most, not the fact that I'll miss her everyday {although I will miss her of course}.

We're lucky because our school seems pretty laid back when it comes to all the "things" they need. They can have whatever backpack, drink bottle, lunchbox etc that we as parents see fit to get them. Which for the most part is amazing, because nobody wants to be dictated to, but it also meant as a first time school mum to be {that's totally a term} I really had no idea where to look for school stuff. There's been a lot of frantic Facebook statuses asking for advice and trips to the shops where I get so overwhelmed I just panic and walk out. So, when I got an email in my inbox telling me about the Smiggle back to school range of products and asking if I wanted some samples I couldn't say yes please quick enough!


When I think of Smiggle I automatically think of cool stationary and accessories, but to be honest they weren't even on my radar for other school supplies. I didn't even realise they stocked things like drink bottles, lunchboxes or backpacks. I'm sure there's other time poor mums out there like me that didn't know this either so I thought I'd share some of the range here. Please note the images I've used are totally bias because I have a girl, but rest assured they do have plenty of options for boys too.


Smiggle has a comprehensive range of lunchboxes available including snack jars, square lunchboxes, super popular bento styles and double decker ones. The double decker ones {far left in the image below} have plenty of room for a traditional lunchbox in the bottom and an ice brick or fruit/snacks in the top. The cool thing about the Smiggle lunchboxes is most of them can be coordinated with matching drink bottles, backpacks and in some cases stationary too. Lunch containers range from $9.95 to $39.95.


Smiggle have drink bottles for junior preppies right through to the mega thirst option for big {water} drinkers. They all contain straws which can be removed if your child prefers to drink without one. Drink bottles range from $12.95 to $26.95.


Smiggle has a big range of school bags including drawstring bags {great for library bags or to store swimming gear/spare clothes}, book bags, character backpacks and traditional backpacks in numerous designs. We already had a backpack organised, but if we were getting one from Smiggle bub would pick the faves backpack in pink {below} as it matches her lunchbox and drink bottle. School bags range from $17.95 through to $64.95.


The one part of school supply shopping that I've been looking forward to for years is the stationary. Pretty pens, highlighters, notebooks, accessories, tapes, erasers etc get me way more excited than they should, and as far as I'm concerned you can never have too many. However, all my hopes and dreams of going overboard shopping for stationary were dashed when our school announced they have a system where we all pay a set fee and the school buys all the stationary supplies needed in bulk. I mean it's saved me lots of time and probably money, but part of me is mourning all the trips I could of made and all the cute stationary we could have bought. Alas it wasn't meant to be, but we can have super cute stuff for home. She has to do her homework with something...

Smiggle have you covered with basic stationary supplies with notebooks, pens, pencils, staplers, pencil cases, scissors and rulers available in different colours and designs. There's also novelty erasers, sharpeners, pens and pencil toppers. In addition to the basics, they also have cool accessories like keyrings, watches, alarm clocks and lights. See the full range of Smiggle back to school stationary here.

Do you have everything ready for back to school yet?

Toni x

Disclosure - I was sent a Smiggle lunchbox, drink bottle and pen sets for the purpose of  review. I did not receive payment for this post. All stock photos have been used with permission. 
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Thursday, December 6, 2018

PJ Masks gear kids want and need this Christmas

Who are the PJ Masks?

If you're one of those parents trying to decipher what your kid's talking about when they mention the pyjama superheroes or the green gecko, let me give you the run down on who the PJ Masks are. By day, six-year olds Connor, Amaya and Greg go to school like everyone else. As night falls, they put on their pyjamas, activate their amulets and magically transform into heroes; Catboy, Owlette and Gekko - the PJ Masks! 

Bub's loved them for over 2 years now. She first discovered them on YouTube before they were on ABCKids. Back then I was hoping I could find some PJ Masks merchandise somewhere, but given they were only on Nickelodeon it was pretty much impossible. Fast forward a few years and now every kid in Australia knows who they are and the merchandise is available everywhere, which thankfully makes it super easy to shop for Christmas.

I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of licensed products, I much prefer open ended wooden toys, however there comes a time in a child's life when they start wanting everything they own to be covered in their favourite characters. I'm pretty sure it's inevitable. I don't want to be a mean mum and say no to everything, but I also don't want my house overrun with licensed everything, so I've created a rule when it comes to licensed products entering our house. My rule is basically anything licensed has to be something useful that's replacing a product I'd already buy, so think things like cutlery, drink bottles, lunch boxes, backpacks, books. Incidentally they're also things that can be packed away easily so it doesn't look like Nickelodeon has been plastered all over my house {winning}. If you follow the something they want, need, wear and read method for Christmas the following items can cover both want and need for most PJ Masks loving kids.

1. PJ Masks Feeding & Snack range

I absolutely love licensed dinnerware because kids always need bowls, plates and cutlery and anything that makes them more excited to eat food is a winner. Drink bottles are also really handy if you have a child in kindy or school because they're always going missing and need to be replaced. Dinner time will go at super-cat-speed with the PJ Masks mealtime and snack range including: 

  • PJ Masks Melamine Plate - 100% melamine plate for $5.00
  • PJ Masks Melamine Bowl - 100% melamine bowl for $5.00
  • PJ Masks SS Cutlery - 2-piece stainless steel cutlery set with spoon and fork for $6.00
  • PJ Masks 473mL SS Bottle - 473mL stainless steel bottle with pull out spout for $11.00 

Available now from Woolworths.

2. PJ Masks Hooray for Christmas 

The PJ masks new Christmas-themed colouring and activity book lets kids decorate Headquarters to look like a Christmas tree, match each villain to their Christmas stocking, plus lots more festive fun. The 48-page colouring and activity book starring the PJ Masks also has over 30 holiday and hero stickers! Hooray for Christmas is available now from Big W, Kmart, Target and all good newsagencies and bookstores for $7.99

3. PJ Masks Ooshies

Ooshies are another craze I've successfully avoided for a while now because to be honest I thought they were just little plastic character toys, but now I know they fit on pencils or crayons I'm happy to allow a few into my house. Bub's going to school next year so they're kind of useful haha. Ooshies are available from Kmart, Big W or Toymate for $3.99

These goodies will be making their way to our place for Christmas thanks to Santa.

Do you have a child who loves PJ Masks? 

Toni x

Disclosure - I was kindly gifted the above mentioned products in exchange for this post. Santa will be bringing them to one very excited 5yr old on Christmas day. I did not receive payment for this post.
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Friday, November 9, 2018

Count down to Christmas with the Smiggle 2018 Advent Calendar

I don't want to alarm you, but did you know there's only 46 days until Christmas? How did that happen? 

I swear it was just January. 

That's a little over 6 weeks to get everything organised before the big day. 

But, if you're like us and celebrate the countdown to Christmas with an advent calendar then you only have 22 days to grab one of those. Eek

It's a bit of a tradition in our household to get a non chocolate advent calendar, for a few different reasons. It started out because my big girl had allergies so she couldn't eat chocolate anyway {and the allergy chocolate ones sell out super fast each year}. I also love the idea of giving them something that lasts more than 2 seconds. There's so many different ideas for non chocolate advent calendars if you just think outside of the box. My personal favourites are an activity prompt advent calendar or a Christmas book advent calendar, however we incorporate activity prompts and books into our December 1st box already so for the last few years we've opted for a stationary advent calendar. This year my big girl's getting the Smiggle 2018 advent calendar. We got the Smiggle advent calendar last year and she absolutely loved it, so I'm super excited to watch her open this years one. I get just as much buzz seeing what's inside as she does.

What's inside the Smiggle 2018 Advent Calendar?

Without a doubt the most common question I got last year was Is the Smiggle Advent Calendar worth it? Having seen all the goodies she got last year my answer is a resounding yes, especially if you have a 5-12 year old child who loves novelty stationary. Or even if you're a 34 year old adult who loves novelty stationary. The Smiggle goodies remind me of my school days... decorating my notebooks with gel pens {while I probably should of been listening to the teacher} and hanging cool keyrings off my pencil case. Ah memories.

This year I've kept the Smiggle Calendar hidden so she doesn't even know she's getting it, so I have no idea what's inside it, but I can guarantee there's 25 pieces of limited edition stationary worth over $70. Last year there was lots of cool stuff like scented rubbers, pencils, pens, keyrings, rulers and a really cool slap bracelet {that she still plays with 11 months later}. If you head into a Smiggle store you can get a sneak peek of what's inside and if you go on YouTube there's a few unboxing videos you can search for. I'm resisting the temptation though so I can keep the suspense alive. I want to be just as excited as her when she opens each number.

Win 1 of 30 $1000 Smiggle Shopping Sprees

The added bonus of the Smiggle Advent Calendar is that it comes with a lucky ticket and the chance to win a $1000 shopping spree! I can just imagine my kids going insane in a Smiggle shop grabbing $1000 worth of goodies. Alas they won't be this year as I opened our ticket and we didn't win. Yeah I resisted the urge to peek on the calendar, but the willy wonka style lucky ticket envelope was way too tempting. Good news for you guys though, it means there's still heaps out there to be won.

So how will you be counting down to Christmas?
Have you done all your shopping yet?

Toni x

Disclosure - I was provided a Smiggle advent calendar for the purpose of review. While we haven't opened it up yet {because that would be cheating}, I'm confident it is awesome and your kids will love it. I did not receive payment for this review.

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