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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Fireworks Salt Painting Craft

I remember when we were young each year we'd travel all the way into the city and spend hours setting up a picnic to secure the perfect spot to watch the fireworks at Southbank. We looked forward to it all year. We loved all the different colours, shapes, sizes and the fact that they appear out of nowhere. They're just so magical, especially for little kids. 

Unfortunately fireworks are also quite loud, so unless you want to invest in a pair of headphones, sometimes it's best to watch them on the TV not up close, particularly for children with sensory issues. My girls don't like crowds and aren't fans of loud noises so we haven't ventured out for live fireworks yet, but we have found another way to join in with fireworks celebrations. We create fireworks salt painting process art at home.


* This post contains affiliate links *

Fireworks salt painting is a great process art activity for preschoolers, and a great classroom activity too. It's also a great stem activity, combining art process and science concepts like absorption. It can get a little bit messy though, so if you're doing it inside you'll probably want to use a tray and a splash mat or plastic table cloth. Art smocks might be a good idea too if the kids get a little too excited by glue and painting. Alternatively set it up outside and just let the kids wear old clothes you don't mind getting dirty.

MATERIALS NEEDED FOR SALT PAINTING


- Table salt
- Black paper or black cardstock
- Food colouring + water OR
- Watercolour paints {optional}


For the salt painting itself you will need some table salt {yep the same kind you eat for dinner}, some PVA craft glue with a squeeze lid, black paper or cardstock, pipettes, food colouring and water. You can also use liquid watercolours, or very wet colours from a watercolour tray. We created our own watercolour paint by adding a few drops of food colouring to some water {the more food colouring the better if you want vibrant fireworks}.

The easiest way to create the salt painting is to have everything set up on a tray ready to go so it can be accessed easily and quickly whilst the kids are creating their masterpiece. The tray helps to define the work space and contain the mess and makes it easy to collect excess salt. We put our salt into a shallow dish which made it easy to pour onto the picture and we collected the excess salt back into the dish to keep using so there was no wastage. The food colouring mixture I set up in tall clear plastic jars with individual pipettes so it was easy to choose a colour and we could work on multiple pictures at the same time.




HOW TO CREATE A FIREWORKS SALT PAINTING


1. Squeeze glue out into fireworks shapes on the paper/cardstock. The easiest way to create a firework burst is to start from a middle point and squeeze slightly curved lines outwards from the centre. However, as with real fireworks, each one is unique so there's no right or wrong way to create a firework and part of the fun of process art is to celebrate all the different designs that inevitably arise.


2. While the glue is still wet liberally pour salt over the top of it. Don't worry if the kids are a little heavy handed with the salt application, the more the better! If you're using a tray it's quite easy to collect the excess salt and keep using it for more paintings so there's no wastage.


3. Carefully tip the excess salt off. Slowly lift the picture upright over the tray and gently shake it so the excess salt falls off. There may be some areas where it's clumped so you may have to gently poke the paper/cardstock from behind those sections to make the excess fall away. You should be left with a salt crusted firework like below. Set aside the pictures at this point until the glue has dried.




4. Slowly drip food colouring mixture {or watercolour paint} onto the salt with a pipette. To make the fireworks come alive slowly add colour with a pipette. The salt will quickly absorb the liquid so it's easiest to do single drops at a time so it doesn't become too saturated {but I'm a realist and we all know this is the part where it can get quite messy, so I suggest having paper towel on hand to soak up any excess}. Once the colour has been applied you should have a vibrant fireworks art piece.


When we did our paintings we used primary colours and blended some together to add in some colour mixing learning. It was a great way to hypothesize what colours would be created then see if they were correct. It was also interesting to see how the salt absorbed the two different colours. 




Learning Opportunities with salt painting


- Pincer grip
- Hand strengthening
- Hand/eye co-ordination
- Colours & colour blending
- Water absorption

Fireworks salt paintings are a great way to celebrate New Year's Eve and can also be used to create craft for other holidays like 4th of July, Australia Day, River Fire or local show days {we have the Ekka here in Queensland}. Keep in mind that salt painting isn't 100% permanent as the salt will continue to absorb the colour over time, so the fireworks may dull in colour as time goes on, and eventually the salt will start to come away. If you're looking for other fun fireworks craft try toilet paper roll fireworks painting or check out more ideas on my fireworks craft pinterest board



Disclosure - 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.
Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Fine Motor Fun with Lalaboom Beads

For the last few years we have been a somewhat Montessori family, especially when it comes to toys and learning. In our house our toys are all presented on open kallax shelving so that the girls can choose which toys they want to play with. We also rotate the toys regularly based on their interests and provide toys that help them develop specific developmental skills.

We believe that so much learning happens during play so we've invested in some great toys and resources in the past few years. The majority of the time this means I purchase wooden toys, however my main desire in any toy we bring into the home is that it's open ended. For this reason I'm quite selective with the items we have for the girls. I love toys that can be used in multiple ways and to teach multiple skills and our latest addition has been Lalaboom beads. I've put together a detailed review of Lalaboom sensory balls and beads so you can learn everything you need to know about them and decide whether they'll be a good addition to your home too.

Lalaboom snap together beads in a basket

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Story Antics: personalised story books for children

Do you remember getting personalised items as a child? I never really got any, because Toni wasn't {and still isn't} a common girl's name. I grew up when all the girls were called Emma, Sarah, Amanda and Lauren. My mum was clearly ahead of her time and had the audacity to call me a boys name {which I hated when I was young, but actually really like now}. The upside was nobody ever had the same name as me, except once I had a teacher called Toni, but that didn't count because we couldn't call her by her first name anyway. The downside was I never got the personalised stickers, stationary, money boxes and other novelty stuff sold at every newsagent. Seems like a total first world problem I know, but to tween me it was a big deal.

Fast forward and I now have my own children and while both of them have pretty standard names, only one can be found on most gimmicky personalised product stands, because I didn't use the traditional spelling for the other one {sorry, not sorry}. I can never find her name with the correct spelling in shops anywhere. However, the good thing for my kids is that they're growing up with the internet, and thanks to the internet I can pretty much personalise anything I want with their correct names. Hooray for small mercies, they'll never know the pain of not having their name permanently marked on things... where was the internet in the 1980's when I needed it?  Just sayin.

Thanks to my own experience as a child I have a natural desire to collect all the personalised stuff for my own kids. My greatest love when it comes to personalised products is picture books. I love that I can inject my children into a story and make them feel as though that book was written especially for them and about them. I recently created a personalised story book from Story Antics that features both of my girls.


AUSTRALIA'S NEWEST PERSONALISED STORY BOOKS FROM STORY ANTICS


Story Antics is a new online store specialising, as the name suggests, in stories. Story Antics brings together a dedicated team of authors and illustrators who create beautiful personalised stories for children under 5. There are stories about bravery, adventure, excitement, imagination, fun and humour.



Story Antics currently have 6 different personalised books available and you can read through each book online {Monster Macarons isn't pictured in the image above}.. I looked through all the books online with my 6yr old and chose The Cheeky Owl for my girls as it was the best fit for a number of reasons. Firstly, my eldest has had an affinity for owls since she was really young, so she loved the book as soon as she saw the owl on the cover. Secondly, one of the illustrations for the main character looked really similar to her and I could also include her sister as the baby. Thirdly, all 6yr old's are pretty much obsessed with talking about poo and this book involves poo, so as much as I don't love all the toilet talk going on at our place this year, I knew it would appeal to her. Don't let the poo put you off though, it really is a cute story {and was written by Story Antics founder Lara Solomon}.


HOW TO PERSONALISE A STORY ANTICS BOOK


The process of ordering a Story Antics books online is really simple. Once you decide which story you want you then get the option to personalise each of the characters.



Clicking on each character image brings up the different options available, which generally includes illustrations with different hairstyles, hair colour and clothing colours. Some characters can also be interchanged between male and female. Below is an example of The Cheeky Owl characters changed and renamed {no those aren't my kids real names}.


After the characters have all been finalised you can then choose to add a personalised dedication page. Once you've finished creating the book you can flip through a virtual proof to ensure there are no mistakes, then after placing your order it takes approximately two weeks to arrive at your door.

OUR PERSONALISED STORY ANTICS BOOK


When our story book arrived it was even better than I was anticipating. It was packaged beautifully and extremely carefully so it wouldn't get damaged in the mail. The book itself is a lovely big A4 size with large text making it easy for little readers to read aloud or follow along with. The pages are thick good quality 200gsm paper, so they're built to withstand all the love and affection the kids will inevitably smother it with over the years.



My 6yr old was so excited when the book arrived and it looked just like the one she helped me put together online{she named the owl and picked out the colours when I was ordering it}. We sat down and she read through the entire story herself. She only started school this year and has gone from not being able to read at all to now reading entire picture books. I'm so incredibly proud of how determined and excited she's been to learn how to read, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to get a special book just about her.

If you're looking for a truly unique present for your little one for a special occasion, or just because, Story Antics books are definitely worth checking out. With so many different story options there's sure to be one to suit your child, or children.

Toni x



Disclosure ~ I was provided with a Story Antics book of my choosing in exchange for a review.  All opinions expressed are based on my ordering experience and our experience with the product. I did not receive payment for this post.
Monday, October 21, 2019

14 Free Halloween Craft Printables

Halloween has been huge in America for years and is becoming more and more popular here in Australia. My kids have been wanting to celebrate it more each year, however as a parent I often struggle with the stranger danger and horror elements of the holiday. We don't do trick or treating or turn our house into a house of horrors, but we do love doing halloween play activities and decorating the inside of the house.

How do you celebrate Halloween without exposing young kids to too much gore and horror? 

I've scoured the internet to find the cutest free halloween craft printables perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. These printables are great for decorating the house, classroom activities, cute costumes and sugar free halloween fun... and the best part is they're all free and can be downloaded in seconds. All you need for most of them is access to a printer and some paper, scissors and pens or crayons to decorate.

halloween craft printables

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

5 minute Toilet Paper Roll Houses

Most people automatically put their empty toilet paper rolls in the bin {recycling bin hopefully}, however if you have small children you should stop this straight away. Toilet paper rolls are one of, if not the greatest, recyclable craft item ever... and the best thing is every home has an abundant supply of them. Another big bonus of toilet paper rolls is they're free and they can be used for so many different craft projects. Our latest creation has been toilet paper houses for our peg dolls.



* This post contains some affiliate links *


HOW TO MAKE TOILET PAPER HOUSES IN LESS THAN 5 MINUTES



** Please note this craft activity is intended to be done by children over 5yrs old who have developed scissor and writing skills {under adult supervision} or by adults themselves **


WHAT YOU WILL NEED


- Toilet Rolls 
- Egg carton
- Scissors
- Pen

The beauty of this craft activity is that all items needed can be found around the house for free. It also probably takes longer to gather all the supplies than it does to actually make the toilet paper roll houses. Fast, free and easy... yes please!


HOW TO CREATE TOILET PAPER ROLL HOUSES


1. Cut the egg carton base into individual pieces
2. Trim the edges to create little cap roofs
3. Measure the door on the toilet roll
4. Draw the door frame
5. Carefully cut out the door frame
6. Draw on window frames
7. Put egg carton lid roofs on top of toilet paper rolls
8. Decorate your houses {optional}

The first step you need to do is to cut out each of the egg holders in the egg carton into individual pieces by cutting in between each row and down the centre of the carton base. Once they're separated they'll have a square edge, trim the edges off so they have rounded edges and look like little round caps. 

Next take your peg doll, fairy, elf, gnome {whatever figurine you will be using with your houses} and hold it up against the toilet paper roll to measure the height and width needed for the door frame to allow them to fit inside. Draw a frame on with pen and then carefully cut it out with scissors. This can be a bit fiddly so is easier to do using small scissors. Once it's cut out your figurine should fit easily inside the door frame.



You can add character to your houses by drawing on different window designs {maybe take a bit more care than we did}. You could also cut these out, but that will require a stanley knife as it's too tricky with scissors. To finish off your toilet paper houses add the egg carton roof on top. The roof should fit on nice and snug, but still be easy to remove. 


As you can see from our photos I kept our designs really simple and haven't properly decorated them yet. I'm planning on painting each roof a colour of our peg dolls so that we can use the houses for colour sorting as well as imaginary play. I might also make some more and decorate them as toad stools or tree stump houses with paints and pen details. For now the girls are having lots of fun using the houses with our different felt play mats and if they get a little rough and accidentally destroy them, it'll be super easy to make some more.



Do you have fun using toilet paper rolls for craft?


Toni x



Disclosure - 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. Our peg dolls and play mat are from My Big World Playscapes on Etsy.
Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Learn abc's, 123's and colours through music with Mixmaster Scout

Do you know music has so many benefits for children? 

It's especially beneficial when they're exposed to it during early development, while they're still fine tuning their muscle strength and vocabulary. Music is not only fun and calming for children, it also helps to develop sounds and words whilst listening to songs. Bopping along to a beat and dancing also works gross motor skills. Music is a great sensory and developmental experience on it's own, but now LeapFrog have combined the power of music, cognitive and physical development with literacy and numeracy skills in the new LeapFrog Learn & Groove Mixmaster Scout toy.

LEAPFROG LEARN & GROOVE MIXMASTER SCOUT


The LeapFrog Learn & Groove Mixmaster Scout creates a fun, engaging way for toddlers to learn abcs, numbers and colours through music. Mixmaster Scout has 4 different coloured and numbered buttons which light up and say the respective colours, numbers, instrument names and sounds, and a variety of other special effects when pressed. The Mixmaster has 3 different modes - abc, 123 and colours which each have 10 different background beats. The fidget spinner and turntable toggle overlay different effects on top of the background beats when turned. Using the fidget spinner, toggle and control switches children are able to use the 30 base songs and a variety of sound effects and phrases to create up to 180 different musical combinations.

leapfrog mixmaster scout






LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES


- Cause and effect
- Fine motor skills & pincer grip
- Visual, auditory & tactile stimulation
- Interactive, independent play
- Instrument names & sounds
- Numbers & Counting
- Music & Rhythm
- Alphabet
- Colours


"Engaging musical play stimulates infant’s sensory skills. With the large array of interactivity on the Learn & Groove® Mixmaster Scout™, Scout invites your child to press, dial, flip, and slide various manipulatives to exercise their developing fine motor skills, all the while discovering fun cause and effect relationships and exploring a wide variety of musical sounds." Clement Chau, PhD, LeapFrog® Learning Expert



My 2 year old is very much into learning colours at the moment so her favourite thing to do with Mixmaster Scout is point to the colour buttons at the top and quiz me on what colours they are. Mum what colour is it? She takes every opportunity she can to practice her colours and let me know what they are, even when spinning the turntable toggle she points out the background colours behind the little pictures of Scout. She also loves that the fidget spinner lights up green, blue and red when she spins it.



Leanr abcs, numbers, colours and sounds with LeapFrogs Mixmaster Scout
If you have a little one who loves to bop along to music the Learn & Groove Mixmaster will be sure to keep them entertained and it'll grow with them as they move onto learning colours, numbers and letters. It's also a great interactive toy for independent educational play.

Learn & Groove Mixmaster Scout is suitable for babies and toddlers from 9-36 months and is available online and in store from Toy Universe, Mr Toys Toyworld, Big W and other toy stores and online retailers. More information and a full stockist list is available at LeapFrog.

Toni x



Disclosure - I was kindly gifted a Learn & Groove Mixmaster Scout from LeapFrog for the purpose of review. I did not receive payment for this review however this post does contain some affiliate links. Stock product images have been used with permission.

You can read more LeapFrog toy reviews here.
Friday, July 19, 2019

How to create a clean and healthy sleep environment for your family


Did you know most people spend the majority of their time at home in bed asleep? 

Maybe that's not entirely accurate for those of us who are up and down all night tending to small children, but on average most people spend a third of each day in bed. When you factor in hours spent working, travelling to work, and out socialising this means sleeping, or laying in bed trying to sleep, is the longest activity we do while at home. Despite all the time spent in bed, ensuring a clean and healthy sleep environment can often be overlooked. I've been guilty of this myself, forgetting to do things like regularly washing sheets and flipping the mattress. It makes me cringe knowing what I do now.



WHAT'S REALLY LURKING INSIDE YOUR MATTRESS?


While you may not actually realise it, your mattress is probably one of the dirtiest areas of your home, even if the rest of your house is spotless. Each night while we're sleeping we're also shedding millions of dead skin flakes and losing up to 1L of sweat. It's a bit disturbing when you think about it isn't it? All of that soaks directly into the mattress, providing the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. So what are you really sleeping on?

> Allergenic particles such as dead skin cells, pet dander and dust mite waste.

> Dust mites are microscopic {less than half a mm} and can't be seen by the naked eye. They feed off dead skin cells. An unprotected mattress generally has 100000 to 2 million dust mites inside. While they don't bite, their waste is a common trigger for asthma and allergic reactions. Each dust mite produces 10-20 waste particles a day. Up to 30% of the population are allergic to dust mite waste {and if you're not it's still gross knowing they're crawling around in there}.

> Bed Bugs are becoming increasingly common in Australia. They're small {4-6mm} parasitic bugs that feed off human blood. Yes you read that right, they eat our blood. Ouch. Their bites can cause skin reactions such as redness, swelling and itching.

> Bacteria and mould can grow as a result of moisture.

> Stains can result from sweating, bed wetting and accidental spills.

Most mattresses look relatively clean on the surface, but lurking below is a veritable delight of excrement soup which is also a never-ending smörgåsbord for microscopic bugs. Thankfully though there are many ways to combat the nasties that want to take refuge in your bed.



HOW TO KEEP YOUR MATTRESS CLEAN 


One of the easiest ways to protect a mattress from uninvited guests is to use a mattress protector. A mattress protector sits directly over, or completely encases, a mattress to provide a waterproof protection layer between the person sleeping and the mattress. It creates a barrier to shield against potential bugs, skin cells, spills and moisture.



As well as the allergen benefits of fitting a mattress protector, they're also particularly useful for small children who naturally bed wet or people who are prone to incontinence issues. I'm 100% guilty of thinking mattress protectors were something only used for kids who wet the bed, but mattress protectors play an important part in prolonging the life of a mattress and are often an overlooked requirement of mattress replacement guarantees.



In addition to using a protector, it's also recommended all bedding is washed regularly and vacuuming the mattress itself will reduce the amount of dead skin cells and dust mites present.


WHY WE CHOSE THE PROTECT-A-BED SIGNATURE TENCEL RANGE


When researching different types of mattress protectors and their various benefits, I chose tencel mattress protectors for our family. Tencel is the common name used for lyocell and modal fibres. I'm very familiar with tencel having managed a clothing store for many years before I had children. It has a lovely soft feel and wears well. The fibers are softer than silk, cooler than linen, more absorbent than cotton, but still super strong.

THE BENEFITS OF TENCEL


Sustainable Manufacturing process
Tencel is a cellulose fiber derived from regenerated wood pulp. It's sourced from eucalyptus trees sustainably harvested from tree farms. There are no pesticides or synthetic solvents used in the production process. Tencel production is a closed loop environmentally sound process which recycles process water and recovers more than 99% of the non toxic solvent used. 



Biodegradable
In addition to the manufacturing process having an extremely low ecological impact, lyocell and modal fibres are certified biodegradable and compostable.

Moisture Wicking
Tencel is naturally moisture wicking meaning it draws moisture to the fibre core leaving the surface feeling dry.

Thermal Regulation
Tencel's moisture absorption and breathability supports the body's natural thermal regulation helping to keep cool in summer and warm in winter.

Odourless Non Allergenic Fibres
Because tencel absorbs moisture so well there's less moisture on the surface for bacteria to grow. Up to 2000 less bacteria grow on tencel in comparison to synthetic fibres. Supported by the Eczema Association as Sensitive Skin Tried and Tested, it's a great fabric choice for people with sensitive skin, eczema or rhinitis.

Machine Washable & Quick Drying
Tencel is machine washable and also dries very quickly which is extremely beneficial on bed washing day. Nobody wants to still have wet bedding at bed time!



I have to admit I haven't always used a mattress protector on our current mattress, I didn't really think it was a big deal for us, but I've always had them on the kids beds. I always associated them with bed wetting, hence having them for the kids. After I started researching everything that can be lying underneath us while we're asleep I started to feel ill, especially with a partner who sweats profusely overnight. Our mattress is almost ten years old now, and with my newfound knowledge of what's lurking underneath we're thinking of replacing it soon, and will definitely be using a mattress protector 100% of the time with the new one. I'm even going to get a spare one and I've got tencel pillowcase protectors for our pillows too.


Have you always used a mattress protector on your mattress? 

Toni x


Disclosure - We were kindly gifted mattress protectors of our choice from Protect-A-Bed®. I did not receive monetary payment for this post.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Leapfrog Violet Peek-A-Boo Lap Pup

I kept a handful of bub's plastic baby toys and one of baby girl's favourite's was her sister's old toy laptop, but it doesn't do anything so she gets bored of it quickly. I'd been thinking of getting her an interactive laptop style toy for a while, so it was perfect timing when the opportunity arose to test run the new Leapfrog Lap Pup. The Lap Pup comes in either Scout or Violet versions and is Leapfrog's latest toy laptop featuring over 50 different learning activities and songs. We chose Violet because despite having quite a few Lap Frog toys, we didn't have any Violet versions.






LEAPFROG LAP PUP TEACHES COLOURS, SHAPES AND NUMBERS


The main reason I wanted to try out the Lap Pup originally is the interactive coloured crayons. Baby girl has started showing a natural interest in colours lately... pointing out {aka guessing} the colour of cars that drive past or toys we're playing with. I've been reinforcing colours with her every time she asks or points one out, so I thought it'd be good to have a toy that also does this for her when she's playing independently. When she presses a crayon Violet says the colour then tells her items that are that colour. There's also games where Violet asks her to touch a specific coloured crayon.


As well as colours, Violet teaches shapes and numbers via the circle, square and triangle buttons. The shape buttons play different rhymes about shapes, colours and numbers. Violets name badge button also lets kids play a game of peek a boo with Violet where she moves her paws over her face and says different peek a boo phrases. This is probably the most worn out button because baby girl loves playing peek-a-boo {what toddler doesn't}.



NOW I KNOW MY ABC'S WON'T YOU COME AND SING WITH ME...


Peek-A-Boo Violet loves to sing and without a doubt baby girl's favourite song is the alphabet song {she generally skips past all the others to replay it over and over}. She's like a little sponge, I mean all children are, but she really seems to be able to soak in everything around her and retain all this new knowledge, certainly much quicker than her sister did. Over the last few weeks she's taught herself how to sing the alphabet from mimicking Violet. Obviously she doesn't understand what the actual letters are, but she started out mumbling along to the song and now a few weeks later will randomly break into singing the alphabet, unprompted, while playing. She pronounces the letters quite clearly now too.



The Lap Pup is one of baby girl's favourite toys at the moment and she takes it everywhere. The handle makes it easy for her to carry around the house and it's compact enough to easily pack away in our toy basket {or be taken in the car for school drop off and pick up, or taken to grandma's house, or taken to the shops... she basically goes everywhere}. If you have a little one who's interested in learning their ABCs or colours, it's definitely a great investment. 

Peek-A-Boo LapPup Scout and Violet are suitable for infants from 6 months and available from June at Mr Toys Toyworld and other toy stores and online retailers. Find out more about the Lap Pup here.

Toni x


Disclosure - We were kindly gifted a Violet Lap Pup from Leapfrog for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are based on our experience playing with Violet. I did not receive payment for this review, however 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.
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.

*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.