Toys from House of Fraser

I have been fortunate enough in the past to review some gorgeous children’s clothes from House of Fraser. When they got in touch recently and asked if we would like to reveiw something from their wonderful selection of children’s toys, well I couldnt say no could I?

I really enjoyed browsing checking out the huge variety of toys and games they have to offer but couldn’t resist when I came across this awesome remote control Fireman Sam fire engine. I just knew Monkey would love it, and I wasn’t wrong.

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As soon as he saw it he was so so excited and couldn’t wait to try it out. Watching the absolute glee on his face as he chased it round and round the room turning the steering wheel was absolutely priceless. As you can tell I struggled to get a non blurry photo as both he and the fire engine were moving so fast at all times but it was so fun to see him so happy!

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I have to admit it is probably the noisiest toy we own, and even on its “mute” mode it has the ability to shout “Great Fires of London” at the touch of a button! But it is worth it to see him so happy. He tells everyone he meets about his new fire engine toy and every time he sees it I swear it is like the first time again”oh wow my fire engine!!” So cute.

It really is such a great fun toy, definitely one to bear in mind for Christmas, and just one of so many available from House of Fraser

We're going on an adventure#ToddlerApprovedTuesday

WOW Toys Review & Giveaway

We were contacted recently and asked if Monkey would like to review some WOW toys and I have to admit that we jumped at the chance. We regularly visit a few garden centres stocking WOW toys and Monkey absolutely loves playing with the ones they have on display. He also has one at his Nanny & Pops’ house which he loves so we know what great toys they are. So we are thrilled to be able to review this great set and even better, we have a fantastic giveaway so you can see how great they are for yourself!

WOW Toys are designed for pre-schoolers with some toys from 12 months and many from 18 months plus.  They are safe, durable and don’t require batteries to make them work. They are perfect for firing little one’s imaginations as we saw when we reviewed the Police Patrol Pals set.

This set comes with both Charlie the Police Car and Pete the Police Plane, along with 2 policemen and 2 police dogs. Monkey loved them as soon as he saw them and was immediately flying Pete the Police Plane around the room.

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We then drew a very basic road and runway on a big piece of paper so Monkey could let his imagination run wild and he spent ages nee-naw-ing the police car and vrooming the plane

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The toys have great little details, such as the stickers showing the policemen’s equipment, notepad, torch, and of course supplies for their doggie friends! Monkey also loved the fact that the roof of the police car flips up when you press the petrol cap. In fact he spent the whole weekend showing everyone we came into contact with “look, it does this!” and flipping the top!

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They are such fab toys and you have a chance to win one via the fab giveaway below! They are also available on Amazon, which you can reach by clicking my Wow blogger buddy badge in the sidebar. They are available at a variety of independent shops too so be sure to keep an eye out for them.

On to the competition, good luck! (Competition opens 00:00 16/06/15)

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We're going on an adventureThe Giggles Family   #ToddlerApprovedTuesday

Monkey’s Christmas List – 2 1/2 yrs old

This year is flying by and it is really not long til Christmas now, eek! Have you started buying presents yet? I have been quite organised and bought a lot of presents already. In January we started putting a bit of money away every month to budget for it, and it has been lovely this year to have a pot ready to use. No paying it off in January, woohoo!

Anyway I digress, Monkey is really excited about Christmas this year. He is loving all of the decorations in the shops and I know we are going to have so much fun with him! So I am really excited to see his excitement on Christmas day and while I am sure he will be happy with pretty much anything he gets, I think we have come up with some lovely idea for him. So if you are stuck for ideas of what to get a toddler in your life, here are some of the things on Monkey’s Christmas List this year! :)

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Mega Bloks Junior Builders review

I was recently contacted by the lovely people at Mega Bloks to review their Junior Builders Build a Story set. Monkey loves building so I jumped at the chance. When I think of Mega Bloks I think of them being the big, chunky blocks, and what I didn’t realise before was that they also do some smaller building blocks, which are perfect for Monkey. I am not sure how to describe them without mentioning the Duplo range from Lego, as that is exactly the size that they are. They are completely compatible and if you mixed them up together, without looking closely at the branding you would not be able to tell the difference between the two ranges!

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Thrifty? or tight?

I’ve had this post in mind for a while but I struggled to write it because I guess talking about money is always a bit tricky. It’s worth saying that I am not saying anyone else’s approach to money and spending is wrong, just different, and all I can do is talk about works for me personally, and us as a family.

Can you be thrifty without being tight? Or do you have to be a bit tight in order to be thrifty? Money is odd. I always feel that no matter how much you have, you will live within your means. I don’t like spending money, I never have. I’m not entirely sure where it comes from but I’ve always been quite careful with money. I hate spending more than about £15 on an item of clothing, and I keep clothes for years, literally YEARS. I buy the cheapest possible greetings cards and quite often get toys and things second hand on ebay.

When I was working and single I never had the highest salary, and for a long time managed to scrape by, covering my mortgage, bills and food with perhaps £30 left for clothes/entertainment every month. A carefulness with money that always came naturally was essential in those days and Birthdays and Christmas were the times I got new clothes or DVDs etc. Years of this basically led to an increased aversion to spending.

Then I met my husband, who has a similar attitude to me. He also had years of scraping by on a low salary and he too had learnt to be careful with his money. The difference between us was that his hard work over the years really paid off and he now earns a far better salary than I had ever dreamed of! In our early relationship, I was promoted too and with our combined salaries we were decidedly comfortable. It was a really weird experience for me not having to budget for every single penny spent.

After making the decision to be a SAHM and live off of my hubby’s salary, we are still better off than I ever was on my own but we are not exactly loaded or carefree, by a long way! We budget for everything and try to save every month in various forms to make sure we can afford unexpected car bills, holidays and other expensive times, like Christmas and Birthdays.

We manage pretty well but I think my natural aversion to spending still helps! I like to look for bargains, I buy Monkey’s clothes a season or more ahead in the sales, or I buy them from supermarkets or Primark because I don’t see the point in spending a lot of money on something he will wear for such a short time. We’ve even bought some things from charity shops, as let’s face it, baby/toddler clothes are very rarely ‘well-worn!’ We’ve actually been really lucky too in the fact that Monkey has had a lot of second hand clothes from a friend with son a year older than Monkey. This has saved us so much money over time!

The only exception is shoes, as he has wide feet so it’s important for his development to have his own shoes. They mold to the feet wearing them so wearing someone else’s shoes can be uncomfortable. Because of this Monkey only ever has one or two pairs of shoes at any one time. They are just so expensive and I just don’t see the point for lots of different pairs at his age. I wonder if I would be different if we had a girl? Maybe not!

He very occasionally gets a new toy, if we think it will help his stage of development, but for the most part, and especially as he gets older, we try and keep toys just as christmas/birthday presents. Some of the more expensive toy items, I prefer to get second hand. I got some great £5 bargains off ebay last summer. Occasionally if a big thing, like his trike, is in the sale, we will get one new, but it has to be quite a good discount!

We have just bought some outdoor toys for his birthday – we were looking for a swing/slide and a playhouse, but they are all so expensive and we just couldn’t justify spending the hundreds of pounds on new ones. We just can’t afford to! So it has been hello ebay again and we’ve got some great second hand bargains. So they are a little faded or worn, but then all outdoor toys end up like that and Monkey doesn’t care! It’s not just Monkey’s bits we scrimp on though either as hubby and I rarely buy ourselves clothes or other bits, and any recent purchases have been in the sale or from Primark.

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Monkey’s “new” second-hand house from ebay

I prefer to think of myself as thrifty rather than tight though. Tight has such negative connotations of greediness or a lack of generosity. I like to give lovely things to people, it’s just that I like to get them for the lowest price possible, that way it means I can afford to get them more. And the fact that we save more in various ways means we are able to be a bit more relaxed about buying lunch out at the cafe at soft play, or have day out as a family.

One of my friends laughed at me the other week as I had patched a puncture on Monkey’s ball. She laughed as the balls are only a few quid, and thought it seemed pointless, but to me it made sense. I was fixing a puncture on his buggy wheel so why not fix the ball too? Why not save myself spending those few quid if I could? Besides, Monkey loves that ball!

Then on the flip side, we are spending a lot of money on the garden. We sold hubby’s nice pre-Monkey car for a banger which takes 6 or 7 tries to start somedays. We did this a) because hubby now works within walking distance and it was de-valueing on the drive and b) because we felt the money could be put to better use, for example, to give us a nice garden.

I guess it comes down to choices. What is important to you. I’m not saying the choices we make are right for everyone but they work for us. We could be a lot better in some ways – I know we could save money on our food shops by being a bit more savvy, but it comes down to laziness and effort. Especially now I am pregnant again, we just like the ease of ordering food online and having it delivered. I’m sure we won’t do this forever, but right now it works for us, and we still try to make the most of offers where we can. We also plan our meals, which really helps keep the food bills down.

We have a nice house and we do like nice things. I guess that the times we do spend a bit more money on something it is because it is something that is exactly what we are looking for, and that we know we will have for many years to come. The gorgeous dresser we have in our dining room was pretty pricey, but we couldn’t find what we wanted cheaper, even after many hours scouring for a second hand one to do up, and we adore it. This is our family forever home and that dresser will be with us for many many years.

Being a bit thrifty day to day allows us to save and then spend a bit more on things that mean more to us.

Whether we will always be like this, I don’t know. Maybe if we suddenly became millionaires (unlikely as we don’t play the lottery) I would relax my spending rules? But it is so ingrained that I’m not sure I could ever see myself spending lots of money on things like baby clothes when they won’t be needed for very long. As with so many things though, different strokes for different folks and we all make different choices for different reasons.

What do you think? Is Thrifty and Tight the same thing? Are you thrifty or are you a bit more relaxed when it comes to spending?

#AllAboutYou Link & Pin Party Mama and More
Super Busy Mum

Nostalgia Toys Meme

Ages and ages ago the lovely Iona at Redpeffer tagged me in a Nostalgia Toys Meme, and I immediately started thinking what to write. But with one thing and another I never actually wrote it! Rubbish! But, here it is, better late than never, right?

We (and Monkey in particular) are really lucky in that our parents have kept some of the toys that we had as kids!

Hubby’s parents in particular have kept LOADS and Monkey adores going round to their house to play with all of the toys! They kept loads of brio and duplo (and apparently there is a box full of lego in the loft too) and cars, and just wow. There’s a farm Granddad made for hubby and his brothers, and just loads of stuff. Shows how long toys can last!

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A few weeks ago they got a whole bunch of cars out of the loft and hubby and his brothers were loving getting them all out and reminiscing!

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Monkey was so happy with them all too, particularly when he found a mini postman pat van! He adores that little thing! We split the cars up between our house and his uncles houses so there is always cars to play with! Having two brothers I remember many happy hours spent playing with cars, building elaborate race tracks and slopes for them out of sofa cushions and I am sure we will be creating many more with Monkey over the years!

My mum didn’t keep nearly as much as with moving house a few times lofts were cleared out, but she has kept some fab toys. We have some blocks that my uncle made for me when I was a tot – my auntie made the bag and it has a lovely C on it hehe. I don’t remember playing with them particularly but they have lasted so well! Monkey loves them, particularly knocking over Grandpop’s towers!

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We also have a fab dolls house that again my uncle made and that Monkey adores. It brings back so many memories for me as some of the wallpaper was leftover scraps from my Grandparents’ house! Some of the furniture hasn’t lasted so well, but it is so lovely and it is really sweet to see Monkey playing with it too!

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We’ve recently bought monkey a play house for the garden, second hand off ebay, and it reminded me of the houses my dad used to make for us. He was a cardboard box salesman (yep slightly random) so our garage was always FULL of cardboard. Which was great for making all sorts of things, and obviously as kids we loved it. The cardboard wendy houses in particular were great. He made this one when my older bro and I were little…

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and then it got a whole lot more elaborate when our little bro had his made! I think his may even have had some carpet in it!! Lol! My mum worked for Woolwich at the time, hence the flag!

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It’s lovely to think that even though technology has come on so much since we were kids, and with so many toys doing all these amazing things, sometimes, the simple toys are the best. You don’t have to go crazy or spend loads of money on a toy for a kid to be happy.

So there we have it, I have finally written this post! I though it was perfect timing to link up with Iona and Jocelyn for The Theme Game with this week’s theme of Childhood! Sorry it’s so late Iona!

I’m not going to tag anyone but if why not join in ? What were your favourite toys as a kid? Have you or your parents kept any of your old toys that your kids now play with?

The Reading Residence



Pink is for Girls – #ThePrompt

The Prompt is a fantastic link up designed to inspire you to write, brainchild of the lovely MumturnedMom. This week’s Prompt is:

Pink is for girls.

I’ve written about this a little bit before – when I was musing about toys in particular in my post ‘different toys for girls and boys‘ and honestly that post opened up a whole world of ideas and thoughts and questions in my busy brain.

So many thoughts that it’s difficult to extract them one by one and write them down but I will give it a go. I apologise in advance for going off at tangents!

Gender stereotypes exist in our culture. They have ALWAYS existed. Will they always continue to do so? The nature of said stereotypes have varied from culture to culture at different times. There have been matriarchal societies and patriarchal societies with each gender fulfilling different roles and therefore the gender stereotyping in that particular culture has reflected this.

Yikes I feel like I am back in cultural studies at Uni, or worse my boring Sociology A level!

Our culture has a long history of the subordination of women. Of women not having equal rights to men. We have thankfully come a long long way forward with this and many things are much more equal now. But, even with the increased freedom and the rights that women have, we still have Gender Stereotypes. There are still ‘manly’ things and ‘girly’ things. It starts when you are tiny. Pink and Blue. Cars or Dolls. Etc.

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A girly toy?

There’s a part of me that rebels against this, and as I have mentioned in my previous post Monkey plays with all sorts of toys, girly or otherwise. His bedroom is yellow. We don’t want to stereotype him. BUT we dress him in trousers and not skirts. Some of his clothes have dinosaurs or trucks on them because that is what is sold as ‘boy’ clothing. If we have a  little girl I’m sure she’ll wear a lot of his hand me downs (to save money) but no doubt she will have some prettier things too.

There was an article not too long ago about parents who dressed a little boy in a Tutu and said they were trying to raise him as ‘gender neutral.’ Part of me thinks ‘good for you’ while another part of me feels sorry for the little boy, because is it really possible to raise your child in a gender neutral way, when the society we live in is not gender neutral? Is it fair on them to expose them to potential ridicule by parts of society rather than to protect them from it?

I am all for men and women working having the same rights. I am all for stay at home dads or working mums, of female CEOs and male nursery nurses (I am just coming up with some random examples here). No I don’t like stereotypes that pigeon hole people, I don’t want Monkey growing up in a world where something ‘girly’ is bad. I don’t want him thinking that girls are less intelligent than boys (as a SAHM I worry about his female role models) or that boys are less caring or sensitive than girls. My hope is that I can nurture him so he feels he can be whatever he ‘wants’ to be, rather than what society tells him he should be.

But it’s not entirely up to me. I can’t keep him cocooned in a world of my making. He watches TV and will read books and magazines that portray the stereotypes I hate. He interacts with other children who have their parents’ values. I know of parents who use the gender stereotype of ‘boys will be boys’ to gloss over the fact that they are aggressive or hit other children. Or on the flip side when a girl turns on the taps at the slightest knock and are immediately cuddled and cooed over because they are a girl.

I don’t want monkey to be aggressive or over-sensitive. He usually laughs when he falls over (unless he really hurts himself) and he is learning that hitting is always wrong – even if someone else hit you first. But it isn’t my place to enforce my values on other parents and their children. (Who even says that I am right and they are wrong? I certainly don’t know for certain!) Everyone has to do what they believe is right and because of the gender stereotypes embedded in our culture, many parents teach their children (maybe even unintentionally?) that they are correct. I can try and teach him why I believe them to be wrong,  but I can’t choose what he believes or decide his opinions for him. 

Should our society even be gender neutral? Men and Women are different. Our bodies and physiology are different. In the broadest terms we do have ‘different’ skills. Men are often physically stronger than most women. Women have the physical ability to produce children and breastfeed. We are physically different, and men and women are ‘said’ to have different cognitive abilities. Such as multi-tasking, or spacial awareness (though of course things like this vary from person to person and can’t always be simplified down to one gender does this, another does this. maybe that’s the point?). We are different so why not celebrate that and be proud of the gender we are?

I also wonder where it ends, should we all wear the same androgynous clothing? Have the same haircuts? Should none of us (men or women) wear clothes that flatter our figures? Should we not care about looking nice? That opens up a whole other avenue of thoughts and do we only care about looking nice because of the objectification of bodies and the sexualisation of our culture and I guess the two are linked but I won’t go down that road for now!

I rejoice at the small steps taken by groups such as “Let toys be toys” which tries to take away some of the gender stereotyping that influences our children from such a young age. But I feel that these are just tiny chinks in a huge wall that will take many years to knock down. I also worry about what happens when the wall is down? What are we left with?

I don’t know the answers and if I’m honest what I think about it isn’t really fully formed. i guess some kind of middle ground… but what would that consist of and who decides?

Interesting debate though eh? What do you think? Is pink for girls?

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

mumturnedmom

 


SuperBusyMum

Different toys for girls and boys?

Just some random musings from me about this really. I read a few weeks ago that Marks and Spencer are removing all gender specific labelling and packaging from their toys, so there won’t necessarily be a ‘pink’ section or a ‘blue’ section in their toy departments. The comments I read about this news story were so varied and it got me thinking as it is also quite relevant to Monkey at the moment.

Does it matter if some toys are marketed to boys and others to girls? Does that reinforce gender stereotypes or does it just show that most boys prefer some types of toys, and most girls like other types? On the one hand boys and girls are different so what’s wrong with boys being boys and girls being girls? But then they are also all individuals and everyone is different regardless of gender. Therefore some boys and some girls may be interested in the same things sometimes.

Even though we knew we were having a baby boy we didn’t go and get everything blue. His room is yellow and multicoloured and his baby clothes were similar, a real mixed bag. We try to have the attitude that there are no boy colours and there are no girl colours, there are just colours. Not everyone feels this way though, my mum and step-dad have semi-jokingly moaned in the past that Monkey has ‘girly’ stickers because there are some pink ones in the sticker book that say princess, as well as ones of digger trucks and dinosaurs. My response is that they are the cheapest stickers I have found (£1 for 2000) and neither Monkey or I care what colour they are. Besides, Pink wasn’t even thought of as a ‘girly’ colour until about the 1940’s!

Then a few days ago I was out with Monkey at a local shopping centre with our cheap basic buggy (which happens to be a bright purple colour). He was playing by a ride on bus and another little boy was hanging around and talking to him. As we were about to leave he says ‘is that a boy or a girl?’ pointing at Monkey. I just smiled and told him he is a boy and then he says ‘well I just wondered because that (pointing to the buggy) is purple.’ He looked so serious as if a BOY in a PURPLE buggy was the most stupid thing he’s ever heard. Made me chuckle but also shake my head slightly.

It’s not just the colours of toys/clothes etc. but the toys themselves. Why should some toys be designated as for boys while others for girls. Can a woman not work on construction? Or a man not work in a kitchen? Of course they can. We are now much more equal as adults but seem to reinforce the stereotypes when it comes to children for some reason. Why shouldn’t they be free to play with whatever toy interests them at that time without them being labelled as for girls or for boys. When hubby was little he had a ‘home corner’ and loved his toy kitchen and iron etc. and what is wrong with that?

Monkey does love a lot of his ‘boy’ toys, cars and trains are two of his favourites. Then on a play-date last week he was obsessed with my friend’s little girl’s dolls house. He played with it for ages! It reminded me of the news story about Marks and Spencer. It also reminded me that I had a doll’s house stored at my brother’s  that our uncle made me when I was a little girl. I asked my brother to bring it round and Monkey loves it! It’s quite well worn and the door and a couple of windows are missing but Monkey has been finding it hilarious posting people through the windows and putting his Postman Pat and Mrs Goggins dolls in the beds and on the chairs. I guess you would categorise a doll’s house in the girl toys section but I don’t see any reason why boys can’t enjoy it too.

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We’ve also been finding recently that rather than sit in his buggy, Monkey sometimes like to push it along (being a 3 wheeler one it then tends to bash into fences, bushes, people, etc. great fun…). So I decided to buy him a doll’s pushchair. Another traditionally ‘girly’ toy but again he loves it and is pushing his teddy round the house with glee. We also bought him a little tea set ages ago and he loves toy tea parties and pretending to pour the tea, stir the tea and drink the tea. It’s learning about life so why is that more for girls than for both?

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It goes both ways and a lot of my friend’s little girls love cars and trains etc. so maybe I agree with toy packaging being less gender specific… though I’m not sure if that will suddenly stop people considering some toys as boys’ toys and others as girls’, but maybe it would be a step in the right direction?

What do you think? Should boys not play with girls toys and girls not play with boys toys? Or should they be free to play with whatever they enjoy most at that time?

mumturnedmom