Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiaAdventures - Review

LM has been a Sofia the First fan for some time and the adventures of the little girl who suddenly becomes a princess when her mother marries the King are familiar to all of us in our house. She already has some of the lovely Sofia the First toys available but she was delighted to receive a wonderful parcel of the new range from JAKKS Pacific recently.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review

A big box filled with tissue paper and toys is always so exciting, and this was a fantastic delivery. Find out what was in the box here:

Once unboxed it was time to get started with the toys. First up we had three of the Sofia the First with Royal Friend 3" figure sets. LM has quite a few of these figures from past collections and we both really like them. As Sofia and her friends are little girls it is appropriate that these are small figures and that each comes with an animal friend. They aren't a fashion doll like some of the other Disney princess dolls, instead they have moving arms and and are simply  hinged at the waist which allows them to sit and stand.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Blog  Review

LM received Sofia with Clover, Jade with Crackle and Ruby with Mia. The animal friends are a really nice addition and one that has really enhanced the way LM plays with the figures, especially as Clover and Crackle are two of her favourite characters in the show. Amber and Sofia in two other outfits complete the range. These are lovely little sets which I can see making their way into a few Christmas stockings this year. RRP £5:99.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Blog  Review

Next up we have two Sofia the First Mini Playsets (RRP £9:99). First is the Royal Prep Art Class which sees Sofia dressed for painting with a big easel on a stand and paintbrush. The painting canvas rotates between one side with an outline of Minimus to colour in, and the other having a blank side. This is easy to turn to the side you require by simply pushing it around. What isn't immediately apparent is that the paintbrush actually works! Simply dip the sponge end in water and apply it to the canvas on either side to reveal a surprise! LM loved this interactive element to this playset, I think it's been her favourite element of any of the toys.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review

The second Mini Playset is Princess Amber's Closet. All Sofia the First fans will know how much Princess Amber loves her clothes and this set really reflects that. The closet part of the playset rotates like the easel in Sofia's art set, with a row of beautiful gowns on one side and a mirror on the other. The playset has an Amber figure wearing her trademark yellow dress. In addition there is a feather headdress, necklace and skirt to customise her look further. Both LM and I really liked this element as, with the nature of the small dolls, they can't be changed, so having items to add was a very good idea. There are other playsets available in the range, including a Princess Sofia Magical Lab and I think that they work really nicely together, especially with the addition of the 3" figures and their animal friends. LM has been playing really imaginatively and using the sets and the figures to tell stories from some of her favourite Sofia episodes.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review

LM also received the Sofia the First Royal Camera, this is a really fun toy which has been found in her bag wherever she's gone since it arrived. If only because having her own camera means she can 'be like mummy'. The camera is beautifully decorated including Mia, Sofia's blue bird friend. As you hold the camera to your eye you can press the shutter button to cycle through the various different iimages from the show. This is really fun and reminds me of the Viewfinder toys that I used to play with. This is the perfect accessory for little Sofia fans and LM is very pleased with it (RRP £9:99)
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review

The other perfect accessory in LM's parcel was this super cute Sofia the First Royal Tiara. This is decorated with lots of gems and really sparkles. It can be a little tricky as we find that the front of the tiara detached from the band quite easily so we need to make sure it's attached properly before LM wears it. She insists on it and it looks so pretty in her hair and it looks just like Sofia's own tiara. I think she may well be asking Father Christmas for a Sofia dress to wear to complete her look. (RRP £4:99).
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review Tiara

The parcel was rounded out by a fantastic Sofia the First backpack. LM loves a backpack, especially when it features one of her favourite characters. This is a really roomy bag with the addition of a second pocket which is perfect for smaller bits and pieces. She's actually been using it to keep all of her Sofia the First toys in since it arrived and she was super excited when Grandma bought her a Sofia the First keyring to attach to it. The straps are fully adjustable which means it will grow with your child. We both love the watercolour-style view of the kingdom design on the bag.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review backpack

LM's final item was a copy of the Sofia the First magazine. We love magazines in our house and it is one of Bud and LM's favourite treats. We've never bought the Sofia the First magazine before but LM and I really enjoyed looking at it together. It has a good mix of fun, educational activities and stories and LM loved the alphabet poster in the centre of the magaizine.
Sofia the First Toys from JAKKS Pacific - #SofiasAdventures - Review Magazine

We really rate the new range of Sofia the First toys and I think they will delight a lot of children. The figures are age appropriate and really reflect the style of the TV show well, this makes them great for imaginative play and LM has really got on board with that element of play with these toys. They are really good quality and well priced.

The Sofia the First range from JAKKS Pacific is available from Smyths Toys now.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Review

The Octagon Theatre in Bolton is a familiar haunt of mine, going back many, many years but it's been a while since I last had the opportunity to take in one of their productions. I had the pleasure of being invited to the press night for their brand new production, To Kill a Mockingbird, this week and decided to take my Dad along with me to check out the launch play for the Octagon's 2016-17 season.
To Kill a Mockingbird - Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Review Blog

To Kill a Mockingbird is a very familiar story for many. A feature on the GCSE syllabus for a number of years, and a modern American classic, it's part of the literary fabric of the 20th Century and has been interpreted many times on both stage and screen. The Octagon's staging marks the start of the first season under new Creative Director Elizabeth Newman, a winning start in my opinion.

The story is set in Alabama against a background of racial tension in small town America. The oppressive Summer heat is echoed in the simple, but effective set design which worked well in the Octagon's round, with a combination of red dust floor and effective lighting transporting you to Maycomb. Harper Lee's story sees the town lawyer, Atticus Finch defending a black man, Tom Robinson, against rape and assault charges, not simply against a jury but also against the closed minds of the community that both live in.
To Kill a Mockingbird - Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Review

Narrative is driven by Jean Louise 'Scout' Finch, both as the young girl on the scene and an older version of herself, thirty years on, appearing on stage as both observer and narrator. This device works very well and both Scouts put in excellent performances. We saw Jasmine de Goede (the children's roles will be alternated between two actors) as the young Scout and she was ably supported by Che Tugui as her brother Jem, and Adam Crompton as their young friend Dill. The older Scout was played Barbara Drennen and her emotional and sorrowful performance is well countered by the energy and vibrancy of the young actors.
To Kill a Mockingbird - Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Review

The other stand out performance for me was that of Rob Edwards as Atticus Finch. His world-weary portrayal of the lawyer who is struggling to raise two children alone sees a magical transformation when he takes to the floor of the courtroom to defend Tom Robinson and during his final summing up in the trial you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium. Three other noteworthy performances  were those of Tom himself (Marc Small) in a quiet but powerful performance, Remmie Millner as Helen Robinson, and Leila Mimmack as Mayella Ewell, who manages to portray raw emotion through her body language whenever she is on stage before beginning her witness statement during the trial.
To Kill a Mockingbird - Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Review

In essence the production reminded me that the tensions explored in To Kill a Mockingbird don't go away, set against a post-Brexit UK, and a Trump nomination in the US, there are still many lessons to be learned from Scout Finch and her family and friends.

To Kill a Mockingbird runs until 15th October, to book tickets and explore forthcoming shows visit octagonbolton.co.uk/.

Teletubbies Pull and Play Giant Noo Noo - Review

Both of my littlest two are huge fans of Teletubbies. LM has loved them since watching the old school series on Netflix so she was delighted to see the revamp come to cBeebies a little while ago. She has shared this love with her little brother and I can often find them curled up watching the show on TV in the mornings. We have a few of the new Teletubbies toys now so we were delighted to be offered the opportunity to add to our collection recently when we received the Pull and Play Giant Noo Noo  from Character Toys.
Teletubbies Pull and Play Giant Noo Noo - Review blog

Noo Noo is a favourite character from the show and this toy is a really fun addition to the Teletubbies range. Suitable for children from 18 months upwards, Little E was slightly too young to play at 15 months, but with careful supervision and help from both LM and Bud, we have had lots of fun with this toy.
Teletubbies Pull and Play Giant Noo Noo - Review

Teletubbies Pull and Play Giant Noo Noo - Review

The toy measures around 25cm tall, and about 40 cm long so he's the perfect size for toddlers to get down on the floor with and play. He looks exactly like the character in the TV show with the same big googly eyes and orange and pink body. On one side of Noo Noo's body is a shape sorter with five spaces for shapes (hexagon, star, square, triangle and Po's head). The other side has cutouts of all four Teletubbies with plastic jigsaw-type holes for them to pop into. All of these were the perfect size for little hands to use and both Little E and LM really enjoyed this activity.
Teletubbies Pull and Play Giant Noo Noo - Review

Teletubbies Pull and Play Giant Noo Noo - Review

On top of Noo Noo there are four big buttons (the colours correspond to each of the Teletubbies) and you can press these to get various Teletubbies speech and sound effects. Noo Noo requires 2xAA batteries to make these work, and this also makes the brush on the front of Noo Noo's hose spin. Also included is a pink Tubby Custard splat and, when you place this in front of the hose Noo Noo will make slurping sounds as he cleans it up.
Teletubbies Pull and Play Giant Noo Noo - Review

Noo Noo has wheels which allow him to be pulled around using the yellow cord attached to his front. Little E picked up on this straight away and he was soon toddling around the garden with his new friend in tow.
Teletubbies Pull and Play Giant Noo Noo - Review

Little E has really engaaged with this toy and he's still completely delighted by him, even though he's been here for a couple of weeks now. His interest hasn't waned at all. It's really interesting to watch him puzzling out the shape sorting and the jigsaw pieces and he was soon able to watch his sister and then work out how to do it himself. You can really see him thinking about each piece and walking around the toy to fnd out the correct place for each one.
Teletubbies Pull and Play Giant Noo Noo - Review

There are so many different elements to this toy and the fact that it keeps a 15 month old,, and an almost 4 year old (and a 6 year old sometimes) busy and interested for a decent amount of time every time he is brought out to play is really great. Noo Noo has been a huge hit in our house and I'm sure he will be enjoyed for a long time to come, especially by Little E.
Teletubbies Pull and Play Giant Noo Noo - Review

Check out the rest of the new Teletubbies range in this video.

Pull and Play Giant Noo Noo has an RRP of £49:99 and is available to purchase from Character Toys.

We received the toy for review purposes. 

Watch Finding Nemo with the Fish!

Tomorrow we're heading off to SEA LIFE Blackpool for a visit with a difference as they will be hosting fun screenings of Disney ∙ Pixar’s Finding Nemo for visitors throughout the day on Saturday 27th August. 
Finding Dory and Nemo event at SEA LIFE Blackpool

The screenings are part of SEA LIFE’s event to celebrate the release of Disney ∙ Pixar’s Finding Dory, and will take place in the fun sea-themed schoolroom at the centre from 10am.

Visitors will be given a Finding Dory ‘Trail Book’ and cardboard goggles, looking for letters to spell out a particular word, earning them a prize at the end. The book also pulls out into a poster for them to take home and keep.

The kids are tasked with finding the Finding Dory character Hank the Octopus, which will be hidden in tanks and aquariums with fun facts on the various fish, and the letter clues they need for their Trail Books. Kids will also be given an exclusive ‘pop badge’ at the end which says ‘I Found Out About Dory At Sea Life’.

Jenn McDonough, general manager of SEA LIFE Blackpool, “Finding Nemo and Finding Dory are wonderful films that inspire many visitors to come to SEA LIFE Blackpool. 
Finding Dory and Nemo event at SEA LIFE Blackpool

“Our film screenings allow children to enjoy the original film before taking part in the Finding Dory trail so they can see real life versions of their favourite characters. We hope to create a complete experience, giving Nemo and Dory fans a day out they will never forget.”

Entry to the screening is included as part of a standard SEA LIFE Blackpool ticket, which can be purchased online at www.sealifeblackpool.com

We can't wait to see one of our favourite films amongst the fish in Blackpool tomorrow!

Discovering Engineering at MSI Manchester with Dyson and Currys PC World

The school holidays are in full swing and it's been tricky to carve out some one-to-one time with each of the children so Bud and I were delighted to be invited along to the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Manchester at the weekend, to explore engineering with our friends from Dyson and Currys PC World.
Discovering Engineering at MSI Manchester with Dyson and Currys PC World #DysonChallenge

Ask Bud what he wants to be when he's big and his immediate answer is 'a scientist'. I'm quite proud of this and we're always seeking out ways to promote that interest and help to broaden his scientific horizons beyond paleontology and Lego models. We were invited to visit MSI and take the #DysonChallenge - an opportunity to learn about two of their newest products and to explore some of their benefits using kids crafts.
Discovering Engineering at MSI Manchester with Dyson and Currys PC World #DysonChallenge Cinetic Animal Big Ball Cleaner and Pure Flow Air Purifier

Our day started with refreshments (including some yummy cookies, Bud was a fan) and the opportunity to mingle with the Dyson team and a few local bloggers and their children. It was lovely to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. There was a range of Dyson products out for demonstration purposes and Bud really got stuck into trying them out. He particularly loved the handheld cleaners and I was pretty impressed at how easily a 6 year old could operate one!
Discovering Engineering at MSI Manchester with Dyson and Currys PC World #DysonChallenge Handheld cleaner

When the more formal part of the day started two of the Dyson engineers introduced the new products we were there to see. First up was the Dyson Cinetic Animal Big Ball Cleaner. This cleaner brings together the Cinetic technology which uses cyclone technology to ensure that suction never drops, and that it picks up even the tiniest of particles.
Discovering Engineering at MSI Manchester with Dyson and Currys PC World #DysonChallenge Cinetic Animal Big Ball Cleaner

Dyson have been listening to their customers who have asked for a more effective way of emptying their cleaners and have come up with a really nifty way of doing so in this cleaner. Instead of opening the canister and tipping it in to your bin, You slide the seal down the container and it pushes even the smallest pieces out. No cleaning the container out after emptying your vacuum!

The most fun element of this new cleaner is the 'big ball', we've all trailed around a cylinder vacuum cleaner, dragging it around after us and had it tip over on us. With the new Dyson Cinetic Big Ball, when this happens it will simply right itself and pop back to upright on it's own. This was ably demonstrated by one of the children at the event and, despite rolling the cleaner all the way over, it did roll straight back up on it's own. The kids were fascinated by this and I know lots of them had a go at tipping it over.

The second item we had demonstrated to us was the Dyson Pure Cool Link Tower Air Purifier. This promises to remove 99.5% of allergens and pollutants from the air in your home, effectively cleaning and filtering the air and potentially removing toxic fumes! In addition to this it can work as a fan to keep your home cool on hot days.
Discovering Engineering at MSI Manchester with Dyson and Currys PC World #DysonChallenge

The Air Purifier has it's very own Dyson Link app (for Android and iPhone) which allows you to monitor the air in your home remotely and change settings on the go if needed. It also has a remote control, LED and night mode to make using it a simple process.

After the demonstrations we had the chance to get creative. Our first task was to make a self-righting egg similar to the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Cleaner's technology. We decorated our egg with a funky face, and called him 'Glasses Man; Bud ensured he had glasses just like his. From there we used ball bearings and blu-tac to make sure our egg would stand back up if he was knocked over. Bud loved making his egg and it led to a discussion about just why the egg stands back up again.
Discovering Engineering at MSI Manchester with Dyson and Currys PC World #DysonChallenge Self-righting eggs

The second craft was to make our own windmills to demonstrate the Dyson Pure Cool Link Tower Air Purifier's air flow power. We decorated our paper template then used a pencil to pin it together and make a windmill which spun in the air from the Air Purifier. It was a fun creative task and Bud really enjoyed working out why the air made the windmill spin.
Discovering Engineering at MSI Manchester with Dyson and Currys PC World #DysonChallenge Make your own windmill

After a tasty lunch it was time to say goodbye and I took home a very happy little boy who really wants to be a Dyson engineer when he grows up, he's also developed something of a taste for vacuuming which I'll definitely be looking to promote using our Dyson cleaner at home. It was a lovely way to explore the products and to explain their engineering to the children. Bud says it was the best day ever!

We attended the event as the guests of Dyson and Currys PC World and received a gift and goodie bag for our time.


Princess Peppa's Palace - Review

LM loves Peppa Pig and we've amassed quite a collection over the past few years. From the Classic range of toys through to the Holiday sets and Once Upon a Time, they've all been really popular toys here and the Peppa collection is played with on an almost daily basis. Recently LM was sent the brand new Princess Peppa's Palace from Character Toys and it looks like we have another hit on our hands.
Princess Peppa's Palace - Review Character Toys Peppa Pig

Unboxing the Palace is an easy process. The bright yellow building unfolds it's doors to open out to reveal the palace interior. Helpfully this locks to make storing the Palace accessories inside an easy process. Included are Princess Peppa, A small amount of assembly is required as two balconies are clipped on to the front,  two small flags added to the tops of the palace's towers and the bathroom floor is clipped in.. Sir George and a Fairy Godmother Suzy Sheep. As usual there is a range of furniture included - Peppa and George's beds, pillows and favourite toys (Teddy and Mr Dinosaur), three thrones, treasure chest a sideboard and jelly, wardrobe, mirror and bath tub.
Princess Peppa's Palace - Review Character Toys Peppa Pig

The interior of the palace is brightly decorated with the purpose of each room clear to see. There are windows in most rooms and it's easy to work out which piece of furniture goes where. This did meet with a little bit of an argument over which was Peppa's bedroom, with LM deciding it had to be the one with Peppa's photo on the wall and Bud choosing a different option.
Princess Peppa's Palace - Review Character Toys Peppa Pig
Princess Peppa's Palace - Review Character Toys Peppa Pig

The set lends itself to imaginative play beautifully. The different characters included and the accessories have had LM creating lots of different scenarios and it's funny to hear replays of the television show in her play too.
Princess Peppa's Palace - Review Character Toys Peppa Pig

All of the set is of the usual high Peppa Pig quality we have become accustomed to. They are all sturdily built and perfect for little hands. I'm really liking that, even though the same characters are in lots of the different sets now, they do make effort to make their outfits look different so we aren't adding to the collection of identical Peppa Pigs that we have. It makes such a difference to LM that she has a Peppa which clearly identifies with a particular set. I'm not sure why but I'm not almost 4!
Princess Peppa's Palace - Review
Princess Peppa's Palace - Review Character Toys Peppa Pig

There are a couple of little niggles with this set which I've noticed. The design of the palace makes it perfect for taking out with your child. A carry handle on the top would make that much easier. The inside of the Palace is large enough to store a good collection of other Peppa Pig characters and toys but you need to make sure not to put small items in the rooms with the larger windows as they will fall out.
Princess Peppa's Palace - Review Character Toys Peppa Pig
All in all this is a lovely playset. It's been a huge hit here, with Bud and Little E enjoying playing just as much as LM. I can imagine it being a hugely successful addition to many Peppa Pig collections .

Princess Peppa's Palace has an RRP of £49:99 and is available from Smyths Toys.

The Original Stretch Armstrong - Review

I have faint memories of Stretch Armstrong from my childhood in the early 80s so I was rather surprised to find out that he has returned to stores for brand new adventures recently! Bud received his very own Stretch Armstrong and we've been having lots of fun testing him out.
Original Stretch Armstrong Box Blog Review

Stretch Armstrong arrives in a sturdy cardboard box which promises that he can stretch up to four times his size! Bud was rather intrigued by this and very keen to try him out.



Stretch measures about 30cm tall and has a rubbery body which feels rather strange! He looks like a mini wrestler with his muscles and dark trunks. I'd describe it as a dough-y texture, if you poke him it will leave a finger mark and, of course, you can mould and stretch the figure by pulling on his arms and legs.
Stretching Stretch Armstrong doll blog review

Fresh from the box Stretch isn't as stretchy as you would expect but he loosens up as he is played with and really starts to stretch. Bud had so much fun playing with him and he quickly realised that he could stretch the figure, tie him in knots and generally do lots of crazy things with Stretch Armstrong, knowing that he would ping back to his normal size again straight after. Very funny!
Stretching Stretch Armstrong doll review blog

I'd really recommend reading the Stretch Armstrong instructions quite carefully as he can be damaged and these show how to fix him, should that occur. We've had no problems beyond him getting a little dirty and sticky from playing in the garden and we solved this with a quick wipe from a damp cloth.
Stretching Stretch Armstrong doll review blog

I was surprised by how much fun we had with Stretch Armstrong and Bud has taken him on a couple of playdates since he arrived as his  Sister tends to just fall over when they play tug of war. Having friends who are just as strong really helps!
Stretching Stretch Armstrong doll review

Stretch Armstrong has an RRP of £19:99 and can be purchased from Character Online.