Children's Educational Toys from WordUnited | Review

13.7.20

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We have owned many toys, games and books over the years. Huge garish plastic ones, bright flashy ones, and ones that have been tossed to the side the second they have been taken out of the box. But over these years we've learnt which type of toys last the longest and bring the most joy for our little ones - our wooden kitchen for example was a gift for our eldest's 2nd birthday; she's 7 this year and it's still played with daily by her and our two younger children! As well as longevity being an important factor when looking for toys and gifts for our children, we also think that they should provide more than just fun. Of course that's incredibly important too, but an educational aspect is so key to our children's development. And WordUnited provide just that.


WordUnited is an independent publisher, bookseller and educational supplier of children’s books, toys and children's learning resources (birth to 11 years). They specialise in supplying those hard-to-find, good quality educational toys, books and learning resources - from their own branded books to famous brands such as Bigjigs Toys, Bloomsbury, Galt Toys, Hape, Leapfrog, Melissa and Doug, Orchard Toys and Usbourne. Each of their selected products support and complement the requirements of the EYFS and Primary National Curriculum. Another great addition to their website is their Learning Hub, where they have a large range of free activity sheets, worksheets and printables which are perfect for anyone who is home learning at the moment (or in the future).

WordUnited sent us a selection of products suitable for each of our children to review. Lilah is 2.5 and absolutely loves imaginative play, especially with small world toys and baby dolls. She was sent the lovely TickiT Wooden Rainbow which has quickly become an accessory in her small world play. She builds the rainbow, then the arches become a slide for her figures, and then she's stacking it in different ways to make a tower. I love how the item has so many opportunities for fun and play - all while teaching her skills!



Parker is spaced obsessed so he was so thrilled to receive this Space Snap game from Usbourne. The images are beautifully bright and engaging, but the bigger size makes them easier for small hands to hold. At almost 5 he is doing really well with his games now, but this is fantastic for learning turn-taking, and helps keep him engaged as he tries to find the snap!



Indiana is just coming to the end of Year 1 and therefore is beginning to learn a very important skill - time telling. She received this beautiful Lift-the-Flap Telling the Time book (also by Usbourne), which is absolutely packed full of information but in a fun and engaging way. She's quickly picked up O'Clock and half past, and with the help of the interactive clock at the back I don't think it will be long before she's telling the time properly!




Finally, we received the Orchard Toys Pass the Word game for the older two to play and learn together. As with all Orchard Toys games, this is a great way to encourage learning alongside fun as you battle the timer to find the correct letters to build your word. It did quickly become a bit competitive (and not just with the children), but it was great fun and the littles were especially proud when they spelt the words correctly. We have a large Orchard Toys games collection already so this was a wonderful addition!




There really is a wonderful selection of toys, games, books and more on the WordUnited website, making it a perfect one-stop-shop for anything you need. The website was easy to navigate and use, and I absolutely love how our items arrived as the littles really felt like they were receiving special gifts (gift wrapping is a free option, as is adding a gift receipt). I would definitely recommend them and will be heading back for more toys and gifts in the future.


If you did want to order make sure to use the code wu4kids to receive 10% off! How fab is that?

This post was written in collaboration with WordUnited, however all opinions are honest and my own.

Our Month - June 2020

11.7.20


After three months of lockdown and everything feeling all doom and gloom, June came along and things suddenly felt that little bit more 'normal'. Most of this of course was helped along by the fact that schools reopened for reception, years 1 and 6, meaning that both Indiana and Parker started back (they are reception and year 1). Early years also opened up to everyone again, meaning Jack was also back to work after a long 11 weeks at home. Of course it felt very strange that first week. After us all being together every single day, and then suddenly back to being just me and Lilah again, I didn't really know what to do with our days!

Indiana and Parker settled in really well back at school. Indie is still with her original teacher and her group of close friends - sat at individual desks, but able to have plenty of fun and all learning together. Parker has new teachers (although the same TA), but thankfully has his little group of friends so wasn't too bothered. He is spending most of his days outside, and most importantly not being forced to distance which really put my mind at ease. They've come out every day full of smiles and tales to tell, and I know for us it was definitely the right decision to send them back to school.






More restrictions were eased in June as well, meaning we had much more freedom than we did before. National Trust properties opened back up again - along with a new system of booking tickets that is sometimes more difficult than getting concert tickets! We took full advantage, visiting Sissinghurst, Nyman's and our beloved Knole Park.

We celebrated Father's Day with a yummy cooked breakfast, an afternoon at Nyman's and of course a takeaway to end the day. It was so wonderful to spend so much time with Jack over the full lockdown period, and now he's back at work I think the littles really miss him - especially his little shadow Lilah. So we tried to make this day as special as we could!






Another special day happened at the end of the month.. we finally met our new nephew! We did slightly bend the rules for it to happen, but after waiting almost 8 weeks for a cuddle we all agreed it was time. The littles absolutely loved having a cuddle, although they were more excited to be reunited with their older cousins that they hadn't seen properly since March.

July of course brings even more restrictions easing which I know will change our daily lives once more. But honestly I cannot wait - I am really craving a meal out and a trip to the park after so many months without them!

Nymans Gardens during Lockdown (June 2020) | Days out with the National Trust

27.6.20


We have been lucky enough to secure a few National Trust days out since the easing of lockdown restrictions, the most recent of which was to Nyman's Gardens for Father's Day. If you're struggling to get tickets (numbers to National Trust properties are currently limited due to Covid-19 restrictions), my biggest tip is to get onto the National Trust website as early as you can on a Friday morning, and have a property in mind that you wish to visit. You may have to wait in a queue, but I've found this way there are more tickets left rather than leaving it late and scrolling through what's left.

At the moment only the gardens and the woodland walks are open at Nymans (as well as the toilet blocks at the entrance), but there's still plenty to see and explore so don't let this put you off. Our slot was 1.30-2pm, so we didn't bring a picnic this time, but plenty were sat on the lawn enjoying theirs. I'd recommend bringing snacks and drinks though as the cafe isn't open at the time of writing, so there's nowhere to purchase anything (I was rather gutted the ice cream hut was closed).






There are also a few other rules and restrictions in place in order to keep everyone safe during their visit to Nymans. When you arrive a member of staff will ask for your name and tick you off their list, and then you are able to park wherever you like. Once you enter there is a one-way route throughout the whole of the property which is easy to follow and well signposted, although of course it's then up to visitors to follow these rules. Like I previously mentioned the house, gallery, shop and cafe are currently closed - although the latter are undergoing an upgrade which is exciting!

The lower visitor numbers made our visit feel much more special and relaxed (well, as relaxing as it can be with three young children). We found it incredibly easy to keep our distance from other families, even with lots sitting on the central lawn area there was plenty of space for the little to run around and enjoy the sun. And as you can see from the pictures in this post, the lower visitors numbers made it much easier to take snaps with no-one else in the background. A photographer's dream I'm sure.






The gardens at Nymans are looking absolutely beautiful at the moment, and I really think it's a great time to visit and enjoy them if you can get tickets. Of course our visit was a little different to when we visited on Father's Day in 2017 (and not just because we have another child now), but it still was a lovely afternoon out. I'm just so thankful National Trust properties are opening back up again as they really are perfect places to explore with little ones.

Top 5 Tips for Successful Potty Training

22.6.20

Having now potty trained three children, although I wouldn't call myself an expert, I would say I have some good knowledge on the process and what does and doesn't work. Of course all children and different, so what has worked for ours may not work for yours, but I'm hopeful that these 5 tips could lead to a successful potty training experience for all.


1: The biggest and most important tip of all, is to only start potty training if YOUR child is ready and showing signs.

Do not feel pressured into starting just because family members tell you you should, or because you see children younger than yours doing so. Every child is different and gets there at their own pace. The biggest signs your child is ready are:

- Being able to hold themselves longer (nappies staying dry longer).
- Them telling you that they have been to the toilet / need to go, and a want to get out of their dirty nappy.
- Hiding when going to the loo.
- Having a general interest in the toilet and the process of going to the loo.

2: Praise the good and don't focus on the negatives.

You cannot give enough praise when it comes to potty training - the more cheerleaders the better I say! At first you could just give praise for them sitting on the potty, and then as they progress you could introduce other rewards. We used chocolate as a treat with all three children and it worked well for us. Just a small piece for each time they went on the potty for the first week or two. You could alternatively use a reward chart or jar, and then treat them to a big 'prize' after they collect a certain number. 

There will understandably be accidents throughout the process too, but from experience we've found it's best to briefly mention what they did wrong, and then just clean up the mess and move on. Focussing on the negative could put your child off from using the potty / toilet at all. 

3: Make sure there's easy access to a potty or toilet at all times to help avoid accidents.

We have a potty downstairs, of course the toilet upstairs, and then a travel potty we use when out and about. I would really recommend a travel potty for out and about as you really never know when they're going to need to go. We have the My Carry Potty but there's a few options you can buy, and all are light enough to put under the buggy or in a backpack.


4: Buy lots of knickers / pants... and then buy some more!

You really can never have enough of these, especially for those early days. A lot of people opt for the bottom free approach, but we personally think it's best to introduce bottoms as early on as possible - it's all well and good having them nail it when naked, but you might have to start over again when you add clothes. Getting them used to wearing pants means you can carry on with your days as normal too; important if you've got school runs you can't avoid like me!

5: Follow your child's pace.

My final piece of advice is to not try and rush your child through their potty training journey. Follow their pace and try and make it enjoyable for everyone. If your child has aced being dry during the day, don't automatically assume they are ready to be dry at night or during naps. Both of these come with time - and nighttime dryness actually requires a hormone for them to be able to achieve it! There's no need to rush with anything, especially when it comes to your child.

I hope these tips have been helpful! Are there any you would add?

Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris

20.6.20

If you are like me and want your Disneyland Paris holiday to be fully immersive, then of course you are going to want to stay in one of the 6 Disney hotels on property during your trip. These hotels are split into three different groups - Value, Moderate and Luxury - but all are within the Disneyland Paris resort area and offer that extra bit of Disney magic. In this post I'm going to be focusing on Disney's Newport Bay Club Hotel.

Disney's Newport Bay Club Hotel

Disney's Newport Bay Club Hotel fits into the moderate category, although it has got a 4 Key rating (Disney's version of a 4-star rating) and has been recently renovated, so it does feel like a luxury hotel. The hotel itself has been designed to look like a 1920s New England coastal mansion, which fits perfectly as it is set on the waterside of Lake Disney. The whole hotel has a nautical theming throughout, from the blues and golds in the Lobby to the porthole borders and luggage themed storage in the rooms. There's even a lighthouse on the lake which is such wonderful theming!


Like all Disneyland Paris hotels the parks and Disney Village are easily walkable from Newport Bay Club. This is advertised at 15 minutes, but I think this depends on how fast you personally walk as we did manage it quicker than this most days. There are also free shuttle busses available that take you to Disney Village (perfect when you've had a long park day!). If you are planning to drive to Disneyland Paris then you can also park in Newport Bay Club's car park free for the duration of your stay.

Amenities

Disney's Newport Bay Club Hotel is the largest hotel on property but don't let that put you off, it just means there's more on offer to enjoy! The gift shop Bay Boutique (located opposite the reception desks) is a great place to stop to grab any essentials or gifts. You can also pick up your Disney Photopass from here, and if you want to send a postcard they have stamps on sale too.

Newport Bay Club features fantastic swimming pools and full service gym. Both the indoor pool and outdoor pools are heated and flotation devices are available for children. They are open to 10pm most days too, so are a great place to head if you want a more relaxing Disney evening. It's worth noting Jack was able to take two of our children by himself, but I'd check ratios before you go! The gym is packed full of high quality equipment and is usually open 24 hours. And there's even a sauna and a steam room to enjoy too.

As well as the check-in desks there is also a fantastic concierge desk in the lobby; a place to purchase tickets, make or change dining reservations, and just help with any queries you have during your stay. We had an issue with our meal plan vouchers one day, and they were so helpful and managed to solve the problem for us as quickly as possible.


Photo credit: Emma-Louise



Like all of the Disney hotels each morning there is the chance to meet a Disney character - this was in a room just by the gift shop when we visited, but this may change. I'd advice getting there a little early though as queues can form quite quickly for these meets.

A couple of other great features of Newport Bay Club include free wi-fi throughout the whole hotel, although I did find this to be hit and miss with it's speed. There is a babysitting service available at the hotel (an extra charge), and something that most people don't know is that you can get one hot drink per person, per day at the hot drinks machines in the corridors! And in regards to the size of the hotel and number of guests, there are plenty of lifts so don't worry about having to wait too long to get back to your room.

Rooms

There are 3 different levels of rooms you can book at Newport Bay Club. The lowest level are the Superior Rooms, which you can upgrade slightly to have a lakeside view or a family room (these have an extra pull-out sofa bed). You can upgrade to a Compass Club room, which is Disney's equivalent of a club level room, and again these can be upgraded to a lakeside view or a family room. The highest level rooms are the suites - a dream of mine to stay in one day I think!

All rooms include :

  • Fantastic nautical theming
  • Plenty of storage
  • A hair dryer
  • 1 free travel cot (if needed)
  • A kettle (upon request)
  • TV with Disney and international TV channels
  • Air conditioning
  • Telephone and radio
  • A safety deposit box
  • Free luggage service





If you stay in one of the Compass Club (or higher) rooms you also get:

  • A private reception desk
  • Access to the Compass Club Lounge for private breakfast, drinks and snacks (4pm - 5.30pm)
  • Tea and espresso coffee facilities
  • One Disney Hotel Fastpass per day, per guest (suites get VIP Fastpasses that give unlimited access) 
  • Bath robes and slippers (upon request)
Photo credit: Beth

Photo credit: Beth

We stayed in a Superior room last Summer and had an amazing stay. Our room was located in the main building and actually had a balcony overlooking the front of the hotel (without any requests), so it was easy and quick to walk to everything within the hotel. The room had plenty of storage and room for two buggies - an essential when you're travelling with children. The bathroom area was the only area I didn't think was luxurious enough, but the bath/shower was practical and bath amenities were provided, and I liked that the bathroom was separate from the toilet too. I would advice brining an extension cable when travelling too, as there is a distinct lack of plug sockets in the room. But I think my favourite part of the room were the headboards.. so fun!

Restaurants

Newport Bay Club Hotel has two main restaurants Cape Cod and Yacht Club, as well as the Captain's Quarters Bar (and the private dining area for Compass Club guests). Cape Cod is a buffet restaurant which is open for breakfast and dinner. The breakfast buffet is a mix of hot and cold foods including pastries, yoghurts, cereals, fresh fruits, deli meats and cheeses, pancakes, sausages, eggs and of course fruit juices and hot drinks. We were full every morning so I would definitely recommend a visit!

The dinner buffet has a Mediterranean and seafood menu, but do not let that put you off as there is plenty on offer for everyone - including children! We saw curry, pasta, chicken nuggets, chips and salads, and of course there was a generous dessert selection too (ice cream machine and candy floss anyone?). 



Yacht Club is a premium table service restaurant which also serves Mediterranean inspired tastes and flavours. There is a lot of seafood on the menu so it's definitely one to avoid if you're not so keen (like us), but you can see an example of the menu here to give you an idea. Booking a reservation is recommended for both restaurants as they can get busy!

Overall we absolutely loved our stay at Disney's Newport Bay Club Hotel. The theming alongside the more luxurious feel of the hotel really made our trip feel that little bit more special, and I know 100% we would go back to stay again in the future. Of course we did encounter a few negatives during our stay - the fact there's only ONE lift down to the restaurants and way out to the parks if a big down-side. But the little things such as the staff giving out chocolates and badges to the children when we arrived, to just the hotel smell in general (if you've been there you'll know!) really made up for any negative we had.

Have you stayed at Newport Bay Club? What did you think?