Wonderful Wooden Toys for Each Age and Stage


When choosing a toy for a child, every parent tries to buy only the best and most useful, and what could be more useful than natural materials - more specifically, wood? Wooden toys are completely safe, and thanks to modern equipment, not only can cubes and pyramids be made from wood, but also elements for creating movable mechanisms too. Wooden toys really are such wonderful items for little ones, and in this post I'm going to share why.

Features and Benefits of Wooden Toys

Toys are usually made of natural wood such as birch, beech, and coniferous species. These moderately hard materials are easily cut and sanded and do not crack when working with them. Thanks to careful processing, there are no burrs on the objects, meaning that when playing with them, your child will not get a splinter and get hurt. For greater safety and an attractive appearance, the products are covered with water-based paint and a special varnish, which does not contain toxic materials, so they do not cause allergic reactions. Compared to plastic, wood is complicated to break or break. This makes them so much more long lasting!

How to Make the Right Choice?

The simplicity of the functionality of wooden educational toys helps to master the skill faster and to follow the path to creativity. An excess of functions is superfluous for a child's toy. The toy needs to have a specific purpose such as to train counting, to teach differences in colours, etc. Selecting a product for a certain age and individual characteristics is better. For example, small parts and larger / heavier toys are best avoided under the age of three.

The production of wooden toys must follow all the necessary requirements: a smooth surface, no sharp corners, and protrusions, food or acrylic paint, marking in the visibility zone, and the presence of certificates. As long as you buy from a reputable retailer you should be making a great choice!

Types of Wooden Educational Toys for Each Age

Up to a Year
Cubes and pyramids - these promote the development of motor skills, imagination, and co-ordination of movements. Wooden musical instruments such as rattles and xylophones are also a great choice. In general, the fewer the elements (3-4 maximum), the better the toy will hold the concentration and attention of a younger child.

1-2 Years
At the age of 1-2 years, painted products that develop fine motor skills and dexterity are allowed. From this age your child will know how to manipulate objects, and pronounce their first words and phrases. Simple puzzles would therefore be an excellent option - collecting figures from small squares teach logic and creative thinking. The difficulty can be increased with age. You could also consider a toy constructor of large parts for fine motor skills and imagination. As your child gets older, you can increase the difficulty and amount of parts in the toy.

2-3 Years
In the period from 2 to 3 years, the number of elements in constructors and puzzles increases again. Useful toys for comparison and classification by a common feature, colour, shape, and texture are a great idea. 

Sorters - a box with holes or a board with recesses where you need to insert a suitable element. Your child learns to think logically, identify connections, picking up details in shape, size, or colour. Fine motor skills and memory improve while playing.

Lacing - a large figure with several holes, where a cord with a solid tip is threaded. Or large beads of different shapes and colours are strung on a string. Both options help improve fine-motor skills, accuracy, and co-ordination of actions. Having mastered lacing, children will eventually learn how to tie shoes themselves.

3-5 Years
From 3 to 5 years old, your child gets more familiar with the world of numbers and letters. Items with an alphabet, a dial, and an abacus are welcome.

Busy-boards - various objects that are found in everyday life are fixed on the game board: locks, latches, windows, sockets, zippers, fasteners, etc. These teach your child to safely interact with objects from the adult world, motor skills, logical thinking, and attention retention.

You can also introduce more complicated constructors. These are a set of parts of different shapes and colours if the set is painted. This is a ready-made building material from which you can create anything: houses, castles, and whole towns. In addition to classic products, cars, and horses, wooden toy factories also produce sets of furniture for dolls, kitchens, vegetables, and other attributes. The key point is to teach children to play. And then the learning will accelerate, and the process will be fun. You could even introduce a mud kitchen to the garden and let their creative juices flow outside too!

Eco-friendly wooden toys are the choice of parents who care about the safety, harmonious and creative development of their child. And most importantly – teach children to play and engage with them. Only in this case, the toys, in addition to the entertainment function, will also carry an educational one.

Do your children enjoy wooden toys?

This is a collaborative post.

A Guide to MOT Tests

Collaboration with Hojol Uddin, Head of Motoring Offences at JMW Solicitors

The MOT test is an annual review carried out by garages to make sure that vehicles over three years old are roadworthy. Vehicles that pass an MOT will be provided with a certificate, and it is illegal to drive a vehicle that does not have an MOT test certificate. JMW’s Hojol Uddin from the Motoring Offences team has outlined what happens during an MOT test and the penalties you could face if you fail to comply with your legal responsibilities. 

What Happens During an MOT Test?

An MOT test checks components of your vehicle. If a vehicle fails an MOT test, it may need repairs before it can be legally driven. Examples of vehicle parts tested during an MOT test include:

● Tyres - your tyres should not be below the minimum tread depth. You can avoid this by regularly checking your tyre tread depth and replacing your tyres when they start to wear down.
● Brakes - if your brakes are not functioning properly, this can lead to a MOT test failure. To avoid this, make sure you have your brakes checked regularly and get them serviced if necessary.
● Lights - if any of your vehicle's lights are not working, you'll need to get these repaired. To avoid this, make sure you check all of your lights regularly and replace any bulbs that have blown.
● Mirrors - your vehicle's mirrors should not be cracked or broken. To avoid this, make sure you check your mirrors regularly and replace them if necessary.
● Seatbelts - if any of your vehicle's seat belts are not working properly, you could fail your MOT. To avoid this, make sure you check your seat belts regularly and get them serviced if necessary.
● Windscreen - if your windscreen is cracked or damaged, you'll need to get this fixed before being allowed back on the road. To avoid this, make sure you have your windscreen checked regularly and replaced if necessary.

An emissions check is also included in the MOT test to determine the vehicle’s exhaust emissions - if they are too high, the vehicle will be deemed illegal to drive. Not all vehicles are required to undergo an emission test; the following vehicle types are exempt:

● Vehicles fewer than four wheels
● Vehicles with two-stroke engines
● Electric, hydrogen-fuelled or hybrid vehicles
● Quadricycles

The vehicle’s engine, gearbox and clutch aren’t tested under a general MOT test and will need to be assessed separately to ensure they are in good condition.

An MOT test certificate alone does not mean your vehicle is completely roadworthy though, and you should perform regular maintenance between MOT tests to ensure it is drivable and safe.

What Happens if I’m Caught Driving Without a Valid MOT?

Being caught driving without a valid MOT test certificate will leave you with a fine of up to £1,000 and your car being added to the DVLA's database of vehicles with no MOT. Initially, a £100 fixed penalty notice will be given, but repeat offences will incur further financial penalties.

An additional fine of up to £2,500 (level 4) will be brought should your vehicle be judged to be in a dangerous condition. This offence could also incur three penalty points on your licence. You could also invalidate your insurance with some providers, meaning you will be liable for third-party vehicle costs if you’re involved in a road traffic accident. If you are stopped by the police while driving to an MOT test appointment, you will need to provide details for the mechanic or garage undertaking the inspection for you.

When you incur a fine due to driving a vehicle that does not have an up-to-date MOT certificate, you should remedy this as soon as possible by paying the fine and booking an MOT test. If you feel you have been unfairly punished, speak to an expert motoring offences solicitor about how you might be able to appeal the decision.

Staring School | Lilah's First Term in Reception


There's only two weeks left of the year left, so I thought it was time I wrote a little post about Lilah's experience of starting school. I shared a similar post for Indiana and Parker when they started school, so of course I had to do the same for when Lilah started this year too. It really is surreal that my littlest baby is now in reception and now at home with me all day. But she's absolutely thriving and loving school already!

When Lilah started preschool she really struggled to settle, so it was a big worry of mine that the same would happen with school. But I think most of the worry with preschool was down to a mixture of lockdowns, and struggling to separate from me. So with that now mostly behind us, she really has settled in to school life wonderfully.

Every morning she jumps in to my bed for a cuddle, and then tells me all about her day ahead. Who her friends are, what she's learning, and of course how excited she is for me to come pick her up at the end of the day - she's still my baby girl after all! 

It does feel extra bittersweet this time around though. Lilah is my last baby, and so now she's at school every day too, I feel like I've lost a little part of me. She really was my favourite little shopping and coffee date companion. But I'm so excited to see her blossom and grow over her school journey. She's already got a lovely little group of friends, and although this is my third time around, it's still amazing me how quickly they learn to read and write!

At the end of last month we had her first parents evening, and from the sounds of things she's doing really well, and it's clear she's going to absolutely thrive at school. We have her first Nativity to look forward to next week (she's a shepherd with the iconic line "I'm bored"),  and then we're already a whole term completed of her reception year. Time really does fly when you're having fun doesn't it?

Packing Hacks for Families on the Move


This post has been written and provided by An Post Insurance. #ad 

It’s been a while, but many of us are thinking about dusting off our passports, pulling the luggage out of the attic and setting off on long-awaited family holidays. Whether you’re scheduled for a beach break in sunny Spain, a skiing adventure on the Swiss slopes or a fun-filled foray along the Wild Atlantic Way, you’ll be wondering what to pack. There’s nothing worse than opening your case to find one sock and half a swimsuit, so it’s worth taking the time to make sure you do it right – and An Post Insurance have got a couple of handy hacks to help you on your way. 

Check the Weather

Sure, it can change last-minute, but there are lots of great apps available to help you gauge what type of weather to expect. There’s a big difference between packing wellies and waterproofs or sandals and shorts, so it pays to check the forecast before you set off. If in doubt, include some lightweight layers, an easily-foldable raincoat and water-resistant shoes. It won’t win any fashion awards, but a cheap and cheerful plastic poncho is always a handy addition to your backpack.

Start Writing Lists

Yes, it probably does mean you’re turning into your mother, but a list is a traveller’s best friend. Make one for each member of the family, and put the most important must-haves at the top; that way, if you run out of space, it’s no big deal to cross a few items. Once you’ve finalised your list, take a copy with you on your trip, so that you can cross-check it on the way home to make sure you haven’t left anything behind. Much-loved teddy bears have been known to hide under hotel beds!

Fill your Phone

While holidays are back, they’re not without new rules and regulations – all designed to keep us as safe as possible while we travel. It’s important to check the official tourist sites for both your home country and your destination location to make sure you’re up to date with the latest developments. You’ll probably have to prepare some paperwork in advance, so give yourself plenty of time, print originals where required, and keep copies of everything in your phone, from booking confirmations to important contact details. That way, if you’re asked to provide a certificate, a form or your ID, you’ll always have a copy in the palm of your hand.

Pack Smart

Much has changed about flying these days, but luggage limits remain as tight as ever. Invest in a small luggage scale to make sure you don’t face extra charges at the airport. It’s worth leaving a little room too, in case you want to bring home any souvenirs from your trip, such as olive oil, local coffee or a stick of rock. Maybe skip the stinky cheese though, or at least wrap it extra-carefully! Packing cubes are a great way to protect your delicates and keep your small items separate, allowing for easy access to your swim shorts the minute you arrive. If you’re going to use locks, make sure they’re airport-safe, so officials won’t break them off while carrying out routine checks.

Make Sure you’re Covered

That means with sunscreen, mosquito repellent and great value travel insurance too. Accidents can happen, whether it’s something as simple as a lost wallet or as serious as a personal injury. Good travel insurance gives you the peace of mind you need to fully relax on your holidays – if things go wrong while you're abroad, you can rest easy knowing you will get the assistance, cover and care you need.

That way, you can get on with enjoying your much-deserved break, ordering dessert every night and making memories your family will treasure forever.

An Post Insurance can also protect you in other aspects of your life – including car and home insurance. Find an insurance quote online now.

An Post Insurance Travel Insurance is arranged, administered and underwritten by Chubb European Group SE.

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