Best books for children

Books are always the best gift for anyone. If you’re stuck for somebody’s present there will be a whole shelf of books to choose from that they will thoroughly enjoy. Reading has always been very important to us as a family and right from the start books have been present in the girl’s lives. As babies, they had fabric books and as they have grown, so has their passion for reading – something I am keen to continue to encourage. I make sure they always have a choice of books of all different types to choose from and encourage them to read at every possible moment.

Harper Collins sent through a collection of their top books for children and asked the girls to make a video including their thoughts on each book which you can watch below…like most 9-year-olds my two want to have their own YouTube channel which I shall be setting up over the Christmas holidays for them but in the meantime, you can watch their first work on my YouTube channel.

Books for children

I think you will agree that there are some fantastic titles which are sure to intrigue even the less focused children by pulling them into some great stories and taking them on an unforgettable journey. I must admit, I shall be dipping into some of them myself!

Here is a handy list of the 2017 best-selling books for children included in the box, all of which you can find on the Harper Collins website and all of the best bookshops.

Books for under 5s

Bing’s Christmas Wish – Amanda Hepworth

Kevin – Rob Biddulph

Sunk – Rob Biddulph

Boogie Bear – David Walliams

Here we are – Oliver Jeffers

Books for children 5 – 7

Paddington Movie books

The Grotlyn – Benji Davies

Books for children 8 – 12

Geek Girl – All Wrapped Up – Holly Smale

Toto – Michael Morpurgo

Paddington 2 – Anna Wilson

Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy

Birthday Boy – David Baddiel

Bad Boy – David Walliams

Here are our other children’s book reviews as we’d thoroughly recommend any of these too.

Kaspar Prince of Cats

Top books for tweens

The Grinch who Stole Christmas

Disclosure – We were sent a box of books for the purpose of this post, all opinions are our own.

keswick

Image credit: Stuart Hodgson from www.hikingphotographer.uk

The Lake District is in the north-west of England in the county of Cumbria and I have yet to go and visit, shocking I know. In fact, I am making it one of my 2018 goals to spend some time there next year as I have heard so many good things. If people have been returning here for centuries, there must be a very good reason, right?

The whole area is a National Park that is teeming with lakes, woodlands, wildlife and pretty towns and villages to explore. Of course, it’s a hikers paradise and many people come here quite simply to get out in the open and walk the fabulous landscape taking in some of the greatest views in the world. Many different outdoor lovers are drawn to the Lake District; cyclists, kayakers (is that a word?), canoeists even treetop trekkers – yes there is such a thing.

But, not all of us want to spend all of our time being active, luckily the Lake District has a host of other things to do that will keep you more than amused during your stay.

Things to do in the Lake District

Firstly, we can divide the things to do in the Lake District into areas, the north, the east, central, south-east and western areas. Each part has many things to do and I have cherry-picked a few that I would love to see with my family.

MILL RACE COTTAGE

Mill Race Cottage

Castlerigg Stone Circle – Northern Lake District

I am fascinated with stone circles. From our first visit to Stonehenge, the curiosity of these ancient monuments keeps drawing me in. The 38 large stones that stand 3 metres high of Castlerigg Stone Circle have the most dramatic mountain landscape as a backdrop. As one of Britain’s earliest stone circles, about 5000 years old, they are very popular with tourists and are now managed by the National Trust and the English heritage. If you are visiting the are in midwinter you’ll probably get one of the best views as the entrance seems to line up with the sunsets around that time of year.

Haweswater Dam – Eastern Lake District

Haweswater Dam was Britain’s first concrete buttress dam built back in the 1930’s by hundreds of unemployed workers from the Manchester area. The workers were homed in prefabricated houses that had state of the art community facilities in Burnbanks. The dam is the highest in our country and offers spectacular views of the surrounding area.

Shap Abbey – Eastern Lake District

Shap Abbey was built around 1200 and was the centre of a thriving monastic community. As you wander the ruins you can make out the church, chapter house and living areas that surround the square cloister. There are also traces of the guest rooms, stables and workshops. Henry VIII closed the Abbey in 1540 and some of its stone was used to build Shap Market Hall.

Copt Howe Rock Carvings – Central Lake District

Another fascinating find from 6000 years ago is the circles, lines and ‘cup’ marks found etched into the rocks at Copt Howe. Archaeologists believe they may have been a way of showing links between people and important places.

Meadow Bank

Meadow Bank

Brantwood Barkpeeler’s Hut – South Eastern Lake District

Once upon a time, you could have worked as a bark peeler. Your job would have been to remove the bark from oak trees before the trees were coppiced and sent to the local tanneries. Barkpeelers lived in huts in the woods with their families, the huts were made of a circular stone wall and a conical roof covered with earth and grass. There is a wonderful reconstructed example at Brantwood House.

Townend Statesman’s House – South Eastern Lake District

On the other end of the scale is the home of a well -off farming family. Townend Statesman’s House is a beautifully preserved 17th century farmhouse built in 1623 for George Browne and his family who lived there for over 300 years.

Muncaster Castle – Western Lake District

I do love to visit a castle and Muncaster has been in the Pennington family since 1208. What started out as a medieval fortified tower-house was added to through the years until the fine castle that can be visited today. An interesting fact that caught my eye was, Henry VI sought refuge here during the Wars of the Roses and left a glass drinking-bowl behind, saying if it remained unbroken the Penningtons would thrive. It’s still intact and is known as the ‘Luck of Muncaster’.

Ravenglass Roman Bathhouse – Western Lake District

Ravenglass is one of the best preserved Roman military bathhouses in Britain where a 1000 strong garrison would come to scrub up. Its walls are almost 4 metres high and two rooms with doorways and windows can still be seen today. As you explore you can find plumbing for hot and cold water a fort close by and many more interesting facts.

Brathay Loft

Brathay Loft

Where to stay in the Lake District

If you want to have the comfort of your own home whilst you explore the Lake District then I advise you to take a look at the Good Life Lake District Cottages as they cover all of the above-mentioned areas and have all types of accommodation available, even pet friendly homes where you can take your family pet along too. The images above are some examples of what you can find.

how the Grinch stole christmas

‘Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more’ 

There is a tiny part of me that completely resonates with the Grinch. Like him, I too raise my eyebrows at people who put their decorations up way too early (the first of December is early enough) and people who seem to buy every single product out there to give their loved ones at Christmas, overkill. In fact, the Grinch is one of my favourite Christmas books and films that I enjoy watching on the run-up to the big day.

This year, The Grinch is celebrating 60 years of being one of literature’s most iconic seasonal characters and Mari’s World has been chosen to be one of the Grinchmas bloggers – an accolade I am incredibly proud of.

Harper Collins has put together a fabulous Grinchmas hub full of wonderful Grinchy ideas and I decided to make a Merry Grinchmas door wreath to add to their pot of Grinchmas fun. Don’t panic as it really is quite simple, you should know by now that if I can do this – then anyone can!

How to make a Merry Grinchmas door wreath

merry grinchmas door wreath

What you’ll need

1 polystyrene ring
Dark green tissue paper
Assorted coloured ribbons
1 large green bauble
Red Felt stars
Light green deco mesh
LED lights
Card for the sign
Red and white pipe cleaners for the candy canes
Box of pins

  • Start with the polystyrene hoop and cover it with dark green tissue paper.
  • Wrap a red and white ribbon around the hoop until you are back where you started.
  • Wrap a string of LED lights in the same way and secure the battery pack with a tight knot that will enable you to get to it and change the batteries as and when required.
  • Glue on the felt stars and add bows made from assorted ribbon (mine are in gold). These can be pinned in place.
  • Take the large green bauble and draw on the features of the Grinch with a permanent marker. I started with the nose and eyes. There are plenty of drawings online to work from. The yellow eyes were painted using a nail varnish! Hang the Grinchtowards the top of the hoop and pin the ribbon or string in place to prevent it moving.

merry grinchmas door wreath

  • Cut large strips of the deco mesh and roll holding it tight in the middle, tie the middle with two kinds of ribbon to hold firmly in place. I used the red and white ribbon plus a snowflake version. Pin your deco mesh bows across the top.
  • Using red and white striped pipe cleaners form a couple of candy canes and glue into place.
  • Lastly, take a piece of cardboard and with a pencil, draw on the Merry Grinchmas and the small arm with the bauble. I found lots of examples online and copied directly from one of them. I then painted it and glued it in place on my door wreath.

merry grinchmas door wreath

What do you think?

I am really pleased with it and I shall hang it in our classroom from the 1st December.

Talking of classrooms, I’ve taken a look at the Grinch Classroom Lesson Plans too on the Grinchmas hub and I think we can have a lot of fun with them. Do pop by and take a look, you can have endless fun Grinchifying yourself like this…

Mari Grinchified

 

There are some wonderful ideas on how to grow your heart three times bigger, activity sheets to download and a 12 days of Grinchmas to join in too.

Reima Go kidventure map

“Mum, can we take a look at our Kidventure Challenge progress on your phone?”

I know a lot of children that have asked for Fitbits which I have to admit, I found really odd to start with. But the more I think about it, the more I can see it from a child’s point of view … it’s a competitive thing. Look how much I walked today! And let’s face it, in today’s sedentary tablet world the more we can get them up and out the better.

Having said all of that, the twins still don’t possess their own fitbits. Which is a good thing as Reima got in touch recently and asked if we’d like to review their latest multi award-winning project, Reima Go Kidventure Challenge.

Reima Kidventure Challenge

Reima outdoor clothing for kids

Reima is a Finnish clothing company that specializes in comfortable and stylish outerwear for children. They’ve been making clothes for all the family since the 1940’s and as they stepped into the new millennium, they chose to focus entirely on children’s clothes and perfected their range from 0 – 12 years old.

In 2016, they took their product one exciting step further and introduced Reima Go which has won many awards for innovation, design and user experience.

ReimaGO sensor

Reima Go is a sensor that sits in the child’s clothes or on an arm strap and logs all of the activity that takes place every day. It has been created with kids in mind and allows parents to keep track of their movement via an app on their phone.

The sensor, created together with Suunto, turns on when your child starts moving and stores the intensity and duration of movement. It is very sturdy and waterproof plus it has a long battery life.

As the children move around and play they can check later on the app, that their movement has turned into energy for the game character and they can power through exciting new worlds. The more they move, the more rewards they get.

#REIMAKIDVENTURE

Reima Kid Adventure globe

The company mission is to “encourage children to discover the joy of movement” and the next step was to come up with a challenge to inspire children and grown-ups to get moving more! The challenge, set together with Visit Finland and Ruka Kuusamo, is to collect 1 million active hours from children all over the world

The benefits of movement

Whenever I ask the girls to put their tablets away I get groans of despair and more fequently, ‘I’ve got nothing to do!’ Of course you haven’t because you’re not using your imagination! It takes some careful discussion and some persuasive arguments but once they are convinced, they love it which just proves to me how important it is. Push through the initial argument and get them up and out.

If you’re stuck for persuasive arguments, here’s a few ideas to try on them to create their own Kidventure

  • A trip to the local park or playground is always a huge winner with my two.
  • Walk the family dog. I like them to think they are responsible for Baxter too and walking at weekends as a family is vital for him.
  • A walk on the beach searching for treasures brought to shore by the latest tide.
  • Put the tent up in the back garden and watch how much stuff they take out (and that will need bringing back in!)
  • Set up a gymnastics mat on the grass with cushions, mattresses from sun beds, blankets and anything to soften the blow a bit.
  • Get the bikes out and take them on a cycle ride, make sure you trace the journey to show them after.
  • Rollerblades, skating rinks, ice skating. All fabulous ways of getting children moving and having lots of fun.
  • Climbing walss – this will be our next challenge.

Our Reima Go experience

Reima Kid Adventure globe

As mentioned above, there was a lot of excitement when the activity sensors arrived and they wanted to start them up immediately and get going. My first thought was, ‘How long before they lose them?’

The sensors are small black discs about the size of a 50p piece and are designed to fit into the Reima outdoor clothes in specially designed pockets. Not having those jackets, the girls decided to keep them in their school shirt pocket. One week later and one has already been lost. It was on the day they had a swimming lesson so I am hoping someone has found it and handed it in.

I think it would be a great idea to make them into a wristband and that way you would have to take it off to lose it. I would also recommend sticking a name tag on them, firstly to differentiate whose is whose and secondly, in case one gets lost.

We downloaded the app on my phone which meant all daily checking had to be done on my phone. They did want to download on their own tablets – which would have been a better idea and given them more control over the games and challenges but it requires my email address. I was a bit worried it might be linked to sales and so I have said no.

Win a Trip to Lapland

Reima are offering a holiday to Finland for the whole family to be in with a chance to win here’s what you have to do.

  1. Post a blog post, vlog or share on your social media: Why is kid’s physical activity so important? using the tags #millionhoursofjoy and #reimakidventure
  2. Tag three friends on Facebook or Instagram who might like to join in too. Link your post to #millionhoursofjoy challenge campaign page www.reima.com/kidventure and ask your followers to donate their kids’ activity hours to the global challenge.
  3. Register your post here to be in with a chance to win https://www.lyyti.fi/reg/Reima

Disclosure: We were sent a lovely Gift bag by Reima for the purpose of this post and included were two Reima Go Sensors. All opinions are my own.

The time is nearly here and this weekend, if you haven’t got one already, I would advise you make your final choice of Advent Calendar for the run-up to Christmas 2017.

It might not be an easy choice as there are so many different types to choose from.

beer bottle advent calendarwine bottle advent calendar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may have noticed the market has become flooded with advent ideas this year. What started as a joke on Facebook, a tired parent drawing fake windows to open on the exterior of a case of 24 bottles of beer, or adding pretty tags to 24 bottles on the wine rack, has sparked a lot of marketing minds and today we have, wine calendars, gin calendars, beer calendars, candle calendars, cosmetic calendars…you get the picture. Everyone has put a beautiful calendar out there for you to choose from.

I love all of them but…I’m not a huge fan of cosmetics, so I quickly ruled that one out. I was tempted by the alcohol but seriously? I’m heading towards the most indulgent time of the year and I want to lose weight on the run-up rather than put weight on. That thought quickly ruled out all alcoholic versions!

I really enjoyed the candles last year but I already have some candles on the go which I am enjoying so I didn’t need any extra this year. So….

I went back to basics – aka chocolate! I fell in love with Hotel Chocolat’s calendar for two. A unique idea which allows grown-ups to share a small delight of an evening (at least that’s when I plan to open our window). A special chocolate as each day is a new truffle to taste.

best advent calendars for two

I know it’s indulgent but the chocolate is small and it will prevent me from tucking into the big boxes that are invitingly stacked up sky-high in all supermarkets right now, tempting me as I walk past. ‘Buy me! Buy me!”

Just take a look at it and tell me you’re not impressed.

Whilst you’re in Hotel Chocolat, you may wish to select something special for the children too. We went for this version. I think they’re going to really enjoy it.

best advent calendars

I have decided that this year, Christmas is all about keeping it small and simple and this is how I propose enjoying advent. What will you go for this year?

Disclaimer: Hotel Chocolate kindly agreed to send me a calendar of each featured for the purpose of this post.