bibetta lunchbagsIf there’s one piece of equipment you’ll need to think about when your child goes to school it’s the lunchbox or more precisely the lunchbag.

This seemingly nondescript item that doesn’t get a lot of attention will be transporting your child’s food for the best part of the school day every day of the scolastic year so it stands to reason that when you invest you make the right choice.

Sooner or later your lunchbag will return home sodden from a fruit juice that leaked, soiled by a yogurt tube that squeezed out at the bottom or sticky from banana, jam sandwich or ….. what’s in kiddos lunchbox today?

Because of this you will want to be able to throw your lunchbag into the washing machine to make sure it comes out 100% clean with no fear of any dodgy bacteria lurking around ready to pounce. Enter: washable lunch bags Tah da!

Just before Christmas we were sent two Bibetta lunchbags, yes, yes the same people who make the brilliant bibs that are loved so much in the UK and we have been putting them to the test.

Firstly I must say we love the patterns and funky colours, they are a real splash of fun on these murky grey mornings. Secondly I must add they really are machine washable, tumble drier safe, durable, insulated and hygienic.

They are made from neoprene, a soft fabric that is very light with an extra comfy handle for little people to get a grip on. They also are very roomy and hold all the necessities for an excellent healthy lunch plus the water bottle too.

The insulation is an excellent idea and I wish I’d had these years back when I was carting around purees and snacks when the girls were babies, this solution would have been perfect.

Since they’ve hit the market there has been an enormous demand so whilst waiting for the website to be completed you can go here instead to get yours…

The Bibetta lunchbags are available already online for £14.95 and they definitely get the thumbs up from us

Disclosure: We were sent two Bibetta lunchbags for the purpose of this reveiw

Marks and Spencer have a fabulous craft range for children and just before Christmas we were sent through a selection of goodies and kids craft kits to try out with the girls. The Christmas range were gorgeously illustrated and out of the box of goodies the girls made a beeline for the Christmas Tree ornaments that were for painting and decorating.

paper chains

Next up they spent a couple of hours one morning, and even roped dad into the job of making paper chains. I remember making endless chains as a girl and was so happy to see this revival. The girls were delighted to see them strung in the living room for everyone to see.

christmas masks

We were sent some really cute masks that are so well made I’ve put them away for next year along with all our decorations as believe it or not they didn’t ruin, or break! 

We made paper lanterns, 3D Christmas cards and we’ve spent hours playing with the gorgeous Christmas card games. There are three simple games to play, Snap, Matching pairs and Holly Wreath. I think you’ll agree that they are beautiful, they are sturdy and nice and big for small hands with simple designs on them making them instantly recognisable. RRP £3.50

M&S Christmas card games

Of course the M&S craft kits and games don’t stop at Christmas they are all year rounders and now the sales are on I bet you could pick up some fabulous games and party gifts. Personal favourites of ours are the Emily Button range and Lil’ Miss Arty, enough to keep you going all year there.

my best toy - writing practiseI’ve been meaning to write an update on the girls progress for a while (since half term!) but keep getting side tracked so I’m biting the bullet and here we go.

Just before half term our school opened the classroom doors and invited the parents in to have a look around. This is an excellent opportunity to discover what the children have been up to as more often than not presented with the question, ‘What did you do today at school?’ the answer will be ‘I can’t remember.’ which is more of a don’t bother me now mum, I’m tired and don’t want to think but leaves parents wondering what the heck the kids do at school.

Here’s what I managed to discover …

Our class of 30 has been split into groups of 6 and both twins were in the Rocking Horses group which I discovered yesterday has been renamed Lanterns but more of that in a minute.

Each group sits at desks with a tray underneath holding their work, they have places to put their water bottles and the first weeks of school were learning all the new rules. The children are expected to sit at their desks to complete ‘jobs’ which consist of writing and numeracy tasks.

Jenny in bed - year 1 topic

On the walls there were lots of posters and work that the children had been working on, the twins were very excited to take me around the classroom and show me all their hard work. They were very proud.

The first term of school was to focus on toys as a subject to talk and discover. They made robots – see Jenny in Bed above and also robots hanging from the ceiling below.

classroom wall

We have had reading books from the first week and I was delighted to see the girls have been moved up two levels to turquoise since the start.

We also get homework at the weekends which is writing or numeracy skills.

To keep the kids enthusiastic our teacher has a star system and she will reward two children ‘Star of the Day’ daily. It just so happens that on the Open Day both Alice and Bessie had been rewarded their first Star of the Day awards and they were thrilled.

Star of the day

If you are a lucky star of the day you also get to bring home a  signed certificate from the teacher. This certificate is duly bluetacked up for everyone to see in our house ;)

Another system our teacher has put in place is a sticker chart. Each child on completing a job or for being particularly good at something is rewarded a sticker. The sticker goes on the sticker chart and once you have completed the 20 spaces with stickers you are rewarded with a gift from teacher. Well you can imagine the delight when they are given stickers. There’s a lot of discussion about who has completed their chart of an evening.

This term, term 2, the topic is Light and Dark which is why they are now in Lanterns, we have been given number charts and will be learning to count in 2s, 5s and 10s. Literacy and Phonics is assisted by Digby Dinosaur, a book of challenges to complete as and when we want to but fortunately for me the girls LOVE them and we seem to be doing one a night. A short exercise like find 5 words with the sound ‘ee’ in them and to write one sentence using one of the words.

I am really pleased to see they are enjoying school, on a few occasions they have returned home with a sticker from the head teacher which is a very special occasion, the latest was Alice who was rewarded for her excellent writing.

We do do an awful lot of writing at home as they love it and Stabilo recently sent us their Early Writers kits including some fabulous writing tools with easy grips and a tripod shape which is so much easier for little fingers to grasp and use.

You can find lots of resources to support young learners with their early writing skills on the Stabilo website, all completely free and ready to download

Britax KIDFIX XP SICTWe have enjoyed a Britax car seat for about a year now, we chose a lovely cow seat pattern and it had become Alice’s seat for a reason only known to the twins, we had to ask her kindly if Bessie could have a go in it. So it was the perfect solution when Britax asked us to review another of their Group 2-3 car seats.

Kidfix XP SICT

This time we have a Kidfix XP SICT which is for children aged between 4 and 12 or weighing between 15 and 36 kg.

First thoughts on it are very positive. It is black and is a forward facing model. It is also light to carry about and extremely easy to fix in the car using the ISOFIX system. That means you slot your car seat onto two points in the car seat that are fixed to the car, when the car stops the car seat doesn’t move a millimeter but stays put protecting your child’s neck and spine.

There are no straps and 5 point buckles to use as this design relies on the universal 3 point automatic seatbelt of the car.

“We’re BIG girls now mummy as we have the same seat belt as you do.”

The XP Pad is one of the important safety features to focus, it’s the large black rectangle you can see crossing over Alice’s chest, yeah strangely enough she gets to sit in this one all the time now. The XP Pad takes away 30% of the energy forces of a frontal impact from your child’s neck.

britax xp pad

The other safety feature that I really like is the Adjustable Side Impact Technology (SICT). On fixing the car seat you will notice the sides have a large round disc by the head. You unscrew the disc on the side closest to the car door and once the door is shut the SICT keeps the seat firmly in place providing superior side impact protection. My photo below shows the unscrewed one on the other side.

Britax SICT

There are guides in place to run the seatbelt through and it’s important to make sure the belt isn’t twisted during use as this would affect the seatbelt’s performance.

Overall it is a very comfortable and safe looking carseat. It is easy for the girls to get in and out of by themselves – something they relish doing now and they look well protected in it. 

Fingers crossed we’ll never have to put these features to the test but it puts my mind at ease knowing that the girls are protected as we drive.

Britax Kidfix XP SICT RRP £165.00

Disclosure: We were sent the car seat for the purpose of this review, all opinions are my own

Matalan asked me to be part of their #HalloweenTips campaign where together with another four bloggers we embrace the theme of Halloween and share all our tips to make the 2013 scary party The. Best. Ever.

Boo!

Did I scare you there?

First up we had a really fun Twitter party where 10 of the best Tweets were each given £20 vouchers to spend in Matalan. It was so popular that we trended in the UK for the entire period we were tweeting. You can see the best tips here on the Matalan blog. or by searching Twitter using the #HalloweenTips hashtag. 

halloween party food

Then Matalan have been passing over their blog to us and we get to chat all about Halloween. Helen from The Crazy Kitchen took over the food side of Halloween, among her top tips and simple ideas were Finger Lickin’ Witches Finger Dip and Mummy Hotdogs which are really cute. The photo above is her handy work, check out her blog for lots more halloween treats.

I was entrusted with costumes and as you may know the only costume I have on here is my shepherd’s head dress of which I am very proud  but it’s not very scary is it? So I called on all my crafty bloggers to help out with the costume side of Halloween and they came up trumps for me with loads of top ideas and 11 No Sew Costumes even costumes made out of cardboard boxes too.

If you’re really stuck nip to the chemist and buy lots of bandages and then proceed to wrap your child (over clothes to make sure no one catches cold) and voila’ you have your own mini mummy.

no sew halloween costumes

Make sure you keep your eye on the blog as each week my fellow bloggers will be giving you top tips on how to decorate the house, tricks and treats and games to make your party go with a spooky Boo!

And of course take a look at my Halloweeen Pinterest board where everything I discover around the World Wide Web I collect there as a constant resource.

Disclosure: I am working with Matalan on their #HalloweenTips campaign.