My all-time favourite children’s board games (that I like to play)

Hands up all those parents that try and influence the choice of board game. My hand went straight up. There are games I like, and games I would rather eat than sit playing. This is the list of those I like. You might get some ideas from it; the games I don’t like will be a whole other, and probably much longer blog post.


Destination Animation. There is a whole blog post dedicated to this game. It’s simple, short and easy to play. The magic lantern and carousel at the end blows me away every time. Available at Amazon if you fancy giving it a go.

Deal or no Deal. Sounds a strange choice of game to play with two under 7. It is. They love it. Now I couldn’t stand the TV show, but I love pressing buttons and you get to press all the buttons on the telephone and it speaks too. There is no more fun in life than a talking telephone surely? My kids love it. I don’t love it quite so much when they muck around with the telephone so it re-sets; cue a tantrum because the game is wrecked. I’m justifying it by a tenuous link to maths education…. If you want to try it yourself you can find it here.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Yes, there is a board game for this glorious book. It uses all the main points from the story and is a short game, so perfect for little minds with a shorter attention span. Well, it’s short unless you get stuck behind a volley of red don’t move cards! The board game is currently £7.99 at Amazon. I love the fact it features the lovely illustrations from the book. My 4 year old is obsessed with this game (and the book).

Stratego. I remember this game from my childhood in the 1980’s. We have a Star Wars version. I play it a lot with my 7 year old. I’m more logical than him, he has a better memory than me, so we’re pretty closely matched. It follows the same format but you need to try and capture the light sabre. This is hard to find new at a sensible price, it is worth looking at the selling sites like Gumtree and EBay.

Guess Who. Now we have two versions of this game. The politically incorrect 1980’s version and Star Wars. I don’t really like the Star Wars version because short of “is yours holding a light sabre?” it is too hard thinking of questions. I love the original version. The kids do too. I still don’t know what to do with the bald people with some hair at the sides. Are they bald or do you keep them because they have some hair? The newer version is available from Amazon here.

Junior Scrabble. Another vintage throwback from my childhood but you can get this game in toy shops. My version has a two sided board. An easier version where they put letters on words on the board, or a blank board where they need to think of their own words. We’re still using the easy board. My three year old is starting to recognise some letters by watching this game being played. Try Scrabble Junior for yourself and tailor the game to what your child can do, they can grow into it, and it’s more fun than flash cards.

Hullabaloo. I don’t think this game is being manufactured anymore, it is made by the makers of Cranium. I bought ours from eBay. It is a great game for pre-schoolers. It involves a lot of jumping around onto different coloured stepping stones. I love this game for a rainy afternoon. There are some reasonably priced second hand versions at the Amazon Marketplace. “Winner do a funky dance” has got to be the best line from any game.

Twister. I like watching my children play this game and being umpire. I’m not so keen on playing it anymore. I am no longer a flexible twenty something, my knees ache afterwards. Twister is great fun on a rainy afternoon or a sunny afternoon in the garden. 

Balloon Lagoon. Another game from the Cranium family. I have never seen this in the shops. It is another superb game for pre-school children, with lots of challenges and balloons to collect. It is probably the most popular game in our house. If you see it on eBay, it is worth a bid on, or it is available second hand at Amazon Marketplace.

Mr Pop. Another oldie but a goodie. We all love Mr Pop, even the youngest who is yet to finish her first face before he pops. The idea is simple, and timeless, can you make the face before you run out of time? It now goes by the name Mr Funny Face instead so don’t google Mr Pop!

So they are my favourite go-to rainy day or lazy evening games. I’m sure in six months as my children are a little bit older, this list will change, and will be another blog post. Thanks for reading. If you have any family favourites, send me a comment I’m always on the look out for new ideas to play.

Links are to Amazon UK as part of their affiliate scheme.

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Stop Motion Animation: What I Have Learned So Far

I have always been fascinated with stop motion animation after learning about how Nick Park made Wallace and Gromit, but I never did anything about it until this year. I’ve always said that having children is 90% routine and 10% inspiration. I picked up my camera and tried it because my son was wanting to have a go. 


So what tips have I picked up along the way?

1. Use iMovie to put your photos together. It is brilliant. Totally brilliant. We have a green screen and we’ve put in random backgrounds, we can speed up or slow down things and even import other video recordings into our stop motion work. It is hard work to learn and I still have a lot to learn trust me!

2. No matter how many photos you take it probably isn’t enough. I thought 300+ photos was excessive for one Lego set. It isn’t. It is quoted you need 10 stills for 1 second of film for the picture smoothness and quality to be there.

3. Don’t use auto-focus. I can’t remember where I read this tip but my work with the auto-focus on was often jerky even though the camera was in the same position and on a tripod. Turn it off and your finished film is much smoother.

4. Play with your lighting. Try and avoid shadows so move your light source around until you eliminate them. I use bright white light because normal room lighting is quite yellow and it interferes with the final colours on the film. The lighting is on a tall moveable tripod.

5. When using Lego I stick down the base plate with cello tape (making sure it can’t be seen in the final photos), which keeps everything in one place. If you don’t want to stick it down, use the camera viewer centre marker or a small dot on your surface to mark where your item should be. I have two enthusiastic children helping me with mine; if you are doing it on your own you might not need to stick anything down.

6. Photography backgrounds are pretty expensive. I bought a cheaper version green screen from Group On which came with the frame for about £20. But for my white background, (don’t tell anyone but) it is an old 100% cotton cot sheet. Iron it every time before filming and it provides as good a background as an expensive photography one.

7. I will sound stupid now! Don’t forget when using a green screen anything green in your film will also be greened out. I didn’t think about that at first and my final colours were totally wrong on one video. I only realised right at the end when I applied the green screen in iMovie.

8.  Experiment. Try different things before you decide how you will film it.

9. While a top of the range SLR camera will provide better photos an iPhone or iPad will do just as well. In fact Apple App Store have some very good apps, like Stop Motion or Lego Creator. This makes it a much more child friendly process because you aren’t worrying about your expensive camera.

10. We film from our kitchen table, with a background and light source. If I did a behind the scenes photo session you’d see my clean washing and dishes by the dishwasher! You can produce animation anywhere, not always in a custom-built space or studio.

11.  It is supposed to be fun! I sometimes forget this when trying to control two children and do the photography.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my top tips. I am a beginner, I am doing this animation with the help of two children and we can still produce some fairly professional looking videos. If you haven’t seen any, drop by our You Tube channel, if you like what you see or your children like them, please do hit subscribe and keep up-to-date with all our videos. 

Play-Doh Breakfast Cafe Will Your Egg be Sunnyside Up or Over-Easy?

My daughter has coveted this set since she saw it on You Tube. After walking all the way around Toys r Us she only had eyes for this set for her birthday. We still tricked her by saying we couldn’t buy it! After all I had my eye on the hairdresser set to re-live my childhood.

  
Like most Play-Doh sets there is a little bit of putting together. The waffle press is a little tricky to snap into place and ours has popped out once or twice resulting in a few tantrums. It comes with 4 pots of Play-Doh, 1 of which is Play-Doh Plus. If you haven’t had any Play-Doh plus, it is softer and much easier to use in the extruders. 

 

blue and yellow Play-Doh makes green!!
 
There are a few large moulds for a fried egg and hash browns, a very nifty waffle press on the pull down handle. There are some smaller fruit moulds and you can add a swirl of cream with the larger extruder and make more Play-Doh shapes with the other extruder. A plate and some cutlery mean you can make and serve a delicious breakfast.

The sign of a popular Play-Doh set is the fact that no Play-Doh colour is kept separate. Ours aren’t nicely separate anymore and they weren’t half an hour after the set was bought. On the positive side mixing the colours has given some colour mixing education as we now have orange and green Play-Doh now, and a small amount of purple.

  
I love this Breakfast Cafe set; I have had great fun making waffles myself and not always with my daughter present, usually under the pretence of putting it away.

If I was to say what I didn’t like about it, it would be the usual they have fun mixing the colours. There honestly isn’t anything else that annoys me about this Play-Doh set.

Get your own Play-Doh Breakfast Cafe here but it’s also worth keeping an eye out for 3 for 2 deals on Play-Doh.

We’re going on a bug hunt! We hopefully won’t find any big ones!

I picked this bug viewer up in Poundland for, yes you guessed it £1. I didn’t buy two I was feeling brave stood in there and decided that they should be learning to share. My daughter had chosen a CBeebies mini beasts magazine with some of her saved pocket money (£4! But that’s another blog post) so she had the magnifying glass from that as well.

  
I don’t know about you but sometimes I can’t be bothered driving somewhere but I still want something to do with them so they don’t end up irritating the life out of me. We’re blessed with a network of walks where we live so we headed out with our bug viewer for an explore.

The sun was shining, the fresh air was lovely, the scenery to die for and two children who were very enthusiastic. It was a lovely afternoon. 4 beetles, 1 wood louse, countless flies, 1 earthworm, 2 spiders and 1 ant later six very tired legs headed home.

   
 This blog tends to focus on toys; but sometimes it isn’t the money you spend on something but the time you spend doing it. Ignoring the usual sibling bickering we had a lovely couple of hours and all it cost was £1 and a bit of sun cream. Head to Poundland, they have a lot of outdoor themed kids toys and activities at the moment.

Clementoni Science and Play: Cupcakes and Cookies.

My daughter got given this set for her birthday. It is marked for ages 8 and over and she had just turned 4, but she loves baking and I couldn’t see that there was much difference between this kit and our normal cake baking.

There are a couple of odd things about this kit. It comes with a sachet of muffin mix but you also need to add flour and sugar to it, it isn’t a complete dry mix like I was expecting. By following their basic muffin recipe you will make 8 muffins; but they only give you 4 muffin cases and these cant be re-used.

The muffins do taste nice admittedly, we only got seven out of the mixtures the four muffin cases are quite big. You get a packet of sprinkles with the kit but no icing. I got a bit fancy at this point and made a chocolate ganache to go on the top with some left over Easter eggs. 

There are some lovely utensils that come with the kit. A whisk, egg separator, some decorating tools and they are all a good size for little hands. The instruction book has some nice decorating ideas, again none of the ingredients like the fondant suggested are supplied, but the ideas are bright and appealing to children.

Yes, we’ve now used the kit, but we still have the utensils for our future baking activities. It’s a nice, practical present for a child and my daughter had great fun doing it. And that’s what it is all about. The Clementoni Science Cupcakes and Cookies kit is available at Amazon UK (May 2016).

Disney Pixar Destination Animation, Even if you Can’t Draw.

This has got to be my favourite board game ever! It is a little gem. Such a simple idea but I never fail to be impressed by the end result. 

Now the guidance says for ages 12 and up but I play it with my 7 and 3 year olds and they love it. 


The idea is to fill you carousel with 12 film frames first by travelling round the board and collecting them (or losing them) with the destination and challenge cards.

The magic lantern is a bit fiddly to put together, there is no way I would let my two attempt it, there would be rippage in no time. The rest of the set-up is very straight forward.

Like most board games there are a lot of cards and pieces that could get lost but overall it should last the test of time, especially if you are careful about putting together and taking down the magic lantern.


Don’t discount this game for children under 12, especially those who can read. There is a bit of reading to do with the cards. My three year old loves it, I read her cards and she can match the numbers on the back of the film cards to the numbers on the yellow carousel.


Destination Animation is available at Amazon, but it is also worth looking at second hand retailers like EBay.

Disney Lego Minifigures 71012 Blind Bags And We Got Lucky

I love Lego and I love Disney. My kids love Lego and they love Disney. My husband loves Lego and tolerates the Disney. When I saw the press release about the upcoming Lego Disney Minifigures hitting the UK shores in May I knew that we had to get involved.

Out of six bags we opened we got six characters. Peter Pan, an Alien from Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear, Captain Hook, Minnie Mouse and Ursula from Ariel. Who will now be known as Medusa forevermore because that is who the children thought she was. To be fair they have never seen The Little Mermaid. I’m hoping to get Alice in Wonderland in the next lot!

The figures are from Lego set number 71012 and each has an item number 6137052, and are aimed at children aged 5 and over. Certainly my four year old struggled with the small pieces and fixing them together.


Each bag comes with the black stand piece, the pieces to make each character, an instruction sheet/character checklist. The characters are bright, detailed and look just like the Disney animated characters with the same claw hands but he faces aren’t yellow they are coloured according to the character. But then Lego never do anything badly. They are the same size as normal Lego characters and the arms and heads move. Saying that the heads on some of the characters are tricky to move because you can only grip the hair and that moves, while the head stays still. The usual Lego first world problems!

As a Mum, boringly I like the little stand pieces they come with, they can be put somewhere and not fall over and get lost. I love these little figures so much that I am going to put them somewhere so the children can’t lose them.

They are priced at £2.49 each and are quite hard to track down at the moment here in the UK. There are a few online retailers who are stocking them, and the usual way over priced selections on EBay, but I picked mine up in Argos. There are 18 characters to collect, so we’re a third of the way there already. Beginners luck I fear, our remaining bags will probably have the same character.

I think if you gave kids one of these and some cake in a party bag they would be very happy indeed.

Let me just say the unboxing video is a work in progress. There are heads and arms in shot everywhere and unfortunately they didn’t belong to the Lego characters!

Lego Disney Minifigures Blind Bags (Series 16) Have Landed at Toy Infinity!


I will have two very excited children when they see today’s purchase. Ever since we knew they were coming out, they have been on our wish list. Thanks to Argos I have managed to find somewhere to buy them and not have to pay loads for postage.

They are now waiting on the kitchen worktop for them to open. If you’ve never seen an unboxing video on You Tube then it’s a huge craze and my two children are obsessed with unboxing videos. I promised weeks ago when these arrived they could film the opening so that will be the after school job one day this week.

I love this activity with them. They are developing a real interest in photography, their language is being tested as they try and commentate and they are having fun with me (well it’s fun 90% of the time, the other 10% is sibling bickering). I am good cop, bad cop though. I’m not letting them do any old video they choose, I’m not letting them be front of camera and I get total editing rights. For me, I want this to develop into a full-time occupation, which it will when I have the website and the social media all combined. Hopefully they will carry on this journey with me, but i know they might not.

Until then I will enjoy this time, because time is precious and even if only a handful of people ever see what we produce, we’ll have spent a good portion of time together doing it.

❤️❤️

Illness, cabin fever and no toys will do.

No matter how many toys and gadgets your kids might have. No matter how many books or jigsaws. It doesn’t even matter how many video games they may have collected. When they are ill, there is only one thing that will do. A parent. A carer. Someone to cwtch.

I am just coming out of two weeks straight nursing one child and then the second through tonsillitis. Two weeks of being the number one want for both children; two weeks of near constant CBeebies just to have some sound in the background. Two weeks of developing cabin fever because there’s nothing wrong with me.

It’s interesting to watch the cycle of events. The initial lying down phase. Quiet and pale, even paracetamol doesn’t get them jumping up. Then the sitting up phase. No energy but more interest in something to break the monotony (for both of us). The starting to do stuff phase. Not quite well, but not quite ill either, this is what I look for. You know you are only 24-48 hours from normality and a return to school. The I’m better phase. Usually starts around 10 o’clock when they are sure they will get an extra day off.

The usual guaranteed distractions have worked during this time. Colouring, play-doh, stories read by Mum and CBeebies. All the action figures and play sets pushed aside for anything they could do that needed them to sit down as close to me as possible. Sticker books! How could I forget the amazingness that are sticker books. My saviours!

It’s only when they are ill that you realise how much energy they do have. I have my fingers crossed that I don’t develop the tonsillitis when normal energy levels are resumed.

The Tarmac and chalk; low cost outside entertainment.

The best thing about this sunny weather is the chance to be outside for longer periods of time. Rather than cart a million toys outside, only to bring them back in at the end of the day, I have tried to encourage some outdoor only games.

If you think of your childhood, do you remember drawing on the pavements with coloured chalk? Hop scotch, random phrases, your name a million times. All you needed was some light rain and you could start all over again.

It is also a great chance to bring some education into outside play for pre-school children. Our favourite is a ‘first to get to’game that involves easy letters and numbers. Write them nice and large on your patio or pavement. You can tailor this to your child and what they know or enjoy doing. I stick with A, B, C, D, E and the numbers 1-5. The simple aim is you shout out one of them out and your child has to be first to get there. The bonus is if you only have one child to play with there are no tantrums when they get beaten!

    
    
 It is great repetitive learning play and most of all it is great fun for them, and you can be as active as you like or just sit still and shout out while drinking a well earned cup of tea. I opt for the latter most of the time.

  

If you are really artistic draw animals or vehicles or shapes. If you want to stretch it out so you don’t have a half left cold cup of tea use variations. I get them to stand on a number first, then a letter. They then have to name that number of items beginning with that letter. This variation is only successful with the three year old if Apple starts with every letter of the alphabet! That’s where a bit of Mum help comes in handy. For my son in Year 2, I make it even more difficult, name foods, animals, people’s names. It becomes a running about version of Scattegories.

  

Other ideas:

Drawing – go wild, draw and colour anything.

Handwriting practice – beats pencil and paper.

Sorting games – draw 3 big circles, have loads of objects, have them sort by type, colour, size into each circle. Anything goes.

Hopscotch -couldn’t leave it out!

Have fun in the sun!