Monday, 26 March 2018

The Benefits of Learning to Swim

Swimming lessons offer a wide range of benefits and they may be cheaper than you'd think. Here at Dotty Hippo we love getting out and about with the children, going on long walks alongside rivers and canals, visiting the beach and using the local swimming pool for fun. Water may be fun however it may also be dangerous if not respected which is why our blog post today is about keeping little ones safe by teaching them to swim. 
Swimming Lessons
All local swimming pools offer swimming lessons to children. These are run by a qualified instructor and are taught in fairly small groups. Many swimming pools have a website or app that allows you to see how much progress they have made and how far they are from their next level. This enables you to support your little ones better outside of swimming lessons and to help motivate them.

Not all children develop new skills at the same pace. Some children may require additional support when learning to swim. For this reason, swimming pools often offer 1-1 lessons. If you feel this might be beneficial speak to the pool about availability and costs.

If you aren't a confident swimmer ask about adult swimming lessons, so that you may enjoy the many benefits too!

Don't forget a waterproof swimming bag for bringing back wet swimsuits and towels.

What are your top tips for helping little ones to learn to swim, or what to pack for swimming lessons (such as a trolley coin or pound coin for pool lockers)? 

Social Benefits
There are a number of social benefits associated with teaching your little one to swim, from interacting and learning with peers to going on to enjoy swimming with friends as a leisure activity. Learning as part of a group may also help with turn-taking, listening and additional learning development. Swimming lessons are also a great way to built confidence, both in their own skills and abilities but also boosting water confidence.

Health Benefits
Any activity is great for little ones and swimming is a great way to stay fit and active. Despite being fun, swimming and moving around the water provides a great work out for all of the family.

With the weather now turning warmer and play moving outside we hope you all some wonderful, safe fun.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Creative Fun with Dotty Hippo

Art and crafts with the kids can be great fun (as well as fabulously messy). As people who have spent much time up to their eyeballs in glue sticks, glitter and tissue paper in the past we can tell you that crafty and creative fun with your little ones is something else! Our problem wasn't the fact that we were finding tiny pom poms and googly eyes anywhere and everywhere, it was more running out of ideas for what to make or do.

Pinterest can be a fabulous resource for craft ideas that are fun and affordable and we heartily recommend all things Red Ted Art too. Sometimes, however, someone having already put something together for you in a box may be a lifesaver for planned and unplanned creative sessions, for example, rainy days, when friends come round to play or when you and your children fancy making something special.

Here are a few creative kits and so on that we stock and which are proving very popular. We hope this helps!

Create Your Own Nightlight

The Seedling Design Your Own Nightlight Craft Kit is a fairly new addition to the site and yet is already proving very popular. Most children love nightlights and with this particular one, you may make it entirely your own. Adult supervision is required and permanent pens are used however the end result is a bespoke nightlight that glows and changes colour when it's bedtime or when the under kitchen table den is dark.

Colour Your Own BackpackLet your little one unleash their creativity on a new colour your own backpack for school, nursery or for while out and about. Little ones may customise their bag as they see fit which means that it will be special to them. Everything needed is included and this set offers a fabulous afternoon of colouring in, making patterns and more, with something great to show off at the end. 

Alex Toys Tots Art Gallery
With twelve easy to follow projects for ages 18m+ and with everything you need included in the kit, you'll be very grateful for this Tots Art Gallery set when crafting is on the cards yet you don't have anything planned and haven't restocked the craft supplies tray/drawer/room. There is even an included portfolio so projects may be kept safe as keepsakes to look back on.

These are just a few of the art and craft kits and fun projects we have on the websites and we will admit to having raided stock ourselves sometimes, when the weather is grim or friends have come over or when that terrifying phrase, "I'm bored" is uttered. Helping children to experiment with their creativity is fabulous however at the same time, a little helping hand for us grown-ups is appreciated too!

Monday, 22 January 2018

Top Tips for Toy Storage

If your house looked like our house after Santa had been, just a month ago now, you’ll understand what we mean when we say that we are very glad we stock an extensive range of toy storage options.
 It’s brilliant to see the excitement on a little one’s face when they open up a new toy or game and fall in love with it. Having your living room, dining room, the bedrooms and so on strewn with much-loved games and toy is less exciting for us grown-ups.

Our top tip for buying storage solutions is to buy quality. In the past, we wasted so much effort and money on cheap, flimsy storage items which never really did the job right, didn’t last two minutes and didn’t fit in with the bedroom or playroom décor whatsoever.

Here are a few examples of storage solutions we stock (and use ourselves).

Wall Storage
Sometimes you just have to realise that the only way is up, and that applies to Yazz fans (a terrible 80’s music reference, sorry!) as well as those looking to maximise their children’s storage without leaving them with nowhere to play. These wall organisers from 3 Sprouts and Win Green offer brilliant storage room which may be placed anywhere you want and at a height that is suitable for your children.

Laundry Hampers
Ok, the chance are that to start with, your children will put their laundry around the washing basket or near the laundry hamper (why do they do this?!) however with a little training they will soon get into the habit of immediately putting old/dirty clothing in the basket before putting new on. With laundry hampers as cute as these, we’re hoping that your children will want to put their clothes straight in there, rather than on the floor, under the bed, on top of the bedside table, back in with the clean clothes……

Cube Storage
We just love these fabric storage cubes from BabyFace and from 3 Sprouts. Both fit brilliantly into Ikea Expedit systems and offer a substantial amount of storage that is hidden away yet easy to access. These cube storage solutions also work well as freestanding/standalone alternatives to storage caddies and more. Whether you use them in the children’s bedrooms, in their playroom/nursery or anywhere in and around the house, we’re sure that you’ll soon appreciate these excellent storage cubes as much as we do.

Storage Caddies
Perfect for smaller items, as well as being portable, storage caddies are much loved by both children and families. These cute and cool caddies offer a great way to store arts and crafts supplies, homework must-haves, Legos and much more besides. The portable nature of these fab-looking storage caddies means that they are also great for using when you want your children to tidy up items downstairs to take them back upstairs and put them away or to bring a small selection of toys downstairs.

Bathroom Storage
Toys aren’t just cluttering up your living area, they breed in the bathroom too, taking up space in and around the bath, on the shelf and more. We love the 3 Sprouts bathroom storage solutions (such as this penguin one) as it puts all the bath toys away in one place, is mould resistant and drains away old water, leaving toys clean and ready for your next bath-time play session.  

Not only do great looking, hardy, well-made storage solutions clear the clutter, they also help you set up a toy storage system that your children may adopt so that in time they too may take responsibility for keeping their own items safe and tidy.

And a little something for those of you who now can't get Yazz out of their head 😄 

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Last Minute Treats for Christmas

Christmas Day is fast approaching. By now most people have their decorations up, have been to, or are still trying to find costume items for nativity plays, have put Christmas cards in the school postbox and often are still trying to remember where they put the leftover wrapping paper last year. Sound familiar?

Christmas is wonderful however sometimes the preparation during such a busy time, especially when you have children, can make for very tired grown-ups.

Here at Dotty Hippo, we try to make Christmas shopping as easy as possible for you. No trudging down a crowded high street while trying to remember what you need for who, while keeping an eye on the clock so that you're home in time to see the reindeer at the local garden centre.

You may still order Christmas gifts from us, up until 12pm Monday 18th December. 

We have some fantastic toys and games for you to choose from, including (but not limited to!):

Wooden Toys and Games

We have a wide range of quality, fun and educational toys and games that will delight all ages. See everything we have on offer in our wooden range here.

John Crane Tildo Cutting Vegetable Set

Play Houses

Perfect for tea parties, pirate adventures, as reading nooks, for quiet space and for fun with friends, our Playhouses are amongst our best sellers, and it's clear to see why. See the full range of playhouses here.

Kiddiewinkles Rose Cottage and Tea Shop

Puzzles and Construction

Our Puzzles and Construction range offers hours of fun for all ages and features some truly fantastic brands. See more here.

Fiesta Crafts Wooden Cannon Construction Set

These are just a few of our popular ranges. See more on the website. Don't forget that if you are looking for inspiration our gift finder filter tool might be of use.

Remember to check out before 12pm on Monday!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Winter Traditions

One of the most fabulous things about family life is the building of traditions which in turn become treasured memories. Here at Dotty Hippo, we’ve been thinking about a few traditions we take part in during the winter and a few that others have spoken to us about and we wanted to share them.

We’d love to hear about your winter traditions too so please don’t hesitate to comment below.

Den Making
It’s too cold to go out, or rather too soggy so what do you do? Make dens of course. There are two types of people when it comes to enjoying den time. There’s those who use blankets and sofa cushions and then there are those who enjoy a civilised tea party (or pirate adventure) in a playhouse. We’ll tell you a secret, we enjoy both!

Christmas Lights
Many people choose every year to walk around their village, town or city to see all of the Christmas lights that people have put up. Some families really go all out and you may spot a lit up Santa and his reindeers on the roof and much more. Another lovely tradition, if available to you, is to attend your local Christmas lights switch on. Join the countdown until the big Christmas tree and all of the lights are lit and then cheer and sing!

Crunchy Frost
Who loves the first proper frost of the year? We’re not talking about a bit of ice on the car, we’re talking about getting your boots on and crunching your way across the grass. We love to jump, crash, bang and then follow each other’s footprints. We’ve not quite managed to get a decent enough frost recently to make frost angels but we’re hopeful.

Hot Chocolate
You may enjoy hot chocolate at any time of the year, of course! There is something a bit magical about snuggling up with one on a cold, dark Sunday afternoon or enjoying one as an after-school treat. We’re talking serious hot chocolates though, we want to see whipped cream, sprinkles, chocolate buttons and more. We take our hot chocolate treats very seriously.

Gingerbread Houses
These are a little like Marmite in that you either love them or hate them. For those with patience and children enthusiastic about sweets and gingerbread, this can be a great annual tradition. If it all falls apart, who cares? You can still eat everything.
A top tip…. Gingerbread and sweets go very well with vanilla ice cream for a very cheeky treat.

The Christmas Photograph
Does anyone have an annual “proper” photograph done? This is definitely a tradition we’d love to see or hear more about. Getting everyone in the family properly dressed (pets included) and looking at the camera at the same time sounds like a fun activity! Seriously though, what a fabulous keepsake that would be.

Family Games
We are big fans of family gaming and while we play throughout the year, when it comes to winter, dark nights and cold afternoon our family games days really get cranked up a notch. The winner gets extra sprinkles on their hot chocolate, of course.

Art and Crafts
Who else can't wait for December to hit so that you can break out the art and craft box to make Christmas decorations, winter snowflakes and more? Have a look at Pinterest for inspiration.

Lollipop Easel

What about you? What activities and traditions do you take part in or want to take part in every year?

Monday, 23 October 2017

Top Tips for Halloween Fun

Halloween has become increasingly popular amongst little ones who see it as an opportunity to dress up, enjoy crafts and hopefully some sweet treats. We look at different ways that you may maximise Halloween enjoyment.

Halloween Food
One of the best things about Halloween is being able to get creative with food and drinks. Here are just some of the ideas we have planned at Dotty Hippo HQ:

  • Iced doughnuts with spider web icing
  • Slime pud (green jelly with fruit)
  • Pumpkin jelly (orange jelly)
  • Sausage spiders (Push dried spaghetti through cut up hot dog sausages and drop in boiling water to cook). Blood sauce (ketchup) is optional.

Trick or Treat or Home Fun
Some families love Trick or Treat, some prefer home-based activities. If you are going Trick or Treat-ing, enjoy! Make sure everyone (including you!) is wrapped up despite needing to show their costume off.

Some families prefer to be hosts, i.e. dress up to answer the door (which they’ve decorated to show that they are happy to receive callers), play spooky music, and “boo” people who knock (check for tiny trick or treaters first).
Halloween is a perfect opportunity to stock up with Halloween food, snacks and drinks to watch a family movie or play games between callers.

Teal Pumpkin Project

Over the past few year, you might have seen some teal blue coloured pumpkins and pictures popping up. This isn’t a fashionable Halloween trend, it’s something much more important. The Teal Pumpkin Project is aimed at spreading awareness of children with food allergies who may struggle to take part in traditional festive events such as these. Food allergies are very serious and so the TPP work with the public to raise awareness and help people make small changes which means that all children can take part. Many parents now keep non-food/safe treats to one side and display a teal pumpkin to tell other parents it’s ok to call there for trick or treating. Want to know more?

Pumpkin Farms and Local
you live near to pick your own farms or similar you might find that they run fun and child friendly autumn and Halloween events. Local Halloween discos and similar are also becoming popular. Check local noticeboards, online and off to see if anything catches your eye.

Arts and Crafts

Any excuse to crack open the art and craft items! Make spiders that dangle, cut out and stick pumpkins for Halloween bunting, make cat masks and more. Pinterest is a wonderful place to find Halloween crafts that are easy to do and fun!

Millhouse Table Top Easel

What do you do during Halloween? Is it a big thing for your family? Whatever you have planned we hope you have a wonderful time.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Autumn Snuggles and Fun

It’s never easy to wave goodbye to summer, however, autumn does a good job of making that task easier. There’s really nothing not to love about autumn; the sounds, the smells, and gorgeous colours are just a few examples of where we here at Dotty Hippo love this season.
Here are a few ways we may help you and your little ones get the most out of your autumn.

Get Out and About
From conker hunting to pine cone foraging to crunching through leaves, autumn, with her many colours can be a great time for outdoor adventuring. Make sure you take a backpack with you to store your autumn finds. Don’t forget to use some of the natural treasures you find for fun art and craft sessions.

Snuggle Up

There’s something lovely and cosy and about autumn and it offers the perfect excuse, now that the temperature has dropped, for you to break out the hot water bottles. YuYu “Warm Worms”, currently available in pink and orange are perfect for keeping warm day or night during the cooler autumn months.

Story Time
Snuggle up with a new book and a blanket for story time, whatever age your children are and enjoy being transported to another world for a little while. Ask at your local library for new book recommendations and explore new places and meet new characters.

Indoor Fun
While outdoor fun can be great during the autumn sometimes it may be too cold or too wet and so having some fab fun indoor activities at hand to help little ones use up their creative energy is a must. Our Micador range features a number of fun sensory-led activities which help develop and practice fine motor skills as well as keeping young minds and hands busy, as do these wonderful colourful toys and more from our new Small Foot range

Baking Fun
Who doesn’t love the smell of baking in the autumn? Spend an afternoon with your little ones making scones, fairy cakes, bread and biscuits. You can choose anything you like, as long as your little assistants are ready to help too. Extend the activity by giving the children icing pens (readily available from supermarkets) to decorate buns and biscuits with.

Theatre Time
What’s better than helping your little ones put together a special play to perform for you? Our Fiesta Crafts finger and hand puppets are available in so many characters! Once your stars have practiced their parts, switch off the lights, put on the cinema lights (pointed lamps or similar) and don’t forget the popcorn!

If you don’t fancy a play or mini-concert why not snuggle up and watch a family friendly movie instead? If your little ones are quite little it might be an idea to choose shorter movies or a series (if you have Netflix or similar this can be a great place to find entertaining shows).

How do you keep yourself busy and happy during the autumn season? We’d love to hear!