Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Gross and Fine Motor Skills

When it comes to early years checks, indeed even your health visitor check-ups you will likely hear the terms gross and motor skills mentioned. We help explain what these are and how you can help your little ones develop theirs.

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are the type of movements you might call small movements. Things like buttoning up a shirt, using a zipper, using your finger and thumb in a pincer action to pick something up, or using a knife/fork/spoon. Fine motor skills include using the fingers, toes, the tongue wrist and even lips.

Gross Motor Skills

Described as big movements i.e. sitting, standing, walking, rolling, balancing and so on, gross motor skills are equally important and focus on the feet, legs, arms and torso areas. These skills are important for every-day activities such as moving around, playing sport and games with friends, going to the toilet independently and more.

A Timeline
Your child’s personal child health record (their Red Book) will have some basic information about developmental milestones and a place for you to record when they achieve certain milestones. There’s no specific timeline parents should be “aiming” for as all guidelines are just that, guidelines.

It is important to remember that just because J at baby group can do something or T from the nursery has a skill perfected that your child “should” too. All children are different and develop at different speeds. They are all fabulously individual. Being individual some children simply find some things easier than others or learn new skills faster or slower than others.

Learning Through Play
From an early age babies and children start to develop motor skills through playing, from grasping a rattle to using a crayon to colour in.
Some examples of games, toys and activities that may be used to help little ones develop their fine and gross motor skills include (but are not limited to):

  • Putting a jigsaw together.
  • Stacking building blocks.
  • Sticker books (placing stickers in the right place) and colouring in books.
  • Working with a range of construction toys, putting things together.
  • Games which require hand/eye co-ordination such as fishing games.
  • Practicing walking/running/skipping and climbing (for example at a soft play centre or at the park/in the garden).
  • Swimming
  • Threading beads onto string.
  • Fitting shaped pieces into corresponding holes/places.
Learning doesn’t need to be boring, far from it!

Further Support
Your health visitor will give you an idea of what they would expect to see at during your child’s reviews and they will discuss with you if they feel that your child may benefit from some additional aid to help them achieve the skills they will need for the future. If this is the case they will help you arrange a referral to someone who would be able to work with you and your little one on a 1-1 basis.

If you have any concerns or worries, do speak to your health visitor or GP if appropriate.

Generally speaking, children simply do things in their own way and to their own timetable. If they need a little helping hand then no worries, this isn’t uncommon and there are people who can help.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Top Tips for School Holiday Fun

Half term is fast approaching (with an extra day tagged on for some school for training) and already the longer summer holidays are in sight. We’re sure that like us, you love having the children at home, however, finding something to keep them occupied and happy can be a challenge at times, especially when their usual toys and games don’t seem to be doing to job.
We’ve put together some ideas for you to help you keep your little ones going!


There’s nothing quite like playing in your own special hideaway. We’re sure that you have memories of your own play tents and dens from when you were younger, we certainly do. Perfect for picnics, playdates, playing house, reading or just hanging out in. Curiously a game or toy that is “boring” one minute can turn into a great fun activity when it is enjoyed inside a special den. Just don’t forget the secret password or you won’t be allowed to go in!


Indoor or out, a picnic can be a great fun activity. Cut up food into little bite size pieces, arrange them in a fun way, add napkins, straws and other fun bits to add to the adventure. Perhaps you could invite friends, teddy bears, dolls or even action figures to attend? Extend this fun activity by having your children help make the picnic food in advance. Baking and decorating little cakes often goes down very well.


The weather is rarely an obstacle when it comes to going for a wall, thanks to coats, welly boots and umbrellas. Rain or shine, enjoy the local area, jump in muddy puddles or enjoy local parks and walks. Why not do a little research about your town or city. There may be monuments or points of interest that you don’t know about and the children will enjoy. Remember, going for a walk is boring. Going for an adventure, well that’s completely different!

An “I’m Bored Jar”

Here’s a tried and tested top tip for you. Fill a jar or similar with a mix of quick activities and tasks. If children claim they are bored they can have a dig in the jar, pull a folded piece of paper out and see what they’ve got. It could be a bonus 20 minutes of digital time, matching up socks or something random like “how long can you hold your breath for?”. Try and be as inventive as you can.
*Two I’m bored jars can be helpful if you want to split activities into indoor and outdoor categories. That way you don’t run the risk of explaining why your children can’t go and play on the swings in a torrential downpour when the rules say you have to do what’s written on the paper.

Traditional Games

Board games, jigsaws and construction toys have been around for a very long time and the reason for this is that they appeal to children in a variety of ways. Basically, they never get old. With so many games and jigsaws to choose from you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Play Dates

All of these are great ways to keep little ones occupied during the school holiday. They would be even better if they could be shared with a special friend. If you want to make your child’s day arrange a surprise playdate.

When it comes to the holidays children do need down time. They are after all on a break from has probably been a very busy half term at school. As well as free play, sleep ins, family movies and similar it pays to have a variety of activities such as those above planned.
What are your “go to” activities for the school holidays?

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Dotty Hippo Guide to Summer Fun

School is now out for summer and hopefully we’ll all be enjoying a decent amount of sunshine. Regardless of what the weather chooses to do we have a number of great ideas for summer fun for you and your little ones to choose from.

Paint the Garden

Not as messy as it sounds, this activity involves children using paintbrushes (big house-painting brushes if possible) and a bucket of water to “paint” the garage, the fence, the shed, their bikes, the floor and quite possibly each other. This is a great water-play activity and of course there’s no real mess as everything dries up in the sun.


If you haven’t yet given this treasure-hunting activity a go it is well worth looking up. Use the free app (android and iOS) to locate local caches using your GPS. Follow the maps and the distances to each one and be rewarded when you find what you are looking for. Once you’ve found the “treasure” open the box or small cylinder, take out the log sheet, sign and date to show you found it then replace exactly how you found it. Update the app to show your find then move on. Children love the hunt and it’s great for getting the whole family out and about. See more on the Geocaching website.

Crafty Fun

Children love arts and crafts and we have a huge range of kits and more for you to choose from. Not only are these great for rainy days or those times when a quieter activity is needed, they are perfect for helping children to develop a number of skills. Our Alex Colour a Backpack for example comes in a fun pirate or cutie design and allows children to design and colour their own backpacks.

We have beading, threading, colouring in, making, sticking, designing, building and a whole lot more in our arts and crafts section, all at very affordable prices.  Creative fun is also great for those days when your children have friends over to play.

Play Tent Fun

Play tents are brilliant for make-believe play, for using as a den and of course may be used indoors and out. Children may enjoy tea parties in a pop-up tent, play with friends and siblings, move their toys into their “den” and more. Pop up tents are great for quickly putting up and down however if you’re looking for something to be used daily which will stay in place for longer periods have a look at our play houses. If you play your cards right you might even get an invitation in to play.

Explore Your Local Area

Summertime offers a great opportunity to get out and about and take a proper look at your local area. Visit places you wouldn’t usually go, walk places you wouldn’t normally walk and you might be surprised by what you find. Visit your local tourist information centre or search online to see what’s going on around you.

Get Out into the Garden

Not every day has to involve structured play or outings during the summer; sometimes simply having a good run around outside is just what the children want and need. Arm yourself with bubbles and wands, a ball and let their imagination do the rest.

Many children enjoy helping out in the garden too so if you need a helper for watering the plants, pulling up weeds or planting seeds we’re sure you’ll not be short of a volunteer or two.

Make Believe

This type of fun never gets old! Have a dressing up box handy, save a big cardboard box for children to play in (it could be a fire engine, a plane, a horse!), encourage role play fun such as cookery (pretend food can be delicious) and enjoy watching a puppet show the children have put together. Children have brilliant imaginations, let them use them and explore make-believe worlds!

Visit the Library

Over the summer UK libraries are running a Summer Reading Challenge. This year the theme is the Big Friendly Read (BFG) and looks set to be enormous fun! These challenges run every year, are free and are a great way to promote literacy and reading for fun. Read more here or pop into your local library for more information on special events.

The summer is a time for fun, adventure, relaxing, exploring and trying new things. Whatever you have planned we hope you have a fabulous time. Don’t forget to have a look on the website for crafts, indoor and outdoor toys and more!

Friday, 26 February 2016

3 Sprouts: Fun Organisation

As parents ourselves here we decided that at Dotty Hippo we would only stock items that we would use ourselves, that we could see our children enjoying and that were of a high quality and yet at a reasonable price. The 3 Sprouts range ticks all of these boxes and more, with fabric storage bins, hooded towels for baby and toddler bathtime, bath storage, laundry hampers and more.

Where did 3 Sprouts Come From?

3 Sprouts was actually put together by three friends, all of whom loved modern family-related products and had a keen eye for practical yet fun designs. Their animal designs are unique and really do look fantastic (as well as helping keep everything in order, a task not easily done when you have little ones running around!).

Claims to Fame

Clearly we aren't the only ones tickled by the 3 Sprouts range. Recently our Crocodile Storage Box was featured on the BT Lifestyle blog and another storage box and the very popular 3 Sprouts wall organisers were featured on the MYBABA site as part of their spring clean essentials round-up.

More Affordable Than Ever

We really do rate the 3 Sprouts range and as such we have reduced their prices to the lowest they've been in years, making it more affordable than ever to transform your home with these fantastic and fun organisational wonders. Our storage boxes for example are now £21.95, down from £24.

We are proud to stock 3 Sprouts and love to hear back from customers who have bought any of their items and have fallen in love with them. If you haven't explored the 3 Sprouts range now is certainly the time!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Dotty Hippo Christmas Gift Guide

Try as you might to ignore how fast the diary pages are turning, there's no denying that Christmas is coming and it's coming fast! For those of you who haven't started your shopping yet or haven't finished we've put together a Christmas gift guide to offer up some inspiration.

Ethical and Educational Toys from Lanka Kade

We are very proud to be stockists of the Lanka Kade range. Lanka Kade helps to support over 200 families in Sri Lanka through the skillful making and selling of these gorgeous wooden toys. All of the toys Lanka Kade produce offer educational benefits as well as enjoyment ones, from literacy and numeracy skills, building, shape recognition and more. See the full range here, with the smallest items starting at just £4.95.

The Enchanted Forest Pop Up Play Tent (with Play Mat)

A perfect place to play, nap, read and more, this very affordable easy to erect and pack away pop up tent makes a great choice of gift. Suitable for use indoors and out the Enchanted Forest Pop Up Play Tent which sports a useful roll up and down door cover may be used all year round.

There are other designs in the range including a farm, fire station and a pirate themed version all priced at £23.50. See all four and read more about their size and specifications here.

Bead Box from Bead Bazaar
The Nature Friend Bead Box is packed with fun for little ones who enjoy jewellery making and arts and crafts. Great to use alone or share with siblings and friends this lovely variety of shaped and coloured beads make great patterns. Priced at just £10.45 it also makes for a budget-friendly buy, always great at Christmas when you might have a number of children to buy for as well as your own.

Janod Magnetic Rocket

Here at Dotty Hippo we are huge fans of the Janod range which is why you'll find we offer a large number of their different toys and games. We turn to Janod because of their high quality craftmanship, bright colours, fun and educational benefits. We also stock them because we like playing with them ourselves from time to time (for professional research obviously!).

This Janod Magnetic Rocket is one of our most popular items and for true fans comes in a large size and a giant size. Visit the website to see the full Janod collection as well as the brightly coloured magnetic rocket ship.

To see more pop along to the website where you will find a wider range of toys, games, decorative items and more with something for all ages and all budgets.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Build a Bottle Bird Feeder

Not too long ago we wrote a post about fun after school activities. Following up from that we have a fun and easy to follow "Build a Bottle Bird Feeder" activity to share with you. This infographic has been provided by Sainsburys who like us are keen on not only keeping little ones busy but also recycling and promoting an awareness of the environment.

Bottle Bird Feeder Guide from Sainsburys Bank

We'd love to hear about how your bottle feeder turned out and of course if you have any other outdoor seasonal fun activities to recommend don't hesitate to leave a comment or say hello over on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Fun After-School Activities

With the new school year and term starting (or having just started) many parents are looking for fun after school activities to entertain their children between the hour or hour and a half between landing home and having tea. 

Even the youngest school starters will soon be bring books home for reading time (initially these may be picture books for you to look at and discuss what you think is happening). It may be that doing the reading homework is best done as soon as little ones get home and before they start getting sleepy. Some children might do better with this reading in bed however bear this activity in mind when mapping out others. 

Colouring In 
Such a simple activity yet perfect for after school as it calms and entertains at the same time. There is a wealth of free colouring in sheet printables available online (Pinterest especially) so that whether your little one is into colouring in Minions or more generic scenes you can have something ready. 

Scavenger Hunt 
If your children need to blow off some steam at the end of the day putting together an in-house or garden scavenger hunt will keen them amused and let them do just that! Organise your clues based on a theme such as pirates or princes and princesses or go for something more basic. If you time it right they will enjoy running around and finding mini treasures right up until tea time. 

Art and Crafts 
There are so many art and craft projects that are perfect for after school, from playdough play to beading and beyond. Look for seasonal easy craft ideas (we love to visit RedTedArt for inspiration) and have everything set out ready for when they get home. 
Get Outside 
If the weather is playing ball get outside and blow off the cobwebs. In autumn and winter there are leaves, acorns and of course conkers to find and spring and summer are perfect for flower picking and frisbee throwing. A visit to the park or a walk around a field, either and both offer a great healthy after school activity. 

Why not have your little ones help with tea preparation or perhaps making a pudding? A chore for you is very grown up and exciting for them and many hands make light work (and possibly a little mess!) 

This Educo Chef Apron set offers the perfect cookery or baking accessories for your mini chef!

Play Games 
Pull out their favourite board games or get adventurous with something like Twister and let them laugh, play and enjoy with you or each other if you have more than one child. Card games are also great and may be tailored to suit all ages as well as helping with matching and number skills. 

Free Play 
Having after school activities planned is a great idea as it keeps children occupied, lets them blow off steam or calm and settle after a busy day, is fun and bridges that gap between home time and eating time. Sometimes it is nice however to simply let them have some free play time to do what they want, be that to play in their rooms, get the Lego out, ride around the garden or just enjoy half an hour in front of the TV. 

Do you have after school activity hints and tips to share?