Sunday 8 September 2013

Babyface bedding ranges for girls and boys

Children's bedding needs to look great, stay soft through frequent washings and be kind to their skin.  Babyface only use high quality natural fibres in their ranges meaning that their bedding is skin friendly and machine washable. Their designs offer an alternative to TV character themed bedrooms and will last well beyond the toddler years.  The Babyface ranges include a range of designs to suit girls and boys with some including double bed sizes which seem to be getting more and more popular.  

tea party quilted pillowcase

Babyface have just added two new designs to their collection and these are now available to purchase or pre-order from our website.  The Tea Party Cupcake bedding is a great addition to their ranges for girls.  

The range includes a duvet cover with colourful cupcake and bunting appliques, a gorgeous brightly coloured quilt and matching accessories including this lovely cupcake cushion.

Finding bedding for older children can be challenging.  The new Babyface All Stars and Varsity range is great for older boys and we know quite a few girls who would love this design too.  


The range includes an All Stars duvet cover in grey, navy and cream, a colourful quilt and matching accessories including this quilted cushion.  The new Babyface denim rug coordinates with this range perfectly.

The new designs also coordinate well with the existing Babyface ranges including the 100% cotton gingham duvets and accessories.

Babyface Designs Ltd was founded in 2003 when designer and mum Grainne Macey designed her first collection of children’s bedding. Her vision was to produce a high quality, practical yet stylish range of children’ s bedding which would appeal to both parent and child.  Grainne and her sister, Aileen, have continued to develop and expand the Babyface brand over the past ten years. Grainne’s designs follow the latest trends in children’s themes and textiles. Her signature bold colours and attention grabbing style brings a refreshing look to this market. 

Sunday 7 July 2013

Kiddiewinkles 2 in 1 Playhouses and Accessories

Kiddiewinkles presented their range of beautiful playhouses to us and we thought they would make a perfect addition to our existing playhouse range.

We loved the Kiddiewinkles’ unique dual themed 2 in 1 concept and believe this takes creativity to the next level.  We love the idea of a door on both sides of the playhouses – so there is easy access for children to run in and out of with no pushing or shoving to get in through one door!  Plus with intricate embroidery detail on all 4 sides of the playhouses you can turn them around for variety.  Finally, the playhouses inspire even more creative and imaginative play as there is a different theme on the front to the back! 

All the Kiddiewinkles playhouses are available in 2 sizes – I can even stand up inside a large playhouse so it will be a long time before your child grows out of it!!  Kiddiewinkles have kept their designs sophisticated to retain their longevity.  If you buy a playhouse for a young child they really will get years of fun out of them and therefore they offer exceptional value for money.  A Kiddiewinkles playhouse will be a treasured gift for years.

Their popular dual themed ‘Rose Cottage and Tea Shop’ playhouse was the first playhouse introduced to their range.  The front and 2 sides depict an English Rose Cottage with hand embroidered and appliqued butterflies, flower pots, roses and a truly gorgeous picket fence adorning all 3 sides. Turn it around and the back is a quintessential village Tea Shop complete with pink gingham appliquéd shelves, embroidered tea cups, a tea pot and cupcakes – perfect for afternoon tea whatever the weather!

The 2 in 1 Enchanted Garden and Fairy Woodland playhouse takes inspiration from fairies at the bottom of the garden and is a delightful, pink playhouse based on a fairytale woodland scene. Adorned with bluebells, daisies, birds and fairies when you turn it around the enchantment continues with a mystical woodland scene. Striking trees bear rosy red apples and fairies twinkle with silver wings and dresses.

The NEW 2 in 1 Gingerbread Cottage and Sweet Shop playhouse is almost good enough to eat with its cute appliqué and embroidered gingerbread men adorning all four sides. Turn this around and it becomes a sweet shop with shelves full of tasty treats including traditional candy canes and swizzle lollipops. 
The 3 ‘girls’ playhouse designs offer a nice variety with the different coloured base fabrics.  So if pink isn’t your thing you can always opt for the lilac based playhouse!

Kiddiewinkles didn’t want to leave the boys out so have included a Fire Engine playhouse and striking Wild West Wigwam to their range.  These designs have however proved as popular with little girls as they have done with the boys!

The Wigwam has a natural cotton canvas background featuring a blazing sun on the front. Horse, buffalo and bear appliqué motives are included on each side along with tufts of grass, red and white feathers and a colourful zigzag pattern for authenticity. Perfect for summer days in the garden or as a secret den in a bedroom or playroom, this fun Wigwam design will bring out the cowboy and Indian in all little people! 

Their authentic Fire Engine playhouse will appeal to aspiring young firemen! Hand embroidered and appliquéd wheels complete with lights, fire tools, ladder and a fire hose this bright red design will encourage creative play.  The roof covers half of the fire engine to provide a den or driving area and the rear is open to enable hours of interactive play, putting out ‘pretend’ fires!

Lastly their toy baskets have been really popular for storing allsorts of things in.  My daughter keeps all her soft toys in her pink one. A friend has just had a baby and loved the neutral coloured one for the nursery – perfect for storing muslin cloths, towels etc. in it.

All Kiddiewinkles™ products are made from 100% cotton.  All the playhouses are available in a large and small size. Co-ordinating floor quilts are also available to compliment each playhouse.

Debbie Hulme from Kiddiewinkles™ said: “All parents we speak to believe in imaginative and creative role play for their children.  As a company we are passionate about designing toys that encourage creative play.

“The world of make believe is so important for children’s social and emotional development and at Kiddiewinkles™ we whole heartedly feel that our new 2 in 1 playhouses will allow children to play freely and independently; fuelling their imaginations, inspiring magical play and creating memories that will last a lifetime.”

Sunday 5 May 2013

Children's Backpacks for Nursery and School from Beatrix New York

We are always on the look out for great products and we loved these children's backpacks from Beatrix New York as soon as we saw them.  They are a little more expensive than our other backpacks for children but really high quality and would make a lovely gift for a child starting nursery or school.

Beatrix New York is a US based company devoted to creating cool, contemporary stuff for kids. Beatrix New York backpacks combine a childlike love of whimsy and imagination with a grown- up sense of modern design and style. 

This Little Kid Backpacks are embroidered with a cute character and will hold everything a child needs for a busy day. This nursery backpack is made from durable nylon and easy-to-clean laminated canvas.  Little Kid Backpacks have a small interior zipped pocket, padded back panel and padded shoulder straps. PVC free, lead This Beatrix Big Kid Backpack is large enough to hold text books, lunch, a laptop and more.   One of our favourite designs if the Papar Owl.

Papar Owl Little Kid Backpack - Beatrix New York

The Papar Owl Big Kid Backpack is made from durable nylon and easy-to-clean laminated canvas.  These children's backpacks have a large interior with a small interior pocket, a large front pocket and two side pockets, padded back panel and padded shoulder straps. PVC free, lead free, & phthalate free.  We particularly like the Percival Dino Big Kid Backpack.

Percival Dino Big Kid Backpack - Beatrix New York

Monday 22 April 2013

Two new additions to the family!

We really missed having little pets running around in the garden so we were secretly pleased when our children asked if we could have guinea pigs again.  Here are our 2 new additions - Batman and Robin.  

Robin, at the top, is very quiet and happy to just sit and be stroked - Batman is going to be much more trouble!

The only thing that made us hesitate was the usual issue of what to do with them when we are away.  So we were delighted to hear that our local pet shop - Atlantis Pets - in Northallerton offers a pet sitting service for small pets for only a little over a £1 a night - what a great idea!

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Win Green Playhouses - Product Guide

We first saw a Win Green playhouse in a toy shop window in Thirsk about 5 years ago.  It was the small Barn playhouse and it looked fabulous.  When we opened Dotty Hippo we knew we wanted to include Win Green in our ranges and we have now been selling their playhouses for 3 years.  We hope this guide will help you to select the right playhouse for your child.

Where is Win Green made?

Win Green is a British company owned by Sue and Jeff Sands who took over Win Green in 2012.  The products are designed in the UK and manufactured in India by rural Indian women who are part of a government backed initiative which is helping them to gain financial freedom and to support their families.

What are the playhouses made from?

Win Green playhouses are made from extremely durable hand woven and hand dyed 100% cotton.  The material is very strong and slightly stretchy so that it can be pulled over the playhouse frame.  The embroidery on the playhouses is very detailed and colourful - it's difficult to do justice to the quality of the fabric on a photograph.  Many of our customers purchase a Win Green playhouse because they have seen one in a friend's garden!

Are Win Green playhouses machine washable?

We do not recommend that you machine wash your Win Green playhouse, the size and weight of the fabric is not generally suitable for domestic washing machines.  You can sponge clean or dry clean.  The floor quilts, beanbag covers and other matching accessories are machine washable.

Is the playhouse fabric fire proof?

The fabric of these playhouses have been tested for flammability and adhere to the relevant European safety regulations. However as an additional safety precaution, no naked flames should be used in or near the Win Green playhouses – keep away from fire. The fabric is 100% cotton and fully complies with European Standard BS EN 71 Parts 1, 2 & 3.

I'm not sure whether to get a small or large playhouse

We first saw a large Win Green playhouse at a trade fair. Although it looked quite big in the very large space of the exhibition hall it didn't look anywhere near as big as it did when we put one up in our house!  
The large Win Green playhouse is 160cm high which is large enough for an average sized adult to stand up in.  You may want to measure your space carefully, particularly if you are intending to use the playhouse indoors, as a large playhouse will take up a lot of space.  We have generally found that customers who intend to use the playhouse outdoors prefer the large playhouse, whereas those who are looking for a playhouse for a bedroom or playroom prefer the smaller one.  


What designs are the most popular?

Our best selling playhouses are the Fairy and Butterfly Cottage and the Cowboy Wigwam.  The Toy Shop is also popular with those who are looking for a design to suit boys and girls.  Win Green have recently introduced 2 new designs, a Princess Castle and a Pirate Shack which we also expect to be very popular.


How easy is the playhouse to put up?

If you are used to simple pop-up playhouses for young children, please be aware that Win Green playhouses are substantially different.  The frame consists of metal poles with hard plastic connectors.  The fabric is designed to be a close fit over the frame.  The first time that you put up the playhouse you are likely to need to gently knock the connectors in place.  Once up, the playhouse is a very solid construction.   You can of course dismantle the playhouse, however, this will be a longer task than taking down a pop-up playhouse.  You will find it easier to put up the large playhouse with 2 people although it is possible to do it with one.

Can I get replacement connectors or poles?

Yes, we can order a set of connectors or set of poles for you - please contact us.  The small playhouse poles are £25, the large playhouse or Wigwam poles are £30.  A full set of connectors is £10.  If you only have one or two connectors that need replacing and have purchased your playhouse from Dotty Hippo we can provide these free of charge.  Connectors do not usually need replacing but very occasionally, particularly when setting up the playhouse for the first few times, a connector may split.  The connectors are quite tight initially but loosen up slightly over time.

Monday 4 February 2013

What do you put in a party bag?

Our oldest daughter is now in her twenties. Looking back 20 years, party bags were a much simpler affair - just a few sweets and a piece of birthday cake. Over the years, party bags seemed to get bigger and bigger.

The party bag

You can buy plastic party bags from any supermarket, but if you want something a little bit different: 

  • Decorate paper sandwich bags with stickers and each child's name
  • Use sturdy plastic cups wrapped in cellophane and tied with ribbon
  • Do a lucky dip at the end for a small present and just put sweets and cake in the party bags
What to put in it

In 20+ years of receiving and giving party bags the sweets seem to be the most important from a child's point of view.  For many children, our own included, parties are an opportunity to have the sort of sweets we don't usually encourage at home - haribo, sticky lollies etc.  The cheapest way is to buy large packs from Wilkinsons, Supermarkets, Pound Shops etc. and then split them. 

It's easier to think of what to put in your party bags if you have a theme for your party.  For example, if you have a pirate party you could put in some chocolate coins, for an explorer party some of the long jelly worms would be great etc. You can carry on the theme with other items such as stickers, badges, notebooks, fridge magnets etc.

The easy way!

There are some great party bag sites and even if you don't buy from these you can get some great ideas.  Our favourites are: - A great selection of filled cotton party bags for boys and girls from just over £3 to £7. Although the bags are the traditional pink and blue there are some  good choices for girls which don't assume that they all want makeup and hair bobbles. You may want to add some sweets too so factor this into your budget.

The boys one above includes: Sheet of Boy's Stickers, Lego Sports Car, Flying Glider, Rubik Snake Puzzle, Wooden Dino Model, Mini Key Ring Rubik Cube and a Mini 10 Pin Bowling Set. 

A fabulous site for party bag (and stocking) fillers is We particular love their small wooden toys like these wooden beads in a tin: 

More expensive, but with some great ideas, is They have cotton and paper party bags and a wide selection of eco-friendly party bag toys. 

Or of course, you could always start a new trend and not give a party bag!

Thursday 24 January 2013

Ten tips to help you survive your first sleepover!

The following tips are based on our experience of having sleepovers for girls - our little boy is only 5 so we haven't experienced the same for boys yet! 

  1. Think about the age of the children you invite.  If your child is the oldest in the year, the youngest ones may not be ready for a sleepover yet.
  2. Don't invite too many - 4 is plenty - 8 is too many - we know!
  3. Ask guests to arrive from about 7pm otherwise it will be a very long evening.
  4. Don't forget to ask them to bring sleeping bags, toothbrushes and a cuddly.
  5. Ask parents to let you know about any special requirements and make sure you have a contact number for emergencies.
  6. Have an activity planned for the evening - this doesn't have to be expensive - try making and decorating cookies, playing board games (always more fun with friends), having a quiz night.   Rent a video to finish the night off.  Musicals tend to go down well - Abba the Movie, High School Musical, Hairspray.  No-one seems to mind if they've seen it before.
  7. Don't structure the whole evening - let them have time to do their own thing.
  8. Be prepared for a sleepless night! Excited children usually take a very long time to settle down.
  9. Be prepared to take a child home if they don't/can't settle - there is often one who just wants to go home.  Sometimes all they need is to move to another room for some peace and quiet.
  10. Ask parents to collect by 10am.  We were amazed to find 8 children who hadn't gone to sleep until 4am, up and dressed by 7am and asking to be entertained.  It was a very long 5 hours until their parents picked up at the appointed time - 12 noon!

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Our favourite books for toddlers

Having been bringing up children for the last 26 years we now have a very large collection of children's books.  It's amazing though how just a few seem to be most popular with each of our children.  We also have our favourites too - the ones we really enjoy reading again and again.  If we had to pick a top 5 books for toddlers they would be: 

  • The Very Hungry Crocodile by Roald Dahl - All our children absolutely love the ending and although it's quite a long read for a bedtime story it's really well written.
  • Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy - Lovely pictures and a funny ending

  • The Baby's Catalogue by Janet and Alan Ahlberg - A day in the life of 5 families with really appealing pictures of just about everything your child might observe in a typical day.
  • The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr - A real nonsense story that appeals to boys and girls.
  • I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Suess - Really easy to read and quickly established as a catch phrase in our family!  Almost as popular is the Cat in the Hat.

If you would like more ideas on books for babies, toddlers and older children see Building a Children's Library on the Guardian website which is a fantastic resource.

If you are wondering how to store your books, have a look at our Tidy Books Bookcase which is designed so that children can easily see their books.  We wish these had been around years ago.