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?  

Thursday 27 August 2015

Organising Your Week

Here at DH HQ we understand what trying to juggle work, the home, small children and everything else that goes on in life looks like and it isn't always pretty! Firstly, how on earth are we supposed to remember it all when our sticky notes are removed and rearranged by little hands because "they weren't pretty where they were" and secondly when did our tots and tweens develop better social lives than we have?  
What is very clear is that if us parents want to stay on top of it all we need to get organised. 

Pick a Day for Weekly Organisation 

 Many choose Sunday night to plan for the following week however Friday night works better for us at Dotty Hippo HQ as it gives us a chance to organise / pick up anything needed over the weekend before Monday. Whatever day you choose stick to it and make it a weekly habit.  
This time is for updating calendars and charts, making sure everything is in place for the following week, making to do lists or shopping lists for items that need picking up and of course reminding yourself of upcoming appointments and events. 

A chart like this fabulous Fiesta Crafts one is perfect for keeping evevryone on track and seeing who is doing what, where and when!

Create a Command Station 

If you've spent any time on Pinterest the chances are you've seen fabulous pictures of command centres. A command station is a set place where items for school or nursery lives, where papers, seasonal items and more all reside so that you may grab them when you need them. It means that even if you are in a rush you'll know where new name stickers, the sun cream or gloves, the permission slips for a school trip and everything else is. 

 Pull it all together by using a weekly chart or similar where you can record the activities for the next week as well as anything you need to remember. It is so much easier to have a visual reminder of things and of course if they are right there for everyone to see there's a fighting chance someone will remember even if you forget to do / supply something! 

A command centre needn't be boring when you have fabulous fun wall organisers such as these from 3 Sprouts to choose from!

Don't Overbook Yourself 

 The best way to stay on top of your week is not to have too much going on. Of course all families are busy, especially when little ones get old enough for play dates, activities out of the home and such like however it is important to have time in your week to just relax and be together as a family. 

What are your best tips for organising your week? Do comment and let us know. There's no such thing as too much organisation when you have a busy household with small children in it! 

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Do You Use Your Local Library?

There has been a lot in the news over recent years about library cuts and restructuring which is a terrible shame.  People (including families) are being asked to support their local libraries simply by using them as footfall gives a good indication of how popular these places are (and encourages the powers that be to keep them funded!). There are huge benefits to families to using the library too. 

Free Books 

Whichever way you look at it you really can't beat having access to hundreds of free books to read, whether these are first numbers and touch books for very little book fans or grown up books for parents to enjoy during those quiet times when little ones are sleeping! Many enjoy being able to constantly swap finished books for new ones and not have to squeeze any more bookcases into their home. 

Family Friendly 

Once upon a time libraries were to be kept strictly quiet, no squeaky shoes, no talking and absolutely no children chatting and laughing. The libraries of today are very different with dedicated children areas, appropriately sized furniture, toys, colouring in stations and lots more to encourage young books fans and make their time at the library both enjoyable and memorable. 

Special Events 

Libraries now run a wealth of free events for their community including many which are very family focused. from Code Club (for children 9yrs+) to themed story times and even craft sessions for younger children. The annual Summer Reading Challenge for children aged 4yrs and over is incredibly popular and you may learn more about it here. 

It is often possible to sign up to receive notifications of these events by email or find the information in your local branch where they are well advertised. 

Request Books 

Sometimes you visit the library looking for something specific, perhaps the next book in a series or something you or your children have seen or heard and want to try. The library have a fabulous system through which all of the local libraries are connected and staff are able to search for and request books to be sent to your branch for you. What is even better there is no charge for this for children. 

Encouraging Reading and Building Literacy Skills 

As well as reading for pure pleasure visiting the library and taking advantage of all that they offer is a great way to help your children to develop their literacy skills. With a great number of books for all abilities and interests as well as well-trained and knowledgeable librarians and volunteers on hand to help there is no reason why even the most reluctant reader shouldn't find something he or she could enjoy. 

There really isn't anything quite like opening a bag full of new books, snuggling down on the mat or in your favourite comfy chair and sharing stories with yourfamily, or reading to yourself.  

Do you have a cosy chair or dedicated reading area?

Do you visit your local library? Have you attended any of their special events? Do leave a comment and tell us what your favourite part of visiting your local library is. 

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Birthday Party Top Tips

If the idea of organising and running a birthday party for your little ones makes your blood run cold you certainly aren't the only one. Getting it right is important and because of this parties have become a source of pressure and stress instead of fun. Have a look at our list of tips, tricks and ideas to help you get it right, keep it simple, cost effective and most of all enjoyable (without any need for pulling your hair out!). 

Keep it Simple 
Little ones don't need a huge extravaganza with professional photographers, bright lights and the works. They need friends, colours, music, food and fun. Resist the urge to go big and bold as at the end of the day your children won't benefit any more from this type of party and your nerves and bank account certainly won't. 

Pick a Theme 
For extra fun choose a theme that will suit the party goers and use that to theme games, decorations, party bags and more. It doesn't have to be another superhero or Frozen theme either. The Hungry Caterpillar would make a wonderfully colourful theme for example. Have a look on Pinterest for party theme inspiration. 

Have a Schedule 
Have a plan and stick to it. If the party is for example two an a half hours long include segments for people arriving / free play, entertainment / games, eating and more play / activities.  

Top tip: Organise anything that involves running and jumping before food and quieter, less active activities for afterwards as otherwise there will always be one child who has eaten too much, gets too excited and then is sick! 

Top "quiet time" activities could be anything from art and crafts, beading, Lego building etc to watching a Scooby Doo or Frozen DVD! 

Again, keep it simple. Sandwiches, chopped up cheese, fruit, sausages and cake (either a big birthday cake or buns) is more than enough. Also remember to have enough juice and milk in for thirsty party goers. Paper plates and cups are ideal for cleaning up however if they will all be sitting at a table or having a floor picnic then normal plates and beakers should be just fine. 

Top tip: Remember to ask the parents of anyone invited whether they have any intolerances or allergies in advance.  

Rope in Helpers 
Do you have older children, friends or people that owe you money? Rope them in to help keep everything on schedule, to run the games and to generally be on hand for keeping everything going smoothly. 

Party Bags 
Again there is no need to pay out ridiculous amounts of money for party bags. Instead consider how many items you will actually need, the ages of the attendees and whether you have a theme. Pencil toppers, crayons or chalks, a slice of cake or a wrapped cupcake, bubbles and similar small but very fun items work perfectly. 

Check out our range of fun pencil toppers!

At the end of the day the party is all about your little one enjoying themselves so if you've got that organised then nothing else matters.