Thursday 30 July 2015

Back to School Checklist

Babies one minute then off to school the next!

The school summer holidays are flying by and before you know it the children will be back at school. If you haven't started your shopping yet or if you aren't sure whether you have everything you need a checklist such as this is always a great place to start.

Feel free to save this or print it off and pop it in your purse, your wallet or in your diary so that you may tick things off as you buy / find them.

What to Wear

  • Jumpers / cardigans / blazer
  • Polo shirts
  • Trousers
  • Skirts / pinafore
  • PE tshirt/s
  • Shorts
  • Jogging bottoms and sweatshirt for outdoors if school requires them
  • Plimsolls / trainers
  • School shoes
  • Autumn / winter coat
  • Plenty of school socks / tights

Winter Essentials

  • Wellies
  • Hat, scarf, gloves

Eating and Drinking

  • Lunch box or lunch bag with lunch drinking bottle
  • Snack box
  • Drinking Bottle
Schools require children to have a suitable bottle for drinking water from throughout the day.
A second drinking bottle for packed lunch boxes will save you from costly carton drinks.

Carrying / Storage / Indentification

  • Backpack
  • Book bag (often sold by the school or an authorised third party)
  • Gym bag
  • Clothing labels
  • Name stickers (for lunch boxes, drinking bottles etc)
Name tapes, labels and stickers are a must to avoid losing uniform and other important items


Generally speaking primary school children don't need to take a pencil case and stationery items, unless the school has said otherwise. If you do feel the need to stock up on back to school stationery (for the homework drawer or art and craft tray maybe) shop around and use cashback sites such as Quidco to get a little back on your purchases.

Top Tips:

Not everything needs to be bought brand new, unless of course your little ones are starting school for the first time or if they've outgrown uniform thanks to a summer growth spurt. If you are sure you have any of these items already put aside make sure that you check for wear and tear, that everything still fits and sew, mark or iron in new labels if the old ones are missing or faded.

If you shop at Tesco they will soon be releasing the August Clubcard statements and their latest Boost offers. It looks like you will once more be able to double up vouchers to use online or instore in a number of departments including shoes and clothing (uniform).

Have your little one's feet properly measured, either in store or with a home kit which some shoe retailers sell online. Properly fitted shoes will be a lot more comfortable, are healthier and will of course last longer.

When it comes to uniform quantities the general rule of thumb is one on and one in the wash so a two pack of trousers etc. While trousers and sweatshirts usually last longer between washing polo shirts and similar get grubby very easily, especially white ones so it may be worth stocking up on a few extras.

If you can think of anything else you feel is a must-have get in touch.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Marking Milestones

When pregannt the one thing that everyone warns us about that we don't really understand until we have had children is how utterly and heartbreakingly quickly they grow up. Each and every stage is a delight as you watch your little ones learn, explore and develop.

What is most important is capturing those all-important milestones so that you (and they) may enjoy looking back at them in years to come. Be creative and enjoying recording your special memories,

Photographs and Videos

Taking quick snaps on the go and videos that catch children doing something funny or special couldn't be easier these days with the majority of parents having a mobile phone in their pocket. If you are recording memories this way make sure that you back up photos and videos regularly, using whatever system your phone provider / manufacturer recommends or something you are happy with. A lost or damaged phone could mean losing pictures that can't be replaced so don't take the chance!
Dropbox and Onedrive both offer fantastic cloud back-up options.

If you are a photo taker by all means enjoy sharing these online with friends and family. Make sure that you also print some of them off too. You can print from home fairly easy these days, in stores such as Boots or using an online developer, many of which will run regular special offers and freebies on prints and will help you convert your pictures into keyrings, canvas wall art, mugs and more if you want to.

Height Charts

One of the scary things about children is how they go from tiny tots to strapping tweenagers in what seems to be a blink of the eye. Height charts are a great way to keep tabs on how quickly they are shooting up as well as looking fabulous in any playroom or bedroom.

A Journal or Scrapbooking

With so many memories to keep track of why not keep a journal or a scrap book? This may be a great way to record such things in a fun and personal way. Some prefer baby books or record books while others go all out with papercraft, photos, buttons, stickers and more. Either way produces something great to look back on and older children will no doubt enjoy help you putting these memory books together.

How do you remember and record special memories from your children's early years (and beyond?). Marking milestones needn't be a chore and there are so many fun ways to do it. Check Pinterest for inspiration if you are looking for something a little more quirky.

Friday 17 July 2015

Having Fun with Water

When it comes to looking for fun activities over the summer, or indeed at any time there is no resource more freely available (or cheaper unless you are on a meter and use A LOT) than water.

It doesn't matter what the weather is doing as when it comes to water play there are plenty of activities to enjoy both indoors and outdoors. Here are just some of our fun water-related activities for you to consider. Do you have any to add?

Water Painting
On a sunny day give your little painters house painting brushes and water in buckets and let them paint! They may redecorate the fence, the shed, the walls, anything really. What's best is that there's no tidying up as the water will simply dry up in the warmth.

Sail a Boat
Sailing a boat is one of the most simple activities and yet offers a great amount of fun and laughter. Boat races and more are all part of this type of water-related activity. Our Skipper Wooden Pond Yachts are very popular for obvious reasons!

Water Fights
Fill water balloons and buckets and just let them soak each other, be it a fun activity with siblings or friends.
Top tip: Remember to bring your washing in off the line first and close nearby windows!

Children love to fill up jugs and measure out set amounts, refilling and sharing water amongst other containers. How complex you make this activity will depend on the age of the children. This is as much a learning activity as it is a source of enjoyment.

Tea Parties
You don't need a fancy tea set, just beakers, a pretend tea pot, saucers and the like. Gather up friends, sibling or dolls and teddies and enjoy pouring, sharing and drinking "tea" while having a good chat. This is a great fun role play idea.

Bath Fun
Whether it's to cool off, clean up or just because we all love bathtime why not fill up the  tub and play during the day for once? Pour, splash, enjoy bubbles or get really creative with bath chalks and the like.

Splish Splash Splosh with Skip Hop Ducks!

A Big Water Table
Whether you buy a water table or make one there is something very special about letting your little ones enjoy simple water fun by filling the water tray with sponges, using ice cubes, floating items such as milk bottle lids and a number of different easy to find yet very interesting materials.
Little ones can play for hours with these things!

If you have any more ideas for fun water play do share them!

Thursday 9 July 2015

Picnic Time!

It's that time of the year again when sunny summer days are welcomed by families who enjoy being out and about in the fresh air. As we all know that British summer weather may be unpredicatble at times it makes sense to enjoy the good weather when it's here! Picnics of course play a big part in the magic that is a family day out.

Where to Go
All you really need when looking for somewhere to enjoy a picnic is some flat ground or picnic benches. This means that there are thousands of places to go! Check out the Forestry Commission for details of their maintained forest walks and cycle routes, visit the English Heritage and National Trust websites for inspiration and of course why not explore your local area? There's bound to be some great local picnic-friendly places you may play football, throw frisbees, pick flowers, hunt for bugs, fly a kite and more.

*Top tip: If you shop at Tesco you may currently use your Clubcard vouchers as part of their Clubcard Boost scheme to buy English Heritage membership for the family, effectively visiting a number of wonderful historical sites for free!

Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire - a great day out via the Forestry Commission.

What to Eat
When it comes to picnics the sky is the limit! For really imaginiative picnic food ideas head over to Pinterest which is packed full of great ideas. For us here at Dotty Hippo HQ we go for the simple pleasures such as cold pasta, sandwiches, fruit and crisps, straw or bottle drinks (important to have plenty to drink if warm) and items such as chopped up sausages or similar.

Many find a coolbox to be quite unwieldy, especially if you plan to eat on the go rather than at the car or at a set base. The easiest way to organise a picnic on the go is to pack individual lunches that everyone, including the little ones may carry on their back and use a cool pack or similar to keep things fresh.

Outdoor Games
Hide and seek is a popular outdoor game although with very little ones may need extra monitoring! Spotting guides make for great fun for older children, especially if you are somewhere where there is a lot of wildlife. For simple fun take a ball, a frisbee, organise running races or maybe even put together a small treasure hunt for the children.

When visiting a number of outdoor attractions children are often provided with maps, worksheets, items to spot and more.

The beauty of picnics is that even when the weather lets us down and the rain pours a carpet picnic may be equally fun. Lay a blanket down, invite teddy bear friends and eat your yummy treats indoors.

Where do you like to go for your picnics? Do you have any fabulous local hideaways to share? We'd love to hear what makes the perfect picnic time for you and your family.

Saturday 4 July 2015

Weddings with Children

We are well into the summer wedding season now and many of us will have one if not more invites pinned to the fridge or noticeboard. Of course these days weddings are not just a summer affair with many embracing autumn colours and winter fun as part of their nuptials. Whatever the time of year a wedding is you need to be extra prepared if taking the family along.


Unless the grand affair is very local the chances are you'll spend some time travelling. Depending on how far they have to go many parents choose to make a weekend of it and book accommodation rather than doing two long journeys in one day.

Either way there are things that you can do to make travelling with little ones easier. Our previous blog on travelling with little ones is packed with top tips. The main points however are to ensure that children have plenty to do when in the car, that they are comfortable and of course safe (have you read our piece on the latest child car seat regulations?).

Pack a range of different travel friendly games and toys


A large part of wedding celebrations are the food. Most venues cater for child portions and offer booster seats and/or highchairs however it would be wise to check this in advance. To help your "grown up" little ones to eat and drink along with everyone else don't forget to pack their drinking bottles and cutlery that is designed for their little hands. Bibs (and lots of wipes!) are a good idea too, especially when wearing special event clothing.

Keeping Little Ones Occupied

As fabulous as weddings are they can be long affairs and children do get easily bored. As well as packing toys and games for the journey to the venue don't forget to bring things along which will keep little hands busy and their attention held, especially during key times such as the speeches and the ceremony itself. Sticker books, colouring in and similar easy to carry items are perfect for keeping little ones happy while the grown ups are doing their thing. Packing each child a bag with books, toys and games, as well as snacks is a great way to ease boredom and keep junior attendees happy.


If you are staying over or expect very little ones to need a nap while there make sure that you bring something that smells of home or is familiar. Sleeping in a strange place may be hard for some younger children but a tedding bear or a favourite blanket makes it much easier.

Do you have any survival tips for attending weddings with little children or children? If so please do comment!

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Gifts for Older Children

Looking for inspiration when it comes to buying presents for older children isn't always the easiest of tasks, especially if you are buying for someone else's children. Your own are usually quite happy to tell you what they'd like and what they are currently into and yet still finding something as a suprise or something a bit different may require some extra help.

Buying for young children is fairly easy as toys and games are the order of the day and we have plenty of these to choose from. When buying for older children try some of these gift suggestions out for size....

Educational Fun
Children starting school or already enjoying the experience often benefit from more educational gifts, as long as these are fun and not boring. Help them learn and practice the fundementals of maths and literacy with magnetic fun from Fiesta Crafts perhaps?

Cool Accessories

When it comes to being out and about you have to look cool (this awareness of coolness seems to start at around 4 years old!). Choose brightly coloured accessories such as water bottles, lunch bags and backpack which will be useful as well as being fun. Our Stephen Joseph and Skip Hop ranges have proven extremely popular with children from tiny tot age upwards.

Bedroom Decor

Older children love to personalise their own space and how better than with decorative items such as shaped mirrors, wall stickers and more? With a wide range of themes to choose from, from alphabets to fire trucks or fairies, as well as some seriously cute Babyface gingham bedding in a range of colours there are plenty of gift ideas here. 

Many gift buyers struggle to find something new or different when buying on the high street which is why we put together ranges full of fun and quality items all in one place for you to choose from. This makes buying presents much easier when you are trying to find something cool or useful and yet don't want to  try and work out what the latest "thing" or trend is.

Do you have any ideas or advice for buying for older children? If so please do share!