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!

Sunday 20 August 2017

New Term Checklist

Before you know it we will be knocking on the door of a new school year, and you’ll be racing around trying to find school supplies and uniform. This checklist helps you work your way through items you may need and offers you the opportunity to start chipping away at essential purchases before the end of the holidays start looming!


Check your school’s website for a list of essential uniform items. 
Check what you have in already as some items may still fit and be in good condition, at least until after Christmas or the next growth spurt anyway.

  • School Uniform
  • PE Kit
  • Swimming Kit
  • School Shoes
  • Plimsolls/Trainers

Some schools and nurseries have their own variations and extras needed, such as book bags with the school badge on. Make sure you order these from the school stockists asap as they may take time to 

Bags and Boxes

If your child isn’t using an official school book bag or if they are at nursery or similar they will need a backpack to store their water bottle, snack, lunch box and so on. Swimming kit bags and PE bags (or spare clothes bags for very little ones) are a must too.
  • Lunch box
  • Water/Juice bottle for lunch.
  • Water bottle for during the day
  • Snack box (something to put fruit/raisins etc in if your child’s school ask you to send in a snack)
  • School Bag
  • PE kit bag
  • Swimming kit bag (if needed).
Tum Tum Lunch Bag

Other Essentials

  • Name labels (this will save you a fortune in replacing lost items)
  • Coat (we will soon be entering the autumn/winter season so make sure you have a suitable coat)
  • Umbrella
  • Wellies (a must for walking to and from school on wet days)

At Home Items

Once you've organised your school or nursery items it might be worth having a look at what you have at home which will support your child's learning. We have a wide range of fun educational toys and tools that are great for helping with homework and for boosting their confidence.

Are you ready for back to school? We have everything from water bottles to name labels to help the transition into the new school year go as easily for you as we're sure it will for the children.

Monday 17 July 2017

Travel Tips for Tots to Teens

The summer holidays have arrived! Some schools have already broken up for the school holidays and the rest have little more than a week to go. Summer often means getting out and about with your family so we thought these top travel tips for tots to teens might be useful.

Plan and Plan Some More
It doesn’t matter if you are travelling abroad or two hours down the motorway to visit family, you need to have plan A and B firmly in place because travelling with children is anything but predictable. Make sure that you know your route, that you have packed for all eventualities (i.e. snacks and drinks if you break down/your flight is delayed) and have plenty to keep everyone occupied.

Set off at a time that will cause the least angst for little travellers and those who are easily bored, as well keeping an eye on the travel news in advance to avoid unexpected delays due to accidents or roadworks.

A Pushchair
At home your little one might be more than happy toddling around on their own two feet. If, however you are going somewhere unfamiliar, are going to be exploring new areas and spending all day away from your base, a cheap and cheerful stroller which folds up might be a good thing to have around. This is a particularly good idea if your little one has only recently stopped using their pushchair/stroller full-time.

Food Concerns
If you are a parent of a child with any kind of food allergy or intolerance you’ll already appreciate the importance, and often the difficulty of eating away/away from home. Speak to your accommodation in advance in the same way you would mention the difficulty to the family. Communication and understanding is key.  It pays to travel with some food stuffs that are completely safe for your young one, in case you are held up/are struggling to find something that suits their dietary requirements.

Keep Everyone Happy and Occupied
Travelling can be daunting for little ones and deadly dull (apparently) for the older children. Pack a variety of distractions and diversions, from in-car DVD players (ok in short bursts), fun travel games, new music, joke books, snacks and more. Making sure everyone has something to do to pass the time makes the journey much less stressful for everyone (and you’ll hear fewer instances of “are we nearly there yet”.

Let Children Document Their Summer Travels
Whether you spend the summer travelling around your local area, exploring new things and having adventures or are abroad for a time, scrapbooking can be a great way for children of all ages to capture those memories. Disposable cameras are fun for candid shots (although you still need to pay for film processing), while digital pics work brilliantly. Save tickets, receipts, brochures, pressed flowers and more.

The scrapbooking offers children an opportunity to use their imagination when putting things together, and you have proof for your child’s teacher when they tell them that all they did all summer was watch TV (trust us, it happens).

What are your top tips for travelling with tots to teens?

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?