Mike the Knight – Galahad the Great DVD

One for lovers of the CBeebies program ‘Mike the Knight’ as well as knights and wizards of all ages, this DVD includes 5 episodes of the TV program as well as some mini character introductions as extras.

I must declare an interest here, Mike the Knight is one of Munchkin’s favourite programs and we’ve been playing with castles, knights and dragons for a good couple of years now.

Mike is a young ‘knight in training’ who really wants to ‘do things right’ in the correct knightly way; however, his best intentions usually go astray as he forgets to consider others, or wishes to be the hero without considering the effect of his actions. His constant companions in his adventures are Galahad his long suffering horse, Sparkie the large fire breathing dragon (with an implausible West Indian accent) and Squirt the small water squirting dragon.

Mike’s sister Evie is in most episodes, she’s a trainee wizard who hasn’t quite got things right yet, but is a lot more sensible than Mike. One of her mis-firing spells has enchanted Mike’s sword so that each episode it magically appears as something else, always critical to the episode. She has a marvellous sidekick Mr Cuddles the toad, who rather wonderfully counts by croaking in one of the episodes.

Mike’s mother is the queen, and his father is apparently the king but is an absentee father, my suspicion is that he’s being held for ransom by some neighbouring monarch, but that’s adding a rather adult assumption to the fact that he’s simply never there.

Mike’s friend Trollee appears in 2 of the episodes. He’s a young troll, cautious but very strong and a good foil for Mike’s enthusiasm for knightly tournaments and rescues.

From a visual point of view, the animation is marvellous. I love the clarity with which the characters are drawn and the locations have been fully mapped out allowing the action to smoothly move anywhere around the castle, village, tournament grounds and other locations, whilst incidental backgrounds are simple patterns.

But so far all of this is a review of the television programs rather than the DVD and I think it is clear that I’m a fan.

The DVD includes 5 excellent episodes, but not much in the way of extras. There are small ‘character studies’ of 7 characters, sung by the resident bard along with clips from various programs illustrating their parts in the stories – taken from many episodes, not just those on this DVD.  There are also some lyrics included.

The episodes are ‘Galahad the Great’, where Mike realises that his horse is fantastic regardless of whether he has been given lots of gaudy trinkets to wear; ‘The Great Gallop’ where the excellent acrobatic Vikings appear to collect their Danegeld (sorry, jam tarts) and have to be trebucheted back into the sea; ‘Sir Trollee’ where Mike has a knight’s tournament with his friend Trollee but realises too late that he needs to be fair; ‘Knight Hider’ where Mike’s father’s old game is found and Mike blames his friends for all of his mistakes in the game and finally ‘Trollee in Trouble’ where Mike’s rescue of his friend manages to get everyone needing help.

The DVD would make a good Christmas present for fans or those new to the program, and potentially for CGI animators as a ‘how-to’ guide.

You can get the DVD at ‘all good retailers’ and www.hitstoreuk.com.

More about Mike the Knight can be found at his CBeebies homepage, http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/mike-the-knight/ and http://www.miketheknight.com provides more commercial goodies.

On Facebook he’s at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mike-the-Knight/286720858018967, and @MiketheKnightUK on Twitter.

Disclosure: I was sent the DVD in order to write a review. However, my opinions are all my own and always honest.

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Dora the Explorer Live!

As Munchkin will be learning Spanish at school next year, I’ve been intrigued about Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer for a while now and whether this might help him pick up a few words. Munchkin is already a fan of this little explorer (it’s amazing what small children manage to talk about!), and has some Dora books and DVDs. He also loves exploring, so we were very excited when the chance to see Dora the Explorer Live Search for the City of Lost Toys at the Apollo Theatre came up!

The story is that Dora has lost her teddy bear, Osito, and goes on a journey to find him. She’s helped on her journey to the City of Lost Toys by her friend Boots the monkey, her cousin Diego and her faithful Backpack and Map; lots more friends join in the fun. Dora has to go get through the number pyramid and the mixed-up jungle before she can get to the city. She needs to get there before Swiper the fox manages to swipe all of the lost toys.

The two-act show is colourful, fun, with lots of songs, and much waving of stars. The audience are encouraged to take part and help Dora while learning some Spanish along the way. This is a great show for Dora fans, especially if your children like singing along, waving and even stamping their feet and jumping up and down! All of the characters are just like in the TV show. The dancers are energetic and used signing throughout the show. It’s a bit of a shame that the characters were dancers in big costumes, so the facial expressions were fixed, but this made it look just like the cartoon.

Munchkin absolutely loved the show, watching in wonder and joining in whenever possible. Judging by the reaction of the audience around us, everyone had a great time, the atmosphere was contagious and a good time was had by all. If only the City of Lost Toys really existed, it’d make life so much easier!

The show’s on at the Apollo Theatre until the 16th of September and there are three shows a day, so you’re bound to find a time that suits you.

Theatre: 31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES. Box Office: 0844 412 4658.
www.ticketmaster.co.uk
www.nimaxtheatres.com

Disclosure: I was given tickets for the show in order to write a review for a website (not this blog). My opinions are always honest and my own.

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The Sooty Show

 I remember watching The Sooty Show when I was little, so I was interested to hear that the TV show is still going strong after 60 years. When the lovely people at Abbey Home Media offered me the opportunity to review a DVD of The Sooty Show, I jumped at the chance. How could I be sure Munchkin would enjoy watching a programme without computer graphics or lots of special effects? Well, I took him to the Sooty Christmas Show last December and, once he’d realised it was OK to clap, cheer and join in, Munchkin had really enjoyed it. So we were off to a good start! 

There are five episodes on the DVD, including one with Matthew Corbett (who presented The Sooty Show from 1976 to 1998) plus extra clips with host Richard Cadell in front of an audience: The Swimming Lesson, The Runaway Bath, Chocco Chimp, The Marching Band, and The Wedding.

The episodes are set in a holiday camp and involve the usuall mixture of magic and physical comedy that you expect from Sooty, Sweep and Soo. Richard is great, very charming and funny and interacts really well with the audience.

We’ve watched the DVD several times and, judging by how many times Munchkin laughed out loud, the comedy is still relevant and hilarious! He particularly loves the slapstick physical comedy parts of the DVD, with Richard falling into a swimming pool, being squirted in the face with water or hit with overstretched balloons, not to mention a few custard pies, as well as the magic. He’s enjoyed teh DVD so much that he insisted we take it on a visit to his Grandma’s house so that he could share it with her, and it’s coming with us on our next holiday.

The DVD last 76 minutes and costs £9.99 from several high street and online retailers. It comes with a magic wand, so everyone can join in the magic tricks. All together now, “Izzy wizzy, let’s get busy!”

www.thesootyshow.com

www.facebook.com/pages/The-Sooty-Show

twitter.com/sootyandco

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LolliBop

Last weekend, Husband and I took four-year-old Munchkin to LolliBop, the big bash for little people, in Regent’s Park. Munchkin had such a great time last year that of course he wanted to go again, and so did I! As last year’s highlights were the Lollipalladium (theatre tent) and the storytelling tent in the Enchanted Forest, we made sure we arrived when it opened at 10am and went straight to the Lollipalladium, which had plenty for Munchkin to watch. We arrived just in time to see Mister Maker, whose CBeebies show Munchkin has watched since he was very young. Munchkin happily joined in the singing and actions and loved the show. Next was Bubbles Inc, with lots of amazing bubbles of all shapes and sizes. Then came the big event, The Gruffalo Live. This was the main reason we’d come (Munchkin knows the book by heart and had insisted on a Gruffalo cake for his birthday) and it was absolutely brilliant! It was the full version of the theatre show, with all the words in the book plus extra dialogue and great songs, all performed by a cast of just three very talented people. We’ll definitely go and see the show when it comes back to London on its current tour. After a quick break for refreshments, it was time for Horrible Histories, which made Ancient Egypt lots of fun and very engaging for the children in the audience.

After over 3 hours in the theatre tent, it was time for a break and to see what else was going on. The site was smaller than last year, but less walking was a relief as it was a very hot day. There was plenty to do and see, and the shady tents provided were a welcome relief from the sun. After the Mr Men show on the main Lollibop Live stage, we headed off for some fun science games run by the Science Museum, then made a mini banoffee pie in the LolliBop Kitchen. Next came the Moshi Monsters and their bus (a shop) with a great slide to whizz down afterwards, followed by a bit of ZingZillas. We also met Dora the Explorer, Moshi Monsters, Zing Zillas, a dinosaur, a gorilla and a fire-breathing dragon wandering round.

Now it was time to go back to the Lollipalladium for the Go!Go!Go! Show, which Munchkin has seen in the West End and absolutely loves – “Go! Go! Go!”

To finish the day, we headed off to the EnchantedForest for Mike Dodsworth’s fantastic storytelling. He was a charismatic and engaging storyteller with great stories that he adapted to involve children (and adults) from the audience, showing an amazing ability to think on his feet.

There was so much to do that we ran out of time on the first day, so we went back again the next day. Yes, that’s right, we loved it so much we went twice!

One of the highlights of day 2 was John Lewis Lane, with its music shop, where Munchkin turned out to be a great drummer (not a present I’ll be encouraging though!), Art Shop, Village Store, complete with groceries and cash registers, and gadget shop with the fantastic Kurio kids’ Android tablet to play with. There were also a pet shop full of cuddly toys, and a dressing-up shop for more fun.

This time we made sure we visited the fantastic Roald Dahl Museum tent, which had story telling and activities such as colouring and making masks. There was also a big tent packed with creative activities including puppet making and painting ceramics. A quick visit to the Skylanders Arena was fitted in, although Munchkin was a bit young to play the games (and also not used to playing Wii-style games).

We still didn’t have time for the B&Q Mini Maker tent, making ceramics, Titan the Robot, the Village Green, Waybuloo or Transformers, although we did see the enormous and impressive Optimus Prime truck.

We had such a great time that I can definitely recommend it to anyone with children under 10, especially if you go prepared for the weather. I’d suggest going on the Friday if you can because it’s quieter with shorter queues, arriving early and taking plenty of water as the bottled water on sale was quite expensive. The food was quite expensive, too. You can take in food with you, although the organisers politely ask that you don’t take in too much, which is a reasonable request as there is a food village. There were also freebies from Haribo, Ella’s Kitchen (the vending machine was great and very popular), Pop Chips, Flora and Peter Rabbit up for grabs! There were plenty of toilets, with hand sanitiser, and buggy parks.

I was lucky enough to be able to use the Bloggers Lounge, which was perfect for rest breaks as it was quiet with lots of shade. We were very well looked after, particularly by the lovely Jess, who Munchkin fell completely in love with! Here’s Munchkin’s reaction to having a choice of four different Trunkis to play with in the blogger’s area:

Disclosure: I was given 2 tickets to LolliBop for the first day as a thank you for acting as a local promoter and doing extensive leafleting, and was furtunate to be offered 3 tickets for the second day. However, my opinions are my own and honest.

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Foodies Festival

Munchkin and I love BatterseaPark, there’s so much to do for children from the adventure playground to the zoo, and some gorgeous areas for strolling in, not to mention lawns to picnic on and a boating lake. So when I was offered tickets to the Foodies Festival there (next to the Pump House), I couldn’t resist. What a brilliant way to encourage Munchkin to try new foods! There was even a cookery tent for children. Everyone we met was great with Munchkin, very friendly and encouraging, and he loved the sampling. Even better, under 16s get in free. We had such a lovely time we’ll be going back next year.

With restaurants, food stalls, a market, demonstrations and plenty of opportunities for sampling, I wondered if there’d be enough time.  Luckily the festival was on from 11am to 7pm, so there was plenty of time to do some serious eating, drinking, sampling and relaxing.

The first area we came to from the entrance was the food court,  with more stalls than I could count, serving a huge variety of food including llama sausage, mussels, Thai curries, German sausages and sauerkraut and fish and chips, as well as non-alcoholic cocktails.

There were also six restaurant tents serving signature dishes: four o nineBusaba EathaiCafePacifico-La Perla, The Lost Angel, El Cantar Soho and Boqueria.

Now feeling very full indeed, it was time to go sampling and buying more food, some to take home (if it lasted that long!). We worked our way round the stalls (regretting having had so much for lunch) and spotted several amazing looking stands. There were too many to mention them all (over 100) but there were cupcakes from Crumbs and Doilies, pies from pieminister, cheddar from Wyke Farms, olive oil jam and Lakeland fudge.

It was a hot day, so were needed some cooling drinks. Again, we were spolit for choice: gin from Sipsmith, Pommery champagne, cider, beer, cocktails, Pimms, rum, vodka, mixers from Fever Tree, wine and lots more. Naturally, we had to have an ice-cream break too.

As well as all the food stalls and retailers, there were free demonstrations and tastings at the Children’s, Chef’s, Food and Drink Theatres that could be booked free of charge at a booth at the entrance to the site.

In the Food Theatre there were seven demonstrations and tastings. On the Saturday they covered Moroccan cuisine with Exotic Tagine, Middle Eastern food with Terra Rossa, Lebanese food with Bethany Kehdy, pumpkin seeds and other treats from , Karantanka Deli, cake decorating with The Cake Parlour, Jamaican street food with The Backyard Company, and cheese tastings with Denhay Farms.

The Chefs Theatre had six demonstrations: Ed Baines from Randall & Aubin, Ben Tish from The Salt Yard, Clare Smyth of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Martin Dickinson and James Cornwall from J Sheekey, Mickael Wiess of Coq d’Argent, and matching food and wine from Casillero del Diablo, all on the Saturday. Chefs demonstrating on the Friday included Andy McLay of Le Caprice, and Levi Roots, while Sunday’s line-up included Gary Lee of The Ivy and Kevin Love of the Hinds Head at Bray.

The Children’s Cookery Theatre had classes with Splat Cooking, which sounded great: sunblush bread, pizza, fruit tarts and whizz bang jelly & ice cream.

As if all that wasn’t enough, there was also a live entertainment stage with great singers and musicians, and plenty of deckchairs and seats nearby to relax with a lovely drink.

Here are the dates for 2013: Brighton 5-7 May; Hampton Court 25-27 May; TattonPark 5-7 July; Bristol 13-15 July; Battersea 27-29 July; Edinburgh 9-11 August; Oxford 24-26 August.

Why not have a look at the website, follow on Twitter @foodiesfestival or like on Facebook.

Disclosure: I was given tickets to attend the festival, but my opinions are my own and honest.

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Easy Belts

Munchkin is only 4, tall and slim, but I’ve been having problems finding trousers to fit him properly around the waist since he was just 2, which coincidentally is also when I stopped buying dungarees. Now, shorts are OK because he can just wear ones for a year younger or his old ones, but I have to buy trousers for his current age for the length (“cropped” trousers may be a good look in summer but not in winter). Some companies do make trousers that can be pulled in at the waist, but not all. It would also be great to have some smarter trousers and jeans without an elasticated waist instead of having to live in tracksuit bottoms. And as for the toddler/pre-school version of “builder’s bum” or trousers looking like they’re meant to be hipsters! A family member bought Munchkin a belt for his 4th birthday but of course on the smallest hole it was far too big. Then I saw Easy Belts on Twitter and decided to give them a go.

Easy Belts are fabric belts with a Velcro fastening that can be adjusted to fit and easily put on and taken off by a child. The belts come in three sizes for children, 20, 22 and 24 inches, and a variety of colours and patterns, including pink, brown, grey, black, navy and ones with a car, butterfly or flower motif. There’s bound to be at least one your children will love! Munchkin is due to start school soon, so I chose a plain back belt. He, on the other hand, was very definite about wanting the one with the red car on the front, so we went for that one as well. Here they are:

They looked great, good quality and should last for ages. So far so good. Now for the real test. Could Munchkin fasten and unfasten the belt on his own without any help? Oh yes! In fact, he loves his belts so much he insisted on wearing them with everything and it took quite a bit of persuasion to convince him that he doesn’t need them with all of his trousers!

I can definitely recommend Easy Belts, and at just £6 or £7 they’re a bargain.
Easy belts also come in sizes 26 to 34 inches for young adults/adults.

You can buy Easy Belts on their website
Follow on Twitter at @EasyBelts
Like on Facebook

Disclosure: I was generously sent the belts to try, but genuinely wanted to try them. My opinions are my own and honest.

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Practical Parenting Awards 2012-2013

I was fortunate enough to go to both of the Practical Parenting & Pregnancy judging days in London. Although many of the products for testing and judging were aimed at babies and toddlers, there were plenty that were relevant for four-year-old Munchkin and me. We were encouraged to check all the items thoroughly, which was great fun and reassuring.

First up, toys for 0-6 months, 6-18 months then 18 months to 4 years, baby items, change bags, keepsakes, baby carriers and lots more! Here are Munchkin’s top picks. First, he went straight for old favourites the dragon Happy Hopperz and the Union Jack Mini Micro scooter, so it was lucky that the hall the judging took place in was pretty big! Next up was the Early Learning Centre cash register, complete with play food, play money. A scanner and even a play card and PIN machine. This was great for imaginative play and could also be used for getting children used to handling money, as well as basic addition and subtraction maths skills. After this came the Cupcake Kitchen, which was a lovely wooden kitchen painted pale pink and with enough accessories for some real play cooking. Having satisfied his culinary urges, next came something else creative: an Early Learning Centre nuts and bolts building kit. This is suitable from 3 years and would make a great first construction kit for a little one. The final toy he selected was the teddy bears’ picnic from Orchard Toys. This game was for 3-6 years, was fun and easy to play and came with sturdy and colourful pieces.

Now for my picks. I couldn’t resist the change bags. It was difficult to choose a favourite but in the end I went for the Mia Tui Minnie Amelie bag, because it was such great value, looked like a regular tote and was also very practical. The original change bag from Lin & Leo and the Brigitte tote were gorgeous but sadly out of my price range.

Next were travel products. The Bubblebum car booster seat was good to use and squashes down small so you can take it on holiday; it’ll save you lots of money on hiring a car seat when abroad. The Lights Out backout blinds were very practical, perfect for hotel rooms (it always surprises me how few have decent curtains) and again pack down small and easily (assuming you’re better with pop-up things than I am!). My final choice for Monday was the Tidy Books bookcase. This was very sweet and practical, and would look good in any child’s bedroom.

Wednesday was all about buggies, pushchairs, highchairs and car seats. There were lots of absolutely gorgeous buggies and pushchairs, and I loved the Nuna Zaaz, Stokke Tripp Trapp, Oxo Tot Sprout and Heinrich Geuter Swing highchairs for their looks and practicality.

This time, though, my focus was group 2/3 car seats, something we desperately need. My favourites were the Britax Kidfix SICT and the Kiddy Cruiserfix Pro, while Munchkin’s choice was the Concord X-Bag. These were all great, looked good, were comfortable and practical. Now to do some more research and decide which one to buy!

It was great to have the opportunity to have a good go at lots of interesting and useful products. We have everything such a thorough testing that we almost fell asleep on the way home!

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