Activity play – wot so funee?

Gone are the days that I have time to blog loads of funees from every week. But as we’ve had an early morning, I thought I’d blog one from each boy that we’ve had a giggle at this week…..

Andrew is looking forward to Christmas already. The build up has started at nursery, and he’s getting very involved in the festivities. Every day that he goes, he comes home and tells us all about which songs he’s been learning, and even gives us a quick rendition at the dinner table. These songs are all for the play that they’ll be putting on the week before Christmas. It’s one of the traditional plays for the time of year, where the children act out the happenings of the first Christmas – Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, animals, stable, shepherds, angels – you know what I mean. In Andrew’s mind they are practising the “activity play”. No matter how many times I say that it’s actually a nativity play, he insists on calling it the activity play. So this is what it shall henceforth be called in our house!

Joel’s best funee from this week also involves singing. Both boys are very into singing, and their musical Daddy says they are very good at it (I know, he’s biased). Joel still doesn’t say much, but he makes himself understood, and one day this week he made himself quite clear through the medium of song. He was getting under my feet in the kitchen while I was trying to make some lunch for us all, so Daddy decided to take him upstairs to the living room and let him watch a DVD for 5 minutes (that’s about as long as he’ll watch anything for). On the way up, Daddy asked him what he’d like to watch, not really expecting a reply, but it was something to say when Joel wasn’t too happy about being removed from the kitchen. However, Joel immediately started singing (in la-la-las) the Fireman Sam theme tune. Daddy put that on, asked him if that was what he wanted, and Joel let out a big resounding YES! Who says I need to talk?!

Wot So Funee?

Brummie fun – wot so funee?

Another week has flown by and another week of hilarity in the toddler/preschooler language department it’s been. Apparently Andrew is quite the expert at various activities/ subject matters these days: “No Mummy, Joel’s not the expert, I’M quite a bit of an expert at Peppa Pig!” Oh yes sorry of course you are! He’s also our resident sliding down the slide in funny positions expert, eating ice cream expert, throwing frisbees expert and many more experts, all by his own admission.

So whilst he is an expert at all these things, I, apparently, lack the expertise that it takes to give him and Joel a bath. One day last week, Daddy was late home from work because the trains were delayed. This hasn’t often happened since he started commuting that distance, but as it’s him who does the bath time normally, we missed him that night. As we were heading up stairs and I was explaining that Daddy wasn’t going to be here for bath, Andrew looked most upset and said: “I don’t want a bath with you mummy, you’re not very clever at baths!” So I may have a PhD but running a bath, washing them and playing with them is beyond me. Thanks!

Since Andrew gave up his nap a few months ago, we’ve been encouraging him to still have a rest and just sit quietly for an hour or so because he really gets very tired by tea time otherwise – but that’s easier said than done when you’re a wriggly 3 year old! He’s got quite into watching a DVD, which seems to be the best way to keep him still, though he still flits off and plays with other things every now and then whilst watching. Until Granny bought a couple more DVDs the other day, Shrek 2 seemed to be the only one he wanted to watch, and after watching it quite a few times, he started to pick up some of the lines and anticipate them whilst watching it, which is really quite funny to listen to. I had to laugh when he told me what was happening: “Prince Charlie is riding a horse, look Mummy!” Ah, that would be Prince Charming 🙂

A routine that the boys have become used to now is going in to Granny and Grandad’s room for half an hour or so in the morning whilst they get up and ready for work. The TV is often on, and one programme that they have all got into is Q Pootle 5. I haven’t watched much of it myself, but what I have watched is definitely on 2 levels: the kids see funny space aliens being silly, and the adults understand jokes and references on a whole other level. All the aliens have various regional British accents, as you might expect (?!), and the favourite in our house of course has to be Eddie the Brummie. In one particular episode he comes out with an absolute classic sentence for highlighting his Brummie accent: ‘Look at the state of that bunting!’ (just what you’d expect an alien to be saying isn’t it?!!) So we’ve been joking about this ever since they first saw it, especially when I made some bunting the other day for my sewing business. Stay with me, this isn’t the funniest bit yet, it’s just a long preamble to explain where the next bit comes from. We’ve been going to a few groups over in Birmingham and Solihull – nappy and sling meets mainly – to try and get to know people over there. Last week was the first glimpse that I had of Andrew recognising that many of the children we’ve met over there have accents different from his own. He was playing alongside a boy a little younger than him, and after a while came up to me and said very softly: “That girl is talking like bunting….like Eddie.” I tried not to laugh, (a) because actually I was quite amazed that he’d picked that up and could express it to me, and (b) because the girl was actually a boy with long hair. He’s still not figured that one out, despite me giving him the example several times that Uncle Pete has long hair and he’s a boy. I tried to suggest quietly that actually ‘she’ was a boy, but that was met with a our and indignant: “No it isn’t, it’s a girl!!” I think his mum may have overheard that one, whoops! I suspect that the boys will grow up with some degree of Brummie accent, so he’ll get used to it.

And now to finish off, we turn from Birmingham to a couple of references to the boys’ city of birth – Cambridge. When we were in town the other day, a lady shouted across to someone she knew standing not far from us: ‘Andrew!’ Of course my Andrew immediately said “Yes?”, and I then explained to him that she wasn’t talking to him but that there was another Andrew near us. His response was: “Ah there’s 2 Andrews…. no there’s 3 Andrews, there’s fireman Andrew in Cambridge as well!” This was something he remembers from quite a while ago, when he went out with Daddy one saturday morning and they got to see inside a fire engine which was stationed at some event somewhere, manned by a fireman called Andrew, which he didn’t quite get at the time when Daddy tried to explain!

One evening this week when the boys were having a bath, Andrew asked Daddy where the ‘pink water’ was. Daddy looked puzzled and asked him what he was talking about, so he explained a little more and Daddy then understood that he was talking about an old flannel that we used to have quite a while ago that was a deep red colour but when you put it in water it made the water go pink, which Andrew used to love in the bath. We don’t know what made him suddenly think of it again recently. Daddy explained that this flannel was from a long time ago when we lived in our old flat in Cambridge. Andrew pondered for a few seconds and then came out with: “Where is Cambridge now Daddy?” He had to laugh, and tell him that Cambridge is still in the same place that it’s always been, it’s just us that’s moved away. I still wonder if he thinks we’re just on one long holiday at Granny and Grandad’s house!

Wot So Funee?

Heroes of the City – review & giveaway

In stereotypical boy form, Andrew is very into vehicles of any sort (though he does like the colour pink). From passenger ones like cars and buses, to construction ones like diggers and cranes, to emergency ones like police cars and fire engines, to countryside ones like tractors and harvesters, and of course to airborne ones like planes and rockets, he can’t get enough of them. So when we were given the opportunity to review some goodies from the TV cartoon series Heroes of the City, I knew he’d love to put them to the test.

Heroes of the City is about rescue vehicles in a small town where everyone can be a hero. Each episode involves an exciting adventure, where characters such as Paulie Police Car and Fiona Fire Engine help the people of the town find thieves, put out fires, and solve the many mysteries that happen in the otherwise quiet town. The characters emphasise friendship, warmth, and what can be accomplished by helping each other. The cartoon is primarily targeted at children age 3-7, and is created by Swedish company Ruta Ett DVD AB. So Andrew well and truly fits in their target audience category.

Hotc eng copy

We were sent a goody bag that included 3 exciting items – toys, book and DVD – each of which I’ll review in turn below. Andrew’s first impression of these goodies was this:

“Wow I love these toys, they’re my favourite!” (though I don’t think he’s quite understood the concept of favourite, he says that about a lot of things, but still, this means it’s positive), “can I watch the DVD please?”

Toys

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We received two die cast toy vehicles – Paulie Police Car and Troy Tractor. These are very cute, and just the right size for Andrew to enjoy playing with now that he’s old enough to have something that bit smaller than the chunky vehicle toys that Joel still plays with. They look well made, and being metal (rather than plastic), they look like they will last for a long time of being well loved. I love how they are cartoon-y in shape – not like a standard Matchbox-style toy car – and reflect really well the characters that you see on screen. They have already been played with a lot, including the snippet of fun in this video in which they went to the car wash (or tractor wash)…

Book

We were sent the Hot Air Balloon story, and there are others too. It has hard front and back covers with glossy full colour pages inside. The pages are filled with full scenes from the episodes, with chunks of text in boxes overlaid to tell the story. I think there is just the right amount of text for Andrew, and he can easily follow the story. He loves the big, bright pictures that fill the pages, and he’s had fun pointing out what he can see as well as reading the story with me and recognising letters and a few words. I think the font is easy to read and about the right size for Andrew at this stage. On the front and back inside covers, there’s even a spot the Calamity Crow scene, which is a fun searching game.

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My one slight reservation is that it sounds slightly American to me – for example in this book, the word soccer is used instead of football, and I had to explain to him what this was, because he knows what football is but he hasn’t heard of soccer. I don’t have a problem with American culture, it’s nothing personal, I just like to stick with British English when reading to Andrew. In time he will no doubt get used to American English too. It won’t stop us reading this book, I just have to do more explaining on a couple of things.

DVD

We were sent Volume 1 which has 5 episodes on. Andrew likes watching it, and straight away picked up on the fact that it’s the same characters and city as the ‘games on Mummy’s phone’. I like the animation, and the faces on the vehicles cleverly show all sorts of emotions using lights for eyes, bumpers for mouths, grills for noses etc. I can see how the aim to ’emphasise friendship, warmth, and what can be accomplished by helping each other’ comes across through watching it myself with the boys, I think it achieves this well and in a way that appeals to preschoolers, particularly if they like vehicles.

The theme tune is catchy, and I found myself humming it to the boys randomly – this happens with various kids programs I find, and this too has made it into my subconscious playlist 😉

Again I should say that the English is American, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but just something to watch out with in terms of vocab differences that crop up. It doesn’t seem to stop Andrew understanding it, though he’s used to watching DVDs and youtube in various languages that he doesn’t understand much of!

App

We were also asked to review the Heroes of the City Movie app, which is free to download from the App Store and Google Play. It is aimed at 2-6 year olds, so again Andrew fits well into this target audience. Included in the app are films and games, based on the Heroes of the City TV series. You get one full episode, one music video and 3 games for free, and then extra ‘fun-packs’ cost £2.49 each, with more films and games.

Web

I downloaded the Apple version of the app on my iPhone (we were sent the full app for free). I first gave it to Andrew one morning whilst I got Joel ready and did some jobs around the house; I wanted to see how much he could figure out on his own. Before I knew it he had played most of the nine games, so I asked him to show me what to do so I could play too. He’s used to the finger actions needed to play games on his grandparents’ iPads, onto which we also downloaded the Heroes of the City app too.

He loves doing jigsaw puzzles, so the game on the app where you have to slot pieces into a puzzle to reveal a character was particularly popular, and he was very good at it. The pieces were trickier to move on the phone than on the tablet-sized screen, but he still managed it. He also liked the game where you have to touch a car that’s racing along to make him jump and catch stars with points attached. This was mainly because the car makes a ‘waps’ sound whenever he jumps, and Andrew thought this was hilarious – this game is now called the ‘waps’ game to him.

HotC_app_01As you play more games, you earn trophies depending on how well you perform, and then you can look at all your trophies in another section of the app. Andrew asked me what this was as he was flicking through, so I explained to him about the gold, silver and bronze trophies – I’m not sure he understood fully what the different colours mean, but he now knows he’s winning and collecting trophies as he goes along. I’ve also heard it on the grapevine that there is a special secret surprise in store which you unlock when you’ve collected enough trophies….!

As well as the games, there are some film clips – more than 6 hours in total (if you buy the extras). Andrew has watched a few of these, but so far it’s been mainly games that he’s played. I can imagine though, that the film clips would be a great way of entertaining him for 5-10 minutes or so if we are out and about and he’s bored waiting for something – it’s like watching a DVD but handily on the phone, already downloaded so no issues with internet connectivity when out and about. If you’re at home and have Apple devices, there is an Air Play function for your Apple TV.

I generally don’t spend money on games apps because there are some good free ones out there, but I would consider paying for 1 or 2 extra Heroes of the City fun packs because they are great games and just right for Andrew’s skills and interests at the moment, plus there are levels that increase in difficulty as he grows and develops.

Overall

We have been impressed with the pack that we were sent: Andrew has enjoyed the games, TV episodes and book, and I have generally found them just right for his age and development, with room to ‘grow’. I also like the fact that this is a collection of various media all based around the same characters and stories. Many of our books, DVDs and games are like this, and I’ve noticed that these are ones which Andrew generally comes back to again and again – maybe he likes the fact that he recognises characters across the various activities he’s doing, whether that’s reading, watching a DVD or youtube, or playing a game on the phone/iPad.

If you’d like any more info on the series, you can find out all about it on the website, Facebook page or on Twitter.

Competition time!

If you like the look of all this fun we’ve had, here’s your chance to win your very own set of toys, book and DVD. All you need to do is fill in the Rafflecopter below to be in with a chance of winning, by 22nd March (please see full T&Cs below).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: we were sent the pack and full app to review free of charge, but all opinions expressed are honest and our own, based on our experience of using the items.