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Lools_24

Lools_24
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Member since: 21.01.2009

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      16.04.2012 08:37
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      A very cheap but poor quality cake cutting wire

      Over the last few years I have really started to get into baking and as I have become more confident I've started to cook some larger celebration cakes for family birthdays and events. In the early days I tended to stick with quite simple cakes with minimal intervention once actually baked however as I have grown more confident I've started to try new techniques especially when it comes to decorating. One aspect of cake making I realised I could do with some help with is actually cutting cakes to fill them with filling or buttercream rather than use a knife so I started to look at cake cutting wires and bought the Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire.


      ***Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire***
      The description on the packaging of the Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire is "a clever tool which gives professional finish to your homemade cakes. The handy cake wire is used for splitting cakes evenly, quickly and simply."

      Basically the tool is a height adjustable carbon blade which you use to cut through a cake in order to fill it with buttercream or filling and then sandwich back together. You can also use to trim a cake in order to give it a more even and flat surface. The main purpose is to give a more level finish than using a knife and trimming manually by hand.

      The wire is 40cm long in total and has a carbon steel serrated blade to cut into cakes cleanly. The wire is on a stand which has a handle and stabilising feet to give a straight level cut. You can adjust the height of the wire depending on the cake.

      The Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire is available from a number of smaller online bakeware retailers however it is also sold by larger retailers such as Amazon and Debenhams. I purchased from Amazon for £4.00 which I feel compared to other similar product from other brands is reasonable if not slightly below average.


      ***My Experience***
      The Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire looks slightly like a coat hanger to those not familiar with cake making. There is a thicker wire like a coat hanger that forms the frame for the wire with a handle and rubble stoppers for feet to provide stability. This frame is about 20cm high and is 40cm wide so can be used for cakes up to 15 inches in diameter. The wire blade goes from one side of the frame to the other. There are small indents in the side of the frame every 2mm or so for you to move the height of the blade up in order to trim different heights of cake. Meaning you can level the top of a cake off or slice through the middle in order to create a sandwich cake. As soon as I received the item I was very disappointed to find that the wire blade was in fact just a wire which did feel slightly sharp but was not serrated at all which was stated on the item description on Amazon and also on the packaging.

      I initially used the Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire to cut through a very basic sponge cake to make a Victoria Sponge cake. I would usually use a serrated knife however I often felt because I had to make the cut by hand the cut was never perfectly level therefore the aim of buying this item was so that when I sandwiched cakes back together the cake would sit perfectly level when filled and not look wonky. I was even more disappointed with the results after using the Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire and actually had to throw the sponge I had "cut" in the bin. On this first use I did put this down to user error. On the first use I did not have to adjust the height of the wire to slice straight through my cake. I had read the instructions which stated to hold the cake and then on the side of the cake to slowly push the wire into the cake and if necessary for the initial impression of the blade into the cake you may need to move the wire back and forwards for it to slice into the cake. Once the blade has been pushed into the cake you slowly move it through so the blade cuts level and you are left with even sandwiches.

      This did not happen. Firstly I found because the blade was not serrated making the first cut and impression in the side of the cake to slice the way through was difficult. With the sponge cake I had made the blade tore and pulled the cake as I tried to cut it caused lumps of cake to fall off on the sides. For those like myself who like perfectly presented cakes this is not at all desirable. Once I had eventually made this first cut and caused what looked like a gaping hole in the side of the cake I then was able to cut and slice the cake. This was not a case of cleanly slicing the cake and ending up with two level sandwiches as I had hoped. As I held the handle of the Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire I could feel a lot of tension and that I was pulling the wire through the cake. Once the full cut had been made I as left very disappointed. Instead of two level sandwiches I had two slices of cake with crater like holes in where the sponge had pulled and fallen out of. As I lifted one of the sponge sandwiches up the cake actually fell apart so had to go in the bin.

      I did try using this tool again on other cakes I had made but I must admit after 4 or 5 failed attempts I did put the Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire in the bin. I did find on a sponge cake that I made which was slightly thicker in consistency the wire did cut into the cake a little easier but the problem was the blade of the Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire was not serrated so it did not easily cut into the side of a cake. On the thicker sponges the wire did not pull the cake apart as it cut through it but although the cut was level the overall effect was not as neat as using a knife by hand which defeated the objective of buying this tool. I did attempt on one sponge cake to level the top of the cake so when it was iced with fondant it would look perfectly flat. However after struggling to cut into the uneven ridge of sponge on the top of the cake I decided that if I used anymore force with the Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire then it would cause the sponge to fall apart causing a hole on the top of the cake so reverted back to using a knife for this task.

      I attempted to use the wire to cut into a lighter fruit type cake and found that Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire just would not cut through. Although surprisingly the wire made the cut into the side of the cake quite neatly the wire would not cut through the cake and actually felt like it was going to snap and bend the frame as the cake was providing too much resistance for the wire to slice through.

      After the first use I had to adjust the Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire level as not only was I using on different sized cakes I was using to cut into sandwiches or level the top of the cake. Adjusting the height is reasonably easy as you turn the wire slightly where it meets the side of the frame on each side and move this wire up or down to the small slots on the side of the frame which holds the wire firmly to the frame. After adjusting once or twice I did notice the wire felt slightly looser and less taut and had more of a wobble to it. This then led to further problems when using to try and cut a cake as it caused the wire to pull the cake more because the wire was not tight and taut. As a result I found sponges actually fell apart more because of this loose wire.

      The Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire is very easy to clean although you do need to take care when cleaning and storing this tool as the wire is reasonably sharp. I found a cloth and soapy water cleaned the tool however it is also dishwasher safe although I never used in my dishwasher.


      ***Overall***
      I definitely would not recommend the Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire and not only did it land in the bin after a few uses it also caused the cakes I had made to also be put in the bin.

      I have since purchased a cake cutting/ levelling tool from Wilton (a very reputable brand of cake making accessories) and although the Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire looks almost identical to the Wilton product and also costs £4.00 it is nowhere near as effective. The Kitchen Craft Cake Cutting Wire claims to have a serrated blade to cut cakes to sandwich them or level them but in fact the wire/ blade is not. As a result when you try and cut the cake it drags and pulls the cake so it falls apart. Even with cakes which have a more solid consistency this occurs. After a number of failed attempts cutting different thicknesses of cakes and adjusting the height of the wire I noticed that the wire was becoming slightly loose and slack. The wire was then not taut enough to cut into any cake effectively and then this made it even more prone to dragging and pulling the cake rather than slicing through it and making a clean cut.

      A waste of money and cake!

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      • More +
        12.04.2012 08:06
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        A fantastic book which helps toddlers to learn new words whilst finding mouse

        I love buying books for my twin boys and reading with them. We tend to read every day however before bed part of their "night time" routine is that I read a story to each of them allowing them to choose a book each to read. In their bedroom I tend to position books which are stories rather than just children's books with a jumble of words and pictures. I did this as once they reached around 18 months old their interest and concentration on books with actual stories seemed to increase and I found they started to prefer actual story books as opposed to just lots of random words on each page. My boys do however love interactive books with pop up sections so I tried to add books to our collection which were actual stories that would engage my boys but still have some form of interaction on the pages. One of my best finds was Little Kitten by Louise Martin.

        The description of the Little Kitten book is "Miaow! Miaow! Little Kitten has lost her favourite toy mouse. Where can she be? Push the tab to find a fun rhyming surprise on every page."

        Little Kitten is a brightly coloured storybook aimed at toddlers following Little Kitten on her search for her toy mouse which she has lost. Each page included a piece of rhyming text asking where mouse could be in a certain room or area around the house. The book is interactive as the final rhyming word on the page is always an object. This name of this object is not written next to the main body of text. Instead there is a push down flap on the side of each page. When pressed down the object that mouse could potentially be hiding behind pops up on a small pop up section on the top of the page.

        The cover price of the book is £4.99 which even at full price I feel is very reasonable. The Little Kitten Book is sold in Asda, Tesco and on Amazon for around £4. However I purchased this from The Works for £1.99 which I feel is extremely cheap and excellent value considering how much my boys love the story and also the interactive sections of the book.

        The story follows little kitten going into different rooms and into the garden to look for her toy mouse around the house. The book in total has 12 pages. The story on each of the pages has two sentences on asking where mouse could be hiding. These sentences are rhyming and the last word on each of the pages is missing. Initially I thought there was a problem with the story as it did not seem to make sense because missing word but the last word on each of the pages is always on a pop up section at the top of the page and the matching image on the pop up section is always found somewhere on that page. For example the first page says "Hello Little Kitten, where is mouse hiding? She is not inside the .........." . On this page there is a brightly coloured image of little kitten, an image of the house on the page and then a cut out section on the side of the page with a hard cardboard lever. You press the lever down which then makes a small semi-circle of cardboard pop up from the top of the page and the missing word with an image of this object is on this pop up section. This format continues through all off the book with each individual page having a rhyming body of text, a word missing and a pop up section showing an object that mouse could potentially be hiding behind or in. On the very last page there is no pop up as mouse is found safe lying on the rug in front of the fire so there is a happy ending to the story.

        On the first read I do think that the book is a little confusing with having the word missing and on the pop up section as the pop up levers are reasonably concealed at the side of each page. Mr Lools and my mum made the same mistake as I did when they first read the book to my boys and thought the book did not make sense (until my boys pointed out the pop up sections to them). My main criticisms however are of the pop up sections. These are durable and made from quite a thick cardboard so perfect for a book aimed at young quite clumsy toddlers. However the actual pressing down of the side lever requires quite a lot of effort and precision for a child. Some of these pop ups on the page are easier to press than others meaning my boys get frustrated because at two years old they are very independent and do not want my help to do this but often require it as some of the levers tend to stick. With repeated use the levers have become easier to use but some of the pages do stick slightly.

        Story wise I really like this book. I think the book has more words and is slightly longer than the majority of books for children under 18 months however is still entertaining and engaging enough to read to with a younger toddler or baby. I found at 18 months my boys "outgrew" a large number of books and I feel Little Kitten is perfect as it is a longer story which they can follow but do not become bored. I think it is perfectly suited from 18months up until the age of 3. I do not feel it is too basic to read to a three year old and feel they would still enjoy the story but may become less interested after a few reads of this book.

        I think this is a very entertaining story book to read to a child and I think it fits more into the "fun" story book category rather than being one of the more educational books in our collection. However I do think that the book has educational and developmental benefits for younger and older toddlers. Although the pop up levers can be slightly stiff, a child pressing these and flipping up these sections helps with their motor skills and hand eye coordination. I also feel the book helps with speech development as a child is encouraged to repeat the word on the pop up as the story emphasises this word or object. My boys can now clearly say all of the words such as house, gate, flowerpot and mop. The book also encourages older toddlers to identify here else this object is located on each page so helps with problem solving and recognition skills too.

        Although one of my criticisms of the Little Kitten book is that the pop up section levers are still I also think that this is a very durable book. All of the pages in the book are made from a hard durable thick cardboard so it is not possible to bend the pages. The levers are also concealed and protected as there is a cut out section and then space to put your finger on the lever so because they do not stick out from the side of the book they do not get bent. The pop up sections on the page do stick out from the top of the book but as soon as they are touched they fold back down into the book very easily meaning they also do not bend. It would be possible for a child to bend these pop up sections if they bent them over on purpose however they do not bend easily. My boys have had this book for around 8 months now and rough and often fight over the book and it still looks as new and has no bent sections or damage.

        I would definitely recommend Little Kitten by Louise Martin to others. I feel it is a perfect fun yet interactive storybook for children aged under 3 especially children aged between 18 months and 3 years old. The illustrations on each page are bright and clear and the pop up section on each of the pages add a fun dimension to the book. The book also benefits from an engaging little storyline that children will love to follow. At £2 this book has been a bargain, not just because it is so entertaining but because it is such a durable book and helps introduce new words to a toddler's vocabulary.

        A fantastic read that just keeps popping up!

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        • More +
          11.04.2012 08:11
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          A silicone mould for those that like their cupcakes large

          I love to bake cakes and over the last 3 years it has become quite a hobby of mine. Cupcakes tend to be my "skill"; although I say skill I tend to find that baking and decorating cupcakes are a lot easier than celebration or larger cakes. However I decided to look for more of a challenge and expand my baking skills by adding giant cupcakes to my baking talents. After searching for giant cupcake moulds I was quite shocked that some retailers were selling these moulds and tins for around £20 so when I spotted the Premier Giant Cupcake Mould it appeared not only to be what I was looking for but also excellent value for money.


          ***Premier Giant Cupcake Mould***
          The Giant Cupcake Mould by Premier is does basically what it say on the tin (or box in this case), it is a silicone mould to bake a giant cupcake in.

          The mould comes in three pieces and makes a cupcake with a 19cm diameter and 18cm in height. The mould has three pieces; the base, the top of the cake and a hollow out section which your place inside of the mould as you are cooking so you can fill your cake with jam or buttercream when sticking together.

          The Premier Giant Cupcake Mould is available from a variety of different stores. I have found the cheapest place to be B&M's which sell these moulds for £4.99. Wilkinsons also sell this brand of Giant Cupcake mould for £7.99. You can also purchase from Amazon for


          ***My Experience***
          When it comes to baking cakes in my experience I have learnt that often when trying out new techniques or different style cakes it is often better to read the instructions that come with cake moulds or look online for tips and advice before jumping straight in like I used to do.

          The mould comes with instructions in the box. These instructions explain how to use the mould and fill the different parts of the mould, a suggested basic cake mix and how to clean and store the mould.

          The mould comes in three parts although two parts of the mould are essential to make a giant cupcake the other is optional. The essential sections are the base of the cake which is the shape of a standard cupcake case only considerably larger and the top section of the cake which is a swirled dome. You then have a flat section with a hollow around 10cm in diameter in the centre. The flat section sits on top of the cupcake base. This creates a hollow in the top of the bottom section of the case which means when you come to put the cake together you have a place for "filling" whether this is jam or buttercream. You do not have to use this section to bake a giant cupcake and if you decide not to create a cupcake with the hollow you just have to trim the cake.

          The instructions with the cake give a basic cupcake mixture which is just a traditional Victoria sponge type mix. For complete novices this is a very basic mixture but gives a very effective mixture. Personally I found that this mix was a little too fluffy runny and although very light made the cake a little floppy and soggy to work with (and trim) so I tend to adapt the recipe to make different flavours but also add more ingredients (like more flour) to make the finished cake more solid. The amount of cake mixture for the needed is about 3 times the amount you would use for a standard 9 inch round Victoria sponge cake to fill the Premier Giant Cupcake Mould so if you are creating your own recipe it is worth bearing this in mind.

          To fill the mould you place your mixture into the two sections of the mould so that both of these sections are around three quarters full so you allow space for the cake to rise. What the instructions do not tell you is that it is worth placing the two sections of the mould onto flat baking trays for taking in and out of the oven. The mould is made from very flexible silicone which wobbles around when uncooked runny cake mixture is inside so makes this transfer a lot easier. The domed top of the cake has a circular flat base on the outside at the top of the mould so that the top of the mould can be placed level when cooking. If you are using the hollow out section this sits flat on top of the bottom part of the mould.

          Personally I feel it is advisable to use the hollow out section as it makes sticking the two sections of the cupcake together a lot easier and the cake sits together a lot more securely. For less experienced bakers it also means you are less likely to need to trim the cake when it comes out of the mould which can be tricky if you are not confident about hacking the giant cupcake creation to size.

          The cupcake mould is very easy to use even if you do not bake regularly. The instructions state that you should leave to cool for around 30-45 minutes before you remove your baked cake pieces from the mould. However again I think that this is something that with experience you learn and personally I leave the cake longer to ensure that the cake is firm and does not get damaged when you remove the mould. I found that when I followed the recipe in the instructions and removed the cake from the moulds after 30 minutes the cake almost fell apart and pieces fell off the cake. Therefore the longer you leave the mould on the cake the easier it becomes to remove.

          You do not have to grease the mould especially if you follow the recipe that comes with the cupcake mould. However this is a personal preference and I do especially if I use a firmer and thicker cake mix to ensure no pieces are left on the sides.

          Once the giant cupcake is removed from the mould it is a simple case of putting together and decorating. This is entirely a personal choice of how you do this but I feel the decorating side is the most fun aspect for experienced bakers, novices and children. As mentioned earlier it is easier to put the domed top piece of the cake onto the base section if you use the hollow and put buttercream or jam into this as it sticks the cake together more securely. If you decide against using the hollow at the decorating stage you do need to ensure you trim the top of the cake and the base of the cake level and use a filling to fix together so these sit level.

          Cleaning the silicone mould is very easy and even after around 10 uses the Premier Giant Cupcake Mould looks as new and no difficult to when it was taken out of the box for the first time. The mould has retained its shape and even though around the edges of some of the giant cupcakes have burnt slightly on a few occasions the mould has not suffered any damage. The cupcake mould is dishwasher safe and has been through my dishwasher after at least half of the times that I have baked with it. I have also hand washed it in the sink using washing up liquid and water. I have found that unlike traditional tin baking trays which slightly burnt bits of cakes stick to (usually around the edges) with a silicone mould like this these slightly burnt sections just flake off so there is less need for scrubbing. After washing I always ensure the mould is fully dried and get between all of the nooks and crannies as I do find that if silicone bake ware has not been dried properly the next time you come to use it then it feels slightly sticky.

          Storage wise I think the Premier Giant Cupcake Mould is very easy to store and a great idea for those that have limited storage space. You can purchase tins to make giant cupcakes in however these are more awkward, bulky and difficult to store as they retain the shape of the giant cupcake which is quite a size. Once dry, the silicone Premier Giant Cupcake Mould is stored in my baking box and because it is silicone other items can be placed on top of it which squashes it down. So although it is 19cm in diameter it does not retain its almost 20cm height when stored and squashes down to about 5cm. Initially I was a little apprehensive that this would ruin the shape however even with cookbooks and other pieces of baking equipment placed on top of it for long periods of time the Premier Giant Cupcake Mould immediately snaps back into shape when needed.


          ***Overall***
          I would definitely recommend the Premier Giant Cupcake Mould as it is a great piece of bakeware that allows you to make fun cakes. The cupcake mould is very easy to use, very easy to clean and very easy to store.

          I think the main benefit to this product is that it is excellent value costing only £5 (although some retailers do sell it in excess of £17). Many other brands of giant cupcake moulds sell these products for in excess of £15 so this is a real bargain.

          The product is suitable for all levels of baking and cooking skills although those less experienced bakers may need some guidance and practice with trimming the cake so it fits together, which unfortunately may mean baking lots of cakes (and testing them). The other main issue with the cupcake mould is more a practical one due to the size of the cake that this mould makes and you do have to leave the cake to cool in the mould for 45 minutes after baking to ensure it does not fall apart which can happen if you take out of the mould too enthusiastically before it has fully cooled.

          I would also recommend the silicone giant cupcake moulds over the traditional tin giant cupcake moulds as they are much easier to store and take up less storage space. As someone who bakes cakes on a regular basis and has a number of different cake trays and moulds this is definitely an advantage as the size of the mould needed for giant cupcakes is on the larger side.

          A great product that helps to make great cakes (although that does depend on your baking skills).

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          • ELC Robot Messy Mat / Art / Craft / 44 Readings / 43 Ratings
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            10.04.2012 08:53
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            A plastic mat to keep mess contained

            My twin boys love creative activities and messy play. As much as I love seeing them enjoy themselves whilst carrying out these types of activities I do not love cleaning the mess that two toddlers with paint, Playdoh, glitter, glue etc. can make. So when Mr Lools and I decided to purchase a large amount of craft items for Christmas 2011 from ELC we also purchased the ELC Robot Messy Mat to try and minimise the amount of mess that would be created.


            ***ELC Robot Messy Mat***
            The ELC Robot Messy Mat is basically a thick plastic sheet to put on the floor whilst your child undertakes "messy creative play" to protect from spills. The mat is 105cm by 95cm and is made from a thick blue wipe-able sheet plastic. The mat is bright blue with a multi-coloured pattern of robots and paint splodges.

            ELC state that the Robot Messy Mat is suitable from age 2 years and over.

            The ELC Robot Messy Mat is sold in both ELC stores and Mothercare and also available online from both of these retailers.

            The ELC Robot Messy Mat has a RRP of £4. This is not an "expensive" item by any means however if compared to other similar products from other brands (such as Tesco and Wilkinsons) I do feel the price is on the higher side as the other two retailers sell their (larger) mats for around £2. However ELC regularly sell this item in their half price toy sale for a more reasonable £2.


            ***Our Experience***
            The main reason I purchased the ELC Robot Messy Mat was mainly to minimise mess and keep mess from creative play in one area. My main hope was that I could sit my boys at their table and chair set and place the ELC Robot Messy Mat underneath so that it would catch the splats of paint and spills rather than these ending up on the floor meaning I had to clean the floor.

            The ELC Robot Messy Mat is basically a sheet of plastic which covers the floor so this is by no means an exciting product. However the mat is actually very good looking as it very bright and I think perfect for little boys because of the bright blue colour and robot theme. What I also liked about the mat was that ELC sell matching aprons.

            ELC state that the Robot Messy Mat is suitable from age 2 years and over. I think as with most of the items from the ELC craft materials and creative range, common sense usually wins and most parents of children would use this with a child under 2 but be supervising their activities in some shape or form. As this is a plastic sheet there is a risk of suffocation however it is not really a toy and when not in use is more than likely to be stored away out of a child's reach (or in our house it is).

            I bought this mat for my boys to use mainly for painting however do tend to use for other craft activities including cutting and sticking and glitter. I have come to expect mess with having two toddlers and my house after 2 years is pretty child friendly. We have tiled floors in the kitchen and wooden floors in the living areas so before using messy mats previously if paint was spilt on the floor I would just mop the floor. The main point of the messy mat was so after painting I could literally lift the messy mat up with all of the mess on and focus on cleaning my boys up (before they touched other furniture) rather than worry about paint on the floor which could be stepped on and spread over the floor. Unfortunately in practice this has not been the case and I find although the messy mat does catch some of the spills and splats of paint, the mat is simply not large enough to catch the mess of two children. I actually find it easier not to use this mat for painting and just let paint go on our tiled floor as it just means I have a floor to clean up rather than the floor plus the messy mat.

            From a practical perspective, for one child the mat is large enough if positioned around a child (especially if they are sat at a table). However for two children painting around a table the mat does not cover enough space to the side and back of them as toddlers tend to load up their paintbrushes with excessive amounts of paint and then their enthusiastic movements can often flick paint everywhere. I find to provide adequate coverage I would need two of the ELC Robot Messy Mats so tend to use the messy mat we have from Wilkinsons as it is larger. However for parents of one child this may not be the most practical of mats especially for children that move around when painting and don't just sit in one place.

            I do find for playing with Playdoh the mat is very useful as material of the mat means the Playdoh or soft dough does not stick to it. So when you are finished you can tip the mat into the sink and brush it down and all of the random pieces of soft dough are caught and you later do not find them stuck to rugs or floors.

            Although found in the craft section of ELC I actually think the Robot Messy Mat is a really great item to have in a changing bag for when visiting friends and family who may not have the most child friendly of homes. One of my greatest concerns was when my boys became more independent and started feeding themselves and we had to do feeding time at a friends or family members house because of the mess. The plastic messy mat is easily transportable as it folds up virtually flat. I find I can sit my boys on the mat and let them eat a meal without the worry that they are spilling food and staining the carpet or flooring at the house we are visiting. I then can simply lift the mat up, shake off any mess and I do not have to make apologies like I have done previously

            I think what I like about the ELC Robot Messy Mat most compared to other messy mats from other retailers is that the plastic it is made from feels a lot thicker and of a better quality. I have used plastic messy mats from Wilkinsons and Tesco and although both of these mats were a lot larger and more practical for two children than the ELC Robot Messy Mat they were also a lot thinner and more flimsy. I found due to chair legs being placed on top of messy mats then they can rip which is what happened to the mat I purchased from Wilkinsons. However with the ELC Robot Messy Mat as it is so much thicker the plastic does not tear even with a chair leg and child moving about on top of it. This makes it longer lasting and less likely to need replacing, hence why ELC sell it for more than other messy mats on the market.

            The ELC Robot Messy Mat is made from a wipeable plastic which spills and splodges of paint and glue sit on top of rather than soak into. I tend to find myself wiping over with a damp cloth to clean up the wet paint or other spilt items before I put away for use another time. You do have to ensure that you dry the mat fully because if it is left slightly damp and then folded it still will be the next time that you come to use it.


            ***Overall***
            I think that the ELC Robot Messy Mat is a very good messy/ play mat as it looks good and is very thick and durable so even when placed on the floor and used time and time again it is less likely to rip and tear, especially if you place under chair legs.

            However at the full RRP of £4 I do think that this is slightly more expensive than other brands of messy mat which usually sell for half this price. My main criticisms of the ELC Robot Messy Mat are that I personally feel that the mat is too small to contain mess for creative activities especially when more than one child is involved. With one child you will need to position strategically and encourage them to stay in one place so that the mat gives enough coverage from spills and splashes. However with to children I feel one mat is just not big enough and I find myself clearing up spills from the floor.

            Not a bad product but not the most practical for craft use either.

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          • Konfidence FloatSuit / Child Safety / 43 Readings / 40 Ratings
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            09.04.2012 08:36
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            A floatsuit for young toddlers and children

            I'm a member of site for baby products and pay a very small subscription (£5) each year to be a product tester and for my boys to "try out" and then we keep the product for our own use at the end of it. Over the last 27 months I have had quite a wide range of products sent to me including bottles, cups, toiletries and socks. However one of the better products I have been sent was the Konfidence Floatsuit and was very kindly sent two of these suits so both my boys could try these out.


            ***Konfidence Floatsuit***
            The Konfidence Floatsuit is basically a swimsuit with adjustable buoyancy for use in the water. The suit is an all in one suit with pockets for 8 removable foam floats to fit in to give a child support in the water. The suits are made from a polycotton fabric containing lycra which gives a secure fit but also freedom of movement in the water for a child.

            The Konfidence Floatsuit comes in 5 different colours. Gold and Blue, Navy and White Stripe, Pink and White Stripe, Plain Pink and Red and Yellow. We were sent a Gold and Blue suit and a Navy and white stripe suit therefore my review will be based on these two suits.

            The suits come in 3 different sizes- 1-2 years (up to 33lbs and 97cm tall), 2-3 years (up to39lbs and 100cm tall) and 4-5 years (up to 47lbs and 112cm tall).

            The Konfidence Floatsuit is available only online. Our suits were sent to us direct from Konfidence to test however you can purchase directly from the Konfidence website and also from Amazon. A number of smaller children's online retailers sell the Konfidence Floatsuit including Hello Baby and Precious Little ones however none of the larger high street retailers seem to stock this product. The RRP of the product is £24.99 which I do feel is very expensive and if I had not been given these suits to test I know at this price I would not have purchased for my twin boys.

            ***Our Experience***
            We were sent these products to test and it was outlined "boys colours would be sent" therefore I had no choice or input into what coloured suits we were sent but the boys colours given were the gold and blue suit and also the navy and white suit. When the suits came both Mr Lools and I were really impressed and as soon as we seen the suits on my boys even more so. The suits look really nice, the colours and bright and attractive and these are very cute items of swimwear. When we visited the swimming pool most people who passed my boys comments on how they loved their swimsuits and on the first visit to the pool we actually had 3 other parents come up to us to ask where the suits were from. Looks wise my only criticism initially was that with all of the floats in the suits did appear slightly bulky with all of the floats in, especially when my sons were little however this problem was solved as they did not need to use all of the floats.

            I would say because the suits are made from a reasonably thick stretchy lycra material you have some give in sizing so the suit adjusts to fit your child. Initially I did think the material was a little thinner than the boys other swimsuits we owned from Next and boots which were thicker more like wetsuit type material. The Konfidence Floatsuits were still reasonably thick but a lot softer and felt less stretchy especially when wet. My boys were 18 months old when we were sent these and were sent these suits in size 1-2 years which states up to 33lbs. My boys are very small for their age and at 18 months old were wearing clothing typically sized 6-9 months and now at 27 months old wearing clothing in size 9-12 months size (mainly for length as waist wise they are very skinny). I personally feel the suits are on the smaller side as at 18 months old my boys actually fitted into them and now at 27 months I would say they are growing out of this size whereas most children's clothes sized "up to 2 years" would be drowning them. For those wanting to use these suits over the longer term it may be worthwhile buying a larger size if in doubt to ensure your child gets full wear out of the suit.

            Personally I probably would not have purchased these suits for safety aids in the water unless we were going on holiday or spending long periods around water due to the cost of these suits. For swimming we typically would use a standard swimsuit and armbands. A fear I do have with this is that although I always keep my boys no further than arm's length away when near water I become scared that they run off before I get the armbands on or remove their armbands. However safety wise what I like about the Konfidence Floatsuits is that once they are in their swimsuit if they did escape (which toddlers like to do) and went near the water they would have buoyancy in the water. This is not such an issue when visiting the swimming pool but from experience of being on holiday children spend longer periods around the pool and on the beach often having armbands on all of the time is just not practical.

            My initial impression of these suits was that they looked quite bulky when all floats were in the suits. I found straight away that I did not need to use the suit with all 8 floats inside as when we did this my boys tipped backwards when in the water. We removed the side two floats by the arms and my boys had perfect support whilst in the water without tipping and I feel their movement when in and out of the water was not restricted. So when we were at our local pool they could easily swim around in the deeper water with Mr Lools and I but also happily play in the splash pools and go down the slides without having limited movement. The floats are very secure in the pockets of the suit and can't slip out.

            We have been using the Konfidence Floatsuits for around 9 months now and probably my boys have worn these suits around 10 times. After each swimming session I wash the Konfidence Floatsuits in the washing machine and then dry them either on the washing line or over the radiator. The suits are still in excellent condition and the colours in both suits are still bright and have suffered no fading and no seams or stitching have come away. The suits also still have retained their initial elasticity. I think for me as a parent what I find most frustrating is not taking the floats in and out of the suits for washing and drying but the packing these suits into our swim bag. The main disadvantage of these suits is how much space they take up as the floats make them bulky made worse that I have to carry two of these suits. However this is not a major flaw of the product just compared to armbands and standard swimsuits we need a much larger bag!


            ***Overall***
            If I hadn't been sent this product to test then I probably would not have purchased the suit because when we go swimming it tends to be to a small swimming pool and the boys wear armbands in the pool. The main reason behind this is cost and a swimsuit and armbands is much more cost effective for occasional wear rather than a suit like this. At £24.99 per suit I most certainly would have not purchased the Konfidence for how infrequently we go swimming as £50 is a lot of money to spend considering how quickly my boys grow out of things like this.

            However after using the Konfidence Floatsuit over the last 9 months I would definitely recommend the suit to parents who are looking for a support aid in the water especially if they are going to get regular use out of the suit i.e. for holidays or regular swimming lessons. Although I'm a nervous parent around water and never let my boys out of arms reach I did feel confident using these as a support device and as soon as my boys were dressed for swimming the floatsuit was ready to support them in the water rather than have to chase them around to put armbands on.

            Aside from the cost I did feel the suits are a little bulky to carry around in a swimming bag especially x2 with all of the floats. I also found my boys tipped back in the water when the suit had all of the floats

            A Konfident suit to give parents and children confidence when in the water.

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          • More +
            08.04.2012 08:45
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            Disney Car themed mess free drawing

            I had previously purchased the Tomy Aquadoodle Mini Mats sets for my twin boys and wanted to expand our collection. We purchased the Aquadoodle sets to encourage my boys creativity skills but limit the mess on occasions when we would visit family and friends and we had a few drawing on walls incidents. I noticed that Tomy offered a range of these sets which were usually themed with various TV series or films. My boys love the Disney Cars films so the Disney Cars Aquadoodle Mini Mats seemed like a good purchase.


            *** Disney Cars Aquadoodle Mini Mats***
            The Tomy Aquadoodle toys are is basically a mat in which allows children to develop their drawing skills by using only a small amount of water. You fill a special Aquadoodle pen up with water and allow your child to draw on the coated Aquadoodle mat and once the water touches the mat the doodles can be seen and images on the mat are uncovered.

            The Disney Cars mini mats contain 4 different Aquadoodle mats and an Aquadoodle pen which contain a different Disney Cars themed image or scene. Each of the mats is a greyish colour and is around 19cm long by 15cm high. The image on the mat becomes colourful and bright once it is scribbled over by the water from the Aquadoodle pen.

            Tomy state that these are suitable from age 18 months and over.

            The Tomy Disney Cars Aquadoodle Mini Mats are sold by a variety of toy retailers including Boots, Toys R Us Amazon, Smyths, ELC, Tesco and Amazon. The price of the mini mats vary depending on the retailer however some retailers sell these for around £8 per set. Although the mats are reusable over and over again I do think for £8 this is extremely expensive, especially for this particular set which is in my opinion one of the poorer sets. However most retailers tend to sell this set for around £3-4 which makes this one of the cheaper Tomy Aquadoodle Mini Mats sets as some of the other themed sets you can't purchase for less than £6.

            ***Our Experience***
            Mr Lools and I had previously purchased other sets from the Tomy Aquadoodle Mini Mats range so when we purchased the Disney Cars set this was to add to the collection for my twin boys and add more variation to the images they had to discover.

            Like the other sets the Disney Cars Aquadoodle Mini Mats comes in a flat cardboard box around 30cm long and 20cm wide and is accessed by a small flap on the top of the box. The picture on the box shows what is contained inside although on the Disney Cars box I feel the image on the front of the outer packaging is a lot more exciting than the actual images on the mini mats! Inside the box there are four Aquadoodle Mini Mats and one pen in each set. If you have purchased only one Aquadoodle set only one child can play with these at a time because there is only one pen so we purchased a number of these sets (with different themes) to ensure that our twin boys could play together with the Aquadoodle Mini Mats and we did not have scraps over the pen. We have around five sets in total so now have a pen for each of my boys and spares in case they lose one or if they have friends over to play with them. The outer packaging the mats come in is compact and easy to take out with you in a handbag however the cardboard is not very durable and after a few trips out it rips making the box unusable. I tend to find that I pop the mats and Aquadoodle pens into a pencil case to take out with me. I do not place the mats directly in my handbag as they tend to bend and although they are protected by a plastic coating they do attract dirt.

            Playing with and filling the pens up is very easy. You simply screw the pen apart fill with around 20ml of water. Screw back together and the pens are filled and ready to be used to draw on the mats with. The pens are quite chunky around 2.5cm in diameter and 12cm long. The nib of the pen is made from a hard spongy material that even when jabbed into the mats cannot bend so are very durable.

            We bought the Disney Cars Aquadoodle Mini Mats when my boys were around 20 months old. They had been playing with some of the other sets from the Aquadoodle Mini Mats range so pretty much knew what to do and how to "play" with the sets. I found that because they had been playing with these sets from quite a young age (around 14 months) they had developed motor skills and hand eye coordination so could hold the Aquadoodle pens using a pincer motion and could easier scribble away and reveal the various images. With the Disney Cars set they took a lot of pleasure scribbling on the mini mats and uncovering the images but did not take as much of an interest in the images on the mat as they did with other sets (for example the Peppa Pig and In the Night Garden sets). I feel this was for one of two reasons. Firstly my boys are not huge fans of the Disney Cars films. They have some books and have seen parts of the film but it is certainly not a favourite. Secondly I feel the variation in the images on the four mats is not as great as in other sets. I feel the images look very similar as three of the mats include Lightening McQueen, and there are really only two other characters present in the scenes (Mater and Sally). With most of the other sets the images are so different on the mats that even if a very young child did not know or recognise the TV series they would be uncovering a different image each time.

            The mats once wet immediately change colour so a child instantly sees a change in the mat and after about 5 minutes they "dry" and turn grey again ready to be reused although with the Disney Cars mats my boys tended to only every scribble on these once and then looked for something else to do.

            I think the main benefit of the magic mats is that they are mess free. Although the pen and mats use water this is such a small amount it does not leave a wet mess that you have to clear up. The sponge nib on the pen does not leak and a small amount of water uncovers a lot of the image. This means that the pens do not constantly need filling up and the pen can uncover each of the four mini mats at least twice.

            The age guidance on all of the Aquadoodle Mini Mats sets is from 18 months. Personally I found my boys at around 14-15 months were fine to play with both the mats and the pens and I felt the toys were "safe". Although I would not really recommend this particular set for a younger child because the images on the mat are so similar they do not have the same entertainment value as some of the other themed Aquadoodle sets. In terms of safety and usability however the pens are quite difficult for an adult to screw apart and a young child would not be able to do so and the pen is large and chunky enough to not be a choking hazard but still small enough for small hands to hold. Plus at this young age I tended to supervise my boys closely with most creative type toys.

            At just over 2 years old they still enjoy playing with the Aquadoodle Mini Mats but they do not have the same appeal and entertainment value as they did when they were under 2 years old; especially the Disney Cars set.


            ***Overall***
            This is not a "bad" toy and for a child that really likes Disney Cars I think that this would be an excellent purchase especially as it is one of the cheaper Tomy Aquadoodle Mini Mats sets costing less than £4. However compared to the other Tomy Aquadoodle Mini Mats sets I think the Disney Cars set is one of the poorer examples and the lower price takes this into consideration. For a child that does not own any of these sets I would probably only recommend if they were a big fan of Disney Cars.

            I do like the Tomy Aquadoodle Mini Mats and think they are a great toy to take out to entertain a child and allow them to be creative without having the mess and fuss that goes with colouring in (and leaving a young toddler with a crayon). But I think what lets this set down is that the images on the mini mats are very similar as they mainly all are of Lightening McQueen and for a very young toddler it is quite difficult to distinguish between the mats as they look so similar. With many of the other sets there is a much greater variation between the characters and images.

            Not a bad toy but one of the poorer sets from the Tomy Aquadoodle Mini Mats range.

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          • Boston Square Barbecue / BBQ / 37 Readings / 36 Ratings
            More +
            07.04.2012 08:31
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            A reasonable sized charcoal BBQ that lasts!

            Over the last 7 years of living together Mr Lools and I have probably owned at least 10 BBQ's. We love to have BBQ's as do our friends but time and time again it is the same story how our BBQ meets its (rusty) end. I spend hours in the kitchen and around the house preparing the house for guests coming and then preparing food with Mr Lools promising he will sort the BBQ out after we have finished including cleaning and putting away yet it never happens. Usually his hangover gets the better of him and my stubbornness means our BBQ sits for days after using it and the grill section ends up with charcoal meat remains permanently stuck on and the actual drum of the BBQ starts rusting as the lid has been left open and the typical British "summertime" rain has made an appearance! So when we moved into our new house Mr Lools promised he would look after the next BBQ we bought spurred on by the fact he was made to spend a bit more on this one so had to look after it and bought the Boston Square Charcoal BBQ.


            *** Boston Square Charcoal BBQ***
            The description of the Boston Square Charcoal BBQ on the Homebase website is "With its roasting lid, warming rack and storage shelves, the Boston BBQ is perfect for outdoor eating."

            As the name may give away the Boston Square Charcoal BBQ is a square charcoal BBQ. The BBQ has a square black drum and frame with a brushed silver fold down lid over the drum. The BBQ is 85cm high , 61cm wide and 106cm long (with both side trays folded out). The BBQ has one large square grill area which is 58cm in size and has a warming rack positioned just above the main grill area. There are two small square shelves positioned on the side of the BBQ which fold up and down. The BBQ has two wheels so it can be moved about and a wire shelf on the very bottom of the trolley BBQ.

            The BBQ is a medium to larger size and Argos and Homebase state it cooks food for 8 people.


            The Boston Square Charcoal BBQ is sold in Argos and in Homebase. The RRP for the BBQ is £74.99 which I do feel is extremely expensive for this BBQ. I do think this is a good product but certainly not worth paying this amount considering how difficult it is to put together and compared to other charcoal BBQ's in this price range. However it is a BBQ that seems to be regularly discounted and both Argos and Homebase sell this for a reduced price. We purchased in March 2011 for £32.99 which I feel was actually very cheap for such a decent sized BBQ. Although in comparison to the £20 BBQ's we had purchased in the past this was a more expensive BBQ.


            ***Our Experience***
            The Boston Square Charcoal BBQ comes in square cardboard box which is around 70cm square and requires self-assembly before it can be used. The product description on the website states 1 person assembly as does the instructions however I would say this is definitely a two person job. The instructions also state that the BBQ takes 30 minutes to assemble (with 1 person) however with two people it took us 45 minutes and if Mr Lools had attempted on his own more like 90 minutes!

            The assembling of the Boston Square Charcoal BBQ is definitely in our experience the biggest downside to the product as it is very complicated and if not assembled correctly the BBQ feels a little flimsy and unsteady as Mr Lools and I found out. The BBQ comes with step by step instructions however although the steps are clear it's the actual parts each step requires that is not clear and the various different screws (there are 4 different types in total) can easily be confused as are the various bits of metal that require slotting together as if you do not get this right and slot the wrong pieces together you find that you have to take apart and go back a few steps adding time to the assembly.

            Once Mr Lools and I had figured out what parts go where I must admit the "need" for two person assembly came when fixing the drum onto the trolley part of the BBQ and also the shelves onto the side of the BBQ. This can be done with one person however we found if the pieces were not held in the correct position it was difficult to tighten the screws enough so the BBQ when upright felt a little wobbly and had a slight rattle to it. It was impossible for Mr Lools to hold these pieces in the exact position and angle whilst using a screwdriver and putting into place because of the size of the BBQ so I was needed to hold certain pieces whilst he secured.

            The assembly part of the BBQ for us was the worst part and thankfully once assembled the BBQ is ready to use time and time again. I was very impressed with the BBQ once it was assembled and it looks attractive and of a good quality compared to the majority of charcoal BBQ's that we had owned (which were all under £20). The main square BBQ drum is black however the top of the drum lid is brushed silver and even after a years' worth of use and spending 6 months outside still looks new. The shelves on the side of the BBQ flip up and down using a catch and although they add to the overall size of the BBQ it still looks a reasonably compact size. The grill and the warming rack also look of a good quality and when put in place sit level inside of the BBQ rather than look slightly wonky which I found tended to happen in the cheaper BBQ's that we owned.

            As this is a charcoal BBQ there is obviously a lot of debate about the best ways to create/ and light the BBQ however I will not go into this as it is a regular debate Mr Lools has with many of our male visitors at BBQ's. We tend to buy the Instant Lighting Charcoal that comes in a bag which you light which then lights the charcoal briquettes. Using this method so there is enough charcoal and heat to cook for 8-10 people on the Boston Square Charcoal BBQ we use two of the small size Instant Lighting Charcoal bags. To get the BBQ going this is all lumped into the centre of the BBQ and then once glowing spread out. What I like about the Boston Square Charcoal BBQ is that the base of the drum of the BBQ is reasonably flat and level rather than deep like many of the circular or oval shaped charcoal style BBQ's. Because of the more level drum means that once the charcoal is lit it is easier to distribute it under the grill of the BBQ and ensure that all of the grill area gets adequate and even heat to cook food rather than just the centre of the grill being useable

            The design of the level drum in turn leads to food being cooked a lot easier and more evenly and you have a lot more useable cooking space. We tend to find cooking wise that the BBQ easily cooks enough food for 8-10 people however we have had BBQ's where we have used this to cook food for up to 14 people and we have cooked enough burgers and chicken although it has had to be done in batches. I find the square design means more food fits onto the BBQ in one go to cook as opposed to circular BBQ's where you tend to have to move food around to fit it all on.

            The design of the Boston Square Charcoal BBQ also means for the person cooking on the BBQ it is very easy to cook and transfer food on and off the BBQ but also put cooking utensils down. There are two small shelves which can be set up on the side of the BBQ. This allows you to place cooking utensils down without the need for a table to be next to the BBQ which I feel is convenient if you are cooking somewhere where you are limited on space. Also because there is a shelf on each side of the BBQ means you can have a plate on each side; one for uncooked food and one for cooked therefore minimising any cross contamination. The warming shelf above the grill also means that there is space to put cooked food onto.

            The warming tray is a very good addition and means food can be kept warm once cooked however it is advisable not to leave food on this section for longer than 20 minutes otherwise it can end up burning and overcooked especially if there is no food being cooked on the main bit of the grill below. We tend to find this isn't a major issue as usually once the food is cooked our guests eat it straight away however when we get towards the end of cooking and our visitors become full up and food starts getting left on the warming rack it can often get left on this section for a little too long and become inedible.

            The reason we have had so many BBQ's over the last few years is because of the lack of cleaning and care post BBQ. With the Boston Square Charcoal BBQ we have tended to clip off the grill and warming rack once the BBQ has cooled down and cleaned the same night however there have been two occasions when the grill has been left for over 24 hours before it has been cleaned. The stainless steel rack is a good quality and has a coating on it so even cremated pieces of meat come off with a bit of force. I use quite a harsh BBQ cleaning brush which has not damaged the Boston Square Charcoal BBQ grill tray in anyway where with cheaper BBQ's we have owned the brush has caused some damage to the grill. I have also found both the grill and warming rack are very durable and have not bent at all even when using pressure on the grill when cleaning.

            The actual BBQ spent most of last summer outside. After BBQing Mr Lools has the job of cleaning out the old charcoal. Once this is cleaned out the lid can be placed down and we keep the BBQ in a sheltered corner in the garden. Even after quite a wet summer of 2011 the Boston Square Charcoal BBQ did not rust with being outside for almost 6 months and looked as new. The lid of the BBQ is quite heavy and even in strong winds it does not blow open; something that happened regularly with the cheaper charcoal drum BBQ's we have previously owned. It has been kept in our garage since September to protect it from the harsher winter weather and is not too difficult to store.

            The wheels on two of the legs make the Boston Square Charcoal BBQ easy to move around so you can wheel it rather than lift to move. This is not a small BBQ because of the grill size so the actual drum is larger which would be a problem if you have very limited storage space. However the BBQ is reasonably compact as the shelves on the BBQ fold down and hand at the side of the drum so the BBQ is only as wide as the square drum.


            ***Overall***
            I definitely would recommend the Boston Square Charcoal BBQ for those looking for a medium to larger sized charcoal BBQ. Once (eventually) put together it gives a reasonable grill space and allows you to cook food for up to 10 people very easily. The BBQ is designed well so the grill gets even heat and the warming rack and shelves on the side of the BBQ mean you have space to rest plates and other dishes on. Once you are finished cooking the grill also is very easy to clean and I feel the wire rack has a coating on it which means food does not get permanently stuck onto it so the BBQ is a lot more durable and long lasting than other BBQ's we have owned. The lid stays firmly shut when placed down meaning the BBQ does not get water inside and I have found it has not rusted like other BBQ's we have owned.

            My main criticisms of the BBQ is firstly the price when bought at full price and I would advise shopping around as although this is a great BBQ it is not worth the £74.99 that Homebase sell it for and I would not pay over £45 for this product. My second main criticism is that it is not the easier of BBQ's to assemble and requires two people to hold together to connect together securely and also to decipher the poor instructions that come with the BBQ as it does not show all the parts and screws clearly.

            A good product and the first BBQ that we have owned that has lasted more than one summer.

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            • More +
              05.04.2012 08:03
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              A reasonable value compact car seat from Baby Start

              After a lot of discussion and debate with various car seat retailers, health visitors and family members my boys were in their "first" stage 0 rear facing car seats until they were almost 18 months old. My boys are particularly small for their age which was the main reason and even at 2 years old they had not reached the 20lb weight limit for them to move into the next stage/ stages of car seat. However my both my boys were able to break free from the rearward seats and break free when I was driving. Certain car seat retailers told me it was unsafe to have my boys in a front facing seat and one actually refused to sell me these style car seats however after my boys climbing out of their rear facing seats whilst I was driving on my own with them on a 70mph dual carriage way with them I made a judgement call and moved them into the next stage of seats as I felt no car seat was a lot more dangerous than a front facing one that secured them in so we opted for the BabyStart 123 Car Seats after much research and debate.


              ***BabyStart 123 Car Seat***
              The BabyStart 123 Car Seat is a multistage car seat and as stated in the name is a group 1-3 forward facing car seat. It is to be used with 3 point seat belts and although recommended for rear seat usage it can also be fitted into the front seats of the car.

              The BabyStart 123 Car Seat has an adjustable head rest and cushions for younger children to ensure that they are safe and supported in the car. The seat has side impact protection, a 5 point harness, 1 pull harness adjustment, harness sleeves and a buckle pad.

              The guidance on this car seat is that it is suitable for children from 9 months to 12 years or 9kg to 36kg.

              The car seat is 71cm in height, 45cm wide (at its widest point) and 50cm deep.

              The car seat is stated to be a stage 1-2-3 car seat but does not convert to a booster seat.

              The car seat comes in black or pink. I have two of these car seats in black therefore my review will be based entirely on my experience of the black version. The covers are removable but hand wash only.

              The BabyStart 123 Car Seat in black is available from Argos and Amazon. Argos are slightly cheaper and sell this for £47.99 whereas Amazon sell this for £64.99. We actually bought two of these car seats during a money off event at Argos and per car seat paid £35.99. I think this is an extremely low price and compared to other car seats on the market it is very cheap.


              ***Our Experience***

              **Choosing them**
              We should have been spoilt for choice when it came for choosing a new car seat for my twin boys because there was so many on the market and we had just ordered a new car (for me!) which size wise was a lot larger particularly the back seat. However Mr Lools and I were considering the long term and baby number 3 (which a few weeks later we found out we were expecting again). With 3 children under 3 comes the challenge of finding the right combination of a large enough car and car seats which fit into a car (without the need for a bus). I had ruled out certain "bus like" cars so we decided to go for a Nissan Qashqui +2. We did have 2 pull up seats in the boot however I knew from friends owning the same model of car it was possible on fitting 3 seats across the main back seat and having lots of boot space. This did rule out certain car seats automatically especially the stage 1 seats which tended to be very bulky as was my favoured brand of Maxi Cosi. I must admit I'm a car seat snob and prefer to purchase the more well-known brands (despite being a lot more expensive) however I also knew I had to compromise as we had just spent a considerable amount of money on a new car. So after speaking to friends and trying out many different seats we ended up with the BabyStart 1-2-3 seats.


              ***Fitting***

              As a stage 1 car seat-
              Fitting the car seat is very simple but can only be used with a 3 point seat belt. I must admit on the first few attempts I did need to refer to the instructions however on the back of the actual car seat there is a diagram that clearly shows how you fit the seat belt. You simply pull the adult seat belt out as far as you can, then loop it into the slot on the front side of the car seat, through the two loops at the back of the car set and then back through around the arm rest of the car seat under a clip and lock the adult seat belt into place. To ensure the car seat is secure in place you then pull the adult seat belt tight and push the car seat back into the seat. I used to regularly transfer these car seats between cars (either Mr Lools' car or my parents cars) and after a few practices I could probably take two of these car seats out of my car and fix securely into place into another car in 5 minutes which I think is very reasonable and not at all tricky. I tend to not move so much now as we have a second set of car seats which a friend gave to us.

              We tend to use these seats in the back seat of a car in the back left and back right seats and leave the middle seat free. I have used once or twice in the front seat of my car and the seat fits fine however this tends to be for occasional use when one of my sons has been poorly and I have been taking to hospital or doctors. In these cases I always ensure that I turn the passenger airbag off. If you have a car where you can't turn the airbag off then you should not put a child or the BabyStart 123 Car Seat in the front seat of the car.

              With expecting baby number 3 any day now we have also experimented putting these seats into different positions. In our 2012 model of a Nissan Quashqui+2 the BabyStart 123 Car Seat fits into all of the seats on the standard back seats; in fact when the time comes we could fit 3 of these seats into the car across the back. The BabyStart 123 Car Seat also fits into the two very rear seats which pop up from the boot although we have not really used these yet as there has been no real need.

              As a stage 2-3 car seat
              For older children once they reach around 15kg usually they move onto a stage 2 car seat. My boys are nowhere near this yet so as a stage 2 car seat these seats have not been used regularly. I have used on my friends children once or twice when giving a lift home and the five point harness clips out and you attach through the buckle loops using the adult seat belt to go around the seat and then around the child. Recently Mr Lools and I played taxi between the church and reception venue for a few family members and their children. Mr Lools took our boys in the stage 1 car seats in our car (a different brand to the BabyStart) and I took family members and their 4 year old and 5 year old in the BabyStart 123 Car Seat using as a stage 2 seat. It did take me about 5 minutes to fit each seat converting from stage 1-2 however if using as a stage 2 you would not have to do this usually every time so these seats are still relatively simple to fit.

              As a stage 3 car seat-
              We have not used these car seats as a stage 3 car seat yet so I can't comment on how easy these are to fit or use. Personally I do not think as my boys head towards 12 years old that we will still be using these seats as they seem too bulky and can't be converted into standard booster seats which is what my cousins who are 8 and 10 use and I feel would look too big and squashed in these seats as


              ***Using***
              I must admit when I first bought the BabyStart 123 Car Seat I wasn't overly impressed with the appearance. The seat in black is not a bad looking seat, it is a nice curved shape, is mainly black but I did feel the grey section on the back rest and the red clips on the side of the seat for fitting did make the seat look a little cheap. However at £50 per seat these are not premium seats and compared to the Maxi Cosi car seats I had previously used these were less than half the price. Once fitted into the car however these seats do not look overly cheap and the colours are not overly gaudy or look out of place. However the pink version of this seat the same can't be said for it!

              Not only are the seats very easy to fit into the actual car, putting a child into the car seat is also very easy. I started using these car seats from when my boys were 18 months old. At this age they were walking, climbing and sitting no problem so as soon as they went into these car seats they seemed reasonably happy and comfortable. My biggest reservation was putting them into a car seat meant for children over 20lbs when they were just under 19lb which certain retailers told me was extremely dangerous and I should keep them in rear facing seats until they hit 20lb (which to note on this rationale at 27 months they would still be in!). As soon as they first sat in the seat I knew I had made the right decision. My boys sat up perfectly in the seats. The five point harness fit securely around them and the seat was cushioned around them and they did not sit too low down in the seat or look too small for the seat. From a safety perspective over the last 9 months neither of my sons have been able to free their arms and shrug off the shoulder straps when sat in these car seats which they can do on our other car seats in the other car. This makes me very confident they are secure in the seats if we were to have an accident unlike when they were in the rear facing seats and not only pulling their straps off but actually pulling themselves out of the car seat!

              We also have stage 1 seats (which a friend gave to us) for use in Mr Lools' car and to for grandparents to use in their cars. In comparison the biggest drawback of the BabyStart 123 Car Seat to these is the lack of padding in the seat and the fact that these seats do not recline. I would say I probably would not use this seat (or this style of seat) for a child under around 15 months because the multistage car seats tend to be more upright and less padded. If I had been putting my boys into a car seat at 9 months I would have probably put my boys into a stage 1 only car seat so it could be reclined to a less upright position.

              Although this is not the most padded of car seats (which reflects on them being slim line) on the market my boys always seem comfortable in these seats even for long periods of time. We have driven for 3 hours at a time and my boys have been perfectly happy sat in these seats. Although my boys to me look more comfortable when asleep in the more padded stage 1 car seats as the seat is more padded around their head they still will sleep in the BabyStart 123 Car Seat. With this style of car seat many parents say a child's head flops about when they fall asleep however on the occasions my boys have fallen asleep in the car this has never been the case and they tend to have their head to the side slightly rather than it flopping forwards.

              The adjustment on the straps for stage 1 use also means it is very easy to adjust the strap depending on the size of the child. This can be done with the pull of the strap to tighten and then a squeeze and pull on the strap to make the strap bigger. I tend to find myself adjusting the straps each time my sons go in the car as the difference between wearing a coat or no coat can often mean the straps seem loose. This takes less than 10 seconds to do and ensure my sons can't escape and they are tightly in place.

              At 27 months old my boys have recognised that the press of a button on the crotch strap of the harness sets them free however despite regularly trying they have not been able to free themselves. It takes quite a hard press of this button for the harness to release which a child of 3-4 years old may be able to do however they would need to use considerable force and pressure.

              When using as a stage 2-3 seat the seat belt in my car fitted around the car seats with no issues and both the 4 and 5 year old sat in these seats looked comfortable although the drive was only a short 10 minute journey. I would say both children are pretty "average" sized and I feel for children that are on the taller side these seats are quite rounded inwards towards the hips so they may find this restricts them slightly more so than more open stage 2-3 seats. Although we have not used these seats for a child over 5 years old I feel for a much older child nearer 12 these seats would not be very suitable as they seem a little small.

              Safety wise I can't really comment on how these perform in a crash as thankfully we have not been in that situation. My friend who recommended this seat actually had a low speed impact with the children in these seats in the car and her children were fine however as after all impacts you should replace the car seats.

              With the covers of these seats being black they do not show up dirt too easily and mucky marks from shoes can easily be wiped or brushed off. The covers are removable however which is lucky as one of my sons was VERY sick whilst in this car seat which covered the entire seat (and back of my car). The covers are only hand wash only but this removed all traces and smells of vomit and when put back on after being dried out on the radiator the covers fitted fine and looked (and smelt) like new. The main issue I did have is that the harness straps are light grey and although I was able to clean these up it did take a lot of scrubbing (and cleaning between the buckles) and I feel because of the light colour for general use the straps do get mucky so require regular cleaning to keep clean and looking new looking.


              ***Overall***
              Although the BabyStart 123 Car Seat would not be my first choice of car seat if space was not such an issue I would definitely recommend them to other parents especially as an occasional use seat or for use in a second car. At under £50 per seat they are excellent value, reasonably comfortable and very easy to fit. The biggest selling point for us is that they are a reasonably compact car seat and in our car it allows us to fit 3 car seats across the back seat (2 of the BabyStart 123 Car Seats and 1 Maxi Cosi Cabriofix).

              We have mainly used these seats as a stage 1 seat with some occasional use as a stage 2 seat. For my boys from 18 months old these seats have fitted them securely into the car and they have travelled comfortably. The seats do not recline and are not as padded as many other brands of car seats however my boys have still been able to sleep in these seats. A drawback of the BabyStart 123 Car Seat is that they are a very upright seat so unlike the Stage 1 car seats they are a little less padded and can't be reclined. Therefore for those looking to put a young baby of under 1 year old into this style of seat I would probably not recommend and think these are more suited to children and toddlers over 18 months old. I find the seats very easy to transfer between cars and the five point harness is easy enough for me to adjust quickly (for example when my boys take off jackets and the harness needs to be tighter) but also secure enough that they can't escape as one of my sons in particular can escape from car seats and highchairs VERY easily.

              The seats are also reasonably easy to convert from stage 1 to stage 2 although as a stage 2 -3 seat these are then not the most compact of car seats which for us is the greatest selling point of them as a stage 1 seat. I do feel because these do not convert to a booster style seat for stage 3 we probably will not use and look for something that gives larger children a bit more space.

              A great seat just not the most padded but excellent value!

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                04.04.2012 08:45
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                A durable dough, mat and roller set from ELC

                I'm keen on encouraging my twin boys to play creatively and love fun creative toys. Since they have been around 1 year old I have tried to encourage creative play and one advantage when they were very young was I was able to "help" and ensure the mess was kept to one area. As they became more independent and headed towards 18 months they became very independent and Mummy was no longer allowed to touch and had to let them do things themselves. This independence made me very proud of them but also it alarmed me at how much mess two independent toddlers could cause when given less direction. Soft dough was a firm favourite but I did find that giving them pots of dough often meant they seen this as license to roll the dough out where every they fancied so I decided to buy the ELC Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set for them to encourage them to play with the dough in one specific place.


                ***Soft Stuff Dough and Mat***
                The ELC Soft Stuff Dough and Mat is basically a soft dough play set. This includes a patterned playmat which is around 30cm long and 20cm wide, a small dough roller about 10cm long and 3cm in diameter and three small tubs of Soft Stuff dough.

                ELC state that the Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set is suitable from age 18 months and over.

                The Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set is available from ELC stores and online. The RRP for the set is £6.00 however is often included in the ELC toy sales. We purchased this in a pre-Christmas sale in November 2011 for £4.00. At £6.00 I think this is still reasonable but at £4.00 I feel this was very good value albeit the three pots of dough are very small.


                ***Our Experience***
                I purchased two of the ELC Soft Stuff Dough and Mat sets; one for each of my sons. Each set comes with a beige coloured roller, three pots of Soft Stuff Dough (a red, yellow and blue) and a plastic mat. On one side of the mat there is a smooth surface and on the other side indents with different patterns, characters and animals on so a child can roll the dough over it and create patterns. The mats seem to come in two different colours a green and an orange so I bought one of each colour. Both are bright unisex colours and neither more suited to a particular sex.

                I bought the Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set for my boys for Christmas 2011 when they were 23 months old so over the ELC recommended age guidance. Personally I feel that the 18 months age guidance should be used as that "guidance" and I have been allowing my boys to play with various brands of soft dough including Soft Stuff since they were around 14 months old. Providing they are supervised I see no issues why a child cannot play with dough or this particular set. The mat, roller and dough pots are not choking hazards; the main argument is that that a young child could eat the Soft Stuff Dough. My boys attempted to do this (and still at 2 year's old one of my sons seems to feel the need to lick soft dough) but the taste of the dough is unpleasant so this should discourage them in addition to being supervised by an adult. Secondly even if they do eat the dough or put in in their mouth both my boys have been fine after.

                I think the main benefits of the Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set is that it encourages creativity and imagination. For young children and toddlers this is quite basic and really allows them to explore the soft texture of the dough and different colours with their hands and to try and make different shapes. Until my boys were around 18 months old my boys tended to just squish the dough however once they got to nearer 2 they started to become entertained for longer and I could see them playing very imaginatively as they made various shapes and creations and they would talk to me and each other about what they were making. I think the Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set would be great for older children who like to play with dough and could last until a child is 5 or 6 depending on how much they like to play with soft dough.

                Because my boys have been playing with soft dough for a while when I opened this set for them they jumped straight in to play without needing any guidance from me. As soon as the pots of dough were opened they were squishing the different colour dough into the mat, squishing it together and making various different shapes. The roller that comes with the set is a perfect size in my opinion. It is not too small like some dough rollers so a child can roll out a reasonable amount of dough but it is also small and compact enough for very small hands to use so great for younger toddlers and very easy to store. It is also not too heavy so children can't injure themselves or their siblings with it when wielding it enthusiastically.

                My main reason behind purchasing this set was to bring some form or "tidiness" to soft dough play time and the main selling point of this toy for me was the dough mat. Previously my boys tended to play with dough on a children's table and chair set but I often used to find that they would be squishing the dough on the floor and on the chair. By giving them a mat to use has given them something to focus on and they now have a sense of ownership and realise that their dough stays on the mat in front of them so I do feel I spend less time picking bits of dough up from random places. The only downside to the mats is that my boys are very protective of "their" mat and will not let their sibling touch the mat and any dough that goes onto the mat.

                My boys tend to use the smooth side of the mat to play with but over the last few months they have started to roll out the dough on the textured side. They love to see the different shapes and patterns on the dough the indents in the mat leaves although they haven't quite worked out how to do this entirely independently and at 27 months old require some intervention from me to do this.

                I feel what lets down this particular set is the Soft Stuff dough. Although you get 3 pots of dough there is a very small amount of dough in each pot, probably just over a ball with a 3cm diameter which limits what a child can create. We had other dough in to play with when we opened on the first occasion otherwise I feel my boys would have been disappointed. I personally am not keen on Soft Stuff dough and prefer Playdoh as I feel it does not dry out as quickly. Because you get so little of the Soft Stuff dough in this set it seems to dry up a lot quicker and only after around 3 weeks of play (stored away correctly) the original dough that came with this set had dried up so we now use the mat and roller with other dough from the soft dough collection.

                Aside from the dough I feel the mat and the roller are very well made and durable and will last for a number of years. As I said earlier in my review the upper age range will depend on the particular child and how much they like to play with soft dough. I feel that although basic it is a good essential to have when playing with soft dough so a child will not outgrow it or find it too babyish.


                ***Overall***
                I think that the Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set is a reasonable product and a good toy to buy for a child that likes to play with soft dough. I must admit that I bought the set with quite specific reasons; to try and keep my boys to play with dough in one place (i.e. on the mat) and this had worked to an extent and now when they are playing creatively they tend to roll the dough out on their own specific mat on their table rather than doing this on my floor or on other places around the room they are playing in. The mat is a decent size but compact enough so that you could fit more than one dough mat on a small child's table; perfect for when you have more than one child. The roller is also a good addition to our collection for playing with dough and means my boys have a roller each.

                I think my main criticism of the set is the actual dough. I personally do not like the ELC Soft Stuff dough as I feel compared to branded Playdoh it dries out a lot quicker. With this particular set I found although you get three pots of dough the amount in each pot is so small there is very little for a child to play with and what you do get, it dries out very quickly because there is so little of it.

                I think at £6 the set is averagely priced; the mat and roller being the main selling points however at £4 I think this was excellent value for a durable good quality ELC product which I feel will be played with for many years to come.

                A great little gift set that doesn't cost too much dough!

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                  03.04.2012 08:13
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                  Peppa Pig themed images for your child to discover

                  My twin boys love to draw and as much as I encourage drawing and creativity, there are times when they want to draw or let their creative skills loose but I can't give them 100% supervision (i.e. if I'm cooking dinner) to ensure their creative skills stay on the paper in front of them. Mr Lools learnt this the hard way when the boys were playing in front of them and he turned his back for less than 20 seconds to go in the cupboard for more drawing paper and found both my sons using their crayons on our beige walls. So a friend suggested the Tomy Aquadoodle Mini Mats and one of the packs of these I purchased was the Peppa Pig Aquadoodle Mini Mats.


                  ***Peppa Pig Aquadoodle Mini Mats***
                  Aquadoodle is basically a mat in which allows children to develop their drawing skills by using only a small amount of water. You fill a special Aquadoodle pen up with water and allow your child to draw on the coated Aquadoodle mat and once the water touches the mat the doodles can be seen.

                  The Peppa Pig themed Aquadoodle mini mats contain 4 different Aquadoodle mats and an Aquadoodle pen. Each of the mats is a greyish colour and is around 19cm long by 15cm high each with a different Peppa Pig themed image on. The Peppa Pig image is revealed and becomes bright and colourful once it is doodle on with the wet pen.

                  Tomy state that these are suitable from age 18 months and over (with the age guidance on Amazon stating from 18 months to 5 years old).

                  The Tomy Peppa Pig Aquadoodle Mini Mats are sold by a number of retailers including Boots, Toys R Us Amazon, Smyths, ELC and also from Amazon. The price of the mini mats vary depending on the retailer however some retailers sell these for around £8 per set. Although the mats are reusable over and over again I do think at £8 this is expensive for what they are but there are regular special offers on these and you can pick up for around £4-6 which I feel is much better value.


                  ***Our Experience***
                  Mr Lools and I have purchased a number of Aquadoodle Mini Mat sets for my twin boys over the last year or so however the Peppa Pig themed mats were the first set that we purchased.

                  The Tomy Peppa Pig Aquadoodle Mini Mats comes in a flat cardboard box around 30cm long and 20cm wide and is accessed by a small flap on the top of the box. The picture on the box shows what is contained inside. Inside the box there are four Aquadoodle Mini Mats and one pen in each set. If you have purchased only one Aquadoodle set only one child can play with these at a time because there is only one pen so we purchased a number of these sets (with different themes) to ensure that our twin boys could play together with the Aquadoodle Mini Mats and we did not have scraps over the pen. The packaging is quite small and compact which makes it initially very easy to pop inside of a handbag or changing bag and take out with you as entertainment for a child. However because of the cardboard outer packaging it is not the most durable and I soon found that the box become torn therefore I would instead just pop the mats and Aquadoodle pens into a large pencil case to take out with me. You could put the mats directly into a handbag or changing bag and because they have a plastic coating they would not suffer damage but because they are as thin as a piece of card they do bend easily.

                  Playing with and filling the pens up is very easy. You simply screw the pen apart fill with around 20ml of water. Screw back together and the pens are filled and ready to be used to draw on the mats with. The pens are quite chunky around 2.5cm in diameter and 12cm long. The nib of the pen is made from a hard spongy material that even when jabbed into the mats cannot bend so are very durable.

                  My boys started to play with the Peppa Pig Aquadoodle Mini Mats from 14 months old. At this age they were learning to hold the pen and I feel that these mats helped with their basic motor skills perfecting the pincer grip to hold the Aquadoodle pen and then scribble on the mat. They took a lot of pleasure scribbling on the mini mats and then the image on the mat being uncovered which encouraged them to scribble more. I found over the next few months up to the age of around 2 years old they loved to scribble on the mats and watch the different brightly coloured Peppa Pig themed scenes appear and the various different characters. I think out of all of the different themed Aquadoodle Sets the Peppa Pig themed mats were and still are clear favourites. The images are bright and colourful and include clear images with all of the Peppa characters in. The mats once wet immediately change colour and after about 5 minutes they "dry" and turn grey again ready to be reused and my boys would always tend to scribble on each mat at least twice. However once my boys got to around 2 years old they seemed to lose interest in the Peppa Pig Aquadoodle Mini Mats and after scribbling on each of the four mats would look for something else to do.

                  I think the main benefit of the magic mats is that they are mess free. Although the pen and mats use water this is such a small amount it does not leave a wet mess that you have to clear up. The sponge nib on the pen does not leak and a small amount of water uncovers a lot of the image. This means that the pens do not constantly need filling up and the pen can uncover each of the four mini mats at least twice.

                  The age guidance on the Peppa Pig Aquadoodle Mini Mats is from 18 months. Personally I found my boys at around 14-15 months were fine to play with both the mats and the pens and I felt the toys were "safe". The pens are quite difficult for an adult to screw apart and a young child would not be able to do so and the pen is large and chunky enough to not be a choking hazard but still small enough for small hands to hold. Plus at this young age I tended to supervise my boys closely with most creative type toys. I feel they got most of their enjoyment out of these Peppa Pig Aquadoodle Mini Mats and the other Aquadoodle Mini Mats when they were under 2 years old and they were entertained for longer at a young age drawing on the mats with water and scribbling away to reveal the image and characters on the mats. At just over 2 years old they still enjoy playing with the Aquadoodle Mini Mats particularly the Peppa Pig themed set however I do find after they have revealed all of the images they tend to ask to do something else rather than start scribbling on the mats that have dried. My friends who have older children around 3 years old play in a similar fashion and I do feel for children over 3 years old these have very limited entertainment value once they have revealed the images for the first time. Based on the Amazon guidelines I would say for a child nearer 5 these would be far too basic and I would not recommend.


                  ***Overall***
                  I think the Peppa Pig Aquadoodle Mini Mats are a great toy for children to allow them to be creative yet as a parent you get none of the potential mess that goes with drawing or colouring in with crayons. I do not think the Aquadoodle Mini Mats replace the idea of drawing but you can take these along to entertain your child when you are visiting relatives etc. and not have the worry that the moment you turn your back your child has started colouring in the walls and you have to awkwardly apologise. The main benefits of the mats aside from being mess free is that they are reusable and dry quickly so your child can reveal the Peppa Pig themed pictures over and over again. Although for children over 3 I do think these have very limited entertainment value whereas for children under 2 years old they seem to be entertained for longer.

                  I do think at full price for four Peppa Pig themed Aquadoodle mats and one pen these can be expensive as at full price some retailers tend to charge around £8. However these are regularly on special offer and you can usually pick up for around £4.

                  Not the best of toys but a great little gift especially for the under 2's.

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                    02.04.2012 08:52
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                    A fresh fruity and feminine shower gel from Imperial Leather

                    I'm more of a shower than a bath person and with showering daily I seem to go through quite a lot of shower gel. I tend to find myself doing my main grocery shop in Asda and purchase what is on special offer rather than stick to one preferred brand. However I tend to like the bright fruity scented type shower gels and creams and when the Imperial Leather Sublime Pomegranate Shower Cream was on special offer, not only did the very low price catch my eye so did the bright bottle.


                    ***Imperial Leather Sublime Pomegranate Shower Cream***
                    The description of the Sublime Shower Cream is "Prepare for a truly pampering experience. Sublime, combines beautiful fragrances, with our sumptuously smooth moisturizing shower cream for the ultimate luxurious experience. Our rich and decadent formulation will leave your skin feeling radiant with a renewed sense of wellbeing."

                    I had previously used another one of the Imperial Leather Shower Creams and was impressed with how it left my skin soft and smooth so had high expectations that the Sublime Shower Cream would do the same.

                    Imperial leather describes the Sublime Shower cream as a "moisturizing" shower cream as Star Flower is known for its moisturizing qualities. Pomegranate is also described to restore the skin keeping it soft and smooth.

                    Imperial Leather describes the shower cream as "family kind" and it is dermatologically tested and has a skin friendly pH.

                    The Imperial Leather Sublime Shower Cream comes in a 250ml or 500ml sized bottle. The bottles are the same design only the 500ml is larger sized. This is a clear plastic bottle which is long and thin with a wavy shape for easy grip in the shower. As the bottle is made from clear plastic you can see the deep pinky red coloured shower cream inside of the bottle. There is a dark pink flip top lid on the top of the bottle with a small dispenser hole.

                    The Imperial Leather Sublime Shower Cream is sold by a number of retailers including Asda, Tesco Boots and Superdrug. The price of this product varies and at full price a 250ml bottle costs £1.89 and a 500ml bottle costs £2.54 so this at full price is quite a reasonably priced shower cream. Asda and Tesco are currently both selling the 250ml AND the 500ml sized bottles for £1. This is obviously good value even for the smaller sized bottle but excellent value for the larger sized 500ml bottle which I purchased.


                    ***Using It***
                    Even though I had purchased previously a 500ml bottle of Imperial Leather Shower cream and found it very bulky to use in the shower because the bottle is so large, I couldn't resist a bargain and purchased the Imperial Leather Sublime Shower Cream in this large size also. With wet hands this size bottle when full is hard to pick up and the large bottle was too big for my shower shelf.

                    The Sublime Shower Cream comes out of the bottle very easily; simply open the flip top lid and pour out of the dispenser hole. Because of the very runny consistency of this shower cream I did find I often wasted a lot of it because it spilled out of my hands or off my shower puff.

                    The Sublime Shower cream is a deep pink colour and has black beads in it which give it a speckled appearance. The black beads are "jojoba beads" which when you rub the shower cream over your body you can feel them burst and this helps to create a reasonable lather. I do not think this a massive amount of lather but more so than some shower gels and more so than the other Imperial Leather Shower cream I used from the Limited Edition range.

                    The scent of the Sublime Shower Cream is delicious and I find it very refreshing and awakening as it is so fruity especially when it is mixed with warm shower water. You can really smell quite a rich sweet pomegranate and berry aroma which is sweet and fruity but not so sickly sweet like strawberry and raspberry shower gels are. The scent is feminine because of the berry scent but also fresh because of the fruitiness however this fruity scent is not sharp or acidic it is very soft.

                    Because of the thin consistency of the shower cream I tended to use a lot more of this when showering than other shower gels. When applying to my whole body I probably used around 2 50p sized amount on my shower puff. The Sublime Shower Cream lathers up well and I feel because of this I get quite a clean feeling to my skin as I rub it in.

                    When applied to skin and when washed off my skin when wet has a lovely soft feel to it after using Imperial Leather Sublime Shower Cream. The feeling left on skin is not greasy but I do feel my skin almost has a coating on it after showering and rinsing which gives it this added softness.

                    Once I have stepped out of the shower and dried I do feel that the Imperial Leather Sublime Shower Cream leaves skin very soft and moisturised. I do however feel that on particularly dry areas such as my ankles and elbows my skin still does feel slightly dry therefore I would not say this is a shower gel that has intensive moisturising properties but it is suitable for normal to slightly dry skin. I loved the sweet fruity aroma of the Sublime Shower Cream when in the shower and I did feel this was quite strong. However after showering and drying the aroma of berries and fruit was still apparent but not very strong and you had to sniff skin closely to smell it and within 30 minutes of showering I could not smell this scent at all.

                    Because of the thin consistency of the Imperial Leather Sublime Shower Cream I tend to use more of this shower cream when showering however I still think that this is a good value product for £1 and my 500ml bottle of this shower cream lasted 6 weeks with showering daily.


                    ***Overall***
                    Although I like the Imperial Leather Sublime Shower Cream and would recommend it to others I probably would not stay loyal to this brand and product and repeatedly buy it. This is however one of my favourite Imperial Leather Shower creams because of the fresh, fruity reviving scent and I would choose it over the other Imperial Leather Shower gels and creams that I have tried.

                    The scent is feminine but very fresh and fruity with a berry type aroma however not so sweet and sickly as strawberry or raspberry shower gels. The scent is very pleasant but my main criticism of this product is after showering and drying this nice fruity scent is not long lasting on the skin and fades after 30 minutes of stepping out of the shower.

                    This is a great shower cream for keeping the skin soft and smooth and after using daily for six weeks I did feel my skin had a lovely soft touch however I do not think it is the most moisturizing of shower gels I have used therefore I would probably not recommend to those with very dry skin.

                    The Sublime Shower Cream is runny in consistency so I did find that I used more shower gel each shower than I would with other brands and I often wasted a lot of this product because it slipped out of my hand. However at £1 for such a large bottle that lasted me six weeks (when used daily) I think this is excellent value.

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                      31.03.2012 09:54
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                      Another essential for a parent's medicine cabinet

                      It's every parent's worst nightmare when your child get sick but as a parent it is very scary and frustrating when you have a young baby or toddler who you know is sick but they can't communicate with you to tell you what is wrong. As a new parent I soon learnt that crying and being unsettled was a big clue as was feeling very hot and feverish. Once you establish something isn't right you then have to use your judgement to deal with it. I often found myself turning to the advice of my own mother and one of her first questions when one of my twin boys felt poorly at 6 months old was "have you tried Calpol". So one of the items Mr Lools and I stocked up on was Calpol Infant Suspension.


                      ***Calpol Infant Suspension***
                      Calpol Infant Suspension is described on the packaging as "Gentle pain and fever relief from 2 months. When your little one is suffering from pain and fever, CALPOL® Infant Suspension can help make him feel better."

                      Basically the product is a paracetomol based liquid suspension which is strawberry flavoured to make it easy for a child to swallow.

                      You can purchase Calpol Infant Suspension in 100ml and 200ml sized bottles and the product is strawberry flavoured. I tend to find the 100ml bottles are most common and most chemists and grocery stores sell Calpol including Lloyds and Numark, Asda, Tesco, Superdrug, Boots, Morrisons and Sainsbury's. A 100ml bottle costs between £2.50 and £4 depending on the retailer. It is slightly more expensive than own brand versions of paracetamol suspension however this is due to the well-known Calpol name.


                      ***Our Experience***
                      Our first experience with Calpol actually came after my boys 8 week old immunisations in which a nurse prescribed my boys Calpol to be given to them that evening to minimise any side effects from the immunisations such as temperature or being unsettled. Once I collected the prescription I noticed that although Calpol Infant Suspension is suitable from 2 months plus it did say not to be given to premature babies or babies under 4kg which my boys were (they were born 4 weeks early and weighed probably around 3kgs). I luckily had a doctor's appointment for myself later that day so asked my doctor about whether I should have been given this for my boys and it was recommended NOT to give them the Calpol therefore I feel this is one of the limitations of Calpol that may not be fully understood and could cause confusion!

                      Once my boys reached the "corrected" age and were within the age limits I did use Calpol. After immunisations I tended to use as I would find my boys both would develop a temperature which my digital thermometer would put in the "hot" category of 38+. With a dose of Calpol before bed I always found that within 30 minutes of giving a dose of Calpol there would be an improvement and the temperature would be lowered back to an acceptable level of 37.

                      I must admit I'm a little cautious giving medicines to my boys and do not give too hastily therefore for teething I did not automatically give Calpol. When my boys cut their bottom two teeth they were unsettled but did not seem in too much pain however when their front top teeth came in (at around 7 months old) I did give a few doses of Calpol for pain relief as they were looking quite distressed. I would definitely say that Calpol gives reasonable pain relief as within 30 minutes of taking Calpol both my boys seemed a lot more settled and less upset from teething pain. I did try Calpol for when their back molars cut in at 18 months old and they were suffering a lot of pain (so much so that they had gone off their food). I would say although this settled them slightly both my boys still did not seem happy and Calpol was not as effective as ibroprofen based suspension was. Therefore for stronger pain relief I would probably not rate Calpol as highly as Nurofen for children.

                      In terms of fever both my boys never had high fevers until they were around 9 months old. For high temperatures and fevers of under 39 degrees Calpol has always worked for us. However one of my boys were particularly poorly at 9 months old and had a temperature of 40 which I was very concerned about. Calpol made no difference and as a result I had to take him to see an emergency doctor who advised to use ibroprofen based suspension rather than Calpol which I feel is more of a "mild" fever reliever.

                      In the box alongside the bottle of Calpol you get a double sided spoon with a 5ml side and a 2.5ml side. From around 18 months my boys both would take Calpol off the spoon and because of the sweet pleasant strawberry flavour they both have no issues taking Calpol. However I feel the spoon is not as practical and easy to administer such a sweet sticky liquid as it is if you use a syringe. I tended to use a syringe when my boys were under 18 months old as I found it easier to use and I also used to find if Calpol spilt on lighter coloured fabrics if it wasn't washed straight away then it would stain or need a stain remover to get out.


                      ***Overall***
                      I would definitely recommend Calpol and would agree that it is one of those "essential" products to have in the medicine cupboard as a potential solution to help deal with children's fever and pain relief. However in my experience I do feel that it has not been as effective with dealing with some of the fevers and viruses that my boys have been suffering from as Nurofen for Children has been. I also feel the same way in terms of pain relief and feel that for the occasions when they were in a lot of pain hen back molars were cutting through my boys did not seem to get as much pain relief when given Calpol.

                      However these were more extreme cases and I have found generally Calpol has been an effective first resort to illnesses my boys have suffered. It also can be alternated with ibroprofen based suspensions. It is worth noting that although the bottle says from 2 months old premature babies or children under 4kg should not be given Calpol. This is something I found there was much confusion about and when my boys were 8 weeks old and given their first immunisations I was told by a nurse they WERE allowed it and then a doctor later told me NOT to give them it because they were under the 4kg mark!

                      The strawberry flavour makes it very easy to take and as babies and toddlers my boys both have taken Calpol without fuss.

                      Recommended!

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                      30.03.2012 09:23
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                      An essential fever reliever for every parents medicine cabinet.

                      In terms of illness I count myself very lucky that my twin boys as young babies never really got ill. We had a few high temperatures after their immunisations which we used a paracetamol based suspension to address however there was never much need for us to buy children's medicines as they both didn't seem to pick up viruses until around 9 months old. We then were hit with a pretty nasty virus and Nurofen for children was suggested and I have tended to use for other illnesses since.


                      ***Nurofen for Children***
                      The description on the packaging is "Nurofen for Children is an effective and fast-working treatment for fever reduction. In fact, nothing will relieve your child's fever faster or for longer than Nurofen for Children."

                      This is an ibroprofen based supsension in liquid form which is suitable for children aged 6 months and over (and over 5kgs).

                      The product claims to relieve fever for up to 8 hours and treats pain within 15 minutes of administering.

                      Nurofen for children comes in two different flavours orange or strawberry and both flavours are sugar and colour free.

                      Nurofen for children is sold by most grocery retailers and chemists and can be bought off the shelf rather than being kept behind the counter. It is sold in most pharmacies I have been in including Lloyds and Numark. It is also sold in Asda, Tesco, Superdrug, Boots, Morrisons and Sainsbury's. A 100ml bottle costs between £2.50 and £4 depending on the retailer. It is slightly more expensive than own brand versions of ibroprofen suspension however this is due to being branded as Nurofen.


                      ***Our Experience***
                      I must admit when it comes to giving my boys medication I'm a little on the cautious side and a sleepless night doesn't mean that I'm going to reach for painkillers as "there is something wrong". Because I spend most of my time I tend to see signs of genuine illness appearing and so react to high temperatures quite quickly with other methods before I resort to using drugs but in a some cases I have had to reach for some form of children's liquid medication whether that being paracetamol or ibroprofen based.

                      Initially I tended to use Calpol just because my mum had suggested it but when I took one of my sons at 9 months old to the walk in centre at midnight with a virus the doctor on duty advised me to switch to use Nurofen as this is much more effective at lowering temperatures and can also be used and alternated with paracetamol based products.

                      From this first occasion I would definitely agree that for more severe fevers Nurofen for Children worked much more effectively than Calpol. On this particular occasion one of my sons had a temperature of almost 40 and was quite unsettled. Obviously very concerned we had gone through all of the usual methods of cold drinks, stripping off and a luke warm bath and given Calpol which had only brough his temperature down to just over 39 degrees. So after being sent by NHS direct to a walk in clinic at the hospital the doctor quickly prescribed me a bottle of Nurofen for children. Once we got him home and gave him Nurofen within 30 minutes his temperature was down to 38 and he was a lot more settled. After an hour it as just under 38 so this was definitely a product that worked. I was also told by the same doctor that as this as an ibroprofen based suspension it could be alternated with Calpol (a paracetamol based suspension) after 4 hours rather than wait 6 hours to give the next dose of Nurofen (which can only be given every 6 hours). Because my son had such a high temperature over a 12 hour period this worked very well for us as with a temperature heading towards 40 I was told it could have potentially led to seizures. Thankfully this was only a 24 hour virus but we did have to go through the same thing with my other son a few nights later as the virus had been passed on.

                      What I like about Nurofen as a parent was it was very easy to administer because it came with a syringe which is loaded in the top of the bottle and then has clear markings on. The side of the Nurofen bottle states the required dosage based on a child's age and weight. For most parents this is not a concern but as my boys are very small for their age I have always been told to use the weight guidance rather than age category.

                      My boys take this medicine very well and the sweet flavoured liquid seems to make this a very easy medicine for them to swallow. I would say however that my boys much prefer the strawberry flavour as with the orange flavour they seem to gag or cough slightly and always ask for a drink. After trying the orange flavour myself I would say the sweet liquid does catch in the back of your throat slightly and make it feel a bit dry. There has been only one occasion in which one of my sons refused to take medicine and I must say like most other children's medicine, Nurofen for children can create a sticky mess if spilt. I did find using the syringe made it easier and a lot less messy to give to a child that thrashed about in resistance but it is worth having a damp cloth handy to ensure you can mop up any sticky spillages.

                      Over the last year or so there have been a number of occasions which I have had to use Nurofen for children as my sons have been poorly or suffered temperatures and on each of these occasions when their temperatures have been heading towards the high 38 or 39 degrees Nurofen has brought it back down to nearer 37. I have generally never had to give more than 3 doses in succession therefore if you do need to give your child this longer than a 24 hour period it is worth seeking medical advice.

                      I tend not to give Nurofen every time my boys are teething for pain relief however when their back molar cut through at around 18 months they did become very distressed and needed pain relief. Their temperatures were slightly higher and we even found they started refusing food so I gave a few small doses. I would say that Nurofen worked much better than Calpol (as I tried both products) and their temperatures dropped back to an acceptable level and they actually ate rather than refused food and generally seemed much happier children despite being in pain.


                      ***Overall***
                      I would definitely recommend Nurofen for children to other parents and feel it is one of those "essential items" to have in the medicine cupboard as fevers and viruses are inevitable for young children. I do have quite strong personal beliefs about giving children medicine too hastily when they seem unsettled so do administer carefully however for the times when my boys have been suffering quite nasty viruses and their temperature has been extremely high, Nurofen for children has been one of the only things that have brought the temperature down.

                      The Ibroprofen suspension is very easy to administer and measure the correct dose due to the syringe that comes in each pack and once the drug is administered it is fast working and I have even seen my boys' temperature drop by 2 degrees within 30 minutes of giving them this medicine.

                      Nurofen for children is easy to administer because of its sweet flavour although if your child resists taking it can cause quite a sticky mess. I also find that my boys' tend to take the strawberry flavoured one better as for some reason the orange flavour makes them gag and need a drink.

                      An essential product for all parents of children and toddlers.

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                        29.03.2012 08:42
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                        An interactive bright ABC book for young children

                        Since they were around 9 months old I have loved reading with my twin boys and they have from a young age loved books. Their book collection is large however with most the early books that I bought for them I tended to go for the more interactive books with textured sections for my boys to touch. One of these early purchases was the Usbourne Touchy Feely ABC by Fiona Watt.

                        The book is described to be a "delightful ABC book with textured letters and illustrations to help children learn the alphabet.

                        The Touchy Feely ABC is basically a bright and colourful book about 25cm by 25cm square and around 4-5cm thick. The alphabet is spelt out over around 8 double pages and each letter has a different texture for a child to feel as well as a word and picture that is "touchy feely" with some form of texture to it. Each of the double pages has a tab at the top which clearly shows what letters are contained on this page so children (and parents) can skip to the favourite pages easily.

                        The cover price of this book is £9.99 which although I feel this is a lovely book and very well made and robust at £10 this is quite an expensive book. The Usbourne Touchy Feely ABC is sold in Waterstones, ELC and Mothercare for £9.99 and in my inexperienced state of book buying I purchased this book from ELC during a 3 for 2 offer on books. However after browsing different stores and websites Asda and Tesco sell this book for around £6-7. Amazon also sell this title for £6 which I feel is very good value.

                        The Touchy Feely ABC has no real story to it. It is just a book that spells out the alphabet and has a collection of words and pictures on each of the pages. The front cover is really bright and attractive and I feel is what sold this book to me as it stood out on the shelf next to the other children's books. The cover is mainly yellow with a simple friendly looking zebra on the front and an image of a tree and a son. The cover is slightly smaller than the back board of the book so that the tags around the top edge and right hand side edge do not protrude. There are 4 tabs on the top of the book and 4 tabs on the right hand side of the book so you can easily skip to certain letters and pages. We tend not to do so however I think that this is a nice touch especially for older toddlers and children.

                        On each of the double pages there are 3-4 different letters therefore 3-4 different words and textured illustrations. What I really like about this ABC book are the words for the particular letters are quite basic and common words that a child will use for example A is for apple (and there is a picture of a shiny apple and B is for B and there is a furry bee picture next to the word). Some other ABC books we have seem to illustrate random words that I feel a child will not use or be able to recognise from everyday life but this is not the case for Touchy Feely ABC. Although there are 3-4 images on each of the pages I do not feel the page looks cramped or overcrowded. The textured sections do vary and although each of the images included some form of texture there is usually one letter from each page that is the focal point and has the most texture or appeal however all of the images are bright clear and easy even for a young toddler to recognise what they are.

                        Obviously as this is not a story book it is more educational than entertaining but my boys found this entertaining both as babies and as toddlers. I started reading this book to my boys at around 9 months old. I would say the word and initially run their hand over the textured sections on the page. However within a matter of weeks they understood and remembered that the pages of this book were textured and would reach out and touch the pages on their own. This would cause a lot of delight and giggles and thy particularly liked the fluffy sections on the owl and on the zebras tail.

                        I do feel that this book has a lot of developmental and educational benefits. On a basic level it is a book that encourages a child to explore with their hands and offers touch and visual stimulation because of the bright colours and textures. For older babies and toddlers it introduces words and gets them to recognise different objects and encourages speech development. From around 15-16 months I would say a word and ask my boys to point at that object on the page. As they got older and nearer 18-20 months they would copy the word I was saying so I do feel this book helped to add words to their vocabulary. Now at 2 years old they still enjoy reading this book and they can the most of the words in this book and also make sounds for different animals or say where we can find certain objects (for example if you ask them where the apple is they will say "fruit bowl").

                        Although I did feel paying £9.99 was a lot for this book I have been really impressed with the durability of this book and after over 1 year of regular reading including my boys reading it on their own it is still in almost as new condition. The pages are made from hard cardboard so this is essentially a board book and the pages cannot be bent and neither can the tabs along the top of the book. Even though the touchy feely sections on each of the pages have been touched over and over by my boys they have suffered no wear and tear. The fluffy sections on some of the pages do not look matted or tatty and even when pulled hard bits of fluff do not come loose.

                        I would definitely recommend this book to other parents of children under the age of 2-2 and a half. Even though it does seem quite an expensive book it is very robust and after over a year of regular reading from my boys who play roughly this book still looks as new so it has been worth the £9.99 cover price, although I would recommend shopping around to get it cheaper. I think this is not only a very educational book it is also very entertaining because of the bright coloured pages, illustrations and textured sections so great for even young babies. My only criticism if any is that because it is quite a large (heavy) book it maybe robust but for young children if they pull it off a bookshelf onto themselves it can cause some tears! But a purchase that I definitely wouldn't cry about!

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                        28.03.2012 08:32
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                        A maternity towel that I would not recommend from Asda

                        ***As a pre warning my review is about a "feminine" product and discusses the delights of giving birth, I've tried to keep it as non-graphic as possible however some may find uncomfortable reading***

                        I had my twin boys 4 weeks early and because I had a "planned induction" I knew I would be kept in hospital longer than the usual 24 hours for natural births at our local hospital. It was initially discussed that I would spend around 5-7 days in hospital post birth and as much I packed a huge bag to take to hospital with essentials for me and two babies, I could not take everything I needed. Because of this I had to depend on Mr Lools to bring in additional supplies which included maternity pads. Trusted with going shopping for more he purchased the Asda Little Angel Maternity Towels.


                        *** Asda Little Angel Maternity Towels***
                        The description on the pack of these maternity towels are "have been specially designed for use after childbirth, the soft materials ensure comfort and the contour channels ensure protection from leaks in the days after the arrival of your little angel."

                        The Little Angels Maternity Towels look like any other brand of maternity towels do. A thick white pad around 30cm long and 8cm wide and 2.5cm thick. On the reverse side of the towel is a peel off section covering the adhesive strip to keep in place on underwear. Maternity Towels and pads are advised to use following giving birth over other feminine hygiene products because they have been designed especially to cope with absorbing the heavy blood lost post giving birth.

                        The Little Angels Maternity Towels have on the packaging that they were the winners of the Mother & Baby Awards 2008/2009 Retailer of the Year gold award winner for 2 years running Soft and absorbent Comfortable protection Maternity towels.

                        The Little Angel Maternity Towels are available from Asda stores and from Asda.com and cost 98p per pack of 10. This price is average and the same as other brands of maternity towels so is very reasonable. However it is worth noting that although these are inexpensive especially in the first few days you go through a lot of these and will need at least 2 packs of these in your hospital bag for a standard hospital stay; more if you are required to stay in hospital longer.


                        ***My Experience***
                        Prior to using the Asda Little Angel Maternity Towels I had been using Boots Maternity Towels. Although I would not have described wearing the Boots Maternity towels to be the most comfortable experience I did find that the actual maternity towel could not have been better it was the actual giving birth experience that was giving me the discomfort.

                        Post birth I would have described myself to be quite understandably feeling delicate "down there" however on reflection I could have been a lot less fortunate when having a natural birth and delivering two babies. I escaped with what is known medically as "grazes" and had no tears, I didn't needing cutting (!!) and I had no stitches so I was not in as much pain as some of my other friends after to giving birth. However walking and sitting down still had to be done slowly in the first week or so. In the first few days I had enough maternity pads in my hospital bag so had been using a different brand of maternity towel in the most painful and sore few days. However as my hospital stay was quite long Mr Lools brought in more maternity towels which were the Asda Little Angel brand.

                        Looks wise these were almost identical to the Boots products I had been using. The Little Angel Maternity Towels come in a sealed plastic wrapper and are not individually wrapped so you simply take a pad out of the pack feel off the adhesive wrapper and use. Like all other maternity pads because they are so thick the pack is very bulky so does take up a considerable amount of space in a hospital bag.

                        I first used the Little Angel Maternity Towels about 2-3 days after giving birth and I was not very impressed. The actual pad was a lot less comfortable than the Boots Maternity Pads I had previously been using. I felt the actual pad did not feel as soft and cushioned and when moving around it rubbed because it felt stiffer and less flexible. With being in hospital I did not do much walking however walking to and from the meal rooms when wearing the Little Angels Maternity Towels was quite uncomfortable and I felt very sore after, which I did not encounter with the softer Boots products. A few other friends who had A LOT more pain after giving birth also actually commented they could not use these products at all.

                        Like other brands of maternity towels the Asda Little Angels products are thick and quite bulky to wear giving the feeling of having a brick between your legs. Not so much an issue when you are in hospital surrounded by other women also wearing pyjamas and who have also gone through giving birth but when back into the real world I must admit you feel more self-conscious. I did feel that these maternity towels from Asda were more noticeable than the other brands I used because they lacked as much flexibility and was one of the many reasons I did not continue to use these and sent Mr Lools out for more of the Boots products.

                        Absorbency wise the Little Angel Maternity Towels were very good and coped with the heavy blood loss post birth no better or worse than other brands I used. Post birth blood loss will vary on the individual but I found that I needed to change after about 2 hours on the times I used these.


                        ***Overall***
                        Giving birth is never going to be a comfortable experience and some pain and discomfort after is to be expected. However I would not recommend the Little Angel Maternity Towels because in my experience they added to my discomfort. The towels look the same as other maternity towels and at 98p for a pack of 10 are around the same price. Absorbency wise I did not have any issues with these towels and would say they were as good as the other brands I used.

                        My issue with the Little Angel Maternity Towels was how uncomfortable I found them to wear. I did find them bulky in the same way other maternity towels are but I also found that these Asda towels rubbed as I walked and sat down and did not feel as flexible. I felt very delicate but I imagine if I had suffered a more traumatic birth this would have been much more of an issue and would have really made me uncomfortable.

                        Not a product I will be putting in my hospital bag again!

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