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sandemp

sandemp
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Member since: 07.12.2004

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    • Tesco Playballs / Outdoor Toy / 5 Readings / 5 Ratings
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      21.07.2015 01:25
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      Advantages

      • "Zip up storage bag"
      • "Bright colours"
      • "Good quality"

      Disadvantages

      • "Bag not so great"
      • "Get everywhere"

      Probably The Best Value Play Balls Around

      In our time we must have had at least one bag of every major brand of play ball. The latest to join the collection were these from Tesco, costing around the £5 mark for 100 lightweight, plastic balls. Held in a rather flimsy, zip-up, mesh bag, these balls are designed to be used in conjunction with a ball pit, but we use them in a cheap blow up paddling pool. A single bag of these balls isn't going to cut the mustard with any ball pit, you'll need at least two and possibly three bags to fill even a small ball pit.

      The balls themselves are smaller than many on the market, not my much but enough to be noticeable when they are together in a ball-pit But it's a case of swings and roundabouts, they may be smaller but they are also made of much thicker plastic and considerably more durable. Yes they will squash, but it takes a lot more effort than, say, the balls from Asda. It's easy enough to rectify smaller dents but there's no coming back from stood on, flat as a pancake, so expect to lose a few regularly.

      There appears to be two colour schemes, a pink based for those that like that sort of thing and bright, primary colours for the rest of us. I haven't counted them (nor do I intend to) but there is a good mix of red, blue, yellow and green. As with other brands, the zip up bag is a nice touch, it's great to be able to store the balls when not in use. But the zip is a little flimsy and the mesh a little thin, so it doesn't last too long.

      As well as being fun in a ball pit, whether made for purpose or from a re-purposed paddling pool (I paid £1 in the Pound shop), these balls are great fun in the paddling pool where they float on the water's surface. Just be careful of the wind, they are very light so could be blown in to neighbouring gardens.

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    • Lush Ultrabalm / Skin Care / 8 Readings / 8 Ratings
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      19.07.2015 21:32
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      Advantages

      • animal-friendly
      • versatile
      • Natural

      Disadvantages

      • "No travel size"

      Ultra Versatile Ultrabalm


      For many years I had used petroleum jelly for a multitude of uses, from lip balm to soothing cracked heels, but over the last few years I've been trying to use more natural products, ones that don't rely on the oil industry and Lush Ultrabalm is definitely my go to product.

      When dying my hair, instead of rubbing petroleum jelly around the hairline to prevent the dye (henna) from staining my skin, I use Ultrabalm. The results are just as good as the gloopier jelly, but not only does it feel and smell nicer, but it is also easier to remove.

      Lips suffering the effects of the cold, wind or too much sun, gently rub your finger over the surface of the Ultrabalm and there's plenty to moisturise your lips and while not as pleasant as some lip balms it's a lot more pleasant than the ones from Vaseline

      Spending much of my life barefoot, the skin on the soles of my feet is particularly dry and yes it does occasionally crack. Add psoriasis in to this mix and the doctor prescribes me a particularly unpleasant intensive moisturiser, that I rarely use. Instead I use Ultrabalm, needing the tiniest amount to cover my feet, I then put socks on and leave it overnight. I won't say the dry skin vanishes, but it does soothe and soften the skin. I also use this on other patches of dry skin, my knees, elbows and the patches of psoriasis behind my ears. Not a miracle cure by any means by at least as good as anything bar steroids my GP can prescribe.

      As Ultrabalm only contains Jojoba Oil, Candelilia Wax and Rose wax rather than any nasty skin irritants or chemicals, I also use it on the rest of the family, in much the same way as I would petroleum jelly or an intensive moisturiser It's brilliant on my five year old son's eczema, helping soothe the itchiness and keeping his skin moisturised. It's also brilliant as a nappy cream, really good in fact, not only soothing but also creating a barrier against the pee and poop. Even better it is completely cloth nappy safe unlike most nappy barrier creams. I find if I use this at the very first sign of a slightly red bum, by the next nappy change it's done it's magic and the redness has vanished. Even with repeated uses, it hasn't affected the absorbency of the cloth nappies either.

      Even with all these different uses a tin of Ultrabalm seems to last forever, I've had my current tin for around three months and at a guess I've used a quarter of the tin.

      Although expensive, Ultrabalm is a fantastic, all-purpose balm and moisturiser. Gentle, yet hard-working it is one of a very few products that I simply could not do with out. So I've no hesitation in recommending it whether you need a lip balm, intensive moisturiser or even cloth safe nappy cream.

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      15.07.2015 09:58
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      Advantages

      • "Soothes sore teeth"
      • "Very durable"
      • "Lot's of textures"

      Disadvantages

      • "Not the exciting"

      Great teether, better twiddle toy

      To be perfectly honest I can't remember when the Nuby Bug a Loop teething ring arrived in the Sandemp house, or even how much it cost. It must have been around the time twenty month old Jake started teething in earnest, so probably around a year ago, and I can't imagine I paid much more than £5.

      Formed of various beads, this teething ring is slightly large than most and a little different being almost bracelet in shape, only much bigger. It's probably a little big for a three month old to handle, but a six month should have no problems.

      The many beads feature various shapes, sizes, textures and materials, which are designed to soothe baby's sore gums. There are no special water/liquid filled beads, but sticking it in the fridge overnight does get it cold enough to provide a little extra soothing power. Among the textured rubber beads there are some very cute little bugs, there's a bee, dragonfly, ladybird and butterfly. Made of hard plastic, these bugs feature wings and legs that add extra texture and interest.

      Threaded on a double length of cord with a hidden knot, any worries that the cord may break and the beads become a choking hazard have proved to just be worries and not fact. Even with very rough use and repeated chewing the cord hasn't shown any sign of fraying or breaking. That's not to say the beads don't show signs of wear and tear, because they most certainly do. There is not a bead on the ring that doesn't have a least one tooth mark, I may not know when the ring arrived but I do know that there have been times when it was the only teether that soothed Jake's tender gums.

      But it's not just been used as a teether, now Jake is twenty months old his emerging teeth don't hurt him quite so much so he doesn't often chew on the beads (he does still occasionally, but go figure). Instead he now uses it as a twiddle toy, something to keep has hands busy (and off my nipple) while breastfeeding. The different textures and the way the beads, especially the bugs, spin on the cord make this idea as a twiddle toy.

      While obviously not for every child, the Nuby Bug a Loop teether has been a godsend for us, both as a teether to sooth sore gums and lately as a toy to keep little fingers busy during nursing.

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    • More +
      13.07.2015 21:31
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      Advantages

      • "Little goes a long way"
      • Soothing
      • "Smells great"

      Disadvantages

      • Price

      Beautifully Soothing Honey Shampoo

      Fairly Traded Honey is supplied in a clear, plastic bottle with a black plastic, flip top lid. The environmentally concious part of me is pleased to know that not only is recycled plastic used to make the bottles, but that the bottle itself can be recycled with the rest of my plastic and the lid can be returned to a Lush shop for recycling. There is no fancy labelling on the bottle, just the trademark black and white label that Lush is famous for. Containing all the information you might need to know about the shampoo, I rather like the simplicity of this label, especially when combined with the little green sticker telling me who made, when they made it and when I should use it by (it has a fourteen month shelf life).

      As soon as I pour this in to my hand it's obvious that the main ingredient is Fair Trade Honey, not only does it look very much like runny honey in colour and consistency, but it feels slightly sticky and there is a sweetness to the scent that blends beautifully with florals from the plants the bees may have visited. While I find it hard to identify all of the floral elements, to my nose Rose is very evident alone with the honey. I love the scent of honey and adore the scent of rose, so I love the scent of this shampoo, but if you don't like either of those elements then it's unlikely you'll like this.

      I'm not going to insult your intelligence by telling you how to wash your hair, but suffice to say you use this in the same way as any other shampoo. I find that with Fairly Traded Honey, less is definitely more and that with my short hair I only need a very small dollop to create a thick, luxurious, soothing lather. Even when my hair was longer, I could get away with using far less of this shampoo than other brands. As well as lathering easily Fairly Traded Honey rinses out easily, with the sweet combination of honey and florals intensifying as they mix with the hot water. As my scalp can be so easily affected I don't generally use a conditioner, and anyway why would I want to distract from the gorgeous scent.

      Once my hair dries it is wonderfully clean, silky soft and delicately scented, with the scent still being evident the next morning. I always find that my scalp feels a lot calmer and soothed after using this shampoo, possibly because of the honey itself, which is soothing with antibacterial properties. In fact, if I'm having a particularly bad flare up of psoriasis then this is my first line of treatment. Due to how little I use at a time, a small bottle of this shampoo lasts me over a month, washing my hair every other day and longer when rotated with other shampoos.

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    • Johnson's Baby Shampoo / Hair Care / 7 Readings / 7 Ratings
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      11.07.2015 20:09
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      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "The smell"

      Disadvantages

      • "Allergic Reaction"
      • "The Chemicals"
      • "Too runny"

      Not as gentle as they want you to believe

      Johnson's Baby Shampoo, you'd think it's one of the gentlest shampoos on the market, wouldn't you? After all they make it for the most delicate of skins, for brand new hair on our brand new babies. It even says “no more tears” on the bottle, it wouldn't say that if it wasn't gentle would it?

      Well there was a time when I was a sucker for Johnson's Baby products, the scent alone screams Baby and I used to love nuzzling in to my baby's freshly washed hair. Then I read the ingredient list, have you ever read the ingredient list on a bottle of Johnson's Baby Shampoo? It's scary reading, with lots of chemicals, it may be Paraben and soap free, but we still have Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), a known irritant in the mix along with the unquantifiable parfum.

      When pregnant with Freddy I made the concious decision to avoid chemicals such as SLS and so avoided Johnson's Baby Shampoo, but Nanna was so excited at the imminent arrival of her first grandchild, had built up a hamper of baby products, almost exclusively from Johnson's including this shampoo.

      Eventually there came a time when there was no other baby shampoo open and Daddy decided to try the Johnson's on the then ten month old Freddy, big mistake. Johnson's Baby Shampoo is a very runny, golden liquid, that is easily dispensed through the flip top lid. In fact it runs too freely, I would always recommend pouring this in to your hand and then work it through the hair as it's all too easy to pour at least twice as much as needed. Once in the hair it foams readily, forming numerous tiny, tight knit bubbles on baby's scalp and it rinses out quite easily too, as long as you don't use too much. I'm not 100% sure on the “no more tears” claim, that's a claim they've been making for well over twenty years, and six children on and I still refuse to pour it in their eyes, just to see if they cry. Anyway it's always being water getting in my eyes that's stung, let alone shampoo.

      After drying Freddy's hair was clean, silky soft and delightfully scented with the scent of baby. But his scalp started to look a little pink, then a little pinker, then the rash started developing and before I knew it Freddy was in the middle of an eczema flare-up. Needless to say that was the last time that we used Johnson's Baby Shampoo on Freddy, well it was a long time until we tried it again. The rest of that bottle was used by the adults, and it was OK, nothing special, certainly not luxurious, but better than nothing.

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    • Asda 100 Ball Pool Balls / Baby Toy / 4 Readings / 4 Ratings
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      09.07.2015 19:57
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      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "Bag to hold them"

      Disadvantages

      • "Bag not brilliant"
      • "Very thin plastic"

      Asda Play Balls : Cheap and They'll Know It

      Bought for around the £5 mark the Asda Play Balls are supplied in a zip up net bag, which contains 100 multi coloured balls. On the face of it this seems like great value, but really it's not that great. For a start 100 balls barely covers the bottom of most ball pits, including the Asda Ball Pit we bought at the same time. If you want enough balls for it to be worthwhile then you need at least two and possibly three bags.

      The bag the balls are supplied in is reasonable enough, it's handy to have somewhere to store the balls when not in use. But (and this is a big but), it's nowhere nearly as durable as it could be, the netting is a little thin and can be ripped by enthusiastic little fingers that are desperate to get at the balls Mummy has just put away. The zip is also a little flimsy, it's fine when used by a careful adult but add a toddler or young child in to the mix and it soon starts to malfunction.

      On to the balls themselves, they are a good range of colours, slightly muted but red, yellow, pink and blue, with a fairly even mix between the colours. They are also fairly large as far as play-balls go, slightly larger than their Tesco counterparts. But the plastic they are made from is very thin, thin enough that it is almost transparent, very much thinner than the Tesco version. They are also overly squashy, it doesn't take much for them to be squashed flat as a pancake and it's almost impossible to reshape them.

      To be honest I really can't recommend these play balls, there are far better quality balls available for around the same price elsewhere. So I would suggest giving these a miss unless you really have no other choice.

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    • Toucan Box / Online Shop / 5 Readings / 5 Ratings
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      08.07.2015 18:23
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      Advantages

      • "Everything you need in the box"
      • "Fun crafts"
      • "Great value"

      Disadvantages

      • "only one subscription per email address"

      Toucan have fun (With A Toucan Box)

      Whether you are just starting out with crafts with the children or have a craft box filled to bursting, Toucan Box is a brilliant subscription service that will soon be filling your (and all your relatives) houses with beautiful works of art in both painting and sculpture form. While your child is having fun creating they are also learning, whether it is about under the sea or what happens when inks separate in damp filter paper (I never thought I'd be teaching a five year old about chromatography).

      The choice of three box sizes containing one, two or three crafts means there's something for every pocket and with the choice of paying by PayPal it couldn't be easier to set up a running subscription. If you prefer fixed term, there are various options for this also available along with single, one off boxes.

      With everything you need for each craft within the box there's no need to hunt out materials and it's really nice to be able to just open the box and get on with it. We also find the supplied crafts are just the beginning and we are often inspired to search online or create our own crafts on the same theme.

      If you have a child aged from around two (with lots of help) onwards, I can't recommend Toucan Box enough and would suggest that if possible you go for the Grande or Super box if you can as the addition of the book is a really nice touch. Saying that the Petite is possibly better if your child gets very excited at the idea of receiving post in their name. Either way my only real issue is that it's not currently possible to run two (or more) subscriptions from the same address.

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    • More +
      08.02.2014 11:32
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      A great toy for a baby who has just learnt to grasp

      At three months old Baby JJ is just starting to discover how exciting toys can be and with his wonderful new skills of grabbing hold and picking toys up he is already able to show his preference for certain toys. The Lamaze Bend and Squeak Penguin is a toy that I purposely bought as he entered this new stage and luckily enough appears to have quickly become a favourite. Costing around the £5 mark, I bought this from Kiddicare to bring my order over the free delivery threshold, meaning that technically speaking it cost me a matter of pennies, but it is also available from Amazon for a ridiculous £10.99 on Prime or £5.00 (+£2.99 p&p) from another seller.

      Unlike many rattles aimed at babies who are just developing their grasping skills, this penguin is made of completely soft materials, meaning that he doesn't cause tears if Baby JJ accidentally drops him on his head. The penguin's head is made of beautifully soft plush material with large, expressive eyes that are embroidered rather than being made of buttons. The penguin's beak is made of a silky material as are the two wings (that also feature crinkly material). The head and wings sit on a cylindrical base, made of yet another material, this time featuring a pattern of various shades of blue. This base also hides a squeaker that is very easy to activate and quite loud. Unlike the majority of Lamaze toys, this penguin is actually machine washable and even more surprisingly can be tumble dried on a low heat.

      Baby JJ absolutely adores this penguin and will actively attempt to move to reach it, which makes it a great toy for tummy time. His eye really does seem to be drawn to the penguin's face, whether that be due to the high contrast black and white or the expressive eyes. Being extremely light the penguin is easy for Baby JJ to lift and the base is the perfect size for Baby JJ's little hands to grab hold of. Baby JJ particularly likes to chew on the Penguin's beak and wings, I think he finds the texture quite soothing on his tender, teething gums. The squeaker takes very little effort to activate, Baby JJ can manage it at just three months old, simply by shaking the penguin, which leads to bouts of giggles.

      All in all the Lamaze Bend and Squeak Penguin is a brilliant little toy for any baby with an emergent grasp. Being fairly small and lightweight it is easy for even a three month old to hold and being soft it will not cause damage or hurt if swung around. The plush head is wonderfully cuddly, with the material itself being super soft to the touch and just the right amount of stuffing. The silky beak and wings add another texture for baby to explore with their hands and mouth, while the squeak gives baby an instant reward. Even babies who are unable to hold the penguin will enjoy looking at the contrasting black and white colouring or big expressive eyes and be thrilled by the squeak (although you might want to squeak quite gently with a very young baby as it is loud). Baby JJ adores his penguin and he has this to say on the matter, "Ooooh, eeee, gooo. Ahhh", which roughly translates to "penguin good, buy one now".

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      • Cheeky Wipes / Nappies & Wipes / 44 Readings / 42 Ratings
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        31.01.2014 14:17
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        So much better for baby's bum, the environment and your purse

        While I had always planned to use reusable, cloth nappies with Baby JJ, I hadn't even considered which wipes I would use until I actually put the cloth into action. It only took a couple of changes for me to realise that the combination of cloth nappy and disposable wipe isn't exactly a match made in heaven. In fact when using cloth nappies, the previously ever so convenient disposable wipes become ever so inconvenient and actually add an extra step in the changing process as they need to be disposed of in the bin. After trialling some bamboo flannels and finding that although they were better than disposable wipes they still weren't perfect I spent some time researching and decided to purchase the Cheeky Wipes Full Kit from Amazon for £36.99 (+£4.04 delivery). Although £40+ does sound a rather large investment, this kit does contain everything you need to start using cloth wipes both at home and out and about. With two children in nappies and going through up to a pack of disposable wipes a day (on a bad day with lots of poops from the pair of them) I knew I could expect to recoup my initial outlay within two months.

        My starter kit arrived packed in a cardboard box and contained two plastic boxes (each with a hinged, "lockable" lid), a mesh bag, two waterproof, drawstring bags, two bottles of oil and twenty-five white, cotton, terry bum wipes along with an instruction leaflet (that has long since disappeared). The first thing I did was put the wipes through three wash cycles to remove any residue and up absorbency, I'm not sure if the instructions said to do this, but it's how I deal with new nappies so I did the same with these. While the wipes were washing I took a look at the boxes and oils, preparing them for use. Preparing the Fresh wipe box is really easy, it simply is a case of adding water to the fill line then adding a few drops of the Fresh Oil. The Fresh Oil included in my kit is 10mls of Lavender and Chamomile, which has a fairly pleasant scent and is amusingly coloured blue. I've been using these wipes for two months now with many, many changes of water/oil and have barely touched the oil, I would imagine it will last at least 6 months.

        Once the wipes have been washed, they simply need to be put in a neatish pile before dunking in the fresh box and turned several times so that the fragranced water can make it's way to each and every wipe. The Mucky box requires similar preparation in as far as you fill it with water to the line and then add a few drops of oil. This time the oil is titled Mucky Oil and is a blend of Lemon and Tea Tree, I really can't say that I like this blend, because I quite simply don't, personally I think it smells a little like toilet cleaner, but I suppose it would hide the aroma of poop. To make transfer of dirty wipes to the washing machine easier a net bag is supplied that should, in theory, be strategically hung inside the box. The only trouble is I couldn't manage it despite trying for about ten minutes and then realised that I didn't actually need this box anyway as I would be chucking used wipes into the pail with the dirty nappies. The two bags supplied are formed of a fairly thick plastic and the fresh wipe bag can easily hold fifteen wipes. Being drawstring they are not completely waterproof and if you put dripping wet wipes into them then water will leak so it's best to squeeze excess liquid from the wipes.

        I've been using these wipes for just over two months now, so I think I have enough experience to be able to give a good idea of the positives, negatives and realities of using them.

        My impressions of the two boxes were that they are very big and this is something that I still feel. While I know that they need to be able to house the wipes themselves, I feel that they are rather bulky and have found that there is more than enough room for me to use the boxes with another brand of wipe that are twice the size. The lids are easy to open with one hand and then click shut with a one-handed push, but my three year can also easily open them. When empty the boxes are pretty light, but after refilling they get pretty heavy, so a little care does need to be taken. So far, after two months of use the boxes are still as good as new, but due to their size and weight they are not the most convenient when being moved from room to room and to be honest a couple Tupperware style boxes would probably do just as good a job.

        The wipes themselves are made from a fairly thick white cotton terry and they are supposed to be 15cm square, I say supposed because mine have either shrunk considerably or were smaller than that new as they are only about 10-12cm square. Either way they are a pretty good size for cleaning a young baby's bottom and do a good job at removing breastfed poop rather than spreading it as a disposable wipe tends to do. They're also pretty good at removing more grown up three year old poop, only taking a couple of wipes to do the job, but I have to admit that I do remove the worst with toilet paper before using the wipes. Personally I would like the material they are made from to be a little thinner to allow me to get into creases a little more effectively, but have to say that it is so nice not to have to worry about my finger making a hole in the wipe and getting covered in poop.

        After use I simply chuck the wipes in my nappy pail along with the used nappy and then wash them with the nappies (which is once a day with two in cloth). Cheeky Wipes state that these can be washed at 60 degrees, but I do have my own routine that involves a preliminary rinse followed by a long 40 degree wash with pre-wash using an Ecoegg. Using this routine the wipes come out of the machine clean with occasional staining which can be removed by hanging them in sunlight. Cheeky Wipes do say that you do not need to dry these between uses, but I prefer to do so, partly because I found 25 wipes were no where nearly enough and lasting less than a day (they might last longer if only used with one bum) and partly because I simply prefer to use all the wipes in the box before refilling and leaving them damp between refills made them smell a little musty. As with the boxes there are cheaper alternatives to these wipes such as making them yourself by cutting up cheap towels or by using mega cheap flannels, but I rather like these wipes as they are a good size and already hemmed.

        Apart from the wipes my favourite parts of this kit are the bags for taking the wipes out and about. I use the fresh wipe bag on a very regular basis and it held enough wipes for a night away from home, keeping them fresh and moist without getting everything else in the changing bag sopping wet. I have to admit that I've only rarely used the mucky wipe bag for it's original purpose, being a full time cloth user I always carry a wet bag for used nappies anyway, but the bag is still in the case of the really epic pooplosions that can come hand in hand with breastfeeding, where baby's clothes end up liberally covered in poop.

        Although Cheeky Wipes mainly use the money saving aspect to sell these wipes, I have to say that I would continue using these even if I wasn't saving money. This is because I hate the idea of nasty chemicals and parabens coming into contact with my children's skin. For years I was sucked in by the big manufacturers' claims about how their wipes were "as gentle as water", it wasn't until I went the cloth route and started actually using water to clean my baby's bum that I realised how harsh even the "gentlest", "purest" wipes are. This is a fact born out by the fact that Daddy used some disposable wipes that had been hidden away for emergencies and Baby JJ's bottom had a red tinge at the next nappy change, we could see that the wipe had irritated his skin. Big Brother has also reaped the benefits of these wipes, he tends to eat non-food items that lead to highly corrosive, rash inducing poop (especially when combined with disposable nappies). Disposable wipes would lead to tears as they very obviously stung (something I can agree with from when I had piles), while these wipes cleaned without causing pain.

        Although being a cloth nappy user I wish I had gone for the mini kit as I don't need the mucky elements, I still can't recommend cloth wipes in general and this Cheeky Wipe kit in particular. The boxes are sturdy and should easily last the time that several babies are in nappies and the wipes themselves are made of a good quality material. Depending on how many and which brand of disposable wipe you currently use this kit could easily pay for itself within three months and then think how much money you will be saving. If the money saving aspect hasn't convinced you then maybe the environmental aspect will. The majority of disposable baby wipes are non-biodegradable meaning that they end up in landfill where it will take centuries for them to decompose. They cannot be flushed down the toilet either, not that that stops people as is born out by the many wipe blockages that have to be removed from sewer pipes. If this still hasn't convinced you, then the most important aspect is how much kinder these wipes are to your baby's bottom, there are no nasty chemicals or "perfumes" for them to react to, you don't even need to add the oil to the water. I know there is an initial yuck factor when using wipes such as these, but once you get over that you realise that there really is no more contact with poop and pee as there would be with disposable wipes (less in fact as there is no chance of them tearing). So what are you waiting for, join the reusable revolution and grab one of these kits now.

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        • Asda George Muslin Squares / Nursing / 44 Readings / 43 Ratings
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          27.01.2014 10:24
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          An absolute must have in any layette

          There's no doubting that Muslin Cloths are an incredibly useful addition to any layette, but the manufacturers seem to have cottoned on to this and they are often vastly over-priced, with some brands coming in at over £10 for half a dozen. Cue the George (Asda) Muslin Cloths, generally available at just £3.50 for three, but currently on offer at the same price for four. This is a brilliant price for such a staple, but are they a bargain or just cheap and nasty?

          While some of the more expensive brands of muslins come in fancy colours these are currently only available in either a pink or blue colour-way, there was a time when one muslin was printed with tiny stars, but this was not the case with my latest packs. Personally speaking, I would have bought the blue packs rather than pink, even if my latest arrival was not a boy, pink really is not my favourite colour. Within the pack of four muslins, there was one white, two pastel blue and one slightly darker blue, all colours that can stand up to a hot wash and not turn my whites a funny colour (a slight hint of blue will actually make whites look whiter).

          The muslins themselves are 100% cotton squares measuring approximately 80cm square (out of the packet). As is standard with muslin these feature quite a loose weave, meaning that they are very lightweight. Out of the packet the muslins are a little hard and scratchy to the touch, they definitely need to be washed before use to both remove the sizing and increase absorbency. The care label states that they can be washed at 40 degrees but, if I'm honest, I've washed them at 60 and even 90 degrees without them suffering any real ill effects. Being made of cotton a little shrinkage is to be expected and at a guess I would say that they've lost than 10% of their total area after many, many washes. The care label also states that the muslins can be dried in a tumble drier at low heat, although this is something that I would only do on very rare occasions as even in winter they dry on an airer overnight or within minutes on a radiator. The only real reason I would recommend using a tumble drier is to soften them up if they're feel a little stiff and scratchy. With very little care these muslins are almost indestructible, the oldest of ours are almost four years old and while the white ones have greyed considerably they still all do the job perfectly.

          And what can these muslin cloths be used for? Well the list is quite extensive, so I'll probably miss a few things out, but here goes.

          One of the original uses of muslin cloths is as nappies and they do make great nappies for newborn babies who do not require a huge amount of absorbency. They can be folded, held in place with a nippa (or nappy pin) and covered with a waterproof wrap or folded and placed in the pocket of a pocket nappy in an emergency. I've not used these actual muslins as nappies, but have used other brands many years ago and can state that they really are only useful in the first couple of weeks, but as they can go in a hot wash it is easy to get the sticky, black, newborn poop out of them.

          In an age of disposable nappies, a far more common use for muslins is as burp cloths. I probably use them for this far more than for anything else as most of my children have suffered from reflux, including my now three month old. I use these cloths to put over my shoulder while burping my little man, or under his chin while he is sitting on my knee. I also use them for mopping up sick and dribble, in fact wherever the baby is you'll find one of these cloths nearby. I also use these cloths to protect the baby's crib sheets, by folding them and placing under his head, this is something I would recommend for all babies, as there's nothing worse than having to totally strip and remake a crib at 2am because baby has posseted. I also use these cloths first thing in the morning during the first breastfeed of the day when I will leak profusely and I find they are brilliant at absorbing the milk. I have to admit that I also used them in the same way during the first week of baby's life when my milk came in and my boobs and nipples were too sensitive to wear a bra.

          While my youngest is a winter baby, Big Brother was a summer babe and it was often too hot to use a conventional blanket to swaddle him, but one of these muslins was ideal. I do realise that swaddling is something of a lost art, but I found these perfect for the first couple of weeks when baby would startle himself awake if not swaddled. Once baby gets beyond the burping and sicking stage the muslins are still useful for mopping up spills and dribble. They can be used in the place of a bib by wrapping over baby's front or as cloths for washing hands and faces. My three month old is teething and he loves to grab hold of one of these cloths and try and put it in his mouth to chew on.

          Even as an adult I find uses for these cloths once they have been retired from baby duties. They are brilliant as part of a face care routine, they can be dunked in hot water, wrung out and then used to remove cleansers while gently exfoliating. Other uses include general cleaning clothes or they can be cut into squares and used as reusable wipes (once they've been well used and got a little grubby).

          As you can tell for us muslin cloths are indispensable and by far the cheapest are these from George. Although we do have a few of another brand the vast majority of our stash of muslins are of the George variety, with some being almost four years old. Although they may not be quite as soft as more expensive brands they do represent excellent value for money and soften up considerably with repeated washing and they are extremely durable. If asked by any parent-to-be I cannot recommend these muslins enough and would suggest that they bought several packs in. My only real issue is that they can be quite hard to get hold of both online and in my local store as they sell out almost as soon as they hit the shelves.

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          • Little Lamb Sized Pocket / Baby Care / 44 Readings / 42 Ratings
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            23.01.2014 15:44
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            Worthy of any stash

            The most expensive of the Little Lamb range, the Sized Pocket Nappies are available in a range of colours and three sizes at a cost of £12 each. I wasn't all that sure whether these nappies would prove to be a good investment, but realising that finding the perfect nappy did involve trying many different types, I originally bought one in Size One to test on the then four week old Baby JJ and was eventually impressed enough to buy a couple more Size One for him, begin to buy in Size Two for later and some Size Three for Big Brother.

            These pocket nappies form a two part system with the actual nappy being formed of a waterproof outer layer and soft inner layer with an opening that allows you to stuff absorbent pads between the two layers in the resultant pocket. The outer material in these nappies is a soft, breathable PUL (polyurethane laminate) formed from a stretchy polyknit bonded with a super thin layer that allows air through to baby's bottom while holding liquid in. The inner layer is formed of seriously soft micro fleece, that not only forms a super soft layer against baby's bottom but also wicks moisture away from the skin and into any boosters held in the pocket. To help provide a good fit each nappy features soft elastic at the back and around the legs and to help prevent leaks the legs are double gusseted. Each pocket nappy is supplied with a bamboo insert which differs vastly from those supplied with the one size pockets. The supplied insert is woven from Oeko-tex certified bamboo and is a sheet that needs folding to form three layers before inserting in the pocket.

            When I ordered the very first of these nappies that I bought, it took me quite a while to choose which colour I wanted. While there are no fancy patterns available there are some gorgeous colours, the majority of which are unisex. Already having many of the one size nappies in my stash I had a good idea what the colours look like in real and can state that the pictures on the Little Lamb website are true to life. In the end I decided on Blue Moon, which is a very pale blue
            that is not available in the one size pockets. On receiving the nappy it did need a little preparation before use, the actual nappy needed the one wash to remove any residue and the insert needed several washes to up absorbency. Little Lamb recommend at least three initial washes for the insert, without any need to dry in between with it taking at least six washes to reach full absorbency (nearer ten in my experience). Once the preparatory washes are over and done with both parts need to be dried before they are put together with the opening between the layers being more than large enough to make stuffing very easy.

            Baby JJ was just four weeks old when I bought the first of these nappies so obviously I bought size one, which has a recommended weight range of 7-20lb. At about 8.5lb Baby JJ was well within the lower limit and so I was hopeful that these would fit just as well as the one size did. Unfortunately the reality was that even when fastening the two rows of poppers up as tight as they would go and attempting various positions with the bottom poppers, I simply could not get a good fit around his long, scrawny, chicken legs. No matter what I tried there were gaps at the top of his legs and the nappy leaked within an hour. Deciding that it was best not to risk a poo explosion, I put the nappy away for a couple of weeks, bringing it back out at around the seven week mark when we had far more success.

            We've been using our first sized pocket for about five weeks now and have been impressed enough to add another three to our stash. I love the fit of these nappies on the now twelve week old Baby JJ, they are a little trimmer than the one size nappies and just don't look quite as bulky. I love the way that I can adjust how I do the two rows of poppers up so that I get a snug fit that has actually proved pretty much leak proof and has even held in a breast fed explosion or two, no doubt helped by the double gusset. I also love how the micro fibre keeps Baby JJ's skin nice and dry, he's not had a nappy rash since being put in cloth instead of disposable nappies. In fact I've been so impressed that I've bought some size three for Big Brother, who is a rather large three and a half year old and too big for the one size nappies.

            Although Big Brother had worn cloth nappies for a while a year ago he had outgrown them and I did not realise that there were nappies available for bigger, older children. Having a developmental delay, he is not yet ready to leave the house without wearing a nappy, but we were finding he was getting nasty rashes (to the point of blistering) from wearing disposables, so these nappies are a godsend. They not only fit him, but there is actually room for growth as we are only doing them up on the second set of poppers. While a little bulkier than a disposable they are still trim enough to wear under his normal trousers and as a bonus they don't sag like a disposable with the first wee. As far as absorbency and containment goes, these are at least as good as a disposable, able to cope with mammoth pees and huge poos without any problem, I even left one on him overnight and there were no leaks. Since ditching the disposables and using these the nappy rash has improved dramatically and Big Brother has started to recognise when he is wet or dirty. The only problem we've encountered is that pre-school will not entertain him using them there and he has to wear pull-ups there.

            Dealing with these when wet or dirty is pretty easy and for the majority of the time no more unpleasant than a disposable, with the added benefit that you don't have poopy nappies hanging around for the week until the next rubbish collection. If simply wet then all that needs to be done is the insert removed from the pocket and both parts put in a lidded pail, with the same being true of breastfed poop (as it dissolves in water). Solid, toddler poop requires a little more effort, the poop needs to be emptied down the toilet and if it's particularly sticky you might need to employ a toilet brush and the flush to get the worst off before the nappy is once more placed in a lidded pail. Once you have enough for a load the nappies are washed in your machine. While Little Lamb recommends that nappies are washed at 30 or 40 degrees with approximately half the usual dose of washing powder, I do have my own routine. I begin with a rinse, which helps reduce the amount of stains setting and loosens any slightly dried poop. I then run a long cotton wash at 40 degrees using an Ecoegg rather than detergent. This routine does a brilliant job at removing almost every sign of staining and if I add a few drops of essential oil to the softener drawer then the nappies also smell gorgeous.

            Drying the nappies is pretty simple, the actual nappies will dry overnight on an airer (although if the sun ever decides to make an appearance drying outside will also bleach out any stains). The inserts take a lot longer to dry, although I do find it's quicker than those supplied with the one size pockets, it still takes a good day to day and a half. This does mean that you have the pockets ready to use waiting on the inserts. The way round this quandary is to buy extra inserts, I've bought double meaning that I always have some available, but you can use other inserts, I've used those from the one size nappies with success.

            Although I do feel these are a touch on the expensive side considering that the one size are only £10 each, I still have to admit that I rather like these nappies. While they did not give a good fit to start with, they provide a snug, secure fit on Baby JJ without being overly bulky. The largest size has also proven a hit with Big Brother, they fit him well and he is happy to wear them. So I can't help but suggest that you given these a try, am giving the Little Lamb Sized Pocket Nappies four stars out of five and am now buying in size two ready for when size one is outgrown.

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            • More +
              20.01.2014 09:56
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              If you use cloth nappies then you'll want to use these

              If you use reusable nappies then, unless the nappy comes with one built-in, you are likely to find yourself using liners. A liner forms a layer between the wet nappy and baby's skin, draws moisture away from the skin (and into the nappy) and make the disposal of poop a lot easier. When I first started using cloth nappies on my then two year, I used the disposable, paper version, but after trying these Little Lamb Fleece Liners in my now ten week old son's nappies I was converted, never to go back to scratchy paper.

              One of these wonderfully soft liners is supplied with each shaped Little Lamb nappy, with spares being available in a pack of ten for just £6. One slight disappointment is that the liners are only available to fit the size one and two Little Lamb nappies and not size three, meaning that I cannot buy exact replacements for my three year old boy's night time nappies, although Little Lamb do say that they are suitable for use with all nappy systems.

              Brand new these liners are fluffy to the extreme and I have to admit that I rather like the sensation of stroking them (when clean of course). Made of a similar material to fleece blankets, these liners are designed to go between the nappy and baby's skin, where being water repellent they draw the moisture away from the skin and into the nappy and/or booster pad. Being made of a synthetic material the liners do not need repeated pre-washing before use, a single wash is enough to remove any residue and prepare these rectangles for use and they come out of the washing machine virtually dry.
              I've been using the size one version of these liners with Baby JJ's two part nappies for about eight weeks now and am very happy with their performance. As they are so soft and fluffy, I am very happy for them to be next to his delicate bottom and they do a great job at keeping his bottom dry. I can't say that these liners are capable of holding all of his poop away from the nappy, but Baby JJ is breastfed and produces some epic, explosive, bright yellow, runny poops and they do manage to contain the majority of it.

              Big Brother wears the size three nappies at night and these came with some much larger versions of these liners. With his far more grown up poop, the liners catch all the poop 99% of the time, with only the occasional leakage. Something I have noticed with Big Brother is that disposable nappies tend to leave him sore to the point of blistering, with this rash being considerably reduced when using cloth nappies with paper liners and virtually eliminated using these liners. If he's given a choice between wearing a disposable, nappy with paper liner or nappy with one of these liners he will choose these every time.

              While I just stick Baby JJ's liners in the nappy bucket no matter if they have poop on or not, I do have to deal with Big Brother's poopy liners in a slightly different manner. Any solids need to be flicked off the liner into the toilet and very occasionally the liner needs to be held in the toilet while flushing before it is placed in the nappy bucket. Either way the liners are then washed with the rest of the nappies (in my case I start with a rinse then give them a 40 degree wash with an Ecoegg). Most of the time the liners have come out of the wash without any staining, but there has been a rare occasion that a yellow (or brown) stain has been left behind. When this happens I simply place the liners on a window sill and the sun does a fantastic job of bleaching them over the course of a day.

              Some of these liners have been used well over twenty times now and while they are still white and fluffy and do a fantastic job, you can tell that they've seen a fair amount of action. Still they are brilliant value, coming in at just 60p a liner, they only need to be used less than 25 times to have made a saving on the Little Lamb Paper Liners (£3.50/100 liners). While I could probably make my own liners by buying a cheap fleece blanket and cutting it into rectangles, I do love how super soft and fluffy these are and so am recommending them to anyone who uses cloth nappies, with my only gripe being that they do not sell the size three separately.

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              • Mothercare Safari Mobile / Baby Toy / 48 Readings / 43 Ratings
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                17.01.2014 11:47
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                A bright cot mobile

                The Mothercare Safari Mobile is a toy that I picked up from my nearest Mothercare when I was in the area and still heavily pregnant with Baby JJ. I have to say that I would not have paid the full asking price of £25,but as it was on sale at half price and knowing that Big Brother's mobile had been retired (the toys were cut off for him to play with), I couldn't help but pick this up being not only attracted to the price but also to it's bright, gender neutral colour scheme.

                As with most cot mobiles this does require minimal assembly, but this is neither strenuous nor rocket science. An instruction leaflet is supplied complete with pretty pictures, but even at eight and a half months pregnant, with the baby fog that entails, I didn't need it, as assembly simply is a case of clicking the armature pieces together, attaching the arm to the cot side and then hanging the music box and mobile. What I particularly like about the screw section that is used to attach the arm to the cot or crib is that it features a shelf that rests on the top bar, meaning that the mobile doesn't slide down between the cot/crib bars. I did find it a little fiddly to hang the music box, it is quite a tight fit, but this means that I can angle the mobile slightly, which is a god send when used in a crib.

                Looks and quality-wise this certainly is a mobile of two halves, the armature is pretty much standard, being formed of the same moulded, white plastic as you would find with virtually any mobile. The music box is similarly bog standard, being white and decorated with a sticker featuring a sun, I have to say that the fact that this sticker is not central does look a little cheap and tacky. As it houses the wind-up mechanism that both plays the tune and rotates the mobile, the music box also features a "key" to wind the mechanism. Personally I find the positioning of the key slightly awkward, but again it's standard for it to be placed at the rear. There is also a sliding switch on the music box which allows you to turn it off, wind it up and then start it off when you're ready.

                While the armature and music box are pretty standard, what sets this mobile apart is the actual mobile, which is rather different to mobiles I've used in the past. A rigid, material covered, circle hangs from four ribbons, with those ribbons then brought together with a further silky ribbon to hang from the music box. The material covering the rigid circle is brightly patterned, with three different designs all of which contrast nicely with the silky ribbons that both attach the mobile to the hook and the jungle themed characters to the circle. A total of three soft animals hang from the mobile along with a baby safe mirror housed in a plush sun and a hot air balloon. While these animals are not realistically coloured it is possible to work out what they are, so that as an adult we can point them out to baby. There is an orange, red and yellow lion, that has a lovely frilly mane, a blue zebra with a ribbon mane and a red elephant who again features silky ribbons, this time as a tuft of hair. The sun/mirror also features little, silky strips that would make a great tactile feature if only these toys were in position to be held. I'm not sure why the tactile features are included, unless it's because the toys themselves, at about 10cm in length are a great size for little hands to play with once the mobile is outgrown (when baby can sit independently/reach the mobile). I know that I'll be cutting them free once Baby JJ can grab at them.

                This mobile was set up and put on the crib in the weeks leading up to Baby JJ's appearance and I found it easy to attach to the side of his crib. Although I would have preferred for it to be placed at the head of the crib, the headboard is curved and the shelf on the armature means that it can only be attached to straight edges. I do struggle a little to wind the mechanism, but I have problems with my joints, so that's not all the fault of the mobile. It takes a good few winds to fully wind the mechanism and I find that switching off while winding does make the job a little easier, as with all clockwork, care does need to be taken not to over-wind.

                A full wind will treat your baby to around three minutes of Brahms Lullaby as the mobile gently rotates, not long enough to lull baby to sleep, but long enough for me to change Big Brother's nappy. To be perfectly honest Baby JJ wasn't in the least bit interested in the mobile for the first few weeks, he was far more interested in eating and sleeping. Between two and four weeks old, Baby JJ was suddenly far more interested in the world around him and would happily lay and watch the mobile turning or even swaying in the breeze, with the time the few minutes the music played being perfect for his short attention span. At eleven weeks, Baby JJ is a far more discerning character and while he enjoys watching the mobile he does also get frustrated that he cannot reach to bat the toys. As Baby JJ absolutely hates to be put down, I have the mobile pre-wound ready for if I need to perform a quick task without him in my arms and he does watch the mobile most intently. Baby JJ's absolute favourite part is the mirror and he will happily demonstrate his excellent tracking skills by following the mirror with his eyes and then smiling whenever it is overhead.

                While I'm not sure if I would pay the full asking price, at the £12.50 I paid this mobile has proved quite the bargain and if you are expecting a baby and see it at that price then I can thoroughly recommend the Safari Mobile.

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                • More +
                  15.01.2014 11:20
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                  A comfy seat for baby

                  While there are quite a few pieces of nursery equipment that I feel are superfluous, one item I do feel is essential is a bouncy chair of some description. When my older children were babies (we're talking twenty years ago) bouncy chairs were very basic with very little in the way of padding and certainly no music or vibration facilities. Today there is a vast array of different chairs to choose from, from the very basic to all singing, all dancing models that can house an iPad (I kid you not). The Fisher Price Woodsy Friends Bouncer falls into what I would call the bottom of mid-range as far as bouncy chairs goes, at approximately £28 it's not the cheapest of the cheap, but neither is it as fancy shmancy as many.

                  I bought this chair some weeks before Baby JJ made an appearance and put it together in the week or so before his birth. I can't say that it was particularly difficult to put together, because it wasn't, the instructions were easy enough to follow and while it did take a little tugging to get the cover in place it wasn't that much of a problem. I would say it took me less than quarter of an hour to put the chair together and that's with a huge bump hampering my movement. As this chair is suitable from birth (some aren't) I then put it away ready to bring out once Baby JJ made his big appearance although I have to admit that we didn't use the chair at all for the first few days as we spent that time almost constantly feeding.

                  Rather than being aimed towards a particular gender the Woodsy bouncer has a fairly muted and completely neutral colour scheme. It features lots of cream, beige and pale green, with splashes of brighter colours in the form of paw prints, apples and mushrooms, oh and there are a few cute animals too. I can't say that Baby JJ has shown any interest in the colour scheme and pictures on the chair, because he hasn't and to be honest he covers most of the pictures when he's sat in it anyway. There is a head-hugger cum pillow for young babies, at least I assume that's what it is, it really isn't shaped but does seem to reduce how much a very young baby's head rolls to the side. As with many bouncy chairs this does have a vibrate function which is operated via a switch on a box at baby's feet and is powered by a single size D battery. To help keep baby occupied there is also a toy bar that features an owl that when pulled activates sounds, an apple and a few apple teethers/clankers, as well as the size D battery you will need a single AAA to power the sounds.

                  Baby JJ was just a few days old when he used this chair for the first time and while I did think he would be swamped, he fitted in rather nicely, being well supported in the semi-recline position. The three point harness was easy to adjust to hold him securely in place and has been easy to adjust as he has got bigger. The level of padding is perfectly designed to give a soft, almost nest-like seat for a young baby and the material has a smooth, warm to the touch finish. While I cannot say that it's been particularly hot (it is winter after all), so far I haven't noticed any of the sweat associated with spending time sitting on a waterproof surface. From the very first time he was sat in this chair, Baby JJ has seemed to be very comfortable, although he is not at all impressed with the vibrate function, far preferring that I gently rock him with my foot. There is a good level of tension in the chair legs, meaning that I can easily bounce him and adjust how hard the bounce is as he falls to sleep.

                  As he has got older and bigger Baby JJ has spent many hours in this chair and always seemed very comfortable, although I am a little sceptical as to whether he will still fit in here right up until he is sitting independently, but he's a large lad, who couldn't fit into newborn clothes an hour after his birth. While he's not at all impressed with the vibrations, the toy bar fascinates and frustrates him in equal measure. At nearly eleven weeks, Baby JJ enjoys batting and grabbing at any toy and he will happily hit out at the owl and apples to get them to clank together, but he knows the owl makes a noise and doesn't yet have the strength to pull hard enough. Plus when he does manage to persuade the owl to make a noise (with Mummy's help) the reward simply isn't good enough as the sounds clip are very, very short. There are a couple of snippets of tunes (one of which is the farmer's in his den) and a hooting sound but nothing that lasts over five seconds. As he finds the attached toys so frustrating, I have slipped his favourite Lamaze toy over the bar and that keeps him amused for ages.

                  So far in our, albeit limited to eleven weeks, experience the chair has proved very robust, it has survived the weight of a very enthusiastic Big Brother leaning on it without bending out of shape and the initial batteries are still going strong. The cover can be removed and machine washed, which is a real blessing as it was christened a couple of weeks back with a particularly huge, bright yellow poop. It came out of a 30 degree wash unscathed and actually clean, if a little crumpled. I simply allowed it to dry on an airer for a couple of hours and then put it back over the frame so that it could finish drying overnight ready for the next day.

                  For us this bouncy chair has been a godsend as Baby JJ does not like being left on his own and there are times when I just need to take him out of his sling so that I can get on with household tasks. He always seems comfortable in this chair and will often take catnaps in between play sessions. While there are a few things I personally feel could be improved such as longer and easier to activate sound bites, this is a pretty decent bouncy chair and a real improvement on those I bought for my older children. All in all, I think that I will give the Woodsy Friends Bouncy Chair four stars out of five and recommended to those looking for a comfortable seat for a young baby that has a neutral colour scheme but not the latest fancy gizmos.

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                  • More +
                    12.01.2014 17:10
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                    Another brilliant toy from Lamaze

                    We love the Lamaze range of soft toys in the Sandemp household, Big Brother owned lots of them as a baby and young toddler and now Baby JJ has a collection of his very own. As much as we love these Lamaze toys, they are very busy and could prove to be overstimulating for ten week old Baby JJ, so rather than leaving them all out for him to play with at once we try and rotate them, so he has some in his crib, one hanging from his car seat, one hanging from the toy bar of his bouncy chair and one for floor/tummy/Mummy time that we use to play with together. For the last (and next) few days Rusty The Robot has been taking his turn as the toy that we are exploring together and while neither of us think he is the best Lamaze toy, he has still proved very popular.

                    Currently selling for £7.50 on Amazon (the price fluctuates wildly, I paid nearer £10), Rusty is one of the larger toys in the Lamaze Play and Grow range, coming in at approximately 25cm in height. This height means that he is less suitable for hanging from toy bars, he certainly cannot be hung on the bouncy chair as he doesn't have enough room to swing. In common with all Lamaze toys, Rusty is very brightly coloured with lots of patterns, textures and sounds for your baby to explore and is suitable from birth upwards.

                    The first thing to note about Rusty is just how hugable he is, some of the Lamaze toys have sacrificed cuddlability for activities, but not Rusty. He has the perfect amount of stuffing in his head, body, arms and legs to make him one of Baby JJ's favourite toys to hug. There's been many a time where Baby JJ has been seen with his arm over Rusty during nap-time. Following on in the comforting, cuddles theme, Rusty does feature an awful lot of soft, strokable, plush material. Three sides of his head are made of plush as are four of his body, both of his hands and his legs. Baby JJ seems to have developed a real liking for plush lately, and enjoys exploring this material with his mouth (something that makes me cringe). The plush material has stood up well to this treatment, obviously getting a little soggy but not shedding fibres, I would be most upset to find fibres in Baby JJ's mouth. Baby JJ's very favourite parts of Rusty to mouth are the knotted, plush cords coming out of each ear.

                    I would have thought that given free choice, Baby JJ would far prefer to stroke and feel the silky material that is to be found on Rusty's facial areas, tummy, back and feet, but he after the plush areas he does seem to favour the stripy, knitted arms, really only taking notice of the silky areas during shared play when I will either guide his hand to those areas or stroke them against his face while talking about what he is feeling. Up until recently it has only been during shared play that Baby JJ has been able to access any of the other activities Rusty has to offer, but as promised by the Play and Grow title, the way Baby JJ plays with this toy has "grown" as his hand eye coordination has begun to develop.

                    I have to admit that Rusty does not have nearly as many activities as some of the Lamaze toys (the firefly for example), he doesn't even have a squeaker, but the activities he does have are well thought out with something to attract the attention of a wide age range from newborn until two or three years. For the very youngest babies who are just making sense of the world the soles of Rusty's feet and under his chin feature high contrast black and white patterns, although I have to say that Baby JJ seems to have missed that developmental stage completely always preferring bright colours to black and white. Once baby starts to develop their social skills then the mirror on Rusty's tummy comes into it's own. Baby JJ adores mirrors and has done ever since he developed his social smile at about two weeks. He loves to look and smile at the baby in Rusty's baby safe mirror and is very impressed at how the baby not only smiles back but also knows the sticking out tongue game. Meanwhile I'm impressed that despite been small, the mirror does give a good reflection with very little distortion.

                    As Baby JJ has started to develop his grasping, grabbing and batting skills he has started to enjoy the rings on each of Rusty's hands. On one of his hands there is a ring that houses two translucent beads while the other hand houses a pair of textured clanking rings that not only make a great noise whenever they hit each other but will also make great teethers when the time comes. Both sets of rings are excellently designed and Baby JJ can manage to grasp hold of Rusty using either set, even though he can't quite manage to keep hold as Rusty is still a little too heavy. While the high contrast patterns never really floated his boat, Baby JJ is far more impressed with the crinkle material housed within |Rusty's feet. This is something he has only just discovered and as it crinkles at the slightest touch it is something Baby JJ can manage independently during floor/tummy time and he shows his appreciation with giggles and squeals of delight.

                    Unlike many baby toys, Rusty is toy that while being attractive to a newborn will also grab the attention of an older baby or toddler, with there being lots for them to explore. For example, Rusty has two face and body designs, which can be mixed and matched by turning his head, which then makes a great clicking sound, I can imagine that mastering turning the head will lead to many hours of enthralled fun as the toddler's improving dexterity is rewarded. Then Rusty simply makes a great cuddly toy that can be used in role play, Big Brother is nearly four (with a developmental age of about 2.5) and has been found having a sneaky play with Rusty, chatting away to him and making him watch Justin's House, so this really is a toy that will last.

                    Talking about lasting, in common with all Lamaze toys Rusty is very well made, I have pulled at the stitching and it has all held tight. With older versions of these toys they were sponge clean only, but recently Lamaze have changed the materials used in these toys, and Rusty can be given a bath (hand wash), which is excellent news with a toy that will come into contact with baby sick (among other things) and find itself in a baby's mouth. Rusty does have one final feature worth noting and that is a clip that allows him to be attached to cribs, baby gyms, buggies, car seats and play bars. As with the materials used in making Rusty this clip appears to have been redesigned in the last year or so, and while it is now harder to put the toy in place it is also harder for the baby/toddler to remove it.

                    Although not the favourite of Baby JJ's Lamaze collection or the most activity filled, Rusty certainly does have a place in his heart, has proved to be a toy that has grown with Baby JJ over the last ten weeks and always has a place in either the crib or shared play. I genuinely would recommend this as a toy from newborn upwards, and feel it would make an excellent present to give to a new baby as it is not only fun but also helps baby develop essential skills.

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