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Black Friday Deals

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It seems that Black Friday has really arrived in the UK this year, with just about everybody sending out special offers to tempt us to buy. Here’s my lowdown on some of the best deals.

Everything!
Amazon started the Black Friday trend in the UK and they’re still leading the way with new offers going live every 10 minutes. Check out their deals page and set your alarm to grab a bargain before they run out! To give you a taster, here are my favourites from their upcoming deals:

Clothing

Up to 30% off at M&S until 1st December 2014

25% off everything at Warehouse until 1st December 2014 with code “CYBER25

Up to 50% off at Urban Outfitters until 1st December 2014

20% off selected John Lewis Winter Fashion. Some good deals on kids snowsuits and adult accessories.

John Lewis White Padded Snowsuit
John Lewis White Padded Snowsuit

Up to 40% off brands at House of Fraser

Homewares & Gifts

Up to 40% off brands at House of Fraser

20% off all full price and sale items at Anthropologie

Knitted Reindeer Puppet
Engraved rolling pin

20% off plus free delivery over £50 at the White Company with code “AE602

White Company Toys
White Company Glassware

20% off at Paperchase with code “PAPERTREAT20”. Ends 1st December 2014.

Toys

Black Friday weekend at the Entertainer – huge discounts with more Daily Deals to follow up to the 13th December 2014. Top deals are:

Scan2Go: Was £20 Now £5

Scan2Go Car
Dinosaur Train – InterAction Roar ‘n’ React Boris Tyrannosaurus: Was £29.99 Now £14.99

Tyrannosaurus Roar n React
Polly Pocket Wall Party: Was £39.99 Now £9.99

Polly Pocket Wall Party
Twister Dance Rave: Was £29.99 Now £9.99

Twister Dance Rave

Christmas

Up to 30% off selected Christmas Trees at John Lewis

John Lewis Argyle Fir Christmas Tree
Up to 60% off decorations, lights and trees at Argos

Berry Christmas Lights

Most of the offers are only last a few days (or even hours!). Check out our full list of retailer offers and voucher codes.

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Odd Sock Advent Calendar

Sock advent calendar
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I try to avoid giving small one too many sweets, so every year I hunt for advent calendars without chocolate.

They’re nearly always more expensive than the chocolate calendars, so this year I decided I was going to make my own more permanent fabric advent calendar. Unfortunately this month has flown and by yesterday evening it was obvious that the wholesome, homespun advent of my dreams wasn’t going to happen.

I didn’t want to disappoint the children so, panic being the mother of invention, I gathered together all the odd and outgrown socks and gloves I could find and strung them together to make an odd sock advent calendar.

Sock advent calendarIt actually looks quite passable and there’s room in each “pocket” for 2 or 3 little presents which means opening the calendar will be a real family event this year.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, these are the instructions:

1. Find 24 small socks, mittens or gloves. Scratch mitts would be great for this project.

2. Organise them in a colour order you like. Small’s most recent socks have far too much pink, so I played with a bit of dye to get more variety. The socks don’t take vibrant colour and mittens didn’t dye at all so my results were a bit hit and miss. Scratch mitts would dye much better and if I’d not been scared of waking the kids, I would have probably grabbed some brighter colours from the loft but I actually quite like the muted blues, pinks and purples I ended up with.

3. Add numbers – these could be made of felt and stuck on, ironed on as appliques, embroidered or even drawn. I had some leftover bits of VELCRO® from a VELCRO® mask set we were sent for National VELCRO® month so I cut numbers out of that and just stuck them on.

4. Sew the socks and gloves onto a ribbon or string. I used knitting wool, threaded on a darning needle and just ran a running stitch through the backs of each pocket (be careful not to sew them closed!).

5. Hang your garland and add a gift into each pocket. I’m adding one day at a time and will be using a mix of sweets, stickers, craft bits, and anything else I can find that’s cheap and small!

Sock advent garland

National Velcro Month Blog ChallengeDisclosure: I was sent a hamper of VELCRO® products to try for National VELCRO® month. I didn’t plan to use it in this project but I liked that I could use the waste to do something useful and it was so much quicker than anything else I had to hand.

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Planning for Christmas

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There’s lots going on for me and Mr MilkChic right now. Sadly most of the things we’re excited about I either don’t feel right blogging about or I can’t blog about until they’re signed & sealed, leaving me feeling like I’m about to burst!!

One of the wonderful things is that, after nearly 18 months waiting I finally have an appointment with the consultant about my back and as the NHS has referred me to a private hospital, the eternal optimist in me is hoping that things will progress rapidly and I might be back running marathons before small one starts school 😀

MCCALL HOMEMAKING COVER, XMAS TREEWhile it’s all good news (or will be, when I’m able to shout about it), it does mean we’re going to be even more busy than usual in the run up to Christmas and I need to get pretty much organised by the end of the month, which gives me… erm…. 7 days(!) to get my house in order (literally and figuratively), get the kids to write Christmas lists, buy Christmas presents, hide them somewhere small one won’t look (shed?), buy, write and post Xmas cards and organise myself so Parcelforce can collect all the parcels for those people I now know I’m not going to see before Christmas in one lot.

I have about a million blog posts rolling about in my head, things I want to make and do, and people I really want to see before time gets spread even thinner. On the personal side, I also need to get my hair cut and buy some new clothes, all while spending as much time as possible with small one.

Of course this now means I need to write a lot of lists. Luckily for me my friends know me very well – as part of my campaign to see all my best friends at least once before the end of the month, I went out for dinner last night and was given a belated birthday present of a gorgeous hand stitched Paperchase notebook, which is now blissfully full with random jottings and things to do.

While I’m here, if anyone has any great ideas for Christmas gifts you can post, please send them my way!!

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Gifts for Toddlers – Christmas Gift Guide

Mouse Skittles
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Stuck for preschool present ideas? Here are a few gifts that any one or two year old will love straightaway and will still be using years later:

Rocking horse – the bigger ones are very expensive but they are the kind of heirloom that will be passed down for generations. I love this one from NotOnTheHighStreet as it reminds me of a hospital rocking horse I played with a lot, but there are lots of antique rocking horses and more reasonably priced traditional rocking horses on Ebay. For a more contemporary option, this rocking motorbike is also a sturdy ride-on!

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traditional rocking horse
Hand Carved Rocking Horse, £380
Not On The High Street

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All Terrain Wooden Rocking And Ride On Bike
Wooden Rocking And Ride On Bike, £249
Not On The High Street

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Skittles – there are skittle sets for every pocket and they’ll all provide hours of fun. Great on hard floors as little ones love to hear them clatter to the ground.

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Chad Valley Skittles
Steal: Chad Valley Skittles, £4.99
Argos

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Mouse Skittles
High St: Mouse Skittles, £14.95
Not On The High Street

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Gruffalo Skittles Set
Splash Out: Gruffalo’s Child Skittles, £32.40
Amazon

Sand table – It may be winter now, but you don’t just have to buy indoor toys. You can buy basic plastic sand tables for £20-£30 but I think this Sand and Water Picnic table is much better value – use with the lid on as a garden bench!

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Plum Sand & Water Picnic Table[/column][column width=”50%” padding=”0%”]

Sand & Water picnic table

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Plum Sand & Water Picnic Table,
Was £79.99 Now £39.95 at Amazon

Trike with handle – Unlike the smaller, pushalong ride-ons, these can be pedalled by kids with longer legs, so are a great choice for taller or older toddlers. Word to the wise: You’ll want a parent handle at a sensible height with a comfortable grip – if possible look for one with a decent sized basket or trailer. They’re a great alternative to a buggy and even better if you can put your bag in the back!

My picks? The Little Tikes 3-in-1 Trike and Smart Trikes are expensive for a reason as they has everything you could wish for, but this Bentley Kids version looks equally good at half the price!

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Little Tikes 3-in-1 Trike[/column][column width=”30%” padding=”5%”]

Bentley Kids Trike with Handle[/column][column width=”30%” padding=”0%”]

Smart Trike Recliner[/column][end_columns]

Keyboard / piano – my daughter has been coveting this keyboard and stool for about a year now but we’ve promised ourselves to buy less space hungry presents this year. The ELC mini keyboards are half price at the moment, so great value! Try to find one with at least 8 keys (an octave) so that they can start to play tunes they recognise.

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Keyboard & Stool
Keyboard & Stool, £30
ELC

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carryalong keyboard pink
carryalong keyboard red
Carry Along Keyboards
Were £15 Now £7.50 at ELC

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Dolls pram / pushchair – Whether a basic buggy or a posh pram, this will get toddlers walking independently and is a lovely present for soon-to-be big brothers and sisters. I personally favour prams as it means I don’t always have to carry the shopping home… but fold down buggies are good for popping in the boot of the car, or hanging on the handles of the full-sized pushchair when little one gets tired.

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Folding Toy BuggyFolding buggy, £7
The Entertainer

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Silver Cross Junior Roamer Doll's Pram
Silver Cross Roamer Toy Pram, £34.99
Argos

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Silver Cross Surf Dolls Pram
Silver Cross Surf Doll’s Pram, £49.99
Amazon

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Duplo – Lego and Duplo are wonderful toys for dexterity and coordination and they really stretch the imagination. They’re also really soothing for adults to play with or “supervise”.

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Lego Duplo First Farm
Duplo First Farm, Was £19.99 Now £15
Amazon

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Duplo bricks set
Duplo Bricks, various prices
Amazon

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Kids Table & Chair Set – Endlessly useful, but try to get 2 chairs to save arguments with friends. Check out Poundstretcher for plastic sets in multiple colours.

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Beep Beep Collection Play Table and Chairs
Beep Beep Table & Chairs, £29.99
Dunelm Mill

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Kidcraft Activity Table with Lego BoardsKidcraft Activity Table with Lego boards & storage, £108.94
Amazon

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Safari Playroom FurnitureSafari Playroom Furniture, £175
Not On The High Street

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Roleplay Toys – a lot of the roleplay toys which little ones love to play with contain small parts which can be a choke hazard for under threes. These sets are designed to be safe for little ones, but won’t seem babyish as they grow up.

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Wooden Post Box Toy
Wooden post box, £15
ELC

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Just Like Home Storage Tea Pot Set
Tea set in giant tea pot, £14.99
Toys R Us

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Jigsaws – always a winner, but check with the parents what size / type of jigsaws their child is doing already and try to buy a step up. Dexterity varies massively at this age as they all learn things in different orders! It’s hard to beat ELC for lift out puzzles but look out for puzzles with noise or tactile puzzles. There are some gorgeous shaped puzzles around too.

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ELC Cottage Lift Out Puzzle
Cottage Lift Out Puzzle, £8
ELC

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Noisy Sound Puzzles
Sound Puzzle (various designs), £15.99
Not On The High Street

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Cat Number Jigsaw
Cat Number Jigsaw, £11.95
Not On The High Street

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And last but not least… Bags – Toddlers adore bags and can spend hours taking things in and out of them and carrying them around. They are the new, exciting, upgraded model of last year’s hit present, “the box”. We really liked the Little Life DaySacks. Available in Ladybirds, BumbleBees, Sharks, Dinosaurs and lots more, kids wear them happily, they have practical little rain hoods tucked away inside, and they have both a rein attachment and a grab handle which means they can keep both hands free and you can hold onto them tight in those moments when their independence starts to cause panic rather than pride.

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Little Life Ladybird Rucksack

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Little Life DaySack Rucksacks

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Lots more gift inspiration coming soon!

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Xmas Gift Guide: Baby Toys

Wonderworld Wooden Puffy Dragon Sit And Ride
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Writing about the breastfeeding baby doll at the weekend has kickstarted me into Christmas Gift mode. We’ve been so lucky that friends and family have put so much thought into presents for small one so this is a guide to the preschool toys and gifts we’ve bought and have been given that have really stood the test of time.

Gifts for Babies:

If you’re buying for a little one try to buy ahead, especially if you don’t see them often. When you’re stretched for cash, having toys your child will “grow into” is lovely. Babies don’t really understand presents, so check what the parents really need before you buy. We loved:

Tactile books – Always make sure they aren’t just touchy-feely on the front cover as some expensive ones are disappointing. Priddy cloth books are reliable for having fun textures throughout.

Old MacDonald Cloth Book
Old McDonald Counting Book, £15
(Not On The High Street)
Fuzzy Bee Roger Priddy Cloth Book
Fuzzy Bee Cloth Book, £7.19
(Amazon)

 

Bath toys – from stacking cups and rubber ducks to the most elaborate water toys, these will be played with over and over again.

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Bath flutes
Bath Flutes, £10
(Marks & Spencer)

[/column]
[column width=”30%” padding=”5%”]Stacking Cups
Stacking Cups, £6
(Marks & Spencer)

[/column][column width=”30%” padding=”0%”]Tomy Snowboarding Polar Bears Bath Toy
Tomy Snowboarding
Polar Bears
, £13.19
(Amazon)

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Musical instruments– Mum and Dad might not always thank you, but the real thing is nearly always less annoying than electronic toys and far more satisfying for baby. On the downside, you can’t take the batteries out 😉

[column width=”30%” padding=”5%”]M&S animal music set
Animal Band, £17.50
(Marks & Spencer)

[/column] [column width=”30%” padding=”5%”]Wooden Maracas
Wooden Maracas, £3.62
(Amazon)
[/column] [column width=”30%” padding=”0″]Boikidi Percussion Table
Boikidi Percussion Table, £39
(John Lewis)

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“Grown up” gifts – Little ones love to play with mummy and daddy’s car keys and mobile phone. While they’ll still make a beeline for the real thing, these might distract them while you make a phonecall, drive or put your makeup on. If the brightly coloured phone doesn’t fool them, John Lewis sell a baby smartphone!

[column width=”30%” padding=”5%”]John Lewis Baby Toy Car Keys
Toy Car Keys, £8
(John Lewis)

[/column][column width=”30%” padding=”5%”]Manhattan Toy Whoozit See Me MirrorWhoozit See Me Mirror, £12.59
(Amazon)

[/column][column width=”30%” padding=”0%”]V-Tech-Tiny-Touch-Phone
V-Tech-Tiny-Touch-Phone, £8.24
(Amazon)

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Baby toys that last for years – the simplest gifts often give the most pleasure and my now extremely grown up three year old and her nearly teenage sister still enjoy building towers (and now whole cities) from basic bricks. Tomy Hide & Squeak Eggs are another great buy – they are endlessly fascinating for babies and make great “dippy eggs” for cooking as they get older.Traditional peg and hammer toys become “work benches” for older kids.
NB. Remove small bricks when giving to under threes (anything smaller than an old style film canister is a potential choke hazard).

[column width=”30%” padding=”5%”]Tomy Hide 'n' Squeak Eggs
Tomy Hide ‘n’ Squeak Eggs, £5.94
(Amazon)

[/column][column width=”30%” padding=”5%”]Wilko Wooden Peg and Hammer Set
Wooden Peg & Hammer Set, £5
(Wilkinson Plus)

[/column][column width=”30%” padding=”0%”]Viga Wooden Blocks
Viga 100 Wooden Blocks, £13.99
(Amazon)

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Things Mum and Dad will want – If the house has been overrun by baby toys, a toy box will be appreciated by everyone and height charts are a lovely way to keep records.

[column width=”27%” padding=”5%”]Toy storage trolley
Toy Trolley, £39
(Vertbaudet)

[/column][column width=”30%” padding=”5%”]Woodland Height Chart
Tree Height Chart, £20
(GLTC)

[/column][column width=”33%” padding=”0%”]Wooden Ruler Height Chart
Ruler Height Chart, £65
(Not On The High Street)

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Baby Walkers – There are lots of versions available but look for something that doesn’t topple over when leant on. The V-tech baby walker is probably the most popular (the button panel can be unclipped used separately) but the new ELC walker and the BigJigs wooden walker both look brilliant! My daughter played with her walker / phone / computer / spaceship until quite recently despite walking before her 1st birthday.

[column width=”45% padding=”20%]Bigjigs Activity Walker
Bigjigs Activity Walker, £42.66
(Amazon)

[/column][column width=”45%” padding=”0%”]Lights and Sounds Walker
Lights and Sounds Walker, £30
(Mothercare)
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Ride-ons and rocking horses – Something for every price range, ride-on toys start at about £20 and go up and up. Here are a few of my favourites:

[column width=”30%” padding=”5%”]Hop Along Rabbit
Hop Along Rabbit, £20
(Mothercare)

[/column][column width=”30%” padding=”5%”]Wonderworld Wooden Puffy Dragon Sit And Ride
Dragon Sit and Ride, £79.99
(Amazon)
[/column][column width=”30%” padding=”0%”]Little Tikes Sports Coupe Ride On(Red)
Little Tikes Sports Coupe, £21.24
(Amazon)
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More gift ideas for the rest of the family later this week!

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