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A Summer Birthday Celebration And Some Christmas Gift Idea Inspiration – Part 1 of 2


By DT (initials used to protect my childrens’ privacy)

 My sons had their birthdays in the summer and I wanted to make this year’s birthdays extra special for them.  I was over the moon to have the opportunity to review some days out and products from a Birthday celebration point of view.  That said, I think so many of these products would make wonderful Christmas gifts.

Around the time of my sons’ birthday we went to ZSL  Whipsnade Zoo for the day.  I think of that day fondly as one where precious family memories were made. We packed a picnic into a hand luggage sized suitcase.  We thought that this would be really easy to wheel around the zoo.   We set off with 3 excited children, their nanny and myself, one very excited parent.   The zoo was well signposted and there was plenty of free parking available as well as one or more staff members on hand to guide visitors into a parking space.   There was a bit of a queue to get in, completely understandable in these times of Covid-19.   We entered the zoo via the visitors centre. I was delighted to see that toilet facilities were available outside the zoo before you enter.  Upon entering the zoo was a handy noticeboard with details of any events on that particular day as well as some members of staff on hand to answer any queries.  We set off to the Great Whipsnade Railway so that we could figure out having a train ride once the railway was open for the day.  We visited the Tigers and enjoyed an early lunch sat at the picnic tables next to the railway station.   Other exhibits we visited that day included the penguins, the farm area, the aquarium and reptile house, lions, brown bears, zebras, rhinos, flamingos.   We also spent some time in Hullabazoo Adventure Play.   I felt that the Covid measures put in place were excellent and I felt safe.  We have, some years ago, bought annual memberships as I think that they represent excellent value.  Memberships cost from £27 per year per person. All in all, it was a wonderful family day and all 3 generations of my family really enjoyed themselves, even my teenage daughter.  The highlight of my day was taking my sons on the train ride as we saw so many animals during the approximately 15 minutes journey.  I would not hesitate to recommend the zoo to others or visit again. Rating: 5/5.  To book please visit here. Read my full review here.

I fondly remember having an electronics set during my childhood and it has been an aim of mine to get something similar for my sons, now aged 9.  I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity of reviewing John Adams Hot Wires which is a plug and play electronics set.   My sons were both so excited when I gave them this set.  Straight away one of my sons set about building a real flying disc.  It took him just a few minutes using the easy to follow instructions booklet to fully build the flying disc and we all had great fun launching it into the air.  It went so high which added to our amusement. There were lots of laughs and smiles that day and more family memories made.   What’s great about this set is how versatile it is. There are over 100 experiments which you can try out.  We had so much fun trying out several of them. I particularly enjoyed building a sound sensitive light.    I can feel daunted by instructions, but I needn’t have worried as I successfully managed to do several of the experiments myself.  This set is suitable for age 8+ and fits in really well I think with what children learn KS2 wise at school. The contents are exciting vibrant colours and are easy to slot into place as well as to remove if you make a mistake.  Speaking of making a mistake, this did happen several times and we took apart some or all of what we had built.   I think that this helped us learn important problem solving skills. I would recommend this particular product to others as well as John Adams overall too. Rating: 5/5.  Buy link here.  Read my full review here.

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to be able to try out several Melissa And Doug Products with my children.  I was therefore delighted to be sent two Melissa and Doug products for my sons – Suspend and Let’s Explore Camp Music Playset.   My teenage daughter played Suspend with one of her little brothers and both of them really enjoyed the game.   I loved watching in anticipation wondering whether the construction would collapse or not.  The instructions were easy to follow and the pieces were clearly well made and build to last.   The game is suitable for age 8+ and I feel that my sons at 9 years old fit perfectly within that age range.  I find the game very helpful for helping my sons with their motor skills and problem solving.  I know that it can be disappointing when everything falls, but it shows determination to keep trying to add more and more onto your construction.  The second Melissa And Doug item we received has been a big hit in our home.  Both of my sons love singing and he absolutely loved singing along while playing the various instruments.   All of them are vibrant in colour, well made and clearly made to last.  I love how portable both this music set and the Suspend game are.  They would both, I feel, be perfect for taking along on family adventures.  The music set is suitable for age 3+,  At age 9 one of my sons in particular really loved it.   Having been able to try out various Melissa and Doug Toys over the years, I would recommend thse two products as well as Melissa and Doug overall to others.  Rating: 5/5 (both items).  Buy link (Suspend) here.  Buy link (music set) here.  Read the full reviews here and here.

Over the years we had various Playmobil products in our household and I was over the moon to be able to add to them.  The first playset we received was the Playmobil Squad Car.  One of my sons took a shine to this straight away.  We quickly built the playset using the easy to follow instructions before letting the squad car go off on it’s adventures.  This is a great toy for encouraging role-play and for children to learn what an important job police do.  Two police characters are included and there is plenty of space in the squad car for characters from other Playmobil playsets to have a ride in the squad car.   The roof of the vehicle can easily be removed.  There is plenty of space in the boot to hold the accessories included with the playset. This toy is suitable for age 4+.  At age 9 one of my sons in particular absolutely loved it.    The second playset we received was the Playmobil Fire Engine.  The fire engine itself is a generous size and it is very easy to put together using the enclosed instructions.  I love the fact that you can play with this toy independently or alongside other playsets.  The detail that has gone into this toy is just phenomenal.  I think that the toy is very true to life.   I think that this playset encourages role-play as well as is a tool children can use to learn about what fire fighters do.  This product is suitable for age 4+ and one of my 9 year old sons really likes it.     The last playset we received was the Playmobil Large City Zoo.   This didn’t stay in its box for long. One of my sons was role-playing using the characters and animals within minutes of being given it.  As with the other Playmobil products I have come across, this playset is easy to build using the enclosed instructions.  I think that the detail of the playset makes it very true to life.  I loved that baby versions of some of the animals were included as I welcome any opportunities for children to learn nurturing skills.   What was particularly exciting for us was that we had a real life visit to a local zoo around the time of receiving this playset. Suitable for age 4+ and at 9 years old one of my sons loves this toy. I would recommend all three Playmobil toys received as well as Playmobil as a whole to others.   Rating: 5/5 (all items).  Buy (squad car) here.   Buy (fire engine) here.  Buy (large city zoo) here.    Read the full reviews here, here and here

One of my sons particularly loves making things and so I had a feeling that he would love the Aquabeads Super Mario creation cube even before it arrived. I wasn’t wrong. He has played with this set for hours and hours, making so many of the figures and proudly showing them off to family members. I love the vibrant colour of the cube. The lid is easy to remove and replace and it has a handy carry handle. This doesn’t take much space at all and is lightweight so could easily be taken along on family adventures. The leaflet that comes with this product is easy to follow and my son made so many of the characters without needing any help from myself. I love the fact that he could, if he wished to, also make up his own little designs. There is a generous variety of beads both style and colour wise. The design my son was most excited about making was a unicorn. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this Aquabeads product as well as Aquabeads on the whole to others. I would buy other Aquabeads products for one of my sons as this product went down so well with him and kept him occupied for so long. I think that this is a great product for helping children learn problem solving skills and to develop their fine motor skills.

Rating: 5/5 Buy here. Read the full review here.

As a child I can remember spending hours and hours out in the garden playing swingball. I particularly like getting my children toys which I had myself as a child and so I was therefore delighted to be sent the Swingball Pro Reflex Tennis Trainer to review. I think that this product was as popular with the adults as the children. It was very easy to set it up and fill the base with water. I particularly liked that the cord length could so easily be adjusted. The bat is a funky design but it works well from a practical point of view too, being so easy and comfortable to hold. I love the way the bold yellow and the black look together. The product, when the base is not filled with water, is lightweight and fits easily back into the box it came in for storing away in the cooler months. I think that it would be great to take along to a friend’s house or even on a family camping trip. It is so much fun for both adults and children. My sons liked it just as much as my daughter so I think it does suit a wide age range. It’s something that people tended to keep going back to. It’s great fun and a good way to get some exercise. As a parent I am a fan of any products which encourage children to have a healthy lifestyle. I hope before summer 2022 comes to buy my children a different product from the swingball range as we had so much fun with this one.

Rating: 5/5 Buy here. Read the full review here.

We had a small birthday party for my sons at nanny’s house.  It was the perfect opportunity to try out the various Bunch O Balloons products which we had been sent.   I filled up the paddling pool.  There was an amusing moment … for those present… when I managed to spray myself with water.    We received two soakers and some packs of water balloons.   We had so much fun filling up the water balloons by attaching them to the end of the soakers and then submerging the balloons in the paddling pool water.  We used approximately half of what we had been sent and had such a fun, amusing time.  It made for some amazing family memories.  Yes, the balloons did make a mess in the garden but because of their vibrant colours they were easy to find and clear up and I was delighted to discover that they could be recycled.   These balloons kept the attention of my sons well because they were so quick to fill. We had great fun throwing the water balloons at the ground near each other.  It was a great way to cool down on a hot day.  I think that the adults had as much fun as the children. My 16 year old daughter took part in the fun too.  It’s nice to find something which appeals to both my 9 year old sons and her.  These were a huge hit at the birthday party and I would recommend them to others.   The soakers are excellent quality, easy to use and clearly made to last.  I think that the products are all very good value. I would recommend these products to others.   Rating: 5/5.  Buy here

Read the full review here.

My sons have always liked soft toys and notepads and so I was thrilled to be sent some products from Beatrix Potter Gifts By Enesco.  We received two note pads, an extra large Peter Rabbit soft toy and a large Mrs-Tiggywinkle Soft Toy.  The notepads each come with a pen making them such good value for their price.  There are plenty of pages in the notepad to write/draw on.    One of my sons in particular has really enjoyed writing/drawing in his notepad.  As well as making a fabulous birthday present, I think that the price of the notepads make them perfect as a party bag gift or even as a stocking filler Christmas idea. The Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle soft toys are adorable.  They are so well made and I think they are something that could potentially be passed onto another child.    I think that they are potentially great for role-play, encouraging children to talk about feelings and helping children learn social skills I love the way that the colours of the outfits really complement each other.  I have loved anything Beatrix Potter related since I was a child.  It’s wonderful that my children can have the Beatrix Potter characters in their childhood.  I couldn’t pick a favourite between the Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle soft toys.  They are both so cute.  I would wholeheartedly recommend all of the items received.  I think that so many of the items on the Beatrix Potter Gifts By Enesco website would make great gifts. 

Rating: 5/5.  Buy (Extra Large Peter Rabbit Soft Toy) here, Buy (Mrs Tiggy-Winkle Large Soft Toy) here, Buy (Peter Rabbit Spiral Notepad And Pen) here and Buy (Peter Rabbit Union Jack Notepad) here.     Read the full review here

I was bowled over by the items sent out for this Birthday Celebration review-led article.  One of my favourite items received was a Care Bears Birthday Bear.   I particularly like my sons having toys which were around during my own childhood. I used to love Care Bears. What am I saying? I still love them now at 47 years old.   As an adult I have learned about the beautiful messages that the various care bears bring to the world.  I love the vibrant colours of the birthday bear.  My sons and I love anything sparkly and so bits of the bear being sparkly is perfect for us.  The bear has an adorable but cheeky expression and even has a birthday hat on.   The coin it comes with is something that a child could put in their treasure box.   The bear is suitable for age 4+ so I think that my sons at 9 years old fit perfectly within the age range.  The birthday cake with a candle design on the bear’s belly is adorable.   I love the fact that the bear’s nose is a heart too. I think that any toy which helps children learn the importance of reaching out to and caring for others is a great idea.   The Care Bears Birthday Bear is so snuggly.  This product is very well made and I can see it lasting for years to come, perhaps even long enough for my sons to pass onto another child.  I would wholeheartedly recommend this bear and Care Bears in general to others. 

Rating: 5/5. Buy here.

Read the full review here

My sons and I tend to travel a lot and so I do tend to be on the look out for games which are easy to take with us on train journeys.   I was therefore delighted to be sent Top A Pops Match a Martian and Bake A Cake.  I was amazed how much fun was packed into such a small toy.  The lid of the toy contains the dice and the robust tin contains the other contents which include the instructions.    We thoroughly enjoyed learning how to play both games and playing them.  It was easy to work out how to play from the instructions provided.  Which child doesn’t enjoy the opportunity to try and beat mummy or their siblings at a game?. I think that the colours work perfectly and help keep a child’s interest.  The tin is easy for little hands to open and close again. The contents are well made and I think should stand up well to rough play.  The toy is not heavy at all and is compact enough to easily pack away into luggage when going on a family trip.  Whilst these games made lovely Birthday gifts, I think that they would also work well as stocking filler Christmas gift ideas.  My sons at age 9 fall perfectly into the recommended 6+ age range of these toys.   There are even 2 more games in the range, Dino Scores and Pet Factor.  I would recommend these particular games as well as Playmonster as a brand to others.

Rating: 5/5. Buy here and here.  Read the full review here

One of my sons in particular loves anything transport related, whether that is planes, trains, cars, trams, buses etc.  so the Brainstorm Ultraflyers 2 return stunt planes were perfect for them.  One of my favourite things about them is the vibrant colours/patterns. The packaging looks just as appealing as what is inside it.  Both planes look vibrant and funky.   They are easy to assemble using the provided instructions.  Great fun was had throwing them in the air and watching them return.  They are so lightweight and would therefore, I think, be perfect to take out and about on family adventures.  I have been fortunate to get to try out one or more other Brainstorm toys over the years and I think they have such a fantastic educational value as well as being such good value for money.  I think that they would be a great inexpensive way of making precious family memories.  The first time I threw one of the stunt planes I was amazed that it did, in fact come back.  Then the next time it also did and so on. These stunt planes are suitable for age 4+ and at 9 years old I think that my sons fit perfectly within that age range.  I think that these stunt planes would make a great stocking filler Christmas gift idea.   I think that these can be just as much fun for both adults and children.   I would recommend Brainstorm as a brand as well as this particular product to others.

Rating: 5/5.  Buy here.  Read the full review here.

For some time I have been tempted to try out an escape room experience but somehow have never got around to it.  I was therefore delighted to find out that escape room experiences are available which you can set up and experience at home.  Trapped Escape Room – The Zoo sounded very exciting and I was eager to try it out as a family activity.   It ended up something that one of my sons and I played one evening.  We had great fun setting it up from the instructions provided.  The contents were good quality and appealing.  My son who I played the game with really enjoyed looking for the relevant clue in the clue book.   We did use many of the available clues in order to solve what we did manage to solve which would have reduced our overall score had we managed to complete the escape room challenge, but that wouldn’t have mattered to us because it was such a perfect way to spend 1:1 time together and make more precious family memories.  We were chuffed to manage to get as many Meerkat cards as we did.    This game is suitable for age 8+ so at 9 years old I think that my son fits perfectly within that age range.  The challenges of the game kept my son and myself well engaged.  This was a really fun way to spend an evening and I would love to try out more of the Trapped escape room games in the future.  I would recommend this product to others and I think that the price is fantastic for a family activity. 

Rating: 5/5.  Buy here.  Read the full review here

My sons tend to love any toys where there is an element of surprise involved.  When we do pop into a toy shop my sons sometimes ask for a surprise toy.   Myself or another family member have bought them My Little Pony Mash’Ems before which now have pride of place in their bedroom.    What I like about surprise toys is that the price makes them perfect for children to buy themselves using their pocket money or for parents to buy their child a ‘well done at school’ or other treat and it not cost too much.   I love watching my sons excitedly open such toys and their shrieks of excitement when they discover which of the toys within that particular collection they have got.   I was therefore delighted to be sent some Peppa Pig and Baby Shark Mash’Ems as well as a Monopoly Surprise Exclusive Collectible Token.  I think that the best thing about these toys was the experience of opening them and discovering what was inside. I have to admit to being so excited in anticipation of which Mash’Ems my sons would get.  My sons were thrilled to receive 2 x Peppa Pig Mash’Ems, 1 x George Pig Mash’Em and a Baby Shark Mummy Shark Mash’Em.  I love squishing the Mash’Ems myself.  The contents of the Monopoly surprise collectible were all very well made and would make a special edition to someone’s monopoly play.  I think that the pieces are all so well made that they should last a long time.  Being a lover of shiny things, I loved the little houses best.  I think that all of these products would make great inexpensive stocking filler Christmas gift ideas. I would recommend all of these products to others. 

Rating: 5/5.  Buy here, here and here

Read the full review here.

Amongst the favourite toys I have for my sons are board games.  I think that they are perfect for quality family time.   That said, finding a board game which my sons aged 9 and daughter aged 16 all enjoy can be a challenge.  Along came Playmonster Silly Sounds.  This game amused not just my 9 year old sons, but their 16 year old sister and 18 year old niece.   It was very amusing watching the younger generation of my family have so much fun together. I think it’s possible that my daughter and niece actually enjoyed it more than my sons!  The idea of the game is, depending on the results of a spin, for one player or all players to guess the sound.  I think that the headbands look very silly which all adds to the enjoyment.   A good variety of sounds are included in the game and some of them are certainly a bit or a lot of a challenge.   I was amazed at the reasonable price of this game and I think it would make a great inexpensive birthday or Christmas Gift for a child… or let’s face it adult…. In someone’s life.  This game is suitable for age 8+ and at 9 years old my sons fit perfectly, I think into that age range.  I actually think that this game would be great for an adults games evening too as playing games can be such a fun way to relax with friends and family.   I would recommend Playmonster as a brand as well as this particular game to others.

Rating: 5/5.  Buy here.  Read the full review here

Amongst my favourite things which my sons received is the Drone Home game.    They love electronic toys and board games and so a board game which has a drone seemed perfect for them.  I have to also admit that at one point I found myself playing with the drone, laughing so much as the drone and alien launched off into the air, sometimes leading to the alien falling from the drone.   This game is so much fun to play.  Each player has 3 aliens and the aim is to be the first player to launch all their aliens off into the air with the drone.  It’s a game that can get very competitive.  I think it would be great as a birthday or Christmas gift idea or just to have at home for those family games nights.  I was amazed at the reasonable price of this game. The contents are exciting looking and very well made. I love how the colours of the aliens (4 different colours) complement each other.   The magnets inside each alien look secure which is a relief for any safety conscious parent.     I think that this toy is helpful in that it could potentially help children develop their fine motor skills as well as problem solving skills.  This toy is suitable for age 8+ and at 9 years old my sons fall, I think, perfectly within that age range.   That said, as an adult I absolutely loved this toy.   I wish that something like it had been around when I was a child.  I would highly recommend this toy to others. 

Rating: 5/5.  Buy here.  Read the full review here.

The last item that I am writing about today is Stuff A Loons.  One of my sons in particular tends to love activities where you can make something and so even before this product arrived I had a feeling that he would love it. I wasn’t wrong.  When the product arrived it was one of the first things that my son wanted to play with.  The box looked exciting and the contents did not disappoint.  My son was absolutely thrilled.  My son played with this product for hours and hours and has returned to it several times since.  Myself and nanny got involved helping him figure out how to make the balloon gifts.   It was, at times, trial and error but I think that this is a valuable experience which helped my son learn useful problem solving skills.  The balloons which you blow up were great quality and plenty of confetti, curling ribbon and glitter was included.  Once you get the hang of what to do, the Stuff A Loons maker set is easy to use.  The balloons are such a generous size that quite a few items can fit inside allowing your child to make someone a special balloon gift.  Using this product gave us such a sense of accomplishment.   I love products which bring out a child’s imagination. It was so much fun watching my son look for items to put inside the balloons he was making.   This toy is suitable for age 8+ and at 9 years old my son fits perfectly, I think, within that age range.  I would wholeheartedly recommend this product to others. I think that it would be a fantastic toy for Santa to bring a child this Christmas.
Rating: 5/5.  Buy here.    Read the full review here

I was delighted to get the opportunity of making my sons’ birthday extra special this year thanks to these wonderful products and the experience of a family day out at our local zoo. 

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