Reviews - activities & crafts (page 3)

We have reviewed a selection of activity toys, construction sets and crafts, many of which have kindly been sent to us for review purposes. There are craft activities, construction kits, science experiments and many more. They all offer learning value as well as being enjoyable for your child; creative activities are a great way to enjoy time together.

Reviews-activities-and-crafts (page 1)
Reviews-activities-and-crafts (page 2)

Build Your Own Microscope Kit from Build Your Own

The Build Your Own Microscope is our second kit from the BYO products and we were very excited to put it together and test it out! Much like the Paper Plane Launcher that we reviewed recently, the Microscope kit is also eco-friendly and comes in a box with instructions, sheets with pop-out cardboard pieces to assemble and an envelope with the lenses and a mirror in.

The instructions give you an easy to follow step by step guide; all the pieces that you need for each step are marked with a letter so that your child can find them and pop them out of the sheet before looking at the accompanying picture that shows how the pieces fit together.

The pieces are made from a super strong, thick card which is decorated on both sides in bold patterns and colours. The pieces fit together perfectly, you can really feel them click in to place and the structure feels very sturdy quite early on in the build.

The parts that make up the eyepiece and surround are made from a thin card as it has to be rolled up to form a tube but again, these bits are high quality and fit exactly where they were supposed to. Our favourite parts are the clever cogs that move focusing dial up and down!

My 9 year old and 7 year old were able to put a large amount of the microscope together by themselves, one trickier part that they needed me to do was wrapping the eyepiece around the squares that hold one of the lenses in place. We managed to put it all together just using the paper instructions but you can also scan the QR code included which will take you to a tutorial video if you need more of a walk-through. I think this is such a great thing to include and something that really shows that BYO cares about their customer usability as they want to make sure that you get the best you can from their product.


A small tray, also made from the thinner card, slots neatly in to place and you can use this to place the object in that you want to study. You can also hold the torch light from your phone underneath the microscope to light up objects so that you see them better. As a little bonus, you can also disconnect the top of the microscope so that it can be used for on-the-go exploring and we took it out in to the garden to test it out on various plants and interesting surfaces.

The finished microscope is fantastic, it has up to 30x magnification, it is very strong and robust and the lenses were able to show us objects in a very surprising amount of detail! We've been really impressed with this kit, it can be used time and time again and the quality is outstanding. The BYO Kits Microscope retails at £16.99 and you can buy it directly from Build Your Own.

So Sand DIY Sand Ball Kit from Canal Toys

What's in the packet?

  • 3 bags of white sand
  • 3 bags of sand colouring
  • 3 bags of glitter
  • Sand cutter
  • Cutting guide
  • Sand mold
  • Ball carry case

To colour the sand you need to get a bag of the white sand, make a well in the middle of it and carefully pour a bag of the colouring in to the well you've made. Gently knead the sand so that the colour spreads evenly throughout, it's a bit like kneading bread dough! We did one bag of sand each and it took about 3-4 minutes to mix all the colour in so you couldn't see any white in the sand.

Once your sand is coloured you can add a bag of the glitter to it in the same way, it mixes in really quickly and in a couple of minutes, you're ready to go!

The instructions show a few different ways in which you can mold your sand, we decided to try the layered look and started by taking a handful of the purple and laying it in a flat circle on the base of the ball, we layered each colour in turn on top of this one (see the pics for how we did it). Once all the layers were done we put the mold on top and pressed the sand in to it so it was all squeezed together as much as possible.

The cutting guide is a clever piece of kit which allows you to cut perfect lines through your sand every time, so we removed the mold and placed the cutting guide on top of the sand. The cutting tool glides effortlessly through the sand, we made cuts very close to each other and they worked so well, it really is incredibly satisfying!

Once you've cut through your sand to your hearts content, you can re-mold the sand and try some different style cuts! So Sand DIY also suggests using this as ASMR relaxation which means it is perfect for sensory play and as a calming tool for children as ASMR can be good for childhood anxiety. Adults will also find it equally relaxing and I had just as much fun testing it out as the kids did!

So Sand DIY Sand Ball Kit retails at around £13.00 and is available in all good toy shops.

Build Your Own Plane Launcher

We were very excited to receive the Build Your Own Plane Launcher for review and my mini reviewers were really looking forward to building it!

What's in the box?

  • Sheets containing the slot-together launcher parts
  • Elastic bands (plus spares)
  • Instructions
  • 10 printed paper planes

The first thing that I noticed as we unpacked the plane launcher was how solid, thick and good quality all of the cardboard parts are; they popped out very easily and all of the parts are brightly coloured on both sides. My mini reviewers were able to follow the instruction booklet step-by-step with just a little supervision to check everything was being put on correctly. It took them just under an hour to construct the launcher with just one step that they needed a little bit of help with. The finished item is an incredibly sturdy construction, almost hard to believe it is made from cardboard!

10 pre-printed paper planes are the planes that you use with the launcher, each one is completely different and they are designed for either speed, distance or acrobatics. This is so clever and we had no idea that paper planes could be made in so many different ways! Each plane is marked with the different folds that you need to do to make the plane and they are in step order which makes them easy to follow.

The set also comes with 4 score targets which are also made from the thick card; aim your paper planes at these and see who can get the best score!

Once you have made your launcher, targets and the paper planes it's time for some fun! Each plane is designed to fit in to the front of the launcher, with one hand hold the launcher where the blue chevrons are and the other hand holds the handle. As you pull the handle back, the plane will move backwards too, once it is all the way back let go of the handle to launch your plane at speed out of the launcher and away it goes!

We tried different planes in the launcher and it was fascinating to see how the different planes really did behave differently when launched depending on what they were classed to do, the planes designed for speed did the best job at hitting the targets accurately and we took the launcher outside to see how far we could get them to go and managed to get a maximum distance of 9.2 metres!

The Build Your Own Plane Launcher proudly advertises on the box that their cardboard is sustainable and we love that there is no plastic wrapping or packaging to be seen. Along with the paper instructions you can scan the QR code on the box which will take you to the Build Your Own website where you can find an instruction video and links to contact if you need further help. This amazing kit is educational too and supports STEAM areas. This kit retails at £16.99 and is suitable for ages 8 to adult, my mini reviewers are 9 and 7 and they worked together to complete this with just a little bit of help. Overall, a great kit, excellent quality, fun to build and even more fun to play with. Buy it here.  

Slime Glam Slime Shaker from Canal Toys

This gorgeous looking set of slime shakers definitely brings a bit of glitz and glamour with its fun-looking beauty style pots. In this set of three, you get shakers shaped like a lipstick, nail varnish and a perfume bottle.

Each pot comes with the slime powder and some decoration, which is usually in the form of some colourful glitter that really makes the slime sparkle and shine. The slime is super easy to make:

  • Empty the slime powder in to the shaker pot
  • Add water up to the marked line using a small spoon
  • Mix for a few seconds
  • Place the lid on the shaker (make sure it's secure!)
  • Shake for 30 seconds
  • Take the lid off and wait for 5 minutes for the slime to set
  • Remove the slime, add your decorations and you're done!

The slime mixture works so well, the end product is a really stretchy and bouncy slime with no stickiness. Each slime has its own pot so you always have somewhere to put it once it's finished and the whole process is completely mess-free which will really appeal to parents!

The Slime Glam Slime Shaker set from So Slime DIY retails at £10 and is available from all good toy shops.  

Soda Slimelicious - So Slime DIY from Canal Toys

Soda Slimelicious is another amazing slime set from the SO Slime DIY range and in this set you can make 6 different slimes! In the box you get:

  • 2 x slime shaker pots
  • A box containing the different scented slime powders
  • 2 x packets containing surprise items
  • 3 x packets of decorations

The slime shaker pots are mini sized and in this set the pots are a cola cup with a lid that looks like ice with a straw and a soda can with a silver lid. The slime powders are all neatly stored in a separate box as you will be able to make two at a time. The slime is made in the same way as the other So Slime DIY sets that we have previously reviewed and is so easy and quick to make:

  • Add the slime powder to the shaker and fill with water to the line
  • Mix with a spoon and then securely put the lid on
  • Shake for 30 seconds and then carefully remove the lid
  • Wait for 5 minutes and then remove from the pot and add your decorations

Each slime powder is scented so you get a variety of scents such as grape, chocolate and strawberry! The Soda Slimelicious set comes with 3 packets of decorations which are a really generous size, so there is plenty to share between the 6 different slimes that you can make. The decorations in this set look amazing, they are really detailed and the bright colours compliment each other perfectly. The set also includes two surprise charms and you can collect different ones that comes in the other sets!

We really enjoyed this set because you can make two slimes which last for a while and then you still have 4 packets of powder left so you can make the set last for a really long time, or you can make them all at the same time and store them in air tight pots. The Soda Slimelicious set retails at £19.99 and can be found in all good toys shops.

Wonder Magic Garden from Canal Toys

Build your own magic garden and watch your tree bloom and grow with this clever set!

What's in the box?

10 bags of coloured sand

2 bags of magic growing powder

1 bag of slime

6 ornaments for the garden

2 garden tools (rake and scoop)

1 terrarium dome and base

1 arbor

1 tree

1 cactus

1 base

Variety of large and small stones

The set comes with two magics plants - one tree and one cactus; decide which one you want to grow first and follow the instructions to start it off (each plant has slightly different instructions). One bag of magic growing powder is mixed with some water in to the base of the terrarium, you then assemble your tree and slot it in to the cross shape on the terrarium base and wait for your magic tree to bloom!

Decorate the magic garden with the bags of sand, it comes with lots of different colours so you can make it look super colourful and you can use the tools provided to create various shapes and patterns in it. A bag of blue slime comes in the set and it can be stretched to fill the oasis cavity which gives a really realistic looking water effect. The Wonder Magic Garden comes with a great variety of ornaments to put in your garden including a rainbow, unicorn and a llama and some shiny coloured stones in various sizes finish it off really nicely.

The magic tree takes around 12 hours to grow and during this time you will need to keep the dome off the base, once it has fully bloomed you can put the dome on to protect it as it is very fragile. The tree will grow best without any air conditioning and you must be careful not to touch it as it will break very easily.

After a few weeks you can grow your second plant; carefully remove the first one and throw it away, remove any decorations you put in the terrarium base and follow the steps in the instructions to grow your next plant. The finished product can be placed on display, you can move your ornaments around and make new shapes in the sand to keep it looking fresh!

The Magic Wonder Garden is suitable for ages 8+ and will a little adult help it is very simple to follow the instructions. The finished product looks great and we love that you can make more than one magic plant as this really increases the longevity of the item. Children will love decorating it how they want and it comes with such a fantastic choice of ornaments that really bring it to life. The Magic Wonder Garden retails for around £19.99 and can be found in all good toy shops.

Style4Ever Cryst-a-gel Studio from Canal Toys

Make over 20 jewels, including rings, necklaces and bracelets with the Cryst-a-gel studio!

What's in the box?

1 studio base with storage and stickers

6 packets of coloured gel

6 packets of glitter

2 gem moulds

10 pegs for making holes in the gems

1 applicator gun


2 rings

1 gem decorating tool

2 glitter storage tubes

After you have assembled the studio, choose the gem design you would like to make, place the corresponding mould on to the studio base and place a peg in each of the pendant moulds to create a hole in the gem before you start. The gel colours come in double sided packets and you need to squeeze the packets to mix the two sides together and then make sure all of the gel is squeezed in to one side of the packet so that it can be inserted in to the applicator gun. Once the packet is in the gun, cut the tip off and gently press to fill the gem mould with gel, you can use more than one colour in each gem so your jewels will look completely unique! After you have filled your moulds you can decorate them with the glitter packets, again you can use a mix of all the different colours to create some amazing designs! If you are making a ring, you will need to add the ring in to the gel straight away so that the gel sets around it.

With the moulds you can make 2 bracelets, 10 pendants and 2 rings and there is enough gel to make around 20 jewels altogether. It takes around 2 hours for the gems to set before they can be removed, if they look a little rough around the edges or have an overflow of gel then you can simply use some scissors to trim them and neaten them up. You can now add the thread to make necklaces by cutting it to the required length and threading it through the hole that was made with the pegs. There are endless possibilities of colours and designs for these gems, they are a lovely size and the gel they are made from is soft yet robust which is perfect for children's jewellery. Great fun to make and the bits are easily stored away in the studio so that nothing gets lost! Aimed at ages 8+ and this works well as it is the kind of age that can be hard to buy for. The Cryst-a-gel Studio retails at around £19.99 and can be found at all good toy shops.

So Slime DIY Slimelicious Vanity Case

So Slime DIY from Canal Toys brings us their new Slimelicious Vanity case, inside you get: 2 slime shakers, 5 scented slime powders, 5 bags of decorations, 1 tool, 1 sticker sheet and instructions. Everything comes packed inside a super handy vanity case with a handle, with plenty of room inside for extra bits or other pots of slime you might have. The slime shakers are bright and fun, one is designed to be a mug of hot chocolate and the other is a milk carton, included decorations include plastic beads, swirls and strawberries which can be used to decorate the slime once it has been made.

The 5 scents you can make up are hot chocolate, milk loops, soda, bubblegum and strawberry, the only thing not included is water! The instructions are really easy to follow as they are well illustrated, the set is aimed at ages of 6 and over so your child should be able to make the slime by themselves with a little guidance.

To make your slime you simply need to choose a shaker, empty your chosen scented bag in to the shaker, give it a quick stir to break up any lumps and then add water up to the line on the shaker. Stir the mixture, put the lid on and shake for 30 seconds, open the lid again and leave it to settle for 5 minutes. After this time your slime will be ready to play with and you can then choose which decorations to use with it; place your stickers on your shaker and on your vanity case to personalise it and you are done!


Parents will love this 'no mess' slime making and children will enjoy being able to do it themselves. It is a great kit to do when friends are over and it also makes a great gift. The Slimelicious Vanity Case retails at £14.99 and can be found at Smyths Toys.

Woodland Explorer Box from Explorer Tots

Explorer Boxes are inspired by STEM and outdoors themes, they are aimed at ages 3-8 years and come with four exciting activities to get stuck in to. We received the Woodland themed box for review and were very impressed at the size of the box, and it was packed full! Inside there were large envelopes, each one with an activity in. Activity one - Create a Hedgehog Nest. Included is a large pack of clay, leaf shapes to cut out, eyes and noses for the hedgehogs and instructions, the only thing you need to provide yourself for this activity is a medium size tub (ice cream tub or tupperware box). A really fun activity and lots of time was spent finding leaves from the garden to make them a comfy nest!

Activity two - Build a Weather Vane. For this activity you get a pack of plasticine, a paper cup, a paper straw, a pin, a pencil, arrow shapes to cut out, crayons, a compass and instructions. This activity immediately prompted questions about how it works and how to read the compass.

Activity three - Make a Bird Feeder. Included is a paper cup, bird seed, coconut oil, string and instructions. We get lots of birds in our garden and this is definitely one that we will make again.

Activity four - Go on a Minibeast Safari. Inside the pack you get a wooden spoon and a bug pot so you can go out and find minibeasts to study. The bug pot has a magnified lid so you can really see the creepy crawlies up close, which made them really interesting to draw.

We love how educational these boxes are, and having a whole box and several activities based around one theme, means that your little ones can really get to grips with it. The activities have easy to follow instructions which also highlight the skills your child will be using and the learning points. You get lots of extra sheets included which extend on the activities too; we had a leaf spotting guide, minibeasts to look for, a fact card about woodland mammals and their habitats and tips for parents which will help you guide your child through the contents of the box. The Explorer Box is £23.99 with free shipping and can be found in a range of different themes, to find out more you can visit their website.

Hama Beads

Hama Beads are small, hollow, melt-together beads that can be used to create wonderful designs and beautiful artwork. Amazingly, despite their really contemporary feel, they were created over 50 years ago - they are the original bead brand. Beads come in three different size ranges, Midi, Mini and Maxi, and in a vast range of colours. They can be enjoyed by all ages, abilities and genders. They are easy to use and can be beneficial in a number of ways, including developing creativity, imagination and fine motor skills.  We received a lovely selection from Hama.


The 12,000 Midi Hama Beads & Pegboards Storage Set retails at £36.00 (April 2019) and includes a storage Box of 12,000 Midi Hama Beads, and comes three peg boards - a butterfly, a dog and a hexagon - plus design sheet and ironing paper. The clever see-through plastic box is in three parts which clip together and has a carrying handle. It even comes with dividers to slot in, so all the colours can be kept separate. It's been really well thought out to make practical storage that is easy to use. Black, green, purple, orange, blue, red, yellow, white, brown,  pink... and more. So many colours to encourage creativity. A coloured leaflet gives sample designs, but after that, children can just use their creativity to make their own beautiful designs. Once the design has been created, and tweaked to the creator's complete satisfaction, the design is ready to be ironed to make it permanent. With care, the board can then be removed and re-used. We found this did work, with adult help. Buy from Hama Beads.


We also received  the 7,200 Midi Hama Beads & Pegboards Pink Set, retailing at £22.00 (April 2019). Along with the 7,200 Midi Hama Beads, it includes a unicorn and medium hexagon pegboards, 6 midi beads supports, string, 2 press pegboards, press pen, design sheet, ironing paper and instructions. Again, careful thought has been given to storage, with the beads coming in a 12 section plastic box. The beads have an extra creative element with this set, as some of the beads are multi-coloured; in addition some colours come in varying shades - there's a lovely deep red/gold mix too. There are three simple steps: 1. Place the beads on a pegboard. 2. Place the special ironing paper on top of the design and then iron for just a few seconds with smooth, circular movements. After a few seconds, the colour of the beads will suddenly be more clearly visible through the ironing paper; this means that the ironing is finished. We received a pack of sheets of Ironing Paper (£1.25 April 2019) to complement our kits. 3. Leave the design for a few minutes to cool down and then peel it off the pegboard. 
hama2If children want some help to get started, the set includes a design sheet to create a three different unicorns, a cat, flowers, sloth, flamingo and more... and then the child's imagination is free to roam and create whatever they like. The beads can be moved around before being ironed, so perfection can be achieved!.As well as using the beads on the peg boards, they make lovely necklaces and bracelets. Buy the set here.


Finally, to complete our goodies, we received the Pegboard Blister Pack. (£7.50 April 2019). This includes five geometric shapes - square, circle, hexagon, heart, star plus ironing sheet - lots more creativity to enjoy, extending the value of the other packs.The Hama range is HUGE! There are masses more sets to choose from, so do have a look through the Hama website. Hama beads are wonderful - they offer hours of non-messy creative play opportunities, with excellent results of which children can be really proud.


Messy Play is great fun and children love it but there are times when it's just not practical and that's the time to get the Playmais out!  PlayMais is an innovative and unusual all-natural crafting toy which is available in a whole range of packs. It is totally safe, being made from organic corn grits and water and coloured with non-staining food colouring. Obviously, young children need supervision (the product is recommended for 3+) but it's good to know that the product is safe. It is so simple to use - shape it easily with your fingers and it sticks by dampening with a minimal amount of water. It's non-messy qualities make it excellent for use in schools where obviously the safety element will be appreciated. Children can start off with the simple 2D creations and as their manipulative and creative skills increase, they can move on to more challenging 3D creations. As well as sticking to itself, Playmais can be stuck to a wide range of other materials including paper, cardboard, glass, wood and even flower pots; this offers great potential for creating all sorts of attractive decorative objects. Playmais has a high educational value and is a great way to promote manual dexterity, fine motor skills, creativity and imagination. It's good to know that PlayMais is a natural product that is 100% biodegradable and doesn't impact negatively on the environment. We received the Playmais Classic Colours and Forms, a big box with over 550+ pieces in six colours - red, yellow, orange, blue, green and yellow.  Along with this, come 14 colourful pre-printed cards onto which Playmais designs can be printed - this is good for learning about colour matching, and the pictures can be used to tell stories. The box also includes 14 printed cards which help children learn the letters of the alphabet, making this an excellent educational resource. The big boxful is ideal for groups of children - or even family groups as adults will enjoy tactile feel of the pieces. We also received Playmais Mosiac which comes in a wide variety of colours with over 500 smaller Playmais pieces plus design templates, sponge and instructions. This comes in a clip close plastic box which is much more useful for storage. See the whole Playmais range on their website; you will also find plenty of free downloads for even more inspiration. A super product with lots of educational and creative value, completely non-messy for easy play fun.

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Playmais Classic 1000 Piece

This box full of creativity contains 1000 colourful Playmais pieces including orange, red, brown, white, pink, green, blue, yellow and more to create all manner of things; a plastic knife and piece of felt are included, along with instructions. The toy promotes creativity, motor skills and child development. The big plastic tub with its securely fastening clip lid is ideal for storing the pieces, and it's easy to rummage through to find the pieces you want. With this big boxful and its range of colours, there's no limit to the imaginative creations that can be made, simply by adding a little water. The pieces can be used whole or cut for greater versatility. Our final product was a gorgeous owl mini mosaic - these mini mosaics are a great way to get started with Playmais; there are two pictures in the box and they make a great gift. dkl have been marketing and selling quality children’s products since 1989. This family business distributes fantastic brands to the toy trade - Hama Beads, Plus-Plus Construction, Bloco Construction, PlayMais Craft, Scentco Scented Stationery, Breyer Model Horses, and Escabbo Bath Toys. Each brand and every product has been carefully selected  to ensure the highest play value, quality and product safety. All their toys are assessed to the industry Toy Safety standards and licensed to use the lion mark.

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Gelli Worlds Dino Pack

This is a lovely opportunity for children (3 and above) to use their creativity to make a play world which they can then enjoy for imaginative play. It is a really innovative product and one that children are going to love. The pack contains 5 sachets of Green Gelli Powder, 8 brightly coloured dinosaur figures, plastic trees and an inflatable play tray. To get going, blow up the inflatable tray (just a few puffs and you're done) and fill it with water. Then pour in the Gelli powder and you almost instantly have a wobbly jelly - a great transformation that takes place really quickly. It makes a great prehistoric swamp and the set offers plenty of opportunities to teach children about the dinosaurs and their world. Parents will be glad to know that there are no harmful chemicals, the product is 100% degradable and environmentally friendly - and, contrary to possible expectations, it's amazingly mess-free. To dispose of it once the fun is over, simply flush down the toilet, ideally diluting it a little more first. The Gelli products are fantastic for sensory play (and this makes it a particularly good toy for children with a range of learning difficulties).




Zimpli Kids kindly sent us three more packs in addition to the Dino Pack. Glitter Slime Play turns water into glittery slime, all squishy and slimy, which kids will love. It's available in pink and blue. I think it will be great fun for outdoor water play in the summer. Children disappointed there's no snow? Snoball Play turns water into a year-round snowy experience. The 'snow' has a lovely texture - a sensory delight. Make your own snowballs by simply adding together to the Snoball Play Powder and you're ready to make snowballs and go outside for a snowball fight. The product is biodegradable (as they all are), so environmentally safe. Gelli Play turns water into bright red goo - simply add some powder to warm water (you can add more or less, so you can choose your own consistency) and watch it grow into fun squelching goo over a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Colourful and easy-to-follow instruction leaflets are included with each product. Slime is a big thing at the moment and children love it. It provides the opportunity for seemingly messy play that really isn't that messy, making it a hit with adults and children alike. The wide range of Zimpli Kids products is great and gives lots of scope for creativity and imagination.

So Bomb DIY Vanity Case from Canal Toys

These are a real treat and a lovely gift for girls (and boys) to make for their mum. Packed in a lovely purple and green sparkly vanity case are 3 moulds, 5 sodium bicarbonate bags (in yellow, pale green, white, deep pink and light pink), 5 So Bomb powder bags, a decoration bag, a mini pipette and 3 surprise figures. Of course, there's a detailed instruction sheet too. Everything you need is included, so no hunting around for bits and pieces. There's plenty of opportunity for creativity in designing the five fizzy Bath Bombs, so each one will be unique. Everything stores neatly in the vanity case, which will also be very handy to use afterwards. The instructions come in five languages, so children might need some adult help in following these as the font is not very clear (I actually wrote them out for easier use, so there was no problem). Having said that, the instructions are really easy to follow and once you have made one, it all falls into place really easily. Each bath bomb will be unique, allowing plenty of creativity, as there are lots of colourful stickers to decorate them. An especially nice touch comes with the three little plastic models included which are a surprise element once the bomb has finished fizzing; there are 'hundreds and thousands' too, so the final effect is really pretty. Enterprising parents will make sure they explain the chemical reaction that takes place, turning the project into a mini chemistry lesson. It's really fun to do and, even better, there's a lovely relaxing bath to look forward to at the end of it - a craft with a really good purpose. They fizz beautifully and add a real luxury feel to a bath!

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Cotton Twist: Adventures

First things first - this arrived beautifully packaged (and letter-box sized). Inside the brown cardboard box are four sections, each with a different activity related to the theme of 'Adventure'; they are suitable for 3 to 18 year olds. We received a generic version, although I understand the boxes can be personalised; this is a lovely idea as children love to receive their own post. The box immediately appealed to me as there's virtually no plastic, just lots of natural materials including wood and paper.  Almost everything needed to make four attractive crafts is included, except for felt tip pens (and we all have plenty of those!). The crafts are: Superhero Mask with stick-on jewels , decorative eye shapes and glitter glue. Pirate Catapult with pegs, lolly stick, wooden spoon and elastic band. Wild West Headdress with feather cut outs, self adhesive gems and glitter glue. Model Aeroplane with cut outs, pegs, & lolly sticks. Each comes with a neat little instruction card, and the activities are easy for children to follow on their own. The end result is lovely and the materials are a joy to use. This is a lovely idea and there are many more similar crafts on the website, so plenty to enjoy. What Cotton Twist do, in their own words:  "An inspiration for parties & play, we pride ourselves on making activities & gifts you'll love to give, & children will love to receive. Nostalgic, chic, simple & inherently satisfying, crafts draw upon a palette of raw materials from lolly sticks to boxes, & from twine to felt. Wave goodbye to all that plastic! Crafts are carefully designed to spark learning & play in a fun & imaginative way. A world of make believe is ready to be uncovered." See all the lovely Cotton Twist products on their website; you can buy the Adventures box here, priced at £12.95 (January 2019).


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ScienceWiz Cool Circuits Puzzle

The objective is to solve each challenge - there are 40 in all - by completing the circuit to light up the board. The kit includes a light-up game board, eight 3D fluorescent circuit pieces, a pack of 40 puzzle cards and an instruction/solution book. It's well made and all neatly slots together, with the puzzle cards stored in a drawer under the puzzle board. There are 40 puzzle challenges of increasing difficulty (recommened age is 8+) - tutorial, beginner, student and advanced. Be warned - the advanced are a real challenge and may well have some adults puzzled! To play, put down a puzzle card and solve the challenge shown on the card by making a loop; the circuit pieces fit firmly into the guide posts on the board, giving a satisfying feel. All the conditions on the card must be satisfied and the green channels must be covered with puzzle pieces; the joining positions are also shown. Once the pieces are correctly positioned, watch the board light up as well as listen to the tunes (you can opt not to have these if you prefer). It's an excellent way to support KS2 learning about circuits and the practical hands-on approach will ensure learning is memorable; it helps to develop spatial reasoning and abstract thinking. A super puzzle which children will keep returning to as they advance through the stages.

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Science Wiz: Inventions

This kit is a practical combination of a 40 page full-colour book along with the parts necessary to build a spinning motor, a clicking telegraph, a light flashing generator and a real radio. It is one in an excellent and extensive set of Science Wiz kits, the result of years of testing with children. Step-by-step, highly visual instructions lead young scientists successfully through each invention and as they work through, they will gain a good understanding of the science behind the projects. The visual nature of the instructions is excellent as children can work on their own, and even less fluent readers can enjoy the projects. This is complemented by excellent illustrations which present key scientific concepts in a way that shows children why and how things work - it's hands-on science at its best. The kit offers a really good opportunity for children to extend their learning and it's great to have all the components so neatly packaged - you just need to add some simply obtained household objects. The use of everyday materials demystifies the way common electronic components work. An excellent kit with plenty of options to explore to enhance learning and engender a real interest. See more on the Science Wiz website.

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Presto Snow®

This amazing product is a super absorbent polymer that expands to 30 times its original volume, absorbing up to 100 times its weight in water and producing a fluffy white snow as if by magic. Just this 100gm pack can make over six litres of light powdery artificial snow. It won't melt and can last for days if you spritz it daily with water to keep it light and fluffy. It's so simple to make - just put one scoop (the scoop is included) of Presto Snow® powder with 60ml of warm water to make about one cup full of snow. It's super for encouraging imaginative play, as children can make all sorts of attractive scenes using other models - a great way to make attractive scenes with snowy bases but it can't be sculpted. I was initially concerned that it might be a bit messy, but not at all - it's really clean to play with and very easy to clear up any that drops. The children had great fun making a snow scene in a cardboard box and it's great to know the product is reusable too. Good fun for chilly winter days when children have had enough of being outdoors.


Pepper Mint in the Great Treehouse Engineering Adventure

This is a superb product that brings in a fantastic range of learning activities while children have creative and imaginative fun. In this story-based STEM kit, Pepper Mint visits her aunt, a scientist researching primates who lives in a treehouse in the rainforest on the island of Borneo. The treehouse is not connected to the electrical power grid, so Pepper Mint and her aunt have to use their ingenuity to devise mechanical inventions to accomplish various tasks. They equip the treehouse with mechanical equipment using pulleys, winches, and gears, and learn lessons in physics. Projects include a rope ladder, a pulley to lift heavy objects into the treehouse, a rubber-band-powered lift, a rotating palm leaf umbrella, a zipline, a catapult, and a trap door. At the end of the story, Pepper Mint wires up a string of LED lanterns using conductive thread and a battery holder to light up the treehouse in the dark jungle night. While doing this, she learns about electric circuits. The kit includes materials to build the treehouse and do the projects, a full-colour illustrated storybook and step-by-step instruction manual, as well as a scale Pepper Mint figurine. Hands-on science is almost always the best way to teach and this excellent kit opens up plenty of learning opportunities, linking in well with the current emphasis on STEM subjects by the way it covers all the topics. The instructions are clear and many children will happily work through them on their own, giving a good sense of echievement by the end.  Buy from Thames and Kosmos.

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Pepper Mint Treehouse Model

John Adams Rainbow Science Kit

You've only got to watch children playing with bubbles in the garden to see how fascinated they are by the wonders of colour - and as they enjoy colour, they are learning important scientific principles that will support KS2 learning. Rainbow Science includes five wonderfully colourful experiments to encourage children to learn about and marvel at the world of colour. The experiments are thoughtfully designed to replicate real science experiments and this ties in well with the curriculum for scientific exploration, investigation and recording and teaching important principles. The experiments are - blow a cascading rainbow of bubbles; paint augmented reality rainbows in the air; create a magical unicorn hologram, make a colourful amulet and create a bright walking water rainbow flower; they are suitable for age 8+, although younger children will thoroughly enjoy doing them with adult help. Everything you need is included except for straightforward household items - washing up liquid and sugar. The pack includes rainbow wand and stickers, bubble blower and cap, flannel piece, hologram stage and stickers, rainbow amulet and lid, pipette, scoop, suction cap and cord, walking water container and felt wicks, yellow, red and blue colouring plus clear and easy to follow instructions, which also set out the scientific principles behind the experiments. All the parts are of good quality, strong and robust; the good quality and scientific accuracy means the equipment could be kept after use to form part of a science kit collection. The set also needs the use of an Android or IOS smartphone and a download of the free app (to avoid disappointment, although this is mentioned on the box, it could be highlighted more prominently). This is an excellently thought out kit which is a good combination of fun and learning; a great way to increase interest in science and to encourage children to think about the world around them.



John Adams Power Tracks Science Kit

Children will learn coding at school, and Power Tracks makes a perfect introduction, giving them a headstart on the basic principles through hands-on experience. Coding is very much part of everyday life, so it's great to see a toy that introduces the concept to younger children. Meet Volty, the programmable robot with the happy smiling face. He loves electronics and he's here to guide your child (with a little adult help) into the world of programming and circuit building. Designed for age 5+, there are large table-top tiles which join together to make any of 20 circuits; then use Volty's direction buttons to program him to drive around the circuit. It's easy to program him and we like the fact that the circuits get progressively more difficult to children can refine and develop their skills, making this a toy with many years of use. There are some surprising hidden features that will show up on the way. As children become more confident, they can design their own circuits, which increases the learning value and age range. It's a learning curve - mistakes may well be made but that's part of the fun - just recode Volty and try again. Volty the robot comes with 24 double-sided circuit tiles, 10 double-circuit diagrams, 40 command cards and instructions. All the parts are sturdy, satisfying and well made and Volty will withstand plenty of enthusiastic handling. It's a fascinating project for children, who will love to see how their simple commands are translated into Volty's movements; their confidence will grow because it doesn't matter if things go wrong - just re-program him. Perfect to encourage an interest in STEM subjects for girls and boys, stimulating curiosity and developing thinking skills.




Craft Buddy Crystal Card Making Kit Ice Cream at the Markets

We were pleased to review a Crystal Card Kit which features a cute penguin enjoying an ice cream, warmly wrapped up in a matching hat and scarf, and set against a traditional snowy street scene. It's always lovely to receive a home-made card; there's something very special about knowing a special effort has been made to create something personal. The Crystal Art concept, commonly known as ‘diamond painting’, is a universally popular craft suitable for adults and children (ages 8+) alike and is available in a variety of formats, including greetings cards, wall art, sticker form (Crystal Art motifs) and LED wall canvases. Craft Buddy Ltd have established the craft as a growing trend across mainstream Europe over the last 12 months with designs now firmly set on the UK market. DIY Crystal Card Kit is an award nominee for ‘Toy of the Year’. The concept is simple and the results are really effective. Using the pick-up pencil, you simply lift the flat-backed crystals and place them onto the adhesive card to instantly stick. It's a bit like Paint by Numbers, as the card is marked with the appropriate letter to show which colour to use. The results are sparkly, beautiful cards. Click here to see a YouTube video on how it works. The kit includes 1 x crystal card with template, 1 x envelope, several bags of crystals, 1 x magic pick-up pencil, 1 x tray and 1 x jelly wax. Available from and all good stores. For more information, visit This is an unusual and enjoyable craft, very relaxing to do, and it produces a lovely result which will be treasured by the recipient.


My Fairy Garden: Fairy Light Garden by Interplay

This is going to be a popular item on many wish lists - it's one of Amazon's top selling toys, and not surprisingly as it's just the sort of thing young girls will love. Creativity is encouraged as children create a beautiful home where Fairies Heather and Elvie will love to live; personal to every child, this is so much better than a ready-made toy and will give lots of satisfaction. And for added value, it even includes an enchanted fairy mushroom home that doubles as a night-light - a lovely feature and one that will, hopefully, encourage children to settle down at bedtime to enjoy the soft glow! Just blow on the magic candle through the window to make it light up, accompanied by gentle soothing harp music. There is also a secret home for the hedgehog, a pretty bridge to connect to other gardens in the series, of which there are many. Lots of play pieces are included - fairy figures, animal figures, a fairy bridge with flowers, coloured gravel, fairy dust, and much more giving lots of scope for imaginative play. The really unusual element, and a nice piece of extra learning and creativity, is the fact that grass seed is included. You will need to provide some compost for this and keep it lightly watered - a spray bottle should do the trick. If this becomes a problem, you could cut green felt (or even a sample piece of artificial turf) to fill the gap. It all assembles well and feels sturdy when made; younger children will need some adult help, but that's all part of the fun. An unusual toy, but one that children are going to love for its fantasy element and the sheer cuteness.

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