The Torch Dragon Tour of London

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It’s not every day that you are given the opportunity to hunt for Dragon’s in London guided by Historian and TV Presenter, Suzannah Lipscomb and a fire breathing baby dragon! So, when Hasbro invited ‘Being A Mummy blog’ along to celebrate the launch of ‘FurReal Friends Torch My Blazin’ Dragon’  I was more than happy to step in and join the tour.

I took my 8 year old history loving boy with me and my ‘all things cute and cuddly’ loving 6 year old girl with me and I can honestly say we all had a brilliant day. It was an absolute privilege to wander around London with a historian who clearly loves both London and the stories that have seeped into the cityscape throughout the ages.

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We started the tour at the George Inn in Southwark with the legend of George and the Dragon and from here, over the course of a few hours, we visited sites of dragon lore, fire, treasure, executions and an icy River Thames. The enthusiasm of Suzannah’s delivery and the delightful game of spot the dragon meant there were no little voices complaining of tired legs. The only real demands of the day from the children were regarding when they might have a turn carrying Torch, the Baby Dragon. There was however, plenty of time to enjoy interacting with Torch after the tour when we warmed up attour the Soho Hotel.

I have to admit that, before going, I thought my 8 year old boy would be interested in the tour but not particularly the toy, whilst I thought my 6 year old would be less interested in the history but delighted by the toy. I was wrong. Both the tour and the toy were a huge hit with them both. My husband and eldest daughter, who had stayed at home to bake profiteroles, were regaled with tales of dragons and heads on spikes whilst packaging was removed from our new pet baby dragons!

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At the Soho Hotel, when Torch was brought out for the children to play with, both were besotted. Torch is, in short, cute! He has a lovely, ‘look after me face’ and makes adorable little noises that make everyone say ‘aaaah’. He responds to touches on his nose, mouth and tummy with noises, burps, movement and ‘fire’. Feed the dragon water and then touch his tongue to see him breathe fire. The use of lights and steam give a good enough illusion of a baby dragon learning to breathe fire and the addition of a toy marshmallow which changes colour as the dragon ‘toasts’ it is genius. My 6 year old in particular loves her baby dragon. She is desperate for a real life dog which unfortunately isn’t likely, so this dragon has become her pet and she delights in looking after him. She carries him while he sleeps against her chest and then giggles when she wakes him up and he wants to play.

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It was interesting to see at the hotel how Torch appealed to girls and boys alike and to a much wider age range than I would have imagined. Even my 10 year old has been clamouring for her turn with the baby dragons. She is a massive Harry Potter fan and has commented how Hagrid would love to take care of Torch and with her Hogwarts letter only a year away from arriving, Torch provides some fantastic wizarding practice for future ‘Care of Magical Beasts’ lessons!

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As we were leaving the hotel Suzannah said to me she hoped she had inspired the younger tour members with even just a little bit of interest in history and I don’t doubt that she succeeded. My two left brimming with tales and let’s be honest, when history involves dragons what isn’t to love!

b51420000_630509475247_main_16As for Torch, would I recommend it as a toy? Most definitely. Dragons feature in so many myths and legends and inspire such wonderful adventures. This dragon isn’t just a cute plaything to be looked after until the child becomes tired of it. It can be used to fire up a child’s imagination in so many ways. It can facilitate storytelling through play and bring a little bit of magical fun to roleplay games. One of our new dragons is currently playing the role of Smaug, guarding the presents under the Christmas tree which I am told are in fact the treasure from Smaugs lair. The other is being rather cheeky and keeps trying to ‘toast’ my toes, (not such a terrible idea on a day as cold as today!).

You can buy the Torch at: 

Smyths, Argos, ToysRUs

If you’d like to find out more read on:

FURREAL FRIENDS TORCH, MY BLAZIN’ DRAGON

This playful little guy is just learning the tricks of the dragon trade, so he doesn’t really breathe flame, but he does breathe flame-colored mist. Really!

This wonderful baby dragon responds with 50-plus sound-and-motion combinations. Press his charm, pet his nose, or give him his treat for fun responses, such as breathing flame-colored mist, giggling, snorting, moving his head, and other sounds and movements. Of course, he’s a very surprising little fella, so he may just respond with a big burp instead!

His front legs are fully poseable, so he can be hugged and cuddled!

Take care of this adorable dragon… he’s full of mischief and surprises, but just like any baby, he loves to be cuddled and cared for.

Torch, My Blazin’ Dragon is definitely not an ordinary pet. He comes from a fantastical place far, far away, and has many wonderful features. With lots of love and care, this playful little dragon is sure to be one of the happiest pets around!

Includes pet, color-change treat, water vial, 2 extra filters, and instructions.

·       Ages 4 and up.

·       WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD – Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.

·       Requires 4 “C” alkaline batteries, not included.

·       Distilled water recommended.

If you’d like to follow the Torch Tour with your children over Christmas the itinerary can be viewed on Map My Walk here. Locations include Golden HindeLondon BridgeMonument to the Great FireSaint Dunstan in the EastSite of ScaffoldTower HillLeadenhall Market (stop for coffee / refreshments), St Andrew UndershaftSaint Michael’s Alley, Change Alley, The Royal Exchange, Guildhall Yard, St Mary-le-Bow, St Paul’s Cathedral, Cock Lane, Giltspur Street, St Bartholomew, Smithfield Market and finish at St Bartholomew the Great End.

Half Term Days Out: The Haunted Castle- Warwick Castle at Halloween

witches cauldron

The Witches Cauldron

Warwick Castle is always a brilliant day out. Its a beautiful restored castle set within 64 acres of Capability Brown designed grounds on the River Avon. Its also fantastically well located in the centre of Warwick meaning that you can easily get there by train or from the M40. It takes us just about 1 hour 45 from St Albans generally- thats great for a different day out to usual!

From 22- 31st October Warwick Castle is been transformed into The Haunted Castle especially for Halloween. This makes a trip even better value! By day there are all sorts of family friendly activities including the Horrible Histories Maze (which the kids loved), through to The Haunted Hollows.

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The Gargoyle in The Haunted Hollows

If you have the stamina to stay on later you can see a Halloween Fire Joust and see the plague Doctor in the new Outbreak 1349 show about the Black Death.

Pumpkins at the entrance (and my little pumpkin)

Pumpkins at the entrance (and my little pumpkin)

We visited the Castle on Saturday and if you follow my Tweets you’ll see what a fantastic day we had. The kids loved climbing the castle ramparts and exploring the towers. The Haunted Hollows was eerily scary and pitched at just the right level for my lot (9, 4, 7). In fact, I was a little disturbed walking through the clothes lines hanging with sheets in the fog- it was eerily scarily like something from Victorian London.

One of the highlights of any trip to Warwick Castle is the Flight of the Eagles bird show, at the moment there are lots of new birds to see and we loved seeing them. The Condor was an amazingly impressive bird and its only going to get bigger, I cant think of a more spectacular bird display.

Witches Garden

Enter the Witches Garden at your peril

The Witches Tower is replacing the Princess Tower for  Halloween and it was a really popular attraction- if you want to go to it make sure you get your tickets early on in the day as we couldn’t get any suitable times for our kids. Its basically a new storytelling experience which looks great fun.

 

 

Unfortunately my little crew weren’t quite old enough to experience some of the more spooky halloween experiences. There are a couple of attractions suitable for over 10 and over 12 year olds. apparently Tormented is really, really scary. They’d be great if you have teenagers you want to entertain. The castle is also open until 9pm so you can experience at castle at night, which is a special experience in itself!

We had a really full day at Warwick, from 10:30 till nearly 6 pm the whole family was entertained in a fun way, but we also learnt loads! The kids are brimming with history facts and the trip was definitely one of the highlights of this half term. Warwick Castle is a beautiful magical place, you can have a lovely walk, watch the trebuchet get fired and explore the castle.

Beautiful Autumnal weather at Warwick Castle

Beautiful Autumnal weather at Warwick Castle

Inside the castle!

Inside the castle!

If you’d like to find out more have a look at the Warwick Castle website and make sure you add it to your bookmarks as there is an ever changing series of events here and they are always brilliant.

spooky cake

A spooky cake!

A day out at Discover

ed7I’m always looking for new and exciting things to do over the holidays and when we were invited along to the Discover Story Centre in Stratford (East London) it seemed the perfect chance to discover something new.

Stratford is not somewhere that you associate with books; its home to a massive shopping centre and the Olympic park. The story centre provides something different within all this, a little haven for people to come and explore their imaginations.

ed1Discover is the sort of place which inspires children by an immersive experience. There are loads of things to climb on, walk across and explore. Its a bit like being in an exciting adventure playground that is all themed around stories. We thought it was brilliant. In terms of age groups, it was ideal for the 4 and 7 year old but at 9 my eldest was really on the cusp of being too old. Of course, life begins again at 40 which probably explains why myself and the husband loved it.

ed3We were invited along to visit the Michael Rosen temporary exhibition which is in the basement of the story centre. The best way to describe this was that it seemed a mixture of theatre and physical interaction. You could find yourself inside the bear’s cave from the bear hunt books and immerse yourself in the swishy swashy grass. My 4 year old was the perfect age for this, he loved it. I wish my photographs captured his joy. Along with his sister he is a big fan of the Bear Hunt book, so I think it really was amazing to find himself in the bear’s cave.

ed5We loved Discover and its definitely somewhere we will revisit time and time again. What a fantastic idea and a great way to get children engaged in stories. I don’t think we realised what a great day out you could have in Stratford. There is loads of car parking, a beautiful and interesting park, loads of shops and lots of places to eat. We had one of the best days we have had all year.

I should point out that they are completely renovating Discover so you cant enjoy it until 23rd July when there will be a new Dr Seuss exhibition alongside a refreshed story trail. You’ll find us first in the queue! If you’d like to find out more you can check out their website and sign up for the newsletter here.

 

Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things

discover story centreOne of the things we hope to do this weekend is to head off to the Discover Children’s Story to visit Michael Rosen’s Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things exhibition.  Its a brilliant interactive exhibition which I think will inspire and help the children in their reading. There is loads to do including the chance to step inside a humongous chocolate cake! I’m aiming to write a review of it, but I wanted to flag it up to you all because it actually closes on 10th April so there isn’t much time left if you wanted to find out more and go along to it.

quick lets get out of hereTo celebrate the exhibition Puffin books kindly sent us a copy of Michael Rosen’s poetry collection about family life: Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here, illustrated by Quentin Blake. Good quality, engaging poetry books for children are quite hard to find so this is a brilliant addition to the bookshelf. As an adult i’ve very much enjoyed reading this and there really are some gems.

Its very important to get your children reading poetry (or if they wont read it) to read it to them as part of their bedtime routine. There is an emphasis on it at school which can be lost later in life. Poetry is such a lovely accessible form of literature its a shame that it can be overlooked. I think its an especially good thing for reluctant readers as there simply isn’t a great deal to read in order to get the ideas across.

If you’d like to get hold of a copy or to find out more just click here.

Backseat Bedtimes with Vauxhall

Vauxhall Backseat Bedtime Edith Bowman APPROVED FOR MEDIA 2I’ve been the proud owner of a Vauxhall for many years now. I’ve got a Zafira and its a fantastic car if you have children as its so versatile, I’m forever moving seats around to accomodate extra children or stuff. Its a brilliantly versatile car. Anyway, i’m not here to tell you all about the merits of Vauxhall, rather their new ‘Backseat Bedtime‘ initiative.

Vauxhall have teamed up with Edith Bowman,  author Tracey Corderoy and fantastic publishers Nosy Crow (coincidentally publishers of Fifi’s favourite books). Nosy Crow always seem to be at the fore front of using technology with their books. Edith has narrated three stories including the fantastic Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam (one of our faves) which can be streamed as audio or video content through Vauxhall’s in-car intelligence system OnStar. You can also view the stories from the website featured above. What a fantastic help these little stories will be in pacifying the children when you’re rushing to the grandparents!

In case you don’t know what OnStar is (I didn’t as my car is sadly too old) , OnStar is a personal onboard assistant which is avaliable across the entire Vauxhall range, it has Wi-Fi for seven devices, vehicle diagnostics to your phone, stolen vehicle assistance and loads more.

This initiative is great timing, as its this time of year when we all embark upon some long drives, according to the RAC there could be 12 million cars on the road over Christmas.

Vauxhall did a survey where they found that three quarters of parents found these car journeys stressful. This isn’t a surprise, we are generally OK for about half an hour and then the kids start having a punch-up, someone needs the toilet or someone is bored. That’s when we resort to story CD’s or storytelling amongst ourselves. Another tactic parents use if to coincide long journeys with bedtime- 56% of parents put their children in Pj’s before setting off. We’ve done this a few times and its been a great idea. I think Backseat Bedtime is going to help lots of parents!

Disclaimer: Vauxhall sent us a small hamper for the children to celebrate the launch of this, I thought it was a great idea so decided to flag it up.