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Little Tikes Log Cabin

Little Tikes Log Cabin

Caitlin in her Little Tikes Log Cabin

It’s great having a ‘Summer Baby’ because you’re guaranteed good weather for their birthdays.

That’s right, so when we were planning Caitlin’s second birthday at the start of May we figured it would be marvelous if we had some outside toys for her. Great idea. Except that it then turned out to be -34° with weather that wouldn’t have seemed out of place on one of Jupiter’s outer moons. So it took her a little longer than we expected. to get introduced to her Little Tikes Log Cabin.

side view of Little Tikes Log Cabin

Harry & Caitlin in the Log Cabin

Some might have caviled at this, stating that we could have put the thing up indoors. And here is the first and most important point of the new Log Cabin by Little Tikes. The dimensions on the box say 4’.8 by 4’, but if you’re anything like me, that might as well be written in Romalan. I’m not great with numbers and slightly worse with spatial awareness; so I just looked in the box. Easy when you know the tricks. In the box it looked huge, out of the box and upright it’s massive. And that’s fine with us because this was after all our first criteria. There are loads of cabins out there which look fun and have extra-fiddly thingummies but we wanted space. And the Little Tikes Log Cabin is the one of the biggest in the price-range.

So we delayed. Luckily only a couple of days until the temperature reached a balmy -21° but then it was all systems go. The second great thing about the cabin is the ease with which you can put it all up. We’ve never had a cabin/wendy-house before so -in their defense- they might all be really easy to construct. But we were still struck by the no-nonsense method of putting this together. The four walls slot together, the roof slots on and you have 8 screws with which to attach the roof to the walls in case there’s a big wind. And with Caitlin that’s always on the cards. Anyway, that’s it. You do need two people because it’s pretty solid but that’s about it.

Harry & Caitlin playing in Log Cabin

Fun in the Little Tikes Log Cabin

inside Little Tikes Log Cabin

inside the Little Tikes Log Cabin

When Caitlin set her eyes on her Little Tikes Log Cabin, she was dumbfounded. She even stopped singing the Bing Bong song for a few minutes so we knew she was discombobulated! Two days after her party she was still in ‘birthday-mode’ which meant that anything she saw was ‘Mine!’ and, by a happy coincidence, this was indeed hers. She immediately ran inside and checked out the extras. There is a phone in a wall-holder, a picture of a fire (this is a homestead after all) and a pop-up table. Other than that there are windows in each wall and a stable-door. Personally I wouldn’t have previously imagined that something as simple could be so endlessly diverting, and yet she and her brother Harry (3 ¾) played inside, outside, climbed through the windows, talked to their absent elder brother Tom on the phone, ate invisible food on the table and sometimes just sat on the floor for the whole of the morning. They occasionally wandered into the house to witter nonsensically about something or other, but other than that the cabin proved to be a magnet for them. And, it must be said, this continues to be the case. Every time Caitlin now walks through the French doors she reiterates her ownership with a subtle “Cakekin’s ‘ouse” and spends a great percentage of each day playing inside. Harry too.

playing in the Log Cabin

Caitlin playing in her Log Cabin

Quite simply, it is fabulous. It’s a great addition to our outside space, which isn’t huge but now has enough distinct areas to distract our children long enough for us to pretend that we have some free time. It’s safe and just looks fun. Little Tikes have thought carefully about what you need for a toy that must of necessity stay outside and it’s genuinely solid, really quite heavy,  weather-proof and has the minimum of things that might go rusty in the rain. Just the 8 screws in fact, and they are all encased in plastic inside the cabin. The solidity of the cabin is probably the reason for the price, which is quite high at around £320 or upwards . You can pick some similar ones up for less but this is the only one we’ve seen with the space and the solidity with which we felt comfortable. So, you get what you pay for in our opinion.  I have to say, I never had one of these when I was younger -or even a desire for one – and so it came as a bit of surprise how fantastic both kids think it is. And what a pleasant surprise it was.

by Dave Fouracre aka Dave The Dad – Dad to Tom 6, Harry nearly 4 and Caitlin 2

Read Sarah (Mum)’s view on the Log Cabin

May 2012

You can Buy The Little Tikes Log Cabin Playhouse Here

The Little Tikes Cozy Coupe

It was my son’s third birthday last week. The party was a separate entity altogether, a monster that had taken over my partner’s life and smothered her humour in a light but sweet, sweet dusting of icing for a Gruffulo cake that she had been perfecting through four days and three attempts. It was her own fault really. She made the textbook error of asking Harry what sort of party cake he would like.

Harry in the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe‘Gruffulo,’ he answered decisively.

‘A Gruffulo party?’ we asked hopefully. But then, when we might have escaped, added, ‘Or a Gruffulo cake and a Gruffulo party?’

His little eyes lit up, like the teenager’s first understanding that it’s not how you dance, it’s the fact you’re dancing at all that counts. So cake AND party it was. The party bit was ok, there are loads of sites selling Gruffulmiscellania. As it happens there is also a recipe for a Gruffulo cake on the Guardian website. It looked so easy. But then isn’t that what the indiginous people of North America said as they saw three poorly rowed boats humping through the surf towards the beach? But that’s a different story. First we had the actual birthday.

Big Birthday Presents

We’d asked him what he wanted here as well. I know, I know, well, you live and learn, if you’re lucky. ‘Big presents,’ he said.

‘Ok, fair enough Harry, now pretend the Birthday Stoat has got you one big present. What else would you like? Go on, anything.’Harry and Caitlin having fun with the Cozy Coupe

We added this firm in the knowledge that his realm of knowledge only really expanded to Toy Story in one direction and colouring pencils in the other. It didn’t really matter as his answer was not massively helpful.

‘Another big present,’ was his thoughtful reply.

Anyway, the first big present was a Little Tikes Anniversary Edition Cozy Coupe Ride-On car. It’s a big old title and has something to do with the fact that this toy is now 30 years old apparently. I can see why. When Harry first unwrapped it (basically pulled the blanket off as there was no way I was spending 25 minutes wrapping it in Postman Pat paper for Harry to shred it in 1.43 seconds) his face lit up.

‘Wow!’ he said and smiled like the cat who got the cream, stole the jog, sold the jug for an exorbitant price and then went and bought some more cream with it.

It is a fabulous toy and one that goes against a great deal of understanding about what makes kids love certain toys. It’s a little car, all pretty easy so far, and there are lovely touches such as the removeable petrol cap, the horn, the ignition key which turns and rattles. The door which opens, closes and even locks is a lovely touch. Other than that your child puts their feet through the bottom of the detachable floor and then they move about whilst gripping the wheel. It’s not as though they go fast (such as on his scooter), or even that it’s easier than walking, but somehow the kids love it. Our biggest problem on his birthday was prising our 14 month old daughter away from it long enough for Harry to avoid clunking her over the head with his Buzz Lightyear. Again. For reference the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe can be used with younger kids, such as our Caitlin for the detachable floor merely clicks in beneath the seat and viola! younger ones are enclosed in the cabin with no fear of dragging their legs on the floor. You have to push them but let’s face it kids aren’t generally averse to parents running around after them.The Little Tikes Cozy Coupe

Three days later at Gruffulogate it went down a storm with kids from 14 months to 4 all wanting to get in on the act. To be fair my eldest son Tom wanted a go but as he’s 5 in the body of an 8 year old it was a pipe dream. It’s solid, really attractive and sturdy enough to be used exclusively outside.

This is not a cheap present coming in at around 45 pounds. But we are really happy with it and we’re convinced that it’s something Harry will love for the next year or so, and Caitlin for two more after that. Now that’s a good return in my book. One thing I would say is that you need to give yourself time to assemble the sod. I opened it the day before his birthday, assuming that four large plastic pieces would be accompanied by about 10 bolts and a few fiddly, nobbly bits. Once opened I re-checked the box, convinced that I had accidentally bought the screws and rivets for an exact scale replica of the Golden Gate bridge. It took me 2 hours and three cups of tea. Give yourself time and space. Do not, DO NOT, open it on the morning hoping to say, ‘You just read your new book on Skyscrapers in Malaysia from Aunt Holly and I’ll throw this together for us!’ It’ll end in tears.The Gruffalo Cake

It’s a fab ‘big present’ and your kids’ll love it for years. It was certainly a success on the day and, good news, three days later he looked at the cake, his eyes lit up, and he squeaked ‘It’s a Gruffulo,’ with a look of pure pleasure. It lasted 13 minutes until he and his mates had demolished the whole bally thing. A well spent 15 hours practice? Definitely.

The Smart Trike Zoo in Parrot Pink

There are bikes for kids, ride-ons, trikes and all manner of other wobbly, wheely, spinny machines that enable you to transport your little ones in the smoothest, most exciting manner possible.The Smart Trike Zoo

Smart Trike have dominated this field for a good few years now and the makers of this range have once again pushed child transport to a whole new level with their Smart Trike Zoo series. I’m onto my third child now and the first two, Harry and Tom, both had a Smart Trike Plus and absolutely loved it. The safety systems on these vehicles meant that my sons could use them even before they hit the age of 1. As your child grows you simply shed certain security features. First the safety bars are removed, then straps, parent handle and finally the clutch which disables the pedals. Thus, by the age of 3 your child has grown with the trike and gradually they have learnt how to ride it themselves. For Harry and Tom it was the only way to travel if walking, running and falling over were out of the question. They were cool, they went fast and they found themselves to be the centre of a great deal of attention: the perfect day out for kids.

The Smart Trike Zoo - in the parkThe Smart Trike Zoo 3 in 1 has, remarkably, bettered an already superbly rounded toy, making it the must have accessory for outdoorsy kids. The trike was already a fantastic way for kids to explore the world but now it’s had a make-over. Padded seat covers and arm-rests make it a much more comfortable ride and a small bag on the parent handle gives you just enough room for a few nappies, a drink and some snacks. The detachable sun-shield is slightly larger and is much more manoeuvreable than in the past. Time was you had to take it off to fit the trike in the boot but now it folds down smoothly for easier transport. The same applies to the small basket at the rear of the trike; it’s still useful for toys but can now be clipped on and off simply. There’s a rear brake for when you are stationary and, during this moment of rest, a cool drinks holder at the front for kids to sip their water. Amidst all of these hugely useful additions the makers of Smart Trike have also added a toy phone. Caitlin, our 1 year old, loved this addition although it probably counts as the only recent addition that doesn’t significantly add to the ease and enjoyment of the trike for adults. But hey! this is a kids toy after all, and criticising the trike for this would be akin to criticising my ipod because it doesn’t make me breakfast. A bit mean under the circumstances!

Hello. Smart Trike Here!Honestly, this is a fabulous trike, the best on the market by a long way. The stand-out colours of the older version have been joined by softer or more gender friendly ones and Caitlin’s Parrot-Pink is a gorgeously mellow colour that is easy on the eyes and which yet still enables her to stand out in the crowd. All in all there’s really nothing out there that touches the basic version but the new, souped-out ones just ensure that the rest of the field is left even further behind. It’s a smooth, comfortable, exciting ride for babies and toddlers, and Caitlin absolutely beams whenever we’ve let her within a few feet of hers. She’s an active kid but the whole experience of travel in the Smart Trike Zoo convinces her to sit still, look about and revel in the world as it zooms by. There are certain objects which define their genre: the hoover, the ipod and now, most definitely, the Smart Trike Zoo. It’s awesome.

The Smart Trike Zoo series is available from Amazon and other good retailers.

Buy Now From Amazon

Santa’s Magical Kingdom

One of the biggest challenges of going to Santa’s Magical Kingdom at the start of November would be that Christmas still seems so very far away.

Nonetheless the Kingdom successfully gets Santa's Magical Kingdomyou into the mood as soon as you arrive, with a snowy, glistening walk through fir trees and a small army of smiling elves eager to thrust golden tickets into the hands of your young ’uns. These tickets are stamped at various spots throughout the Kingdom and mark your progress towards the Big Man himself.

As you enter the Kingdom you are greeted by a further phalanx of elves and immersed in a white, glittering world of animatronic animals and snow. Then, once the secret password is yelled we go through to a brief 4D show where we see Santa preparing for his long journey through the night. Bubbles blown at the audience add the 4th dimension and Tom, my 5 year old, certainly thought this was a fab idea. ‘They’re real!’ he yelled, tearing off his glasses!

The progress from here around the Kingdom takes in a Post Office where kids can write and post their lists up a chimney that whisks their paper away, and an area where we meet the actual reindeer that Santa will be using in only 6 short weeks. They seemed pretty chilled, I guess they’re practised now! Mother Christmas then has a little chat about the time she had to take over Christmas five years ago. This was followed by a brief magic show by one of the elves which was more in keeping with the age group present and which,Drawing at Santa's Magical Kingdom in truth, could have been longer. Both Tom and Harry, 2, laughed at this and were thoroughly entertained, whereas Mother Christmas was a touch too straight.

The craft area was fun and we had a helpful elf to aid stencilling and pasting and even a Snow Queen wandering about shedding good will. One of the most inventive spots came towards the end of the journey with an electronic floor where pixelated snow could be kicked and brushed about whilst a friendly singing Yeti looked on.

After this we met Santa. Thanks to the miracle of organisation he knew our kids’ names as they walked through the door and was thoroughly lovely, funny and cuddly. He was a real success and ensured that both Harry and Tom left with warm feelings from the whole adventure. Our 7 month old was less convinced with St. Nick but Caitlin absolutely loved the lights on the way through the Kingdom. A last 3D ‘Spot the Goblin’ maze was a nice, clever touch at the end but was a little too advanced for Harry.Posting a Letter to Santa

All in all this was an enjoyable and heart-warming day out, in a spot where there are lots of other activities for children once the Christmas fun is done.

Now here’s the drawback: the price. For everyone over 18 months the cheapest ticket is £27.50 and this rises to £35.00 nearer Christmas. A family of five like ours will cost between £110 and £140. When you are there you can see where the money has gone but this still doesn’t ensure you leave with the feeling that you have quite had your money’s worth. It is a lovely day out and I’d guess that any child under 8 would really enjoy it but for that sort of money there are competitive alternatives out there.

DaveF, Dad to Tom 5, Harry 2 and Caitlin 7 months

Santa’s Magical Kingdom can be found at

The Hop Farm Family Park
Paddock Wood, Tonbridge
Kent
TN12 6PY
01622 872068

new schools

Tom, my four-year old, started primary school on Monday. He came home with two ‘Helper’ stickers and a Headteacher’s certificate on his first day which, I first felt, gave him nowhere to go over the next few weeks.

Personally my first week at a Catholic Primary in Wales meant the cane, rigorous denunciations of my wicked ways with Action Men and helpful advice on how to feel when I inevitably went to Hell. Thinking about it, my son’s school is almost certainly better. He loved it, by the way.

Dave Fouracre
Dad to Tom, Harry and Caitlin