Thursday, 11 November 2010

We've moved!

We've moved our blog over to our newly revamped website (preview below). If you aren't redirected automatically, please click here to visit the new site.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Coming soon - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I

Wizard fans, your wait is almost over. The Seventh movie in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is due to hit UK cinema screens November 18th. As you may have heard, the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series “The Deathly Hallows” has been split into two parts, the first of which will be released this November whilst part II shall follow next year. Director David Yates claims that the split is necessary because J. K. Rowling’s source material is too rich and too dense to squeeze into a single 120-or-so minute film. Thus in order to do the book justice he has opted to tackle it over the course of two films.


The film follows Harry as he attempts to hunt down Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes. What’s a Horcrux I hear you ask? A Horcrux is a receptacle into which a wizard has hidden a part of his soul and in doing so has granted himself immortality. Voldemort is incapable of being defeated so long as his Horcruxes aren’t dealt with. The hunt takes Harry, Ron and Hermione away from the relative safety of Hogwarts and out into a wizarding-world at war. School is well and truly out.

But should we be excited about the release of The Deathly Hallows Part I? The first thing to note is that whilst the film was scheduled to be released in 3D, these plans have since been axed (although it has recently been announced that The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince are being converted into 3D for Blu-Ray). Children may be disappointed with this news, but bear in mind that 3D can in many cases detract from your enjoyment of a film. This was certainly the case with the awful 3D conversion job that was done for Clash of the Titans. I think we can treat this news as a quaffle dodged.

If you’ve read the 7th book, you’ll know just how exciting it is. Despite being remarkably well written it essentially boils down to a number of exhilarating chase/escape sequences (including: a broomstick chase near the beginning and perilous escapes from both the Ministry of Magic and Gringotts Bank) interspersed with some angsty characterisation. Ron in particular has some growing to do over the course of the book and it’ll be interesting to see how Rupert Grint handles these changes to his character. The good news is that when the film was test screened it received some rave reviews (sample: "amazing and dark" and "the most perfect Harry Potter film"). If you have any interest whatsoever in the Harry Potter franchise, this is a must see film.

The Deathly Hallows, as you can imagine from its rather ominous title, is the darkest Harry Potter book of the lot. The movie has a PG certificate but please be aware that this it deals with themes that younger children may find disturbing (but if your child was able to handle the cave full of zombies and a certain main character's death at the end of the last film, they ought to be alright here). If you’re worried and want to know if this film is suitable for your child, be sure to check the BBFC website for further details.

Haven't read it yet? Click here to check prices on Amazon for the adult edition or the children's edition (shown below).



   


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Family Friendly Bonfire Nights Across the UK

by Sam Sanchez

Guy Fawkes Night
In and Around London:

Visit IanVisits for an excellent and fairly comprehensive list of Bonfire Night celebrations across London. There are a good few family friendly events in his list.

Across the UK:

Leeds Castle Fireworks Spectacular , Maidstone, Kent
7 November, fireworks begin 5.30pm, event site opens at 2pm with live music and entertainment.
Hailed as one of the finest fireworks displays in the country. All ages are welcome.

Wizard’s Fireworks- The grand Tournament of Spells, Legoland, Windsor
6 November, fireworks begin 5.30pm
The popular family attraction is putting on a fun packed day with spellbinding activities including secret potion classes for ages 5 and up and a wizard treasure trail, plus selected rides will remain open for 1 hour after the fireworks.

Cambridge Bonfire Night on Midsummer Common
5 November, fireworks begin 7.30pm, £1 per person (donation)
The biggest free firework display in East Anglia. The fireworks will be preceded by a spectacular fire performance between 7-7.20pm. There will be a bonfire lit after the fireworks. There will also be a family fun fair from 6pm to 10pm.

Lincolnshire Fireworks 2010
5 November, children’s fireworks begin 6.30pm, main firework display begins 8.30pm
Under 2s free, Children £2.70, Adults £5.40
A night of family fun with a traditional bonfire food stalls, children's entertainment, side shows and stalls and free car park. Gates open at 4pm.

Bonfire Night at Ragley Hall Park & Gardens, Warwickshire
6 November, fireworks begin 8pm, £5 with children, under 2s free
A spectacular fireworks display set to music, a bonfire by the lake with entertainment and food stalls. Children’s entertainment.

Pypes Hayes Park, Erdington, North Birmingham
5 November, fireworks begin 8.30pm, free admission.
A night out under the stars at Pypes Park with a traditional bonfire night with fireworks and a funfair. One the best and safest bonfire nights in Birmingham.

Guy Fawkes Experience, Waltham Abbey, Essex
6-7 November, fireworks begin 6.30pm,
Enjoy a fireworks display at this historic site where gunpowder was made, a host of children activities including Guy Fawkes lantern making. Activities run from 3.30pm-5.45pm. Food and drink are available until 7pm.

Manchester Heaton Park Bonfire and Firework Display
5 November, fireworks begin 7.30pm.
Variety of entertainment and food and drink will be available. A funfair will run from 5pm-9.30pm.

Kempton Park Fireworks, Sunbury
6 November, Fireworks begin 7.45pm, Kids under 5 free, tickets £6 in advance and £8 on the night.
A fund raising event organised by a number of local Round Tables with the aim of distributing proceeds to local causes and charities. A more intimate and smaller fireworks display.


Waterloo Rugby Club, Crosby, Liverpool
7 November, Fireworks begin 7pm, family ticket £14.50 consisting of 2 adults and 2 children, £7 for adults and £3 for children.
A great fun night out for all the family at the annual fireworks display. Food and refreshments will be available.

Round Table Fireworks at Anstey Park, Alton
6 November, fireworks 7.30pm, Tickets in advance adults £5, children £3, £1 extra on the night.
A very popular family evening out, with a grand firework display held at the park. Special appearance by Mark Chivers and Eagle Radio Love Crew. Gates open from 6.30pm.

Woodhouse Moor, Leeds
5 November, fireworks begin 7.30pm, Admission free
Hundreds of people will visit this park to see the spectacular fireworks and bonfire brighten up the city’s skyline to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night this year.

Please add your favourites below too!
  
Thanks @sjwarnes @JAD73 @nige270 @creepycrawlies @Netmums @LawMum and Hayley for all your Bonfire Night suggestions!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Five fun ideas for Halloween with kids


1. Carve the ultimate Jack O'Lantern
image credit: LifeHacker
We're so pleased that British families have finally started to adopt the North American tradition of carving ghoulish faces into pumpkins to celebrate Hallowe'en.... it makes Hallowe'en so much more fun! Unless you have some hitherto hidden talent for carving gourds, you might want to take a peek at these jack-o-lantern stencils, or for something really simple, turn a small butternut squash upside down and carve it into a skull. For some excellent tips on carving the best pumpkin ever, you must read this post on LifeHacker.

2. Make some tasty, sticky no-bake Hallowe'en Ghosts

image credit: Kellogg Company
Remember the Rice Krispie squares you used to make with your mum? OK, so these are like ghostly little  versions of those - totally cute, yummy, sticky, and great fun. Nuff said.  Click here for the recipe.

3. Get crafty with your children

Why buy Hallowe'en decorations when you can make something at home? Okay, it won't be quite as attractive... but making your own decorations is a great way to keep the kids busy indoors if the weather isn't cooperating, and the end result will be a nice keepsake. We like this really simple Halloween Pumpkin Mobile - it's simple enough even for toddlers, and super cute.

4. Gross them out with Halloween Feel Boxes

The idea here is to let the kids reach their hands (without looking) into containers filled with things that feel like body parts. Shudder-inducing, we know, but believe us, they will love it. For eyeballs, try some peeled grapes, and a good one for guts or chopped brains are cooked noodles. For extra un-appeal, try the really thick noodles (like Udon) and toss them in the tiniest bit of olive oil to make them a little slimy. This article suggests soft corn flour tortillas smeared with a little olive oil for skin - the very thought of it is so vile that we can totally imagine your boys laughing and trying to stick it to each other.

5. Make a Hallowe'en inspired dinner


For dinner, why not make a few dishes inspired by your Feel Boxes and let the kids draw some scary menus while you cook? Start off with a nice warm bowl of blood (tomato soup), move on to some brains (macaroni and cheese) and some cockroach-infested salad (salad with raisins scattered in), and for dessert you can dish up some mud and maggots (a chocolately rice pudding). To wash it all down, enjoy some murky swamp juice (orange juice with a touch of blue food colouring or blueberry juice), sucked up through a licorice straw, or try this recipe from Family Fun magazine.

Got any other ideas you'd like to share? Post them below or on our Facebook page!

Happy Hallowe'en!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Ten of the best websites for kids

Thanks to the "grotty weather", we've had a special request for a list of fun, safe, educational and entertaining websites for kids, so here it is...  Have a look at our favourites, and please leave a comment below if we've left out a website your kids love!


Kids National Geographic
What a superb site. Aside from the feel good factor of letting your kids loose on a site where they can learn about the planet and the world's cultures, the site is really well thought out and is great fun. There are online games like Kung Fu Trash Master, interactive adventures, "stump your parents" quizzes, and some really cool videos like Snail Zombies. They also have plenty of ideas for "fun science" activities, and a special section where kids can make Hallowe'en e-cards.

Nick Jr
Okay, so it's a little bit American in content and style, but Nick Jr is a safe environment for kids to play games, watch videos with their favourite TV characters, and there are also plenty of ideas for cooking together and crafts. They're running a 7-day free trial at the moment for their premium online educational service, Boost, focusing on maths, literacy, computer skills, creativity and Spanish for preschoolers.

Sesame Street
We can't say enough about the Sesame Street website and the work of the Sesame Workshop. If you love the classic educational show for preschoolers, you'll love this site, with silly songs, videos, and your favourite TV clips, and fun games like Make a Monster. The big picture-led buttons along the top and the audio-instructions make it really easy for your little one to navigate the site by themselves, and they can even browse content by their favourite muppet (the girls always seem to pick Abby Cadabby!).  There is a special section for toddlers, a rare and very welcome find on the web.

Club Penguin
The award-winning Club Penguin is a safe and engaging virtual world for children aged about 6 to 14. Kids choose a penguin avatar, and then can play games and interact with other kids (penguins) on the site using some stripped-back social networking. Online activity and chat between penguins is constantly monitored by sophisticated technology and real staff, so your kids are in safe hands.


Moshi Monsters 
Moshi Monsters is one of the fastest growing sites in the world, with a child adopting a monster every second. Last we checked there were 27 million children using the site, and with good reason. We've written a pretty thorough review here, but in brief, it's a fun and stimulating virtual world for your child to explore in his or her customised monster guise. There are challenging games and puzzles, and they've even been credited by school teachers as being an excellent educational site. As with Club Penguin, they take your child's safety seriously, so all of the content is moderated in real time.

Crayola
This website is all about creativity, and is a lovely site for kids of all ages. There's a huge range of printable colouring pages, including some 'design your own' colouring pages. As you'd expect there's a nifty little section where kids can colour online. We also like the "idea generator" with ideas for stuff to do around the house - you click on the material you want to work with (e.g. paper, plastic containers, ribbon, etc) and out pop some craft ideas.

cBeebies
No surprises here - just high quality entertaining, educational games for preschoolers from the BBC, an organisation you know and trust. Kids can watch some of their favourite cBeebies clips, and find out more about their favourite presenters. We really like the Storytime section , featuring a mix and match of stories the kids can listen to on their own (like Charlie and Lola), and some to be read aloud by mum or dad.

Smories
A brilliantly simple idea. Kids love being read to, and reading to each other, and Smories allows them to do just that. The website is essentially a collection of videos of children reading their favourite stories aloud. You can help them find something appropriate for their age, or else just let them click on the wall of photos and hear some great stories at random. It's an international site, with stories read aloud in French, German and other languages, so also a great option for bilingual families.

NASA Kids Club

This cool website is definitely best suited to school age children, with tricky but entertaining space-related games and puzzles. If your kids are looking for a challenge, they can try out some of the space quizzes, or for a bit of fun they can find out their age or weight on different planets. We're also loving this low key Buzz Lightyear game - great for getting those little brains revved up.


Kideos.com
This is essentially YouTube for children. The team at Kideos carefully screen each and every video before categorising it and adding it to the site, so you can be sure there won't be any nasty surprises either in the "related videos" or in the clips themselves... which means that you can relax and let the kids surf the site to their heart's content. It's not just full of Disney stuff (though the Disney clips are great) - you'll find everything from classic Muppets to the Evian Rollerbabies.
Note - at the time of writing the site was down for a bit of maintenance. But do bookmark it and try it another time - it's worth coming back to.


If you've got older kids and are looking for some good gaming websites, you can also try Miniclip and GirlsGoGames, but just be warned they don't make the same promises in terms of age-approriate contents, so do help them navigate the site and find games you think are appropriate for them.

Enjoy! If you love our list, please tell your friends, and by all means add your favourites below too.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Is your baby cute enough to be a model?

How cute is your baby? If your baby can light up the room with a cheeky little grin, then he or she might have exactly what Next and Prima Baby Magazine are looking for in their next "superbabymodel".

The NEXT Baby Boutique Model Competition, in association with Prima Baby Magazine, is looking for the cutest, most photogenic babies and toddlers in Britain. If you think your little one will melt their hearts, go to http://facebook.com/nextonline and enter your baby's best photo in the competition.

The winners will receive £500 of Next vouchers, a 12 month modelling contract with Urban Angels, and take part in a photo shoot with Next and Prima Baby Magazine. To enter, and to read the full terms and conditions, go to http://facebook.com/nextonline.

Good luck!

Kids virtual world brings Europe's largest shopping centre to a virtual standstill


Monster madness reached fever pitch as Mr Moshi himself signed copies of the first ever Moshi Monsters book at Europe's largest shopping centre today. Hundreds of children queued up excitedly for more than 4 hours to meet Michael Acton Smith (known in the virtual world as Mr Moshi), bringing Westfield London to a virtual standstill.

While they waited, the children got to have their faces painted and meet two of the much loved monsters, Poppet and Furi. The first 150 children in the queue also got an extra special goody bag to take home.

Mr Moshi (aka Michael Acton Smith) with Furi and Poppet

So what's all the excitement about? Well, if you're one of the 27 million children who has adopted a monster in Mind Candy's immensely successful educational and entertaining virtual world, the new book is precisely what you want in your little hands.


Happy Moshi Monsters fans with their signed books
The Moshling Collector’s Guide is, as the name would suggest, all about Moshlings, little mini monster sidekicks for your pet. After all, the only thing better than adopting a virtual pet monster is acquiring a pet monster for your pet monster. Or so my neighbour's seven year old  boy tells me. The book has bios on the Moshlings, telling kids about their preferred habitat, personality, and most importantly how to catch them. There is a different little trick to attracting and catching each Moshling, and some are rarer or more sought after than others. With tips and bios like these, it's no wonder the new book is flying off the shelves.
Inside The Moshling Collector's Guide

You can pick up your copy on Amazon, Play.com,Tesco.com , or your local WH Smith. 

To find out more about the game and why Really Kid Friendly recommends it for children, click here to read our review!

Photography by Mick Gell.