Glow In The Dark Gel-A-Peel #DesignaDiary Review

This week the kids and I were introduced for the first time to the joys of Gel-A-Peel. Gel-A-Peel is as the name suggests a liquid gel with which you can make patterns and shapes, decorations, jewellery and anything else you can think of really. Leave it to dry for a few hours and peel it off – hey presto!


Read more: Glow In The Dark Gel-A-Peel #DesignaDiary Review

Lalaloopsy Jewellery Maker Toy Review

Ameli loves Lalaloopsy, so when I was asked if we’d like to be Lalaloopsy ambassadors for the year, I thought with her birthday coming up it would be a great way of spoiling her a little, without having to cost me much! Just after her birthday we received our first Lalaloopsy toy for review: the Lalaloopsy Jewellery Maker (or Jewelery Maker if you’re in the US!)Lalaloopsy Jewellery MakerThe Lalaloopsy Jewellery Maker is part of the Tinies series, meaning it comes with three small Lalaloopsy characters and one golden ‘limited edition’ one.  The Jewellery Maker is also a 2-in-1 toy, as it is a Jewellery Maker, but also a Ferris Wheel toy.

As a toy it has little tea cups with lids that the Tinies can sit in as they go on the ride, which can lead to lovely imaginative play as the children describe the ‘view’ over the ‘landscape’ from the ferris wheel. It’s also a good safety talk introduction as we discovered when one of the Tinies plunged to an untimely death when the lid hadn’t been closed, and received a spin from a ‘helpful’ little sister. (You’ll be pleased to know she was resurrected by a kiss and a cuddle).

As a Jewellery Maker, there are pros and cons to this product. I think if used in conjunction with regular manual threading of beads, it’s just a bit of fun. I wouldn’t let it be the only means of threading beads for my girls though as there’s a lot of developmental value in terms of both dexterity and hand eye coordination that happens when children try to string beads.

That said though, the jewellery maker is fun as it allows children to thread the provided plastic ‘string’ and feed beads into the receptacle, which then shakes and vibrates the beads onto the ‘needle’ feeding it onto the string. In this way kids can create a pattern and make their own jewellery.

There are enough beads for about two full necklaces, and about the same in string, but you can add any beads that have at least a 2mm hole, and you can use any safe string too, so it can be a gift that keeps on producing.

I would have liked a closing container for the beads so that they don’t end up filling up every nook and cranny of my house, but I imagine most crafty people will have something they can use.

Battery life on the Lalaloopsy Jewellery Maker seems to be pretty decent, since it only powers a little spindle, really, and it long outlives the beads. It’s unfortunate that the ferris wheel itself doesn’t actually turn when the button is pushed, but I guess when you’re threading jewellery is no time to be distracted by fun on the fairground.

I was sent this toy for free as part of the Lalaloopsy Ambassador Programme. Views and opinions are my own (or that of one or both of my daughters!)

Faber Castell Pencils Review

Faber Castell don’t know this, but they have a lot to answer for in my life.  When I was a child growing up in South Africa, Faber Castell were considered expensive pencils. They weren’t your back to school variety, they belonged to artists. What I loved most about them were the tins, which had a beautiful castle snow scene on them – the stuff of dreams. My childhood memories may be mildly skewed, but if memory serves, the tins they came in used to be adorned with images of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, and my flights of fancy about that castle may have a lot to do with my love of travel!

But back to Faber Castell.

We were sent two sets of Faber Castell pencils for review, the Faber-Castell Colour GRIP Pencil Case Gift Set and the Jumbo GRIP Colour & Painting Set, and it has taken us forever to get the review written, largely because I won’t let the kids use them when we’re not sitting down somewhere together. I guess my old feelings of Faber Castell being real pencils are still with me, and I don’t want the kids sharpening them because they like to see the sharpener fill up with shavings, or using them as drum sticks, or – my biggest irritation with pencils – dropping them, causing the lead inside to break into a million pieces.

So I’ve been a little protective over these pencils, and I’m not even sorry.

The thing is, they are really lovely!

Each pencil has place for a name to be written on the pencil! which is perfect if you’re using them in group settings or sending them off to school, since they won’t get lost as easily. Each pencil also has little studs on it so it’s perfect for holding without having to grip too hard. I love that about them.

They are almost squarish in shape, but fit perfectly in a normal round pencil sharpener, and they sharpen easily, without getting stuck or pulling chunks out the wood – though I suspect that may be down to the pencil sharpener too.Faber Castell

I’ve sat colouring with these pencils – with the children, of course – and they are soft, with bright, rich colours. You don’t have to press hard to get good coverage (is that the right word? I’m not too up on my arty lingo!), and in fact pressing hard isn’t good as I think the lead is quite soft, so these are perfect for my six year old, but my three year old needs a bit of guidance – she’s just out of the fist-hold phase of penmanship, so she’s getting there. (Faber Castell also do a range of crayons which she has been using effectively.)

colouringThe Jumbo GRIP Colour & Painting Set makes a wonderful gift set for a budding creative. The set comes with 18 colouring pencils, which you can use to colour as per usual, but then it also comes with a paint brush and watercup. Use these to brush over the coloured areas to turn your colouring to water colour paintings! It’s a little bit magic and the kids really love it! For the image I was working on, with small intricate bits, I didn’t really think it added anything to the picture as it just made the colours go over the lines – probably more down to my painting skills than the materials. painting

This set comes in a tin box in two layers, with a carry handle and a clasp so it can all be secured and hidden away kept safe and tidy when not in use. This set has an RRP of £24.95.

The Faber-Castell Jumbo Grip Gift Set comes in a soft metal zipped case with a clear front, and included are 16 vibrant shades, a GRIP 2001 graphite pencil and a sharpener. This set is slightly cheaper at £19.50, and is also a fantastic present for adult or child who loves to draw or colour.

As with most things, the proof is in the pudding, and in this case, the pudding is colouring. Whether that’s a kids colouring book or an adult mandala, these produce beautiful results.

You may ask why you would spend so much money on pencils when you could pick up a cheaper pencil elsewhere.

I always think that if you’re using good materials, you’re more inclined to care more about the end result. I thought I was alone in my thinking, but I found this post by Project Based Homeschooling which said exactly what I felt:

Giving children high-quality materials sends a message. It’s not enough to say, “I think your work is important.” If I give my children cheap paper and paint, what can they produce? Muddy-colored paintings that dry and flake off cheap, thin paper that tears easily. My words are saying “Your work is important” but the materials are saying “Your work is not important.”

She goes on to say: It’s true that you can’t just hand children a pile of expensive paper and a basket of high-quality markers and walk away without a backward glance. You need to convey your respect for the materials and show children how to use them properly and put them away so they’ll be good for next time.

So, see, I’m not such a mean mama! By keeping these pencils specially for special projects that we can do together, I’m teaching them a valuable lesson! (I should mention that they do have a container of random pencils and pens, crayons and chalks that they have free an unfettered access to.)

PBHS summarises that:

• High-quality materials convey to children that their work is important.

• High-quality materials inspire children to work more slowly and carefully.

• Children’s important work deserves high-quality materials.

So we use these two sets of Faber Castell pencils for making cards, decorating our letters, doing our projects, and spending time together creating our masterpieces.