INTRODUCING OLLI ELLA TO COTTAGE TOYS

We are so exciting to announce that we will now be stocking Olli Ella! The instagram sensation that is the Luggy, was just too adorable to resist. We are also huge fans of this Australian brand as a whole. Those divine (and very reasonably priced) Artisan made, wicker belly baskets for example. They come in an array of different colours and are the perfect, stylish storage solution for toys and books. They fit perfectly within a child’s bedroom or in the playroom, and are equally as practical used in other ways throughout the home. Laundry basket anyone?

Have you also seen Olli Ella‘s beautiful take on the baby changing mat? The divine Riva changing basket is like nothing we have seen before and felt this was the perfect addition to our nursery decor catagory. Handmade from Fairtrade and handwoven wicker, the Riva changing basket is designed to embrace the idea that pieces for the nursery need not scream baby. It also offers real longevity. Once your baby has outgrown nappies the Riva changing basket can become a stylish home for linens or toys. Talking of nursery decor we must also mention here that beautiful vintage wicker bassinet! Have you seen anything more dreamy? The Olli Ella Macrame bassinet is also handwoven from Fairtrade wicker and finished in white for a natural earthal feel. The most beautiful resting place for baby that can be suspended from the ceiling. A gentle rocking motion is sure to lull them into the deepest sleep. Hang yours in the nursery, beside your bed, or even in the living room.

Alongside the Luggy, Olli Ella have also recently launched the most adorable wicker picnic baskets for children. The Piki basket is available at Cottage Toys in pink, white or natural. These cute wicker ‘tote’ bags are a firm favourite with children of all ages; The perfect container for collecting shells at the beach, favourite crayons, toys, or pretend play. – Why not fill with snacks for a picnic?!

As you know here at Cottage Toys we are also partial to a traditional wooden dolls house and Olli Ella have the most adorable vintage style that fits perfectly within our range. The Holdi house is made from sustainable wood. A smaller style wooden dolls house that is presented a bit like a house shaped suitcase, that opens up to reveal a two storey family sized home. The Holdi house can be enjoyed in the same way as a traditional dolls house, and thanks to the integrated handle in the roof you can pack and go. Designed to be played with at home or on the move. We love the natural, simple wooden design. If you wanted, your child could even paint this to create something truely unique.

Be sure to visit the website to view our and shop our new Olli Ella collection today.

macrame bassinet 2

Reva

luggy

The Best Types of Books for Young Children

girl with a book

While videos and other media might be far more popular in this day and age, books are still so important for the development of young minds. And, in addition to developing your child’s cognitive skills, you’re hopefully inspiring a love for books that your child will hold onto for a lifetime, which will promote an endless cycle of learning.

But, what are the best types of books to read to young children? With so many choices out there, it is often difficult to decide on what is best. And, with different types of books acting as different forms of stimulation, you need to be concerned with choosing a good variety.

But, if this sounds a little scary to you, never fear. We’re here to offer some handy tips on choosing a good variety of books for your child. And, once you’ve decided on a healthy selection of reading material, we can even help you with a beautiful wooden children’s bookcase. Perfect!

The Best Types of Books for Your Baby or Toddler

1. Picture Books featuring High Contrast Images
We use our retinas to distinguish slight differences in shades and colours. However, babies’ eyes are still developing, and their retinas aren’t yet ready to be able to distinguish subtleties. So, if were to buy your baby a book full of similar-looking pastel colours, they might just all blur together.

This is why picture books featuring images of high contrast are ideal for babies’ eyes. Their developing retinas are much better at picking out these contrasting colours, and these types of books actually stimulate the development of eyesight.

A great example of a high contrast picture book is Spot the Dot by David A. Carter. This book is based on Carter’s app of the same name and is full of interactive fun with colours. Though it is perfect for the eyesight development of babies, it greatly appeals to toddlers and pre-schoolers as well.

2. Board Books
Board books are excellent for small children simply because they can take a beating. They are usually made from hard board that has been laminated, making it waterproof. The pages usually have rounded corners as well, which make them less sharp if (or, rather, when) they end up in your little one’s mouth.

There are loads of classics to choose from when it comes to board books. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, for example, has been a favourite for generations. In this one, the caterpillar eats its way through all sorts of foods and leaves a variety of holes into which curious little fingers fit perfectly.

Another undeniable favourite is Goodnight Moon which delivers beautifully simple rhymes that are perfect for bedtime (more on that later).

3. Books with Rhymes
Speaking of rhymes, look out for these types of books as they are excellent to read to your children. This is because rhymes teach your kids how language works. By drawing similarities between words which sound the same, they build the foundations for the understanding of spelling. Rhyming also helps children predict upcoming words, which is very important in reading. Following on from the last word, their brains will begin searching their vocabulary for words which are likeliest to be used to complete the rhyme.

girl reading a book

Naturally, anything by Dr Seuss is ideal in this category. But there are plenty of other beautiful books making up this genre. Madeline, for example, is another classic book which tells the tale of a little schoolgirl in Paris. While the rhyme isn’t always as clean as you might like, it does get young minds thinking as they try to connect the rhyming words.

Also, look out for brilliant books like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Trashy Town, Giraffe’s Can’t Dance, and Ten on a Sled. These are among this great list of 25 rhyming picture books.

4. Tactile Books
The idea behind tactile books is developing your child’s sense of touch while you are inspiring a love of books. These books contain textures on each page which your child can touch, and this is usually worked into the story, which helps with learning.

Great examples of tactile books are Playtime Stories, Touch! My Big Touch-and-Feel Word Book, and Noisy Dinosaurs (in which kids can both feel and hear the dinosaurs).

You can find these and others on Google’s shopping tab for touch and feel books.

boy reading a book

5. Alphabet and Counting Books
Alphabet and counting books are excellent for introducing your kids to language and maths. These books keep the content very light so as not to overwhelm children, but they are perfect for making early steps towards these subjects and becoming more comfortable with letters and numbers. Then, when your kids start to learn the actual principals involved with languages and maths, it’s not all new and scary.

My First Bumper Colouring Fun: ABC and 123, Richard Scarry’s Best First Book Ever, and Kansas Jayhawks ABCs and 1-2-3s are very popular books in this category. There are also some timeless alphabet books out there, if you want to go with something tried and trusted.

6. Bedtime Stories
Bedtime stories are actually much more important than merely keeping tradition alive. These stories actually help your little ones get into the right mental state for sleep. They’re calming, and the rhythm of rhyming books helps lull them gently to sleep. This is why we mentioned Goodnight Moon as being a great bedtime book. Also, by reading bedtime stories about getting ready for bed and saying goodnight, you reinforce the idea that it’s time to sleep.

There are plenty of good options in this category, but, if you’re having trouble finding any, you could try an online list of best bedtime books.

7. Classics
Classic kids’ books are great because they’re the books you loved when you were young, so they’re special to you. This is a great way of passing some of your favourite things down to your child. Plus, they’re fun for you to read, and there’s no law against you enjoying your reading time just as much as your child. In fact, it’s encouraged.

What constitutes a classic? Well, there’s no need to get specific. Anything you loved when you were young is absolutely perfect!

window view with a boy reading

Your Baby Needs Books

They’re important for learning and development, but books are also just a whole lot of fun. And, when you’re a kid, anything fun is worth its weight in gold. So, be sure to give your child the experience of books at a young age and let the rewards roll in. If you’re lucky, you’ll inspire a love for literature that will never die!

Love,

The CT Team x

Should You Buy Your Kids a Pet? The Pros and Cons Discussed

Child with pet

Pets are adorable, cute, fuzzy balls of fun, so it’s no wonder kids absolutely love them. And, if your little one hasn’t already asked you for a pet, you can probably count on the question popping up in the near future.

But, while a pet can seem like a great idea at the time, there are a few things that you need to consider before rushing out to your nearest shelter or pet shop. Take a look at the following pros and cons and then consider if a pet is right for your child at the moment, or if you should stick to animal toys for a while longer.

cat

The Pros of Having a Pet

1. Companionship

Some animals (dogs in particular) are absolutely fantastic friends. They’re always ready to play, and they can dish out mountains of unyielding love. This makes them excellent companions, especially if you have an only child. With a pet, you know that your child has a living, loving creature around to keep him or her from getting lonely, and pets have been shown to improve social skills and empathy in kids. This can be very important when it comes to raising a child that doesn’t shy away from social situations as a result of too much time alone.

2. Exercise

With games consoles and mobile devices having taken over from swing sets and footballs for a lot of kids, a lack of fitness is becoming a problem in the modern age. But, pets present a beautiful solution to this problem. This is because they need walks. So, by taking them out every day, your kids get some exercise and fresh air without even realising it.

3. Psychological health

Pets are great for mental wellbeing. Those struggling with depression or anxiety often find that having to walk and groom a dog, for example, helps them focus their thoughts and relax. Furthermore, kids battling with ADHD find the routine of caring for a dog to be good for concentration, and the energy they spend playing with pets helps calm them down in the evenings.

Family with cat

4. Improving an animal’s life

While pets offer you and your kids a lot of benefits, think also of the benefits that you offer a pet – specifically a shelter pet. These animals are sometimes well-trained, and are often well-behaved. Many people who adopt pets from shelters talk of how appreciative those pets are to have a safe, happy home, which makes them very affectionate. Plus, if you adopt a pet instead of buying one, you help make room in shelters that are already struggling with space.

Here are 10 benefits of adopting a pet as opposed to buying one.

5. Responsibility

Pets require maintenance, though some more than others. But whether it is changing the water in a fish bowl once a week or feeding, grooming, and cleaning up after a dog, there is always a degree of responsibility that comes with owning a pet. This can be an important lesson for your kids, especially if they are reaching an age where they need to start developing a sense of accountability. Being responsible for another life means that you can’t only think about yourself anymore.

The Cons of Having a Pet

1. Mess

If you have a kid, you know all about mess, and the last thing you might want is to add to the mess in your home. Dogs bring shed hair, mud, unsavoury accidents, and the like, while cats can claw your furniture to ribbons, ‘mark their territory’ on your bed or carpet, and bring in various types of ‘prey’ as presents for you. Caged animals like rodents and birds can’t make such a big mess, but they bring a definite odour to your home. So, consider the mess factor if you’re thinking about getting your child a pet.

bulldog

2. Allergies

Of course, if you’re thinking about pets, you have to think about allergies as well. With a large amount of people being allergic to pets – cats in particular – you would be well advised to find out if you or your kids are allergic to animals. The best way to do this would be to spend a lot of time with animals, maybe by visiting a friend with pets or perhaps volunteering at a shelter.

And, while some people do grow out of their allergies, those same allergies can return out of the blue. So, it might not be a good idea to gamble on the idea of ‘getting used to your pets’.

3. Cost

Even if you adopt a pet, there are still a lot of costs involved. You have to consider the various inoculations that are necessary when getting a pet, as well as vets’ bills. Even if your pet never has any accidents or major illnesses (which can prove exceptionally costly), you still have the cost of check-ups and small issues to think about.

In addition, dogs and cats need pet blankets, beds, toys, collars, grooming supplies, etc. Fish ideally need tanks with filtration systems, and rodents and snakes need tanks or cages, all of which are additional costs.

4. Safety

A puppy and a child make a perfect match that is almost too cute for words. But, there are some combinations of animals and owners that are less ideal. Dangerous snakes and arachnids are, of course, not a great idea for small children. Even some breeds of dogs are not advisable as they can be vicious or territorial. So, do some research on the compatibility of your intended pet and your child before bringing an animal into your home.

Here are some tips on choosing the right pet for your child.

5. Responsibility

We listed responsibility as a pro, but it can also be a con. This is because some children just aren’t ready to look after an animal, and negligence is just no good when it comes to pets. Remember, if your child fails to care for your pet, the responsibility becomes yours, which can eat into your free time considerably. So, be sure that your child is ready to commit to looking after a pet before bringing one home.

Sleeping baby with a dog

Is a Pet Right for Your Child?

As with so many things in life, there are various downsides to having pets. But, you need to balance these against the joy that a pet will bring to your child, and your home. If the pros outweigh the cons, then all you need to do is decide on what type of pet will be best for your child, and try to talk your little one out of naming it something silly. (Though, silly names can be fun, too!)

Love,

The CT Team x

Tips for Gardening with Children

baby watering plants

While there is a lot that kids can learn from playing with wooden educational toys, it is important that they get outdoors regularly as well. There are a lot of advantages when it comes to outdoor activities, like fresh air, sunshine, and a new environment to promote learning and imagination. But, what can you do outside that is going to nourish your little one’s sense of wonder? The answer: gardening!

Gardening is not only good for physical and mental health; it creates a platform for consistent learning. This is because there are always things that need doing, and you can explain the importance of each task as you’re doing them with your child. You have to plant and water the seeds, pluck out the weeds, prune, pamper, turn the soil, and much more. Because of this, the act of gardening is likely to hold your child’s interest over time.

If this sounds like a good idea, and you want to get your child out of the house and into the garden, here are a few tips on gardening with kids that you might find helpful.

How to Approach Gardening with Children

1. Make it Fun from the Start
Your little ones are just learning about patience, and they’ll want to see results fast. So, if you just go into the garden and plant some seeds, you might not be inspiring a love for gardening right off the bat.

To avoid boring your child, go out and buy a few little plants for potting. You can help your kids mark out a special area in your garden that will be their place for growing plants and then start their own garden by planting the pre-grown plants in the soil. This way, they’ll see results from day one, which should get them excited about gardening.

handfull of flowers

2. Choose Easy-to-Grow Plants
In addition to planting pot plants, you’ll want to start growing plants from seeds. The trick to this is to choose plants that grow quickly, are easy to grow, and yield good results. Making an unsuccessful attempt at growing something difficult could demotivate your kids, so you want to keep it as simple as possible initially.

Pansies and violets are great flowers to start with. These aren’t crazy about the heat, but they will give you flowers throughout the year, which will help keep your child interested. They also do better if you remove any dead flowers to promote new blooms, which will give your child lots to do in terms of maintenance.

There are many more plants that are great for child gardeners. Perhaps start with plants that blossom all year long.

3. Enhance their Senses with Plants
While you want to make the experience easy and fruitful, you also want to encourage as much learning as you can. So, for this reason, consider planting some plants that appeal to your kids’ senses. Plants that are pretty to look at and which they can touch, smell, taste, and even hear are perfect for sensory development.

Flowers that are pretty and sweet-smelling are easy to find, and nice tasting plants are common, too (mint, rosemary, and wild strawberries work beautifully). Lamb’s ears and various types of sage work perfectly for touch and, for sound, you could try plants that rustle of even rattle, like love-in-a-mist.

Here is a helpful guide to flowers that help sensory learning.

4. Let them Get Dirty
The thought of your kids coming in covered with mud after playing might be the stuff of nightmares, but it’s all part of the gardening experience and so you shouldn’t discourage it. Just remember that a dirty little gardener is one that has been learning.

So, instead of trying to keep your kids clean, just dress them in some old clothes before getting out in the garden. You could even use gardening as a theme for other activities by making and decorating gardening aprons with them one evening.

girl playing in the grass

5. Get Your Child Some Gardening Tools
If your child is enjoying gardening and it seems like a good investment, you could buy your child some little gardening tools. Having their own tools enhances your kids’ sense of independence and helps them emulate adult behaviour, which is important in development. Furthermore, it might just be easier for them to work with little forks and trowels, and easier for them to lift little watering cans.

6. Keep Their Interest Up with Related Activities
You can keep your child’s interest in gardening alive even when you’re not in the garden. We spoke about making and decorating gardening aprons, which will keep your little ones entertained over a few evenings. However, there is much more that you can do on this front. Another good idea is plant labels (either for sticking in the ground or sticking on pots). By making these during the evenings or on rainy days you can keep your kids excited about gardening and keep the learning alive.

If you need a little inspiration, you can find some gorgeous examples of plant labels on Pinterest.

7. Double the Fun and Learning by Attracting Butterflies
You can make your kids’ garden even more beautiful by choosing plants that attract butterflies. These are plants that offer nectar, which is the sustenance preferred by butterflies. Plants that attracts butterflies are, among others, lavender, golden rod, small scabious (which is also called ‘butterfly blue’), and, unsurprisingly, butterfly bush.

By planting these types of flowers in your kids’ garden, you essentially double the opportunity for learning. Now, you can teach them a little about these types of plants and you can also teach your kids all about butterflies!

Here are a few more tips on attracting butterflies and other pollinators.

buttrefly on a flower

Get Into the Garden with Your Kids

Gardening is an excellent way to keep your kids busy, as well as encourage learning while they are having fun. So, if you are planning to take to the garden with your kids this summer, hopefully these tips help you make a wonderful time of it.

Love,

The CT Team x

How to Choose a Birthday Gift for Your Children’s Friends

gifts

So, your child has been invited to a friend’s birthday party. That means a day full of games, delicious treats, and a sonic mountain of merriment. But, it also means that you need to buy a present for your child’s friend, which can cause a fair amount of anxiety.

You would think that picking the ideal kids’ toy would be as easy as sticking your hand out as you breeze through a toy shop and seeing what you grab. But, kids have very specific likes and interests, and you have your budget to think about. Plus, you want to show your friends that you actually care about their children and aren’t simply plying them with some horridly plastic tat.

This all means that you need to put thought into picking the perfect gift for your child’s friends. But, before you reach for the paper bag to ease your panic attack, take a look at these helpful tips:

How to Pick the Perfect Gift for a Friend’s Child

1. Ask the mum
Children aren’t shy in voicing their desires, and their mums are usually the first to hear all about what they want. So, you can be pretty sure that the mum of the birthday tot is going to have a fairly extensive list of what he or she might want. With this in mind, contact the kid’s mum before the party and ask what she thinks you should buy. You do run the risk of being given a choice of some fairly pricey presents, but most parents will be sympathetic to your wallet.

birthday cake

2. Have your kids do some covert work
If your kids are good friends with the little one having the birthday, you could always ask them to try to find out what to buy as a gift. Depending on your kids’ ages you might not be able to hold much hope for subtlety on this front (they’ll probably ask outright), but at least you’ll end up with a clear idea of what to buy.

3. Ask your child’s opinion
If you don’t want to ruin the surprise for the birthday boy or girl by having your child ask what they want, you could just ask your child’s opinion. Kids are just like adults in that they have different tastes, but friends often form bonds because of similar interests. So, if your child likes a particular toy, there’s a good chance that it will go down well with his or her friend.

4. Avoid buying loud presents
Unless you are trying to pay back a friend (or frenemy) for doing the same to you, avoid giving toys that make a lot of noise and cost a fortune in batteries. This will drive that child’s parents mad and could, in extreme cases, cause an unnecessary rift in your friendship.

Also, toys that do too much can limit children’s imaginations. Instead of just listening to the toy make sounds, you want children to imagine and even make the sounds themselves. This broadens their creativity and helps with vocalisation. Plus, noisy toys can actually cause hearing damage.

5. Go with something unique
If you’re struggling for an idea of what to buy, you might be tempted to look into the latest toy trends and let those influence your decision. The problem with this is the fact that you aren’t the only one buying presents for the child having the party. So, while you are confident that you bought a popular toy, it might be too popular! Seeing another gift identical to yours unwrapped before yours can bring on a sinking feeling, followed by embarrassment.

Avoid this by choosing a gift that is completely unique but still striking and fun. We think that wooden toys accomplish this task beautifully! Just look at the wooden toys on Pinterest for some proof.

6. Let your budget guide you
It is easy to get yourself worked up if you have absolutely no idea of what to buy as a present. So, in order to avoid a state of panic, you need to filter your search. A great way to do this is by a strict budget. Decide how much you want to spend and then discount anything that is over that amount. The possibilities that are left after you do this will feel much more manageable.

At Cottage Toys we make this easy for you by having a whole section on gift ideas under £25. This way, you know that everything you see is affordable and the variety is still impressive – but not so large that it confuses you.

7. Limit your stress and buy online
Going from toyshop to toyshop unsure what you’re looking for but not having anything jump out at you; that can take up an entire day if you’re not careful. So, to save time and a heap of stress, why not do your toy shopping online? Online shopping is quicker, easier, and less stressful. Plus, online stores have a large selection of beautiful toys, and you can shop by category which can help whittle down your decision.

Things to Consider when Buying Gifts for Friends’ Kids

• Reciprocity
If you’re not sure how much to spend on your friend’s child’s gift, consider if that friend has given your child a gift recently. You might not know how much it cost, but you’ll have a pretty good idea of the price range. Reciprocating with a gift in the same range is a good way to ensure that no feelings are hurt. And, if you can’t afford to match the budget, you could give a less expensive gift and throw in something home-made, like a batch of biscuits or a basket of cakes. There are loads of great baking ideas for kids online.

birthday presents

Also, if you have just one child and your friend has two, don’t feel the need to spend as much on each of her kids as she spent on yours. It’s perfectly fine to split your budget between her kids.

• Do you buy a gift if your child isn’t going?
If your child can’t make it to the party, do you still drop off a gift? You shouldn’t feel obligated in any way, but it is a nice gesture. Why not get something small and inexpensive, just to show that you still care about the birthday boy or girl?

chihldrens car with boxes

Make Gift Shopping Easy with Cottage Toys

With us, gift shopping has never been easier. We have a range of unique toys that kids absolutely love, and our price range fits any budget. Plus, we have some lovely people that would be nothing if not thrilled to help you choose the perfect toy for an upcoming party.

So, to make your next toy shopping experience an absolute dream, make our website your first stop.

Love,

The CT Team x

How to Keep Your Kids Brain-Active throughout the Summer

Mother and daughter

With the schools’ summer break just around the corner, your kids are no-doubt looking forward to a lot of time off to enjoy the summer sun, meet up with their friends, and give their brains some time off from school.

But, while a break is great to recharge the mental batteries, too much time off can be detrimental. Your brain is, after all, like a muscle and a lack of exercise can cause it to lose some of its strength. So, it is important to keep your kids’ brains active without having them feel like they’re back in the classroom.

This might seem like a tall order, but it’s perfectly possible. With these fun summer activities, your kids will remain brain-active without even noticing it!

Tricks for Keeping Your Kids’ Brains Active This Summer

1. Educational Toys

Let’s face it; toys are a lot of fun. Your kids love playing with them, and playing never feels like work. So, if you can teach your kids while they are enjoying themselves, you’re winning on both fronts. Here are some ideas for educational toys and the games that you can play with them this summer:

• Animal Pairs Memory Game
Memory games are a lot of fun, but they actually help your kids’ brains in a lot of ways. They help promote short term memory, improve concentration and focus, and improve cognitive skills. Here is a basic list of all the benefits of memory games. Our animal pairs game by Le Toy Van is absolutely ideal for increasing memory while playing.

animal pairs game

• Wooden Cash Register and Wooden Scales
If your kids are already learning basic maths, you can help keep their skills sharp through the summer with role-playing games. With a toy cash register and weighing scales, you could have your kids set up a pretend shop where they sell groceries or other goods to their friends. Dealing with payments will help them use maths in an enjoyable way. You could even encourage the expansion of their business with this beautiful wooden shop and café.

wooden cafe

2. Teach Your Kids to Cook

Mimicking adult tasks is fun for kids and an important part of their development. Take advantage of this fact over the summer by teaching your kids to cook. But, instead of just having them hand you the measuring jug, for example, teach them how to use it. If you measure out a cup of sugar, take the opportunity to introduce them to fractions by teaching them the concept of half a cup of sugar.

Then, if they catch the cooking bug, you can have them learn more about measurements through some cooking-themed toys. This toy mixer set and these toy pots and pans will certainly help bring out the chef in your child and keep the inspiration alive.

wooden toy mixer and food

3. Teach by Travelling

If you are planning to go away with your family this summer, don’t feel that this will get in the way of your being able to keep your kid’s brain active. In fact, travel makes for some excellent opportunities to teach kids about a number of subjects.

Your child might have learned about certain places in geography class, or important locations that influenced history. So, if you don’t have a definite destination already planned for, you could take your child to one of these places. When you get there, you could take your child to any important areas or landmarks and ask what he or she has learned about those locations.

wooden theatre

A great idea for this type of holiday teaching is to give your child the tools necessary to make a scrapbook. This could include a camera, a notebook, and possibly a bag to keep any interesting finds in the area (like shells if it’s a beach). Then, at the end of your trip your child can compile the scrapbook, which is a great creative outlet and good for keeping his or her memory sharp.

4. Have Your Child Learn an Instrument

When we talk about instruments here, we’re not suggesting that you buy your toddler a violin or an oboe. Instead, we mean that you could introduce your child to the joys of music with some toy instruments. And, before you decide to skip over this suggestion because you don’t like the thought of the noise, consider that learning an instrument is believed to stimulate language skills, memory, and spatial reasoning.

baby girl playing a toy guitar

Of course, if your child is too young, memorising notes and chords might be far too difficult. But, you could use this age – in which almost everything is a learning experience – to get them comfortable with the feel and general operation of musical instruments. A toy guitar could help get your child comfortable with melodic strings while a toy drum set might help them grasp basic rhythmic concepts. And, if you can encourage your child to find and repeat melodic patterns, you’ll definitely be keeping his or her brain active in a very productive way.

5. Make ‘Vlog’ Entries about the School Year

Videos are an exceptionally popular form of media at present, and there is a good chance that your child watches YouTube from time to time. In fact, your child might even follow someone’s blog – a video diary which is usually just the video creator talking into his or her webcam.

It can be fun for your child to mimic these types of posts, and this can be educational if you choose the topic carefully. You might encourage your child to make a series of videos detailing interesting facts from the past school year. You can start with fun stories and anecdotes, and gently encourage your child to talk about the things he or she learned in class, maybe doing a video on the most interesting topic covered all year.

For younger kids, you could do a similar thing, but use puppets to make it more of a conversation. A great idea would be to invite your child’s best friend over and have them discuss the most interesting parts of the school year with the help of the Moulin Roty Puppet Theatre.

Summer Learning Doesn’t Have to Be Boring

You don’t have to arrange special lessons for your kids this summer in order to keep their brains active. As long you find a way to promote basic brain exercises that will boost memory and cognitive ability, you can use toys and recreation to make sure that, when the new term rolls around, your little ones are ready.

And, if you need any guidance on what toys your little one will love, we’re always happy to help. Give us a ring on 01394 794 365 or get in touch with us online.

Love,

The CT Team x

Top Tips for Planning the Perfect Kids’ Party – Part 2

a boy eating cake

Your little one means the world to you and so you want to pull out all the stops when it comes to planning their birthday parties. The problem is that you can start to panic when you think about all the things that need to come together in order to throw a truly brilliant kids’ party.

Well, you don’t need to worry. If you get the fundamentals right, the rest falls into place. And, to help you with those fundamentals, we have a few tips for you to add to the ones we gave you in Part 1 of this look at kids’ parties.

More Tips for Planning a Triumphant Kids’ Party

1. Decide on a Theme
If there are balloons, decorations, and lots of sweets, you can usually be sure that your child will love the party. But, introducing a theme makes it a little more special.

The best thing to do is to plan the party around whatever your child is excited about at the time. If it’s pirates, for example, you could buy balloons featuring your child’s favourite characters, give your child a pirate hat to wear on the day, and send everyone home with a gorgeous little pirate figure in their goody bags.

2. Keep the Menu Fun but Simple
You don’t have to worry about going gourmet when planning food for kids. They are perfectly happy with fun and easy foods like mini hot dogs, pizza puffs, sausage rolls, ice lollies, and lots of sweets and cakes.

Here is a helpful website with dozens of easy recipes for kids’ parties that you can use for some inspiration.

colourful cupcakes

3. Hire an Entertainer or Play Party Games?
This one is really down to you and your budget, and which one you think your child will prefer. Entertainers like clowns, musicians, and magicians are usually huge hits with the kids, but don’t underestimate the power of simple games like hide-and-seek, pass-the-parcel, and musical chairs.

But, while both options can be fun, be sure to plan them well in advance. You need to book entertainers as soon as possible, and add all of the trinkets you need for the games to your shopping list weeks before the party.

4. Open Presents at the Right Time
Having everyone gather around the birthday girl or boy to watch them open presents is a nice way to end off the party. However, it can become awkward if your little one isn’t shy about voicing any displeasure with the gifts.

Because of this, it is a nice idea to wait until everyone has gone home before you start unwrapping the presents. But, if you do choose this route, remember to send everyone ‘thank you’ notes for the gifts.

These don’t have to be physical cards; it’s the gesture that counts. You can get free electronic thank you cards here.

Le Toy Van Pirates

Planning Kids’ Parties with Cottage Toys

Hopefully these tips help you with the activities and decorations for your upcoming party, but don’t think we’ve forgotten about the all-important presents.

Whether it’s toys for the birthday munchkin or for the goody bags, we have you covered. With oodles of fantastic wooden toys, soft toys, kitchens, workbenches, garages, and more, we have absolutely everything you and your little one could desire.

With the above tips making the planning process a dream, and our beautiful range of toys making present-shopping a breeze, you won’t know what to do with all your free time leading up to the party!

Love,

The CT Team x

Top Tips for Planning the Perfect Kids’ Party – Part 1

boys playing

This might not be the first party you’re throwing, but you’re always looking for fresh ideas to keep each party topping the last. And, when you start to think about everything that goes into a great party – venue, entertainment, snacks, etc. – you can get more than a little anxious. But, you don’t have to worry; we’re here with some fantastic tips on planning the perfect kids’ party.

With these helpful hints you’ll be able to plan a brilliant party and make sure it goes off without a hitch. So, without further ado, let’s get to it!

How to Plan a Truly Successful Kids’ Party

1. Choose the Date Wisely
Of course, the best scenario when it comes to the date of the party is to be able to throw it on your child’s birthday. But, if the date falls in the week, you might have to choose a weekend either side of it.

If this is the case, the first thing you should do is find out if your child’s best friend is available on this day. Sadly, the party just won’t be the same without your little one’s chief accomplice.

Also, if you plan to throw the party on a Sunday, make sure that your child’s religious friends won’t be in church at the time. If there’s a chance they will be, plan the party for later in the day to accommodate them.

2. Buy Everything in Advance
You don’t want the party date to sneak up on you and catch you unprepared, so it’s important to start planning around 6 weeks beforehand. This will give you enough time to start looking around the shops for the best supplies.

Also, to save time, you might find that going online is a great option. This is a wonderful idea for odds and ends, which can often take days of shopping to piece together.

Planning ahead will also help you spread the cost of the party over a few months, which always helps.

birthday balloons

3. Choose between a Venue and Home Party
Venues are excellent because you don’t have to worry as much about the cleaning, but home parties are good because they’re free – at least as far as the venue is concerned. Decide which is best for you early on, because the planning that you do leading up to the party will sometimes be influenced by the location.

Here are checklists for home parties and venue parties to make sure you remember everything. And, if you decide to go with a venue, here is a good resource for finding the best kids’ party venue.

4. Plan for the Weather
English summer rain can sneak up out of nowhere and drench a perfectly sunny afternoon. So, if you’ve decided to have your child’s party in a park, have a backup plan. Even if it means keeping your home on stand-by, make sure you have an indoor option up your sleeve just in case the weather turns nasty.

wooden farm

Let Cottage Toys Help You Plan Your Next Kids’ Party

These are just a few ideas to help get the ball rolling, but we have loads more for you. So, for another 4 handy tips on planning a kids’ party, be sure to visit our blog again soon for Part 2 of this look at kids’ parties.

And, in the meantime, please visit our toy catalogue to get those creative juices flowing as far as gifts are concerned. With loads of beautiful toys to choose from, we’re sure our collection will inspire you.

Love,

The CT Team x

Firing up Your Kid’s Imagination with Role Play Toys – Part 2

Two boys playing

Role play toys are exceptionally fun, and give your kids the skills they need to interact and succeed when they grow up, both professionally and in social situations.

In Part 1 of this look at role play toys we talked about how these toys develop your kids’ confidence, language skills, knowledge, and imaginations. Now, let’s take a look at how you can help this process by giving you some great ideas for kids’ role play!

How Role Play Toys Help Your Kids Learn

Of course, the idea of role playing is to stimulate your kids’ imagination. So, you want to have your little ones imagine as much as possible. However, putting your kids in an empty room does little to stimulate them.

You need to give them just enough to get their imaginations running wild, and then let them do the rest. With that in mind, here are some fun ideas for role play with toys:

1. Safari
In Part 1 we mentioned the idea of using felt animal heads to set the scene for a safari through distant wildernesses. You could build on this by creating a jungle scene in your child’s playroom.

Use blow-up palm trees or branches from your garden (if you’re brave enough to bring them inside) to create the foliage. Then place toy animals of the savannah around the room and have your child spot them as you explore the wilderness.

Alternatively, you could create a zoo by placing plastic washing baskets upside-down over some stuffed animals. This creates the effect of cages. Your child can then be the zookeeper, feeding and caring for the animals, or a happy little patron!

wooden zoo

2. Restaurant
Restaurants present various fantastic opportunities for imagination and interaction. You have customers ordering food, waiters relaying orders, and chefs preparing the food.

Kids’ tables and chairs are perfect for the customer area. But, when it comes to the kitchen, you want to give your kids lots to play with. Because of this, a toy cooking station is ideal. With pots and pans, a hob, oven, toy fridge, and even a coffee maker, your little ones will be busy for hours.

And, with wooden play food, you can have the waiters bring fantastic looking food from the kitchen to the customers, prompting further interaction.

wooden kitchen

3. Mechanic’s Garage
In Part 1 we also made mention of having your child pretend to be a racing driver travelling the world. Why not add to this role play by bringing mechanics on the road? You could create a whole pit operation complete with toy workbenches and some darling-looking wooden tools. Plus, for quick service, you could kit out your little mechanics with toy tool belts.

wooden garage

Just think of how much learning you could sneak into the fun as your little race team attempts to win the Monaco Grand Prix.

Role Play Toys Create a World of Fun

These are just some of the ideas you could use to enhance your kids’ life skills through play. But, with so many fantastic role play toys to choose from, your possibilities are endless.

So, for the toys you need to bring these and other fantasies to life, be sure to contact the team here at Cottage Toys, and we’ll be more than happy to help you pick out the best toys for your tots.

Love,

The CT Team x

Ideas for a Kid’s Party on a Budget – Part 2

baloons

You want to throw your kids memorable parties, with each year outdoing the previous year’s party. But, you don’t always have the cash to go bigger and better. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem as it’s quite possible to throw fantastic kid’s parties on a budget.

In Part 1 we discussed a few tips on how to accomplish this feat. Now, to make it even easier, here are a few more.

How to Throw a Kid’s Party on a Tight Budget

1. Choose Games Over Entertainers (and Recruit Friends)
As we mentioned in Part 1, kids’ party entertainment has reached new heights with this new generation. But reuniting the Spice Girls or hiring David Blaine is a little outside of your budget.

Fortunately, you don’t need to go over the top with entertainment. Instead of paying for an expensive entertainer, why not have the kids make their own fun? Good, old-fashioned treasure hunts and games of pin the tail on the donkey still hold as much wonder for our children as they did for us. (Here are some more kids party games you can play.)

And, if you want an entertainer to add some sparkle, don’t feel the need to go straight to the professionals. Do you know any firemen or police men? If so, ask them to come along in uniform and spray the kids with your garden hose or put toy handcuffs on the party’s most mischievous kids. You’d be surprised at how much joy kids can get out of something so simple.

2. Bake Your Own Cake
So, you’ve seen the baking shows on telly and you think that your child won’t be happy with anything less than a six-foot, fondant-covered cake that looks like a culinary playground. But, in a kid’s eyes, if a cake is covered in sweet icing and candles, it’s a great cake.

A quick online search will give you dozens of easy-to-make cake recipes. And, if you start practicing early enough, you’ll definitely be able to create a perfect cake by the time your kid’s birthday rolls around.

If you really want to impress your child, you can always buy certain embellishments for the cake. But you certainly don’t need to hire a professional baker, who might charge a fortune, to bake it for you.

cake with candles

3. Find a Cheap Venue
Hiring out expensive venues for your kid’s party really isn’t necessary. Of course, your own garden is the cheapest venue since it costs absolutely nothing. But, if it’s too small or you don’t have one at all, there are other options.

You could ask a friend if you might use their garden or house for the party, or you could check your local parks to see if you can reserve picnic areas for parties. There is also the option of going to a family-oriented restaurant, which you don’t have to pay to hire out at all.

4. Don’t Overthink the Party Bags
As long as there are lots of odds and ends in the party bag, kids don’t really mind about the overall quality. So, if you really want to impress on a tight budget, you could buy some lovely toy packs and split them between the bags. Then fill the bags with sweets and smaller toys from the pound shop. The main toy will be the feature, and the rest will make sure you meet the quantity quota.

Moulin Roty Piano

A Budget Kid’s Party Leaves Money for Brilliant Toys

Only rarely can you have your cake and eat it, too. But, in this case, it’s easy. By budgeting cleverly, you still end up with a party that your child and all his or her friends will absolutely love. And, with the money you save, you’ll be able to splash out on some fantastic wooden toys for your little one.

Hopefully these tips help you plan an amazing party. Now, let us help you with the presents. With loads of beautiful wooden toys to choose from, we are sure to have exactly what you need to make your little treasure’s day truly wonderful.

If you’d like to know more about our selection or would like to place an order, please contact us today!

Love,

The CT Team x