parenting · play · reviews

Review: Jaques of London Toys

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This blog post comes courtesy of Jaques of London, who have kindly gifted us some of their toys to try out in exchange for a review!

I hadn’t come across Jaques before, but they specialise in wooden toys and board games. It’s a family-run business, which traces its origin all the way back to 1795 when Thomas Jaques established himself as a “Manufacturer of ivory, hardwoods, bone and Tunbridge Ware” (no, I have no clue what Tunbridge Ware is either). They’re now in the eighth generation of the family business, which is quite the pedigree for a toy brand!

Jaques of London Wooden Toys

Jaques of London: Let’s Play Animal Seesaw

The Let’s Play Animal Seesaw was the first one of the Jacques toys I gave to Little Man. It’s a simple concept: a little wooden seesaw which comes with a set of wooden animals (plus two trees and two wooden cogs) which you can stack on the seesaw and try to get it to balance.

It’s really nicely made, the animals are very cute (on several occasions I have discovered the bunny rabbit from this set hidden in random locations around the house, a sure sign that Little Man loves it!) and even boring grown-ups will catch themselves having fun trying to get the seesaw to balance.

I also thought it was a nice touch that the animals come with a drawstring bag you can store them in. It definitely helps to avoid losing them at the bottom of the toybox!

The Let’s Play Animal Seesaw in action

Jaques of London: Magnetic Crane Truck

Little Man has been obsessed with cranes for a little while and is very interested in trucks and lorries, so when I saw that Jaques do a Magnetic Crane Truck toy, I knew it would be a big hit with him. And I wasn’t wrong!

The truck comes in two detachable parts, with a magnetic crane that can swivel, lift and be lowered, plus five colourful blocks with magnets that you can use to load the truck and attach to the crane. Little Man has really enjoyed stacking and unstacking the truck, playing with the magnets, and exploring other items that he can stack in the back of the truck. In fact, the little wooden creatures from the Jaques Animal Seesaw have taken more than one ride around the kitchen in the crane truck! It’s a great toy with lots of different options for creative play.

Little Man playing with the Jaques Magnetic Crane Truck

I really love the fact that Jaques specialise in wooden toys which are more eco-friendly. It’s so easy when you have a toddler to accrue a whole house full of plastic, which is terrible for the environment. We’re always keen to find eco-friendly alternatives and Jaques is a lovely brand with a wide range of wooden toys.

It’s also worth mentioning that the toys are really beautifully presented, I love the boxes they come in, which are gorgeous and tied with a gold-embossed ribbon – see the picture below. If you’re like me and terrible at remembering to gift wrap things, I’d say this makes Jacques toys a great bet for children’s birthday presents!

child development · parenting · sleeping

Do Toddlers Have Sleep Regressions?

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When you’re a new parent, you very quickly discover the concept of sleep regressions. This is the concept that babies go through phases where they sleep less well and wake up more often in the night, and that these phases are associated with certain developmental milestones and growth spurts; meaning that there are particular ages when most babies go through a patch of bad sleep. Sleep regression is most associated with the first year or so of a baby’s life. But my experiences with our two year old toddler got me wondering – do toddlers have sleep regressions too? In this blog post, I’ll run through the typical ages for toddler sleep regression, our experience, and how to get through it with your sanity intact!

Do Toddlers Have Sleep Regressions?

Sleep Regression Ages

I’ve written previously about the sleep regression at 8 months (spoiler alert: it’s a doozy). Sleep regressions in babies are commonly said to occur at around 4 months, 8 months and 12 months, although some sources also say they happen at 6 and 10 months as well – at which point they seem so frequent that you have to start wondering whether you’re experiencing a ‘sleep regression’ or just, you know, a baby that’s not great at sleeping.

When I first read about sleep regressions, I only focused on the first twelve months because everything beyond that just seemed so far away. Now Little Man is two-and-a-bit, though, I’ve returned to my reading and found that a lot of sources also list two toddler sleep regressions: one at 14 – 18 months, and one around two years. This definitely fits with our experience over the past year or so!

Toddler Sleep Regression: 18 Months

Around 18 months old, we found that Little Man suddenly went through a real change in how he wanted to go to sleep. Up until then, we had still rocked him to sleep in our arms before putting him in his cot. Then one day, out of the blue… He didn’t want to go to sleep in our arms any more! The slight issue was, he didn’t really know how to go to sleep in his cot either. It took a good few weeks before he consistently got the hang of it, and during that time his bedtimes took soooooo long. It was very frustrating.

According to various sources online, the 18 month toddler sleep regression can be caused by separation anxiety and often manifests as a resistance to bedtime. We didn’t really experience a resistance to bedtime, so much as a shift in Little Man’s needs in how he wanted to get to bed, which I think was to do with the fact that he’d grown bigger and so was less comfortable in our arms. I’m not sure if this is typical for this regression, because Little Man has always been quite small for his age, ever since he arrived three weeks early!

Trains are an essential component of bedtime

Toddler Sleep Regression: 2 Years

We seemed to hit the 2 year old sleep regression a bit early, around the 22 month mark – and the bad news is, it seemed to carry on for about three months or so. Ouch. According to some sources, the two year sleep regression is caused by toddlers’ developing sense of self: they start to develop an awareness that things happen when they’re not there and consequently don’t want to miss out on the fun – a.k.a. a classic case of FOMO. As a result, they start refusing naps and bedtime – and you also then ironically run the risk of them becoming overtired and more difficult to put to sleep.

Little Man has only rarely refused naps, but he had refused bedtime in a big way. When we started trying to leave the room with him in his cot before he’s asleep, we had very mixed results as often (but not always!) he seemed to be drifting off happily enough, only to wake up suddenly and completely about a minute after we left the room.

It’s interesting that the literature says this sleep regression is about fear of missing out, because I’d say in our experience it’s much more about Little Man feeling anxious about being left alone. He struggles much more at bedtime if he’s overtired or feeling a bit under the weather (or teething of course!). And reports from nursery suggest he’s just fine at naptime when there’s lots of other children napping around him (the magic of peer pressure apparently starts at an early age!). He’s usually happy enough to stop playing in the evenings and head upstairs to bed – it’s definitely the ‘being left alone’ part that seems to cause the issue.

I also think that Little Man suffers quite a bit from hypnic jerks – those twitchy muscle movements that make it feel like you’re falling when you’re going to sleep. He’s very twitchy and it would explain the times he randomly starts crying just as it seems that he’s about to really drift off.

How to handle toddler sleep regressions

The bad news is, of course, that I don’t have any magical words of wisdom for other parents going through a toddler sleep regression: all I can offer is sympathy.

All the advice online suggests having a well-established sleep routine; I definitely think that helps, but it’s hardly the solution of the century. All you can do is try to be patient, be consistent and not lose your mind on the days when it feels like you’re spending your whole evening trying to get an obviously tired child to sleep. You can try to work on the separation anxiety and FOMO feelings that might be getting in the way of your toddler settling down to sleep, but there’s not really anything you could do if they’re twitching themselves awake or ending up unsettled due to falling dreams. Even us grown ups sometimes have trouble sleeping and wake up freaked out after a bad dream – I guess it’s not exactly surprising that little ones do too.

child development · Just for fun · lifestyle · parenting · play

Free & Cheap Ideas For Fun Outdoors With A 12 – 18 Month Old Toddler

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I’ve previously written about Little Man’s first discoveries of the great outdoors as a newly-walking toddler. I thought it would be fun to follow up with some ideas for fun ways to play and explore the great outdoors when you have a young toddler – in the one year old to eighteen months sort of timeframe. I’m focusing on cheap and easy activities that involve household items you probably already have, or at least that don’t require purchasing anything worth more than about £1… Because fun shouldn’t be mega expensive!

Free & Cheap Ideas For Fun Outdoors With A 12 – 18 Month Old Toddler

Pebbles in a Pot

This idea came from my own lovely mum! When I was a kid we had a gravel area outside our kitchen door, and mum said I used to spend ages sat on the step happily putting little pebbles from the gravel into empty milk bottles.

We have a small amount of gravel in our back garden, so I thought I would try the same with Little Man, showing him how to put pebbles into an empty plastic bottle… And he loves it! (To be fair, it could be genetic – so I guess there’s no guarantee your kids will like it, buuut let’s just skate past that). He needs reasonably close supervision to ensure he doesn’t try to eat any of the pebbles, but as time has gone by, the frequency of attempted pebble-munching has greatly diminished.

Pebbles in a pot!

The pebbles in a pot game is great for fine motor skills as well as concepts like big and small, empty and full. And honestly, it requires so little parental input that it’s perfect for those mornings when you find yourself in your back garden with an energetic toddler much, much earlier than planned…

Interactive Plants

Okay, bear with me, because I didn’t really have a title for this one! While on our way to nursery one morning a couple of months ago, I introduced Little Man to the concept of dandelion clocks. He loved watching me blow away the seeds and having a try himself (mainly just aggressively blowing raspberries in the complete wrong direction, but he had a go!). Now he loves dandelions and asks for them whenever we go out – he calls them “bubbles” which actually kind of makes sense when you think about it.

But dandelions aren’t the only interactive plant out there! We’ve played with snapdragons (antirrhinums), squeezing the sides of the flower to make them snap, and Little Man really likes picking daisies and singing the Upsy Daisy song from In The Night Garden – and watching mama make daisy chains. There’s such fun to be had in simply exploring new flowers and plant textures like tulips, daffodils, poppies and strands of grass.

When we go out, Little Man also enjoys looking for daisies, dandelions, leaves and sticks, and later on in the summer I can’t wait to go foraging for blackberries and other fruit, and playing with popping the seedpods of bizzy lizzies (impatiens). There’s really so many fun and interesting plants that little ones can explore, it’s probably worth a blog post on its own!

Upsy Daisy, here I come!

Treasure Hunt

I thought this would be a bit too complicated for Little Man at just 14 months old, but actually thanks to Easter I discovered that you really can do a fun treasure hunt in the garden, even for really young toddlers.

First, pick something they’ll be really interested in finding (like, say, shiny chocolate eggs… Or toys wrapped in silver foil). Let them watch you “hide” them (pretty much in plain sight), and then set them loose! With a fair bit of help and prompting, it’s a really fun way to spend some time together. Little Man though did not trust us to look after the eggs he had found while he looked for others, which created a slight issue when he ran out of hands…

Easter Egg Hunt Champion 2021

Fun with Water

You don’t need to buy a paddling pool to have fun in the sunshine (when the sunshine actually turns up, of course). We have now invested in a pool, but before we did, we had loads of fun with a washing up bowl and a bucket of water in the garden! Little Man actually still managed to fit in a normal kitchen bucket at almost 18 months old, and really enjoyed watching the water spilling over the rim as he sat down, and stood up… And sat down, and stood up… Safe to say, the lawn got a good watering.

Setting up a few buckets of water and some cups and things to play with is super easy and a great way to keep cool on a hot day. Just make sure you don’t forget the sun cream!

Making Marks With Chalk

This is my last suggestion and unless you live near some natural chalk hills and can collect a pocketful of rock chalk while out for a walk, you’ll need to buy some chalks – I got a big packet for £1 from our local cheap and cheerful store (it’s not technically a pound shop so I don’t know what else to call it…)

Chalk is great because of course it washes away in the rain, so you can make a huge mess of a driveway, path, fence, some rocks or a wheelie bin… And not worry too much about the cleanup (if you live in the UK, anyway). Little Man is loving playing with chalk at the moment and it’s great for starting to learn the alphabet and numbers as well.

Your top tips for free and cheap outdoor play ideas

What are your top tips and ideas for fun outdoors with a toddler? I’d love to get more ideas and tips for me and Little Man this summer!