Toucan Box review & Free sample

For a while now I have been a member of inbox pounds and have just earned my first cheque for just over £20 for receiving paid emails and answering a few surveys. I had never actually purchased anything from the offers that they have sent but I received an email a week or so ago offering free samples of a Toucan Box and I decided to give it a go.

Toucan box send personalised boxes to your child that contain everything that you need to complete a craft project and I knew that No 4 would love it. I went for the Petite box option which will cost me £3.95 for each box, which are sent once per fortnight. The first box was free but you do need to hand over your payment details for a continuing subscription. You can cancel after you receive your free box without paying anything but if you are anything like me there is every possibility of forgetting so it is definitely not for everyone.

When I signed up the plan was to cancel before I paid for anything, but my daughter was so delighted that I have decided to continue and see if the continuing subscription is as good as the first box.

They also offer a selection of other boxes, the Grande box at £9.95 per month or the Super box for £16.95 per month. The Grande box contains everything you need for 2 activities along with a book and stickers. The Super box contains enough for 4 activities plus a book and stickers. The two larger boxes also offer the option of paying an extra £4.95 so that you have enough materials for a sibling to do the project too. The box I received though contained enough to make two of the project so this is not always necessary.

The box that arrived was addressed to my daughter, which delighted her as she doesn’t usually get any post. The external appearance of the box was appealing and she was very eager to get started.

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The project contained in my free sample was a pair of jelly fish that climb up ribbons. Everything that we needed to complete the project, other than a pair of scissors was included. It even included coloured pencils to colour the jellyfish in. The instruction booklet was very clear and No 4 (age 7) was able to read and follow the instructions herself without any assistance from me.

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No 4 made the first jellyfish and No 3 was going to make the other jellyfish but eventually decided that he would rather be using his iPad so No 4 made the second jellyfish too. When he saw the result though he was very keen to be involved in racing the jellyfish up the french doors!

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Altogether the project took No 4 about 3/4 of an hour to make but it has provided No 2, 3 & 4 with hours of fun racing the jellyfish up the french doors (not to mention the fun myself and DH have had racing them when the kids are asleep!)

If you would like to try a free box of your own then click here

Disclaimer: If you follow the link above to the Toucan Box website you will get a free petite box but I also get a box at half price. If you are not happy with this you can go to the site directly and get a petite box at half price here . I believe in integrity, will provide honest reviews and will only recommend products that I am happy to use myself. You will be required to provide payment details but you can cancel without paying anything. If you are not happy with this the please do not sign up.


Keeping the Kids Occupied on a Wet Bank Holiday & Loom Bands Giveaway

As the previous weekend had been so lovely the kids had plans to spend the half term holiday playing outside in the paddling pool. Unfortunately as the holiday loomed the weather forecast had other plans. I know that given the chance the kids would spend the entire holiday glued to the screen of a computer or an iPad so I wanted to find something to occupy them that wouldn’t cost the earth but didn’t need plugging in!

We decided to have a shopping trip on Saturday with a strict budget of £5. The only rules about what they could spend it on was that it could not have batteries or a plug.

The girls had come home from school with bracelets that their friends had made for them from Loom Bands so they decided that they would get some of these. We managed to pick some up really cheaply and we also visited the pound shop and purchased a plastic compartment box to keep them all in. It is possible to buy more expensive packs that contain peg boards and other bits and pieces but these are not necessary to make basic bracelets and necklaces.

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Each pack came with 300 bands, a hook and a pack of S clips to join them together. The first job when they got them home was to sort them all out into the box and this took them the best part of half and hour.

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Once they had them all sorted they started creating. No 4 started making the simplest type of bracelet using her fingers. To start it off you twist one of the bands and put it over your index finger and middle finger. You then place another band, without twisting this time, above the first and pull each side of the first band over the top of the second band and into the gap between your fingers. You then add another band above the one on your fingers and repeat until the band is the desired length.

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This type of band can be created really quickly and No 4 loved making patterns using different colours. You finish the band off by hooking both ends of the last band onto one side of the S hook and hooking the other side onto the twisted band that you started with.

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No 2 was busy making the slightly more complicated version that results in a thicker band. To make these, instead of just having two bands at a time on your fingers you use three. After twisting the first band and placing it on your fingers you then place two more untwisted bands above it and pull the bottom band over both of the others before adding another band.

I had a go at these and my fingers very rapidly grew tired (The girls never complained though so I assume this is just because I am getting old!). To avoid this the bands can also be made using two hooks instead of your fingers.

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No 4 was also soon making the more complicated version and by the following morning she had created several bracelets, some ankle bracelets, some rings and a hair band.

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If you are feeling more adventurous there are lots of tutorials on YouTube that tell you how to make all sorts of objects with the bands but in terms of keeping the kids occupied the simple bracelets are great.

No 3 didn’t fancy making himself any bracelets so he decided to buy himself a Scraperfoil set. I remember having these when I was a child and I hadn’t seen them for years. Now No 3 is not known for his patience and immediately after opening the box he was scraping away at the picture without using the little piece of the card to practice first. It wasn’t long though before he realised that maybe he should have practised making narrow lines with the scraper first and the results after this were much more delicate!


The kids had a lovely time for a fairly small amount of money and I was really pleased that they had not spent all day in front of a screen.

If you fancy having a go with the Loom Bands yourself or would like to keep your kids entertained for a while I have three packs of 300 bands with hooks and S clips to give away to one winner. Just follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter to enter.

Giveaway is open to UK residents and all entries will be checked.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Junk Mail Plantpots

A few days ago I received a pack of tomato seeds from Heinz from a competition here:

I decided to plant them this weekend as the kids love growing their own plants, but when I went to get the seed trays they had all broken over the winter. Not to be deterred we decided to make some pots of our own from stuff that we had lying around the house. The first plan was to make some paper mache pots from a pile of old newspapers. Unfortunately this plan was thwarted as someone had thrown them away! All we could find was a pile of junk mail so we decided to have a go at making some from that instead. First we gathered together some PVA glue, some plastic cups to use as moulds, some vaseline and a bowl. We covered the outside of the cups with the vaseline, watered down the PVA glue and tore the junk mail into small pieces.

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It was then time to get dirty! No 4 had a lovely time dipping her hands into the mixture and plastering it all over the cup (I quite enjoyed it too – there is something quite addictive about peeling dry PVA glue from things)

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When we had coated the cups with a thick layer of paper mache it was time to leave them to dry. It had taken us the best part of an hour and at this stage we only had two pots.

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We decided that we would never have enough pots to plant all of the seeds at this rate so needed a quicker method of making them. I remember seeing small pots made of newspaper and looked up a method for making them. Unfortunately most methods required pieces of equipment that we didn’t have but we did find one method that used a wine bottle. We made one of these but the pot was far too big for our purposes. Having search the crockery cupboard for something smaller that had a big enough hole in the bottom we were almost ready to give up when we thought of trying to make them using the inside of a toilet roll. We were really pleased with the results so I thought I would share how we made them:

Step 1

Cut a thick strip of the junk mail that is long enough to go around the toilet roll middle at least twice. Place the toilet roll middle on the strip, leaving enough paper at the bottom to tuck into the end to make the base.

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Step 2

Roll the paper around the tube and tuck the loose paper into the end.

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Step 3

Turn the pot the correct way up and flatten the paper inside to make a base. (We used the end of a spoon to help with this).

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Step 4

Remove the tube and there you have it!

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We had far more fun than taking a trip to B&Q, we reused some of the junk mail and it didn’t cost us any money.

Hopefully the paper mache pots will be dry tomorrow as we are going to paint them before planting the seeds. I will post some pics of the finished product when they are done.

Trip to Belton House

A while ago I won a couple of National Trust family passes from @southeastNT.  I hadn’t got around to using them as I have been busy at work, but as it is the Easter school holiday myself, DH, my mother-in-law and children 2, 3, & 4 decided to make use of them.  We visited Belton House, which is just outside Grantham in Lincolnshire.  Belton was begun for Sir John Brownlow in 1685 and is a wonderful example of a large English country house.  Details can be see here: 

I visited it myself when I was a child and I have taken my children on a number of occasions due to the lovely adventure playground with a mini train that runs through a forested part of the grounds.  The kids love it  there and the play equipment has something to challenge all of them despite number 2 being aged 13.  To be honest it also challenges myself and the DH too – I felt obliged to climb the giant tree trunks and always challenge the kids to see who can balance all the way along the balance rope (I get my excuses ready early such as ‘I was carrying the bags’, ‘my shoes are not very suitable for this’ etc and I am always beaten by No 2!).  As usual No 4 impressed us all with her ability to travel along the monkey rings apparently effortlessly, whilst the rest of us fell off the first ring.

As my mother-in-law was with us we decided to visit the house, which we usually don’t do due to the desperation of the children to get to the adventure playground.   No 4 loved seeing the bedrooms and decided that she would love to have a bedroom like the Red Bedroom.   They also loved using the tour guide leaflets and navigating around using the map which are new additions since I was last in the house.  The NT guides in each of the rooms were extremely knowledgeable and happy to chat to the children about the features in each room.  They all wanted to move in but it was only near the end of our walk around that No 3 noticed that there were no electronics anywhere in the building and at that point moving in lost its appeal!

As a child I remember loving the tunnel between the house and the old kitchen but it has been closed the last few times I have been in the house, so I was delighted that they are now giving guided tours of the basement.  The lady taking the tour was extremely knowledgeable and gave us lots of information about the way of life below stairs and how different it was in Downton Abbey!  The kids were all fairly shocked at the jobs that they would have been expected to do in years gone by and by the contrast between the upstairs and the downstairs.  The tour lasted about 50 minutes and by the end there was some complaining from the younger two about tired legs and boredom but this was soon alleviated when they were running across the lawns towards the playground.

We could have spent considerably longer there as we did not have time to see the rest of the grounds but it was a lovely afternoon out and was finished off with a trip to the gift shop and the cafe.

At £33.50 for a family ticket for the whole property it is not a cheap day out.  This does reduce to £25.60 for the grounds only but this is still pretty steep for a trip to an adventure playground.  Thankfully it didn’t cost us anything with the free pass and we have now purchased membership of the National Trust for Scotland so hopefully we will be back in the adventure playground soon  (they have a reciprocal agreement with the National trust in England so you can access all of their properties but it is about £25 per year cheaper).