Friday, 10 August 2012

Back to School Guide and Giveaway - CLOSED

We have now survived half of the Summer holiday, hurray! Is it safe to say that it is time to occupy ourselves (and our wallet) with the essentials to buy for our children who are going back to school, or like ours, going to school for the very first time? Ah! The joy of shopping mixed with the dreadful 'Have I got everything yet?!' feeling.

I have prepared a simple recommendation guide here to help you make some of the important shopping decisions, as well as a fantastic giveaway to win a personalised Lunch Pack or a pack of personalised Artist Series Homework Pencils. Interested? Then read on!

Note: Please click on the images to enlarge, and links are in blue

1. Clothes and Shoes
2. Bags, Lunchboxes and Bottles
3. Stationery
4. Books, Games and Toys
5. Giveaway

1. Clothes and Shoes

Clarks BreenaJo Inf   £34.00

Every health advisor and even the podiatrist has advised us to get our children shoes from Clarks, as theirs are perfect for feet development and provides a good support. The BreenaJo for infants are very supportive and holds their shape even when Abby ran in them. Our Podiatrist told us that the back of the heel has to be really hard to keep little feet in place, and these were doing their job. They also have extra paddings on the collar to protect little ankles from blisters.

They are more special as they come with lights that has an on/ off button to turn it on or off, and have diamante design on the shoes, with a lovely swirly floral pattern. According to the staff, the black patent leather is really durable and no polishing is required. For minor scratches you can buy a restorer that repairs scuffs and scrapes on the leather.

Clarks have a lot of trained fitting staffs to help, although their stores can be really busy during this time of the year. The good news is, you can now easily book an appointment with them on the phone, so you don't have to queue there with a ticket (they have a ticket system in the shop for the children section).

They have a wide selection of school shoes, although a bit less for shoe sizes under 10. Still, there was enough choices to suit most children. The fitting service provided was fantastic, and we have learned that there were more ways of checking whether shoes are fitting apart from pressing the front to feel the big toe. Do remember that staffs can only bring you so many styles to try, so don't forget to check out their shelves and ask for the styles you haven't tried out yet but are interested in. They are more than happy to help you get the right pairs you need.

For more information about Clarks shoes, you can either visit their website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Clarks Star Jump   £9.00

While shopping for school shoes, we noticed that Clarks does pumps as well. The top is made from soft cotton canvas, and the sole comes up and wraps around the big toes, giving them extra protection during kicking and tripping. There is an extra padding for the colars, and their soles are non marking so they are good to be used indoor too. The Velcro straps give little children more independence at school, and they are fully washable.

For more information about Clarks shoes, you can either visit their website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Sainsbury's School Uniform:
Frilly Cardigan   (2pck, Red/ Green/ Grey/ Navy/ Royal Blue/ Dark Red, 3-12 years)   £6 - £12
Permanent Pleated Skirt   (2pck, Grey/ Black/ Navy, 3-12 years)   £4 - £8
Short-sleeve Non-iron Shirt   (3pck, white, 3-16 years)   £4 - £8
Unisex Sweatshirt   (2pck, Red/ Navy/ Green/ Royal Blue/ Dark Red)   £3 - £7
Unisex V-neck Jumper   (2pck, Red/ Green/ Navy/ Royal Blue/ Dark Red/ Grey, 3-12 years)   £4 - £10
Permanent Crease Trousers   (2pck, Charcoal, 3-12 years) £4 - £12

It's nice to have school uniforms with the school logo on, but they can be really expensive. Parents will especially feel the pinch as children grows out of them too soon! Sainsbury's offer a good selection of school uniforms, covering 7 different colours, so you bound to be able to find one that matches your school.

I love their frilly cardigan which is quite unique comparing to the usual sweatshirts or v-neck cardigans, and permanent pleated skirt, the material is lovely! 

Although we want them cheap, they must be durable as well, as children runs, rolls, slide and falls in them too often! The quality of the uniforms we were sent were really good and doesn't feel cheap at all. And after watching their school uniform testing video clip, which made me chuckle by the way, I have faith that they would last long enough for the kids to grow out of them.

You can now buy Sainsbury's TU Back to School clothing range from their stores. For more information you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Miffy Tabard Red/ Blue or Yellow/ Red  £5.99 each (for 3-4 years old)

The cute Miffy Tabard will protect your preschoolers from getting messy while doing messy stuff like art, craft and cooking. They are PVC-coated and are durable against all the splashes and wipes. It's double-sided too so you get 2 designs in one tabard, which are held together with elastic straps on each side, and the little ones can wear it any way they want!

The blue and red tabard has a Miffy playing with a ball and Miffy skipping design, while the yellow and red one has a Miffy playing with a ball and Miffy having a picnic design.

You can buy the tabard from Miffy shop, and for more information you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

2. Bags, Lunchboxes and Bottles

Food and containers are for illustration purpose only, to show you how big it is

BoysStuff LEGO Police Graphic Lunch Bag   £12.95

For boys who love LEGO, this lunchbox will certainly keep them happy, and they might just finish all their food! The lunch bag is made from nylon material with a thermal layer to keep your child's lunch cool or warm for longer. It also has a net pocket inside to keep hold on to smaller items like spoons.

The lunch bag can be bought from BoysStuff, which also has a GirlsStuff range. For more information you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Sainsbury's Hello Kitty Latched Sandwich Box   £3.00

This is one of the really pretty Hello Kitty designs that I really like. It's soft and floral, even suitable for older children. In some South East Asia countries, adults would be using these as their lunchboxes. For a Sanrio product, this sandwich box is a bargain! It is big enough to put in sandwiches and extras for a child, and is not limited to compartments. Do note that it's not microwave safe.

The sandwich box is from Sainsburys, and they have a whole range of products with this design, from stationery to school bags, worth checking them out if you love this pattern as much as I do! For more information you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Sainsbury's Moshi Monsters Wheeled Bag   £14.99

Great for the Moshi Monsters fans, this wheeled bag is big enough for school trips and sleep overs.  It has 2 side pockets (nets) for thing such as a bottles. The front pocket is quite spacious as well. A handle can be pulled out to turn it into a trolley bag. The handle is tight enough to not slip back into original position itself, nor is it so tight that you can't pull it out or push it back. The bag is strong enough to be used as a travel bag.

The wheeled bag is from Sainsburys, and for more information you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter

Sainsbury's Owl Lunchbag   £5.25  &  Owl Water Bottle   £3.00

This owl lunchbag and bottle are really cute! The owl bag even have ears! It has plenty of room inside and can possibly fit 2 lunchboxes, so it's perfect as well for a picnic or a day out. You can put your child's name and class in the name tag at the bottom of the bag too.

The bottle is just like our stainless steel bottle from a more expensive brand, but for a much more affordable price. I prefer them as plastic never last. Do be careful when you wash them with hot water though as they can get really hot! The tip is easy for little ones to pull out themselves so you don't have to worry about them when they are having lunch at school. Make sure that the tip is pressed down completely as the lid might bounce open if not closed properly.

The owl lunchbag and water bottle are from Sainsburys, and for more information you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter

Stuck on You Personalised Lunch Pack   £29.99

The lunch pack comes with a lunchbox and a 500ml BPA free drink bottle, both can be personalised. You can choose the colour of the lunchbox, and pattern and name for both lunchbox and bottle. The lunchbox is really spacious, and has a front pocket as well as a net pocket inside. The inside is lined with reflective material to keep what's inside cool or warm for longer.

The bottle is stainless steel and much taller than we expected. I adore the white with the pastel coloured pattern. The cap can be lifted up and the drinking tip pulled out for drinking, so it's very easy for a child to help themselves.

The personalised lunch pack is from Stuck on You. If you like this, you must enter the giveaway below! For more information on their personalised products, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

3. Stationery

Budons Characters Clip-ons   £0.99 each      Erasers Clip-ons   £0.99 each
Scratch 'n' Sniff A5 Exercise Book I-Scream   £1.99
A5 notepad in Blue/ Dark Blue or Pink/ Purple (Also available in Purple/ Pink)   £6.99
Pencil case in Blue/ Dark Blue or Purple/ Pink (Also available in Pink/ Purple)   £6.99

A new brand that has landed the UK last year, Budons is a range of stationery that allow you to add cute clip-on characters and erasers easily on their lunchbag, pencil cases and notepads and change them whenever you feel like it. Their bag, cases and notepads are hard top lined with black felt inside and has a mesh pocket too.

This year they have introduced a range of Scratch 'n' Sniff products as well, including their exercise books, eraser clip ons and character clip-ons. Give them a little scratch and they'll reward you with a lovely smell! The above is just a selection of the characters they do, there are plenty more to collect!

The above stationery are from Budons, available exclusively at WHSmith. You can follow Budons on Facebook for more information

The big pencil case is very handy if your child is like me who love to collect all sorts of stationery. They can get creative and either use the pockets for decorations or use them to hold small things like eraser or notes. The A4 ring binder is also ready for them to slip in notes, important things, photos or stickers and fabrics to make it special and theirs.

The pencil case and A4 ring binder are from Clippy London, for more information you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter

Paint brush not included in the 12 colour box

Faber-Castell Clic&Go WaterCup - Blue (also in other colours)   £2.95
Clic&Go Brush Size 8   £2.95  Connector Watercolour Paints - box of 12 (also in 24)   £10.00

This fantastic Faber-Castell Playing & Learning range is perfect for children to get creative. Their Clic&Go watercup can be folded into a compact disc, which fit much better in bags and is great for travelling and outdoor painting. The Clic&Go paintbrush has a sliding cap to protect those soft synthetic hair as well as keeping the mess within. Do make sure that the fast drying brush is washed and dried properly before packing it away.

We love the Connector Watercolour paint box! It has a quirky and modern design, and it allows children to mix & match the colour palette before using them. You can write your child's name on the box and use the bottom of the lid for mixing colours, which are bright and vibrant. They are attractive and easy to use, just a few strokes with a wet paint brush and you get a good amount of colour on it. You'll also get a tube of White paint with the box. 

You can buy the Playing & Learning range from Stone Marketing, and for more information you can follow Faber-Castell on Facebook or Twitter.

Find Me a Gift High Flyer Pencil Case   £6.99

Perfect for kids who like showing off their quirky accessories, this high flyer pencil case will certainly grab the attention of their fellow classmates. The pencil case looks just like a paper plane that can also hold the essential stationery, and they are even fly-able! (Yes I tried, and no I don't recommend flying it across the room during class!) It's fun and cool, and I doubt that they will ever forget to bring their pencil case to school again.

The pencil case is from find me a gift, and for more information you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Stuck on You Personalised Artist Series Homework Pencils   £9.99

This box of 24 HB triangular shaped pencils can last a child for years! It comes with an eraser, a pencil sharpener, 36 sticker labels and decorative stickers to decorate the box the pencils come in with. The shape of the pencils encourage children to hold pencils correctly. As all the Stuck on You products, you can personalise the design and name for the pencils.

The personalised Artist Series Homework Pencils are from Stuck on You. If you like this, you must enter the giveaway below! For more information on their personalised products, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Stuck on You Personalised Mid Year Diary   £18.99

Although slightly more expensive than other diary journals, this diary is proper thick! The gloss paper quality is fantastic, all pages are coloured and there are plenty of pictures to keep you from getting bored with it. There are plenty of spaces to fill in contacts, important dates and things to do, and what your favourite things are, etc. Do note that this diary starts in June 2012 and ends in June 2013. Like all their personalised products, you can choose a design and name for the diary.

The personalised mid year diary is from Stuck on You. For more information on their personalised products, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Find Me a Gift Scented Erasers 5 Pack   £2.99

These cute novelty erasers had to be part of a collection if you or your child is collecting. Each of the scented erasers come in a mini carton box that are too cute to open! (Unfortunately I had to). They come in Grape, Chocolate, Pineapple, Strawberry and Milk scents, and they won't break apart when used like some other novelty eraser does. The scent might not last, but for £2.99 for 5, they will certainly last year child throughout their school year. And if they are careful enough, they can keep the mini cartons for other purposes too. Mini tea party anyone?

These scented erasers are from find me a gift, and for more information you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Sharpie permanent markers have a fantastic quality and I know this because the ones I had since last Christmas are still in use, ink still flowing freely and not dried out at all. Their ultra fine markers claimed to write on most surfaces, so I've done a few small tests. It worked great on CDs, glass, cold bottle surface, and plastic, and they remained there even after I've washed the bottle. I've also tested their Laundry marker on different fabrics, including a 100% Polyester bag, laundry label and towel, which are more usual for school children, and the marker did really well.

Their jumbo markers are bigger than the normal size on the market, hence hold more ink and can last longer. The mini ones can be clipped onto bags or ring binders, making it more convenient to bring around with you. The mini ones also have a smear guard that claimed to resist smearing of many pen and markers ink. I've tried it out with the laundry marker and immediately highlighted it. No smear at all!

These reliable markers and highlighters are from Sharpie, and you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter for more information.

4. Books, Games and Toys

Bunny Starts School (Hardcover Book)   rrp £6.99

A book perfect for the little ones who are starting preschool or primary school. By helping Bunny shopping and preparing for the essentials for her first day to school, you can prepare your child for their big day as well. The book is colourful, cute and fun with lots of flaps to lift and a pull down check-list on each page to remind them what they have been looking for. At the end of the book is a surprise backpack filled with loose cards of items your child was looking for. It surprised all of us and we couldn't stop giggling and feeling amused!

The book is by Caterpillar books, and for more information you can follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

Human Body A Children's Encyclopedia   rrp £16.99

A beautifully illustrated encyclopedia, telling children and even the adults all they need to know about a human's body, from cells to bones and head to toe. It gives a lot of interesting facts, such as Astronauts grow 5cm taller as their backbones lengthens in space, or people used to wear powerful perfumes to ward off illness as they used to believe that diseases were spread by smell!

Books I used to get for school in Hong Kong always bore me, I wish we had this to make studying more fun!

The encyclopedia is suitable for 7-12 years old, but even I have learned quite a lot already by just flipping through it! It is published by DK Books, which is currently doing a 20% off sale for all children books. For more information you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

My Art Book Animals   rrp £9.99

This inspiring art book is perfect for children who are into art and loves animals. There are 10 masterpiece projects, each starts with an introduction about the artist and their work, followed by a project that is inspired by the artist's work, which your child can then make by following the simple picture illustrated steps. Your child can then 'walk' through a gallery of art work or pictures to discover more ideas and art work, eventually more projects for them to do.

The projects are fun to do, where some are easy, and others require an adult to help. I really like the layout of this book, from artist's work, to your own project, to looking at the gallery, showing children the way to get inspired, so when they go out and visit places, they will be used to the idea of discovering their own projects to do.  

The art book is published by DK Books, which is currently doing a 20% off sale for all children books. For more information you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

My Tourist Guide to the Dinosaur World   rrp £8.99

This is a fun and imaginative guide that brings young readers back to the prehistoric World. The guide started off with preparing the young reader for their trip by explaining what is provided in their time machine, which looks like a train cart that has a bunk bed room, bathroom, Periscope, a beamer that creates the time portal, protective armor against charging dinosaurs, fireman's pole from the bedroom straight down to the equipment room and a garage, etc. I'm already fascinated by just reading this page!

The journey started from the early time when Earth was still uninhabited. Each tour has a short but informative description, interesting facts, things to do during the era, for example, skii-ing on the frozen Earth, and tourist tips, where 'previous tourists' will leave a short review of the tour, rated with stars. The computer-generated artwork looks so real it makes you feel like they were real images. I can imagine the guide being a child's favourite book!

The tour guide is suitable for age 7 to 10 years old and is published by DK Books, which is currently doing a 20% off sale for all children books. For more information you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Right: A screen image of one of the recently published story - The Dress by Peace & Donuts

Movellas Online Community for Young Writers   Free

It is great to know that there is a community on the Internet that discourage bullying and anti-social behaviours, and provides a safe place that encourage young people to write. I am talking about Movellas. Anyone can publish their fictional (even if it's based on true stories) stories on Movellas, and give constructive criticism, get inspired by others, while motivating each other to continue writing.

It is completely free to join, and there are no membership fee, nor do you need to earn credits to buy anything. Just share your passion and your stories online with many others. Movellas is being followed by Penguin books, who are snapping up stories from the top young writers on the site. So why not let your children try their skills here?

As a parent, our main concern is online privacy, safety, bullying, etc. Movellas has published a few sections where you can find reassurance: About Us, Comment Guidelines, Safety, Rules and Regulations, Safety guide for parents, FAQ 

There is a Movellas app as well that can be downloaded for free from both App store and Google Play. You can follow Movellas on Facebook and Twitter for more information.

Assign email notification about your child's status; connect children account with parent account,
log your child in through parent account, reset password for child account shows hidden characters on parent's email account

Pora Ora Virtual World   Free

Pora Ora is a global educational Virtual World where children from 5 to 12 years old can build their own character with a Pal and play mini games, go on quests, and interact with other children. They are given their own house, and they can earn money through playing games, completing quests, or be lucky at treasure hunts, to buy things to decorate their house.

The game stands out from all the other virtual world games as it's developed to help children practice what they've studied at school while playing. The game is currently utilised by over 30 schools in the North London in the classroom, during golden time and as a homework resource.

When your child creates an account, you can create a parent account as well and connect the 2 accounts together, which gives you control over their security settings while receiving notification of their activities. You will be able to understand what your child is good at, or which areas they can do with a bit more help.

This game is much safer and meaningful in my opinion, and if you need to choose one virtual game for your child to play, I would recommend Pora Ora. They are currently free to play, but they have started to introduce membership areas that provides additional things for the children to do. However, even if you don't subscribe to it, there is still plenty for a child to explore and play with.

You can find out more about the game by watching their Youtube video, and you can also follow them through Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Triqo Starter Pack Mix   £14.99

A unique 3D construction toy for 5 years old and above, which consists of square and triangle pieces made of strong and flexible polypropylene that comes in 10 different colours. The starter kit comes with 20 squares and 30 triangles to get you started. There are no instructions, just let your imagination run wild! My imagination is obviously limited as I would have never thought of the designs they made in the above picture! You can find examples of the designs here, and perhaps you can make them yourself too! We found it a bit tricky to connect the last piece to the design, but once you get the hang of it, it won't be a problem. Beware though, once you get hooked, the 50 pieces won't be enough anymore and you might find yourself needing more!

Triqo toys are supplied in the UK by Ark DIY Products, and you can buy them from all good toy stores. For more information you can follow Triqo's official Twitter and Facebook.

5. Giveaway

Stuck on You has kindly offered some fabulous prizes to 2 of my lovely readers' children to start their school with some fantastic personalised products.

The first prize is a Lunch Pack, which includes a personalised Lunchbox and a personalised bottle worth £29.99. 

The runner up prize is a beautiful pack of personalised Artist Series Homework Pencils that includes a cardbox pencil box, 24 HB pencils, a sharpener and an eraser, as well as a sheet of mixed personalised and non-personalised labels, worth £9.99.

Simply follow the Rafflecopter's instruction. The giveaway ends on Friday 31st August, 2012 and a winner and a runner up will be picked by Monday 3rd September, 2012. For further Terms and Conditions please see the Rafflecopter.

Good Luck! x

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is also listed on:

Loquax Competitions

Disclosure: I was sent samples of the above to try and review; all opinions are honest and my own