Spring’s a funny old time. One minute we’re hunkering down indoors to escape the frost and showers. The next, we’re slathering on the sunscreen. For me, Spring’s a good time to pause and take a breath before work takes me off on my travels again. So I thought I’d confer with the Pigeons, and share some travel accessories, books, gadgets and games that we’ve been enjoying recently. Happy reading!
Little Brian Paint Sticks
One thing that never fails to keep the kids occupied when we’re travelling, is drawing and colouring. We must have gone through a mountain of felt-tipped pens over the years. But pictures created with paint always look so much better. So we were excited to see these Little Brian Paint Sticks. They’re real paint, but in the shape and size of a glue stick. You just twist the paint stick up, and use it to create your design.
As well as classic pastels and primary colours, there were some gorgeous metallics and neons in our pack of 24 sticks. I was surprised at just how little mess came with them. Even though the effect really is just like other forms of paint – you can use a paintbrush and water if you want to do some blending, or use sponges to block print onto paper – the colours dried in less than a minute. I’d even be prepared to brave the kids using them in the car.
You can buy Little Brian Paint Sticks here.
Do you have a collection of toys that are good for keeping the children happy on the road? We do, and the latest addition is one of these super-cute Fingerlings Narwhals. Like their unicorn and monkey predecessors, these Fingerlings sit on a child’s finger, and make a variety of different sounds. Rachel, our pink narwhal, squeals with delight when you make her move as though she’s leaping through waves. Her horn lights up in different colours, flashing pink, purple, yellow and green. If you cradle her, she goes to sleep, and if you press her head she makes a cheeky farting noise, and giggles. At least, I think it’s farting. Who knows whether narwhals fart in real life?
These narwhals are good for playing with in the back of the car, or on a train. As well as pink, you can buy them in grey, purple and turquoise. They’re flying off the shelves, though, so be quick!
Buy a Fingerlings Narwhal here.
Also from Fingerlings, the Untamed Dragons are a bit of a departure from the usual Fingerlings characters. The dragons are fierce. They roar, turn their heads to scout around with their reptilian eyes, and if you give them a shake they switch into ‘untamed’ mode. Then, the angry dragon flashes light from its mouth and nose. We have Venom, and he gurgles when he’s contented. But Wildfire, Freezer and Shockwave – Venom’s dragon cousins – all make different sounds when they’re happy or angry. Like the narwhals, this is a fun toy, great for entertaining kids on a journey.
DreamWorks Dragons Dawn of New Riders
Spring 2019’s clearly a time for dragons. The latest game in the ‘How To Train Your Dragons’ franchise, ‘Dragons: Dawn of New Riders’ has been released, and it’s available on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
The game is set within the Dragons universe. Players take the part of Scribbler, who finds a new dragon, Patch. Scribbler and Patch have to work together to stop baddies from turning dragons evil. Patch can’t fly at first, but after a couple of boss fights, he learns to use his wings. Players earn weapons and potions by trading in herbs and ore. Scribbler and Patch get to fly to other islands, skydive and perform aerial tricks. My son gave this game a ‘five out of five’ – it’s fun, with appealing graphics and a great soundtrack.
Untamed Mad Lab Minis
More dragons – but this time, probably not something to play with in the back of the car! Untamed Mad Lab Minis are diddy little pots of goo with a prehistoric creature hiding inside.
The precise identity of your creature is a mystery until you crack open your pot, and delve inside the goo to find out.
If your child likes to collect, then these are a great toy. There are 34 different mini models, ranging from raptors to sabre-toothed tigers, dragons and woolly mammoths. The range includes super-rare gold models, and you can take off the figures’ heads to mix and match the bodies. They would make a nice toy for when you arrive at a new destination, to keep the children happy while you unpack. Just be careful of the slime!
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer
Less won Andrew Sean Greer the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction last year. It’s a novel about a man, Arthur Less, who’s just about to turn 50 and is unhappy with where his writing career has led him so far. He’s also been unlucky in love. His relationship with his first partner, an older man who was a ‘genius poet’ ended, and his next major love affair was with Freddy, the son of a rival. The novel begins with Freddy about to get married to another man. Arthur can’t bring himself to accept the invitation to their wedding, so instead he accepts a series of work engagements, which take him on a journey around the world. As he goes through lectureships, writing retreats and speaking engagements in Japan, Germany, Morocco, India and other countries, Arthur realises what it is he really wants from life.
I really enjoyed Less. What could have been a turgid story about a mid-life crisis ended up being a light-hearted, tender and funny book. Arthur Less’s bumbling attempts to navigate the different cultures and landscapes he found himself in, were something that a lot of travellers might relate to. And there are some nice touches of magic realism that give the story a mystical depth. Less is an easy read, and great book to tuck into your hand luggage.
Muddy Puddles Fleece-lined Puddleflex wellington boots
Although we first reviewed these kids’ wellies back in Autumn, we’ve been making good use of them ever since. And they’re going to be great for all those April showers that will no doubt hit when we travel up north to Scotland over the Easter hols. The Puddleflex kids wellington boots are lined with cosy polar fleece. If you combine that with their sturdy gripped soles, then the Puddleflex have a clear edge over regular wellies. Bring on the rain and mud!
Click here if you’d like to buy a pair of Muddy Puddles fleece-lined wellies.
Spotify Premium for Families has teamed up with Google Home Mini
Do you listen to music via Spotify? The music streaming service has teamed up with Google to give Spotify Premium for Family master account owners in the UK a Google Home Mini as part of their subscription. Google Home Minis are small hands-free assistants with the same capabilities of Google Home – so as well as listening to music, you can control other devices and features, like Netflix and your heating system, just by speaking to the Mini speaker.
If you’re one of the 207 million people who already use Spotify, and you’ve already signed up for Spotify Premium for Family, you can sign up for a free Google Home Mini at https://www.spotify.com/uk/family/. If you haven’t, the service is £14.99 per month and allows up to six people at the same address to have personalised Spotify accounts. The Mini’s Voice Match will recognise the six different voices, so each family member can tell it what to play.
Google Home Minis are available free for UK Spotify Premium for Family users until May 14th or while stocks last.
Disclosure: I was sent some of these items, and others I bought myself. All views are my own. This post contains affiliate links, and I may receive a small amount of commission if you click through and buy one of the products.