Top 5 chocolate-free gifts for Easter

playmobil easter eggs 2014There’s a new trend on the rise; people are buying toys/gifts for Easter instead of the traditional chocolate eggs. Last year I talked about this trend and it seems to be showing no signs of stopping. The latest thing I’ve noticed is that toy industry publications are starting to issue the same kind of ‘top 10’ and ‘top 5’ lists normally produced in the run-up to Christmas. Apparently the predicted ‘top toy’ for Easter 2014 is the aqua dragon dino egg which we actually stock at Fun Junction (so that’s a nice surprise).

With this in mind I thought I’d tell you about some of the other ‘crackingly’ eggcellent toys which might go down well for Easter 2014:

wow easer egg 20145) Wow’s ‘Chirpy Chick’ egg: This is a new addition to the Easter-themed gift selection this year and it’s very useful for a couple of reasons. For starters it’s great to be able to provide children younger than five with an Easter-orientated toy. On top of that it’s great to have an option for little ones which doesn’t involve handing them an egg the size of their head only to take it back and ration it off over the coming days. This way they get a gift and they can keep it for the duration, no worries about tooth decay at all.

4) Games: This might sound strange but bear with me. More and more families are using Easter as an excuse to get together and in some cases head off on holiday together. With this in mind it seems to make sense that you might want something for the family to do once you’ve got them all gathered together. Although games aren’t specifically Easter-themed I’ve certainly noticed a lot more holiday makers popping into the shop to pick up something to keep kids occupied (especially on the rainier days we’ve had so far this holiday). Some family bonding seems as good a reason as any to go for something more box-shaped than egg-shaped as an Easter present. Here’s s selection of the games you can get at fun Junction.

3) Outdoor activities: This is on the list for almost exactly the same reason as games: it’s something to do. On the drier days of the holidays (and we’re lucky enough to have had a few of them recently) it’s great to get the kids outside: balls, buckets and spades, frisbees, outdoor explorer kits, we’ve been seeing all of these having a dramatic boost over the holidays and anything that a kid could pop outside and play with would be a great alternative to chocolate.

2) Playmobil (pictured above): This is an old favourite and to be honest I think they’re one of the first toy companies to have come out with an egg shaped pack. The really great thing about the playmobil eggs is that there are more than just one type of playmobil egg available. Each egg comes with a figure and some accessories. Every year they bring out something different too, a quick glance at the Playmobil eggs that we’ve got left in the shop includes a fairy, a biker, a top agent and a native American with animals. They’re a great alternative to yet more chocolate at Easter and I know at least one five year old boy who’ll enjoy getting one. (when Playmobil eggs are in season you’ll be able to pick some up by clicking this link)

aqua dragon jurassic dino egg1) ‘Aqua Dragon Jurassic Time Travel EGGspress’: As I’ve already said, this is being touted as the ‘top toy for Easter’ and to be honest it’s easy to see why: it’s simple and gets you set up with your very own set of ‘aqua-dragons’ (tiny crustaceans which hatch from dried eggs when placed in water). The life-cycle of an aqua-dragon is 45-60 days so it’s a nice introduction to the responsibilities of having a pet. Something that’s definitely a step away from yet another chocolate egg.

As I’ve already said I talked about this trend of toys for Easter a while back and it doesn’t seem to be showing any sign of stopping. I wonder whether anyone out there has a problem with it. Speaking as a parent I have to say I like the idea that my kids could get something nice for Easter that won’t leave them wound up like coiled springs (or make them sick with indulgence). I can already predict the kind of reactions that this shift in tradition might get though, including (but not limited to) pointing out how commercialised Easter is getting, that the ‘real meaning of Easter’ could be compromised by this shift, that a bit of chocolate never hurt anyone or even that Easter gifts at the very least have to be egg-shaped (unlike items 3 and 4 on my list).

I agree and disagree with these arguments in my own way but I’m more interested in seeing what you think. Is there something to be preserved in our Easter traditions? Has Easter ever really had a clear set of traditions (like Christmas does) or has it always been a bit harder to define as a holiday/celebration? and the last one (which is kind of a biggy) Is there anything inherently religious about the standing traditions of Easter or do chicks, eggs, bunnies, and egg hunts have more to do with the arrival of spring than anything? What do you think? As always I welcome comments on here (it makes it feel like my writing has been worthwhile), thanks for stopping by for a read and don’t forget to follow me on twitter to chat about toys, life and people. Cheers, John

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5 ‘quality time’ toys and games for Christmas

gerry christmasThere’s really no such thing as a ‘perfect Christmas’ but a Christmas where your family takes a bit of time-out to strengthen bonds and renew connections must be pretty close. Well that sounded sickly sweet, apologies, but I’ll stand by the idea that if you don’t feel connected to your family (or those you regard as family) at Christmas it’s going to feel pretty lousy. I could apologise here for mentioning the word ‘Christmas’ but to be honest I don’t think an apology is necessary, November is here, Halloween has passed and so I feel comfortable mentioning the ‘C word’.

OK so here are my top 5:

  • gibsons spot the sillies crazy chirstmas 100 piece 5 years and up25. Puzzles: At the bottom of my list but nonetheless still a great one to make you feel Christmassy are puzzles, preferably one with a Christmas scene. It can take a while and I’d recommend getting started long before Christmas day, but a wee bit of time each night searching for parts of snow topped roofs and Santa boots is a great way to get some quality time and get right into the spirit of the thing. I should point out that this option isn’t going to work for everyone (hence popping it at number 5) as it’s more likely to be a stress-inducer for those with younger your kids. Even then there are plenty of puzzles out there that smaller kids can enjoy too so I’d still go for it and see how you get on. You can see some of our selection of Christmas puzzles by clicking on this link.
  • 4. Christmas crafts: Just like Christmas puzzles this activity probably works best if you start before Christmas. There are a host of different things you could work on together, from Christmas cards for family, to decorations, and my personal favourite food (though I’m not sure if food officially counts as craft I’m popping it in here). If your creations turn out particularly good you can always pop them in as wee extras with gifts. I’m currently adding Christmas craft stock to the web site so bear with me, here’s the link to our Christmas section.
  • wpid-Laser-maze-thinkfun-solitaire-single-player-puzzle.jpeg3. Logic puzzles: Yes, logic puzzles can be frustrating, aggravating and down right anger-inducing but solving them can leave you feeling like the next Einstein. I’ve talked at length about the mixture of feelings you get from these kinds of puzzle but when you have a bunch of people all trying their hand at it it can all get more intense. Failing to solve it (or being the slowest) irks you more, and being the fastest can give you an even more inflated ego. It’s definitely worth a go to test the brain power. Logic games are also a great leveller as logic is a skill that seems well formed even in kids as young as 8, so prepare to be beaten by someone who was born after ‘Friends’ came off the air. You can find a selection of logic puzzles over here.
  • story cubes2. Winner-less games: Sometimes you need to tone things down and keep everyone happy, sometimes you just need a level playing field so that younger people feel included. Whatever the reason there’s definitely something to be said for games which feature no clear winner. In terms of games of this ilk we only really stock one over at Fun Junction but it’s so good it makes up for that. ‘Rory’s story cubes’ are so simple that play can start straight away but there’s enough variety that you’ll never get the same story twice. Test your story telling skills by rolling nine pictured dice and telling a story using all nine pictures. Though there’s no winner, it’s still a test of skill and can be genuinely entertaining. There is now a variety of different types Rory’s Story cubes and you should be able to find them all over on our web site.
  • 1. Quiz/Board games: Whilst no winners can be a good thing, being the winners can be awesome. Up at the top of my list are those games we love to hate/hate to love (I don’t know, we have some kind of love/hate relationship with them). Incorporating elements of almost every other nomination in this list it’s not hard to see how these games come out on top. There are quiz games that test your wits (always more fun in teams, that way you can blame the other person if you get a question wrong). Then there are more active games like charades and Pictionary-type games which get you out of your shell and get people talking. Finally there are, of course, the classic styled board-games with dice etc. that can produce the most intense emotional reactions you could ever expect from the movements of a small piece of plastic. You simply can’t go wrong with a board game to get a group of people talking, laughing and perhaps crying (OK hopefully not the last one). We have a growing list of family board games over on our web site, click here to pop along for a look.

That’s my list of games, puzzles etc. that can contribute to some quality time at Christmas. I’ll have a closer look at each of these in more detail over the coming weeks. So what do you think, have I missed anything out? Would you have placed any of these differently? Let me know in the comments. As always thanks for reading, Cheers, John

Quality time

time with kids playing board gamesSometimes a couple of random things coming to my attention at the same time can be enough to get me writing, and this happened last night: first I read a short article by toy industry writer Richard Gottlieb about kids and the fight for time when it comes to play, he basically points out that the upsurge in app play over traditional toys might be due to the stretched schedules of children, the next thing I read (literally about five minutes later) was one of these viral stories from facebook (I’ll post the transcript at the bottom of this post) which describes the lengths that a little boy had to go to to get some time with his dad. Normally I don’t spend much time looking at that kind of thing but the timing was strange so I read on. Mixing these two together I started to think about how hard it is for parents of even fairly young children to fit in some quality play time with their kids.

orchard toys and gamesThanks to Orchard toys we’re now the proud owners of brand new boxes of Baa Baa, Pirate Shapes and Rocket Game and I’ve got to admit we’re all playing a lot more games at home now. Finding the time to sit down and play a board game always used to seem like a bit of a struggle. We’d be running the boys round different clubs/ groups etc., getting Logan to nursery, getting them to sit down and eat their meals, in amongst this we’d let the boys decide what to play, so board games, puzzles or anything else that sat away in the book case often didn’t get looked at. Thanks to the time management it took to get our first couple of ‘Toy Testers’ reviews done I’ve now realised that it’s OK for daddy to pick what we play sometimes and it’s made it so much easier to fit in things like games, puzzles and non-bedtime stories.

I’m not saying that these things never got played with before, it was just that they normally didn’t get looked at unless it was a day when the whole family was together and we hadn’t arranged to be heading out anywhere. I’m not sure if I’d go so far as to timetable the boys’ play from now on but having a deadline meant that I had to sit them down and play with something specific and they both loved it. In the past I’ve confessed to a lack of confidence about doing crafty stuff with the kids (mainly because of the chaotic mess I can imagine whenever I think about it) but I’m starting to see how it could work. Maybe it’s because the boys are a bit older now too and they’re starting to appreciate a more timetabled play time, trying out new things and getting some one-on-one time with us.

centepede, comando etc etcAll I can say to Gottlieb’s article is that although parents do feel more obligated to get kids along to clubs we need to think about the motivation for that. I was a telly addict as a kid and gradually moved on to be hooked to my games system and when I became a dad I decided I wanted to try and expose my son to more than just TV and other ‘indoor’ stuff. With this in mind we signed Logan up to a whole bunch of activities, groups and classes from when he was very young to try and make sure he socialised with other kids and also (an important one for me) we didn’t want him to feel intimidated by sports. I’m not sure if the motivation for clubs etc. is the same for other parents.

all the apps are belong to usI often hear (from parents of older children than my own) how much they despise the games systems their kids are hooked to and that they’ve signed them up for this class or that group to try and get them out of the house and away from their computer games. Gottlieb points out that the more kids are signed up to classes the more time they’ll spend travelling to these classes and the more time spent travelling the less complicated the toys they use on the way will have to be; here entereth the app. An iphone, tablet or whatever can be handed to a child in the back of a car and they will stay occupied until they reach their destination. This simple fact could easily be a big part of the rise of the children’s app. With this in mind lets just stop and think for a second; parents are signing their kids up to more clubs etc. to get them away from games systems only to hand them a computer game to play with on the journey, am I the only one that finds this strange?

Gottlieb suggests that the toy industry needs to adapt to this market and I heartily agree, since an industry that doesn’t adapt is set to fail. However a toy shop can’t join in with this without ceasing to be a toy shop, so for those of us who still sell toys we are faced with a challenge. We need to show parents how easy and fulfilling it can be to step away from the games systems and apps for a few minutes.

charades for kids by Paul Lamond games

Fancy a game of charades? You can get yours here

Once you play a board game with your kids or spend some time doing crafts it becomes clear that these activities aren’t just about keeping them occupied; it’s about maintaining a relationship and keeping the lines of communication open. For all the TV I watched and all the computer games I played as a kid I still cooked with my parents, played board games, read stories, went on days out; in short I still had quality time with them. This went back a long time, it wasn’t a last ditch attempt to connect once I hit my tweens/teens, it was a part of my day-to-day life for as long as I can remember and because of this I had a real relationship with my parents. I told them everything I did throughout my teens, and they were there with advice and support when I needed it. The old adage ‘talk to them now and they’ll talk to you later’ definitely holds true.

Apps are fun, they’re a clever little diversion packed comfortably into your phone/tablet for those times that you just need to keep your child occupied for a few minutes but that’s all they can do. They will not keep you bonded with your child, they won’t stimulate their social abilities and they won’t make them feel loved. I don’t think I’m being over-dramatic when I say that an app will keep them occupied but a board game could keep your family together. Time dedicated to your family should translate into a dedicated family and there’s no harm in trying at least. After seeing how easy it actually is to slot in a wee bit of structured play I’ll definitely be doing more myself, time will tell if I’m able to hold my own against the wave of computer games that will be heading Logan’s way in the next few years.

Here’s a link to the board games sections for wee ones, for older kids and to our ‘family games‘ section on our web site, if you don’t have any board games kicking about the house or if you fancy trying something new it’s worth a wee look. I’ve even thought of a slogan; ‘Board games, a box of family therapy’ (yeh it’s not very good is it? Ah well you get the idea).

Have I angered you, made you feel contemplative or do you now feel superior because you already schedule quality time with your family into your day. Whatever the case I’d love to hear from you so feel free to pop a comment in the comments box below. Once again thanks for reading, Cheers, John

Here’s the viral facebook post:

SON: “Daddy, may I ask you a question?”

DAD: “Yeah sure, what is it?”
SON: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?”
DAD: “That’s none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?”
SON: “I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?”
DAD: “If you must know, I make $100 an hour.”
SON: “Oh! (With his head down).
SON: “Daddy, may I please borrow $50?”
The father was furious.
DAD: “If the only reason you asked that is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. Think about why you are being so selfish. I work hard everyday for such this childish behavior.”

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.
The man sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy’s questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?
After about an hour or so, the man had calmed down, and started to think:
Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that $ 50 and he really didn’t ask for money very often. The man went to the door of the little boy’s room and opened the door.

DAD: “Are you asleep, son?”

SON: “No daddy, I’m awake”.
DAD: “I’ve been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier. It’s been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here’s the $50 you asked for.”

The little boy sat straight up, smiling.
SON: “Oh, thank you daddy!”
Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills. The man saw that the boy already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father.

DAD: “Why do you want more money if you already have some?”

SON: “Because I didn’t have enough, but now I do.

“Daddy, I have $100 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you.”
The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little son, and he begged for his forgiveness. It’s just a short reminder to all of you working so hard in life. We should not let time slip through our fingers without having spent some time with those who really matter to us, those close to our hearts. Do remember to share that $100 worth of your time with someone you love? If we die tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of days. But the family and friends we leave behind will feel the loss for the rest of their lives. And come to think of it, we pour ourselves more into work than to our family.

Some things are more important.

Tuesday repost: Big toy little toy

Here’s a wee post I did last summer covering jealousy and fairness, and how kids have often got us truly trumped in terms of their ability to appreciate what they have. Feel free to throw in any opinions you have. Cheers, John :

The summer holidays will soon be upon us, which means a lot of kids pouring into the shop with holiday money burning a hole in their pockets. Some have saved a little bit of pocket money all through the year to add to their holiday budget, others are happy to just go with the flow and get something nice to play with on holiday. The scenario gets strained sometimes when different siblings have different approaches but amazingly this results in far fewer tantrums and meltdowns than you might expect. My sister and I used to be like this: instead of getting a sweet on a Friday afternoon when my dad picked us up from school I’d always ask if I could get the 30-40p (yes there was a time when you could get a decent sweet for 30p) to put in my bank at home. A year of this (plus some stashed Christmas and birthday money) and I was all set for something really good on holiday, maybe something big like a new lego set, maybe just a bundle of really cool stuff.

Christine (my sister) was different, like most kids she spent her pocket money most weeks and so when the holidays came along she’d get a few pounds to spend on something she liked, that could keep her amused in the caravan if the weather took a turn for the worse. I’d have to ask her now to make sure, but I don’t think she minded much, the toys I got weren’t the kind of thing she liked to play with anyway. Though she was probably aware that my purchases were worth more than hers she seemed happy enough with what she had.

Adults don’t seem as good at this, we see someone close to us with more than us and we feel jealous, not only that but we often try and find ways of making ourselves feel better, like assuming that there is some admirable personality trait that we exhibit through having less (we’re less greedy, less ruthless etc. etc.). Why can’t we just enjoy the things that we’ve got?  We earned our money and went to the effort of choosing our possessions (let’s assume we pick them because we like them) so they obviously seemed appealing at the time we purchased them. It’s so peculiar that suddenly that nice new TV in your living room looks outdated and small when you go and visit some friends with a bigger fancier one. Your TV is still the nice one you went to the effort of choosing, chances are you picked it because it suits the place it has in your room and it provides you with entertainment, but this seems to fly out the window when you see that new 50″ flat screen.

It would be easy to think that it’s a sign of the times, that everyone is more materialistic nowadays and that mine and my sister’s attitudes towards each others’ purchases is a thing of the past but this is not so; I see kids every day of the holidays come in and do the same thing. I won’t pretend there isn’t the occasional meltdown of ‘they got more than me!’ but these are surprisingly rare and no more common than they were in the toy shop I worked in more than a decade ago.

Just this morning a young lad and his wee sister came in with holiday money, he bought a big lego set (about £30) and she bought a soft toy (about £6) and neither even batted an eyelid at the other’s purchase. They got what they wanted with what they had and they were happy, fantastic. Again I feel like kids have a lesson to teach us (and as a casual aside I wish Christine all the best with her new gigantic flat screen TV).

(N.B. Image nabbed from http://super-dupertoybox.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/marvel-select-avengers-hulk.html, a blog that my friend Adrian might enjoy a lot:P)

Big toy little toy

It’s the summer holidays, which means a lot of kids pouring into the shop with holiday money burning a hole in their pockets. Some have saved a little bit of pocket money all through the year to add to their holiday budget others are happy to just go with the flow and get something nice to play with on holiday. The scenario gets strained sometimes when different siblings have different approaches but amazingly this results in far fewer tantrums and meltdowns than you might expect. My sister and I used to be like this: instead of getting a sweet on a Friday afternoon when my dad picked us up from school I’d always ask if I could get the 30-40p (yes there was a time when you could get a decent sweet for 30p) to put in my bank at home. A year of this (plus some stashed Christmas and birthday money) and I was all set for something really good on holiday, maybe something big like a new lego set, maybe just a bundle of really cool stuff.

Christine (my sister) was different, like most kids she spent her pocket money most weeks and so when the holidays came along she’d get a few pounds to spend on something she liked, that could keep her amused in the caravan if the weather took a turn for the worse. I’d have to ask her now to make sure, but I don’t think she minded much, the toys I got weren’t the kind of thing she liked to play with anyway. Though she was probably aware that my purchases were worth more than hers she seemed happy enough with what she had.

Adults don’t seem as good at this, we see someone close to us with more than us and we feel jealous, not only that but we often try and find ways of making ourselves feel better, like assuming that there is some admirable personality trait that we exhibit through having less (we’re less greedy, less ruthless etc. etc.). Why can’t we just enjoy the things that we’ve got?  We earned our money and went to the effort of choosing our possessions (let’s assume we pick them because we like them) so they obviously seemed appealing at the time we purchased them. It’s so peculiar that suddenly that nice new TV in your living room looks outdated and small when you go and visit some friends with a bigger fancier one. Your TV is still the nice one you went to the effort of choosing, chances are you picked it because it suits the place it has in your room and it provides you with entertainment, but this seems to fly out the window when you see that new 50″ flat screen.

It would be easy to think that it’s a sign of the times, that everyone is more materialistic nowadays and that mine and my sister’s attitudes towards each others’ purchases is a thing of the past but this is not so; I see kids every day of the holidays come in and do the same thing. I won’t pretend there isn’t the occasional meltdown of ‘they got more than me!’ but these are surprisingly rare and no more common than they were in the toy shop I worked in more than a decade ago.

Just this morning a young lad and his wee sister came in with holiday money, he bought a big lego set (about £30) and she bought a soft toy (about £6) and neither even batted an eyelid at the other’s purchase. They got what they wanted with what they had and they were happy, fantastic. Again I feel like kids have a lesson to teach us (and as a casual aside I wish Christine all the best with her new gigantic flat screen TV).

(N.B. Image nabbed from http://super-dupertoybox.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/marvel-select-avengers-hulk.html, a blog that Adrian might enjoy a lot:P)

Rainy holidays

It’s raining again. To be honest this is hardly surprising since the schools are now on holiday. There seems to be an inescapable law that the first week of the summer holidays (at least) will be wet and miserable, it was like this when I was a kid and it still seems to be the case now.

When I was younger this amounted to frustration that I would be stuck indoors. In itself this is odd since most of my favourite play activities were best suited to being indoors. Perhaps it was the fact that the choice had been taken away from me, I couldn’t just decide to head out for a ride on my BMX, or climb a tree or even just to go for an adventure into the woods beside my house. A shower wouldn’t have stopped me but the obligatory summer holiday deluge was definitely enough to put me off. I made do with activities which on any other day I would have enjoyed immensely (playing with my Lego, my computer, reading a book or even just sitting and drawing) and waited for the rain to stop.

Now I’m a parent and the rain presents me with a similar yet also subtly different problem: I now feel obligated to be the provider of entertainment not simply a seeker of it. My son has just finished his first year at nursery and his response to waking up to the first day of his holidays yesterday was ‘I don’t like holidays’. He didn’t say this with a moan or a grumble, it just came out as a raw fact. The simple truth is he’s never had a summer holiday before (though every day before he started nursery was a little like a holiday). All the fun activities were spread throughout the year, and more importantly he didn’t know any different. He’s now familiar with a day-today environment in which trained professionals have put together a plan of the activities to be on offer that day, safe in the knowledge that they have access to a whole array of resources which very few parents will ordinarily have in such abundance at home (though I am aware that many schools are suffering from budget problems, I’ve even heard of a teacher in a school down near Glasgow who had to buy paper towels for the class as the budget wouldn’t stretch that far).

My point is that my son is now used to having activities set up for him every day of the week and I’m now out of the habit of coming up with them myself. I think many parents are in the same boat, they face the holidays with dread, coming to the sudden realisation that what teachers do at nursery and school really is hard work. We panic and buy mounds of craft kits and other indoor activities (not that there’s anything particularly wrong with these activities) but in doing so we miss the potential of activities which we, as adults, find mundane.

I took Logan to the supermarket yesterday since we’d spent a good portion of the morning and early afternoon in the house and I though he and his brother could do with some fresh air. Not to mention the fact that we needed something for dinner. I was a bit worried about what this would be like since I normally either shop for groceries online or nip down for top up shops by myself on my way back from work. I needn’t have worried, the two boys were as good as gold (if a little energetic) and Logan had fun helping me to pick things for dinner. It was time well spent and both of them seemed happier when we got back to the house with our shopping. The two of them even helped me tidy it all away into the cupboards.

It struck me today that Logan doesn’t normally get to do things like that; he’s ordinarily at nursery when we get the shopping/do household chores etc. As a result all of these things are kind of interesting to him and become part of his games. I’m now seriously considering getting him a toy cooker soon so that he can ‘help’ at dinner time. Perhaps the holidays are an opportunity to bring our kids back into the fold of day to day life. Rather than mimic what they encounter at school/nursery perhaps we should let them take an active role in those tasks we consider to be ‘mundane’. If they’re too young to properly participate there are always toys and games which can replicate these day-to-day chores: play food and games like orchard’s ‘shopping list’ game immediately spring to mind.

We won’t replace the time they spend with friends at school, and few of us will have the time or the resources to replicate those activities thought up by their teachers, but what we can do is show them the world of ‘grown ups’ and let them try their hand at certain aspects of our world. We can expose them to ideas and activities which will have a positive impact on the way they might engage with the world as adults. Come to think of it some of my favourite summer memories from my childhood involved cooking with my parents, helping with gardening, helping my dad with DIY/fixing the car, going on shopping trips, or (when I got older) helping my mum out at the shop where she worked. Perhaps there’s something fun to be found in these mundane rainy days after all.