Toot-Toot Drivers Airport review

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Vtech’s Toot-Toot Drivers is a big hit in our house. My son, Joshua, loves to build and play with cars, so the brightly coloured interlocking track pieces and musical, light up vehicles are always his go-to toy. He will happily spend a couple of hours creating elaborate cities and roadway systems – which makes Toot-Toot a hit with me too!

When the Toot-Toot Drivers Airport arrived for review, Joshua was very excited and couldn’t wait to rip the box open and get stuck in. The airport requires some assembly, but the instructions were easy to follow so Joshua was able to help me build it and enjoyed putting the stickers on.

Included in the set are two mini jets along with a larger SmartPoint Toot-Toot jet that plays three songs and six melodies. There are four SmartPoint locations around the airport that work by activating different phrases and sound effects when a Toot-Toot vehicle drives over one. I really like this feature as it provides even more interaction and helps with early language development.

Once Joshua was ready for take-off, he used the flip-up launcher to send the Toot-Toot jet speeding down the runway and the spinning cloud attachment on the control tower to fly it in the sky. Toot-Toot is great for imaginative play, and it was a joy to see Joshua flying the plane on the cloud telling me that he was going on holiday to Spain where we went on our last family trip.

Toot-Toot Drivers Airport also comes with several pieces of track, a roundabout to ferry passengers around, and spinning radar, wind meter and runway lights. As a standalone set, the airport offers enough features to keep any toddler / preschooler engaged, however the best feature is that all the Toot-Toot play sets connect together so the airport can easily be added to an existing collection ready to build the ultimate city.

A well-made and durable learning toy, Toot-Toot Drivers Airport is suitable for ages 1-5 years and is priced at £34.99.

Summer reading challenge

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Meet the Gadgeteers and get involved in science at Alton Library this summer

This summer, children aged four-11 can visit Alton library to meet the Gadgeteers and to get involved in a science and innovation themed Summer Reading Challenge.

Through taking part in the Challenge, children will be able to join six fictional Gadgeteers. The characters – brought to life by children’s writer and illustrator Julian Beresford – use their curiosity and wonder to understand the science behind a whole range of interests, from fashion and technology to cooking and music.

The Gadgeteers will help to spark children’s curiosity about the world around them and encourage them to feed their imagination over the summer holiday. They will be boggled by brilliant facts, gaze at the stars, and be inspired by tales of creativity and invention whilst earning rewards along the way.
With plenty of great options across picture books, early readers and middle grade books, there’s lots to keep children busy at Alton Library. Read six books and collect a medal and certificate to mark the completion of the Summer Reading Challenge.

Since 1999, the popular Challenge has encouraged children to read for pleasure over the summer holidays, building reading skills and confidence and helping to prevent the ‘dip’ in reading skills while children are out of school. By providing fun reading activities, the Challenge will support families and teachers by providing free-to-access recreation and learning resources – all created to keep children inspired to read.

Alton Library is open: Monday 9.30am-1.30pm and Tuesday/ Thursday/ Friday/ Saturday 9.30am-5pm.

The library will also be holding children’s activities on Thursday, 11th August 2-4pm and Tuesday, 23rd August 2-4pm.

Green dream

Liz Nicholls

children

The Green Hub in Milford, which has just had its first birthday, offers a vital support space for teenagers struggling with their mental health

Just one year ago you‘d find the Green Hub Project for Teens on Facebook looking for local folk to join a DIY SOS-style weekend, to transform their tranquil garden in Milford. This month the garden celebrates its first birthday.

Over its first year Green Hub Project for Teens has transformed from an idea in its embryonic stage into a confident adolescent.

The garden is the vision of local chiropractor Tone Tellefsen Hughes. “I’ve seen so much trauma through my clinic in recent years,” she says. “But since Covid, it’s become unimaginably bad, so many young people experiencing a tough time – it’s heart-breaking. This is why we are reaching out to families with teens struggling with low to moderate social anxiety, stress and overwhelm.”

Tone’s co-chair, local business coach Vanessa Lanham-Day, has been instrumental in creating the momentum behind the project. “The garden and teen volunteering is such a simple concept – it’s all about providing time out in nature and calm.

But, for the teens to benefit from time spent in the garden, there has been a whole machine that needed to be created. We have been busy spreading the word as well as building relationships with GPs, schools and youth organisations – but the most passionate requests come from parents themselves.

Teens spend up to 12 weeks becoming garden volunteers, under the guidance of adult leaders – there are morning and afternoon sessions (all free) each Saturday for up to eight teens. The process isn’t “therapy” problems aren’t discussed, and no advice is given – but the process is undoubtedly therapeutic.

Tone adds: “Science shows that being in nature allows the brain to calm down and settle a little, like a busy snow globe when the snow falls. When you immerse yourself in an activity – especially in nature – your brain is unable to do anything else and this gives the busy teenage brain a chance to rest and make sense of what’s been going on in their world. There are long term benefits after a garden session, as well as finding a connection which has been so sorely missed since the pandemic for so many.”

Tone and Vanessa would also like to find other garden spaces to extend the programme.

Parents who want to refer a teen to the project should visit greenhub.org.uk/parent-refer

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Journey into the Magical Forest

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LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort is opening its newest attraction this Saturday, 30th April – step inside and explore

Take an enchanting new walk-through The LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort’s newest attraction as The Magical Forest opens this weekend.

The immersive experience which marks a new realm in the story of its multi-million pound land, LEGO® MYTHICA: World of Mythical Creatures, is set to capture children’s hearts and imaginations when it opens this weekend.

Model Maker Will Saunders (28) puts the finishing touches to some of the mythical LEGO creatures that populate The Magical Forest, the new immersive walkthrough experience launching at the LEGOLAND ® Windsor Resort this Saturday. Will laid the final bricks to a snappy plant model and the vibrant baby Lava Dragon. All the LEGO ® Models were built using over 80,000 LEGO bricks

The finishing touches have been applied and the swirling vortex of dazzling lights offers a glimpse into how guests will start their adventure in this parallel universe, where LEGO creatures come to life using awesome Augmented Reality (AR) with surprises in store around every corner.

Fan-favourite, Bits & Bobs and the friendly baby Alicorn, will surprise guests as at the enchanted waterfall before they head deep in the heart of The Magical Forest. Guests can also expect to unearth secret LEGO habitats hidden beneath the undergrowth and foliage, but just beware for the giant Venus Fly Trap which can be a little snappy – especially when they first meet intrepid young explorers.

The adventure hots up as first look imagery reveals how the habitat shifts from an enchanted forest to a landscape of lava where guests will come eye to eye with a group of Crystal Claw Crabs and a super-sized LEGO dragon egg, before braving the grand finale by entering the magnificent Lava Dragon’s cave, who is stirring inside.

Activated exclusively via the LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort app, families will set off on an intrepid adventure where an AR overlay takes users on a journey narrated by Bobs as he’s magically brought to life and transforms from LEGO to his real-life form in The Realm. Bobs guides guests along The Magical Forest pathway as you meet other creatures from the realm, including; Crystal Claw Crabs, Baby Lava Dragons, Venus Fly Trap and the incredible Lava Dragon herself.

Families will get to help Bobs find his missing wing, breathe fire like a Baby Lava Dragon, and play with the Crystal Claw Crabs; before witnessing and getting to capture a photo of the amazing mother Lava Dragon in full flight. With each creature, you discover you’ll also add a special virtual card to your digital collection with facts and stats about them.

To celebrate the launch of The Magical Forest there are also two exclusive AR Pop Badges featuring the Crystal Claw Crabs and baby Lava Dragons to collect.

LEGO MYTHICA: World of Mythical Creatures also features the UK’s first ever flying theatre ride, Flight of The Sky Lion, which takes guests on a mind-blowing 4D film adventure on board a flying gondola where they soar, swoop and dive with guardian Maximus on an amazing adventure through the epic world.

The land which is full of epic adventures waiting to be discovered also includes the Fire and Ice Freefall drop tower ride and the exhilarating water ride, Hydra’s Challenge.

To book visit www.legoland.co.uk

New Guildford Festival – ShyneFest

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Family-friendly, live music festival with kids activities, entertainment, camping, glamping, silent disco, bars, food stalls, escape rooms, animal encounters and loads more!

Join ShyneFest on the 3rd – 4th June at their new venue, Merrist Wood, for a weekend of live music from Lightning Seeds, Jesus Jones, The Farleys and loads more, including top tribute band Guns2Roses!

Upgrade to boutique glamping tents for proper luxurious camping, have a kickabout, play giant chess, enjoy some rides, eat delicious food and have a cocktail or a pint from one of their bars.

This will be their 5th year and it is going to be the biggest and best yet!

See the lineup

Follow ShyneFest on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

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Star Q&A: Justin Fletcher

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TV megastar Justin Fletcher MBE tells us about his influences as he steps out to a venue near you for his all-singing and dancing live show Justin Live – The Big Tour!

Q. Hello! You’ve been a children’s TV star for more than 20 years. Who inspired you? “As a child I used to watch Playschool with Jonny Ball, Derek Griffiths and Floella Benjamin and loved acting out the stories. During my three-year drama course, I was inspired by Philip Schofield and Chris Jarvis in the CBBC Broom Cupboard. I put a show reel together, secured an audition for the Playdays theatre tour and I landed the part of Mr Jolly. That started my career.”

Q. The Big Tour will be full of slapstick. Who are your comedy heroes? “Slapstick comedy has such wide appeal. It’s great when children and their families laugh out loud watching routines by performers like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. It’s a timeless format and you can’t beat the sound of belly laughter from the audience. I was inspired by Laurel and Hardy. I used to watch their slapstick routines over and over. They had such amazing chemistry between them.”

Q. Do you think family entertainment has changed? “The choice on TV is now huge. When I was a child there were very limited programmes. However, having a good strong story-based script and engaging characters is still the key.”

Q. How important do you think live theatre is for children? “Creating many family theatre productions over the last two decades has been incredibly important to me and hugely enjoyable. There is nothing like performing on stage and meeting the families that support you and your TV shows. Children’s theatre is quite often their first live show experience. We are hoping to inspire the next generation of theatre-goers.”

Q. What do you enjoy about touring? “We have an amazing production team who work extremely hard to prepare the show before it goes out on the road. We are like one big family. From the performers to the lighting and sound operators, the catering team, and the back stage crew, we’re all working together. We also support each other out on the road, which is really important when you’re away from home for fairly long periods of time. Touring provides a fantastic opportunity to experience so many different towns and theatres across the country and to meet so many new friends along the way.”

Q. You have written this show. Tell us a little about this process… “It always starts with a storyline. Once you have that in place, I think about the music content. Music is a vital element and I try to write some original songs myself.”

Q. Any favourite songs in the show? “You can’t beat seeing the audience join in with Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, If You’re Happy and You Know It and The Hokey Cokey. Then, in a heartbeat, all singing and signing Twinkle Twinkle.”

Q. It’s likely some parents who saw you on CBeebies now bring their children to see you live. How does that feel? “I feel very proud and flattered. This inspires me to continue entertaining generations to come. It’s been a very long time since we’ve been able to tour. I can’t wait to get on the road and meet all of our friends again.”

To book your tickets, please visit imaginetheatre.co.uk/justin-live-the-big-tour

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Looking for an exclusive costal gem?

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Mill Rythe – Away Resorts is the place for everyone this summer!

A little bit of luxury, taking a chance to make your holiday in Hayling island memorable and a relaxing experience. Located right on the Hampshire coast is the place to be this summer.

Taking a dip in the swimming pool to grabbing some lunch (highly recommend their Moules of the Day!) to enjoying the outdoor cinema nights and acoustic vibes over a freshly poured cocktail.

From a relaxing break just the two of you, enjoying a hot tub or a family with kids and the dog, Away Resorts can tailor your holiday to the perfect break away that is just what you needed.

As our first family holiday we spent the week at Mill Rythe – from the most amazing accommodation with a coastal breeze, outstanding food and service we received whilst enjoying our break.· The Islander Train – on the seafront.

Top things to do when staying at Mill Rythe;

· The Islander Train – on the seafront
· Staunton Country Park
· Blue Reef Aquarium
· The hovercraft over to Isle of Wight
· Ferryboat Inn

Away Resorts will always be top of our list for our staycations; as a family or as a couple; www.awayresorts.co.uk

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Southern Pro Musica’s two new concerts

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Southern Pro Musica has two exciting concerts for the new year. Songs from the Shows: Musical highlights from stage and screen on Friday, 14th January

Start the new year with a sensational show featuring Songs from the Shows courtesy of Southern Pro Musica at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

Following the last two sell-out collaborations with the superb singers from Guildford School of Acting, Southern Pro Musica is delighted to return on Friday, 14th January, to once again present an evening of musical dazzle. There’ll be numbers from the very best Broadway and West End hits, as well as the most enduring film scores, compèred by Julian Woolford and under the baton of renowned conductor Jonathan Willcocks.

The audience will enjoy spirited ensemble numbers such as ‘Hello, Dolly!’, ‘The Best of Times’ and ‘I won’t send roses’ by Jerry Herman; ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ and ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ by Irving Berlin and much more. The orchestra will bring you iconic film music by John Williams – Superman and Raiders of the Lost Ark; the Great Escape music by Elmer Bernstein; the Pink Panther theme, to name a few. This will be an evening for all lovers of music theatre and film.

To purchase tickets go to www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk, call 01483 440 000.

G Live will host Family Classics: Fun with classical music for all the family on Sunday, 20th March.

This popular annual event provides the opportunity for people of all ages to have a go at trying all sorts of musical and percussion instruments in workshops led by Southern Pro Musica musicians. The afternoon will be rounded off with a fun classical concert performed by the full professional SPM orchestra with exciting, family-friendly classical music, a narrated musical story and a song for the audience to join in with. There’ll also be guest appearances by SPM’s ‘Strictly Strings’ scheme pupils from Sandfield, St Thomas, Boxgrove and RGS Prep School, as well Guildford High Junior School Lower Choir.

To purchase tickets go to www.GLive.co.uk, call 0343 310 0055.

Southern Pro Musica is firmly established as one of the leading freelance professional chamber orchestras in the south of England. It includes among its core players many of the finest orchestral players to base their work in the south. In 2013 Southern Pro Musica was appointed by Guildford Borough Council as their ‘principal provider of Classical music’, encompassing a broad range of orchestral concerts and educational outreach work in Guildford.

Entrance is FREE to all Music for Guildford concerts for 18s and under.

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Winnie-the-Pooh 95th anniversary prequel

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Once There Was A Bear, a new prequel to mark the 95th anniversary of the classic Winnie-The-Pooh.

With so much uncertainty in the world the familiar, beloved characters from our childhood are more welcome than ever. So the enchanting new 95th anniversary prequel to Winnie-The-Pooh’s adventures is perfectly timed for anyone who has the privilege of reading a bedtime story to younger ones this year.

We all have a place in our hearts for the adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, as told by A.A. Milne, in Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. In honour of the 95th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh, highly talented author Jane Riordan has created a wonderful collection of new stories, written in the style of A.A. Milne, that take us back to when it all began, when Winnie-the-Pooh was first purchased for baby Christopher Robin.

From London and Christopher Robin’s Mallard Street playroom to the familiar surroundings of the Hundred Acre Wood, this timeless collection follows Pooh and friends on a new series of adventures, with outings to the Natural History Museum and London Zoo, where Pooh meets his namesake, Winnipeg. A.A Milne and his son visited the real-life Canadian bear – known as Winnie – and this inspired the name of the book’s much-loved bear.

Illustrated with beautiful decorations by Mark Burgess in the style of E.H. Shepard, and radiating the warmth and playfulness of the original stories, Once There Was a Bear is a tribute to The Best Bear in All the World and the perfect opportunity to revisit these favourite friends and find out how they become the larger than life characters that we all know and love.

Winnie-the-Pooh Timeline

1914

Winnipeg the black bear arrives at London Zoo for safekeeping whilst her owner, Lt. Colebourn, is posted to France with his regiment.


1920

A.A. Milne’s son Christopher Milne is born and in his early years is a frequent visitor to London Zoo.


1921

Christopher Milne is bought a bear from Harrods. Originally christened Mr Edward Bear or Teddy Bear, he is eventually renamed Winnie, inspired by the real-life bear, Winnipeg.


1924

A.A. Milne publishes his first book of children’s poetry When We Were Very Young, where Teddy Bear makes his first appearance. The book features decorations by E.H. Shepard, later earning him the name ‘the man who drew Pooh’.


1925

The London Evening Standard approach A.A. Milne to create a story for its Christmas Eve edition. The Wrong Sort of Bees becomes the first stand-alone Winnie-the-Pooh story.


1926

On October 14th, A.A. Milne’s first volume of stories Winnie-the-Pooh is published, including decorations by E.H. Shepard, which have become an inseparable part of the Pooh stories.


1927

A.A. Milne’s second poetry collection, Now We are Six, is released.


1928

A.A. Milne’s final book in the series, The House at Pooh Corner, is published introducing a new character named Tigger.

About the author

Jane Riordan grew up next to, and often paddling in, the River Itchen. She wasn’t sure she’d ever be a writer because, like Winnie-the-Pooh, her spelling wobbled. She now lives in London and has two boys who are much better at spelling than she is. Jane has a strong pedigree in writing in the style of A.A. Milne, having created Winnie-the-Pooh Meets the Queen, and the re-issue edition Winnie-the-Pooh Goes to London. She is author of many other books for children including Watch Out, Little Narwhal!, I am NOT a Sleepy Sloth and A Pudding for Christmas.

Originally published in the 1920s, following the First World War, A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories were an instant success. Their enduring appeal means the books have never been out of print and, to date, have been translated into 72 languages. The stories remain some of the best loved works in children’s fiction, with Winnie-the-Pooh named both the UK’s best-loved children’s book (YouGov, 2014) and favourite childhood book character (The Reading Agency, 2016). Marking the 95th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh, author Jane Riordan discusses the iconic bear, recreating A.A. Milne’s style and her favourite Pooh moments …

What are your early memories of Winnie-the-Pooh? I can’t think of a time when I didn’t know A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories – the poetry has also been in my head for as long as I can remember. I do remember though having a record with a sung version of Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace which I loved because London was a very exotic and far-away place for me at the time.

I was lucky enough to grow up in the countryside, with a river at the bottom of the garden and nearby there is a bridge which we still call the Poohsticks bridge. I used to play Poohsticks there very calmly with my sister and sometimes in a much louder, riskier way with my naughty cousins – I don’t think that, like Eeyore, any of them actually fell in but they tried their best to!

What inspired you to write the prequel? In the original stories Winnie-the-Pooh lives in a tree in the Hundred Acre Wood but history tells us that he was bought from Harrods for Christopher Robin’s first birthday. I loved the idea of seeing Pooh and Eeyore and Piglet in London, in the nursery that is written about so much in the poetry and also out and about in London as well.

What adventures does the city hold for Pooh and friends? We know that Pooh in part got his name from a real bear in London Zoo, Winnipeg, or Winnie for short and so I couldn’t wait for them to meet in one of my stories. I couldn’t resist our Winnie being a little bit jealous of how much Christopher Robin admired the real bear. This is what Pooh had to say about that meeting: ‘“One bear in London is probably enough,”thought Pooh to himself, hoping it could be him.’

How difficult was it to recreate A.A. Milne’s style? A.A. Milne’s style is so distinctive and the characters have such strong voices that once I’ve decided where to take them, it’s as if I can hear them in my head, worrying, in the case of Piglet, or bemoaning something, in the case of Eeyore! Sometimes it’s more a question of asking them to hush so that the plot can move on! But that’s the beauty of Winnie-the-Pooh, it’s not so much about what happens in a story, it’s more about the characters’ observations and interactions – the smallest happenings can become big adventures.

What are your favourite Pooh moments? In the original stories there’s something about the pathos of the Eeyore birthday story that really resonates with me. When Pooh realises it’s Eeyore’s birthday and everyone has forgotten he rushes home to find a present for him, the detail I love is that he looks to see if he has ‘quite a small jar’ of honey… Of course the best-known part of the story is Piglet bursting the birthday balloon and Pooh eating the birthday honey but the pleasure Eeyore takes in putting his burst balloon in the jar and taking it out again, is so poignant and just brilliant.

What are your favourite words of wisdom from the original books? My favourite quote would have to be when Pooh pays a visit to Rabbit and Rabbit asks if he would like honey or condensed milk with his bread and he is so excited that he answers “both”, and then, so as to not seem rude, he added, “But don’t bother about the bread, please.”

What do you think made the Pooh stories such an instant hit? A.A. Milne was in fact already a successful and well-known writer, primarily a playwright before he became associated with Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh Bear first appeared in Punch magazine before having his very own book written about him! But the poetry collections that first introduced audiences to Edward Bear were instant bestsellers, as were the three books that followed it. At the time Europe was still reeling from the First World War and A.A. Milne’s poems and stories offered a safe place for readers – the Hundred Acre Wood – and let’s not forget just how funny the stories are – they were the perfect distraction for adults and children alike.

Why do you think these stories continue to resonate with readers? No matter how much the world changes, some things remain timeless. The Pooh stories have a comforting, gentle wisdom that reminds us about the importance of friendship and the joy of simple pleasures. There’s a wonderful familiarity about shy Piglet, know-it-all Owl and bumbling Pooh. And a charming reassurance that everything will be OK in the end. Sometimes even the rainiest days can lead to the biggest adventures.

These are ideas that speak to readers across generations. It makes them perfect stories to escape to by yourself or read aloud together- something we know is enormously beneficial to children.

Winnie-the-Pooh: Once There Was a Bear
The Official 95th Anniversary Prequel

By Jane Riordan, illustrated by Mark Burgess
(Farshore, £14.99, 30 September 2021)

Hardback/gift edition

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