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Little Dish Toddler Meals | Proper Food For Kids | Review

Little Dish Toddler Meals | Proper Food For Kids | Review

A struggle for us as working parents with a child in nursery is making sure that she eats well (PG that is, not the wife – though she’s important too!). The daily routine feels crazy sometimes. Up at 6.30am, out of the door at 7.10am. Get to nursery at 7.30am and onto the office for 8am (if I’m lucky). Coming home I usually get to nursery around 5.10pm and then get home with PG around 5.45pm. If traffic is hell it can easily be after 6pm sometimes. With bed time looming it’s bloody difficult to make sure she eats well as it’s easy to be tempted to do a lazy unhealthy tea.

Now that PG is knocking on a bit at the ripe old age of two, she only gets a snack in the afternoon at nursery. As a result we have to do something when we get home. I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home a couple of days a week which allows me to limit the impact and reliance on ready meals as I can get something cooking before I do the nursery run – slow cook casseroles are the bees knees in the winter, prepare it all on my lunch break and let it cook on high until we are ready to eat it. Makes the house smell like a treat too!. There is one day a week though that it’s all a bit mental, and as guilty as we both feel about it we sometimes end up giving PG a Little Dish Toddler Ready Meal.

Getting the contents right – Nutrition

I would never in a million years give PG adult ready meals due to their salt content. Little Dish have hit the nail on the head with the production of their microwave meals. They are tasty, count towards your kids’ 5-a-day, and are pretty well balanced nutritionally.

PG’s favourite is the cottage pie so let’s breakdown the nutritional data:

Typical Values 100 g 200g
Energy 399kJ/95kcal 798kJ/190kcal
Fat 4.0g 8.0g
– Of which saturates 1.4g 2.8g
Carbohydrates 9.9g 19.8g
– Of which sugars 2.5g 5.0g
Fibre 1.9g 3.8g
Protein 3.8g 7.6g
Salt 0.07g 0.14g

I’m always mindful of salt content when deciding what to give PG to eat. The NHS suggests 1 to 3 year olds should have no more than 2g of salt a day, and in this whole dish there’s only 7% of that allowance. From age 4, the RDA for natural sugars is around 19g. At 5g the sugar content is perhaps a little high, but only comes in at 25%. If you keep to the guidelines about sugary treats and drinks, I don’t think there’s anything to be concerned about here.

The Little Dish toddler meals range

There’s a decent array of dishes in the Little Dish range. They have done well at catering for a variety of different tastes. Dietary needs are also support through dishes without wheat, dishes without dairy, and dishes that are vegetarian. The major supermarkets such as Asda, Sainsburys and Tesco all stock a good selection of the range, though not all of them. The supermarkets do however seem to be expanding the range that they carry which is good to see.

Little Dish Toddler Meals Range
Little Dish Toddler Meals Range

Little Dish meals are made with 100% natural ingredients, so you know there is no artificial crap in there. As I mentioned earlier they are all low in salt and count towards your 5-a-day (each dish contains at least one of your 5-a-day). As a British company they’re proud to only contain meat and fish from Britain. Making them is child’s play – to be honest I could give it to PG and she’d probably figure out what to do. After all she’s been ‘helping’ with the microwave since she was drinking milk from a bottle! A few minutes in the microwave and ping! It’s ready to eat after cooling for a minute or two.

If we had to choose our top three favourites, I think PG would go for Cottage Pie, Fish Pie, and Beef Lasagne!

Watch out for messy eaters though, as with any tomato based products the sauce can stain like a bitch.

Seriously tomato is one of those devil foods. Every time something tomatoey comes out you can almost guarantee a t-shirt will never be the same again.

The company is super fun too, with a really friendly website with cartoons to match their brand which is obviously aimed at kids.

Other quick cooks

With the above all said, we do have some other ‘quick cooks’ which I want to share with you. These are pretty quick to make and some are cheap too!

  1. Pepperoni Pasta – this is a firm favourite of PG’s (she says Pepper Oni as though it’s too words – most amusing!). Simply boil some pasta, drain it, add tomato passata and pepperoni, and once the passata and pepperoni are hot, serve. Top with cheese for extra tastiness.
  2. Thai Green Curry. A bit more involved but still pretty quick, particularly if you buy diced chicken so you don’t have to chop the breast meat yourself. Get some boil in the bag rice boiling away in a pan. Cook the chicken in a wok, add coconut milk and Thai green curry paste (half a jar otherwise it’ll blow your head off!). Slowly bring to the boil then add mange tout for a really nice flavour. Serve the curry on top of the rice and enjoy. We eat this accompanied with prawn crackers and poppadoms.
  3. Pork Stir Fry. Fry/cook some pork steaks (don’t use loads of oil) then chop into strips so they are easily manageable by little ones. Boil some noodles and vegetables and serve. It’s especially yummy with soy sauce, but put the sauce on the table so everyone can add the flavour themselves. PG hates the stuff so we don’t cook with it.

Do you have any quick healthy eats that are a hit with the little ones? Go wild and tell me all about them, we might even try them! I think Little Dish toddler meals are a great thing to keep in the fridge just in case. They usually have pretty decent use by dates so it’s worth stocking up if you want to give them a try. If you’re lucky one of the supermarkets might even have them on offer!

Ttfn
Pete

Baby Ballet Wakefield West & Kirklees Review

Baby Ballet Wakefield West & Kirklees Review

It’s been aggeeees since I last wrote (more on this later). Sorry not sorry. Wifey and PG are out shopping and I’m sat “lazing around” so thought I’d put fingers to keyboard and try and get something out. Our latest weekly sign-up – Baby Ballet – absolutely needs a special mention, because it’s bloody brilliant.

Baby Ballet

For 3 months or so at the latter end of 2017, we signed PG up to a gymnastics class. She loved it for a while but the timing just didn’t fit with when she got tired and it ended up feeling more like a chore than fun. After Christmas we asked her if she’d like to have a go a ballet, as she’d seen one of her friends’ ballet videos and became interested in dancing. The answer was a resounding “Yes” and so we signed up for a three-week introductory trial of Baby Ballet (Wakefield West & Kirklees area). Today was the last session of the term and what fun we have had.

Three-week Trial

The trial is £15 (so £5 a week) and is great to give the little ones a taster of what to expect once signed up. Sessions are 30 minutes long but are jam packed, non-stop fun so it does feel like good value for money, and PG absolutely loves it. There’s no commitment to dressing your mini-ballerina up in cute pink fluffy stuff but it’s wise if you plan on carrying on after the first week or two so that your child feels really part of it (cute factor is off the scale!)

What to expect

First of all, massive hats off to the leader of the class. A young lady who has got so much energy for the children and genuinely enjoys what she does. The format each week is very much the same with some songs mixed up throughout the sessions. There’s a little warm up sequence, followed by some fun where parents can join in, and finishing off with some dancing with props and everyone’s favourite, Twinkle Bear! Oh and don’t forget your Twinkle Bear hand stamps (if the stamper ever gets lost I fear PG will have a meltdown!).

Having the same format each week might seem repetitive to some, but it’s a really good routine for the children. They know what to expect when they get there. The idea of Baby Ballet is to set them up for bigger classes when they get older. Firm favourites of ours are “Good toes, naughty toes,” “I’m a little teapot,” and of course “Dingle dangle scarecrow!”

Wheels on the Bus at Baby Ballet
Wheels on the Bus anyone?

The first week PG was a little unsure. The class size was small enough for her not to feel overwhelmed by lots of people, and she quickly came out of her shell. By week two she was joining in fully with the other children and happy to leave us. Week on week she gets better, and it’s lovely to watch her enjoying herself so much from the sidelines.

Baby Ballet is Exciting
Baby Ballet is something we are excited about each week

As with a lot of classes for small children, there’s a lot of emphasis on praise. The class leader does really well at remembering everyone’s name, and makes effort to complement the dancers when they are doing well. This all helps build their confidence and provides great building blocks for dancing when they get older.

Membership

Membership to Baby Ballet costs £10 which makes your child a member for life, even if they take a break. The membership pack includes a CD to practice at home, some stickers, and a Baby Ballet door hanger. As a member you can also get money off at a number of popular family attractions. Once signed up, classes cost £4.90 a week (price correct as of Feb 2018) which is typically paid termly. At the end of each term your child will receive a completion certificate.

Baby Ballet Certificate
No she wasn’t happy about the photo being taken!!

Overall I’d give Baby Ballet full marks for their classes. We’ll no doubt continue to go for months

Ttfn
Pete

Magnetic Kitchen Door Catches by Calish – Review

Magnetic Kitchen Door Catches by Calish – Review

Anyone who is subjected to a small child running around your kitchen will know all too well how much of a pain in the arse they like to be. Turn your back for a second and suddenly all the pots and pans are (hopefully) carefully positioned at random points around the room. If you’re really unlucky you get sugar, cereal or other edible stuff tipped all over the floor too. The solution? Cupboard catches.

We put this off for way too long. Frustration eventually prevailed and we looked for something suitable. As we’ve only fairly recently moved into the new pad I didn’t really want to be drilling into the units. A quick Google and up came these magnetic cupboard catches. £15.99 seemed a bit bloody expensive for what I thought were just a few sticky plastic things. Once they arrived though, I soon discovered they were well worth the money.

What You Get

There is a lot in the packet for the money. Ten locks and catches which is ample for the average kitchen given you don’t need to care about the high up units, two keys, and a load of spare sticky pads in case they do ever come off.

Kitchen Catches - Package Contents
Kitchen Catches – Package Contents

The mechanism is actually very simple. A plastic catch fixes to the door/unit and a very strong magnet releases the catch mechanism when placed at the other side of the door. If you’ve got stupidly thick doors you might have a problem, but for the average kitchen unit they work a treat.

Fitting

Fitting them is a breeze too, just take your time over it – take extra time to read the epic instructions supplied. To give a flavour of what to expect, here is an excerpt:

Caution!!

1. This is not a toy (OK so far)
2. Stop using it if it brings any damage. Children can not use this lock without adults’ warship (sorry what?)

If you can’t decipher the instructions, there’s a few videos on YouTube which go through the fitting process.

Be aware that the sticky pads are VERY sticky so you should take care with placement. You only have a short amount of time to adjust them before the glue starts to bond to the units. If you do need to move something don’t worry. You need to exert a fair bit of force to get them off. They shouldn’t mark your units (they didn’t mark ours anyway).

I was able to get the doors on the kitchen units geared up in about thirty minutes. Double it if you’ve got a mini beast emptying cupboards whilst you’re trying to do it!! The catch mechanism can be disabled for those rare times when you are child free and don’t want to have to faff with the ‘key’ all the time to get in your cupboards. They can also be attached to drawers too, again something which is quite useful if your units will allow it.

Sorry, Kid!

So now we have a pissed off child* because she can’t empty our cupboards. We also have a smug set of parents whose house is a little bit tidier! That’s a VERY, almost undetectable, little bit tidier – we do still have an 18 month old whirlwind to content with.

Cupboard catches fitted? Take that little ‘un!

Ttfn
Pete

*She’s not really pissed off, she’s just found something else to test us with!!! I do not condone winding your kids up (at least not too much)

East Riddlesden Hall – A National Trust Day Out

East Riddlesden Hall – A National Trust Day Out

Before Christmas Wifey and I decided we wanted to make sure we got out of the house at weekends as PG loves the outdoors and it’s important she gets her exercise, so we signed up for National Trust membership. If you would have asked me when I was 12 about National Trust I would have probably said it was rubbish as old houses didn’t (and to be honest still don’t) interest me particularly. There’s LOTS of outdoor stuff to do though, so we thought it was worth a bash.

East Riddlesden Hall, Keighley

We signed up for a joint membership as PG is free until she’s five which costs us around nine quid a month – we also got some free binoculars, which we’ve promptly put somewhere safe lost. So far we haven’t, admittedly, done much but now the weather is brightening up we’re going places more and more.

This weekend we went to East Riddlesden Hall, a 400 year old house from the 17th century. With it’s gardens and lake complete with ducks we knew before we set off there would be plenty to do outside and the sun was shining. It’s only around 30 minutes from home so a good choice when we don’t want to spend ages travelling.

When we arrived it was more or less lunchtime so rather than let PG get to the point of super hungry we went in the little café – which was really rather quaint (and had a ludicrously low beam, watch your heads folks) – and had a bite to eat. It didn’t feel like the cheapest café but that might just be me being a cheapskate. We spent around £17 on two paninis, a half jacket spud for beasty and some bottles of water. The food though was really nice, so I won’t grumble too much.

Most of our time was spent outside, which was just as well because when we tried to go in the house itself PG took an instant dislike to it (that or she didn’t like the jolly chap who was the volunteer guide in the first room we went in!). Due to the low ceilings and traditional lighting it could have just been that it was too dark.

Outside there is lots to see, smell and hear. We fed the ducks first, which was PG’s first time she’d ever fed them and something I’ve been looking forward to. I remember as a young handsome boy enjoying feeding the ducks on lots of occasions – apparently you’re not supposed to give them bread, which I always did (sorry ducks). Duck food was 50p from the gift shop at East Riddlesden Hall and you get plenty.

I’m sure we aren’t the only parents who have had to stop their daughter from jumping in with the ducks. Reigns are a must, otherwise your kid will sink like the titanic unless they’ve got REALLY good self control. PG just runs towards water like she’ll be able to walk on it.

After shrieking at and feeding the ducks, we hit the adventure playground. This is for bigger kids but PG had a go on the wobbly bridge and rather impressively the bloody steep slide which even freaked me out. This girl has no fear. There’s a good view from the playground so let your kids run wild and enjoy the scenery.

East Riddlesden Hall - Adventure Playground
The adventure playground was a big hit

Next we moved onto the gardens and this in my view was where the fun for PG really started. There are lots of things to look at from flowers to wildlife (birds, insects etc), smells from the different plants and herbs. There is plenty open space to run around in. It was safe enough to just let her roam and explore as she wished. We only needed to step in to manage the odd step or gap in between the lawn and path.

I had two personal favourite outdoor spaces. The first was the Butterfly and Bee Garden, an isolate, almost secret enclosed space which was a real sun trap. A tree sits in the middle with a bench around. The National Trust run an activity for kids called “50 things to do before you’re 11,” with different activities at various different locations. There’s an app and book to get kids engaged and let them track their progress.

On our visit PG was encouraged to ‘Take off those shoes and socks, wiggle your toes and go for a barefoot walk’, something which we weren’t sure she’d want to do. We gave it a go and she LOVED it

It was so cute watching her run round the garden barefoot, feeling the grass on her feet. She wasn’t even bothered by the non-grassy areas which were probably a bit more uncomfortable. She’s a real gem when it comes to trying new things, always happy to have a go – it’s something we both hope continues as she grows up.

Barefoot Walk at National Trust East Riddlesden Hall
Barefoot Walk at East Riddlesden Hall

We moved onto the Discovery Garden. Another awesome little place. Here kids can make mud pies in the mud kitchen, chill out in the wooden hut or even sit in a teepee built from tree branches. PG made a little friend and it was nice to watch them play so well together. She was more than happy for us to shut her in the little hut and let her play independently.

Anyone who knows my mum will have heard at some point that I was an absolute wimp as a child. I apparently clung to her like a limpet until I was about 16 5. I’m rather pleased that PG takes after her mum instead of me in that regard!

After a good play we meandered back through the gardens and stopped off at the activity room. Here PG could make a ‘nature crown’ – a paper crown decorated with leaves etc. She’s at the age now where she enjoys being creative, be that sticking or colouring, so she was pretty happy to be doing this. Kids can also dress up here, should they wish.

We spent about three hours here and as PG gets older she’ll be able to spend more time in the playground and playing in the gardens. She was sleepy by this point so we headed home, finishing off the duck food on the way back to the car.

Feeding ducks at East Riddlesden Hall
Feeding ducks is fun (as long as you don’t fall in!)

All in all a really pleasant place to visit. I’d definitely recommend seeing if the National Trust is for you. It’s another good way to guarantee good days out without having to spend a fortune.

Ttfn
Pete

Ikea DUKTIG Play Kitchen Review

Ikea DUKTIG Play Kitchen Review

As if childcare wasn’t expensive enough, nursery is costing us a small fortune in ‘extra toys’ that we have to buy because PG is so into them at nursery. Not that I’d change any of it, and I don’t really complain that nursery is expensive because she gets so much out of it. Not long ago PG fell in love with the nursery slide, so we’ve now got a slide. Then she fell in love with role play (probably natural for her age, I know), and after Wifey witnessed how excited she was playing with her friend E’s kitchen, now we’ve got a play kitchen in the lounge at home. Please welcome the Ikea DUKTIG Play Kitchen, which to get myself some extra brownie points was picked up and BUILT by the time PG got home the same day. That’s some serious Daddy commitment, especially since I had man flu at the time.

The DUKTIG is currently on offer in UK stores at £59 down from £65. Not a huge saving but there’s a couple of packs of nappies and a cheap beer from Lidl in the difference if you’re lucky. Expect to spend closer to eighty-quid (and beyond) though. You can’t have a kitchen without pans, and certainly no utensils (although the less said about that the better as I left the spatula etc in the yellow bag at the checkout. A nice surprise for someone else. Oops). Oh we also bought the Melissa and Doug Food Groups Wooden Food Set too, so it does get expensive but it’s important to give your little one the chance to explore the world of role play – I’ve had some cracking eggs cooked for me already! #PunIntended

The first very important thing to note is that this thing comes in about a million pieces, with LOTS of little screws etc, so you want to ship the whole family off to the park while you build it (seriously lose the Wife too otherwise there’ll be a flat packed argument/divorce). Open the box, cringe a little at the number of bits it’s in, then get everything out in front of you and ditch the packaging.

Building it isn’t too difficult, it just takes a lot of time so bang some music on and just get on with it – it took me about an hour. Ikea seem to have got rid of those Z Allen/Hex keys and replaced them with the L shaped ones which are actually a damn sight harder to use (at least in this product anyway). The Z ones you could just whizz round and round until the screw was tight. You actually have to put some effort in with the big boy Allen keys! Half way through building you’re asked to put a stupid bracket underneath where the tap goes. It took me until I’d finished to realise this was to attach it to the wall, which I wasn’t going to do and it was a bit more difficult to take it off at that point. If you don’t want to screw it to the wall ignore this step. At 72cm wide it’s not an eyesore in any room in the house. Some people might want it in the kitchen so kids can ‘help’ make tea, we chose to have it in the lounge, since that’s where we spend so much of our time as a family.

Some of the cheaper Ikea furniture isn’t all that good quality but the DUKTIG is really quite a sturdy toy. There’s an ‘electric hob’ with two rings that both light up at the press of a button (don’t worry they won’t burn your kids). 4 AA batteries required – yes FOUR, hopefully they’ll last a lifetime otherwise I’ll be ringing the Duracell bunny up. Helpfully the rings turn themselves off after a few minutes so you don’t need to worry about them being accidentally left on drinking expensive battery juice. There’s a plastic sink and tap for teaching those all important washing up skills, a microwave, ‘oven’ and cupboard, and a bar to hang all those important utensils on (the pans are currently hung on PG’s kitchen seeing as I left the utensils in the shop…). The legs are adjustable too so the kitchen can grow with your child. PG can’t reach the microwave yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long.

Ike DUKTIG  Play Kitchen
Brunch, anyone?
We’ve already had many a happy hour playing in the kitchen, from cooking to washing up to just pulling everything out of the cupboard and oven. Lifting the sink out and posting things through the hole is also a firm favourite. PG’s face fair lit up when she walked in the room and realised she had her own kitchen to play with – she practically ran to it and she’d only just learnt to walk. A whim present usually gets the best reaction no matter what your age!!

If you want to explore role play, the DUKTIG is a great place to start. Expect lots of kitchen related gifts to follow (toasters, baking sets etc) which all add to the fun! Be careful not to start fights with seafood though, the fish will get battered!

Ttfn

Pete

Calpol Vapour & Nightlight Plugin Review

Calpol Vapour & Nightlight Plugin Review

A whole month has (almost) passed since my last post. It’s been a busy month for various reasons, not least PG getting a stinking cold (which I’ve now got, but who am I to complain). Given that she’s slept brilliantly since she was about 6 weeks old, this was a bit of a shock to the system when it came to nighttime. After a few rough nights of her trying to suck her dummy and breathe through a properly blocked up hooter, realising she couldn’t, and crying at hourly intervals, a suggestion was made to give the Calpol Vapour Plug and Nightlight a try. Being the tight Yorkshireman that I am, it was necessary to do a bit of store hunting first, as these aren’t the cheapest things. After spending nearly 7 quid on one in Boots, the device had some proving to do (it turns out it’s the refills that cost so much, but for anyone wondering, you’ll soon learn that £1 a night, which is basically what it ends up costing you, it’s WELL worth it for the sleep).

We try not to rely on medicine too much, and I think we do pretty well at not just resorting to Calpol at the first sign of trouble. This isn’t medicine, just made by the same company.

The device is a plastic plugin with a blue nightlight that points to the floor. If your baby is anything like my daughter, you’ll want to cover it up as it’ll cast spooky shadows on her wall that cause unnecessary night time fear – that’s what I decided the problem was when she randomly started screaming the other day anyway, having a dim nightlight is actually useful). The lavender and chamomile vapour strips simply slide into it through a little opening. When opening the box you’re reminded several times that you shouldn’t handle the vapour strips with your bare hands. I’m not sure what happens to your hands if you do, perhaps they fall off, but I’m not going to test it out – my skin’s bad enough without adding extra problems. You get 5 of the refills in the box when you first buy it, which is why it seems a bit pricey.

Now fast forward to bed time.

The stuffed up beast has her milk as normal – dummy in, can’t breathe. The plugin has been on for about fifteen minutes (the refills last about 8 hours, so don’t turn it on too early, and you can’t leave it on for more than 16 hours either. Not sure why, perhaps your house burns down if you leave it on any longer than that).

Into the cot she goes and the magic starts to happen. Wifey and I take ourselves off to bed pretty much straightaway as we’re so sleep deprived we don’t even know what day it is. We close our eyes, expecting to be up every hour until morning, drifting into a land of peaceful sleep.

Beep beep, beep beep. BAM! She’s slept through and there’s the alarm going off. Right through, without so much as a peep from her, until 6am. This, my friendly blog readers, is why £7 is a completely acceptable amount of money to spend on this product. Parents usually have to spend ten times that on a hotel room or pack the kids off to a relative to get a decent sleep – if that’s what they want to do anyway 😉 so you could compare the plugin to a really cheap night away from home.

Always on the lookup for deals on the refills. The cheapest I’ve seen is five for a fiver on Amazon which for the mathematicians among us is a quid each. Not bad at all.

Ttfn

Pete