The perfect Princess party

How to throw the dream party with Magic Fairy Wings


Most little girls go through a pink Princess phase where all things magic, sparkly and with wings are to be adored.

I’m sure many of you will have asked your daughters (or sons?) what kind of a birthday party they’d like this year, to be showered with ‘pleases’ for a Princess Party.


Princess Party


We asked Debbie Talbot from Magic Fairy Wings to help out with some top tips for conjuring up the perfect Princess Party.


Over to you Debbie ……

princess visit belle


Are you sitting comfortably – then I’ll begin!

Once upon a time there was a stressed out mum who had a party to organise, but didn’t have a clue where to begin or how to transfer her 1970′s semi into Camelot!

But with a wave of my wand a sprinkle of fairy dust I was able to help transform various shades of neutral into a gorgeous pink palace with all the special touches that make the perfect Princess Party.


Here’s my ‘How To’ guide with some top tips for the perfect party.




If it’s a summer celebration, then why not plan your party in the grounds of an actual castle, and have a fabulous Princess picnic.

Unfortunately we’re not blessed with an abundance of castles within striking distance of Manchester, so if having it at home isn’t an option, hire your local church hall, community or leisure centre sports hall, and turn it into a fairytale treat.

  • Create a pink carpet for the guests to walk into the ‘Princess castle’ with some sumptuous pink material.
  • Tie pink and silver balloons around the entrance and throughout the venue.
  • Make or buy some Princess Party bunting to spread the magic throughout the room.


Princess Party bunting



Princess Party Invites


Set the tone for your Princess Party with some special Princess themed invitations.

If you’d like to make them especially special then why not check out our Magic Fairy Wings personalised invites here.

To make them even more Princessy, roll them up like a scroll and tie them with a pink ribbon.

Invite all the guests to come dressed in pink, or as their favourite Princess. If anyone comes as Princess Ann then give them an extra slice of birthday cake!



Princess costume

Princess outfit


If you’re feeling crafty, then by all means have a go at making your own.

Have a look at this How to make a no sew Princess costume from a pillow case tutorial.

Alternatively we’ve got some beautiful Magic Fairy Wings dressing up outfits (click here) which will make your little Princess the Belle of the ball.

Accessorise with a tiara and wand from our collection.




  • Display a treasure chest full of beads and baubles for the party Princesses to bejewel themselves as befits their status.
  • Alternatively, buy some kids jewellery bead craft kits so that they can make their own.


  • Book a children’s entertainer – A Manchester based one I recently used for my daughter’s birthday party was Princess Impersonations which cost a very reasonable £40.00 for a half hour visit (see the Princess in the yellow dress above). The children heard a beautiful story written especially to include the birthday girl and learnt princess etiquette.
  • Play pass the parcel with a pink wrapped present full of Princess gifts.
  • Pin the jewel on the crown, the fly on the frog, the crown on the Princess, or the tail on the dragon.
  • Try musical statues to a sound track of Beauty and the Beast.


Party Food


Princess cupcake

  • Pink lemonade is a must for a Princess Party.
  • Use cookie cutters in the shape of stars, crowns and hearts to cut out themed sandwiches.
  • Make magic wands from a slice of kiwi fruit and a piece of star shaped water melon on a wooden skewer.
  • A Princess birthday cake is an absolute must – Asda sell a lovely princess cake (click here) for £9.00. Alternatively, create a tower of cupcakes with pink icing.


princess purses


Party Bags

At Magic Fairy Wings we’ve got some lovely and very reasonably priced party bags and fillers (click here)..

Another idea would be to provide a small gift for each child to take home instead such as one of our fabulous feather trimmed Princess purse (click here).

We hope that your little Princess has a lovely time!



Competition Time


We’ve got a super cute Melissa and Doug Princess Fancy Dress Outfit (see picture here), value £19.99 to give away to one lucky reader.

All we want to know is who is your favourite Princess?

Pop it in the comments box below – but only one comment per person please.

So don’t be shy – tell us who’s your favourite Princess!

Good luck!


Debbie x


Magic Fairy Wings


Web site:

Tel: 0161 787 8550


Twitter: @magicfairywings




Photographs: Elena Roussakis, USAG Humphreys, Clever Cupcakes, Lisa Marie Gee of Pamper and Pose, Magic Fairy Wings

This blog is produced in collaboration with our friends at Magic Fairy Wings. We occasionally publish blogs funded by commercial partners.


By taking part in this competition you are agreeing to 4Manchester Womens Terms & Conditions for competitions and prize draws.


Competition closing date: 9pm Friday 1st November 2013.

The winner will be the first name selected at random from all respondents. No purchase necessary. No cash alternative. The Editor’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Closing date is 9pm Friday 1st November 2013. The winner will be notified immediately. Only one entry per person. UK entries only. No automated entries. Supporting ThePrizeFinder – UK Competitions, loquax and  Competitions Time. If you are the lucky winner, your contact details will be forwarded to the providers of the prize, strictly for the purpose of fulfilling the prize and not for any other purpose.
Please note: Should you be notified as the winner, and you do not respond within 2 days of our notification, we reserve the right to re-draw the winner.


Previous competition winners (last 6 months)

Real Nappy Week – win a selection of real nappies (16th April 2013). Winner Sarah Fisher.

Stylish Summer Homes – win Next home goodies (6th June 2013). Winner Ann Calland.

Lady Boys of Bangkok – win tickets (8th June 2013). Winners Rachel Fisher, Catherine Anderson.

The Cruise Show – win tickets (14th July 2013). Winners Kathy Cakebread, Karen Mckend, Claire Kelly.

Sushi Making Masterclass – win a sushi making kit (30th July 2013). Winner Sarah Plant.

Cocktails & Dreams – win a cocktail making masterclass at Lock 91 (29th August 2013). Winner Nicola Robinson.

Creative Stitches & Hobbycraft Show – win tickets (1st September 2013). Winners Claire Jackson, Pauline Rendell, Joanna Arthur, Fran Morgan, Liz Ferguson, Michelle Smith, Dil Price, Pam Gregory, Linda Weatherley.

The Independent Interiors Show – win a house hamper (3rd September 2013). Winner Nichola Gill.

Indulge Fragrance Boutique – win bottles of perfume (8th September 2013). Winners Gillian Shiels, Leanne Williams, Julie Ward.

Creamline Diaries / Getting Kids to Eat Breakfast – win a Saturday Cookshop course with a celebrity chef (18th September 2013). WInner Sara Perry.

The Lounge Gallery – win a Michelle Keeling necklace (22nd September). Winner Alison Ferrara








Why rhymes are important

Children’s poetry is an essential part of development


Whenever I’ve got a screaming toddler on my hands – my secret weapon is to sing them a nursery rhyme – and latterly the theme tune for In the Night Garden. It works every time! Now I’m not suggesting that I’ve got a hypnotic voice blessed by the Gods, but it would seem that there is some science behind it.

We’ve got Stephanie from Teacup Theatre back on the blog today with an insight from someone who tells stories for a living …… I want her job!


Over to you Stephanie ……

Stephanie Claire Teacup


1,2, buckle my shoe…

But not too tightly because there is an old lady that lives in there, who once swallowed a fly and was the Gran of a boy named Jack, who basically appears in every nursery rhyme you’ve ever heard and is possibly the unluckiest kid around.


From an early age we are filled with rhyme and rhythm

Some teach us things, some are complete nonsense and some blur the line between the two entirely. Either way they stick with us well past our nursery years and seem to hold a magical power over a child’s attention.


Stephanie Jessop


Whenever I’m storytelling or running a children’s workshop I always make sure to throw in a couple of lines of poetry here or a rhyme with in the story there.

A good rhyming pattern sticks in a child’s memory meaning they are more likely to retain what you are trying to teach, where as a steady beat not only catches a child’s attention, but can also calm them down.


The science behind rhymes


There is a whole science behind this, but put in the simplest of terms: a steady beat, mimics a steady heart beat, lowering the heart rate of whoever is listening and relaxing them (drum therapy has become increasingly popular for children prone to hyper activeness).

Of course the opposite is true too, so if you have a particularly lethargic bunch of little’uns at breakfast I guess you could try rapping to dance music?


A structure for imagination and memory


Another great thing about poetry is that it offers a steady structure for children’s imaginations and memories to cling to while allowing them to explore their creativity with nonsensical rhymes and whimsical tales, not to mention introducing them to more complex storytelling devices.


Having said all that, chances are none of the science, or educational benefits will matter to your young book eater, so with that in mind let me recommend…


We recommend


Colin McNaughton’s There’s an Awful Lot of Weirdos in Our Neighbourhood!: A Book of Rather Silly Verse and Pictures

This is a fabulously fun  collection of poems which range in length, and cover everything from a family that loves nothing more than a good old bowl of tripe to overly hairy neighbours.


Clever, funny and in some bits unapologetically daft, it is everything a children’s poetry collection should be. There is nothing intimidating about this collection and Naughton’s weirdo’s capture the imagination and encourage the readers to interoperate their surroundings creatively!


Live spoken word


Of course I couldn’t possibly write a post about children’s poetry without recommending a little live spoken word!

Poems are meant to be read out loud and the beats and clever rhyming patterns are designed to be heard. Manchester has a thriving spoken word scene for all ages, but for young audiences, the man to look out for is Dominic Berry and his show The Dragon who Hates Poetry.


Now if you’ll excuse me the grand old Duke of York has sent his men up the hill again and I have a horrible feeling if I don’t stop them they might just trample all over poor old Jack…


Stephanie x


Stephanie Claire runs Teacup Theatre and Storytelling Workshops. Find out more at

Photographs: Teacup Theatre

This is not a sponsored blog post.


Other articles by Stephanie:

Why ‘darker’ children’s books are important

How to choose children’s books









‘Darker’ children’s books

Why choosing children’s books with a bit of darkness is important


Life as we all know isn’t just about fluffy bunnies and lovely stuff (though we wish it was). Books which have a darker side can be an incredibly useful way of helping children to learn and process information and really big feelings.

We asked storyteller Stephanie from Teacup Theatre, to tackle this area of children’s fiction. Don’t turn the lights off!


Over to you Stephanie ……

Stephanie Jessop


I have always been a great big scaredy cat, I’m no good with horror and I consider myself to be of a cheery and bright disposition.

When I create or write for children, I steer away from the dark stuff. Over and over again I underestimate just how much kids can take.

A few weeks ago I was hosting a storytelling workshop with a handful of 4-7 year olds.

We had created a garden from our imaginations, paper puppet owls were hooting, and the origami rabbits were parading their cotton bud tails for all to see, blissfully unaware of the sticky end they were about to meet!

When we moved on to come up with a story for all these creatures, in nearly ever tale told, at least one critter died. I later learnt that every child in the class had recently become obsessed with Watership Down.

I’m personally not in the business of big screams, but I fully believe that a certain amount of darkness in children’s books has an important role to play. We all know that the original Brothers Grimm Tales weren’t the fluffy, cheery anecdotes we know today!

The reason we encourage children to read is to learn about the world they live in, to prepare them for things to come.

Wolf Brother


This month I picked up Wolf Brother (Chronicles Of Ancient Darkness), the first in the series Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver.

From the first page we are hit with the death of a parent and a demon bear.

I was shocked, I thought then and there about running back to the bookshop and picking something else, but I persevered aware of my tendency to underestimate.

This series has already had rave reviews from The Times, The Guardian and Ian McKellen and it is clear why.

Think Harry Potter, but instead of Hogwarts you have the forest of Europe six thousand years ago and instead of Magic you have all powerful World Spirits and clan Mages (a bit like witch doctors).

The story is captivating, and the relationships between the three main characters are touching and beautifully portrayed by Paver, however, there is no denying that this tale is steeped in darkness.

On the quest to rid the forest of the Demon Bear, Torak our protagonist comes across countless dead animals and a man frozen in the snow, all whilst grieving for his dead father, trying to solve an ancient riddle AND avoid bumping into other forest clans.

At first I thought this book would probably fall in the age bracket of 11+ but I’ve since changed my mind. The books main themes of friendship, family, loneliness and responsibility are important to children from an early age. But most of all, children respond differently to darkness at all ages.

So, if you are looking for a good read for a child that loves adventure and can take darkness in their stride then Wolf Brother may well be for them, and the best thing is if they love this book there are five more adventures of Torak after!

Wolf Brother is definitely aimed at a reader younger than myself but I’m heading out to buy the next book now, however, I may have to sleep with the lights on tonight…


Stephanie x


Stephanie Claire runs Teacup Theatre and Storytelling Workshops at Chorlton’s Jellyfish Rooms Sunday 12-2pm, find out more at


Photographs: Stephanie Jessop, Amazon

This is not a sponsored blog post.


Other articles by Stephanie

Choosing books (featuring Haroun and the Sea of Stories & Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie)










Choosing children’s books

Introducing storyteller Stephanie Jessop with two of her favourite children’s books …. by Salman Rushdie!


We all have a favourite children’s book – one that transported us to special places, and which even today holds a magic place in our hearts. In this day and age, with so many distractions and reasons for children not to read books – it’s all about finding the book that speaks to them – old or new.

I’m delighted to welcome children’s storyteller Stephanie Jessop onto the blog today to share her thoughts on how to engage children and find the right books for them.


Over to you Stephanie ……

Stephanie Jessop


I have never read Enid Blyton.

I don’t know why, or where the impression I have of Enid Blyton’s books came from, but when I think of the adventurous five or the cheeky seven or whoever they were, I imagine lots of jam and picnics.

Now, don’t get me wrong, as a kid I loved jam and picnics!


But in the nineties you couldn’t just wander off on an adventure and chase criminals, times had changed.

Video games were big and even though I never had a games console, my friends were more interested in beating up ninjas on the screen than they were in finding out who poisoned the fairy buns at the summer fete.

I did however love Roald Dahl, but I wonder how well he translates to kids today.

I regularly host interactive storytelling workshops, and in my experience I have found that some themes will universally appeal to children.


Stephanie Jessop


Magic for example, mythical creatures and of course there is the huge boom in the modernisation of fairy tales which has occurred in the past couple of years. So I guess the idea of Matilda’s super power will always capture the imagination of children, although it would probably make more sense to them if she had gained it through a magic ‘Kindle’ rather than the library.

The point I’m making, in between my poor knowledge of video games and upsetting Blyton fans, is that often people worry, or even slur that “Kids today have no imagination.” Well, again from experience, I am confidently and triumphantly of the opinion that that just isn’t true!

Children’s imaginations are, however, adapting! They are captured by and respond to the world they live in right now, the challenge, as it has always been, is in finding the book that best speaks to them.

Step forward Salman Rushdie, who amongst being a hero of modern and controversial literature, is also the author of two fantastic children’s novels, high up on my list of favourites.


First we have Haroun and the Sea of Stories.

This is a fantastic fairy tale which fights against the death of make believe while capturing and representing every complicated and beautiful strand of the imagination.

It harks back to the tradition of oral storytelling, with goodies and badies, and an adventure in make believe that reflects Haroun’s real life situation.


This is the perfect book for children that already love to read – and for the grown-ups too!


But if every night is a battle between technical whatdyamacallits and a bed time story, then skip straight to Rushdie’s sequel Luka and the Fire of Life.

Haroun is all grown up and his little brother is ready for his own adventure. However the world has changed, and Luca is just like every other modern child, so when he heads off on his own mission in make believe, his imagination reflects HIS world.


Every battle he faces is a computer game level to be conquered, with a great big save button at the end and a limited NUMBER of ‘lives.’ This story has all the same magic as its big brother but it will specifically capture the imagination of the children who are stimulated by the visual magic of a computer game!

The world has changed, and just like I wasn’t captured by Enid Blyton, children today might not understand why George worked away on his Marvellous Medicine. But that doesn’t mean their imagination has gone, it just responds to different things!

And, while there may always be an ‘app for that’, there is also a book!


Stephanie x


Stephanie Claire runs Teacup Theatre and Storytelling Workshops at Chorlton’s Jellyfish Rooms Sunday 12-2pm, find out more at


Photographs: Stephanie Jessop

This is not a sponsored blog post.








Animal Toys

Starting their love of animals young


A favourite animal toy is a great way of instilling a love of animals in your little one – especially if the cat, tired of having it’s tail pulled, disappears through the cat flap the moment your toddler enters the room!

Here are a few ideas to help the next generation become a nation of animal lovers.


Cuddly Toys


Animal toys



Rocking Horses


When I was little I really (really) wanted a rocking horse. Instead, I’d throw the oven gloves over the back of the sofa, use them as stirrups and ride off into the sunset on a horse with no head!


Rocking Horse






If you’re tired of kiddy pester power, or want to let your child have a dry run before taking the plunge and getting them a pet, then a ‘simu-pet’ might be the way forward.

I’ve always had guinea pigs – Polly (1976 – 1983), Cecil (1991 – eaten by a fox), Willoughby (1991 – eaten by the serial killing guinea pig eating fox), Osborne (1996 – 31st December 1999, a victim of the Millennium bug) and finally Colin (2000 – 2005, named after the lovely Colin Firth).

So I was taken by this ‘simu-pet’ guinea pig from – almost like the real thing but with less soggy sawdust and squeaking!


Guinea Pig Toy



Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: and click on the collections for more information.

This blog is written in cooperation with Thumbs Up.








Top toys for Christmas 2012

What’s going to be on Christmas lists this year?


A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to be invited to a Christmas press launch at John Lewis at The Trafford Centre. I took Wing Woman Gilly along to keep me company -  she’s more into games and gadgets than I am, so when I arrived it was no surprise to find her chatting up a man with a table full of tech!

So excited was she by some of the gifts on offer, that she’s written a stonking blog on top toys for Christmas 2012 – just so that we can all get ahead of the game this year!


Over to you Gilly ……

Head shot of Gilly holding a pink cocktail.


This time last year I had a panicked phone call from the mother of my godson – ‘They’ve sold out of Batcaves, can you try and find one please, or George will be really upset on Christmas Day!’

Unfortunately, whilst I have ‘God’ in my title, not even I could summon up the out-of-stock best selling toy of 2011.


I was not going to be making that mistake this year, and Gorgeous George was coerced into writing his list for Santa at the end of October so his parents (and his godmother) could get ahead of the curve, and we wouldn’t have tears again this Christmas.

So my research and shopping started early this year, and for those of you out there who might need a bit of encouragement or some ideas, then here are a few of my top toy ideas for the kids in your life.


Retro toys


Retro toys make a return this year – remember Furby and the Cabbage Patch Kids? They are making a comeback this year with new styles and some 2012 technology.



Furby Plush available here in a range of colours £89.99


Be careful how you play, speak and interact with your new friend as this will shape his character! For more interaction with your furry friend, an iPhone, iPad, iPod app is available to download.


If you want your kids to adopt a doll this year, there is a new range of the Cabbage Patch Kids available.  Prices vary so do shop around, but be prepared to pay up to £69.99 for the premium version.


cabbage patch kids


Cabbage Patch Kids available here in various styles from £27.98


Lego is also a big hit apparently – although for me it has never gone out of fashion, and there are some great new ranges available including this Lord of the Rings set.

 Lord of the Rings Battle of Helm's Deep lego set


LOTR Lego Gimli

LEGO The Lord of the Rings 9474: The Battle of Helm’s Deep available here from £84.99

If your kids are into Moshi Monsters – and lets face it they are a brand phenomenon – then there are all sorts of options from Top Trump cards (remember them?!), to board games to more hi-tech options, and of course the cute collectible monsters themselves.  Amazon have a great range with options to suit all age ranges, purses and wallets.


Moshi monster
Moshi Monsters Mosh N Chat Katsuma Soft Toy available here £15.38

Technology toys


Technology based ‘toys’ are likely to be flying out of Santa’s Grotto this Christmas but if like me you prefer your iPad free of little fingerprints then why not get them one of their own – without the Apple price tag?

Kurio tablets are available in a 7” (RRP £150) in blue and pink, and a 10” (RRP £200) version, and are suitable from age 4 upwards. I previewed this Android tablet at John Lewis and was very impressed.

Kurio TabletKurio available here from John Lewis £150


Pre-loaded with games, videos, educational content, e-books and much more. Wi-Fi enabled, it supports Flash 11, has front and rear cameras and an integrated microphone.

With a 7″ screen, 800×480 pixels and HD video playback so you can watch videos on the go, it’s ideal for car or train journeys. There’s also a parental control feature and you can easily set up to 8 profiles and manage separate settings for each one.


Stocking fillers


If you are looking for stocking fillers for under £10 then here are a few of my favourites to add to your shopping lists. All available from John Lewis stores nationwide or online.


Notable moustaches

Notable Moustaches £6

Angry birds soft toysVarious Angry Birds soft toys £5.95



Rope cutter magic gameRidleys Rope Cutter magic game £4



chocolate ipodChocolate iPod £3



And what about George? 


Well in a nod to modern twists on retro toys he’s having a fabulous pair of adjustable roller skates from Aunty Gilly that will grow as fast as his feet seem to these days!


Osprey boys adjustable rollar skates Osprey Boys Adjustable Quad Roller Skates here £18.46


Competition Time


We want to know what’s on your child’s / children’s  Christmas list.

Will it be a Moshi Monster, a Kurio or something altogether a bit different.

Pop it in the comments box below – but only one comment per person please.

We’ve got some fantastic competition prizes as an incentive, and two lucky readers who leave a comment will be chosen at random as the winners.

So don’t be shy – tell us what’s on your child’s / children’s Christmas list this year.


The Prizes


We’ve got some fantastic prizes from John Lewis to give away.

First Prize: A John Lewis wooden pinball football game (RRP £20.00)


pinball John Lewis


Second Prize:  A John Lewis my first doll (RRP £6.00)


John Lewis baby doll





Happy shopping and I look forward to reading your competition entries!


Gilly x



Photographs: John Lewis, Amazon

This is not a sponsored blog post, but we do have an affiliate arrangement with Amazon. If you visit Amazon and make a purchase, 4Manchester Women will receive a commission – which helps to keep us in business.


By taking part in this competition you are agreeing to 4Manchester Womens Terms & Conditions for competitions and prize draws.


Competition closing date:9pm Tuesday 18th December 2012.


The winners will be the first names selected at random from all respondents. No purchase necessary. No cash alternative. The Editor’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Closing date is 9pm Tuesday 18th December 2012. The winner will be notified immediately. Only one entry per person. UK entries only. No automated entries. Supporting Loquax Competitions. If you are the lucky winner, your contact details will be forwarded to the providers of the prize, strictly for the purpose of fulfilling the prize and not for any other purpose.
Please note: Should you be notified as the winner, and you do not respond within 2 days of our notification, we reserve the right to re-draw the winner.


Previous competition winners (6 months)

Manchester’s Favourite Cocktail Bars (5th June 2012). Winner Alexandra McGahey.

Declutter and Organise (28th June 2012). Winner Lorna Peppiatt. 2nd Prize Julie Kenny . 3rd Prize Jane Townson.

Wet Weather Places to Take the Kids (13th July 2012). Winner Diane Duggan.

Meet and greet with Peter Andre at The Girls Day Out Show (7th August 2012). Winner Katie Bullen.

In Three Words (18th August 2012). Winner Anita Roberts. 2nd Prize Samantha Atherton. 3rd Prize Laura Pritchard.

Moda Fashion Boutique – Best Bargain (18th September). Winner Sandra Foreman. 2nd Prize Tracy Hanson.

Bags and More – What’s at the bottom of your handbag (27th September 2012) Winner Shelly Jessup. 2nd Prize Eleanor Jones.

Kids say the funniest things – win a family ticket to LegoLand  (13th October 2012). Winner Natalie Holland.

Not doing Halloween – win a Baba+Boo bib (19th October 2012). Winner Karine Jade.

Tell us how you’ve supported Breast Cancer Awareness Month – win Bags of Style handbag (31st October 2012). Winner Vicky Robinson. 2nd Prize Kerry Kilmister

Manchester Tourist – win a mini break at The Oxnoble (1st November 2012). Winner Jo Healy.

Tell us about your first bike – win free bike hire and a meal (8th November 2012). Winner Catherine Thomas

What’s on the top of yours – win John Lewis goodies (13th November 2012). Winner Gerri Tennant, 2nd Prize Lemknip Pink, 3rd Prize Fran Morgan.








Imaginative Play

How Make Believe Games and Adventures Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle


When I was little, I’d sling the oven gloves over the back of the sofa and with my feet in the stirrups, I’d ride off to exciting new lands. I’d climb through the coats in the wardrobe to try and reach Narnia, and once I got a nasty lump on my head from trying to jump through my Charlie’s Angels poster (I’d just finished watching Mary Poppins)!


Child playing


We’ve got a new guest blogger on 4Manchester Women today – Hannah Davey, is a play expert who advises on child development and imaginative play.


Over to you Hannah ……

However many toys our children accumulate – we still worry that we’re not giving our children the best toys for fun, health or their education.


Pop goes the weasel radio




But don’t underestimate the most important element – a child’s imagination and their ability  to create make believe adventures. It’s often this, rather than inherent features within the toys, which stimulate important development and social skills.

Children see the world in a very different light to adults. Everything is incredibly magical, and there are adventures to be explored everywhere. A muddy stick in the garden can quickly become the most powerful magic wand in the history of wizardry, and a coffee table easily transformed into the grandest playhouse to have ever been built – usually with the addition of a few cushions and a table cloth.

Children will always find a way to be imaginative and create endless amounts of adventures and games with any stimulus they can find.


Rag Doll Pussy

If you want to look at the science – analysis of children’s play time showed that the following indicators stayed consistent over a 23-year period.

  • the capacity to express positive and negative emotions
  • to tell stories
  • to organise thoughts
  • to use their imagination

Which suggests that the social and cultural developments within the toy industry have had little consequence to children’s attitude and capabilities during play.

Children who present good play skills with imaginative and emotional play situations have been shown to have better skills at coping, creativity and problem-solving – a welcome piece of information for all mums out there.

Outdoor play in particular can be a huge helping hand during these developmental stages. While improving manual dexterity and providing all the benefits of imaginative play, it also encourages them to run around and explore their surroundings, and therefore exercise without even realising!


Assault course child Climbing


So, we don’t need to concentrate so much on the particular features on our children’s toys, or the quantity of them, but the time and space that we allow for their playtime so that they have chance to explore and develop their imaginations.

Hannah x


Hannah is a play expert at the Big Game Hunters group, she consults on children’s development and imaginative play, specialising in Playhouses and Climbing Frames.

Photographs: Hannah Davey, Pinterest (Doudous, Janice Ceresa)

The videos are sponsored by GoViral.



Please remember that if you are buying toys, look for the CE Logo. Check the funky dancing robot to the electro Euro beats below for information on toy safety!



Welcoming Manchester Mummies

“Mummy …….. Muuuuuuum ……MMMUUUUUMMMMMYYYYYY

Sound familiar?

Group of mummies and children painting around a table.


Right, time to put my cards on the table – I am not a Mummy. I am however a GodMum to my top GodBoy Sam, and I have many, many friends who are a Mummy.


And to prove it, we invited them all to our wedding last summer. Fifty children at a wedding – it could have been crackers, but I had a secret weapon up my sleeve. We got married at Chester Zoo!


Back shot of two little girls standing under Chester Zoo umbrella.


While having kids can be brilliant – undoubtedly one of the best things you’ll ever do, they can also be demanding and wearing. I’ve seen my friends wandering the streets pushing buggies with glazed expressions and covered in baby sick. I’ve listened to them while they’ve filled me in on the latest episode of ‘Octonauts’ and ‘Mike the Knight’ (I’m proud to say I know all the characters from ‘In the Night Garden’) and I’ve helped them out at Rhythm ‘n’ Rhyme and Aqua Babies.

I know it’s all too easy for mums to feel like they aren’t getting it right, so although this category is called ‘Super Mummy’, we really aren’t trying to get you into a leotard. What we are aiming for is empathy, with a large dose of practical. We know that time is precious, and that anything that can help save time and keep the kids entertained is like gold dust.

So the Mummy category will include lots of Top 10’s and recommendations for things like child friendly venues, children’s activities, children’s books, clothes & toys as well as things that will hopefully help to keep you sane, and from feeling like you’ve disappeared.

To help me in this task, I’ve turned to Harry Potter – instead of the Ministry of Magic, I’ve called upon The Ministry of Mummies, who will be on hand with a range of powerful spells to sort everything out.


My research shows that my MCR Women consider themselves to be 32% Mummy. Some went as far as putting 80-100%. I think they were worried I’d report them to Social Services if they put anything less.


I’d say I’m 10% Mummy – as I said before, with my GodBoy and my friends, I do move in those circles, though as yet I’ve managed to avoid changing a nappy!

Squares of hand prints in clay - different colours.


One key message behind 4Manchester Women and the four categories, Hotty, Mummy, Homey and Lively, is that we aren’t one or the other, but that to differing degrees, there is a little bit of each of them in all of us. So to drill the point home and to launch 4Manchester Women, I organised four photo shoots / the same four women / in the four different settings.

Mummy was our final photo shoot, by which time we’d managed to collect a full complement of kids from schools and nurseries across Manchester. Painting and chocolate biscuits were the enticements this time. So my four victims, Claire from Chorlton / Firswood, Emmylou (Lilybud Cupcakes) from Irlam, Angela from Hale and me (Alison) from Sale, were joined by Ewan, Sam, Kirsty, Laura and Lily. My dining room never looked more crowded.


What I wanted to achieve with this picture was to capture four friends and their children having a high old time doing something arty / crafty together.

The signature colour for Mummy is pinky-purple, so we painted – they could paint in whatever colour they wanted – as long as it was purple. Many thanks to Pottery Corner in Chorlton  for helping out with all our painting needs! We also had purple chocolate eggs and pink and purple tulips, but unfortunately didn’t make it into the photo we finally chose.

If you’re wondering what’s on my head – it’s an animal mask. OK – it’s a chicken!

And if you’re wondering what we’re all yelling, well it’s “CHEESY CHOCOLATE”, obviously!


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)

Photographs: Rob Wood, Jon Roach @FourT4 and Alison Staples



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