Are Video Games Good For Our Children?

As a follow up to my post ‘Are Video Games Bad for Our Children?’, today I want to write about how video games can be beneficial to our children.

Firstly, to cover a rather obvious point, there are video games made specifically for educational purposes. My own daughter has used a game on her iPad to help her in learning to tell the time. The range of computer and tablet games available provide a great resource for more independent learning.

Further to this, scientific studies have suggested that playing video games can improve visual focus and processing, as well as working memory and attention span. Not only is this great for children, it’s also good for people in every other age group, including us – so grab a controller and join in!

That last point brings me neatly onto my next: video games can be a social activity to be enjoyed as a family. Our current favourite is Disney Infinity. My daughter is still having a little trouble with the controls but we’re seeing constant improvement. This game could be said to improve plenty of important skills – fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, working in a team and strategic thinking.

My favourite kind of video games are the fantasy role playing kind, such as Fable and Dragon Age. I realise that these are not exactly child friendly and it’ll probably be about a decade before I’m suggesting them to my daughter (by which time she’ll want to play current games and my old favourites will be left on the shelf and forgotten) but my point is more about why I love them. I  love stories. And these are stories that one can be directly involved in and have some amount of control over. That is just awesome.

What are your (or your children’s) favourite video games? Do you think there’s something to be gained from them?

Are Video Games Bad for Our Children?

For decades, people have been concerned with the effect video games might have, especially on children. From claims that it prevents socialisation and physical activity to the idea that it actually promotes and encourages violent and aggressive behaviour, parents are often given a myriad of negative perspectives on video games.

As a parent, I have always looked in a little more depth at issues before coming to a decision. We’re all fairly aware these days of how the media can skew the facts to make their stories more sensational. There have been plenty of newspaper stories about how some shooting massacre was caused by the perpetrator playing a video game beforehand. Of course, they could have just taken one of the other many stories written to the same effect about certain music or films and pasted in the name of whichever Call of Duty has just come out.

Firstly, I’ll look at my personal experience. I really enjoy playing video games. One of my favourites is Dragon Age. I love the role playing and fantasy elements of the game but I also enjoy the combat. Yes, I like it when I manage to slay a few big nasty monsters with a gigantic sword or else set them on fire with my magical powers. I say ‘I’ and ‘my’ because it is a role playing game. You take on the part of the character. And yet, I have never been violent towards anyone. This is also true of the other many, many people I know well who have played very violent video games.

Next, let’s take a quick look at history. The absolute earliest form of video game was created in 1947. That’s 68 years ago, a comparatively tiny fraction of our existence. But violence and aggression is found throughout. In fact, taking a quick look at the statistics shows that violent crime in the UK has, in fact, been decreasing over the last twenty years. Surely if during that time more and more of us have been taking part in an activity that causes violent behaviour, you’d expect that figure to be rising?

So if video games don’t cause violent behaviour, is there anything we need to worry about in our children playing them?

I know plenty of parents who, through conversations in person, through twitter and various online forums, have asked if a certain game is appropriate for their child. The phrases ‘but they keep asking for it’ and ‘all of their friends play it’ seem to crop up quite a bit in these discussions. Personally, I plan to take the same approach I would for any other kind of media I’m trying to decide if my daughter can make use of. I’d play the game, or at least look at reviews. I’d ask myself if any of the content (not just violent but also sexual) is too graphic or disturbing for her. If I think it is, I will tell her so and not let her have the game. If she goes to a friend’s house, I will politely ask that friend’s parents if they can make sure the game in question is not used while she’s there. In our house, we are not big fans of censoring anything without a good reason to (this is a bit of a seperate issue will probably form another blog post in the future).

The next issue is how long should children play games for. There are concerns about lack of socialisation and time outdoors and even as far as addiction. Firstly, all of the evidence currently points to a small percentage of people being susceptible to addiction of video games. The likelihood is that these people are probably prone to addictive behaviour anyway. (Please take note of the language I’m using. I’m totally aware that a new study could be published tomorrow showing that this is a much bigger risk than previously thought and I would then look into the issue again and perhaps change my position accordingly). It’s something you should definitely try to be aware of, since addictive behaviour is something your child might need help with.

I do set time limits on playing video games. I want my daughter to participate in lots of different activities and there are things like homework and reading practice that take priority. She loves the outdoors – frankly I think she’d be pretty distraught at the prospect of sitting indoors playing games all day!

Basically my opinion on the issue is this: video games are not going to cause children harm as long as they’re appropriate (looked at on an individual basis by parents) and they do lots of other things as well.

What do you think? Are you worried about video games?

Forever Product Review

Autumn term has begun and, as much as I’m missing Pip, it is nice to have a little time to myself. After six weeks of days out, play time and generally trying to keep the little ones entertained from morning until bedtime, I think we all deserve a little pampering.

With that in mind, I’ve been reviewing a range of products by Forever, based around the beneficial properties of aloe vera. I was given a big range of products to test and these were my favourites…IMG_0175

Aloe-Jojoba Shampoo

This is a lovely smelling shampoo and it left my hair feeling thoroughly cleansed. As I’ve got coloured hair, I normally use a specific colour protection shampoo. If this weren’t the case, I’d definitely consider getting some more of this stuff! There’s also a matching conditioner.

Aloe Hand and Face Soap

As someone with naturally dry skin, I find I need to moisturise constantly to keep my hands soft. However, after using this soap, I found that my hands stayed soft anyway! Definitely recommend for anyone who suffers with dry skin.

Aloe Lips

With the colder weather coming up, protecting lips from the wind and rain is important. This lovely lip balm certainly does the trick. Not too thick or strongly smelling but acts as a good moisturiser and provides protection from the elements. A good choice for everyone, especially us gals who like to be outdoors a lot.

Aloe Propolis Cream

Another one for the dry-skinned amongst us. I find that once my skin becomes dry, getting it back to normal is a real challenge, usually taking up to a week to be smooth again. This stuff worked wonders though, getting rid of dry skin within a day or so!

I’ve really enjoyed reviewing these products. There’s plenty more in the range so if you fancy treating yourself, visit the website here or call the lovely Ellie Waite on 07971842203 to order something for yourself!

Note: I was given a selection of products from the Forever Living collection to try free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are, as always, my own. 

Turning Twenty Six and a Gift of Geeky Brilliance

Recently it was my 26th birthday. It was quiet, yet lovely. It was spent with family, eating cake, enjoying gifts and generally having a nice time.

For my birthday, my rather lovely husband ordered me a gift from Shabby Geek Box. This rather wonderful company takes from you a list of your favourite films, games and other geeky stuff (and obviously some cash) and then sends you a big box full of stuff associated with your chosen themes.

Usually, my husband cannot help but give me clues about what I might be getting and that’s if he hasn’t given up and just asked me what I’d like. Plus, if Pip finds out what any presents are, it’s pretty much impossible for them to then be kept a secret. On a few occasions, she’s approached the intended recipient, whispered what the gift is at them then told them very firmly not to tell anyone because it’s supposed to be a surprise.

But with a box from the Shabby Geek, nobody knows what I’m getting so it’s a guaranteed surprise but at the same time it’s very likely going to be stuff I’ll like and want because I chose the themes. As it happens, I loved all of it. The contents were: two mugs (one Harry Potter, one Twilight), two Pop Vinyl figurines (one Severus Snape, one a gold Dalek), a set of Doctor Who Stickers, a Doctor Who lamp, a set of four coasters each with a Hogwarts house coat of arms on it, a Hunger Games bag, a Doctor Who comic, a Dalek cushion cover and a little pack of Haribo sweets. It was brilliant.


You know, I had been concerned that moving into my later twenties might mean I’d suddenly become very serious and mature. Having received a big box of geeky bits and bobs for my birthday and been completely thrilled with it, I’m now secure in the knowledge that I’ll still be my usually silly self for at least another year yet!

Please note: I wasn’t asked to write this by Shabby Geek Box nor have I been compensated in any way for this review. I genuinely just think they’re a good company and deserved a bit of nice promotion.

Getting Ready for a New School Year

This time of year feels far more like a fresh start to me than actual New Years. The end of summer holidays means that Pip will be heading into a new year of school but also I’ll be starting my new (and last!) university course soon. I like to be prepared well in advance and have my desk ready with everything I’ll need.

I do have quite a love of stationary. My train of thought tends to be a bit chaotic so being ultra organised really helps me keep on top of my studies, plus all of the other stuff on my never ending To Do list! I have a deskpad, something I find really helpful for being always close to hand for random but important notes – the kind I might lose if I wrote it on a post-it or scrap of paper. There’s also our elephant, shared between me and the Husband (our desks are pushed together) that can be written on with dry-wipe marker pens. Both of these came from Paperchase, a store I really love for their useful yet quirky stationary.

IMG_0147 IMG_0146

I currently have just one notebook, again from Paperchase. As it’s my only notebook, I note down everything from writing ideas to shopping lists and random ideas (recently lots of ideas for a certain little lady’s upcoming birthday party!). Ideally, I really need three notebooks – one for writing ideas, one for any random scribblings and one for university notes.


I have a new lamp for my desk. We already had a good lamp to share between our desks but it’s nice to have my own one, plus as a huge geek and Doctor Who fan, I love the design.


Cups of tea are an essential part of my writing and studying. So I keep a coaster on my desk. Until recently, it was a Duff Beer mat. Then I was gifted this gorgeous set of Hogwarts coasters that fit together like a puzzle. Since I’ll be studying Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for my Children’s Literature course this year, it seems like a perfect addition. When all of the pieces are together, it’s large enough for my mug and a couple of cheeky biscuits – very handy!


As someone who doesn’t regularly act her age, I like to keep a few fun things on my desk, just to keep it looking like the happy creative space I want it to be. Currently I keep my Red Panda stuffed toy and a Severus Snape Pop Vinyl figure on there. I am planning to add more Pop Vinyl figures.


A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new cork noticeboard to hang above the desk too. It’ll mostly be for displaying little posters, postcards and photographs but I’m hoping to also put up some motivational quotes or pictures and I’ve also pinned up a family calendar, so that we all know what’s going on and when. I’m using some pretty pom pom push pins from Paperchase (that’s some great alliteration, right there). I’ve already got my eye on some very cute little frog push pins too.


We seem to be fairly well-stocked in terms of pens, pencils, highlighters etc so I don’t think I’ll need anymore of those.

For family and student use, we have a HP Envy printer with a subscription to Instant Ink. I cannot recommend this highly enough. It’s cheap, simple and means you will never run out of ink. Your printer simply sends a message to HP when it’s supplies are running low and more cartridges are sent out to you, along with a little bag to send back your old cartridges for recycling. As technologically savvy as I like to imagine myself to be, this still feels like some kind of witchcraft to me. Plus, because you pay a monthly charge for a number of pages, not an amount of ink, it doesn’t matter what you’re printing – such as high quality colour photographs – you’re not going to get charged extra for it as long you remain within that number of pages.

What are your favourite stationary items? How do you keep your desk organised?

A Day at Bristol Zoo Gardens

Yesterday we had a family day out to Bristol Zoo Gardens.

We’ve been before, about two years ago. Long enough that Pip couldn’t remember it, making it feel like a new adventure.

I’ve been wanting to go again. Partly because there are bits we didn’t get to do before and also because the Gorilla enclosure was not finished for a our first visit and I was eager to see it.

I’ve always loved visiting zoos, farms and wildlife reserves. Any opportunity to see some wildlife. Both me and Pip are very enthusiastic about the natural world so a trip to the zoo is very exciting for us.

Bristol Zoo, amongst many other similar institutions, are dedicated to conservation efforts to save many of the world’s most endangered species. Pip is surprisingly passionate about conservation for such a young person. She watched a documentary about gorillas a while ago and was very upset to hear that they were being poached to the point that one day, there might not be any left. She was determined that she wanted to do something to help. So, we adopted one of the Western Lowland Gorillas that live at Bristol Zoo Gardens. A baby called Kukena. So yesterday’s trip was particularly special because Pip was able to see her little gorilla, playing happily with his family.

Capybaras & Tapirs, all huddled together out of the rain

Capybaras & Tapirs, all huddled together out of the rain




One of my favourite moments of the day was seeing a gorgeous little family of Ring-tailed Lemurs, including a baby clinging to an adult’s back. It was difficult to know who the parents were, since childcare duties seemed to be shared out between them all!

Ring-tailed Lemurs

                     Ring-tailed Lemurs

I faced my fear of flying insects to go in the butterfly forest. I’m glad I because they were very beautiful and thankfully none of them attempted to land on me!


Owl Butterfly

I was a little sad that the weather was bad. It didn’t spoil the day too much, since there’s so much indoors to see, but it did prevent us feeding the Lorikeets, something I was quite forward to!

My favourite animals, the Red Pandas, were hiding up in their tree so all I got to see of it was a fluffy striped tail hanging down but never mind. I find it much better for zoos to provide enclosures as close as possible to the animals’ natural habitats, including places they can have some privacy. Even if we don’t get to see them, at least we know they’re happier!

It was a great family day out – I recommend it to all

Our Summer So Far…

We are three weeks into the summer holidays and it’s been a very fun (and busy!) time.

There was a visit to the National Museum in Cardiff, partly to see the newly discovered Welsh dinosaur.

NOT the new Welsh dinosaur, which was a little too crowded to get a good picture of.

NOT the new Welsh dinosaur, which was a little too crowded to get a good picture of.

We’ve played football and tennis in our local park.

We’ve been to our local library a few times. Pip is taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge.

There was a trip to the cinema to see Inside Out, which we all loved. I was very impressed with the representation of the human mind in such a easy to understand concept. The short shown before it, Lava, is now my favourite Pixar short – we’ve been listening to it ever since!

Pip’s been to a holiday club for a few days. This was mostly to fill our childcare needs but it also gave her some time amongst other children and trying out new activities. It also gave me a little bit of time to myself before and after work shifts!

We had afternoon tea in our favourite cafe. Little sandwiches, mini yorkshire pudding filled with coronation chicken, mini prawn cocktail, Welsh cakes, little sherry trifles (for the grown ups only, obviously!) and infinite amounts of tea, all served on gorgeous vintage china and with lovely 40s & 50s music playing in the background. Fabulous.


Myself and Pip had lunch in La Tasca, taking advantage of their offer of free children’s food throughout the summer holidays.

We’ve discovered and started collecting LEGO Mixels. I think these are a great idea as, aside from the instructed build which look a bit quirky and cool, there’s so many other ways of building your own little monsters out of the sets, especially once you can combine them together.


Our growing project has had mixed success. The carrots have been harvested and taste lovely. However, the tomato and courgette plants have produced nothing edible, despite looking healthy enough. Still, we can try again next year and I’m currently on the lookout for some seeds that can be planted and grown over the autumn and winter. I know there are some types of lettuce and cabbage that can be grown in colder weather.

Lovely homegrown, oddly shaped purple carrots

Lovely homegrown, oddly shaped purple carrots

There’s still plenty to look forward to for the rest of the holidays. Pip has yet to complete the Reading Challenge so we’ll be going back to our library at least once. I really want to visit the Cardiff Bay Beach. I also want to go to Heath Park and possibly Roath Park too – both have brilliant playgrounds and lots of wildlife to see. We’ve also still got plenty of home activities for days when the weather’s not so good – there have been a fair few rainy days so far and only so many times I can coax a five year old into her wellies and waterproofs. She loves the outdoors but she absolutely detests being cold or wet.

How’s your summer going?