Boswells Blog

15th December 2017

Top things to do in Oxford for Christmas

Top things to do in Oxford for Christmas

Just because the weather makes you want to stay indoors and enjoy a cup of warm tea, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing else you can do in the holiday season.
Winter is the time for family days out and celebrations with friends, with a plethora of events and activities you can partake in and around Oxford. We picked some of the best things to do for Christmas in Oxford this year and compiled them in this list for you.

The good news is that many of these happen every year so if you miss one this year start planning for the next. Merry Christmas from Boswells.

In Oxford

Oxford Christmas Carol Concert Evenings

Christ Church Cathedral ChoirMany of the University Colleges have world renowned choirs and orchestras or ensembles who give concerts at Christmas. Isn't that a great opportunity.  You can see most events on The Daily Info we've created just the right link for concerts until christmas or Music at Oxford.  

The choir pictured is Christ Church cathedral Choir courtesy of Music at Oxford.

 

Oxford Christmas Market

Oxford Christmas MarketThe iconic Broad Street isn't just home to Boswells but to numerous markets and events throughout the year, with one of the most important ones being the Oxford Christmas Market.
It features beautifully decorated wooden stalls offering a great selection of Christmas gifts and seasonal treats, with over 50 different exhibitors to choose from!
Apart from this, local choirs and bands will also be present, performing Christmas carols up until the last day of the market, December the 17th.

Did you know the market has a website too https://www.oxfordchristmasmarket.co.uk/

Christmas Ice Show

Oxford Ice RinkProduced by local skate couches who work at Oxford Ice rink along with skaters and their families, the Christmas Ice Show is an amazing celebration of both the festive season and of the popularity of ice skating in the city.

The theme for the 20172017 edition of the show is “Around the world in 80 minutes”, with the event taking place at Oxford Ice Rink.
Featuring international, national and local skating champions alongside over 150 local skaters, this show is an important member of the city’s Christmas events repertoire.

“The coaches, Ice rink team, skaters and families put a lot of work into making this show one of the premier Christmas events in the county and I would encourage everyone to come to the show and get in the Christmas spirit” said Vincent Harley, General Manager of the rink.

Further afield

Le Manoir At Christmas

Le Manoir Carol Concerts

Belmond le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons is a hotel established in 1984, situated on the outskirts of Oxford, in Great Milton.

Every year they throw some magical Christmas Carols concert evenings with various choirs and singers. These events will be hosted by a well-known personality and will combine a feast of musical enchantment with all the delights of Raymond Blanc’s cuisine.

Each evening includes a Champagne Laurent-Perrier reception, a concert at nearby St Mary’s Church, plus a four-course dinner with accompanying wines, coffee and petits fours.

Read all about it on their website.

The glorious photo of Le Manoir to the left is by Paul Wilkinson Photography Ltd

Blenheim Lights FestivalChristmas at Blenheim

Blenheim Palace, the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough and birthplace and ancestral home of Winston Churchill, is hosting a wonderful lights festival once again, after its success last year.

Its 2000 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscape and Formal Gardens will be crossed by a wonderful light trail, winding through the landscape and allowing visitors to discover and interact with various festive scenes and seasonal experiences, while highlighting the palace’s rich history.

The festival is onto January 1st so perhaps a trip out between Christmas and the New Year is in order?

You can read all about it on their website. 

Santa’s Grotto at Frosts Garden Centre

Santa and ChildTake part in a grotto adventure at the Frosts Garden Centre of Millets Farm!
Lasting for around 45 minutes, key activities include singing with the elves, making reindeer food ready to sprinkle on Christmas Eve and listening to a story read by Santa himself in his own cosy living room. Children love a good Santa's grotto and this is a great one.

With lots of other surprises included, this is a marvellous way to spend the 24th of December with your family outside of the house. You can read all about it on their website.

Whether you will spend Christmas alone, together with friends or accompanied by your family, we hope you make the most out of these handpicked Oxford holiday activities. Just remember to bring some warm gloves!

 

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15th December 2017

How to decorate your Christmas tree

How to decorate your Christmas tree

Have you ever noticed how wonderful it looks when you pass a house with a majestic tree in the living room window, glowing in the night, waiting for gifts to be laid under its ornaments? For some of us, decorating a Christmas tree is one of our favourite things to do during the holiday season to create that lovely impression. For others it is a bit of an onerous task that they dread. Which is a shame so if you are not sure how to decorate your Christmas tree or where to start, then read on!

Setting up

There are many possibilities when it comes to decorating your tree and you can easily get creative in the process!

Do you get a real tree, or an artificial one? Getting a real tree means that your house will really smell like Christmas, making it easier for Santa to find your house. However, this also means that you will have to get a new tree every year and spend extra time to find the right one.

On the other hand, an artificial tree can come with built in lights and can be reused a few years in a row, even if it’s not ‘the real deal’. There's no right or wrong answer just what's right for you.

It’s a good idea to set up a budget beforehand, take into account the time it will take for the whole decorating process and ensure that everything is safe during and after you decorate it. Also, look around your house and decide where it’s best to set up your Christmas tree. Don't forget to leave room not just for presents but think about where you'll be giving them out if that's part of your Christmas day tradition.

A good tip is to set up the tree the day before the decorating day, no matter what type of tree you go for. You will give the branches time to settle and be able to observe whether the tree’s structure is sound and if the stand supports it. You should also make sure all the lights are working before you stringing them all up!

Theme

The most important stage in a project is planning, and this is no different when it comes to decorating the Christmas tree. Try and visualize the way you want the tree to look in the end. Spend some time to narrow down your choices and pick an overall colour scheme that you like. It will help you maintain a consistent design for the tree and throughout the house and ensures you won’t end up buying things you don’t even need or like.

Toy Soldier OrnamentsFor a traditional look, go for Christmassy colours, such as red, gold and green. If you’re feeling more minimalistic and contemporary, try going for a maximum of 2 or 3 colours, for example white and silver. Of course, you can take artistic freedom and mix whichever colours you like! Brown, blue, purple and orange are a few other popular choices.

Whatever you choose obviously impacts your hanging decorations choices. You could have a very specific them like our Nutcracker ballet soldier ornaments or just generally want to choose plain baubles for a clean contemporary look or ones with imagery for a traditional or victorian theme.

 

Lights

Do this first! Once you have your lights up on the tree, it makes it much easier to hang the rest of the decorations, compared to doing it the other way around. It’s also a good idea to wind them while they are lit up, so you can see what they look like as you go.

LED Star Tree TopperUsually, tree lights come in two wire strands colours: white and green. Choose the one that matches your tree, in order for it to be less visible. There’s also a variety of colours to go for, such as cool white lights, warm white and multi-coloured ones. Choose the ones that match your theme and also don’t be afraid to mix them! You can even add a lit up tree topper like this stylish star design.

Many people have their own techniques when it comes to stringing the lights. Our best suggestion is to start from the bottom of the tree, winding them around the inside of it working your way up. After reaching the top, wind the lights around the outer branches while going down. Voila!

Garland and Tinsel

These come in many forms, from plain to fancy and from monochrome to multi-coloured and if you watched last years BBC Inside the Factory program you'll know that much of the tinsel sold in the UK comes from a single factory in Wales.

TinselIt’s good practice to add them from the top to the bottom, to avoid branches bulging between tightly secured strands. Thin, beaded garlands look best hung from branch to branch; thicker paper, ribbon, or foil garlands look best wrapped loosely around the entire tree. Ribbon, beaded, or metallic garland all look great. Pick the one that goes best with your theme.

Some people prefer the easy way and just cascade them over the top of the tree, rather than wrapping them around and around looking for that even and balanced look. If done right, this can come outlooking pretty and it saves a lot of time. However, keep in mind that it best works with simple beaded garlands.

Ornaments

The next step in decorating a Christmas tree is to hang your Christmas ornaments. Place your favourites first, in key positions across the tree in order to showcase them. In order to give it depth, hang the bigger ones closer to the centre of the tree and the smaller ones towards the outside. Ornaments positioned towards the centre of the tree add a feeling of depth and give a more interesting display.

BaublesMake sure you space your ornaments evenly around the tree, taking into account weight distribution and going for a balanced look. Be sure to balance ornaments by size too, not just colour. You don’t want one side of your tree to end up with all large or small ornaments. Don't hang ornaments on the tips of branches as it makes them droop which breaks youe even look and in a worst case scenario they will fall off.

It’s all fairly straightforward when you follow this simple rule: add lights first, then garlands and tinsel and, finally, your tree decorations. Just remember to take a step back every once in a while, so you can get a better perspective and see your progress. And now your Christmas tree is almost done: all there is left to do is to decorate the tip with a Christmas tree topper and the base with Santa’s gifts! Have fun!

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17th November 2017

The Top Toys to Look out for This Christmas

The Top Toys to Look out for This Christmas

The world of toys is often changing, meaning that there are always new and exciting things for you and your children to discover, but sometimes it can be tough to keep track of everything that’s out there. With that in mind, and with Christmas now hard on our heels, we’ve put together a few of our recommendations for toys that we think are going to be big this year and, more importantly, that we think would make some fantastic gifts for some special people.

Who Doesn't Love a Bit of LEGO®?

LEGO City Police Station

For budding builders, architects and creators, there’s nothing quite like a bit of LEGO® for Christmas, right? With that in mind, here’s a few of the LEGO sets that we think are worth keeping an eye out this year.

If you know of someone whose LEGO collection has become rife with crime, the LEGO City Police Station may just do the trick to help keep those troublesome minifigures at bay. This cool set features 894 pieces to get your head around, including 7 minifigures, a police helicopter, crook’s truck, pursuit car and a dog, as well as the station itself. This comprehensive set is sure to keep all that LEGO crime at bay, and give them something exciting to build.

LEGO BB-8 Image

Meanwhile, for a break from the chilly weather, LEGO Friends has you covered, with the Sunshine Catamaran set. If you know someone who's longing for a little snow over the Christmas period, though, look no further than the LEGO Friends Snow Resort Ice Rink. As with all LEGO, there’s tons of fun to be had building these great sets, and then loads more when they finally get to play with what they’ve built!

We're all very excited about the LEGO Star Wars BB-8, which comes with a wheel activate rotating head! The set comes with more than 1,100 pieces, and so is ideal for any Star Wars fans  who are looking for a good LEGO challenge to get stuck into!

And for those who truly love to just come up with their own designs, you really can’t go wrong with a LEGO Creative Builder Box. Each box includes 502 pieces in a rainbow of colours, including pieces for windows and doors—just add imagination!

Great Games

Toilet TroubleNothing beats a good game at Christmas time; they bring people together and give us something silly to laugh about, so here are a few games to keep an eye out for.

For those who are feeling bold, this year’s big, hit game is tipped to be Toilet Trouble: a laugh out loud, suspense-filled game that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Simply spin the toilet roll, flush the handle, and cross your fingers that the toilet doesn’t spray you with water! This game is bound to give you a few giggles, some fun memories, and hopefully not leave you feeling too flushed (sorry, we couldn’t resist).

Pie Face Sky High Image

If splatting whipped cream in the faces of your nearest and dearest is something you discovered that you enjoyed doing when Pie Face was released a couple of years ago, then you’ll be pleased to hear about the brand new Pie Face Sky High game. This ingenious game combines all the fun of Pie Face with a cool fairground style “test your strength” element. Are you strong enough to pie your opponent in the face? Finding out certainly sounds like a good use of Christmas Day to us!

Some other games worth looking out for this festive season include Giggle Wiggle and Beat the Parents. We also think that Laser X is sure to be a hit with the whole family, as this game of laser tag has a range of up to 60m, and really does beat dozing off in an armchair after Christmas dinner!

Fun with Craft and Science

Cra-Z-Slimy Creations KitFor those with enquiring minds, a creative streak, and those that simply have a healthy appreciation for slime, nothing quite beats a good craft or science toy. In fact toys in this range are often among our best-selling, and it’s easy to see why!

This year slime really is all the rage, with gooey, slimy toys of all varieties oozing out of the woodwork. If your child is a fan of this latest craze, then we have a couple of great suggestions to make their Christmas just that bit extra special, and maybe just a little messy too. The Cra-Z-Slimy Creations kit allows kids to make their own slime, which is bound to go down well. For even more adventures in the creative-science of slime, we suggest the Galt Slime Lab, which includes 7 fun experiments, including making bouncing putty and noise putty, as well as creating your own glow in the dark alien!

You may have also heard of Oonies this year, but are still mystified as to what exactly these are. The Oonies Balloon Inflation Station Starter Pack comes with everything your child needs to start creating just about anything they can imagine out of Oonies. Simply inflate these amazing little plastic balloons, and then watch as they stick together to form animals, flowers, and anything else your child would like to craft! This fun and colourful toy offers something just a little bit different, so it’s little wonder that they’ve become something of an instant hit!

Magformers WOW Image

If you’re looking for something creative that’s suitable for children as young as 3, we highly recommend the Magformers WOW Set. This fun set includes 16 magnetic shapes, along with wheel bases, which can be fitted together to construct a colourful mini vehicle. Magformers WOW encourages developing minds to think about the shapes that will fit together, to be creative, and rewards with a fantastic little vehicle at the end, which can be built and re-built time and time again.

Playing with Imagination

Playhouse Panda ImageIf your child is a fan of Enchantimals, the TV show, then we think you probably can’t go far wrong with the Enchantimals Panda Playhouse Set, which comes with a Prue Panda doll, and Nari Panda friend. This is a fantastic set for fostering imagination and for your child to create stories around their favourite Enchantimals dolls as they play in the Panda Playhouse. Prue Panda’s many friends are currently also hanging out in our Toys Department, in case you’re worried about her getting lonely in her Playhouse.

The PJ Masks Head Quarters is another fantastic playset that offers your child a whole host of imaginative possibilities to recreate favourite scenes from the PJ Masks show, and invent new and daring stories altogether. It’s also spectacularly fun to push Cat Boy’s little car down the HQ slide again and again!

Paw Patrol Weebles Image

As far as toys from popular TV shows goes, the Paw Patrol Weebles take some beating. Children can enjoy watching their favourite pups sway to and fro, always popping back up for more fun. These wobbly little friends have been tumbling off our shelves at an amazing rate already. Sadly, while his friends have been easily finding their new homes, poor Marshall is still very much looking for a loving home this Christmas. If you happen to know someone that particularly loves rescue pups, we think Marshall would make a lovely, wobbly companion for them.

Stretch Armstrong Image

Other fun, imaginative toys that are set to be very popular with kids this Christmas include the Nerf Nitro Longshot Smash Car Blasting Playset, which launches small foam cars, and is perfect for creating your own miniature stunts! And the Playmobil Forest Ranger’s House set looks like tons of fun, with lots of little animal figures that come with the house, too.

We’re also very pleased to see the return of Stretch Armstrong (and his other stretchy friends), who is primed and ready to be pulled and stretched in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways. We can only imagine it’s taken Stretch Armstrong 30+ years to recover from all that previous stretching, but he’s finally ready for another outing. Brave guy indeed!

Keel Toys Reindeer With Scarf

If cute and fluffy is more your child's thing then take a look at our soft (or plush as they are known in the trade) toys. Both Keel Toys and TY UK produce huggable, safe and great quality soft toys with great ranges of animals real and imagined to choose from. Our number one bestseller are the collectible Keel Mini Motsu range at only £4.99 each and there are some adorable winter themed toys this year too like reindeer and penguins.

This Year's "Must-Have" Toys

LOL Surprise Fizz Charm ImageThis time last year the newly released Hatchimals were taking Christmas by storm, and sure enough a new must-have Christmas hit has emerged for 2017. Chances are your child has been asking Father Christmas for L.O.L. Surprise by now, and if you’re still not entirely sure what on Earth that is, we’re here to help!

There are a few different types of L.O.L. Surprise to get your head around, starting with the Charm Fizz Surprise. This fun treat features a dissolvable ball which reveals a charm inside – simply drop it into some water and watch it fizz! These charms make fantastic little accessories to go with the L.O.L. Surprise Dolls too.

Each L.O.L. Surprise Doll pack, and the slightly smaller L.O.L. Surprise Lil’ Sisters and Pets packs, feature multiple layers to unwrap, each containing an accessory or sticker to go with the mini-doll that’s patiently waiting to be discovered at the centre of the pack (it’s a bit like pass the parcel, but your child gets to keep all the goodies inside).

LOL Surprise Lil' Sisters ImageThere’s tonnes here for kids to collect, and lots of great surprises to uncover, so it’s little wonder that L.O.L. Surprise is such a hit! So much of a hit, in fact, that these cute surprise toys have been selling out extremely quickly, nationwide. We're expecting plenty more stock in the New Year, but we're sure an I.O.U. from Father Christmas will still brighten your child's day.

And if your little one is still desperate to crack open their very own Hatchimal, we just so happen to have a few eagerly incubating in our Toy Department, along with the new Hatchimals Colleggtibles—there are worse things to have nesting in your Christmas tree, after all!

For the Young at Heart

Cards Against Humanity ImageAnd yes, we also have toys to keep the biggest kids among us amused over Christmas too. If you know someone who’s inner child is very much alive and well, we’d suggest having a look at the Science Museum Virtual Reality Goggles and the LED Heliball, which will no doubt keep them occupied on Christmas Day. We also have a fantastic selection of Christmas themed Gibsons and Ravensburger jigsaws (from 500-3000 pieces) to choose from, for those that love puzzling. And finally, for those looking for something just a little despicable to play, we have Cards Against Humanity—certainly not one for any children under 17, or for the faint of heart.

These are just a few of the fabulous goodies we have available in store, so if you’re looking for additional inspiration why not click here for a browse, or pop into our Toy Department for a little extra help finding that perfect toy to make someone’s Christmas wonderful. Happy hunting for that perfect gift, and a Merry Christmas from all of us at Boswells!

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23rd October 2017

Celebrating Bonfire Night in and Around Oxford 2017

Celebrating Bonfire Night in and Around Oxford 2017

Gunpowder Plotters ImageRemember, remember the 5th of November, or so the saying traditionally goes. It was, of course, on this infamous date in 1605 that a group of 13 gunpowder plotters attempted to bring both King and parliament to an explosive end with 36 barrels of hidden gunpowder. Guy Fawkes, the most remembered of the plotters—not, in fact, the leader of the conspirators but rather the man caught holding the lantern in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament—will be burned in effigy up and down the country in the coming days to mark the anniversary of the thwarting of the plot, as has become the custom.

Those enjoying the current BBC series Gunpowder will understand that a with many of our traditions the reality was somewhat more gruesome and serious than our current celebrations which as well as bonfires aplenty include fireworks, hot dogs, burgers, and even funfairs to accompany the burning of "the Guy." So yep, 410 years on from Guy Fawkes’ arrest the act of remembering gunpowder, treason and plot is far from being “forgot,” and has grown into a full scale annual tradition. 

To mark this occasion, and to help you make the most of Guy Fawkes Night, we’ve gathered up a list of upcoming bonfire and firework events in and around Oxford, and since the 5th falls on a weekend this year there's lots of great weekend events to get out and enjoy!

Fireworks Image

3rd November

22nd Oxford Sea Scouts Firework Display—OX4 4BJ (Fundraising firework display, BBQ, 5pm).
 
Bonfire Night at the Plough, Wolvercote—OX2 8BD (Fireworks and BBQ, 3pm).
 
Botley School Fireworks, Oxford—OX2 9JZ (Fireworks and BBQ, 6pm).
 
Hanborough Musical Fireworks—The Pavillion, OX29 8JG (Fireworks to music, refreshments and funfair, 6pm).
https://www.facebook.com/events/342282566213592/
 
Kidlington Fireworks Display—Stratfield Brake Recreation Ground, Kidlington (Fireworks and refreshments, 6pm).
http://kidlington-pc.gov.uk/
 
Old Swan and Minster Mill Bonfire and Fun Weekend, Witney—(Bonfire, fireworks and hog roast, 6pm).
http://www.oldswanminstermill.co.uk/events-diary
 

4th November

Barracks Lane Community Garden Bonfire Afternoon, Oxford—OX4 2AP (Music and bonfire, 12-4pm).

http://www.barrackslanegarden.org.uk/events_item.php?id=1077

Bicester Round Table Firework Display and Bonfire—Pingle Field (Fireworks, fairground and refreshments and music, 6pm).
https://www.facebook.com/events/718440965003182/
 

Marsh Baldon Green Fireworks Display—The Green, Marsh Baldon (Bonfire, fireworks and refreshments. 6:30pm).
http://www.sevenstarsonthegreen.co.uk/?events=baldons-bonfire-night

Oxford Round Table Fireworks Display—South Park (50th annual charity fireworks display, live music, refreshments and funfair, gates open 4:30pm, fireworks 6:45 followed by bonfire). Using KimBolton fireworks the same company we sell in store.
http://oxfordfireworks.co.uk/the_event.php

Standlake Cokethorpe Sea Scouts Annual Firework Spectacular, Witney— Standlake Village Hall (Fireworks, bonfire, BBQ and music, 6pm).
https://www.jackfm.co.uk/oxfordshire/round-here/event/8654/

5th November

Dorchester on Thames Village Firework Display—Recreation Ground, Dorchester on Thames (5:30pm).

https://www.dorchester-on-thames.co.uk/posts/event/village-firework-display/

Fireworks Night & Bonfire, St Michael’s Primary School—Marston, OX3 0EJ (Fireworks, bonfire and refreshments, 5:30pm).
https://www.dailyinfo.co.uk/events/188412/spectacular-bonfire-night-fireworks-display

Witney RFC Bonfire and Fireworks Spectacular—Witney Rugby Club (Fireworks, bonfire and refreshments, bonfire 6pm, fireworks 7pm).
https://www.facebook.com/pg/bonfirefireworkswitney/about/?ref=page_internal

Lantern Image

We also recommend taking a November trip to The Ashmolean Museum where, in the basement, you will find the lantern purported to be the very one Guy Fawkes had with him in the cellars of Parliament on November 5th 1605.

If you know of any other firework or bonfire events taking place nearby we’d love to hear from you. You can email us at web@boswellsltd.com or contact us via facebook or twitter.

Image copyright of Ben Sutherland.

We also sell a range of KimBolton fireworks in store—which are also available through the click and collect option on our website—so if you’re planning your own display, big or small, we can help you to make this bonfire night something a bit special. If you’re not sure what kind of fireworks you need you can always pop in to store to talk to one of the members of staff on our fireworks desk (near the Cornmarket entrance) who will be happy to help.

So wrap up warm, get to a display nice and early for the perfect view, and remember, remember the 5th of November in sparkly, spectacular style!

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28th September 2017

Hurrah for the 10 Oldest Brands at Boswells!

Hurrah for the 10 Oldest Brands at Boswells!

For a company or a brand to survive for centuries is no easy task at all, and, we think, worthy of a little recognition. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the 10 oldest labels you can currently find here at Boswells, all of which are well over 150 years old (and yes, we did include ourselves!).

10. Deyongs 1846

Deyongs Duvet Set Image

The youngest entry on this list is a “sprightly” 171 years old. This long established company has a certain knack for coming up with exciting and modern designs, so it’s fair to say that Deyongs is looking pretty good for its age.

The company has been producing gorgeous looking textiles for home furnishings since 1846, and today they cater to everything from city to country, bed linens to bath towels. Rather impressively, Deyongs have spent their long history seeking out the best suppliers so that they can create fantastic products at very good prices. And, as luck would have it, the latest Deyongs lines have just arrived in our Linens Department!

9. Kilner 1842

Kilner Double Drink Dispenser ImgaeIn 1842, the year that income tax was first introduced and the word “dinosaur” was created, John Kilner began his glass bottle and jar company. 175 years later, income tax is still going strong, dinosaurs still fascinate us, and we still use Kilner bottles and jars.

Around 1900 the company released the first vacuum sealed jar, which introduced an innovative new means of preserving and pickling food. It was an invention so useful that you may very likely have one of these ingenious objects sitting in your kitchen right now.

Nowadays Kilner produce a great number of really useful, and suitably stylish, glass bottles and jars, many of which can be found in our Cookshop. We particularly love the Drink Dispenser and handled jar glasses!

8. Taylor’s Eye Witness 1838

Taylor's Eye Witness Cheese Knives ImageIn 1838 John Taylor founded Taylor’s Eye Witness as a designer and manufacturer of knives and scissors based in Sheffield…and they’re still there to this day.

As you might imagine, close to 200 years of Taylor’s Eye Witness perfecting their production technique and knowledge has led to an impressive level of craftmanship, and some truly sleek looking designs too.

Of course Taylor’s Eye Witness knives aren’t simply for show, as well as looking very stylish many of these utensils are extremely practical, featuring hardened blades with anti-bacterial coating too. Sounds like a win-win to us! 

7. Limes Farm 1826

Limes Farm Produce ImageA mere 25 miles from Boswells, Limes Farm has been cultivating organic produce using traditional methods for the last 191 years. The farm has remained in the same family for the whole of its lifespan, and as well as rearing livestock, the farm grows and makes its own range of produce. More recently, Limes Farm have opened their own farm shop and tea room, and supply us with some of their fantastic produce too!

With a keen interest in letting nature take the lead, Limes Farm focuses on producing high quality, natural harvests. And very tasty the results are too! A trip to our Tea Room will give you the opportunity to try some of Limes Farm's lovely chutney's and jams.

6. Colgate 1806

Colgate Mouthwash Image

This household name has been around for longer than you might think. Colgate had its beginnings in New York in the early 19th century, originally specialising in starch, soap and candles and is the only entry on this list not to have originated in the UK. In 1873 the company introduced its first toothpaste—which it sold in jars—and the rest, as they say, is history.

Colgate has become something of a giant, selling in more than 200 countries worldwide, with the brand being underpinned by over 2 centuries of accumulated expertise. And so, of course, you can find a selection of Colgate’s time-honoured dental care products to choose from in our Pharmacy!

5. Kent 1777

Kent Shaving Set ImageThe 5 oldest brands on this list all emerged from the 18th Century, that’s older than either electricity or the steam engine!

Number 5 on our list is Kent brushes, who have been around since the latter half of the 18th century. If that isn’t impressive enough on its own, the company have also been Royal Warrant holders for the last nine, consecutive, British monarchs! It’s fair to say, then, that Kent brushes have maintained a very high level of quality through the years, and remain fit for a king or queen.

Kent is still a family owned business, even after all of this time, and continues to manufacture it’s brushes right here in the UK. You can find a brilliant variety of Kent’s fantastic hair brushes and shaving brushes in our Cosmetics Department!

4. Woods of Windsor 1770

Woods of Windsor Image

Woods of Windsor began its life as an 18th century apothecary, Woods Pharmacy, catering to the people of Windsor, as well as to royalty.

The current Woods of Windsor ranges are based on recipes that date back to the original pharmacy, which has stood on the spot since 1770. This means that many of Woods of Windsor’s products bring traditional fragrances into the present day…it’s about as close to sniffing the past as you’re likely to get…

Woods of Windsor’s fabulous room scents and bath and body treats can be found enjoying pride of place in our Cosmetics Department, and lovely gifts they make too!

3. Spode 1767

Spode Morris & Co. Jug ImageSpode is the 3rd oldest brand on our list, celebrating its 250th birthday this year. Spode have been recognised as innovators in the pottery business since the company was first founded in Stoke on Trent 1767. The company is responsible for the invention of bone china, originally named Stoke china, which was first developed by William Spode II in the early 19th century. Around this time Spode also became potters to The Prince Regent.

Spode remained a family owned business until 1966, and is now part of the equally celebrated Portmerion group. Needless to say, Spode china is still beautifully designed, crafted and decorated, with many of their traditional designs still on the market today. In our Gift Department you may just find a rather special collection of Spode wares featuring Morris & Co. designs!

2. Boswell & Co. 1738

Boswells 1959 ImageAh yes, 1738, we remember it like it was yesterday… Ok, well maybe not quite, but we’d like to think that Francis Boswell would be proud to see his business still alive and well at the right old age of 279.

Francis Boswell opened his portmanteau and luggage shop at 50 Cornmarket Street, Oxford in 1738 (approximately where Clarks Shoes now stands), decades before Captain Cook's exploration of the Southern Hemisphere, and 17 years before Dr Johnson's dictionary was first published…we really have been around for a very long time indeed!

The company remained in the Boswell family until 1890, when it passed to Arthur Pearson, who owned the Oxford Drug Company at 31 Cornmarket Street (which is now the Cornmarket entrance to the store).

In 1929 Boswells moved to Broad Street, into brand new, purpose built premises, and there you’ll find us today!

Boswells remains an independent, family owned store to this day, and, according to Russell Ash’s Top 10 of Britain, we’re also the second oldest established department store in the UK! Yes, Boswells has had the very great pleasure of serving generations of Oxonians, and we certainly look forward to being here for many many more generations to come!

1. Twinings 1706

Twinings Tea Room Image

We’re very proud to present a company even older than Boswells in our top spot! In fact, Twinings first began selling tea on London’s famous Strand a year before England, Scotland and Wales joined to form Great Britain!

Although it seems difficult to now think of a time when tea was not a common drink, it was still fairly new to the country at that time, and Thomas Twining was something of a pioneer of his trade. Soon, Twinings became extremely popular and successful, gaining a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria herself in 1837.

Twinings continues to make excellent blends of tea, which are enjoyed the world over—you’ll even find them in our very own 1738 Tea Room. A word of caution though: you may find yourself struggling to decide between the Elderflower and Apple Darjeeling and the Nutty Chocolate Tea, or maybe even the Rosy Fig White Tea. Oh it’s just so hard to choose!

A wander around Boswells’ departments will also reveal plenty of other brands of 100 years vintage, or more, such as Steiff (1880), Widdop Bingham (1883) and Mason Pearson (1885). These fantastic brands give us something superb to share with our predecessors, and to pass onto the next generation—something wonderfully continuous. So hurrah for these long enduring brands, and all the ages of people that they’ve delighted! Long may they continue!

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19th September 2017

Designing a Living Room for the Whole Family

Designing a Living Room for the Whole Family

The living room, along with the kitchen, is at the epicentre of family life - a place to sit with friends, relatives and loved ones and enjoy relaxing in comfort. However, with conflicting opinions at home and a vast range of styles out there, it can be difficult to design a living room that caters to everyone’s tastes. With that in mind, in today’s article from our friends at Tiles Direct, we’ll be providing you with our essential living room ideas - so you can get inspired and excited about designing a space for the whole family.

Use a neutral base palette with colourful accents

Choosing the ‘right’ colours is perhaps the most difficult aspect of any living room renovation, given that every individual will have their own preference. Whether you opt for subdued and minimal or bold and bright, your colour choices are key to making the room look great and will provide the backdrop for colourful features and accessories.

Rolling out a softer palette can allow you to lay a neutral foundation which you can build upon with accents. Try starting with classic neutral colours like whites, greys and wooden browns to add aesthetic appeal and complement other tones. Keep these colours in mind when choosing your furniture, and opt for lighter or wood-effect wall and floor tiles to set the scene - before introducing other colours for a splash of personality

Finesse your furniture

Undoubtedly the most important feature of any family living room, the sofa is the place to relax and unwind, so it’s important you hit the nail on the head when you pick one for your family living room. Size will matter, as you’ll need a sofa that’s practical for your family’s needs - but you should also consider the size of your living room. You’ll want to avoid overcrowding the space you have and make sure your sofa fits in with other items of furniture. Once you’ve locked down the ideal size, select a style that reflects your room’s overall aesthetic and top it off with comfortable cushions and soft throws to add appeal.

Champion functionality

Shelving

Whether you’re storing away important files or hanging up unused utensils, storage is a key part of any functioning family home - and your living room is no exception. Living room storage is a necessity when you’re dealing with an array of gaming controllers, TV remotes and DVDs - so avoid the headache of unnecessary clutter by using effective storage. Using multi-functional furniture could be one way forward, with foot stools and pouffes doubling up as storage spaces for unsightly items.

Coffee tables are also exceptionally handy for hosting a stack of shared magazines and keeping your drinks at hand. If you have the space, use a bookcase to store away books and DVDs so they’re at hand when you want to indulge. They can also be used as shelves if you want to show off a family photo or decorate with plants and other accessories.

Make it homely

Personal touches in your living room

Injecting a sense of personality is the final step in designing a lovable living room - so bring out your individuality and make the space feel like your own. Add family photo frames or prop up a much-loved piece of art to make the area feel inviting, rather than giving off a showroom aesthetic. Bring your family memories close with home accessories like trinkets that highlight your lives and personalities to round off the design, and make the room a warm, inviting and recognisable place for all of the family to relax in.

Whether your family style swings towards rustic or ultra-modern, striking the perfect balance is never an easy task in a house full of opinions. But making the space functional and appealing for all of the family doesn’t have to be a chore, so follow our straightforward tips and design a living room that will be loved by family and guests alike.

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5th August 2017

5 Top Tips for Caring for Your Floors

5 Top Tips for Caring for Your Floors

Our friends over at Posh Flooring.co.uk the online arm of Flooring Republic know everything there is to know about flooring and are sharing their top tips to keep your new floor in tiptop shape.

From rustic wooden floor to luxurious cream carpets, the style of flooring you choose will set off the overall design of an interior, so it’s worth exploring your options first. A high-quality floor will contribute to the first-class aesthetic of your home, but while many of us dream of creating a pristine show home finish in our home, ensuring that the floor remains in its original state can often prove to be a challenge.

With high levels of footfall and inevitable spills and stains wearing away the appearance of your floors, maintaining its original shine won’t be the easiest of tasks - and with so many products and methods to choose between, it can be hard to know what’s the best way to care for your flooring. That’s why today, we’ll be bringing you a handful of ways in which you can show your floors some TLC. So, whether it’s carpet, laminate or solid hardwood flooring, with our helpful guide, you’ll be able to ensure that your floor remains in first-class for as long as possible.

1. Protect the polish on your wooden floors 

Floor with rugWhether you’ve recently moved into rented accommodation or you’re looking for ways to ensure that your home’s wooden floors retain their shine, using furnishings to prevent damage to your floors is one of the simplest ways to extend the lifetime of your wooden flooring. Laying down a thick rug in busy spaces will not only add to the aesthetic of the interior, but it will also help to protect your engineered wooden floors from spills and stains - and with high levels of footfall leading the varnish to wear away over time, reducing the need for refinishing the floors with this simple step could be worthwhile in the long-term.

2. Adopt a ‘no shoes indoors’ policy

From carpet to solid hardwood, there’s nothing more annoying than treading dirt onto your floor, and with research revealing that the average pair of outdoor shoes carry approximately 421,000 bacteria, it’s easy to see why so many of us are employing a ‘no shoes’ policy for indoor spaces. The residue that remains on the bottoms of shoes will mean that, upon entering the house, you and your guests are likely to end up carrying dirt and debris into your home too, which could potentially result in everything from mud-stained carpets to scratched wooden floors. So, if you’re keen to save cleaning time and money, it’s worth considering asking guests to leave their shoes at the door.

3. Show your pets some TLC

Pets & Floors

As any animal lover will tell you, pets are just as much part of the family as anyone else, but four-legged friends come with their own challenges when it comes to cleaning your home. From molting and bringing in dirt to scratches and accidents, protecting your floors from long-term damage will unsurprisingly be more difficult in pet-friendly homes. However, by drying off wet and dirty paws by placing doormats at every entrance - as well as regularly brushing your pet’s coat - you can minimise the amount of time that you’ll need to spend cleaning up. Trimming your dog’s nails on a regular basis is likely to reduce the risk of them scratching any wooden floors too, so you can enjoy the long-lasting gleam that comes with these floors for significantly longer.

4. Choose the best cleaning products

Whether it’s a carpet or solid wood floor, it’s crucial that you choose the most suitable cleaning products for the job – and if your flooring is varnished, you’ll want to choose a product that can protect this too. Making smart choices when it comes to choosing your household cleaners is more likely to save you money in the long run – and by opting for the best solutions for your floors, you can ensure they stay clean and protected for many years to come.

5. Cover the bottom of furniture

While tracking toxins and debris into your floors is likely to damage the overall finish, the regular movement of sharp table legs and chairs in a domestic home could also mean that you end up with some unsightly dents and marks underfoot. So, whether you’ve opted for tiles or engineered wood, make sure that you minimise the likelihood of scratching the surface of your floors by applying felt pads to the underside of your furniture.

From minimising wear by incorporating rugs and mats into your interior design to opting for natural alternatives in your cleaning routine, there’s no shortage of ways in which you can extend the lifetime of your floors - and by following our top 5 tips for floor care, you could enjoy that freshly laid finish for years to come.

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7th July 2017

10 Amazing Things to See and Do in Oxford This Summer

10 Amazing Things to See and Do in Oxford This Summer

Summer is most definitely here! Whether you’re visiting Oxford for the first time, or looking for ideas to keep your guests entertained this Summer, here are a few of the top things to see and do in Oxford.

Live Music and Theatre                                                  Punting

Quirky Oxford                                                                 Literary Oxford

Pubs, Glorious Pubs                                                      Historic Oxford

Dreaming Spires and Side Streets                                 Museums

Parks and Meadows                                                       The University of Oxford

10. Live Music and Theatre

Holywell Music Room ImageHolywell Music Room, Holywell Street

There’s always something great going on in Oxford, whatever kind of entertainment you’re into. The city has a wide variety of brilliant live music to keep you happy, whether it’s classical music at Holywell Music Room or rock at the O2 Academy. You can usually find fantastic live music at The Town Hall, The Bullingdon on Cowley Road and The Half Moon on St Clements Street too.

There are also some fantastic plays and musicals to get stuck into at The New Theatre and Oxford Playhouse, all year round. Be sure to catch a little Shakespeare as well, with outdoor plays at the Castle, Twelfth Night at Oxford Playhouse and a very special part Shakespeare/part Crystal Maze rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream being put on especially by The Creation Theatre this Summer.

Keep your eyes peeled for performances held by The University of Oxford, too, as it can be a brilliant way to see some great talent and a few extra colleges at the same time!

9. Quirky Oxford

The Headington Shark ImageThe Headington Shark

While the museums and spires are must-see attractions, with good reason, no visit to Oxford would be quite complete without experiencing a few of our fair city’s little idiosyncrasies.

Those with an interest in appreciating the slightly odd would do well venture up to Headington Shops, where, if you’re paying close attention, you may just spot a gigantic shark tail poking out from the roof of someone’s home, fin and all. What can we say, it’s something of an Oxford icon. 

Cowley Road Carnival Image

   Cowley Road Carnival, 2017

Amongst the fabulous, boutiquey shops of The Covered Market you may discover an unusual tourist attraction dangling in the window of M. Feller, Son & Daughter…none other than the world’s oldest ham. This year the ham will celebrate its 115th year, having spent its younger days touring North America. You may, understandably, think we’re pulling your leg, so why not go and see for yourself!

And finally, Oxford has many weird and wonderful traditions and events, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for what’s on. May Morning, Cowley Road Carnival and St Giles Fair are just a few of our favourites. We also recommend keeping your eyes peeled for the occasional unicyclist or Morris dancer jingling about town, and, from time to time, students covered in confetti and cream.

8. Pubs, Glorious Pubs

The Turf Tavern ImageThe Turf Tavern

There’s a reason why Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse spent much of his time sampling the pubs in this part of the world—it’s that we have so many fantastic ones to choose from. In fact, many of Oxford’s pubs are so iconic, and so historic, that they've have become tourist attractions in their own right.

If you can find it, tucked down its little passageway, a trip to The Turf Tavern is a must. The pub dates back to the 14th century, and has welcomed many a famous face through its doors over its long history, including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Bill Clinton and Stephen Hawking. Fans of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien will find happy refuge in The Eagle and Child on St Giles, where these authors would regularly meet to discuss their writing. We also recommend popping into The Chequers on The High Street, which operated as both an inn and a zoo during the 18th Century.

7. Dreaming Spires and Pretty Side Streets

Elephant Gargoyle Holywell Street ImageOxford Martin School

As a city that’s famed for its dreaming spires, impressive sandstone buildings and little winding back streets, it’s fair to say that Oxford’s overall architecture and layout is massively appealing to visitors from far and wide. While there are so many things to see here, it can often be worth just having a wander, and seeing where your feet take you—you may well discover something interesting that you never knew was there!

A stroll down Magpie Lane, for example, will take you to sleepy Merton Street, just slightly away from the usual bustle of the city. On Merton Street, you’ll discover one of Oxford’s most picturesque, cobbled streets, and more than likely find it hard to resist taking a few photos.

Merton Street Image

Merton Street

If you’ve been off enjoying the wonderful Hertford Bridge (Bridge of Sighs), why not duck under the bridge and along New College Passage, just behind it? The street meanders between the colleges, eventually leading you out to St Edmund Hall and onto The High Street.

We also recommend ambling down Holywell Street, which still features picturesque gas style lampposts and some truly gorgeous old buildings on either side of the street. If it’s dreaming spires you crave, though, these are best enjoyed from the top of South Park, where you can get the perfect view of the entire city while sitting in the sun.

6. Parks and Meadows

Christ Church Meadow ImageView of Christ Church College from Christ Church Meadow

As famous as Oxford is for its colleges and spires, it’s also an incredibly leafy city, with parks and meadows never far from reach. Christ Church Meadow and University Parks prove popular choices with visitors and locals alike, and who can blame them? These green spots boast gorgeous river walks and the kind of tranquillity you find yourself dreaming of when trying to squeeze down busy Cornmarket Street on a Summer’s day. 

South Park Image
    South Park

To get away from the crowds for a bit, we suggest taking a trip to Port Meadow. This wide-open expanse is both beautiful and quiet, and if you wander as far as Wolvercote, you may just discover a couple of Oxford’s finest pubs—The Perch and The Trout.

If you’re right in the city centre and just looking for somewhere lovely to stop and eat a sandwich or read a book, though, you’ll find the perfect spot in the tiny, but well hidden, Wellington Square, just off Little Clarendon Street. Accross town, East Oxford's South Park boasts some of the most scenic views in the city. 

5. PuntingPunting Magdalen Bridge ImagePunts at Magdalen Bridge Boat House

There’s nothing quite like drifting down river on a gorgeous Summer's day. If the weather is feeling kind, hiring a punt can be a fantastic way to lazily while-away some of the day while taking in Oxford’s beauty.

For those who are worried about going in circles, punting into other objects, or falling off, you can hire someone to steer you along. And, for those not fond of being on the water, there’s no need to miss out. Simply find a nice spot along the river and enjoy the view…which may or may not include other punters toppling into the water.

For maximum punting fun, pack a picnic, or punt along to The Victoria Arms in Old Marston, which sits along on the River Cherwell and features one of Oxford’s finest beer gardens.

4. Literary Oxford

 Alice's Shop ImageAlice's Shop, St Giles

Book-lovers flock to Oxford each year to get a peek at some of the places that are linked to the great authors and works of literature that have come out of this part of the world (as well as the many filming locations used in adaptations).

For fans of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, a trip to the tiny, but very special, Alice’s Shop on St Aldates will make your day. The shop itself appeared in Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and was once the favourite sweet shop of the Alice that Carroll based his character on.

There are also plenty of Tolkien and Lewis treats to sink your teeth into, such as the colleges where the two men studied and taught (Exeter, Pembroke, Merton, University, Magdalen) and an Ent-like tree in the Botanic Gardens that was apparently Tolkien’s favourite.

The Kilns

C.S Lewis's House, The Kilns

Both authors are buried in Oxford, and for those wanting to take a literary pilgrimage, you’ll find Tolkien resting in Wolvercote cemetery, and Lewis at Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry, just around the corner from his former home.

You can also indulge in Inspector Morse’s Oxford, or see some of the places that were used in the filming of the Harry Potter films—most notably Christ Church College. If you’re lucky, you might just spot the crew for ITV’s Endeavour out and about filming in town.

If you just really love to read, though, you won’t regret taking a trip into Blackwell’s on Broad Street. The shop’s famous Norrington Room, alone, houses more than 160,000 books, and holds a Guinness World Record!

3. Historic Oxford

Martyrs Memorial ImageThe Martyr's Memorial, St Giles

As an Anglo-Saxon settlement, Oxford dates back to at least the 9th century AD, later becoming an important Norman town. In around 1176, The University of Oxford was founded, sealing the city’s fate as a place of interest for the centuries to come. It’s hardly surprising, then, that people flock here from all over the world to discover a piece of old Oxford, and the city really doesn’t disappoint. Around every corner lies some historical treasure, whether it’s a truly old building or a gripping tale.

Oxford Wall Image

Remaining piece of Oxford city walls

To make the most of Oxford’s vast history be sure to take a peek at St Michael’s at the North Gate on Cornmarket Street. This impressive Saxon tower has stood on the spot since 1040, and is the oldest building in the city. A trip to Oxford Castle is also highly recommended. Here, you can climb the original Norman motte, where the wooden castle first stood, and take a tour around the castle and prison with the Oxford Castle Unlocked experience.

The image on the right shows a remaining piece of what we think might be the mediaeval city walls, which is tucked away, out of sight, behind Boswells. As you'd never normally get the chance to see it, we thought we'd give you a little sneak peek!

And finally, connoisseurs of Oxford’s history won’t want to leave the city without having first visited the infamous spot where the Oxford Martyrs were burned as heretics in 1555. A small, cobbled, cross is set into the pavement on Broad Street, just a stones-throw from Boswells, to mark the spot where the execution took place. The memorial to the Martyrs, built in 1843, proudly stands just around the corner, on St Giles.

2. Museums

Museum of Natural History ImageThe Museum of Natural History, Parks Road

As home to Britain’s first public museum, The Ashmolean, it’s little surprise that Oxford has so many fantastic museums. The Ashmolean now sits grandly on Beaumont Street, and houses a vast collection of impressive artefacts and paintings. For something a little extra special though, take a trip along to one of the Ashmolean’s Live Friday evening events. 

Ashmolean Museum Image
The Ashmolean Museum

For the bold and adventurous, a trip to the Pitt Rivers anthropological museum, on Parks Road, is a must. Here you’ll discover more wonderful knick-knacks and artefacts from all over the world than you can imagine…as well as some very impressive shrunken heads! The Museum of Natural History is right next door to the Pitt Rivers, and is home to Oxfordshire’s dinosaurs, amongst other things. Why not pop in and say hi to the T-Rex?

We also highly recommend dropping into The Museum of the History of Science, The Museum of Oxford and the permanent exhibit at The Town Hall (the inside of the building is pretty stunning, it has to be said). And yes, entrance is absolutely free to all of these amazing places, except for some special exhibitions.

1. The University of Oxford

Radcliffe Camera ImageThe Radcliffe Camera and St Mary's Church, Radcliffe Square

It’s probably fair to say that Oxford is most famous for The University, and people come from quite literally all over the world to see it.

The University of Oxford is made up of 38 colleges and 6 permanent private halls, which means that seeing absolutely all of it is no easy task. To make the most of your time here we suggest picking a handful of varied colleges to visit. Not all of the colleges are open to the public, and those that are can vary in terms of times and days that you can wander in, so it’s always a good idea to check ahead. 

Christ Church College Image
   Christ Church College

Here are a few Oxford Colleges that you might want to investigate, to start your quest. Christ Church College proves a popular choice. The college is well known for having been used in the Harry Potter films, and it was Charles I’s home and parliament during the English Civil War. If you’re keen to see colleges with grounds, though, Magdalen College has an impressive 100 acres to explore, including a deer park. While Worcester College’s grounds are perhaps some of the most beautiful around. If you’re keen to see one of the very old colleges, New College is a very good option, with its original cloisters dating back to 1379. And, if you’re looking for something altogether different, Keble college features an impressive Victorian Gothic, red brick design, which is unlike any other college.

But The University of Oxford isn’t just colleges. The Bodleian Library, the Sheldonian Theatre and The Radcliffe Camera are some of the best, and most recognisable sights that Oxford has to offer, and so we highly suggest taking a trip down Broad Street to discover these absolute gems—you’ll definitely need a camera!

And Finally...

Tourist DepartmentAfter all of that exhausting and rewarding sightseeing, why not pop into Boswells on Broad Street for a little souvenir shopping to finish up your day?

As Oxford’s oldest department store, which turns 279 this year, we’ve got lots of history of our own to offer, and plenty of goodies and gifts to choose from to spoil the folks back home with too.

And, if you’re feeling especially worn out, we highly recommend treating yourself to a cup of tea and piece of cake in our 1738 Tea Room!

All Oxford Images: Elena Woolley

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15th June 2017

Fun Ways for Babies and Toddlers to Learn and Play

Fun Ways for Babies and Toddlers to Learn and Play

When we think of play, learning isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, your baby or toddler is actually constantly learning and developing skills through play. Yes, luckily, play is great for your child’s development, and since they will naturally want to play, it simply becomes a question of finding the best toys and types of play to suit your child’s age and development. To that end, we’ve put together a few suggestions to get you started.

Remember that children can develop and learn at different speeds, so don’t worry if your child’s learning doesn’t exactly fit the below timeline, it is intended as a guide only. Every child is different, and that’s the beauty of watching them grow!

Children of this age range will require adult supervision for play. We also advise always checking the age recommendation and any safety information on toys before giving them to your child.

0-1 Months                     4-6 Months                     10-12 Months                  2-3 Years

2-3 Months                     7-9 Months                     1-2 Years

0-1 Months

Baby Image

In the first few months of life your baby is constantly learning, after all, everything is new. As it turns out, your face is the best entertainment out there for an infant! At first, she can only see a few inches (around 9-15”), but filling her vision with the faces of those around her (and pulling some funny faces) is a great way to keep her amused.

Best Years Zebra Rattle

In fact, research shows that your baby can make sense of your face even before she can make out simpler shapes.

Your new arrival is also very good at registering high contrast colours, so try to choose toys that feature strong contrasts. She will also be good at grabbing (this is called the Palmer Grasp Reflex), and so easily grabbable toys will come in handy.

2-3 Months

Family Image

Your child will slowly start to hone his fine motor skills, and begin to develop his muscles. A great way to help your baby with this process is to give him lots of opportunities to interact with objects, such as things that can be dangled above for him to swipe at. 

My First Puppet Image

Mobiles are great for swiping at, but make sure these are removed once he can pull himself up! Repetitive motions will also be especially fun for him at this point.

You could try encouraging your baby to follow a soft toy with his eyes by moving it slowly back and forth above him. These kinds of early play experiences are a great way for your child to develop and practice hand-eye coordination. Colourful, interactive and noise making toys, such as puppets, can also encourage your baby to interact and move in ways that help those all-important muscles along.

4-6 Months

Lamaze Mini Teether Image

As your child gets that little bit older you’ll find she’s also getting all the more curious. Her world is a big place full of new, exciting things to discover and explore. As a result, your baby will use all of her senses to find out about her surroundings, so toys that are textured or that make noises are bound to be all the rage. A textured cloth book is a fun way for her to explore via touch and sight.

Her curiosity will mean that she will want to put everything in her mouth, so try to provide her with lots of nice, safe teethers and other suitable toys that won’t present a choking hazard.

Halilit Cage Bell Image

It’s around this age, also, that your baby will begin to develop an awareness of cause and effect (which is important for communication), and certain types of playing will help her to realise that she has an impact on the world around her. Musical instruments are a fantastic way to introduce her to cause and effect, as she hits and shakes things to create a sound. Encourage her to use both arms for these activities to help her develop her muscles and coordination. 

  

7-9 Months

Baby's First Book Image

Around this stage your child will become mobile, crawling around and, more than likely, getting into everything. At about this age you may also notice that your baby begins to be able to pick things up with his index finger and thumb (the pincer grasp), making his expeditions around the house all the more exciting (and more than likely messy). 

Crawling Baby Image

As your little adventurer boldly wreaks havoc around your home, you might want to consider creating a baby-safe space for him to explore, filled with things to safely drop and bang on.

Your baby may also begin to understand a few basic words, and so now is a good time to introduce simple books and toys featuring animals to help develop his early language skills (which is important even before he starts to talk). Speaking to him in full sentences whenever possible will also help along those language skills.

10-12 Months

Fisher Price Storybook Rhymes Image

Somewhere around this stage you’ll be wondering where your baby’s first year has gone, hasn’t it just flown by? But while it may seem like no time at all to you, your child will have learned and developed a huge number of skills by this point, preparing her for all the years ahead.

In the last couple of months of her first year your baby will be starting to fine tune her sense of balance and her fine motor skills. 

V-Tech Toy Phone

 She will be learning and gathering information at an incredible rate, and so lots of new and interesting stimulus is a definite must.

Singing songs like The Wheels on the Bus and nursery rhymes with her will help along those fundamental language skills that are so important early on. Playing simple games where an object is momentarily hidden behind something or in a box will teach her that objects are still there, even when she can no longer see them (object permanence), and is sure to cause some giggles of joy when she rediscovers something that was hidden.

Around the 1 year mark she’ll have fun imitating the things she sees around her (especially you), and so toy phones and keys may become a popular choice for your child, as she begins to learn about the mysterious adult world.

1-2 Years

Playing with Sand ImageAs your baby becomes a toddler, his curiosity will continue to fuel a lot of his play. During this stage, lots of nice (slightly messy) play with sand and water and simple painting activities is a fantastic way to nurture your child’s creativity, while also helping to develop his fine motor skills. Building blocks, such as Mega Blocks, offer similar benefits (and are great for encouraging concentration), with much less mess, and so they’re perfect for a rainy day indoors. Toys that boost perceptual skills, such as stacking rings, can also offer your child a new challenge to get stuck into.

Bigjigs Shape Sorter ImageTentative first steps will slowly transform into a more confident walk, so pull along and push along toys are a fun way for your child to play while showing off his impressive new skill.

Around the 18-month mark, try introducing him to some simple puzzles, such as shape sorters and jigsaws with just a few, large pieces. This will help to develop problem solving skills as well as hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Your little learner will be taking in as much of the world around him as possible. Simple activities like jumping in puddles (don’t forget the wellies!!!), or kicking up leaves is a fantastic way for him to explore and learn.

2-3 Years

Peppa Pig Soft Toy ImageHer imagination is the limit! At this age, your child will likely enjoy imaginative play, which can include anything from a tea party to role play and dressing up. It can also include her creating stories and a world around her toys (a puppet show with a story can be a good example of this). Character toys, animal toys and toys based on her favourite TV shows will also offer lots of imaginative opportunities.

Imaginative play has been linked to nurturing the development of empathy—as children become aware of different view-points than their own—as well as communication and problem-solving skills. It’s also tons of fun.Duplo Number Train Image

Around this age you could start to introduce her to letters and some basic counting, ready for when she starts school. Begin with something simple, like the letters in her name, or counting the number of buttons when you’re getting her dressed, you could even make a game of it. This type of learning play is more about making letters and numbers familiar to her, rather than perfecting her English and maths skills before school even begins, so don’t worry if your toddler isn’t exactly a savant yet.

Keep it Fun!

Finally, keep it fun! As much as anything else, tailoring play activities to your child’s likes and developing interests is an important aspect of keeping them engaged in what they’re doing, and so also a part of their learning.

If you’re looking for lots of fun ideas to help your little ones’ learning and development along, why not pop into our Toy Department, or take a peek at our baby and toddler toys online for a little play inspiration? 

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11th May 2017

Get Inspired to Travel with These 10 Most Visited Cities

Get Inspired to Travel with These 10 Most Visited Cities

Our Luggage Department’s Mid-May Madness discount promotion has got us thinking about all the amazing places to visit out there! If you’re looking for exciting travel ideas or if you’ve ever wondered what the most popular travel destinations are, with a little help from the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index report, these are the top 10 cities visited last year! They’re certainly a great start if you’re looking for a little inspiration for this year’s holiday…

10. Seoul

Seoul Gyeonbok Palace Image

With its impressive palaces, large museums and vibrant shopping areas, it’s not surprising that 10.2 million of us flocked to Seoul last year. This lively South Korean city has the perfect mixture of amazing food, traditional culture and its own quirky way of doing things.

Visitors to Seoul will discover that its world-class subway comes with a range of catchy jingles, that kimchi (cabbage fermented in chilli) is much nicer than it sounds and that, on an average day, you can quite easily witness “six impossible things before breakfast.” Boasting a very low crime rate, and a very welcoming approach to visitors, it’s really very hard not to love Seoul.

You can fly direct to Seoul's Incheon Airport from London, with a journey time of around 10-11 hours. If you've got the energy when you land, Incheon Airport has both an ice rink and a cinema...

 

9. Tokyo

Imperial Palace Tokyo Image

Image Courtesy of E. A. Woolley

Famous for its bustling atmosphere and neon lit skyscrapers, Tokyo is the 9th most popular travel destination in the world, with 11.7 million visitors. This sprawling city is in fact the largest in the world, and for those who want more than just towering buildings to make their holiday memorable, Tokyo won’t disappoint.

If you fancy a taste of the local culture, there’s the Imperial Palace, not to mention plenty of temples and shrines to visit. If you long to see some real, Japanese cherry blossom, a trip to Ueno Park in the spring is a must. Or, if you fancy a taste of Tokyo’s history, why not take a look at the old buildings in Kawagoe? We’ve no doubt you’ll find more than enough to keep you occupied in Tokyo!

A direct flight from London to Tokyo will take around 12 hours of your time, which should be just enough time to watch a few films, have a good snooze and excitedly flip through your travel guide. 

8. Istanbul

Istanbul Image

This amazing city is the perfect meeting point between East and West, which is probably why Istanbul drew 11.95 million visitors last year. As a European city, also heavily influenced by Asian culture and history, this city is a bit of a gem.

Istanbul’s famous skyline of domes and minarets in the Old Quarter is really stunning, towering over the old cobbled streets below. If you enjoy a bit of haggling, take a trip to a Turkish bazaar and see if you can snag yourself a bargain, or maybe just soak up some of the city’s incredible history, it has oodles of it to share. Sounds pretty great to us!

Istanbul is a mere 4 hour flight from Gatwick and Stanstead. You'll be enjoying the sights in no time at all!

7. Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers Kuala Lumpur Image

If you love the tropics, then Kuala Lumpur may be just the city for you. Last year KL attracted 12.02 million visitors, who all no doubt discovered the charms of Malaysia’s sweltering heat and roaming monkeys. This modern, high-rise city is surrounded by leafy palm plantations, and is full of wondrous things to see. If you aren't a fan of the heat you don't have to miss out, why not have a read of our blog on ways to keep cool?

The city is chock full of temples and wildlife, as well as the ultra-modern shopping delights of KL City Centre. Kuala Lumpur is diverse and multi-cultural, modern and traditional, and wherever you are, air conditioning is always mercifully close by. A must see for anyone not daunted by the heat (or the monkeys)!

You can fly to Kuala Lumpur direct in 13-14 hours from Heathrow. If that sounds like a very long time, there are plenty of options for taking a layover enroute, which could be a fantastic way to see another great city. 

 

6. Singapore

Gardens By The Bay Singapore Image

With 12.11 million visitors in 2016, Singapore has proven to be a very popular holiday destination. This ultra-modern city has sprung up over the last century or so, and just oozes cool.

With its boutique shopping districts, must-try restaurants and impressive theme parks, Singapore makes a fantastic city break for couples, groups and families. It’s also a wonderfully green city with its Botanical Gardens and award-winning Gardens by the Bay. And, if all of that isn’t tempting enough, well, Singapore also has its very own Night Safari. Yes, we did say Night Safari…it doesn’t get much better than that!

Singapore is roughly 13 hours flying time from London's major airports, and not too far from Kuala Lumpur, if you have your heart set on seeing both.

 

5. New York City

New York Taxi Image

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that New York is one of the most visited cities in the world. In fact, NYC is the most visited city in North America, with 12.75 million visitors last year alone. This sleepless city has so much to do that its popularity is pretty hard to argue with.

Visitors to New York are spoilt with a selection of arts and culture, amazing sight-seeing and sooo much food! To get the most out of your time in New York, New York, we suggest a walk through Central Park, a trip down the Hudson River and perhaps a little bargain shopping on Canal Street. Be sure, also, to try a gigantic pretzel from a street vendor before you leave!

You'll find yourself in New York about 7-8 hours after taking off from one of London's airports, which should give you a little extra time to get excited about all the things you're going to see! 

4. Dubai

Dubai Image

 Dubai has become very a very popular holiday spot in recent years, last year attracting 15.27 million of us to its sandy shores. As home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and some of the world’s finest shopping, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise to see Dubai so high up on this list.

To make the most of your time in the United Arab Emirates, a little desert safari (complete with barbeque and belly dancing performance) is a real treat. You can also swim with dolphins at Dolphin Bay or even give shark diving a go at the Aquarium! There’s lots of exciting things to sink your teeth into in this desert city by the sea.

Dubai is about the same length flight from London as New York is, around 7-8 hours away, although ideally flying in the opposite direction, or you're probably terribly lost. 

3. Paris

The Louvre Paris Image

Ah, the city of light! Last year 18.03 million of us wandered along the banks of the Seine, strolled down the Champs Elysees and climbed the steps of the Eiffel Tower. Paris has been a favourite with travellers for hundreds of years, and its seems its old appeal has never faded.

This is probably because the city oozes romance and culture, and boasts a history that attracts visitors from all over the world. It also can’t hurt that Paris is only an hour’s train Journey away from Disneyland… For those who love long leisurely meals, art, architecture and…um, Mickey Mouse, you really can’t get much better than a trip to Paris.

Paris is blissfully close, with a flight time from London of about 1 hour. If you prefer the Eurostar, you can be there in roughly an 2 and a half hours. Parfait!

 

2. London

London from Waterloo Bridge Image

Yup. Our very own capital city is the second most popular travel destination in the world, with an impressive 19.88 million overnight visitors last year. We’re hardly going to argue, after all, London really does have a little bit of everything to offer.

Samuel Pepys once wrote that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” and we think this must be London’s secret to success. It really is very hard to get tired of such an energetic, cosmopolitan city, after all. With tourist favourites such as Tower Bridge, Big Ben and Buckingham palace, not to mention free museums and the buzz of the West End, London has something for everyone!

So close to Oxford, there's no reason to miss out on a little time in London. England's capital city is roughly 60 miles away, which is only about 1 hour 45 minutes driving time (if the traffic is friendly), or an hour by train!


1. Bangkok

Bangkok Image

Ta-daaa! The top spot for most visited city in the world is currently held by Bangkok. Last year Bangkok had a jaw dropping 21.47 million visitors, we must say we’re pretty impressed.

As a diverse city with something different around every corner, and packed full of amazing things to see, it’s not surprising that Bangkok has become such a popular place to visit. With stunning sights such as The Grand Palace, Taling Chan floating market and The Temple of the Emerald Buddah, Bangkok is the sort of city that’s bound to keep your camera very very busy!

To get a real taste of Thailand, trying Bangkok’s famous street food is a must. If you’re feeling especially daring, you can even give fried worms or grass hoppers a try! And, if the South East Asian humidity starts to get too much, a trip on the Skytrain will give you a chance to see some of the city in the cool. As a city with so much to offer its visitors, what’s not to love?!

A direct flight from London to Bangkok takes around 11-12 hours. We reckon half a day in the air is probably more than worth it for a little time in this amazing city.

Get Travelling!

Jim and Madge Angkor Wat

This selection of amazing cities really shows that the global tourist trade is booming, and that we’re off exploring new and far flung destinations in ever increasing numbers. While travel to (and within) Europe still accounts for about 51% of all international travel, we’re far from missing out on all the other amazing places out there! 

In fact, the UN World Tourism Organization reported that in 2015 about 50 million more people were travelling than the year before, accounting for around $1.5 trillion in global exports! That’s a lot of amazing adventures and memories that we’ve all been out there making. Even Jim and Madge, our Playmobil couple, have been off having some incredible holiday adventures!

Samsonite Lite-Shock Suitcase Image

If you’re planning a special trip this year, you might want to take a look at some of the fantastic discounts currently on offer in our Luggage Department, which include Samsonite suitcases and all sorts of travel goodies by Eastpak and Go Travel. If you need a little extra help on which suitcase to pick, read our handy guide, or pop into our Luggage Department for an extra helping hand. 

For some more fantastic ideas for places to visit, why not check out Trip Advisor’s Traveller’s Choice Top 25 Destinations, which includes Bali, Siem Reap, Crete and Prague?

If these top travel destinations have whet your appetite for the holiday of a lifetime, what are you waiting for? Grab your suitcase and go explore!

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