Two Can Learn Better than One!

Category: Toys and Games

Face Painting

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toys and Games, Kids Art and Craft, Make Believe , Tags: animal, entertainment, face painting, party, superhero

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Face paints offer a terrific way to complete your children's dressing-up - turn them into an animal, superhero or flower fairy! Before applying paint to faces of babies and toddlers, apply a small patch first just to check that there's no allergic reaction. Children have more delicate skin than adults so it's just possible that paints might cause a reaction so if this is the first time, proceed with caution. You should also avoid paint in the eyes or on broken or particularly sensitive skin.

You can hire professional face painters for children's parties - just look in your local Yellow Pages, party shop or search on the internet and you'll be able to find someone local to you. Children love having their faces painted and a face painter will add a touch of magic to any party. They'll probably offer some other entertainment too, maybe some magic or balloon modeling.

To remove face paints, wash off with warm water. Never use any make-up removers or other chemical based cleansers on your children's faces.

Travelling with Children

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toys and Games, Days out , Tags: car, games, journey, travel games, travelling

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During the Christmas holiday, there is every chance that you will be taking a long car journey with your little ones to visit family or friends away from home.  We nearly all dread this element of time away from home, but with a little help it needn't be a total nightmare.  Here are some tips!

Travelling with a new or tiny baby. Pack up the car and then feed well and then leave quickly.  Hopefully they will be lulled to sleep by the motion of the car, and you'll have a nice, quiet journey.  When the next feed is due, try and stop around this time and feed in a service stop or somewhere calm and warm.  Then head back on the road, and they are likely to nod off again.  Keep some favourite toys nearby so you can clip them to the car seat if they wake and need amusement.

Travelling with toddlers. This may be a bit more of a challenge as they get tired and bored and restless sitting in one position in a car for too long.  It's understandable, really!

  • Leave really early before the morning rush hour.  Transport your toddler to the car whilst still asleep and get most of the journey under-way before the traffic gets busy and before the little one wakes up!
  • Have a sun shade in case low winter sun streams in through the window.  It can be very irritating and cause lots of trouble for a toddler if the sun is directly in their eyes.
  • Get a rear seat mirror especially if you are the only driver so you can see what's going on without worrying too much and turning round in traffic.
  • Plan stops so you can all get out and have a run about to stretch legs and get some fresh air.  Every 2 hours is probably best.  Change nappies and have a toilet stop even if you don't need it.
  • Attach a box on the seat next to the toddler with a few toys, colouring and crayons etc. so they can go through the box and help themselves rather than you trying to pass over things during the journey.
  • Play games: the old ones are the best!  I-Spy, Spot a Red/Green/Yellow car, First to see a... (lorry, telephone box etc).
  • Have all you will need in the change bag including bottles, milk etc and all changing things.  Searching through the suitcase to find a clean pair of trousers can be very frustrating and time consuming.
  • Have lots of dry snacks for the journey to keep hungry tummies full and active fingers happy!

Bon voyage!

Bath Toys

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toys and Games , Tags: bath, bath toys, bathtime, bubbles, craft, crayons, facecloths, flannels, letters, numbers, shapes

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Bath toys can turn a fairly boring part of nighttime routine into a bit of an adventure - there are so many fun toys, games and ways to make bathtime interesting, why not treat your children to a new experience every few weeks?!

So you don't think there's room for doing craft in the bath?  Wrong!  Older children will love bath crayons which can be used for drawing on the inside of the bath.  Rub them out after bath as otherwise they can be more difficult to remove, and if left too long, may stain permanently.  Younger children will enjoy foam shapes, letters and numbers that adhere to the side of the bath when wet.  All of these are widely available in toy shops.

Water Works
Many more traditional toys allow children to play with water, experimenting with pouring, flowing and other properties.  Bath toys can be quite expensive, so look at the value you think you'll get from the toy before buying.  Well designed toys will teach children about the properties of flowing water, and of course, will offer hours of fun!

Bubbles and Potions
Children love bubbles, bath colourings and fizzy bath bombs or balls which you will find in most supermarkets and chemists.  Do be aware that bubbles may dry your children's skin if they have sensitive skin so use a new formula with caution.  You should find bubbles formulated for gentle skin but you may find even these aren't good for your little ones.

Fun Facecloths
Your children may be more receptive to having their faces washed if they have fun flannels, and none are more fun than the magic expanding flannels that come as small dry blocks and unpack into full size flannels in water.  These are widely available from toy shops and supermarkets, and make a great little stocking filler at Christmas time!


Today's children are spoiled for choice in the sheer array of bath toys on offer!  Brighten up bathtime and have your children look forward to their evening dip, as much as anything, it will help make routine easier for you!

Size Doesn't Matter

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Toys and Games , Tags: dolls, language, motor skills, picnics, pretend play, scale, size, tea, teddies

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When it comes to pretend play, children are perfectly happy to mix toys made to different scales - size just isn't important to them!  Your toddler might hold a tea party for a few dolls and teddies.  The participants may vary in size from very small to really large, but your toddler will be oblivious to the variation.  They might have a small, dinky china tea set, complimented by plastic or wooden cookies and slices of cake that dwarf the tea pot - but size doesn't matter.  They may sit around a blanket on the floor offering enough room for the whole family to enjoy a picnic round, but scale is really of no consequence!

During pretend play, children will happily play with lots of different toys, all made to different scales, but they are as contented as can be!  Indeed, they'll even happily mix toys from different paradigms, such as dinosaurs on a farm, a shop that sells anything under the sun, or serve pizza for afternoon tea!

The important point is that children partake in pretend play.  As they play with objects and act out little scenarios either on their own, with siblings or friends or with you, they are practicing all sorts of different actions which help them develop their motor skills, they will practice language as they talk through each scene, and learn how objects made from different materials act and how they can be handled.

Choosing Presents for Christmas

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Toys and Games , Tags: birthday presents, christmas, games, gifts, online shopping, reviews, shopping, toys

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As Christmas approaches, your mind is probably turning to which gifts to buy the children, and by now you're fully aware that there are some great toys out there, but also some terrible ones too!  There's nothing worse than having a toy break before you even reach Boxing Day, or finding that a game that looked like it would be brilliant turns out to be useless and the kids just aren't interested!

Luckily we have help at hand.  Over the last few years the Internet has been fundamental in shifting shopping patterns from the high street to the home.  Even if you haven't braved that revolution, we have also seen a new and welcome trend in online shopping.  Many online stores allow buyers to review products that they buy, and nowadays you can quickly find great gift ideas with positive reviews, products that others have lavished on their children and you can now buy in the reasonably safe knowledge that you're buying a good gift!

Some stores allow buyers to review products in their own site directly, others plug in to independent review sites that specialise in collecting reviews rather than selling, arguably making the reviews more trustworthy.  Do retain a healthy scepticism for sites that seem only to have one or two really positive reviews for every product as they could have been left by the manufacturer or seller, make sure that there are a good number of reviews that concur.

Reviews will often cover the quality of items, as well as giving a good indication of how suitable the product is to children of different ages.  If you are wondering how good a product is and whether to buy it for your children, seek out reviews online and use the experience of others help make up your own mind!  If you are later either pleased or disappointed with your purchase, then take the time to leave your own review in order to help future shoppers.

Buying Presents the Smart Way

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Toys and Games, Family , Tags: android, birthday presents, christmas, christmas gifts, iphone, shopping, windows phone

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As we approach Christmas, the supermarkets and high street retailers are all vying to win you over with discounted toys and games to lavish on your children at Christmas.  There are some great bargains to be had at this time of year!  Online retailers also have some great offers and you can often find the best prices using online price comparison sites such as Google Products or Book Butler for books.

If you have a 'smart' phone, such as iPhone, Android or one of the new Windows Phones, with rich internet access, you can get the best of both worlds by looking for ideas in supermarkets or high street shops but then using price comparison sites to see if you can get a better price online.  If you can, you could even order it there and then, if you can't then you can buy the one off the shelf!  Don't forget that you must add on postage and packaging costs to many online stores, although most large online retailers offer free delivery in order to remain competitive.

If you can save just a pound off the price of each gift you buy this Christmas, that could mount up to a pretty good saving overall, although you'll probably find you can save much more by shopping smart!

Think ahead beyond Christmas as well - stock up on some bargains for birthdays that you know might be coming up over the next few months.  Provided you have a place to store them, you can buy presents and keep them on hand well into the New Year!

How Playing Games Helps A Growing Child

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Toys and Games, Child Development, Family , Tags: board games, fun, games, motor skills, playing, relationships, sportsmanship, strategy, thinking

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Children love playing games: it's fun, it's easy and it's a great way of learning without even knowing it!

Early on, games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake and other nursery rhymes form the basis of children's games.  This is how the idea of games actually starts.  The little ones laugh and smile and begin to understand cause and effect: ie. each time teddy pops out from behind the cushion, it will make them jump and they will laugh!  It sounds simple, but it's an early form of game-playing.

They will then progress to all sorts of other games: easy box games, then number, colour and letter games and eventually board games.  At each stage they are learning different things and experiencing different ideas.  The notion of a winner and loser; the notion of practising at something to get better; the idea that you need to make an effort and try hard at something to then enjoy the feeling of doing well etc.

What are the benefits of playing games?  Does it really help in any way other than passing the time?

  • Patience and fair play: they can't interrupt or snatch when playing a game.  They need to learn to take turns.
  • Fine motor skills: moving counters, placing items on a board, balancing things on a horse.  Most board games help improve fine motor skills.
  • Sportsmanship: they should congratulate the winner rather than get stroppy at not winning!
  • Gross motor skills: many outdoor games involving balls, hoops, balancing etc. help with gross motor skills.
  • Develop relationships: playing games helps improve and develop relationships between families and friends.  Laugh, play and chat about the game together and see how much fun you all have!
  • Thinking: as they play games, young children will begin to learn strategy - high dice rolls mean moving further, which squares to avoid because they have penalties etc.


  • Keep games easy and short at the start.  Don't make it too complicated or long winded.
  • Don't let them win all the time!  It is tempting but does them no good in the end.
  • If they look tired or bored don't force them.  Make games fun, not a chore.
  • If ever they ask to play a game with you, try to say yes!  They need as much encouragement and support as you can give.
  • Try to play enthusiastically.  You may not be in the mood to play, but try to make the games fun!

Night, Night, Teddy!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toys and Games, Days out , Tags: bedtime, comfort, hotels, paddington, prince charles, teddies, teddy bear, winnie the pooh

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One third of British adults take a teddy bear to bed with them, according to a recent survey which also found that over half of the adult population has an old teddy bear in their home dating back to their childhood.  This makes the average age of teddy bears 27 years old!

Over 6,000 adults were questioned on behalf of the hotel chain Travel Lodge.  It found that a quarter of businessmen take a teddy with them on business trips because it reminds them of home!  Allegedly, the hotel chain receive hundreds of worried telephone calls each month from owners who fear they may have left their teddies behind in their bedrooms.

The survey also found that traditional teddies were most popular followed by Winnie the Pooh and Paddington.  It has also been said, by the American writer Christopher Andersen, that Prince Charles even travels with his childhood teddy.

Although we may claim to love our teddies and take them all over the world, we are not always that careful.  Over 75,000 Teddies are lost and reunited with their owners each year by Travel Lodge staff alone!

Shape Bugs

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Toys and Games , Tags: app store, apple, circle, diamond, iphone, ipod touch, itunes, oval, rectangle, shape bugs, square, triangle

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Shape BugsWe're delighted to announce the launch of our new app for iPhone, Shape Bugs, aimed at teaching preschool children to draw and recognise simple shapes.

If you trust your children with your iPhone or iPod Touch then let them choose a shape to draw.  They can select their favourite colour and must draw the shape as cleanly as possible - squares, rectangles and diamonds must be drawn with four straight lines, triangles with three straight lines and circles and ovals with one.  Don't take your finger off until the shape is complete!

If the shape is reconisable as the one you set out to draw, then you'll hear a cheer and a face will appear to make your Bug.  If the lines weren't drawn cleanly then you'll hear a comiserating 'Ohhh!' and can try again!

Download Shape Bugs from the Apple store, and have hours of fun...!

Baby's Building Blocks

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Learning Play, Toys and Games, Child Development, Kids Activities , Tags: blocks, duplo, lego, megablocks, physical, towers

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Building blocks are a timeless toy and a set of soft blocks made from material, or even knitted from wool, will bring your baby loads of enjoyment in their first few years.  An early game to play with babies is to stack up toys near them and encourage your baby to knock them down.  Clap and cheer when your baby achieves this and they will quickly associate their actions with your praise and this will encourage them to knock down your towers.

Blocks usually come in bright colours and often have pictures, letters or numbers on their faces.  This early exposure to colours and patterns will help them to distinguish between colours and to recognise the different shapes later on.  When they are able to grasp blocks for themselves, your little one will delight in trying to build their own towers and knocking them down themselves.  All of this helps to refine their motor skills and to understand how objects interact with one another and how they act when knocked over.

As your children grow older, plain blocks can be change for construction blocks such as Duplo, Lego or Megablocks.  These appeal both to boys and girls and will last an entire childhood, teaching children how to construct models and giving them a great understanding of the physical world.

Toddler Sports Day

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Toys and Games, Preschool Children, Kids Activities , Tags: egg and spoon race, obstacle course, outdoors, races, sack race, sport, sports day

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Sports day is a fun feature of summer, but toddlers who aren't old enough to attend school miss out on all this fun - why not hold your own 'Sports Day' for your littlest children and some of their friends?!  Invite two or three other mum's round with their little ones, set up a picnic outside for everyone, and make up a few races for them to compete in.  If it's hot, ensure there are plenty of drinks on hand!

Sports concentrate on improving motor skills and coordination, so think of some fun events that help do this.  If your little ones are two young to walk or run, then many races could be held at a crawl instead.  If you have a mix of ages and capabilities then introduce handicaps for the more capable children to give the littlest ones a fair chance of winning something.  If you're tight for space then rather running races in parallel you can time each child one after the other.  Here are some ideas:-

Flat race: have your little ones run from one end of the garden to the other, or in a loop around the garden.

Egg and spoon race: good old fashioned fun! Have your babies walk or run from one end of the garden to the other balancing a hard boiled egg on a spoon all the way.  Afterwards you can add the eggs to your picnic!

Sack race: give each child a sack and have them jump from one end of the garden to the other.  Shopping bags would make a suitable 'sack' but make your little athletes understand never to put bags over their heads.

Obstacle course: make up an obstacle course with your little ones having to run around, over and under objects placed around your garden.

Bat'n'ball race: have your little one hit a ball around a course in your garden - use a tennis racquet, cricket bat or any other makeshift bat.

Balancing act: if you don't have bean bags, find other items such as teddies, dolls or toy cars that your little ones can place on their heads and balance round a course.

Make up some certificates and award them at the end of each race.  You'll have great fun holding your own sports day; you'll enjoy watching your children perform, and they'll have so much fun trying out the different races!

Copycat Toddlers

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Toys and Games

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Soon after their first year, you'll start to see your little toddlers begin to mimic you and other people they see around them - this is all part of how they begin to understand the world around them.  A really fun game to play at this stage is to sit opposite your toddler and have them copy your moves.  Make simple moves like opening and closing your hands, stretching your arms, nodding your head and wobbling your body.  You'll find the reactions entertaining as sometimes you'll find a move that your little one struggles to interpret and will mimic in a funny way!

After a while, swap roles and copy what your toddler does.  They'll be fascinated by the idea that they can 'control' what you are doing!

If you have a video camera or a digital camera that takes video that you can play back through your television or a computer, take some video of your toddler doing their moves.  Again, they will be fascinated being able to watch themselves back on the TV or computer.

Simple Toddler Toys

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play, Toys and Games, Child Development, Kids Activities , Tags: bricks, building, clay, equipment, outdoor play, sand, toddler, toys, water

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Once your child becomes a toddler a whole new world of toys are suddenly available to them.  They can shake and hold, throw and grasp, walk and run... it's a very exciting (and challenging!) time for parents and carers.  But, how should a toddler's home or setting be equipped?

Toddlers basically play with whatever is available to them. They need stimulus and an actual 'thing' to play with but at this age it doesn't really matter if it's from an expensive toy shop or your kitchen drawers!  They don't know if something has been passed down from an older cousin or if it's brand new.

It is, of course, difficult to put down exactly which toys your toddler needs, because it depends largely on what they like to do and what they already have, but as a rough guide, the types of toys for toddlers should probably fall into the following areas in order to give them a wide ranging and exciting choice.

The Natural World

In order to teach your toddler about nature and the world they need to learn about the natural materials available to us.  Whether you live in a house with a garden or a flat without any outside space, there are so many ways to introduce the natural world.


  1. Go explore the park or woods and find lots of different things made from different materials.  Find sticks, stones, leaves, grass.
  2. Go to the green grocer or market and look at all the different vegetables and fruits on offer.  Look at the colours, textures and shapes.  Even try one you've not have before and eat it together.
  3. Talk about your food and where all the things come from.

Water Play

Fill a basin or an old baby bath and splash around with plain water, water will bubbles, warm water and cold water. Find spoons and sieves and all sorts of things to play with in the water.


  1. Add a few drops of food colouring to water and play with coloured water.  Mix the colours to see what happens.
  2. Wash a doll or teddy.  Splash around with bubbles and soap and have lots of fun.  Dry them and at the end wrap them in a towel.
  3. Get various objects from round the house and see if they sink or float; whether they get wet (like fabric) or go slippery (like plastic).  Fill and empty things and see that large beakers have more water in them than small beakers.

Messy Play

Buy some modelling clay or play dough, or make your own (log into ToucanLearn to find recipes) and just have a squidgey time!  Make mud pies and mountains and get really messy.  (Just make sure you protect your clothes, surfaces and floor!)


  1. Make shapes and roll the clay into balls.  Squash it; pound it; prod it and see what happens.
  2. Add rice or lentils too and knead it into the clay to make it textured.
  3. Make pretend clay people,  or food or animals.  Snip straws and stick them in to make antennae for clay insects or arms for people.

Sand Play

Get a sand pit or go to the beach and build castles, make tunnels or simply add water and change dry sand into sopping wet sand.


  1. Make some sand mounds and stamp them flat.  Count them as you go.
  2. Build some roads for toy cars or animals and put them in the sand.  Drive them around.
  3. Wrap some stones with silver foil and bury them in the sand.  Then try and find the buried treasure!

Building blocks

Try and include some building blocks in your toddler's toy box.  They are great for building a make believe train, or a castle.


  1. Count them; sort them, build with them.
  2. Make a long line with them, match them and roll them.

Here we've offered just a few basic ideas.  Toddlers with even some of the above stimulating equipment will have lots of brilliant experiences.  Have fun!

Encourage Imaginative Play with Gadgets

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Toys and Games, Make Believe, Kids Activities , Tags: computer keyboard, computers, gadgets, imaginative play, mobile phones, work

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Children love to mimic what they see mummy and daddy doing, and when it comes to gadgets, they'll absorb the most current devices as if they've been around forever.  No doubt you've collected your fair share of old telephones, mobile handsets, computer keyboards, remote controls for broken equipment, maybe even obsolete laptops?!  All of these make for great 'accessories' for children to play with and will be highly favoured over play items because these are 'real' and ones that you used to use!

Before handing them over to the children, remove any old batteries just so that they can't leak, but then they're good to be used a play things.

It doesn't matter if an old computer keyboard isn't connected to anything, or that an old mobile phone doesn't have batteries in it and makes no noise.  The fact that these are real devices makes them highly attractive to your young children, and being able to play with these items will encourage imaginative play between your little ones.

They can use a computer to do 'work' just like their mummy and daddy do; they can use redundant phone sets to call their friends and family; remote controls will just become gadgets that do something you hadn't even imagined yourself!

Nurturing familiarity with these objects at a young age will make them comfortable with real gadgets when they grow older - they won't be afraid to use phone handsets or computers because they won't be alien to them.  Make sure that your children treat these redundant items as they would a working one - make sure they are gentle with them, never throw them, and put them in sensible places rather than leaving them lying in the middle of the floor.  Having them treat these items with respect now will also instil that they need to treat real working gadgets with similar care later on.

Baby Shower Games and Ideas

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Toys and Games , Tags: baby shower, expectant mother, fun, games

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Baby showers, long popular in the USA, are becoming increasingly common in the UK and other European countries - for those new to this tradition, we offer some fun ideas for games and activities.  Before that, a word on protocol!

What is a baby shower?!  Contrary to common belief, a baby shower does not take its name from showering the expectant mother with gifts.  The name arises from Franz Schauer, a German immigrant and silversmith in New York who encouraged gift-giving amongst mothers-to-be.  You should bring a gift along for the lucky expecting mother, but much of the rest of the evening harks back to 'hen night', with frivolous games and much fun!  You may also be lucky enough to leave with a bag of 'favours', a goody bag to remind you of the event.

Here are some fun ideas for games that you could play at the next baby shower you're invited to:-

  • Blind Tasting: Guests are blindfolded and made to sample a teaspoon of various baby foods - can they guess the flavours?
  • Whos Who? Invite guests to bring along a photo of themselves as a baby - everyone must then work out who is who in the pictures.
  • Dirty Nappies: Smear smelly sauces and foods into different nappies.  You could put one 'smell' in each, or mix three different ones for a greater challenge!  Blindfold the guests and have them guess the flavours.  Try ketchup, HP sauce, coffee, peanut butter, mashed banana, mint sauce, chocolate sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and anything else that comes to hand!  Catch out the mum to be with some really nasty odours - stilton cheese, garlic, chillies, tuna, Marmite and anything festering in your cupboards!
  • Mummy Tummy: Pass a toilet roll around the guests, each one tears off a length as to how wide the expectant mother's girth is.  The winner is the one tearing off the best fit!
  • Nappy Brain: Bring out a tray of up to 20 items relating to babies (dummy, nappy, cream, socks, toy, rattle, bottle and so on).  Everyone looks at the tray for one minute, then it's taken away, three items removed, and the guests must say what items have gone.
  • Cotton Balls: Get two mixing bowls, a wooden spoon, cotton wool balls and a blindfold. Blindfolded guests have one minute to transfer the cotton wool balls from one bowl to the other with the wooden spoon.  Sounds easy?  Go try it out!
  • Pillow Talk: As the mother-to-be opens gifts, one of the guests must secretly note down all the remarks made as she opens each gift.  At the end, the observer reads out the list of remarks, telling all the other guests that these notes were made from outside the expectant mother's bedroom on the night the baby was conceived!
  • Famous Babes: Prepare two sets of cards, one with celebrity's names and the other with the names of their babies.  Guests have to match the celebrity with their baby!
  • Down in One: Well, down in lots is more likely!  Fill a series of baby bottles with equal quantities of drink - milk or water for purists and expecting mum, wine or beer for the more adventurous!  Have guests quaff the drink as quickly as they can...leaving the teats intact!

Have fun, this could be the last fun evening the expectant mother has for a while!

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Hi! I'm Tikal the Toucan, the mascot for ToucanLearn. Follow my blog to find out interesting things relating to babies, toddlers and preschool children!

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