12 articles Tag Reading

Five Ways to Get Your Kids Interested in Reading

Southend on Sea’s award-winning Children’s Library © Andy Spain www.asvisual.com

With World Book Day on the horizon and parents around the country scrambling to put together costumes for the kids, we’re all thinking about the books that we love. It’s a great way to get kids to be creative and learn about new books from their friends, but what do we do for the rest of the year when books just aren’t as engaging to kids as gadgets or screens? Although the girls both love a bit of screen time, they’re also complete bookworms and love reading, so I thought I’d share with you five tips on how to get kids interested in reading:

Give Them Freedom

There’s a tendency with a lot of parents to try to get their kids to focus on “real” books, steering them towards novels which they feel their kids should be reading. However, we’ve found that giving kids freedom over what they read is a much better way to get them to read. Whether it’s a comic, magazine, joke book, even a recipe book – if they find it engaging, it’s ALL reading! Their tastes will likely change over time, but removing the pressure can have a profound effect. Happy Beds have released a new World Book Day campaign, which looks at the UK’s best bedtime books. This is a great list and hopefully your children will love the thought of reading some of these!

Read With Them

While some kids find snuggling down in a corner with a book a pleasant experience, some kids find it isolating, which in turn discourages them. Ask if you can read to them, or let them read to you, and make it something fun that you can do together. You can even sit together and read your own books to yourselves, but a sense of closeness and companionship can really help.

Make it Fun

There’s are SO many ways to make reading fun. Pick a corner of the room and make it your reading nook, get some blankets and torches and make yourselves a reading den, pick a character each and do your own voices for them! Kids will engage with a book in a much bigger way if they feel that what they’re reading is fun and exciting.

Visit a Library

Library use is way down in recent years and far fewer parents take their kids to the library than ever before, which is such a shame. Check your library for fun events, as they often have things running in the holidays. Also, when you go to the library, don’t just check your books out and leave – many libraries have comfy little spots where you can sit and read while you’re there, which will maximise the value of your visit and give your kids a sense that going to the library is an event in itself.

Be Topical

Kids often like books when they have context to their lives. If they’ve watched a film about space, find a book on the same subject so they can learn more. If they’re currently mad about dinosaurs or cooking or a sport, encourage them to read about the subject as this will help improve their knowledge and vocabulary.

Do you have any tips for getting kids to become book-lovers or fun ideas for how to celebrate World Book Day? I’d love to hear them, so please do leave me a comment below.

Finding a New Hobby

I can’t quite believe it, but Burrito Baby starts school this September, which means I’m going to have a LOT more free time on my hands. I’m hoping to up my workload and also have more time for going to the gym, but I’ve also been thinking about how to have a little “me” time, so I’ve been trying to find a hobby that I can start from September. Some of them will be solely for me, but there are also things in there that Husband and I can do together, which will be great for us as a couple. Here are a few of my ideas:

Golf

Ever since I played Tiger Woods Pro Golf on the original Wii about ten years ago, I’ve been wanting to try my hand at proper golf, and Husband and I keep promising we’ll go to a driving range but never seem to get around to it. We’re lucky enough to have a golf club literally at the end of the road, so we’re making a pact to get around to giving it a go once we’re able to find the time. I’ll also need to find some decent  golf footwear for sale.

Dressmaking

When Sausage was little, I went through a stage of making clothes for her, little dresses in quirky fabrics so that she wasn’t wearing the same off-the-peg stuff as everyone else. I haven’t made anything for ages, but I’d love to start making stuff again, maybe even for myself this time! Husband bought me a beautiful sewing machine two Christmasses ago, which I’ve barely used, so it will be a good opportunity to get some use out of it.

Reading

This one is going to sound silly, but I used to read a LOT, but as I’ve got older I’ve found it increasingly more difficult to read when there are distractions around me. Once the girls are both at school, I’ll have no excuses not to read and I have a list of books as long as my arm that I intend to plough through!

Blogging

I started blogging back in 2010, and back then it was a passion project, something I did to air my thoughts. However, since I started writing commercially, I seem to find myself far less inspired to write personal posts. I’m really hoping that when I have more time to dedicate to my blog, the ideas will start to flow again and the balance of personal:commercial content will even itself out again.

Cycling

At the beginning of the year, Husband (who is a life-long mountain biking enthusiast) bought himself a new bike, and it’s ignited a bit of cycling-fever in the whole family. We’re lucky enough to all have decent bikes and Husband has been letting me tag along with him (when I say “tag along”, I mean he goes on his usual route but has to go about 60% slower while I’m huffing and puffing along to keep up with him!). We’re hoping to get a bike rack when we get our new car, so we’ll be finding some new routes and riding together more.

Do you have any hobbies?

My Dream Hobby Room

My Dream Hobby RoomI have to admit, I spend more time looking at Rightmove than is really necesary for someone who has no intention of moving. I’ve always loved looking at other people’s houses and can often be found binge-watching episodes of Grand Designs or Location, Location, Location just to get my interiors fix! I love dreaming about what I’d do if space and money were no object and at the moment, a hobby room is at the top of my list. Read on for an insight into what I’d have in my ultimate hobby room:

A Sewing Station

I absolutely love to sew and make clothes but I often lack the space to do it, so a dedicated space with a dressmakers dummy and lots of fabric storage would be a great way to enable me to get sewing. Valentino’s Displays has an amazing range of clothes rails, mannequins, hangers and storage bins and I reckon I could get everything I needed for my sewing area on their site.

A Reading Nook

I’ve always been able to read just about anywhere, probably from years of reading on buses and trains, but these days I do require a little bit of quiet to enable me to get lost in a book. A comfy armchair in the corner of the room with a little table for a lamp and my latte is definitely a bit part of my fantasy room.

A Writing Area

Writing is both a hobby and my profession and although I tend to work on a laptop literally on my lap, Burrito Baby is off to nursery in September which means I don’t have to only work in the room she’s in! A proper working area where my laptop could sit and I could use a decent ergonomic chair would not only be a novelty, but it would probably also be a lot better for my back!

A Proper Coffee Machine

These days, my vices are well and truly confined to the virtuous, never more so than now, given the fact that I even eat clean and don’t drink alcohol (well…hardly ever!). However, one thing that I absolutely refuse to give up is decent coffee! I tend to use my Waitrose card to get a free cup every day and I think I’d be considerably poorer if I didn’t get my coffee fix from there! Having a coffee machine in my hobby room with a proper milk steamer would be the ultimate indulgence for me.

A Yoga Corner

Since I started going to yoga classes at my gym a few months ago, I’ve found a really deep love of it. It’s one of my favourite hours of my whole week and I look forward to it every Saturday. I’d love to be able to do it more often but we really don’t have much space at home for yoga because our house is pretty cluttered. A dedicated space to find my zen and get my stretch on would be a dream!

What would you have in your dream hobby room?

No Time to Read?

Time to ReadAs soon as I was old enough to read, I became something of a bookworm. The Hobbit was the first “proper” book I read when I was about 6 and it was an ongoing love affair from then. When I was in my early teens, I’d wake up on Saturday morning, go into town to buy a new book and then spend the rest of the weekend reading it, usually finished by Sunday afternoon. My mother was so concerned by my lack of interest in being a street-raker that she actually consulted a doctor about my behaviour (although I think most  parents would be delighted by a child who chose to stay at home and read, but hey, sometimes you just can’t win).

The last time I read a book was a couple of years ago now. Carrie, by Stephen King if I remember rightly (which I highly recommend, if you haven’t already read it. In fact, read ANYTHING by Stephen King.). But since then, I’ve not picked up a book. I have plenty of access to books and I also have a Kindle, so that’s not the problem.

I keep claiming that I “don’t have time to read”, but that’s not really true, either. I have plenty of time for Facebook and Netflix and Candy Crush and all of the other things which hog my attention. I might CLAIM to be time poor but that only seems to apply when it suits me. I think the problem is inside my brain…what I once loved about reading is the thing which is making it hard for me now. Bear with me while I elaborate.

One of the appeals of reading a book was that feeling of slipping inside the story, losing myself in the words and in my own imagination and being taken away from reality into a finely-woven tale which could completely consume me. These days, I seem to have an absolute inability to disconnect myself enough to lose myself in anything. Even when we’re watching a film or TV show, I’m picking up my phone to browse Facebook or Reddit or occasionally Twitter (I say ‘occasionally’ because, is it just me, or is that place just tumbleweed central these days? No-one seems to chat on there like they used to).

People have noticed how attached to social media I am and it’s become a bit of a running joke, but it’s also starting to worry me. It seems like my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has become all-encompassing. It’s definitely a lifestyle thing; when I was young and single, I literally NEVER turned down a night out or a chance to socialise. I could be settling down in my pyjamas, get a phone call and be in the pub in half an hour flat because I couldn’t bear the thought that people were having fun without me, and I think Facebook has become a substitute for that – I can still be sitting in my pyjamas, not NEEDING to go out and still be connected to everything that’s going on in my friends lives.

I’ve seen other people take a social media detox and I genuinely wonder how they do it. Going on Facebook, either by app or desktop, has become almost like a reflex, something I do as a matter course and I really feel like I need to take a break. The main fear is that, because so much of my work is social-based or reliant on a social media scoring, stepping away means losing money but I think I need to give it a go and see before I let it consume me. From next week, I’ll be removing the app from my phone and only accessing Facebook via my laptop, and I’ll only be using my laptop during “work” hours.

I need to re-learn how to read. How to watch a TV show without picking up my phone every two seconds. How to interact with my kids and Husband without there being a screen between me and them.

And the stupid thing is, the thought of it fucking terrifies me.

What I’m Doing Now – A Meme

God, I love a meme, especially when it means I get to talk about myself, so when Sally from Who’s the Mummy (aka. The Ubiquitous One) asked if anyone would like to be tagged in this one, I was that annoying kid at the front of the class with one hand in the air (and a buttcheek lifted off of the seat so as to make the aforementioned hand just that little bit higher than everyone elses) yelling “Me, Miss, ME ME!”. So, here we go:

Currently I am:

Reading: Reading? What’s that? My beloved Kindle has been sorely neglected since BB came along and the only chance I get to read is when I take Sausage to her weekly musical theatre class. And then it depends on whether I’ve actually remembered to charge my Kindle. When I do get a chance, I’m still wading through Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.

Listening to: A lot of dance music. I think it’s a summer thing; I dream of laying on some Balearic beach somewhere while Tiesto DJs in the background. Oh, and BB (or ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’) seems to love MTV Dance, so I don’t get a lot of choice.

Laughing at: The current series of Louis CK’s TV show, Louis. He’s probably my all-time favourite comedian and after seeing him at The O2 a year or so ago, I still find him “HILARIOUS” (That’s actually a Louis joke…) NSFW

Swooning over: Is it cheesy if I say ‘My Husband’? It is? Well, tough, it’s true. We’ve been married for 8 years this August and I’m just as in love with him now as I was back then – he still gives me proper butterflies when I glance at him.

Planning: SUMMER! We’ve got a chart on the wall counting down to the summer holidays and I simply cannot wait until we get Sausage to ourselves for almost 7 weeks.

Eating lots of: Bacon (Yes, that faint groaning sound you’ve been hearing whilst reading this is the active narrowing of my arteries). Husband bought 5lb from an online butcher before I realised we didn’t have room for it in the freezer, so we’ve been working our way through it for the last week. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it…

Feeling: Snotty. Sausage has tonsilitis and every time she gets it, I end up with some weird coldy-virus thing, too. It’s cool though, I’m having my first night out since Burrito Baby was born tonight so burgers and beer are BOUND to help.

Discovering: whether or not we’re cut out for home educating. We’re not very happy with Sausage’s current teacher and we’re genuinely wondering if she’d be better off being homeschooled for a while.

Looking at: Reddit. It’s genuinely one of my favourite places on the whole internet. What’s not to love about a place where you can read just about any topic you can think of, whilst simultaneously looking at pictures of squirrels stealing Cheetos?

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Wearing: A pair of chino shorts and a black and white stripy vest. It was my 30th birthday last week and I got some money to spend on clothes, hence my uncharacteristic smartness.

Cooking: See the aforementioned bacon…we’re currently looking for bacon related recipes as we’ve actually achieved the impossible and ended up sick of bacon sandwiches. I KNOW.

Wondering: How to have my hair cut when I go to the hairdressers tomorrow. Should I go for my tried-and-tested long layers, or mix things up a bit (for ‘mix things up a bit’ read: cling desperately to my 20’s with wild and inappropriate hairstyles that I won’t be able to replicate myself once I leave the salon)

Trying Out: Loom bands. I may be a little bit hooked. Ha! Hooked! Geddit?!

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I’ll get my coat.

Now, because this is a wonderfully memetastic post, I get to tag three other bloggers:

Annie at Minisaurus

Vicky at A Cupcake Mum

Donna at Mummy Central

My Favourite Holiday Reads

logo-2014I don’t know about you, but I do love to take a good book with me on holiday, and with the invention of e-readers, you can now take a whole library away with you, whilst taking up barely any space in your suitcase or handbag. Holiday reading should be something which is light but engaging, something which allows you to relax whilst diving into a good story, and as it’s World Book Day today, I thought I’d give you a selection of some of my favourite holiday reads, which might inspire you next time you jet off somewhere nice.

Anything by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is one of my favourite authors, so it’s hard for me to narrow it down to just one of his books, however A Walk in the Woods was probably the one which got the most belly-laughs out of me! This might not be one to read if you plan to spend a lot of time lounging around the pool or beach by yourself, as you tend to look like a bit of a loon doing random outbursts of laughter, but if you want something to add to your holiday happiness, I wholeheartedly recommend Mr. Brysons particular brand of wit.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

Okay, so this might not be the most light-hearted of books, but Lisbeth Salander is the ultimate feminist hero and The Millennium Trilogy from which this book comes is genuinely some of the most compulsive reading that I’ve ever experienced – you know that feeling of slight disorientation with real life when you put the book down, because you’ve been SO immersed? That’s how addictive these books are!

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year – Sue Townsend

Yes, it’s that Sue Townsend, of Adrian Mole fame. This book is a real departure from her early works, but the wit and ability to weave a great tale remains, and this book is a brilliant sun-lounger read. It’s not War and Peace, but it’s on the decent end of the ‘chick-lit’ genre and is very enjoyable.

Billy – Pamela Stephenson

If you like a biography, there’s not many better than Billy Connollys, which is written by his wife, Pamela Stephenson, who is also a noted psychologist. Hysterically funny in places, heartbreaking in others, it’s almost hard to believe that such a troubled life can produce someone with so much humour in their soul, but this book is compulsive reading, nonetheless and gives you a real insight into the man behind the jokes.

A Song of Ice and Fire – George R. R. Martin

If you’ve not heard of this series of books, you’ll no doubt have heard of Game of Thrones, the TV show adaptation of them. I’m still on the first book, whilst Husband has read his way through all of the existing 5 books (and is now patiently waiting for the final two!). Even if you’ve already watched the show, the books are still well worth a read as the stories are so much richer and more in-depth in the novels, and I honestly think you’ll like these books even if you aren’t a fan of the fantasy genre, as the storylines and relationships within the books are about SO much more than dragons and giants.

If you need help choosing your next holiday read, Thomas Cook have put together a fun little  World Book Day app which allows you to choose you to input your destination and your favourite genre and it’ll tell you exactly which book you should take with you on your holidays!

World Book Day

Here in the Mum’s the Word household, we’re HUGE fans of reading. Husband has just finished the mammoth task of working his way through the A Song of Ice and Fire series (and is waiting with baited breath for Mr. Martin to publish the next in the series) and I’m currently doing a bit of light-entertainment with a John Grisham novel, a go-to of mine when I just want a book to pass the time. Of course, Sausage is getting on on the act these days too, with her reading coming on leaps and bounds in the last year. She’s a lover of all things Dr. Seuss, amongst other things, and just recently bought her new sister a plush tiger from The Tiger Who Came to Tea, hopefully kicking off a love of books in the newest member of the family.

Fancy Dress Ball recently conducted a survey to see which children’s books and authors were the most popular and the results were much as I’d expected:

Top 3 Favourite Fictional Characters 

Harry Potter (15%)

Gruffalo (2.9%)

Winnie The Pooh (2.8%)

Top 3 Favourite Fictional Authors
JK Rowling (12.5%)

Enid Blyton (7.5%)

Roald Dahl (7.4%)

I’m a huge fan of the Harry Potter books myself and I can’t WAIT until Sausage is old enough for me to read them to her. I’m sure she’d like them now, but I reckon she’s got a couple of years before she can really, truly comprehend and appreciate the series fully, so I want to wait until that optimum time! She’s already a fan of Roald Dahl, with The Twits being her all-time favourite, but George’s Marvellous Medicine and Matilda all feature highly on her list of beloved books.

Unfortunately, Sausage’s school aren’t doing a World Book Day dress up this year, otherwise I reckon constructing a Mrs. Twit costume would have been super fun! twitsFrom Wikipedia “Mrs. Twit is the hideously unattractive, menacing wife of Mr. Twit, whose formerly pretty countenance was erased as a result of constant horrible thoughts over time. She takes advantage of her glass eye to play practical jokes in revenge against her husband, and demonstrates multiple acts of cruelty and viciousness throughout the story; it has been mentioned that the main reason behind her use of a walking cane was as a weapon against innocent children and animals, she participates in the torment of the couple’s pet monkeys the Muggle-Wumps, and serves Mr. Twit a lunch of earthworms disguised as spaghetti. Albeit she also frequently demonstrates acts of stupidity, she has also exhibited intelligence; she managed to manoeuvre her way out of a prank that ended with her being carried off into the sky with balloons by chewing through several of them and landing safely on the ground. However, aside from this, she is portrayed as being hideous and unhygienic.”

Creating a costume for Mrs. Twit sounds like it would be a lot of fun! I’d find a dress in a local charity shop and add as many grim stains as I can, give Sausage a walking stick, back-comb her hair so it looks super untidy, and possibly even accessorise with a few stuffed monkeys and balloons tied to her arms!

Who would you choose to dress up as for World Book Day, and how would you achieve the look? Let me know!

Best Libraries in the UK

There are few pleasures as great as losing yourself in a good book, especially during the winter months. The ebook revolution has meant it’s easier than ever to enjoy books on the go, but spare a thought for Britain’s historic libraries. With many of our country’s finest reading rooms under threat, it’s time to appreciate anew those beautiful buildings where you can while away the afternoon curled up with a good (borrowed) book.

Central Library, Edinburgh

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Edinburgh’s Central Library is an oasis of calm in the middle of a bustling city. It’s slightly more relaxed than the huge National Library across the road, and has an excellent selection of books, from new releases and graphic novels to a section dedicated to the history of Scotland’s capital city. There are plenty of nooks and crannies, perfect for grabbing a bit of peace, and the gothic architecture will leave you feeling like you’re starring in a 1940’s film. Cycle there in one of these gorgeous day dresses with a satchel on your shoulder for a truly picture-perfect afternoon!

The British Library, London

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London has more than its fair share of excellent libraries, but true book enthusiasts can’t look past the majestic British Library. Boasting over 150 million items, with 3 million new pieces added each year, you’re sure to find a book to inspire you. The library also has exhibition galleries, which show off legendary collectors’ items like the Lindisfarne Gospels, original Beatles manuscripts, and the world’s oldest printed book, the Diamond Sutra. This season’s major exhibition is entitled Georgians Revealed and looks to be as fascinating as we’ve come to expect – don’t miss it!

The Library of Birmingham, Birmingham

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The new library on the block opened in September 2013. While a visit to Birmingham usually involves several hours in the Bullring enjoying retail therapy and large quantities of fast food, it’s well worth making a detour to visit this unique building. The architecture is certainly striking, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The interior space is modern, bright and vibrant, with a café and plenty of places to sit and read. Their selection includes one of the best collections of works by Shakespeare, and an exhibition of children’s books and games dating back to the 16th century.

Post provided by guest author, Kira.

More! Magazine – The End of an Era

more! magazineThis afternoon, I heard the news that More! magazine is ceasing publication after reader numbers have dwindled to an all-time low, and I have to say, I was a little bit saddened. As a teen, More! was about as edgy as it got when it came to reading material and my friends and I spent many a bus journey giggling at ‘Position of the Fortnight’ or reading in horror about peoples embarrassing experiences, usually involving a boy they fancied.

My Mum hated me reading More!, she saw the candid accounts of teenage sexuality as over-exposure for my young mind and often told me that I wasn’t allowed to buy it. I did, of course, and hid it in my locker at school or buried at the bottom of a school bag. Now that I’m a mother, I straddle the fence on the appropriateness of it for a 13-year-old, however I also think that there’s a huge amount of positivity to it too.

More! was the closest thing that we ever had to a ‘lad’s mag’, meaning that instead of wide-eyed patronisation, or flat-out saccharine coated ignorance, it addressed the issue of teenage girls being sexual creatures. Regardless of how much we’d like to deny it once we become parents, teenage girls are hormone-fuelled randy beasts in the same way that their male counterparts are and More! taught us that that’s not something to be ashamed of. To my mind, it empowered girls to have a say in sex, not just think that they had to lay back and think of England, but be an active and conscious participant. The problem pages taught us about thrush and STDs and contraception and hair in unwanted places and didn’t make us feel stupid for asking.

Magazines like More! are often held up as contributing towards the over-sexualisation of children, but I refute that and would argue that giving girls an honest education (over and above the sterile account they are fed in Sex-Ed classes) about the realities of sex is contributing to giving them confidence and agency over their own bodies. Perhaps giving them the confidence to say NO when it really matters, or to speak up when something that’s supposed to be fun and pleasurable is actually uncomfortable and upsetting. What More! did best was instill a sense of humour and light-heartedness into subjects which can be tricky for young girls to navigate, which was invaluable to us at the time.

So, it’s with sadness that I say a fond farewell to More! magazine. I can only hope that there’s something out there to help girls and young women in the same way that More! helped us.

What to Buy The Kid Who Has Everything! – Bean Bag Bazaar Review

This year, Christmas present buying hasn’t been quite so simple. Sausage is getting older now and is at a bit of an in-betweeny phase – lots of stuff seems either too young or too old for her and she has quite a lot of everything already. Plus, don’t you find that you spend a few months caching ideas of what to get your kids for Christmas, only to be asked by lots of relatives what they’d like and you end up giving all of your ideas away?!

One thing that has saved us a bit, in terms of ideas, is that we’re giving Sausage’s bedroom a bit of a makeover to bring it up to her new ‘big-girl-who-goes-to-school-now’ standards so we’ve been thinking of things that we can get her to make it into her very own girl-cave! For one of her big presents, we’ll be getting her her first TV so that she can watch her DVDs in her room and have her Wii console in there too. We had wanted to get her a small armchair to go in there too but all of the ones we liked were astronomically priced, so we looked at beanbags instead and found Bean Bag Bazaar.

Bean Bag Bazaar doesn’t just cater for kids, they sell bean bags for adults too for both indoor and outdoor use, bean bags which are ideal for gaming and some beautiful kids ones to boot. They also have a range of Jacqueline Wilson bean bags which are brightly coloured and perfect for a reading corner or a spot of TV watching, and we’ve been lucky enough to be sent one to review.

The one we chose was the Jacqueline Wilson™ Kids Classic Bean Bag – Bookshelf (£49.99 pictured above) and although we’ve put it away for Sausage to have at Christmas, Husband and I have given it a through once-over and the quality is really very high. The material that the bag is made of is not only bright and beautiful but feels incredibly hard-wearing too and I can imagine it taking a real battering without any problems! The blurb on the site says:

“This Jacqueline Wilson™  style bean bag is officially designed by BeanBagBazaar. It has a pretty bookshelf print and is the perfect accompaniment to the latest Jacqueline Wilson™ book. It is made from strong and sturdy water-resistant fabric and features double zips, to keep all beans secure inside the beanbag.”

It’s suitable for ages 3-10 and the he best part about the beanbag is that it can be used indoors and outdoors, which means it will be perfect for Sausage to sit on in the garden and read her books or do some drawing when the weather starts to improve. We can even imagine taking it camping or to the beach in the summer as a handy seat too!

If you’ve got a kid who’s hard to buy for, I can highly recommend any of the Jacqueline Wilson range and judging by the quality of this beanbag, the rest of the ones on the site would be a great buy too! Oh and all kids beanbags are buy one get one half price at the moment. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up from The Crammonds!