Marie Louise McConville: Enjoying the fun and benefits of educational toys for Christmas 2020
Finally, Halloween has come and gone and you know what that means - the Christmas countdown can officially begin.
Now that we have reached November, it is perfectly acceptable to talk about all things festive.
After the last few months we have had, I think we should be allowed to start the celebrations early. I even know some people who have put their decorations up this week because they want to introduce some extra fun into their homes, especially for children.
So, let the Christmas shopping begin.
You will not be surprised to learn that I have quite a bit done already but I'm still trying to decide on some gifts.
With that in mind, this week we took a trip to visit a new shop in Belfast which my friend, Rory Kelly, has opened.
Called Merchants of Fun and based at North City Business Centre at Duncairn Gardens in the north of the city, the shop sells card games and board games from all around the world.
Nothing new in that I suppose, except all these games help children learn through play whether it's maths or memory training.
Though I can't say I'm a big fan of board games, I thought we should check it out and I am so glad we did.
What makes this shop so good is that you can sample the games before you buy them, with the help of Rory and his staff, who can also advise what age group they best fit and what its learning base is.
Abbie and James spent well over an hour-and-a-half at the games table in the shop with Rory and Terry playing a host of well-made and colourful games including Pengaloo, Clack and Fruit Punch - all of which helped with various skill sets.
We were laughing and jumping around and competing and it was so enjoyable - even if we did look a bit silly.
We had made the trip for two reasons - in the event of another full lockdown I want to be prepared with educational games - and also, we wanted to invest in some family games especially ones that help the kids learn, without them even knowing it.
However, the thing I loved the most about this shop was the fact that these types of games do not rely on wi-fi and are screen-time free.
I know these toys will stand the test of time because they are so well made.
If you're stuck for a present for a child this Christmas, it's definitely worth visiting Merchants of Fun and a word of advice - keep an eye out for ChickyBoom, hands down the best game I have played in ages.
This shop will bring a lot of joy to many in the coming months, and we will definitely be back for another visit.
EastEnders actress, Louisa Lytton has revealed she has been receiving daily abusive messages from trolls over her role in the soap.
The 31-year-old star, who plays Ruby Allen, has found herself the target of some fans due to her ongoing, on-screen feud with Stacey Slater, played by Lacey Turner.
One message reportedly called Louisa abusive names and criticised her for the storyline, which has seen her seek revenge on Stacey after she stole from her.
However, it would seem some fans are having trouble separating fiction from reality with some having to be reminded recently that "It's not real folks".
Life is pretty unsettled right now thanks to the unpredictable weather and the current government restrictions so how about winning some cinema passes for a night out once the flicks have reopened?
Currently, cinemas are closed as part of the latest Covid-19 restriction, however, hopefully they will reopen soon and at Movie House Cinemas, there's plenty on offer to bring a bit of enjoyment.
Among the movies coming soon is Happiest Season, which tells the story of a young woman who plans to propose marriage to her girlfriend at her family's annual holiday party.
However, all does not go to plan as she soon realises her girlfriend hasn't come out to her conservative parents yet.
Happiest Season arrives at Movie House Cinemas, which has locations at City Side, Glengormley, Coleraine and Maghera, on November 27.
Further details are available at moviehouse.co.uk
I have two pairs of tickets for Movie House Cinemas, for any movie of your choice, to give away.
If you fancy winning a pair, simply email your name, address and telephone number - along with the answer to the question below - to email@example.com
Closing date for entries is 12 noon on Tuesday, November 10, 2020
(Q) Name Movie House Cinemas' four locations
Normal Irish News Rules Apply but please note that due to the latest restrictions there may be a delay in processing our competitions over the next few weeks.
The winners of the Elave skincare competition are Emma Duffy, from Cookstown, Patricia McAllister, from Kilrea, and Marie Grimley, from Armagh