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STOCKING FILLERS TO FEED YOUNG MINDS Check out some of the best educational DVDs available – fun, award-winning films that provide fantastic brain food for children! Terrific long-term value, the films include the Safer Strangers, Safer Buildings programme endorsed by Dr Tanya Byron. www.childseyemedia.com  

Hello from Mumsnet HQ...

...Where we're mighty chuffed that award-winning author and former children's laureate Michael Morpurgo has agreed to answer questions from you and your children about his wonderful books. Post your questions here ('closing date' is Friday 12 Dec). Michael will then answer as many as possible before Christmas - well done him.

Still on books, get voting for Book Club's January book - the theme is, appropriately, diaries. And put Tues 27 Jan in your own diary for the Book Club discussion.

We've got a new partner, Blossom, purveyor of top-of-the-range maternity wear and gifts. They're offering you all a 10% discount and one lucky Mum-to-be a £500 online spending spree.

A final desperate appeal to buy some MN Christmas cards. Be spectacularly organised, buy some for next year and then come December '09 you'll be pleasantly surprised at your own efficiency.

Now for this week's parenting news ...

Allergy fears 'overboard': Measures to protect children with nut allergies are becoming absurd and hysterical, experts said this week, after an incident in which a peanut on the floor of a US school bus led to evacuation and decontamination. Extreme measures like these are not isolated and are fuelling fear and anxiety, according to the British Medical Journal Online. John Collard, clinical director of Allergy UK, said people in Britain were also going overboard in their reaction to allergies, although the number of deaths from food allergies in the UK was relatively small, at around ten a year (BBC Online 09.12.08).

'Scrap history lessons' call: Traditional lessons in history, geography and science should be removed from the primary curriculum and children taught these subjects through cross-curricular themed classes, the biggest inquiry into primary schooling recommended this week. Sir Jim Rose, the most senior government adviser on primary schools, says reform is needed urgently because a "bloated" curriculum is making children's knowledge and understanding too shallow. His report also says children born in July or August should be able to start school part-time if their parents want them to, and that there should be a focus on teaching pupils to speak properly because of the growing incidence of "word poverty" (Guardian 08.12.08).

Other stories in brief

Newcastle University researchers have found that men with brothers are more likely to have sons and men with sisters are more likely to have daughters (BBC Online 11.12.08); English children are the best in Europe at science and maths but don't enjoy their lessons, international research indicates (Times 10.12.08); a report by the United Nations Children's Fund has found that maternity leave provision in the UK is "inadequate" and less generous than in many other countries, including Slovenia and Iceland (Daily Telegraph 10.12.08).

BEAUTIFUL AND COMFORTABLE MATERNITY UNDERWEAR Amoralia, the luxury brand worn by famous mummies-to-be, offers a range of pretty bras and briefs that flatter and support new curves. For 10% off maternity and nursing bras, chic nightwear and flattering swimwear quote P10MNT at www.amoralia.com.

Hot threads

Competitions

Bumper prizes galore this week, so find out how to enter:

Quote of the week

JingleBennysandJooniper was tickled by a letter home about the school's Christmas party: "Classes 7 and 8 will be having their Christmas party ... In order to avoid 'crisp overload' the children have chosen an item to bring in. Your child has chosen to bring Crisps."

FREE DYSON TOYS Buy any upright or cylinder Dyson (use voucher code MNXMASTOY) and get a free Dyson DC14 toy and home cleaning kit worth more than £47, or buy any handheld Dyson (use voucher code MNXMASTOY2) and get a free Dyson DC14 toy worth £20.

Planning a trip to see the Big Man? Here are Mumsnetters recommendations:

For more pre-Christmas events and outings ideas, visit your MN Local site.

Carmenere's recipe of the week: Thenapper's Gravadlax
Smoked salmon on brown bread is a traditional Crimbo starter and is hard to beat in the simplicity stakes. But if you're feeling adventurous, you might like to try this recipe for Gravadlax (Scandinavian dill-cured salmon). It takes a bit of pre-planning but is delicious served on rye bread with mustard sauce (and leftovers are great served with drinks).


That's your lot, we're off to hide under the covers (it's Full Moon tomorrow).
Love,
MN Towers

ARE YOU GEARING UP FOR THE END OF TERM? Before it all gets hectic, why not review your child's school or nursery on your MN Local site? Everyone who adds a new review of a school or nursery, or comments on an existing one, will be entered into this week's Blossom prize draw for a £500 shopping spree.

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