- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
I am a big lover of Christmas (and refuse to spend it with my father in law as he is a huge bag humbug!) and have very fond memories of Christmas's as a child. Now I have two children Christmas is a completely different experience because it is all about making it completely magical for them - and I don't feel that this is done by providing enough presents to open a toy shop! Quality if far more important than quantity, in my opinion! Second, or possibly equal to quality, are traditions!
So, before I get on to a few gift ideas, here are a few traditions we have in our family. One, which I started last year and I know is a popular one is new PJ's on Christmas Eve. The children came down from their bath snuggled up in towels to find a stuffed Christmas Elf (freebie from some catalogue or other!) sat on the hearth with two presents, each containing a new pair of Pj's. This caused great excitement for my daughter (my son was a little young to understand at the time) who inisited on taking the elf to bed with her!
Obviously, we leave a little snack out for Santa and Rudolf, but that is as far as we go. I've heard of people leave snowy footprints, but I really don't think this is necessary! Children have wonderful imaginations and don't really need hard, visual evidence!
Another tradition that is headed by my husbands Aunty is that after Christmas dinner (and often it's not actually Christmas Day we do this as we tend to see this side of the family a few days later) there will be a ring at the bell, then when we open the door there is nobody there, just a bag of small presents. This is a lovely way to get everybody out of the inevitable after dinner slump and back into Christmas cheer and the excitement of this almost causes my daughter to explode!
Finally, and I hold my hands up to say that this is a new one for this year that I have pinched from another dooyooer (thank you Broxi3781!) but I think it's so lovely that I am going to share it just incase you don't read her review! One last present just before bed, and as she suggested in our family this present will be a book to read at bedtime. A perfect way to end what will hopefully have been a wonderful day!
Buying gifts for your own children should be relatively easy. You know what they like and you know what they've got. It's buying for other people's children that is difficult, especially if you don't see them that frequently. It's always a good idea to ask the parents what they might like, I like it when people do this. We don't have much money but there are lots of things I know my children would love and I'd much rather people spent their money on these than things that may not go down so well...either with the child or the parent!! But, if you'd rather not ask here are a few ideas that are hopefully pretty failsafe:
Arts/Crafts are a great buy for most children of almost any age and you can spend as little or as much as you want. The thing I like about this type of present is that even if it's something they've already got/had they will probably enjoy doing it again. Melissa and Doug do a some lovely pads that start at just £3 that encourage younger artists. You can choose from jumbo colouring pads, a 'frame' pad which is basically a drawing pad but each page has a frame on to make the finished product that much more special, or a 'complete the picture' pad which has the beginning of a picture on each page (a hat, a hill, a plate, etc) which the child has to complete. These can be teamed up with crayons/felt tips, maybe a pencil case if you want to spend more or they make a lovely present on their own. For older children there are kits such as 'paint your own birdhouse/money box/photo frame/etc' or books teaching them how to draw certain styles, for example how to draw funny or animals or people. If you're not sure whether the child you want to buy for likes art/crafts then tie it in with something you do know they like, such as a themed colouring book or paint your own dinosaurs.
I tend to struggle with my nieces and nephews more as they get older. I know what they like doing - playing on the computer! I certainly can't afford to buy them computer games though! They're also at that age (7 - 10years) where you run the risk of buying something babyish, yet I don't really want to give money as I see them on Christmas Day and think it's nice for them to have something to open. Last year one present that went down well were Rory's Story Cubes (see previous review!) which are little dice with images on. You roll them then have to tell a story based around the images shown on the dice. This was a nice one to have on Christmas Day as it was something the whole family could join in with, either in small groups or large groups. My daughter is getting these in her stocking this year!
Board games are another good choice which can span most ages, but probably falls into the category of needing to check with parents as to what games the children already have. Orchard Toys (see several previous reviews!) do some fantastic ones for the younger age groups. For older children then one of my favourites is Pictureka as it's one that can be enjoyed by all the family.
Books.....are tricky! They don't usually have the 'WOW' factor on Christmas Day, but then I think the best presents often don't! But nearly all children love books. However, I rarely buy books unless I have checked with the parent whether or not they already have it. One of our all time favourite authors is Julia Donaldson, she has a fantastic range of books which include Hairy Maclary, Stick Man, The Gruffalo and Room on a Broom. We also like Dr Seuss, but appreciate this is an aquired taste and can be exhausting to read just before bed! As a nanny I have looked after a few children who could not stand these books! Another author we have recently discovered is Jonny Duddle. My daughter received 'The Pirates Next Door' for her birthday and it immediately became a favourite, the story is written in rhyme and the illustrations are fantastic! So we have got her 'The Pirate Cruncher' for Christmas (this will be her bedtime book on Christmas Day!).
Don't forget is doesn't have to be a toy! Children get so many toys at Christmas that sometimes is nice to have a few other things thrown in. It was my nieces 8th birthday last week and she was tickled pink with some stripey wellie socks that somebody gave her. Similarly, I have a lovely photo of my daughter last year opening presents in her pyjama's along with a wooly hat and gloves that my friend gave her! As you can imagine she soon ditched the gloves! They're not really beneficial for opening presents! This year I am thinking of giving my neices and nephews room accessories, maybe some funky hooks, a photo frame or notice board they could put their pictures on. My daughter got hooks from somebody on her birthday, and yes she did open them and immediately throw them to one side to move onto the next one, but now they're in her room she loves having somewhere to hang her things and knows exactly who gave them to her!
Finally, both my children will be getting a selection box this year. As a child we didn't get many sweets and (very sensibly!) never had fizzy pop in the house, but one year we each got a box of Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers and a bottle of pop in our stockings. And, we could eat as many fingers as we wanted (though I suspect we were encouraged not to eat them all in one go!) and could have a glass of pop when we wanted. And I remember this! That's how amazing it was to me as a child. A couple of years ago we arrived at my sisters house on Boxing Day. Her son ran in and asked if he could have something from his selection box, my sister immediately said yes and he ran out again. She then explained to me that both her children were loving that they could have what they wanted, when they wanted it and were completely amazed that Mum and Dad weren't saying no. Christmas only lasts a few days and sometimes the memories are not of the things you think they will be of. It's not just about the main presents, it's about the little ones and the traditions you put in place for your family, that may be continued for generations to come.
Whilst we own several Orchard Toys games and jigsaws, Tummy Ache is not one we have so please forgive me for being vague about some of the details (eg exact number of cards!). However, I work at the local pre-school and it is a firm favourite with the children there so this is a game I have played MANY MANY times so I am definitely qualified to review it!
In the Tummy Ache box you get:
4 large place setting cards - on one side of the place setting is an empty glass, on the other side is an empty sundae glass for your pudding. In the middle is an empty plate with a knife and fork at either side.
30ish food/drink cards - the majority of these show images of nice, edible food - either a portion of vegetables, some sort of carbohydrate or a type of meat (or limited vegetarian option!), plus drinks and puddings. The remaining cards are the dreaded "TUMMY ACHE!" cards. These cards are the same as the other cards only this food is covered in bugs! Yuk!
To play the game place the food cards face down in the middle of the table and give each player a place setting. The first player then takes a card from the top of the pile and places it in the correct place on their place setting. Orchard Toys have made it easy for children to work out where the card goes, the drinks are all in the same shaped glass and (I think!) they all have a straw; the vegetables have a fork with them so go where the fork is on the place setting; the carbs have a knife on them so go where the knife is; the meat doesn't have cutlery so goes in the middle of the plate and the pudding is in the sundae glass! Very young children will need a little bit of help working this out at first, but they will soon pick it up. If a player picks up a card with bugs on then all the players shout "TUMMY ACHE!" If the card corresponds with an empty space on the place setting then the player must put the card there until they can replace it with an edible meal. If the space is already filled with an edible meal then the player places the card in a new pile, face up, next to the original pile. This, face up, pile is also where rejected edible meals go - quite possibly the most time consuming part of the game can be waiting whilst children decide whether they want peas or carrot with their omlette! Should they have a jacket potato or pasta?! Players now have the choice of which pile to take a card from. The winner is the first player to fill their place setting with edible food.
I have yet to come across a child that doesn't like this game. They love squirming and moaning at the yukky food, they love being able to swap their existing cards for new ones, they love hoping they're going to get their favourite food (and hate it when they don't!) and most of all they love that they get to shout everytime a tummy ache card is selected!
Tummy Ache is a relatively quick game to play (unlike matching pairs games which can go on for a loooooooooooooong time if you're playing with a child who is either not quite ready for them or just not paying attention!), it takes as long as it takes to turn all the cards over, plus a bit of extra time for making meal choices!
Tummy Ache provides a good opportunity to talk about healthy diets and how our body needs a variety of food from each of the different food groups. When I'm playing it with older children we'll discuss what each type of food does for us and why we need it.
Like all Orchard Toys games the quality is excellent. The illustrations on the cards appeal to children (the bugs are very cute and friendly looking!) and the cards themselves are thick and durable, as is the box. The box is one piece (as opposed to a bottom and a lid) which opens at the top, much more suitable for children to carry around!
Tummy Ache is marketed as suitable for children aged 3 - 10. I have played this with children under 3 and they need a lot of support, so I would agree that 3 is a good age to start. Whilst children aged 7 - 10 may still enjoy playing it, I certainly wouldn't buy this game for them as it is definitely more suitable for a younger child! It is currently available from Amazon for £8.49 which is a reasonable price for such a well made game that is sure to be popular.
My son has had Dizzy since he was around 16 months old, long before he had any idea who Bob the Builder was....to be honest, he's now 2 and still not a massive Bob fan - but he is a massive vehicle fan so this ticks all his boxes regardless!
Dizzy is a lovely, cheerful simple cement mixer! She has 4 plastic wheels, happy headlight eyes and a smiley grill mouth. She also has 'ears', though I'm not sure what these are supposed to be! The best bit about Dizzy is her spinning 'tummy'. The bowl of the mixer spins round, making a great clicking noise as it does. You can spin it manually, just by rotating the mixer with your hand, or it can be turned using the wheel on the rear of the vehicle, which also has a handle to make it easier.
Dizzy is a fantastic little toy. She doesn't need batteries, is easily cleaned if necessary and is extremely durable. We picked her up second hand and my son has played with her a lot, yet apart from a few scratches she still looks like new....although she doesn't move very well on her own anymore, but this doesn't seem to bother my son. Not all toys need to have a billion features to be a success!!
The official age range for this toy is from 36 months, it is held together by screws so I imagine this is why they are being cautious. But I was never concerned about my little boy playing with it from a much younger age, it is extremely robust and there are no small parts that are likely to fall off.
Like so many of our toys I picked this up second hand, along with Dizzy and Roley. At the time my son was only a few months old so I stuck them in the present drawer for a later date - when he might actually know who they were!
It was a few months after his first birthday when he spotted them in the drawer, there was no way he was going to let me close that drawer without getting them out! They have been a staple part of his play ever since.....even though he still doesn't watch much Bob the Builder on TV.
Lofty has 6 plastic wheels and a hinged body which allows him to bend from side to side. There are no doors/windows on the cab, just holes and on one side of the cab there are two little access steps. The crane has a hook on the end and is made up of 3 extending sections. It can be swivelled a full 360 degrees and raised/lowered through 180 degrees . Both this and the hinged part of the body make a very satisfying clicking sound when moved.
Lofty has a very friendly face with headlight eyes and a bumper mouth. I'm not sure how much his previous owner played with him, but he's had a lot of use at our house and is still in pretty good condition with the exception of a few scratches. Like so many toys Lofty is marketed as suitable from 36 months but he will be enjoyed by children from a much younger age. He's held together with screws which I presume is why he cannot be marketed as suitable for younger ones. As I said we bought him second hand for just a few pounds, he is currently available from Amazon for just under £10. As much as I love him I'm not sure I would pay this for him, especially as once you've got one you're little one is likely to want the whole set!
I actually really like Lofty - and the other Bob the Builder toys we've got. He doesn't have many features, only his crane, which is what I like about him! Sometimes simplicity is good!
My daughter received the pink version of this guitar for her third birthday. In my opinion it is a pretty horific toy, but I am going to review it as objectively as possible!
The guitar has 8 'frets' (black buttons) each of which play about 3 seconds of 'music' (noise!), obviously the idea being that the child presses one button after another to create their own tune. There are also 4 strings so the child can pretend to play the instrument. The strings don't actually do anything other than make a tiny high and delicate noises....which are drowned out by the noise the rest of the guitar makes. As well as the 8 black buttons there are 5 pink buttons along the bottom of the body of the guitar. The first of these is the dreaded demo button. This plays a rock solo, I cannot tell you how long this goes on for - I have just pressed it in order to provide you with accurate information but could only stand it for 30 seconds before I had to press my favourite button.....the stop button! Which is the last of these 5 pink buttons. Between the demo button and the stop button are 3 rhythm buttons which play a slightly more preferable noise than the fret buttons. If you have a rhythm playing then the fret buttons will only play a single note when pressed. This is when you can really go to town and use the swing bar! (otherwise known as a whammy bar). This extends the note and changes the pitch to give it that true rock music sound! The only other button is the on/off dial, this does just that 'on' or 'off', unfortunately there is no volume control which would be a very nice addition!
The guitar comes complete with rock star glasses with attached microphone, these plug into the guitar and amplify the voice so it comes out of the speaker on the front of the guitar. Like my children need their voices amplified?!?!
The guitar also has a strap so the child can 'wear' it. The strap is in two halves which are joined together with velcro, presumably this is (very sensibly) for safety reasons.
When my daughter received this, which is around 18 months ago, I remember there were a lot of tears. The glasses kept falling off and the strap didn't hold the guitar in the right place for her to reach the buttons, or it kept coming undone. After a while she just gave up and it sat in the corner of her room for a while only really coming out when friends came to play. My now 2 year old son has enjoyed playing with it for several months now, he just lies it on the floor, presses the buttons and dances round to the noise it makes. ELC have the age range for this toy as suitable from 3. At 3 my daughter found it very difficult to use 'like a real rockstar,' she is now 4 and a half and can manage this now, but rarely chooses to do so! Thank goodness!
This guitar is currently on sale with ELC for £10, which is half price. If you like this sort of toy then this isn't a bad price. Personally I don't like it! I have no objection to my children making noise (which is a good thing because they both have mouths like fog horns!) but I really don't like press a button/make a noise toys. We have a big box of musical instruments - tambourines, shakers, drums, kazoos, harmonicas, etc. We also have a piano, some pans and some wooden spoons! All of which are preferable to this guitar! However, after 18 months of a reasonable amount of use the guitar is still looking pretty good, all the buttons are still working and it does get picked up by the children every now and then so must appeal to them more than it does me. We have not had to change the batteries so it's not a battery drainer.....so I suppose I have to give it some stars, it's not ELC's fault that I hate toys like this!
Like so many of our toys, this was handed down to my son. He doesn't actually know who Fireman Sam is, I don't even know if it's still shown on TV anymore, if it is then it's not on any of the channels we watch! As you can imagine, not knowing who Fireman Sam is hasn't stopped him loving this fire engine!
The fire engine is friction powered - always an advantage over battery powered toys, and comes with a Fireman Sam figure. The figure has hinged arms and legs and his head can move from side to side. Unfortunately he is about 1mm too tall to fit in the cab easily so getting him in is a bit of a tight squeeze and his arms are too far apart to grip onto the steering wheel.
The fire engine has opening cab doors, these are pretty flimsy and the top half is now missing on both of them which is not suprising as there is no plastic in the windows. This means that the door tends to be opened by little fingers reaching through and pulling it, which eventually bends the plastic, which eventually causes it to break! The top half of one was already missing when the toy came to us and the second one was bent outwards and has since broken off. To be honest this isn't really a problem and makes you wonder why they bothered with the top half of the door in the first place!
The engine has quite a lot of detail with 3 shutters on either side, lights, siren horns, buttons and a steering wheel. These are all for show and do not open/flash/press/turn. What isn't for show though is the crane arm which can be lifted and swivelled. In the cradle of the crane there is a tiny protuding peg and Fireman Sam's left foot has a little hole in the bottom of it. This means you can stand Fireman Sam in the cradle and move the cradle about without him falling out, in theory! In reality he isn't that secure and does still fall out, but not as much as he would without the peg! There are also two 'feet' on either side of the engine which can be pulled out to steady the engine when Sam is in the crane arm. I have to say that neither of my children (aged 4 and 2) bother with these much. Looking at the image above the toy also came with a ladder, but we didn't get this!
My little boy has just turned two, he loves playing with this toy but rarely bothers with the Fireman Sam figure, despite the fact that, as I've mentioned in other reviews, he loves having a 'man' to drive his cars. I think he finds Sam too hard to put in so he just uses something/somone else instead.
Apart from the broken doors this toy is in pretty good condition. The child who passed it on is now 10, so I'm guessing it's about 7 years old so can obviously stand the test of time. It is currently on sale at Amazon for just over £10 which seems a reasonable price.
Last summer our lovely neighbour handed down a whole box full of Peppa Pig toys. My 4 year old daughter loves Peppa Pig so needless to say I had a very peaceful afternoon whilst she explored her new toys!
I am not one to buy my children TV related toys - or clothes. I kind of hate they watch as much as they do anyway....but I love (and need!) the peace it gives me! In fact, the double bill of Peppa Pig at 8.15am on Milkshake is when I used to know I could leave them and nip upstairs uninterrupted to get dressed and ready for the day ahead! Unfortunately we now have to leave for school before Peppa even starts! However, I don't want to extend TV into their play away from the TV. I also know how quickly their favourite programmes change, last year it was Show Me, Show Me and Same Smile, this year it's Octonauts and Tree Fu Tom (sorry non Cbeebies viewers!) so I have always felt that TV themed toys will soon be rejected very quickly. That said both her and her younger brother have played with the Peppa Pig toys a LOT! And the Camper Van is without doubt the favourite part of the kit for both of them!
The Camper Van comes in two halves. The whole top half comes off (from above the yellow doors) allowing good access to the main part of the van. In the main part of the van are two purple seats with different sized indentations in which you can securely sit Daddy Pig, Mummy Pig, Peppa and George - all of whom are included in the set. These seem pretty solid and have moveable arms and legs. The seats can be taken out and used with the table and barbeque for al fresco dining. Looking at the image above it looks like there are other parts to the set, but these must have been long gone before we got the set. In the roof of the campervan is a blue veranda which can either be pulled out manually, or there is a dial which can be turned to extend it. The dial is very small and fiddley even for me so my daughter tends to pull it out manually. The danger here is that it gets pulled out completely, but it slots back in easily enough so this isn't a major problem.
As I said, this was handed down to us. It has obviously been played with, there are a few scuffs of paint missing, but other than cosmetic damage everything is in working order and standing up to the battering my now 2 year old son is giving it!
The only problem with this set is that the roof does not fit on the base very securely so when the van is being pushed around it tends to fall off. This isn't too much of a problem for my 4 year old as she can put it back on, but it used to cause a lot of stress for my then 18 month old. Both of them now tend to not bother with the roof too much and seem quite happy to do so.
Although they have both loved playing with the Peppa Pig Camper Van, it hasn't changed my mind about TV themed toys. They would have loved this toy even if it wasn't related to Peppa Pig, this set costs around £20 which I don't think is such a bad price considering it comes with all 4 characters and a few other accessories. However, I certainly would not have paid this price for it! I have looked online and you can buy other non themed campervan toys for a similar price, and considerably better ones for not much more! Plan Toys do a fantastic wooden one for around £35, which I know is a whole £15 more but I am sure a time will come when the Peppa Pig toys are 'babyish', but I think this will come quite a long time before they outgrow 'small world' play.
If you have read my previous reviews you will know that I am a huge fan of Orchard Toys. I thought I would never come across an Orchard Toys game that didn't tick every box. However, my heart sinks every time my daughter brings this one over and asks me to play it!
Fruit Frenzy consists of 42 fruit cards, 2 wild cards (which show all the fruits and can be used to represent whichever fruit you want) and one spinner. The spinner has 3 sections, one for 'Take a face up card', one for 'Take a face down card' and a 'Fruit Frenzy' one. To play the game you spread all the cards out face down (the 'pool') and take 5 cards each. The aim of the game is to get 5 matching cards. A card that is rejected by a player is placed face up in the pool which is how you end up with some face up and some face down cards. All this is ok. The thing I really struggle with is the Fruit Frenzy bit! In fact I had to read the rules for this bit several times when we first played it as I could not get my head round it! If the spinner lands on Fruit Frenzy then the player who spun the dial takes a face down card and puts it on one side (creating a small 'pool'), then each player puts one of their cards face down with it. On the count of 3 each player grabs a new card. Now, I have only ever played this game with my 4 year old. Just me and her. And, at the moment we still play games like this with all our cards laid in front of us face up. So we both know which cards we have added to the Fruit Frenzy, meaning the only surprise card is the one taken from the table. My only hope (as I am struggling to deal with the fact that Orchard Toys are capable of making a game that is not brilliant) is that once she is old enough for us to play this game 'blind', and maybe once we are playing it as a family (at 2 little brother is too young to join in yet) that this part of the game will be the best bit and not the worst bit!
This is Orchard Toys game is aimed at children aged 4 - 9. She got this for her 4th birthday and was totally capable of understanding the rules (once I had got my head around them!), however I think that to really appreciate this game you probably need to be a little older. I am not prepared to give up hope for this one yet!
You can currently pick this up at Amazon for around £6.50 which is a very reasonable. Like all Orchard Toys the quality of the cards and spinner is excellent. The spinner is designed so that you can hold it still at the edge and spin it without your fingers getting in the way which is a bonus as I don't have to keep reminding her to keep her fingers out of the way. It comes in my favourite sort of box - one box with a top opening flap, much preferable to the box and lid option which inevitably ends up with all the pieces ending up on the floor when carried by a child AND need storing one on top of the other, so that when said child want the bottom jigsaw/game and pulls it out, all the jigsaws/games above it end up on the floor. These amazing new top flap boxes can be put on a shelf like books! Genius!
So, although at the moment this is one of my least favourite games to play, I suspect that in time we will enjoy it more. Let's just say I still have faith in Orchard Toys!
My sister bought this car for my son for his second birthday. I knew immediately why she had chosen it.....it comes with a man to drive it. My son likes all his cars to have a man! This can be anything, we have a wooden hedgehog colour matching game which you take the 'prickles' out to play it. These prickles are often "man" or he will use playmobil people or jigsaw pieces, so long as there is something behind the steering wheel he is happy! So, once we had wrestled the car out of the packaging (during which time the initial excitement had faded a little for him), his face lit up again "Man!" he exclaimed! My sister knows him well!
Wow is not a range I have come across before. Those of you who have read my previous reviews are probably starting to realise I am a fan of wooden earth friendly toys and tend to avoid plastic toys. However, once a toy has been bought for my children I am not going to let it go to waste! I now know that Wow pride themselves on making durable toys that don't break, don't use toxic materials and don't use small parts in their toys. This particular toy is suitable from just 18 months and I think this is the case for most of their toys which is nice, so many toys now are suitable from 3 years for safety reasons due to small parts, but we all know children will enjoy playing with them from a much younger age!
The car itself is nice and chunky; its weight implies (as Wow claim) that it is not going to fall apart anytime soon. The only part of it that is not plastic is two rubber strips around each of the back wheels; presumably these are to give it a bit of traction when going over rough terrain! It is friction powered (no batteries - yay!), so a small amount of pressure when you push it forwards makes it go quite a long way. The detail on the car is painted on, with the exception of two 'Wow' stickers on either side. At the back of the car is a metal tow bar that I presume other toys from the Wow range can be attached to. On one side of the car there is a petrol cap, when you press the petrol cap the yellow car roof pops open. It does say on the box that man can do this, he does have very round fists which fit nicely into the curved shape of the petrol cap - though he has to be floating in the air to reach the petrol cap in the first place! But so far this is a feature that doesn't interest my son. He is quite happy pushing the cap himself.
Inside the car there is a sticker to represent the dashboard (steering wheel, torch, notepad and walky talky) and two holes for the passengers. One of these is obviously for "Man", but the only other character that comes with the set is "Dog", but dog doesn't fit into either of these holes. Dog has his own hole on top of the yellow roof, where he sits happily behind the blue lights. The second hole in the car causes quite a bit of confusion for my son, who tries to ram dog into it, getting very cross when he doesn't fit. Man will fit into either hole, but obviously only fills one at a time! I suppose if you own a range of Wow toys then you might have another person for this hole, but I still think it would be better to include a second person with this toy for those (like us) who don't own anything else from the range.
Man, is very friendly looking, smartly dressed in a blue police uniform and quite solid. He feels like he will be around a long time. Dog, however, is much lighter and more delicate (hollow!) than man, and feels like he will crack under the first foot that stands on him!
This is quite a nice little set and comes out of the toy box almost every day to join the traffic jam that stretches across our living room floor. I quite like the fact that apart from the noise of the motor it doesn't make any other noises, such as a siren. My little boy makes enough noise without additional sound effects! It's currently on sale at Amazon for just under £9 which I'd say is a reasonble price if it lasts as long as Wow claim it will. I'm afraid it loses a star for putting two holes in the car and providing only one person, and for the hollow dog!
My son was given this dumper truck for his second birthday (those of you that regularly read my reviews be warned, this is the first of many toy vehicle reviews! Apart from one jigsaw, every single present was a vehicle).
I couldn't tell you who was more excited when he opened it, him or my friend's 10 year old son! In fact, there were a fair few Dads at the party that you could tell were itching to have a go (and I think each and every one of them did at some point during the day!)
This is an all singing, button pressing, parts moving truck......so, not really my cup of tea!! In fact it has so many features that I don't really know where to start! Maybe I should start with the one that seemed to excite all the boys the most (and I'm including the Dads here!). The truck comes with a little wheely bin which has a small plastic flap on the front of it. This flap fits into a slot on the truck (just behind the drivers cab). Next to the slot is a lever. When you lift the lever up the bin moves up the side of the truck, curves over the top (see image above) until it is upside down over a hole on the top of the truck, gravity causes the lid to fall open and anything that is inside the bin is deposited into the back of the truck! You then press the lever down and the bin is returned to the ground again. Now, the level of excitement this caused the 10 year old (and the dads!) was impressive! He instantly started rolling up little balls of wrapping paper to fill the bin. Up the bin went, the rubbish fell into the truck, the little button at the back of the truck that pops open the end of the truck was pressed and yes, the little bits of wrapping paper were in the back of the truck! "Wow! This is SOOOOO awesome! Mum, I've got to have one of these!" exclaimed the 10 year old! And this is a boy who you can't normally drag away from the ipad! Admittedly, I think his request was a bit tongue in cheek, but he did play with the truck for quite some time!
There is also a large button on the top of the truck which when pressed alternates between the sound of an engine starting and the beeping of a truck reversing. It also makes the orange lights on the front and the sides of the vehicle flash on and off. These lights also flash when the button on the drivers side of the cab is pressed, and again this activates two noises which alternate, one is possibly the sound of rubbish falling into the truck, the other......hmmm, I'm really not sure what it is! A mechanical, engine mish mash of noises is the best way I can describe it!
The whole of the back of the truck lifts away from the cab to tip the rubbish out. So far we have been doing this by giving it a tug. It seems strange that a toy with so many buttons doesn't have one to do this, but if it does we have yet to find it!
The vehicle was already decorated with stickers (unlike some toys where you have to apply the stickers), some of these are safety/warning stickers, others are images of buttons/dials. The cab windows are blacked out and the doors do not open which is a shame in our case as my little boy loves putting people in to drive his vehicles (we have a wooden bus full of little wooden passengers so we have plenty of people to go around!). The truck itself seems reasonably well made, though already has an annoying squeak when the wheels go round! So far it has proved a popular addition to my sons fleet of vehicles, though at just two years old he hasn't played much with the bin lifting aspect of it, mainly because it is too fiddly for him to attach the bin by himself. He likes the buttons which activate the sounds and he likes opening the back and putting other cars in it! The fact that it is a bin wagon is irrelevant at the moment!
I am not sure how much this truck was, I have done a search online and it doesn't seem to be widely available. I did find it on the Mothercare website for £15 reduced from £30. I do not think this truck is worth £30! But that may be down to my taste in toys, for £30 you could get a beautiful wooden truck that will last a lot longer than this....but it wouldn't have buttons/sounds! So I suppose it depends what you want your children to play with. For all it's features I suppose £15 is a reasonable price. I am struggling with how many stars to give it! Personally I don't like it! But I suppose there isn't actually anything wrong with, and laddo seems to like it and that's who it's for! So I'll go with 4 stars....deducting marks for the doors not opening and the ridiculous RRP!
I bought this set for my son for his second birthday. If you have read my previous review of the Plan Toys Parking Garage, then you will already know that my son is vehicle mad! I was struggling to think of something to get him for his birthday because his main love is vehicles.....but we already have so many!! Then I noticed that the Parking Garage (kindly handed down to us by a friend a few weeks before his birthday) could obviously be attached to something else, there was a little notch cut out and one side and a sticky out bit at the other side. I grabbed my laptop, did a quick search and hey presto.....present dilemma solved! The perfect gift for a vehicle mad boy who has more vehicles than our little house can cope with.....a road!
I bought the set for £34.99 from Amazon. The set is beautifully made from non-chemically treated rubberwood and comprises of 27 track pieces, 1 bridge, 2 wooden cars, 2 street lights and 4 trees. The pieces fit together using the same system as is often used in toy wooden train tracks (such as Brio). One end of the piece has a notch taken out of it, the other end has a bit sticking out which fits into a notch! Unlike the train track though my son is already able to fit these pieces together by himself as the fit is not quite as tight.
One thing I like about the set is the attention to detail. Some pieces have a pedestrian crossing on (if you follow the layout in the image shown above then these pieces go at all four points of the crossroads, then there is a further crossing just after you pass under the bridge). The bridge itself has a centre pole that is attached with elastic and clicks into an indentation in the surface of the bridge. The bridge has raised red sides which match the red edges of the Parking Garage and is supported by two 'T' shaped struts. These also have raised edges so the bridge cannot slide off and are chunky enough to support the bridge and the road leading up to the bridge. That said, at the moment my son knocks the bridge over nearly every time he 'brums' a car up it, but this is because he pushes onto it too hard up the ramp, thus flattening the 'T' supports, I certainly feel the bridge is sturdier than similar bridges he has in his wooden train set, and his 4 year old sister seems to be able to get a car over it without it collapsing so I am hoping he will soon learn what he is doing wrong!
The accessories you get with the set are made to the same high standard as the road. The painted detail on the two little cars is fantastic, there are 6 silver windows - each of which is a lovely curvy shape, two little round white headlights, a front and back bumper and a front grill. The tyres are rubber and (I can't believe I am saying this about any car, let alone one that is less than 5cm long!) it moves like a dream! I have no idea what makes a toy car so good, but at a guess I would say that they have got the weight/wheels/size ratio absolutely spot on, on a smooth surface - such as the Road System Deluxe (or a marble hearth!) just one little nudge and these little wonders really do go! Similarly, the four trees that come with the set (two of each design) have nice chunky trunks and the street lights have a wooden base with a metal curve on top that end in a painted yellow 'light'.
Quite possibly the thing that excited me most about this set is that one of the track pieces is a level crossing (all be it without safety barriers) so you can attach a wooden train set to the layout. In keeping with the thoughtful design, this is a piece that can easily be left out, but as we already had the trainset we are using it and my son now has a wonderful layout of a road, a train track and a parking garage that he absolutely loves and that encourages his imaginative play without the use of buttons/sounds/lights that seem to acompany so many toys these days!
I think that for £34.99 this is a great buy. Plan Toys are an amazing company who actually think! Not just about our children's minds, but also about the environment.....and about bringing the two together!
The Moonlight Dreamshow was given to us as a gift a few weeks after my daughter was born. I have to say, it is not something I would have chosen (I think it's down right ugly!), so maybe I was biased from the start....but never one to waste a gift I was prepared to give it a go.
We popped some batteries in and turned it on. I was quite horrified by how loud the music that came out of it was, and couldn't really see how this would soothe her to sleep! I actually quite like the tune (Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood), but I would not put it in the lullaby catagory - certainly not when played like this anyway! At this point she was still sleeping in our room and we certainly wouldn't be able to sleep with that racket on, so back in the box it went.
It was several months later when she was sleeping in her own room and we were having trouble settling her that we decided to give it another go. I attached it to the side of her cot quite easily using the rubber straps on the back. The unit is quite heavy so I have to admit I was a little paranoid about it falling off in the night and landing on her, but my husband assured me this wouldn't happen. (at least, not without little fingers fiddling with it and she was still too young to be doing that!) We turned the unit on, and although the pictures that were projected onto the ceiling were not very clear (even though with a blackout blind her room was pretty dark), the movement of the lights did distract and entertain her enough for us to make our exit without causing too much distress, and with a little grizzling (which would set the unit off again) she eventually nodded off. Only to be woken up again half an hour later when she grunted and out blared the music again! Aaaargh!!! Why didn't we see that coming! (I blame severe sleep deprivation!). Needless to say the unit was quickly returned to it's box.
It didn't come out again until I had my son two years later, this time although once again sleep deprived, we were now experienced users of this stupid machine, so didn't attempt to use it to settle him to sleep! But it did come in handy for distracting him during those middle of the night nappy changes when we desperatly didn't want his screaming to wake his sister up!
The Dreamshow never really got enough use for me to comment on battery life. My mother in law had bought it second hand from ebay (she knows me well, I'm all for buying second hand stuff!). Some of the paint had been scratched off so I'm presuming it had been used a reasonable amount by it's previous owners and was showing cosmetic signs of wear and tear, though mechanically it was fine. However, the fact that Winnie's eye's were now white did make him look a little bit scary and possessed!
I would never recommend this product to anyone. In my opinion it is a perfect example of something that is made with very little thought put into it - and most likely by someone who hasn't had a baby! The music is not soothing, it ends abruptly which would most likely wake the baby and the sound sensor is a such a badly thought out idea! Anyone who has slept in the same room as a baby will know that it is similar to sleeping in a stable full of farm animals! The stupid machine is going to be on more than it is off! And baby is going to be woken up by this thing more times than they are soothed to sleep!
When a friend asked if I wanted her son's old wooden garage I said yes immediately! My son is completely car (or rather vehicle) mad - I am now a firm believer that this is a nature thing not a nurture thing! Until his first birthday the toys he played with were exactly the same as those his sister had at that age, which included some cars and trains. Whilst she had never really bothered that much with them, the minute he started to crawl he would 'brum' them round the room and quickly developed an inner car seeking sensor! The speed in which he can seek out a car at a toddler group or friends house is incredible!
When my friend offered me the Plan Toys Parking garage we already had the ELC Whizz around garage (bought second hand for £8!) which my son loved, but I knew that eventually he would grow out of it, so accepted this one in readiness for that happening as it seemed more grown up. She brought it round just before my sons second birthday. I have never seen him so excited! He loved it from the second he saw it!
The garage has four levels. The first level has two petrol pumps at one side and at the other side is the entrance to the car park, the cars can either turn left up the ramp or go straight on into the lift. To operate the lift you turn the large black disc on top of the garage (my son can easily manage this). The lift can be stopped at the second and third levels. On the second level there are several parking spaces and a ramp up to the third level, where there are some more parking spaces. The fourth level has the disc to operate the lift and also a helipad! If you buy the garage new it comes with two cars and a parking attendant. I also think they must have added some extra features over the years as those currently on sale also have a car wash and a toll booth built in.
The two ramps are not permanently fixed but are held in place by two little pegs (for each ramp) on the garage. Each ramp has two holes for the pegs to fit into. If the ramps come off then my son needs help to pop them back on but I'm sure it won't be long before he can manage to do this himself. He loves driving his cars up and down the ramps and then parking them in the parking bays. I have been surprised that, although he does play with the lift, this is not the main attraction for him. In fact, the Plan Toys Parking garage is a perfect example that simplicity and quality can appeal to children more than the beeping, lights flashing, button pressing toys that so many people seem to favour these days. The ELC Whizz around garage is now at Granny's as he had no interest in it once this one arrived.
The Plan Toys garage is quite pleasing on the eye - in my opinion! I much prefer having this in the corner of the room than the ELC Whizz Around garage anyway! Another aspect of this garage that appeals to me is that Plan Toys are a very 'green' company who only use environmentally friendly materials. The wood they use is reclaimed preservative free rubberwood and they create new material and process to minimize waste up to zero. We have various Plan Toys items and have been very pleased with all of them, the quality is always very good. Their current marketing tag is 'Sustainable Play' in which they are trying to encourage parents to make sustainable choices when selecting toys for their children. This is something I do try to do, generally any plastic toys I do buy for my children I buy second hand as this helps to ease my conscience!
My friends son, who was the original owner of this garage is now 10 years old, and it went to another little boy inbetween him growing out of it and my son getting it. So, at a rough guess this particular garage has been in use for around 8 years and I can honestly say it looks almost as good as new! There are a couple of slightly splintered bits on the edge where it has obviously been bashed with something (or against something), but apart from these two bits the red paint around the edge of the levels is not at all chipped. The Plan Toys Parking garage costs around £50 and I would say it is worth every penny. There are lots of extras you can buy to add on to it to enhance play, such as the Plan Toys Road System, Rescue centre, Gas Station and Car Repair & Service Garage. This garage was such a hit with my son that we bought him the Road System Deluxe for his second birthday and I can imagine more bits will be appearing at Christmas!
My mother-in-law bought these for my daughter last Christmas. She was 3 and a half at the time and neither she, us or my mother-in-law actually had any idea who or what Moshi Monsters were! We'd heard of them, but I didn't know if they originated from TV, books, comics or what. On Boxing Day my 9 year old nephew enlightened me to the fact that it is an online game where you adopt and care for your own virtual pet monster, play games and chat with your online friends! Since then I have realised it is obviously an online game that has turned into a playground craze with an abundance of merchandise to go with it.
Needless to say the online side of it was not something I wanted to introduce my 3 year old to! Nor did we need to. The same thing attracted her to these toys as I'm sure must have attracted my mother-in-law to them. They come in a shiny tin and are very cute! At 3 years old she didn't care who or what they were!
In the tin you get 8 plastic gold Moshi Monsters, apparently they are Fifi, Honey, Jeepers, Mini Ben, Oddie, Rocky, Lady Meowford & Shishi. My nephew was very excited about some of these so I presume some of them are rare. You also get a collectors leaflet which explains a bit about the characters in the tin, this was of no iterest to my daughter and I imagine it ended up in the bin pretty quickly!
10 months later these little gold creatures are still quite popular at our house. She still has no idea who they are (other than they are Moshi's - in fact she called them mosher's for a long time!). They have probably not been a whole set of 8 for quite some time (the tin is used for crayons now as it was always empty, the moshi's packed away in a bag/living with her toy fairies/lined up on our mantlepiece/etc.) but they have remained popular. Although, thinking about it she never actually does anything with them! They just exist! She doesn't even use them in imaginative play, but there is obviously something about them that she likes. If I could find one now I would check it for chipped paint, etc but typically I cannot! But I know I have never looked at them at thought "look at the state of that!" so they must still be in pretty good condition, and the tin is certainly still going strong!
All in all this has been a great toy, even for a non Moshi fan! However, I would be in no rush to add to the collection, and kind of hope that by the time she's old enough the craze will have passed!
I spotted these whilst looking for inspiration for my nephew's Christmas present last year and ordered them immediately. He's loves writing stories and I thought this might be a fun slant on his hobby - and give him a bit of a challenge! I also bought a set for my friends children, who were 4, 7 and 9 at the time. I paid just under £7 for them at Amazon.
Rory's story cubes consist of 9 dice with a different image on each side* The dice are beautifully made with clear images and come in a sturdy, re-usable box with a flip top lid which has a magnetic clasp hidden in the cardboard to allow it to stay shut, making this a very portable (stick it in you handbag for emergencies) activity! It is a very attractive and tactile set.
The idea is that you roll the dice, then use your imagination to make up a story that includes all the images shown on the dice. There are no set rules, the game can be played alone or with friends. If playing with friends you can take it in turns to roll all the dice, then tell a story, at the end of which you pass all the dice to the next person who does the same, or you can take it in turns to bring the next image into the story - the latter is my favourite way of playing! And best of all, it is a non competative game so there are no tantrums from losing participants!
Rory's Story Cubes are marketed as suitable for age 6+, however I am intending to buy my 4 and a half year old some for Christmas. One of our favourite games whilst out walking or in the car is to make up a story, taking it in turns to come up with the next sentence/paragraph. I think the appropriate age for this sort of toy depends purely on the child and how much imaginitive play they do....if they do struggle then using fewer dice will make the game easier for them.
Additional sets are also available which can be used in conjuction with the original cubes or on their own. There is a set of 'action' cubes ("depicting the most important verbs to be learned in second language development") and a set of 'voyages' cubes - which is designed to inspire stories from "far, far away", the images shown in the marketing picture for this set include an octopus, a viking helmet, a goblet, a crown, etc...so much less 'every day' than the images of the original set. The images in each set are depicted in different colours so they are easy to distinguish from each other if more than one set is used. And if you like you're technology then you can even get a Rory's Story Cubes iphone app!
I know that both the families I gave these too last year have thoroughly enjoyed playing with them, so much so that my sister has suggested we get an add on set for my nephew this Christmas! For just under £7 this is a fantastic toy, not only is it well made but it encourages imagination and can be used pretty much anywhere, with pretty much anyone! I am looking forward to having our very own set to play with!
* Another reviewer has stated that the cubes came with (very thin) stickers that needed applying to the dice. This was not the case in my set. The dice already had lovely clear images on them! Maybe the other set was an early prototype!