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Saturday, 29 July 2017

Stretch Armstrong's Arch Enemy Is Back - Meet Vac Man

I'm sure you remember Stretch Armstrong, the strong man action figure with the stretchable arms. He's been around since 1976 and made a reappearance last year.

Now his arch enemy, Vac Man, is back as a 14" fully stretchable and poseable Vac powered action figure made by Character Options.

Ieuan with Stretch Armstrong's arch enemy Vac Man
If you pump the air out of him with the vacuum pump (supplied), he can “set” into any pose you put him in! When you release the valve at the side of his head, he returns to his normal state.

You can pull him, stretch him and even tie him in knots - up to 4 times his size.

Vac Man promotional shots - see him stretch to 4 times his size

He's a pretty sturdy toy and at 14" he's quite heavy.  The recommended age range is 5+ which is about right I'd say as kids need to be able to attach the vacuum pump to the side of his head.  This clicks into place easily enough but might take a few attempts to get the hang of.

You pump him around 6 times to get the air out and then you can put him into any fighting stance you fancy.

The ability to vacuum the air out of him and pose him lends an extra fascination to Vac Man, as does his beady insides!  Attractive he is not!

Press the valve at the side of his head and he becomes smooth and normal (relatively) again.

He retails at £29.99 which we thought was a fair price for a well built and decent sized toy which will last for years.  Vac Man is certainly strong enough to withstand the full on force of  boys and girls like Ieuan and Caitlin.

You can find out more at www.character-online.com where you'll also find Stretch Armstrong, Fetch the dog and Octopus to help kids create their own stretchy role play.

And yes, Stretch does have an uncanny resemblance to a certain, um, president.  Here he is, doing his thing.


Friday, 19 May 2017

Review: Zookiez & Wobbleez - Soft & Cute Play Pets With A Twist

Lots of Caitlin's and Ieuan's friends have pets and, loving mother that I am, I have discovered a fuss free solution that involves no vets bills.

Zookiez and Wobbleez from Sinco Toys are two ranges of plush, cuddly toy animals which will delight anyone from age 3 to 103.

Zookiez are toy pets which can be slapped on to your wrist and they will hold on tight with their furry paws.  Because their paws will grip, they can be carried about on your arm or even attached to a backpack or school bag.

There are 6 Zookiez to collect, 2 cats, 2 dogs, a bear and, Ieuan's new friend, a panda.

Collage of Ieuan Hobbis demonstrating the Zookiez Panda
Panda is lovely and soft and retails around the £10 mark.

Wobbleez is a range of pets who magically walk when you pull their lead - all without batteries. There's 3 to collect, a Golden Retriever, a Dalmation and a Shepherd Dog.

They have specially adapted paws which rock gently when you pull the toy along giving the illusion that your pet is walking.  You do have to pull gently though - if you pull too hard, your wobbleez will fall over.

We have not taken our Wobbleez dog outside as he is clearly designed for indoor use.

Again, this was a good quality toy with a very plush feel and Caitlin has named hers Apricot.  Ieuan being Ieuan has named his panda, Panda.  Wobbleez retail around the £20 mark.

Caitlin Hobbis with her Wobbleez Shepherd Dog toy
The dog's lead comes in three parts which you simply clip together and attach to a loop already round the neck of the toy.  It clips on quite securely and even with quite some tugging didn't come off when we got the dog walking.

Wobbleez are recommended for the 3's and over up to about 10 although I found them pretty cute myself.

Here's the last word from Caitlin.

You can find Zookiez and Wobbleez at major toy stockists including Smyths.

*PR samples were sent for the purpose of this post.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Thumb Chucks - The New Fidget Toy On The Block

Fidget toys are everywhere and whilst my two love their Fidget Spinners, they have discovered an equally fun alternative - Thumb Chucks. 

Fidget toys were apparently first designed for children with autism to help them develop fine motor skills. Recently kids (and grown ups) have been starting to use them with claims being made that they promote focus and concentration, thereby reducing stress. Those of us who worked in offices in the 80's will remember the appearance of stress balls which were less interactive but arguably achieved the same thing.

Thumb Chucks, however, are a little different from Fidget Spinners.  For a start they light up and they are tipped to be the new yo yo with a number of different techniques and tricks you can learn. 

Fidget Toys #thumbchucks #fidgetspinners
They are easy to carry and Zing Toys, who make these, suggest they are suitable for "festivals, going out, killing time on the tube, hanging out, waiting for friends and challenging your mates to the latest tricks"  You can certainly do more with them than just watch them spin.

Thumb Chucks – Control the Roll!

Whilst the tricks are easy to learn though, they are quite challenging to master. When you have mastered each trick you can uploading your videos online to unlock new coloured, interchangeable belts that players can use to flaunt their skill status. Players upload and showcase tricks with special effects on social media with the Thumb Chucks App and watch new trick tutorials by the Thumb Chucks guru online.

Whilst Caitlin and Ieuan don't have too much patience for complicated tricks,  they did like Thumb Chucks.  Here's their take on both Thumb Chucks and Fidget Spinners.

Available from toy shops, retailers and online from Spring 2017 for £7.99 RRP. Recommended for ages 5 to 99+.

*PR samples were received for the purpose of this post

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Why Building And Construction Toys Are So Beneficial For Kids

Building and construction play sets or kits have always been regarded both by parents and by child development experts alike to be one of the most beneficial types of toys especially when talking about development and growth among children.

Selection of brightly coloured Duplo building blocks for kids
Image credit:  Pixabay
In case you’re wondering, here are the common benefits of building toys for kids.

Enhances visual motor coordination and spatial intelligence.

Playing with building blocks require children to have a fair understanding of the position of a block or brick relative to the other parts in a particular space. This helps develop and refine their spatial intelligence. 

This is important in enhancing their ability to coordinate their motor movements with the sensory inputs from their eyes. This simply means that when children look at a brick, they will have an idea of its shape and how it should be placed in the board in relation to other building pieces.

Refines the development of fine motor skills.

There are building blocks that are smaller than usual and this requires an excellent control of fine motor movement. This is especially true when snapping these blocks into their respective slots so kids need to have precision movement of their fingers. 

Caitlin & Ieuan building Lego

Develops math skills.

From the number of blocks needed to complete a particular model to the different geometric shapes that will be formed, kids can learn a lot about the basics of mathematics every time they play with building toys. They also get to appreciate the concepts of area, equivalents, sizes, and even sorting which are all very important ideas in mathematical processes.

Stimulates creative thinking.

Most building play sets have a guide on how to build a particular model. However, this doesn’t mean that the playset cannot be modified to produce an entirely different model. Kids learn soon enough that by manipulating certain blocks, they can essentially create something totally different. And this lays the groundwork for the enhancement of children’s creative and imaginative potentials.

Fosters divergent problem solving.

Closely related to creative thinking is the development of divergent problem thinking. Here, kids begin asking questions as to what other models or structures can be built using the same building and construction blocks that are available to them. 

They begin to ask questions that start with “what if” and are often rewarded with fantastic creations. For instance, the model may actually be designed as a house, but using the power of what-if thinking, kids might as well turn it into a ship or something else. 

Problem solving is a very important skill that children must be able to learn and master as it lays the foundation for successful problem solving in adulthood.

Introduces and reinforces science and engineering concepts.

There are many scientific principles that can be learned by kids just by playing with construction toys alone. They can learn to experiment, the effects of gravity, how to achieve balance, and the establishment of cause and effect relationships. 

All of these will result in the formation and development of a more scientific approach to problem solving. In such cases, engineering concepts will be a lot easier to teach. 

Sooner than you can expect, your child might as well be on his or her way to building some of the best innovations known to man. 

The Lego 75153 Star Wars AT-ST Walker Set

Allows for dramatic play.

These construction models are not completed for display purposes only. Kids use them to narrate or tell a story. In many instances, they will be telling you about how such models will change the way we live. These become important tools for them to play out the scenarios they have formed in their heads.

Building toys are important tools for children to grow and develop optimally. Getting them one or two of these types of toys can do a lot for their future.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Win Og On The Bog From Drumond Park Games

Let's be honest.  There's nothing like a game involving general bodily rudeness to capture the imagination of youngsters (and many adults) and we've been sent just such a game to review by Drumond Park Games.

Og on the Bog game by Drumond Park

The electronic Og on the Bog (rrp £24.99), age 5+ for 2-4 players) is truly hilarious and takes revolting games to completely new heights with its outrageous brand of gross and disgusting toilet humour.

This may well be an acquired taste but my two found it very funny indeed.  Og on the Bog is simple but appeals to a vast range of youngsters up to the age of 11 and beyond.

Og on the Bog game - Og's Bog

The aim of the game is to steal Og's loo rolls and leave him stranded on the loo.  Players take turns on the spinner to see if they can sneak a loo roll of its pole.

If your hands are unsteady, however, you'll disturb Og who will fart loudly and scare them away!

As play proceeds anticipation and excitement build because if Og does a truly humungous, explosive fart, he blows his Bog apart!

Og on the Bog Game - Og's Exploded Bog!

To play you set up Og and his bog in the centre of the table. Each player is given a loo roll to start them off and the youngest player spins the tree stump spinner.

A red cross means you’ve made a noise and it’s not safe to tip-toe up to Og’s Bog, so your turn is over and the next player spins.

Caitlin & Ieuan playing Og on the Bog game

The hand holding a loo roll means you can pinch a loo roll from any other player!

A green tick means you can stealthily try to steal a loo roll from Og’s loo roll pole… and here’s the tricky part. You have to push down the front step of the bog to see if Og has heard you. If he says anything, he has – and you must run away; your turn is over.

If he grunts or farts he has not heard you – and you can try to lift that loo roll off the pole. 

If you twitch it too much, Og will make another noise: if he shouts out something (which could be quite rude!), you must drop the loo roll back on the pole and your turn is over. If he grunts or farts – success! – he did not hear you and you can keep that precious loo roll.

A wobbly hand might just set Og off more than once during your loo-roll-lifting efforts, and the same rules apply; if he shouts, drop it – but if he farts, you’re safe (and I never thought I’d hear myself say that one)!

If Og does a monster fart and his bog explodes during your turn, you have to put two of the loo rolls you've already collected back on to the pole and finish your turn, raising the walls of Og's bog once again so that play can continue.

Caitlin & Ieuan playing about the Og on the Bog's loo rolls

The winner is the first player to collect three loo rolls if 4 of you are playing, otherwise you have to collect 4 loo rolls each.

You do need to have a steady hand to retrieve the loo rolls and it doesn't take much for Og's bog to explode, leaving him sat looking very disgruntled.

The game is just the right level of complexity for Caitlin and Ieuan and an ideal length - we found it lasted around 10-15 minutes which is ideal for their attention span.

It's also blissfully easy to set up with a well printed set of instructions.  There's nothing worse than a game that takes longer to set up than it does to play (and we've had a few!).


I have one copy of Og on the Bog to give away to one lucky winner to test their own loo roll retrieval skills.

Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget and terms and conditions apply (on my competitions page). UK entrants only and the giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Sunday 23rd April.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
For more information and stockists, visit www.drumondpark.com. You can also find out more on Facebook or Twitter.

My Random Musings

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Review: Lego 75153 Star Wars AT-ST Walker Building Set

From a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away comes LEGO Star Wars and with it comes the chance for your kids (and you!) to build all your favourite ships and characters as well as some pretty cool vehicles. Each box provides suggestions for starting the play activity and you can also download the free Force Builder App.

Lego 75153 Star Wars AT-ST Walker Building Set Box

We were sent this particular set, LEGO Star Wars AT-ST Walker (RRP £44.99), to review from www.kidstoysclub.co.uk who provide recommendations, detailed toy reviews, pictures of play gadgets your children will like and articles about anything toy related.

The LEGO Star Wars AT-ST Walker set comes from the Rogue One film and this is the scenario:-

"Go on the hunt for Baze and the Rebel Trooper aboard the All Terrain Scout Transport. Open the top hatch, load up the AT-ST Driver and move the legs to speed into action. When you’ve tracked them down, turn the wheel to rotate the top and prepare to fire the spring-loaded shooters! Can Baze and the trooper escape the advancing AT-ST? That's for you to decide."

The three bags of Lego pieces in the Lego 75153 Star Wars AT-ST Walker Building Set

The set comes in a medium-sized box with 449 pieces split into 3 bags to help you build the walker in stages. The instruction book is excellent and takes you through the construction piece by piece in with large graphics.  I would have welcomed some written instructions in some places though.

The set is designed for the 8-14 age group.   I hadn't tried my hand at Lego building for a while and found that rather than the traditional way of building by clipping bricks together, there's quite a bit of slotting pegs in holes.

Caitlin & Ieuan assembling the Lego 75153 Star Wars AT-ST Walker Building Set

I found this slightly tricky and had to be rescued by the Husband (oh the shame) so kids at the lower end of this age range may need adult help to assemble the walker.

You build the legs and feet first and then assemble the walker in stages.  The body is more of a traditional type of build so that was a bit easier.

The build goes on - Lego 75153 Star Wars AT-ST Walker Building Set

There are plenty of moving parts to play with. The front and side cannons are mobile and you can fire the lasers.  The upper body rotates if you turn a dial on the back and both the top hatch and the entire cockpit roof open.

The Lego 75153 Star Wars AT-ST Walker assembled

The only negative point is that the walker is slightly wobbly and I think it would easily come apart during any rough play.

The set comes with three minifigures.  There's an AT-ST driver with two facial expressions to choose from, a Rebel trooper and new Rogue One character Baze Malbus, complete with his signature heavy blaster.

Lego 75153 Star Wars AT-ST Walker Building Set side view

Once assembled the Walker is really impressive, if a little fragile.  We enjoyed building this set but I would say that it is suitable for kids toward the higher end of the 8-14 age range.

Caitlin & Ieuan with the Lego 75153 Star Wars AT-ST Walker Building Set

*We were sent this product to review by www.kidstoysclub.co.uk
Family Fever

Monday, 14 November 2016

Christmas Gift Ideas For 7 Year Old Ieuan - Ideas Please!

At the supermarket on Saturday I gave Ieuan my phone and instructed him to take pictures of the kind of thing that he might like Santa to bring him.

Ieuan pretending to be a monster

I was hoping that he would pick 'things to play with' rather than 'things to interact with'.  He spends far too much time in the world of Minecraft creating huge, palatial buildings which randomly burn down at regular intervals.

The wailing is enough to send you to the gin cupboard, but I console myself that he might become an architect and design me a nice maximum security home for my twilight years.

But lots of toys seem unsophisticated when compared to online games,  and unlikely to hold Ieuan's interest for more than two minutes.

Ieuan dressed as a Roman gladiator

I'm sure lots of parents are currently scratching their heads wondering how to get their offspring off the sofa and actually mobile in the fresh air - or at least away from a screen for a while.

Ieuan's list consisted of Star Wars and Minecraft figures but I am determined to broaden his interests and reduce his screen time!

So what to get?  Are you facing a similar quandry?

Here are some suggestions that might be suitable for Ieuan's age group 7+ - although heaven knows, they're all different!

- Tickets for something like Lego Land or the Harry Potter tour.  You may find online discounts or be able to use Clubcard vouchers.

- Music CDs - must confess I am unsure of the musical taste of 7 year old boys!

- Board games like Operation or Mousetrap

- Science kit toys

- Unusual outdoor toys like rockets, kites or giant flying discs etc

- Lego or Meccano

- Remote control car

- Metal detector

- Watch / stopwatch / pedometer

- Simple camera

- Accessories for a bicycle - bell / horn / new cycle helmet / lights

- Encyclopedia or a history book (Horrible Histories, books on Ancient Egypt)

- Set of classic boys' own stories

- Football / rugby / sports equipment

- Musical instrument such as a guitar or basic keyboard

(unfortunately Ieuan wants to be a rock drummer so I'll be stalling on that one for as long as possible).

Ieuan dressed as Willy Wonka

We're at that awkward age where the existence of Santa is occasionally called into question (of course he exists!) so I don't want to let him choose his own presents.  We're still telling him he needs to get his skates on and write a list for Santa to work from.

What have you got on your boys' Christmas lists this year (for Santa to deliver obviously)?

I'd love to hear some inspiring ideas.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Win Stoopido Game From Drumond Park - The Game Of 1000 Silly Faces!

Looking for something a little more exciting than Charades after your Christmas lunch this year?  Drumond Park’s hilarious new Stoopido (rrp £17.99, for ages 8 to 100!) is a downright silly game that the whole family will absolutely love!

Drumond Park Stoopido Game

The point of the game play is the opposite of what you think – the winner is the person who is the only player left without a full face covered with quirky colourful eyes, ears, noses, hats and foreheads!

This fast and furious new game is about as stupid as it gets! Everyone dons plastic glasses, the dice is rolled, and if Nose, Eyes, Hat or Ears come up, the players race to hang the relevant colourful cardboard pieces on whichever player they choose.

As play proceeds, everyone gets loaded up with ever more comical items, for a totally mis-matched look. The winner is ‘the last man standing’ – the only player left with a gap or gaps on their glasses.

4 children playing Stoopido by Drumond Park

And I have one copy to give away to one lucky winner.

Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget and terms and conditions apply (on my competitions page).  UK entrants only and the giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Friday 25th November.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more information and stockists, visit www.drumondpark.com

And for grown-up giggles and to share adult games experiences, why not go over to their ‘Not so Quiet Night In’ blog . You can also find out more on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Turbo Trax-Pro - Toy Car Fun From Idealworld.TV

Christmas is on the horizon and pencils are being sharpened to write those letters to Santa.  It's always tricky to come up with something that will hold a child's imagination for more than two seconds and I'm always on the look-out for gifts and stocking fillers that will be played with for at least a few weeks!

Ieuan & Caitlin playing with the Turbo Trax-Pro

We recently tried a great little car set - the Turbo Trax-Pro and the Turbo Trax Bridge and Track set to add some extra excitement to the route.  The tracks also glow in the dark for a rather spooky effect.

Turbo Trax-Pro Set From Idealworld.TV
The Turbo Trax-Pro Set - £29.99

In the main kit you get

*160 x Glow in the Dark Track
*1 x Car
*4 x Spare Car Tyres
*4 x Clip on Trees
*2 x Beams
*4 x Tiers

The track just clips together and you can create ramps with the beams supplied.  Everything just slots into place.  You will need to supply batteries for the car (2 AA batteries) but it whizzes round and is very brightly lit.  It is simply operated by a push button on the top that even the littlest fingers can use.

The way you assemble your track is up to you and there are a number of suggested variations on the box.

Turbo Trax Bridge &Track Set From Idealworld.TV
The Turbo Trax Bridge And Track Set - £9.99

The Turbo Track Bridge and Track contains a clip together bridge and some extra sections of track.

Caitin and Ieuan have had a lot of fun with this, although arguably it is designed for slightly younger children. The recommended age for the product is 6 years. What hooked their interest was the ability to change the design of the track - if your kids like Lego this is likely to be popular with them too.

Turbo Trax-Pro box showing different track layouts

And we can confirm that the track does indeed glow in the dark when you switch the lights off and it looks quite impressive when the little car is whizzing around.

I liked that the set comes with a bag for you to quickly disassemble the track and put it all neatly away - literally in minutes.

Caitlin holding Turbo Trax-Pro drawstring bag for easy storage

This was a great toy which was surprisingly versatile and kept my two entertained for far longer than I expected.

And yes, it does really roll! You can find out more at Idealworld.TV.

*We were sent a Turbo Trax-Pro and a Turbo Trax Bridge & Track Set for the purposes of this review.


Sunday, 16 October 2016

Toy Review: Timeline:British History - Educational, Historical Fun For Kids by Esdevium Games

We've reviewed quite a few games now and whilst most of them are entertaining and pass the odd hour as a family, we've not found one that challenges the brain cells of kids and adults alike.

Timeline: British History is different.  It's a card game where you have to assess whether one historical event occurred before another and put the cards in the correct chronological order.

The game comes in a brightly coloured tin which is really attractive.  I particularly liked that the packaging is marked with symbols showing how many players, the suggested age range of players and the length of time it takes to play (in this case 15 minutes which is ideal for an 8 year old).

The box contains printed instructions and two piles of cards which are shuffled together to make one pack.

Each player is dealt four cards and therefore has four chances to place the events on their cards in the correct order.

Get it right and you have one less card to get  rid of - and you're closer to winning. A wrong decision means you return your card to the pile and take a brand new one.

The game commences with each player laying their four cards face up without looking at the date on the back.  The first event is taken off the central pile of remaining cards and each player takes turns to put their card either before or after the events on the table.  Cards are then slotted into place as the timeline builds.

The winner is the player who correctly places all four of their cards first.

It's suitable for 8+ children and I guarantee that it will challenge parents and grandparents too.  This gives the game a much more level playing field and the children are less likely to have a major strop because they consider the adults have an unfair advantage.

Let me give you an example.  Which came later? The Peasants' Revolt or Geoffrey Chaucer's beginning of "The Canterbury Tales"?  Answer, the latter in 1387.  The Peasants' Revolt was in 1381.

How about these.  Which came later - Isaac Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation or the founding of The Bank of England?  Again, the latter.  The Bank of England was founded in 1694 and Newton's law was discovered in 1687.

You can see that these are very challenging for a child as young as 8 but still really interesting and all the more entertaining to find out your mother is pretty useless at guessing!

Timeline:British History retails at around £13.99 which, for a game of this quality, is very good value.  My only criticism would be that the playing cards are quite small but on the plus side, the game in its sturdy tin would be great to take on holiday.

I also think it's the kind of game which will get more interesting the more you play it as you will begin to remember some of the dates of the events and get better at placing - and getting rid of - your four cards quickly.

I played Timeline:British History with Caitlin (8) and her cousin Emily (21) and Caitlin was surprisingly good at it!  It's a great opportunity to talk about historical events and to explain who some of the famous people are.  In other words, you could easily use this game as a teaching tool.

We really enjoyed this one and if you're looking for a game which is slightly more challenging but fun at the same time, I'd recommend Timeline: British History.

*We tested this game in our role at Approved Toy Testers for The Rainbow Toy Awards 2016


Monday, 19 September 2016

Bleurgh! Win Gross Magic From Drumond Park Games

As we all know, despite trying very hard to monitor the appearance of all things gross and bottom-related, there's nothing kids enjoy more, with the exception of making their friends and family even more disgusted.

Gross Magic by Drumond Park
I've 2 sets of Gross Magic to give away
Gross Magic by Drumond Park is a highly entertaining magic set with a difference - it's best not attempted on a full stomach.  It's a set of props to help kids carry out 39 funny magic tricks involving poo, cockroaches, veins, loose teeth and all manner of yuk guaranteed to create shouts of "yuk!".

The set comes with an informative guide to help kids carry out the tricks.  Gross Magic is aimed at kids over 8 and even so, some of the tricks will need an adult to explain how to carry them out.  There are a number of small parts in the kit which definitely makes it unsuitable for younger kids - for example dummy teeth and cockroaches!

Contents of Gross Magic Set Inside The Box
The Contents Of The Magic Set
The tricks are split into groups according to the props they use - a dustbin, sponge bogies, veins, bogie paddles and other accessories like the cube and the telepathic brain.

Of the 39 tricks in the instruction booklet, 31 of them need the Gross Magic props but the remaining 8 can be carried out without them using things you may have in the house.  The one I like most is pretending you have a toothache and then spitting out tic-tac mints to pretend you've lost your pearly whites!

Or, even more revolting, pretend your eye has burst with the aid of one of those little sealed pots of milk some cafes give you for your tea.  I won't break a magician's confidence but you can probably guess how it's done.

Gross Magic was just the right level for Caitlin (nearly 9) but there was plenty to keep Ieuan (7) happy - including some disgusting brown slim and pretend veins.

The instruction booklet has some great tips for aspiring magicians (don't tell everyone how it's done) so that the tricks can be carried out as professionally as possible.

And with Halloween coming up, Drumond Park's Gross Magic would be ideal to kick off the party games - adults will enjoy it too - or if you've the stomach for it, the set would certainly make a change from charades at your Christmas party.

I think I may use the Tic Tac trick anyway.

Gross Magic costs around £19.99 and is available from Argos, Tesco, Amazon and major toy stores.

Ieuan doing the vein trick from Gross Magic
Ieuan pulling out his veins
If you want your Halloween to be even more revolting than usual,  I have TWO copies of Gross Magic to give away to two lucky winners.  Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below.  UK entrants only and as mentioned above Gross Magic is suitable for children 8+.

The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Sunday 16th October 2016. Terms and conditions apply and are on my Competitions page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Review: Wicked Uncle Toys - Devilishly Easy To Use

When I was young, shopping for toys involved perusing the shelves in your local department store throughout the year or, come Christmas, dragging your parents around the overheated, fake snow and glitter filled grottos for Santa.

It's the heat I remember mostly.  There was always a pensioner having a fit of the vapours parked precariously on a chair just outside whilst the staff fanned them with a towel.  Air conditioning was just a distant dream.

As my sister Sarah and I got older, our relatives just gave up trying to guess what we liked and gave us vouchers.  Now fond as I am of a voucher, it's just not the same as being given a present which tugs at the heart strings because it's just what you wanted and it's right for your age.

Today, more than ever, matching the toy to the child's age requires a mathematical equation not dissimilar to getting the Hadron Particle Collider to work which is probably easier sometimes than finding a child's gift what will keep them entertained for more than 2 minutes.

So I was intrigued when the devilishly named Wicked Uncle wrote to me and suggested a solution. They have a website filled with an amazing mix of gifts for children of all ages, sorted by age, category or gender.

This is not only useful for buying presents for your own and other kids in the family but a very useful solution to that bane of parents' term-time lives - deciding what gift to give at a children's party, what budget is right (without being considered mean) and whether that gift is suitable for their age.

I frequently ask Caitlin and Ieuan "but what does so-and-so like?" to be greeted either by a shrug of the shoulders or 'Shopkins' (the modern day equivalent of the Tribble from Star Trek).

Wicked Uncle kindly gave us a budget of £40 to road-test their site and so Caitlin and Ieuan were given £20 to choose their own gift.

There was, in fact, so much choice that Ieuan was quite overwhelmed with it all and I had to choose for him.

The website is really simple to use -

Simply select the relevant criteria for the child you're buying for to be taking to an appropriate selection of gifts.

Then choose the category of gift you think they might like.  I particularly liked that the girls' gifts included as many science / maths / experiment gifts as the boys'.  Whilst there are enough 'traditionally girly' gifts to delight your average pony / kitten/ pink loving girl, there are equally plenty of gifts to stimulate their minds and help with the school curriculum.

Caitlin chose Shadow, a Lavish Lanky Cat  (£12.95) which is a gorgeously soft, floppy toy cat with baleful green eyes.

She also chose the My Very Own Fairy & Unicorn Torch & Projector (£6.95).

The latter is a fun torch that projects images of fairies and unicorns around your room. It has 24 colour images to project on to your walls and ceilings including fairies, unicorns and their magical homes.

The images project up to one metre wide and come on three slide discs you simply slot in. You can also use it as a normal torch without the slides in place and is useful for keeping on bedside tables to give comfort to children during the night.

I chose for Ieuan and got him the Night Goggles Spy Gear (£19.95).  These have tinted blue lenses to enhance night vision and a switch on full mode which gives directional beams of bright LED light, leaving both hands free to explore.

You can also flip out the scope with it's 2x magnifying lens to spot targets from greater distances.

Needless to say we have had to promise to take him to the woods at dusk so he can scare the living daylights out of any dog walker out for a pleasant evening stroll.

Our gifts arrived really quickly (within 48 hours) of ordering and were securely packaged.  There is even a rather cute postcard included in the box addressed to the gift-giver.

And, as for the acid test, both kids are still playing with their toys 3 days later and Ieuan has not managed to break his Night Goggles yet.

I was impressed by Wicked Uncle and I think their site will be a godsend this Christmas for choosing presents for kids which will pique their imagination without emptying your purse.

You can find out more at www.wickeduncle.co.uk.

*We were given £40 to spend at Wicked Uncle for the purposes of this review.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Win A LeapFrog LeapReader™ - The Interactive Learn To Read & Write System For Children

School may be out for summer but spending more time with our kids is an excellent opportunity to help them progress with their reading and writing - and a great way to give them a head start for next term's academic work.

Many of you will be familiar with LeapFrog, the multi-award winning educational toy brand.  The company is a leading designer and developer of innovative, technology-based educational products - which are both child and parent friendly!

LeapFrog is 100% focused on developing products to provide the most engaging, effective learning experience - for all ages, in school or home and around the world.

And they have just launched a new product, the LeapReader™ which is ideal for helping children learn to read, write and practice their listening comprehension skills.

Aimed at the 4-8 year age group and retailing around £39.99, the LeapReader™ engages children in imaginative stories with lively character voices while building vocabulary skills and growing reading comprehension skills.

Easy to use, your child simply touches the pen to LeapReader™ books to hear the words read aloud and sound out the words, or they can use the special no- mess paper to practise letters, numbers and words with stroke-by-stroke guidance to help with their handwriting on mess-free, no ink LeapFrog® Learning Paper..

LeapReader™ even plays vocabulary building games and has fun character voices, sound effects and activities to help with comprehension skills.

You can also buy over 40 educator approved books, apps and activity sets, including some of your children’s favourite characters, like Nemo and the cast of Cars to keep your child interested and involved at every reading stage.

Included in the kit are a LeapReader™ Reading and Writing System, an activity sampler book, one Learning Paper writing sheet plus free downloads of one Audio Book Bundle, one Music Album and one Trivia Fun pack.

You can find further information about LeapReader™ at www.leapfrogstore.co.uk/LeapReader and I have one LeapReader™ to give away.

Entry is via the Rafflecopter below.  UK entrants only and terms & conditions apply (viewable on my competitions page).  The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Sunday 28 August.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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