Kids

Interactive Toys For Kids – What Should I Buy?

Twas’ old Ben Franklin himself that said: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” He might have had a point there you know. Involving your little one in the education process through play is a great way to give them a solid learning foundation.

There are lots of different toys on the market that encourage interactive play. Below I take a peek at the three main options.

Interactive Electronic Gadgets

Firstly we have the electronic interactive toys. Kids these days are natives of this arena, they grow up typing, watching youtube and generally being pretty computer savvy. Even if you are a bit of a Luddite, remember that, as a parent, you should be setting the boundaries for their device use. Limit time spent on media, especially before bed and nap time as the blue light emitted from some screen can have a ‘wake up effect’. Limit your child’s access to certain websites through security features and parental controls.

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An interactive gadget that you may want to consider is a tablet designed for kids. They come with shock proof coating and simple controls. Then you can add reading, matching and sorting apps so your little one gets lots of interactive play. It also means that your phone doesn’t constantly go missing because Peppa Pig is on. Don’t forget to get some volume controlled headphones too.

Interactive Toys That Have Electronic Elements

One of the best developments in toys recently, has been the interactive plushes and dolls. That’s right it’s a toy, that interacts with your child, but that they also will also want to snuggle!

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There are quite a few different types on the market. You could try an electronic, and don’t worry i am not talking Tamagotchi here. Some of the newer designs use a smartphone or a tablet (not provided) and have a soft cover to surround it. It’s a great way of teaching your child responsibility, with none of the dog doo to clear up! Nice.

Although interactive dolls have been around for a while, they are a great way of stimulating your child’s imagination. While you can still get the old school tiny tears, I am glad to say that is not the only option on offer. There is plenty of gender neutral and aspirational interactive dolls out there, so don’t don’t let your old prejudice put you off.

Non-technological toys

Ah, non-electronic interactive toys, the quietest option by far! In this technological time, a nice change of pace can be an old fashioned style toy. They are still interactive, though, some would argue even more so as they require your child to do more of the imagination work. Classic choices for this category include Lego, wooden building blocks and Dinky toys like these British model buses.  

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Easy games with these sorts of toys that have an interactive element include, sorting, matching and counting games. To add another dimension to the play, why not paint backdrops and scenery as well?

Kids · Parenting · Personal

“You Look Like a Girl”

boy dressed as princessThe other day, I needed to buy some new pillows so I went to the supermarket and was wandering around the clothing and home wares department having a browse. It was pretty quiet in there as it was only about 9.15am and there were only one or two other shoppers in the whole place. One other customer was a woman, probably in her mid-to-late twenties and her son, who obviously wasn’t quite school age yet, but still looked roughly 4-ish.

The kid was wandering around fairly unchecked and at one point started to try things on from one of those free-standing jewellery and accessory displays that turns – you know the ones, right? Anyway, he became particularly enamoured with a pair of novelty sunglasses which had red, heart-shaped frames. He put them on and after admiring himself in the tiny mirror for a few seconds, turned to his Mum and, with huge amounts of pride and happiness said “Mum! Look at me! I love these glasses!”.

The mother turned to him, narrowed her eyes and with pure vitriol in her voice said “Oh my god, take those off, you look like a girl”.

My initial reaction was one of sadness as I watched the boy, clearly deflated after being rebuffed by the mother from whom he’d so wanted a little bit of praise and affirmation, take off the glasses and put them gently back on the shelf. He looked really sad, and not in that “I wanted something and Mum wouldn’t buy it for me” way that kids do, but in a genuinely confused and upset way.  But the more I’ve thought about it, the madder I’ve felt.

Firstly, what is it about red, heart shaped glasses which is designated as a GIRLS ONLY thing? Even if you do subscribe to the (bloody annoying) notion that colours are somehow gendered, surely red is a pretty neutral colour? And hearts…I mean, do only girls have hearts?! Err, no.

Secondly, even if you do think that red, heart shaped glasses are ‘girly’, SO WHAT if he does look like a girl? How is that somehow a negative thing? Is it really so bad to let a child experiment with what they feel comfortable in and form their own notions of femininity and masculinity? I know loads of guys (Husband included on one or two occasions) who’ve worn pink and absolutely rocked it. They didn’t look like girls, they looked like MEN IN PINK, just like this little boy simply looked like a boy in heart-shaped glasses. There’s a big difference.

Also, I genuinely thought we were getting past the days of negative gender stereotypes? I see little boys on my friends’ Facebook timelines playing with dollies, pushchairs, vaccums, ironing boards; all toys which, even in my lifetime, would have firmly been in the girls toys aisle and equally, I see MANY girls playing with Thomas the Tank Engine – Burrito Baby got her own tool kit and farm vehicles for her 2nd birthday whilst Sausage’s favourite things are Pokemon, Match Attax and her NERF guns. But these are “boys toys”, no? Or, is it possible, that we can just have fun with things we like, regardless. Well, yes, obviously it is.

It makes me so sad to think that little boys are having their joy, their individuality and their creativity squashed by parents with an archaic notion of what it is to be a boy and I really dread to think about the issues that this could cause them as they grow up. As a parent, I strongly believe that, although it’s our job to guide our children in terms of morality, safety and care, it’s also really important to allow them to develop their sense of self.

What do you think? Would you allow your sons to wear red, heart-shaped sunglasses? Or do you think that boys should be boys and girls should be girls and that the old-fashioned line in the sand between the two genders should remain? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Baby · Review · Toys

We’re VTech Toot Toot Friends Ambassadors!

A few weeks back, Burrito Baby and I received the awesome news that we’d been chosen to be VTech Toot Toot Friends Ambassadors and would be receiving all of the new range to play with and review. As you can see, BB was over the moon! The smaller characters retail for around £8.99 each, while the Trot and Go Pony is £15.99. The Hospital playset is a very affordable £29.99 and even the Discovery Sounds House, which is the bigger of the two playsets, is only £44.99.

VTech Toot Toot Friends

What we discovered, being Toot-Toot Friends noobs, is that all of the playsets can link together, forming a big town, and each character can be used in all of the different areas. Want to take your horse to the hospital? Go right ahead! These areas are called ‘Magic Points’ and allows kids to use the individual  characters to interact with the play sets. There are also points within the Busy Sounds Discovery Home where characters can sing to one another, something that BB seemed to regard as being akin to magic!

BB has really good gross and fine motor skills for her age (I mean, the kid is NEVER still, even when she’s sleeping!) but all of the elements of the characters and the playsets were solid and easy to hold, even for the tiniest hands. It also feels like it would stand up to a whole lot of toddler punishment, too; BB has developed a habit of throwing things when she’s in a mood but I can’t see even the biggest toddler tantrum being able to do damage to the Toot-Toot Friends! That’s why when buying toys parents should always look at the sturdy toys. Durable gifts for 2 year olds that can endure hits and tantrums is important. Less money wasted, and more time for fun.

I really like the fact that these feel like “next level” toys in more ways than one; in terms of BB’s development, they feel more in-depth than all the other ‘flashing lights, ABC, 123’ toys that she has and they also feel like they incorporate all of the things that babies of this age love with the technological expertise the VTech is famous for. They’re interactive, educational and intuitive, all things which I think are important for development through play.

If I had ONE minor complaint, it’s that the stickers are a little bit fiddly to apply when you’re assembling everything, especially as some of them are located behind or inside certain parts. If you’ve got a steady hand, you’ll be fine, but the best advice I can give you is to assemble everything when you don’t have an excited, slightly tyrannical toddler climbing all over you.

I also think that selling all of the characters and sets separately is a great thing. It means that you can still buy Toot-Toots friends toys even on varying budgets, and if a birthday or Christmas comes around, the playsets can be bought as a main present, while the smaller components can be bought by friends or relatives to build a full and comprehensive collection.

BB and I feel like we’re off to a great start as ambassadors for VTech Toot-Toot Friends – we already love the toys and can seem them being a great source of fun and education for BB in the months to come.

Kids · Parenting · Review · Toys

Disney Princess Palace Pets Review

If you follow me on any social media, you’ll probably know that poor Sausage has been off school all week with tonsillitis. Every time we think she’s on the mend and ready to go back to school, she seems to get all run-down again, like today when she woke up with a stinking cold on top of it all. She’s feeling pretty droopy, so when a parcel arrived just for her yesterday, the timing couldn’t have been better. She’s had the Disney Princess Palace Pets app on Daddy’s iPad for a while now and she adores the game, which is basically a virtual grooming shop for all of the pets belonging to the various Disney Princesses, and the toys we were sent to review accompany the app.

Disney Princess Palace PetsThe main Disney Princess Palace Pets Pamper and Beauty Salon Play Set retails for around £33 and contains one Palace Pet (in this case it was Summer, a cat belonging to Rapunzel), and gives you a place to sit your animals while they’re being preened and pampered, as well as coming with various hair clips and brushes which can be used on tails and manes. We were also sent Blossom, Mulan’s Panda, Bloom, Aurora’s pony, and Treasure, a singing pussy cat who belongs to Ariel.

Sausage was absolutely over the moon with all of the toys, which seemed really true to the animations within the app (she immediately recognised Blossom as we pulled her out of the box!) and she’s been playing with it all pretty much ever since. All of the toys feel high quality and well made, although some of the parts are absolutely tiny, so I wouldn’t give them to smaller kids or those prone to putting things in mouths or up noses!

I like the fact that there are lots of different pets available, so if your child has a favourite princess you can buy the corresponding animal. The talking and singing cat is slightly larger than the other pets and as such retails for a slightly higher price (around £12.99, compared with around £5.99 for the smaller, non-talking pets) but I think all of the prices seem quite fair, given that it all feels sturdy and like it would last a while. This is definitely the sort of playset that I can see us putting away when Sausage has outgrown it, and passing it onto the baby shen she’s old enough for such toys.

This would make a great gift for any child who loves their Disney Princesses and it’s genuinely cheered my little lady up in a week which has been pretty miserable for her.

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Christmas · Kids

Christmas Gift Ideas – Igloo Kids

One of the shops that I recently discovered is Igloo Kids. They have a gorgeous range of kids clothing, but they also sell toys, craft kits, back to school stuff and much more besides, so if you’ve got a lot of children to buy for this year you could kill a lot of birds with one stone buy checking this site out! Here are some of my favourite picks from the site:

Girls Clothes

Igloo Kids Girls Clothes
The girls clothes on the site are so different to what you’d see on the high street. There a real feel of quality across the Igloo range and the styles manage to be chic without being too grown up. Sausage looks amazing in jade green because of her red hair and pale skin, so she’d look gorgeous in the things that I’ve chose here.

Boys Clothes

Igloo Boys Clothes
I don’t often look at little boys’ clothes, given that I only have a girl, but I love the smart casual selection of clothes I’ve chosen here. I think what I’ve picked would look great at the family dinner on Christmas day, but would still allow a little boy to run around and have fun in that way that little boys love to do.

Igloo Toys

Igloo Toys
I was really impressed with the toys on the site – the grand piano is so cool with the colourful spots! Sausage would love the pink pram, she’s become crazy about anything baby-related now that she has a sister on the way and I love all of the kits for craft and science, which allow kids to have fun while learning. Although, I say “kids”, what I really mean is me…I SO want a lava lamp kit!