Reviewed by Helen Wyatt
We were excited to receive a few parcels recently with some items to review as Christmas gift ideas for children – it did indeed feel like Christmas! I have 2 children aged 7 & 9 and try not to spend too much on them but inevitably the cost creeps up, usually with a bunch of things we buy being forgotten in a corner. It’s been great to test out these items with my kids and get an idea of the kind of thing they might like in future, or perhaps to purchase as presents for their friends. I never know what to get!
I did have to rope in my friend with a young baby to test a couple of the items as they were aimed at babies under 12 months, so special thanks to young Sadie for stepping in!
First up was a Smiggle notebook – as anyone who has walked down any high street with a kid in tow can attest to, everyone loves Smiggle, so we were very excited to test this out. This was an approx A5 sized notebook that comes with a small padlock and key to keep out prying eyes. The cover is rainbow striped and fluffy, with a funky face. The face is scented – we couldn’t quite work out what scent, but my 7 year old daughter suggested it was “strawberries and raspberries”. The insert is a lined journal style with space for all your thoughts, a little section to show how you were feeling that day, and what the weather was. This is very cute and I imagine it would be a hit with various ages, particularly those children starting to get to grips with writing who want somewhere secret to stash their daily thoughts. Sadly, it cannot be refilled but could therefore be kept as a keepsake for the future, which is something I did as a child so it’s nice to have a popular way to get the current generation to perhaps do the same. A personal review from my 7 year old (slightly translated!): “I really like the scented smell. It is nice inside. It looks really pretty. It’s so fluffy! I love it!” – Clearly a winner! At £11.50 I would happily buy this again in the future for either of my girls, particularly as there is more than one style available (less fights!). For more information or to buy visit www.smiggle.co.uk.
Haribo also kindly sent a selection of gift items – including a selection box designed to look like a present, two “crackers” filled with sweets, and a bag of “Starmixmas” (instead of Starmix – geddit?!). The Starmixmas consist of new Christmas inspired flavours such as Apple Strudel & Custard flavour rings, eggnog flavour eggs, and gingerbread flavoured bears. Unfortunately we were a little underwhelmed at the flavours as aside from the gingerbread bears nothing else really tasted much different to usual. To be honest my kids didn’t really like the Starmixmas although we adults we munching away on them. The crackers contained Tangfastics in one, and Starmix in the other so the usual reliable flavours which we all love (kids and adults love it so…). The crackers are a fun touch for Christmas, and whilst you can’t pull them they would be a nice extra gift, perhaps for kids to give to friends or teachers. The present is called “Megastars” and has a selection of giant strawbs, starmix, tangfastics and supermix in (my favourite!). This would be a good little gift for kids that wouldn’t break the bank and would certainly keep them occupied for a bit on Christmas morning! Overall I think all of the Haribo sweets would be good additional gifts for kids but the Starmixmas are probably not really for most kids’ palates. For more information visit www.haribo.com.
Little Tikes sent through two items – the first was the Little Tikes Light ‘n’ Go Movin’ Lights Monkey. As soon as Sadie (10.5 months) saw the monkey peeking out of the box she couldn’t wait to get her hands on him – it must be his big brown eyes! We had a bit of a tussle as it was screwed in place to the box and she wanted to play straight away but eventually monkey was out and play could commence. I didn’t have chance to read the instructions for play before Sadie got going but it seemed obvious what to do – push the shoelaces for some action. Monkey would sing a song or say a phrase, twist its body and its hand held lantern would light up a pattern on the floor. I later discovered that it’s a different shoelace for each different action – ‘chase’ on the left shoelace (for lantern play) or ‘dance’ on the right (for songs and phrases). Apparently monkey will say 44 phrases and sing 4 songs, however, we’ve only heard a handful of phrases and monkey will only sing 2 of his songs for us.
The cons of this toy are that monkey falls over VERY easily. As the toy is aimed at babies over 9 months to 3 years old they are very likely to be crawling, swiping and generally ragging anything they can get their hands on, so this really should be a bit sturdier – perhaps weighted in the feet. It’s no fun lying down and Sadie doesn’t have the skills to pick monkey up and put it back on its feet, so she would just crawl away and play with something else. Monkey has an American accent which can be a little bit annoying and the song “heads, shoulders, knees and tails” never felt quite right! As mentioned, our monkey only seems to sing two of the four possible songs and we’ve definitely not heard quite a lot of the phrases it mentions in the instructions. A nice touch I enjoyed was monkey telling us he’s tired when his batteries are running out! Pros are that Sadie clearly loves monkey’s face (and he does look very lovable!), the lantern pattern looks very appealing on the floor (although I can’t work out how the child is meant to chase the pattern as it doesn’t really go anywhere) and when monkey twists about Sadie also seems to get moving, which I assume is the aim of this feature. The RRP for this toy is £29.99 which I think is a fair price. Sadie certainly enjoyed playing with him – we just need to teach her how to put him back on his feet again! For more information or to buy visit www.littletikes.co.uk.
The second Little Tikes item was the Good Vibes Panda. This cuddly panda is designed to soothe babies with a vibratey white noise, either via hugs or by strapping it to their cot or pram/pushchair. It’s suitable from 0 months and will give five minutes of soothing vibration at a time by squeezing the heart on its tummy. Panda is very soft and has an appealing friendly face with big eyes, it’s less of a toy and more of a handy piece of equipment for parents of babies that struggle to settle, which in time could turn into a favourite comforter. If I had to be at all critical about this Panda it would be that the strap to hold him onto the cot/stroller/pram isn’t particularly long or flexible and is held together by Velcro, so there’s a chance on bigger framed pushchairs that the strap wouldn’t fit – and God forbid should panda get lost on your travels! It’s a very sweet item though and a very good idea. At £12.99 this would be a nice gift for the new baby in the family at Christmas. For more information or to buy visit www.littletikes.co.uk.
Next up is the Love Bomb Emoji Monkey Cushion and the Emoji Poop Keyring! Both were a huge hit with my 9 year old, but particularly the cushion. It’s a very soft cushion that looks like the emoji monkey head, with the addition of arms that have Velcro hands so they can stick to each other and to parts of the cushion (think “see no evil, think no evil, speak no evil” and you’ll get the idea). When I say soft, I mean extremely soft and so irresistible; you constantly want to stroke it! My daughter gave me a personal review (excuse the weirdness): “The emoji monkey is great fun as it has Velcro on its hands. I can strap it to my t-shirt and I can give it a cuddle. It is also amazing because if a cat is being annoying I can play peekaboo with it.” Overall the cushion is a great gift for kids. It was an immediate hit with mine and now lives permanently on her bed. The keyring is a rather bizarre little object but as we all know, poop is HILARIOUS (or so my kids think) so again, immediate hit! A quirky gift for any kid who is techy minded and gets emojis. At £12.99 for the cushion, and £2.99 for the keyring, these are prices I would be happy to pay for these items knowing how loved the cushion in particular is by my daughter. For more information visit www.lovebombcushions.co.uk.