Reviewed by Louise Totton
Even more than the expense aspect of Christmas, I find this time of the year most stressful because I simply never know what to buy. Every year, it seems that there are a handful of ‘must have’ toys that parents feel pressured into trying to track down for the kids. And these toys are almost invariably unavailable or a huge disappointment, leaving you kicking yourself at the effort and expense you went to fulfil the request. With this in mind, I’m making a real effort this year to try to go off road a little with the kids’ presents and avoid the ones with the massive advertising budgets that create pester power.
I was delighted to have been sent a selection of gift for my kids to try out, that I had either never heard of or wouldn’t have thought that of.
I have two girls, aged 4 and 7, and my 4-year old is totally Minion mad, specifically Kevin the Minion. So as expected, she was over the moon to find that the first item that she was going to be playing with was a Kevin Illumi-mate colour changing LED night lightfrom Spearmark. She does struggle a bit with the dark, and is prone to waking up crying if the room is too dark, yet can’t get to sleep if the room is too bright. The nightlight is great, and with a RRP of £9 it is a lovely stocking filler. Kevin is the perfect size for little hands, and my daughter can turn him on and off herself. The light level is just right – bright enough to give the child confidence but not so bright to keep them awake. The light gives a lovely soft glow, with a gentle, fading colour change. It comes pre-installed with three button batteries so can be used straight out of the box. We’ve been using it for a week so far and the batteries are still going strong so we’re delighted with it.
We were also sent a Star Wars Stormtrooper Illumi-mate (£7.99), which my 7-yr old promptly claimed. Despite not being hugely into Star Wars, she really liked it which I was a little surprised at. Just like the Minion one, it’s great quality and a fabulous little stocking filler. The whole helmet lights up, and because it’s a white helmet, the colours look really effective. The kids could both operate their lights very easily and they’re a great size for little hands, but cool enough to appeal to older kids too.
We were also sent the Leapfrog Count and Crawl Kitty (RRP: £14.99), which is a lovely little toy for kids aged 9-24 months (my baby niece helped us to review this one). She loves cats and kittens, so the theme of this toy was an instant hit with. It’s a lovely sized, substantial and cute kitty. The toy is made from great quality, thick plastic, as I have come to expect from LeapFrog. Its body is covered in numbered buttons, rather like a piano in layout, and when pressed, the kitty will tell the baby the number. Press it again and it puts the number into a sentence. The toy also has a musical mode and given that it is a wheeled toy, can be pushed around the floor too. So far, pushing it around the floor and randomly pressing buttons is the preferred method of operation, but when she gets older I’m sure the educational aspect will come in more. It’s a fantastic little toy that I think will last for an awful long time. Her parents also love that the volume can be turned down.
We were also sent the LeapFrog Fridge Numbers Magnetic Set (RRP: £14.99), which is an interactive toy for kids aged 2+. The Fridge Numbers Magnetic Set is designed to familiarise young children with numbers, counting and colours. The base of the toy can either be used horizontally on the floor or table, or magnetically attached to a fridge. It comes with 10 number tiles and 10 picture tiles. When the child puts a number tile in, it will tell them the name of the number and ask them to then find the corresponding picture tile. As well as being used on within the base, the tiles can also be used as a standalone toy on the floor, used to match and sort by number, colour and even food group. We really loved this little toy and thought that at £15 it represents great value as a nice gift for friends’ children or nieces and nephews. Again, we think it’ll have great sticking power and is great quality as I’ve come to expect from Leapfrog.
Of course, my seven year old has, this year, decided that she really is too old for toys. She now ‘needs’ grown up, cool things in her life. So, you can imagine the excitement when we showed her the Groov-e Karaoke Boombox (RRP: £64.99) that we’d been sent to try out. It is very ’90s and retro in appearance – we’d been sent the pink version but a black one is also available. The Boombox not only allows a wannabe pop star to sing along, it also provides flashing disco lights, a series of adjustable effects and a second microphone and socket to make duets a possibility.
The machine is compatible with CD+G (karaoke discs) as well as normal CDs and can be connected via Bluetooth to a phone or tablet, allowing almost any music to be accessed without the need to own CDs. This is great, as whilst I have a large CD collection, I don’t think I’ve bought one for at least 10 years so it’s all rather dated (I mean classic) stuff, most of which my daughter thinks is utterly sad.
The device can also be attached to your TV, and the lyrics show on the screen which is fantastic for when you’re trying to make sure your kids actually sing the right words.
At £65, it’s not a cheap present, and is probably towards the top end of what I would spend on a gift for my kids. But it’s a really good gift, and one that they won’t grow out of in a hurry. They’re always asking to switch it on and use it – I find myself regularly sitting on the sofa filming their “X-factor auditions” on my phone then streaming them to the TV for them to watch. It’s fantastic fun and the kind of product that will be got out again and again, especially over the Christmas period.
The final item we were sent is a pair of Groov-e EarMOJI’s headphones, which have a retail price of £14.99. These are really attractively packaged and look great fun. They’re available in six different emojis and all of them look fantastic. They’re fully adjustable, so fitted me, my husband and our 7-year-old perfectly. They slipped off our younger daughter’s head, so would probably suggest age 6+ for them.
They’re padded so are really comfortable to wear and they have a decent length cable (1.2m), so you don’t feel constricted whilst wearing them. The sound quality is very good, especially when you consider the cost of these headphones. Again, as they’re so attractively packaged and are a great price point, they make an ideal Christmas gift, for anyone aged 6 all the way through to an adult.
I have really enjoyed reviewing these gifts, especially as none of them are ones I would have previously known about or considered. It goes to show how many lovely gifts are out there if you go off-piste a little.