Reviewed by Louise Totton
It’s that time of year again where thoughts turn to what to get our kids for Christmas, and I notice more and more every year that the emphasis is on toys with screens, toys that need charging or have an internet connection, and toys that seem to promote solitude rather than sociability.
Gadgets and electronic toys do have their place, but I do think that we are straying a little too far from more simple gifts and toys. So, I was really pleased to be asked to try out a selection of gift ideas with my kids that are more on the simple side. We tried out a selection of stationery, along with a book and a board game that encourage young children to think about their feelings and build self-confidence.
The first items we tried out were from Feel Good Friends – we were sent the I Feel Good About Me book (RRP: £6.99) and the Feel Good Faces board game (RRP: £19). Both products feature the same Feel Good Friends characters, so go together really nicely as a set to give as a gift.
The book is an A4 sized paperback with a lovely glossy cover featuring the Feel Good Friends. This isn’t a reading or story book – the book is a beautifully illustrated book containing a series of prompts for a child to discuss and fill in. The pages are a thick and substantial paper and the book has a quality about it that makes you feel you are creating something special to keep for the future. You and your child can discuss and write about happy memories, favourite films, why they are amazing, why they are important and their hopes and dreams for the future. My daughter and I loved talking about some of the subjects mentioned in the book, and even at the age of 5, she enjoyed her little trip down Memory Lane: “Mummy, do you remember this?”, “Do you remember when we went to…?”. It’s also great as it provides little talking points for how they can cheer up their friends when they’re sad, and gives you a real insight into the beautifully simple world of a young child’s mind.
The board game uses the same characters and takes participants on a journey around their feelings and encourages them to think about how their behaviour can impact others. The box contains a board, 16 face tiles, feeling, thinking and whoops cards, playing pieces, a timer, a dice and a set of instructions. It is a very simple game where players roll the dice to move around the board from space to space. In the centre of the board are the four Feel Good Friends with happy faces, but when setting up the game, these are covered with sad face tiles. Players are not in competition with each other; they work together to ride the board of sad faces and restore happiness. As players work their way around the board, they land on Thinking spaces, Feelings spaces or Whoops spaces, and have to complete a task or challenge that encourages them to think about feelings, how we show our feelings and our behaviours. If they complete the task in the allotted time, they can remove a sad tile from the board. If they don’t, play passes to the next person.
We thought this was a fun little game. The components are all made to a high standard, and it was a bit of a novelty playing a game that doesn’t rely solely on chance. it is also a nice step away from the way that a lot of games are becoming quite manic, and I think it’d be a great game to play with kids who are a little shy or suffer from self-esteem issues, as well as very loud and confident kids who would possibly benefit from thinking about how their behaviour impacts others.
We were also sent a collection of stationery, much to both of my daughters’ delights. They’re stationery mad and were really keen to dig in.
The first item was a set of really nice glittery gel pens made by Pentel. The Hybrid Dual Metallic pens really are something else! We were sent a set of 8 pens, each a different colour but all fantastically glittery. These pens provide the most wonderfully smooth writing and drawing experience, and the colour they lay down on the paper is very, very vivid. We have hundreds (literally) of glittery gel pens in the pen box and these without a doubt provide the glitteriest and brightest finish of any. They are equally as impressive on white, coloured and dark paper, and the dark paper is where their uniqueness really shines through. They appear to be a different colour on dark paper than light, providing even more colour options. My girls are 5 and 8, so have mostly been using them for line drawings and bits of detail on some of their princess pictures, but these would make a wonderful addition to a pen box for a keen adult colourer too.
Finally, we were sent a selection of products from Maped Helix. We received a Fun to Learn stationery set in both Barbie and Thomas the Tank designs, a pack of Primary Color’Peps poster paints, a pack of fluo and metallic Color’Pep poster paints and a small palette of water colour paints.
The Barbie and Thomas Fun to Learn sets were each contained in an attractive cardboard box, and comprised of a themed, fabric pencil case, 2 HB pencils, 12cm safety scissors, 15cm ruler, shaped eraser, two-hole sharpener, stencil template and 3 colouring pencils. They’re lovely little sets and contain everything that a young child would need in a first stationery set. The items are all high quality, the scissors do have metal blades but are rounded for safety. They’d make a great stocking filler or gift to take along to a party, and both of my kids were really pleased with them.
Maped also send us a selection of paints. First up is the poster paints. These are attractively packaged and superhero themed. Not strictly relevant to the quality of the paint, but as they look so good, they would make a great Christmas gift.
Each of the sets of poster paints came in a cardboard caddy, which is sturdy enough to reuse and keep the paints nice and tidy. The kids (unsurprisingly) liked the fluo and metallic pack the best. This contains 5 paints; three fluorescent colours along with metallic gold and silver. The primary and secondary sets contain 6 pots each, and I really liked the fact that even though we had one of each set, none of the colours was duplicated; we had 17 unique colours.
The colours mixed together really well, and as we were sent a set of primary colours, the kids were able to mix an almost unlimited number of different colours.
These are not cheap paints, and the pots aren’t large (75ml each), so I wanted to be able to get as much use out of the product as possible. We used a palette that I already had (they don’t come with one) to mix the paints. As these are good quality paints, you don’t need loads to make a vivid picture. The kids had great fun mixing their own colours and painting some great pictures.
The water colours were equally impressive. These are also superhero themed, on a batman-esque shaped palette, and containing a lovely selection of 12 watercolours, along with a nice quality paintbrush.
I was really impressed with the watercolours. The colours that they produce are vibrant and rich, and I managed to create some lovely effects without having to use so much water, the paper went crinkly. The water colours are a great option for when you just want a quick activity, as they require far less setting up and tidying away than the other paints, and are significantly cheaper too.
Both the water colours and the poster paints clean up off tables and hands easily. They only got a very small amount of a couple of colours on their clothes, but these washed out on a standard 30-degree wash.
A great selection of products that proves that gadgets and gizmos aren’t the be all and end all this Christmas.
What’s Good To Do will be reviewing lots of Christmas Gift Ideas this year, and you can read them all here and get some gift inspiration.