When you have a young child, it’s important that you get them learning from an early stage so that they can be successful learning later in life. However, you want to present educational material in a fun, enjoyable way, instead of sitting your toddler down in front of a white board and trying to teach them.
There are tons of educational toys available that will help your child go above and beyond and excel in academics later in life. One really good tool for young kids is the LeapFrog Scribble and Write. Continue reading →
I wasn’t sure after the year we’ve had that Phillip Schofield would be back with his show How To Spend It Well At Christmas, but as bad as 2020 has been, it can’t take this away from us!
Episode 1 this year was on Toys – and for all the parents out there this one always helps us choose, especially if you have kids like mine who don’t seem to have a clue what they want. Every year I ask them and every year I get the same response… “I don’t know”. They just don’t appreciate that leaving it the last minute is not helpful!
As usual Phillip was joined by children, celebrities and experts as he looked at what the toy companies have brought out to make the end of the year a highlight. So let’s take a look…
In the first section of the show Phillip was joined by schoolchildren to test some old classic toys against their own updated versions for 2020.
Rubik’s Cube versus Rubik’s Tilt
The Rubik’s Cube (RRP £12.99) is a 40 year old classic. I remember well when they burst on the scene, selling over 100 million in the first 3 years. I even have one myself – a present for my 50th a couple of years ago! I still struggle with it though. One of the children had learnt during lockdown how to complete it in under a minute – where was YouTube when I was a kid? The children in the main enjoyed this, although there were a couple of girls who struggled and got frustrated with it – I’m sure we’ve all been there.
Up against the Rubik’s Cube was the new game, Rubik’s Tilt (RRP 29.99). In order to play this game you need to tilt the handheld game, and press the buttons on the side to complete the cube on the screen. It wasn’t particularly clear from the show how easy it was, but to me it looked just as hard as the original.
Whilst both the Rubik’s toys were enjoyed, the clear favourite was the original – the Rubik’s Cube.
Lego Classic v Super Mario Lego
Next up for the children to play with was a Lego Classic Bricks and Houses set, RRP £17.99. As always happens with Lego, the children were soon fully engrossed in constructing with the set. It was strangely peaceful!
The Lego Adventures Super Mario Starters Course is best used with an app that you use on a tablet, which allows Mario to race around a track that you build with the Lego from the set. First you need to build the course, and then you collect the coins as you go round.
It’s an interesting concept to bring forward and combine toys, but again, Lego Classic was the favourite to the children.
Plasticine versus Plasticine Movie Maker
The final classic versus new showdown for these children was Plasticine FunTUBulous Modelling Clay (RRP £6.99), that old modelling favourite of children (but maybe not parents and carpets). Phillip created his version of a Santa, which one of the children called scary! This set comes with 8 sticks of modelling clay. Again, soon enough the children were soon playing and creating, although one of the boys felt it was hard to mould into shapes.
However they much preferred the newer version, Plasticine Movie Maker Studio. As well as the Plasticine to model, it comes with 2 movie backgrounds, props, and a tripod to prop a tablet or phone in. Make your star of your movie out of the plasticine, place on the background, add props, take a photo. Then move slightly, take another photo. And so on. Before long you could have the next budding Nick Park on your hands. The children were thoroughly engaged with this, and preferred the movie making aspect over the basic tub, despite it coming with less plasticine.
After playing with each set for an equal amount of time, the children and Phillip voted for their favourites out of all 6. Phillip voted for the Plasticine Movie Maker Studio whilst the children said their favourite was the Lego Classic Bricks and Houses.
In the past year sales of games have grown over 200% – clearly in lockdown children need to be entertained and games are always a good alternative to keep screen time from increasing too much.
Four families that are neighbours and friends were joined by Panto legend Christopher Biggins to test out family games. There were 4 games on trial, and the families were allowed 30 minutes on each game to understand the instructions and play.
The first games was Drone Home (RRP £19.99) – the first game that includes a real drone in it. A game for up to 4 players, the aim is to lift your aliens to safety by firing them into the drone in the centre, although they can be knocked off the drone by others! Whilst everybody appeared to be having a great time, one boy said he felt it was a one trick pony.
This was followed by Pose Off, where the aim is for players to adopt a yoga pose whilst standing on a small circular mat, and answer questions. The aim is to be the last person standing that hasn’t fallen off their mat! You’ll need balance for this one!
Hands Full was the most expensive of the games and reminded me a little of Twister combined with Simple Simon. Each player holds the game at the same time and it’s voice tells you which coloured ball to hold. But don’t let go or you’re out! Whilst one father felt it was hard to learn, he said that he could see them going back to it often. Although another father felt that it was expensive and didn’t offer enough value.
Finally Christopher Biggins modelled Pencil Nose game, which does what it says in the name. One person dons the game’s glasses with the special pen holding nose section. Much laughter here, whilst the person draws on the special plastic screen and the other players have to guess what has been drawn.
The families awarded marks for ease of setup, challenge satisfaction, and family appeal. And the clear winner was Pencil Nose – clearly fun and laughter wins the day!
An amazing fact I learnt from the show was that 1 in 6 people have a disability – I would have never know it was that many. Thankfully doll makers have started to acknowledge this and have made inclusive dolls.
Phillip was joined by actress and disability campaigner Sam Renke (you may remember her from a maltesers advert), a journalist, and also 7 year old Harmonie-Rose Allen, who is the first junior ambassador for Meningitis Now, along with her Mum Freya.
Harmonie-Rose brought along her own prosthetic doll – Freya explained that when she was 2 that they brought a normal doll and had to send her to America for her to be converted into a doll with prosthetic limbs.
But now the UK is catching up. Barbie Fashionistas (RRP £12.99 – £16.99) have become big sellers though this year, with a Barbie in a wheelchair being this year’s number one selling doll from the range.
The journalist explained how she had brought her twin daughters the Barbie Sparkle Styling Head for Afro Hair (RRP £39.99) as when she was young she had other children questioning why her hair was not normal. She explained that her daughters self esteem was improved so much just by having something they could relate to as a toy.
It’s great to see doll makers finally catering for all needs. Phillip asked Harmonie-Rose which would be her favourite and she chose the Barbie Fashionista with Prosthetic limb, as it was just like her. He gave her the doll as a present, although this made Sam Renke very jealous!
One of the favourite sections each year is the interactive toys, designed to help young children learn to interact and come out of their shell. To test the latest interactive toys for 2020 Anjelica Bell headed to a primary school where she met up with a class of Year 2 students.
Anjelica has 2 young children of her own and knows how dear these interactive toys can be, so wanted to help parents find the right toy for their child, rather than making an expensive mistake.
Whilst they played with each of the toys they were watched via video link by their teachers, Miss Miller and Mrs Addison. They were checking which toy had the children playing and engaging with the most.
Little Live Pets Gotta Go Flamingo
Little Live Pets always come up with a gem of a toy, and this year is no different with Sherbert, the Gotta Go Flamingo (RRP £32.99). Feed Sherbert his Magic Flamingo Food and watch his neck wiggle and wobble. The children loved playing with this, especially when he starts to sing his song “Uh Oh, Gotta Go”, and starts pooping into the toilet.
Who doesn’t love a bit of toilet action when it comes to toys? Thankfully you can scoop up the poop and it instantly dries out back to it’s Magic Flamingo Food state, so is reusable for hours of fun.
Baby Alive Baby Grows Up
The girls in particular took to nurturing the Baby Alive Baby Grows Up (RRP £49.99) interactive toy immediately, but it didn’t take long for all to join in. As you cuddle and nurture the new born she grows into a baby, and then she eventually becomes a toddler. She grows 10 centimetres in height and makes 75 different sounds and words.
There’s two different dolls – Happy Hope and Merry Meadow. But you don’t know which you have until she has her first bottle and then opens her eyes. Take her hat off to reveal her hair colour.
Star Wars The Child
For die hard Star Wars fans who could resist a baby Yoda? Star Wars The Child (RRP £59.99) intrigued the children for a while who were obviously aware of the Star Wars films, but soon found out that despite have 25 sounds and motions, it was somewhat limiting. Pat it’s head three times to start up, raising it’s arms, close it’s eyes and sighing as if in contemplation.
Squeakee The Balloon Dog
The final of the four interactive toys looked lots of fun! Squeakee the Balloon Dog RRP (£59.99) looked just like it had been blown up by a balloon artist in front of your eyes. Pet his ears and he starts to play, showing off some of his 60 interactive sounds and movements.
He was the most lively of the interactive toys, and whilst plain in colour, a bright red still makes it attractive to children. The children were really playing with this lots and learning through trial and error.
So, having played with all the toys which were the favourites? Well, the teachers felt that Squeakee the Balloon Dog offered the most for the children, the children themselves did in fact vote Gotta Go Flamingo the top toy – seems you can’t beat toilet humour!
Advent calendars are a big thing every year – they help build up excitement for the big day with little treats throughout December. But they are not just for children – adults are catered for in a bag way too now.
Phillip was joined by consumer journalist Harry Wallop (love that name!) to take a look at some of the latest advent calendars available. He advised that some of the more expensive calendars are good value, where you get more goods than the calendar costs, whereas some others prove to be more expensive than buying the goods on their own.
For young children, you may wish to take a look at the Paw Patrol Advent Calendar with 24 collectible pieces. If you are looking for something that can last for years then the JoJo Maman Bebe Advent Calendar House is a reusable advent calendar – it’s lovely but obviously you need to fill the drawers with your own choice of gift.
Beauty companies have really jumped on the advent calendar bandwagon, seeing at is a great way of getting small samples to prospective customers of the larger versions in the New Year. Phillip and Harry were looking at the Next Mens Premium Beauty Advent Calendar – whilst it had an RRP of £69 the company believes that there are well over £200 of goods.
Other companies that like to sell advent calendars for adults are food and drinks companies. Beerhawk have brought out a Beery Christmas Advent Calendar with an RRP of £85 but beers with a value of over £100. The final advent calendar came from Naked Marshmallows, with 24 different flavoured marshmallows, RRP at £15. Sounds yummy to me!
Phillip was joined by Dallas Campbell, an expert when it comes to all things STEM and a TV presenter of The Gadget Show and Bang Goes The Theory. You may ask what does STEM mean? It’s an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – so therefore STEM toys are educational toys that will hopefully inspire children to further their interest in these areas.
Dallas headed off to his favourite place, the Science Museum, to test out the four toys. Also testing out the toys that were on offer were a group of children who are social media influencers, unboxing toys, playing with them and discussing their merits.
Vtech Kidizoom Studio
The Vtech Kidizoom Studio (RRP £59.99) comes with a camera, tripod, green screen and different backgrounds to create great mini films – fancy being chased by a dinosaur or partying at the local disco? Designed for children aged 5 upwards, this is a great toy for the budding TV presenter. You can take snaps and there’s plenty of emojis that you can add. The children loved playing with this, and Dallas could see the benefits even if it wasn’t as much interest for him.
Sphero Mini Activity Kit
Dallas loved the Sphero Mini Activity Kit, RRP £79.99, which you move by waving your hand over the top, or by connecting to your tablet by bluetooth and dragging the shape in the direction you want it to go. His only complaint though was that there were 2 modes – Sphero Play and Sphero Edu. He felt that they should be joined together as one – he questioned whether children would stick to the fun Play mode. In Edu mode you use an app on your tablet to program the code for the ball’s movements – Beau the child tester coded the ball to make a square in the film.
Polaroid Play 3D Pen
3D printing is proving to be a great invention in so many ways, and the Polaroid Play 3D Pen (RRP £30) is bringing that technology to youngsters to inspire them to create great things in the future. Having said that, 14 year old Getriya felt that it was quite difficult to master and fairly flimsy. A good introduction to the topic, and I’m sure with longer to use then it would be better.
To use, feed the printing material into the top of the pen. Then using stencils on the app trace your design. It dries really quickly and peels off easily, but although a good introduction to the technology it wasn’t liked by either of them.
Kano Disney Frozen Coding Kit
The Kano Disney Frozen Coding Kit (RRP £29.99) is recommended for 6 plus, and is clearly aimed at younger children compared to some of the others that were featured. 6 year old Skye was the child tester for this.
First of all you have to build the kit – something that Dallas struggled with but Skye found easy. Sensors track hand movements, but wave your hand over to create crystals. You can also do some coding on a tablet to play with the other characters – Elsa, Anna, Sven, Olaf and Kristoff – and scenes from the film.
As usual there was a section for outdoor toys, and this year it involved some very big kids! Dancing On Ice professional skater Matt Evers was joined by 3 former contestants from the show – Love Island’s Maura Higgins, magician Ben Hanlin, and winner Joe Swash.
Each of the 3 show contestants tried out one pair of skates, with Matt trying them all out and giving his professional advice.
Roller Derby Aerio Q80
Maura was testing the Roller Derby Aerio Q80 inline skates and wasn’t too happy with them. They are a soft shell skate for extra comfort, she didn’t feel they were comfortable at all, although Matt did. Due to the soft shell they gave little ankle support, although Matt did think they gave a smooth ride. Maura mistakenly felt they were the budget skates when in fact they were the middle of the range, with an RRP of £99.99. matt rated these as the worst of the skates. Pictured below are the Q90 skates.
FR Skates FR2 80
Ben quite rightly guessed he was using the top of the range FR Skates FR2 80 inline skates, with an RRP of £224.99, although if you wanted a set with built in brakes they cost another £15. Both Ben and Matt found them comfortable and gave a lot of support, which meant they felt safe. However Matt felt that they were noisy! Matt rated these as the best pair! Pictured below is the FR 3 80 skates.
Joe may have won Dancing on Ice, but he was given the cheapest set, the Oxelo Fit500 inline skates at an RRP of £64.99. Matt felt they were an excellent beginners set, smooth and quiet, but gave little ankle support as they are soft shell. Joe correctly guessed that they were the cheapest of the skates. Matt ranked these as the second best set.
Phillip was joined by the boys from AFC Henley under 10’s to test out the latest footballs. When I was young this would have been me – I remember going out in Christmas Day for a kickabout with my friend Ralph in our matching Celtic kits that we both unwrapped that day.
Wicked Mega Bounce XL
First up was the Wicked Mega Bounce XL (RRP £20) – supposedly the world’s bounciest football, and at 2.5 metres in circumference it’s huge! The boys loved this, especially when seeing how many headers they could do together without the ball dropping to the floor.
Next was the cheapest of the 3 balls tested, the Kickerball (RRP £14.99). This football is designed to bend more than a usual ball, so great for practicing free kicks and deceiving goalkeepers!
Smart Ball Speed Ball
The Smart Ball Speed Ball is the priciest of the three balls, with an RRP of £24.99. It’s unique selling point is that it has a built in speed monitor and when you kick it. It has a voice that counts you down and then you kick it as hard as you can. Once you’ve ran off to fetch it you can find out how quickly it travelled.
The boys enjoyed playing with each of the three balls tested, but then as football mad youngsters then that’s no surprise. But they had to choose a winner and that was the cheapest, the Kickerball. Maybe a good option for your young football fan this Christmas?
Toy Trend Expert
Finally, Phillip caught up with toy trend expert Rob Taylor-Hastings to see his favourite toys in 3 price brackets.
Laser Battle Hunters
In the over £50 category Rob chose Laser Battle Hunters, with an RRP of £59.99. Comes in a set of 2, these remote controlled cars have the ability to not only move backwards and forwards, but also sideways! With laser cannons on top you can fight each other with a friend, although if you have friends with them too, up to 8 cars can fight.
Junko Core Zoomer Kit
In the mid-range price bracket Rob chose the Junko Core Zoomer Kit, which looks a really innovative way to teach youngsters about re-using rubbish whilst crafting toys to play with. Use rubbish from around your house such as yoghurt pots and small drinks cartons to create models. The rubbish is held together by clips made out of recycled plastic. I particularly like that there are several themes so you could buy a different kit for birthdays if they enjoy using.
Finally Rob had chosen Pillowfight Warriors, an upgrade to actually having a pillow fight. Both Rob and Phillip were armed with a shield and a sword, and looked ready to have a great play fight. Not much to add to this, a fun way of updating an old classic game we’ve all played as kids.