Tuesday, 20 August 2013

VTech Secret Safe Diary Visual

We all know children, especially girls, love secrets and keeping them safe and the VTech Secret Safe Diary Visual is perfect for doing just that. 

The diary comes with a voice activated locking system to help keep secrets really safe and also features a colour screen and camera, making it very attractive to children. It features over 20 different activities including a virtual pet to look after, games, an alarm clock and a calendar function. There's also a secret drawer to keep physical mementoes in.
The diary features a QWERTY keyboard making it good for helping children become familiar with this style of keyboard. You can also connect the diary to a computer (using the supplied USB lead) and doing so means that you can download extras from the VTech Learning Lodge for your pet, diary or photos.

When tested out by a couple of our young customers they absolutely loved the diary. The games provided an assortment of levels meaning that it worked well for the 6-11 year old suggested age range. An older child might get a bit bored after completing them all, but for younger children there is plenty for them to play now as well as some which are too hard.

The calendar part of it was very easy to use and also good to be able to set reminders in it. The built in camera is also simple to use and good quality for what it is. The music did seem a bit "young" at times and whilst the children loved it after a while it may become a bit annoying for grown-ups, but in fairness that doesn't make it much different from many other toys.

The virtual pet proved to be great fun to look after and even provided more entertainment than looking after a real life hamster over the summer holidays!

Parents will be pleased to hear that the password isn't overly sensitive and as long as you use a work that is pretty much the same length and tone as the one set it will still open.

The only question that the parents of our reviewers had was with regards to the security of the data that children enter in the diary when it is connected up to the computer. There were worries that personal information entered, such as names, address, dates of birth and school names might be at risk. Checking with VTech though they say that this does not happen as the data flow is in one direction only, i.e. from the computer to the diary, making all the children's data safe.

The VTech Secret Safe Diary Visual was very popular with our reviewers (a brother and sister) although it has to be said that the boy would have preferred it if it wasn't only available in pink! 

The VTech Secret Safe Diary Visual  available in all Cuthberts stores (Letchworth, Hatfield Galleria and St Albans) and also from our online shop. The original VTech Secret Safe Diary is also available here

Friday, 16 August 2013

Creativity for Kids - Cardboard Buddies

The Faber-Castell Creativity for Kids range really does cater for kids of all ages and all different skills levels.

Cardboard Buddies allows you to use strips of coloured corrugated cardboard to create incredibly cute little creatures and other decorative objects. By rolling the cardboard strips into different shapes you can easily form bodies, heads, arms, legs, beaks and wings. Only your imagination limits you.

Included in the kit are 36 strips of the coloured corrugated cardboard, assorted wiggly eyes, pipe cleaners, rhinestones, double sided foam tape, yellow cord, plastic self-adhesive clips, self-adhesive magnets, craft glue and glitter glue. Also included is a leaflet showing you how to make basic shapes and also giving you instructions as to how to make a fish magnet.

The suggested age range for Cardboard Buddies is 7 to 97 and having tested it out with someone in the upper half of this range I think it fair to say that it really does work across the whole range. It can be a bit fiddly to start making the creations, but once you've got the hang of it you're soon in the swing as to what to do.

The only disappointment we found is that there were no instructions included to make the many buddies which feature on the box itself. We ended up keeping the box just so that we could try to work them out from the pictures. It just seemed a bit of a shame after we were so impressed with the instructions in Big Fun Stamp Art that we featured earlier this month.

The recent hot weather did provide a few problems with the supplied craft glue as the heat seemed to make it separate and lose some of its sticking ability. Making the cardboard buddies does require quite a bit of glue to make them stick together properly and I'd therefore recommend making sure you've got some spare glue at home before starting.

Overall this is a great craft project for an older child or an adult who enjoys this kind of activity. It also appears to be addictive once you start creating cardboard buddies!

The Creativity for Kids range is available in the Cuthberts Letchworth store and also in our online shop here.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

VTech Gadget the Robot

Meet Gadget the Robot. The perfect friend to help your children learn all about numbers, letters, objects and music and great fun for them too. Gadget is aimed for children aged 3 - 7 years and any child who loves robots will be instantly attracted to him.

Gadget talks and dances, and also responds to your child clapping. You can twist his ears and nose and he in turn will move his eyes, eyebrows, arms and body in response to different things. There's an LCD screen on his body which shows pictures, letters and numbers to fit in with the activity Gadget is doing at the time.

Gadget's favourite food is "computer chips" and he comes with 30 of these round discs which go in his backpack. 26 of them are for each letter of the alphabet whilst the remaining 4 are special chips - more about these later. Chips can be fed into his forehead and then you need to turn his nose clockwise for each to be accepted by him.

There are six different modes in which children can play with Gadget - selected using the slider switch on his tummy:

  1. Explore it - In this mode if you put in a letter chip Gadget will tell you what the letter is and a word which begins with it. If you instead put in one of the special chips he will either exercise, say something in a foreign language (with an English translation), sing or do a magic "trick".
  2. Charge me up - Gadget asks to be fed a certain number of computer chips and counts as each one is fed to him. A great opportunity for children to practice counting.
  3. Super speller - If Gadget is few a letter chip he will then tell you what letter it is an the word on the chip which begins with that letter. He will then spell out the word, one letter at a time, as you twist his ear.
  4. Follow Along - Gadget gives the child instructions (turn my nose, turn my green ear, turn my purple eye etc) and they have to follow along. If they get it wrong he'll tell them, or they will be congratulated for doing things correctly.
  5. Robot Rock - If you clap your hands when he asks you to Gadget will sing (mainly about the alphabet) and dance for you.
  6. Gadget's Quiz - In this mode Gadget will ask you a question and you have to answer by either putting in the correct computer chip, or by twisting his ear until the correct answer comes on the screen.

There's no doubt that Gadget is adorably cute and children seem to be instantly drawn to him. At first his dancing can be a little scary if they're not expecting it, but before long they were dancing away too.

The letter and counting games that Gadget has are well thought out and have good educational benefits. The only disadvantage with them is that all the letters are in the ayy, bee, see form, rather than the ah, buh, cuh that they learn at school or nursery.

Having the computer chips is a nice touch and they can also be used on their own to help children with letter recognition and spelling. All of the letters on them are lower case which is perfect for this. It is also nice that Gadget has a backpack to store them in, although when the backpack is actually on his back it is impossible to open the lid fully to fit them in. It does slide off easily though when you want it to.

If there was one thing that I would change slightly then it would be that the LCD screen on his tummy lit up as it can be a bit hard to see if you're not in a very well lit room. Only a small suggestion though.

Be warned that as well as eating "computer chips" Gadget is also rather fond of batteries. When he's running low on energy he will tell you that he's feeling sleepy and shut down, but as he takes 4 AA batteries it may well be wroth investing in some rechargable ones which will work out cheaper in the long run! When he's not being played with Gadget will shut down to conserve battery power.

Gadget the Robot makes a wonderful friend for children and being from VTech he's also got the quality that you expect from their toys.

You can buy Gadget the Robot in any of our Cuthberts stores (Hatfield Galleria, St Albans and Letchworth) or he is also available from our online shop.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Goldilocks and the Three Bears from Orchard Toys

Following on from our recent review of The Game of Ladybirds from Orchard Toys, we're this week looking at another one of their games - Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

There can't be many children ages four and older who don't already know the story of Goldilocks and that's why this game works so well with children in that age range. The aim of the game is that the bears have to race home to stop Goldilocks from eating Baby Bear's porridge, breaking his chair and sleeping in his bed, and any child who is already familiar with the story will easily grasp this aim straight away.

When you unpack the game, the playing board comes in eight pieces which are then put together as a jigsaw - providing younger children with a great opportunity to help set the game up.

Each player selects one of the bear families and that is their playing piece. The dice has the numbers one, two and three written on it (rather than in dots), along with two pictures of Goldilocks. When a player rolls they dice, if they get a number they move their bear family that number of spaces forwards along the brown path. If a picture of Goldilocks is rolled then the player must spin the Goldilocks spinner and move her playing piece that corresponding number of spaces along the green path (in the two player game) or just one space along in the 3/4 player version.

Scattered along the path are honeypot tokens. If a player (either bear or Goldilocks) lands on one of these then they must turn it over to find out of they must go further forwards, move back, stay where they are or return to the start.

If one of the bear families arrives home first and reaches their front door then they have won the game. If Goldilocks arrives at the front door first she must then work her way through the rooms of the house and she does not win the game until she's made it to the bears' bedroom and got into Baby Bear's bed.

With the aim of the game so clear for the children playing it, the game is quite easy for children to get to grips with, and as they're not trying to understand the aim, they can instead get on with understanding how the play actually works.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears provides excellent maths opportunities for moving playing pieces the number of spaces indicated on the dice and also for understanding that the + and - symbols on the honeypot tokens mean that the playing pieces should be moved forwards or backwards.

The only confusion that we had when playing the game was the time that Goldilocks won. As no one player is in "charge" of Goldilocks my daughter couldn't quite understand how we could have finished the game, yet non of the players round the table had won. I think she finally got the concept of Goldilocks having beaten everyone who was playing, but can definitely see where her confusion came from.

The Orchard Toys range includes several games that are based on well known stories like this one, as well as nursery rhymes and family activities and they all provide an excellent scenario for children to play a board game around. When looking through the leaflet that was in the box showing the other games Orchard Toys make, my daughter was very keen to point out which of her books the games were based on.

The games themselves are full of educational opportunities are made here in the UK to the highest quality standards. We believe Goldilocks and the Three Bears would work particularly well for families where there are two or more children within the suggested age range of 4 - 11 years, as they could then play it together without needing adult help.

The Orchard Toys range is available in all Cuthberts stores (Letchworth, St Albans and Hatfield Galleria) and also from their online shop.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Creativity for Kids - Big Fun Stamp Art

When you hear the name Faber-Castell you may well think of their beautiful range of quality art materials which have been available for years and year . The kind of thing that not all children manage to appreciate properly when experimenting with their creative side. But did you know that Faber-Castell also have a whole range devoted to younger artists - Creativity for Kids.

We plan to review some of the range here on the Cuthberts Blog to give you a feel for the Creativity for Kids kits available and this week we're going to start with Big Fun Stamp Art. Aimed at children aged 3 and over this set is perfect for little hands who want a first go at stamping.

The kit contains 12 stamps, 8 washable felt-tip pens, 3 ink pads (again washable) and two cardboard frames as well as a pad of white paper to stamp on. In my opinion the best bit of the kit isn't even mentioned on the box - a small booklet full of inspiration of what you can make using the stamp shapes and the pens.

This booklet is a fantastic idea and can really help a child see how pictures are made up from basic shapes and then have a go themselves. It's also nice to see that the inspiration pictures really appeal to both boys and girls - with everything from flowers to rocket ships.

The instructions do suggest washing the stamps in water before trying them with a different colour ink, so that the previous colour does not mix with the new one. Not all children are going to be patient enough to do this, but if you don't wash it you certainly see the effect of the previous colours. This little caterpillar doesn't seem to mind though.

All the stamps in the kit are big and chunky, made from foam, with pictures on the back showing you what shape they all are. The ink pads are also nice and big so that all the stamps fit on them comfortably and each one has a plastic lid to stop them drying out. The frames included are a nice touch to allow children to frame some of their art work.

The Big Fun Stamp Art kit really does contain everything your children need for doing some stamp art, and as you would expect with Faber-Castell all of the materials are of fantastic quality too.

The Big Fun Stamp Art kit is available in Cuthberts Letchworth store and also from our online shop.
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