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Grr "Gumbo" (England)

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Octonauts Gup-O and Dashi
Octonauts Gup-O and Dashi
Offered by Fun Collectables
Price: £16.27

4.0 out of 5 stars Amphibious fun for everyone!, 27 Sep 2014
This review is from: Octonauts Gup-O and Dashi (Toy)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When this arrived the first thing we noticed about this toy is that it is a bit larger than we expected. We had been expecting something probably about 3/4 of the size this actually is. Admittedly this is going to be a personal thing but it set us off on a positive note.

When we opened this our two year old got very excited and luckily the toy is nice and easy to release from the packaging so we didn't have an impatient small person waiting long. Our son loves Octonauts and anything to do with the sea so knew the character and that it was designed as a killer whale. When we got it out of the packet he was able to put the pieces together easily and with mummy and daddy playing we had lots of fun games whizzing it round the living room. The moving tail is a nice feature which helped to hold his interest. It was fairly late on in the day and as bath time loomed one of the major positives of this toy became apparent, we were able to continue the same games in the bath! Amphibious toys are a huge favourite in this house as our toddler hates stopping play to go in the bath so this sort of toy are great. The ability to stick the Gup-O on the bath wall, though simple, is great as it meant that Dashi was taken out on many adventures, coming back to base regularly to make sure everything was ok.

One gripe I do have is the price of the Gup-O - although a well designed and sturdy toy it seems a few pounds more expensive than it really should be. Perhaps the result of being a branded toy from a popular TV show it seems a shame to push the price up so that it feels you are not getting value for money. If this had been slightly more competitively priced I would have gone for a 5 star review, but feel I really can't justify one.

Disney Frozen Ice Skating Elsa Doll
Disney Frozen Ice Skating Elsa Doll
Price: £23.09

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice toy, shocking price, 15 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Frozen is less a film, more a phenomenon and virtually every child I know seems to be at least mildly addicted/obsessed with it. As such, I was unsurprised when my niece’s reaction to being presented with this doll was much as I suspect mine would be if all six of my lottery numbers came up. Sheer, unrestrained excitement and glee. From that point of view, this doll can only be considered a complete and total success.

The doll is as well made as you may expect it to be. Similar materials, quality and strength that you would expect from the Barbie, Monster High ranges for example. The character detail is solid; the doll does look like the Elsa character, not always a given with these sorts of things it must be said, and the clothing is suitably twinkly and she has a little sparkly tiara as well.

The ice skating action is....alright. My niece, who is just about to hit 7, found it easy to put the doll onto the base and push her along to get the doll to do the skating movements (Figure dancing?). She enjoyed this and thought it was great; I thought it a little underwhelming to be honest and noticed that the doll was soon being used more as a normal doll than as an ice skater. Regardless, the toy was a big hit and will give many hours of pleasure I'm sure.

So, the target audience for this doll could not be more impressed and thrilled with it. However, I cannot give it the full five stars because of one simple reason. The price is shocking. I have struggled to believe the prices I have seen for some toys recently, particularly those with a franchise tie-in. I have grudgingly accepted that is par for the course but this doll is being sold for £30 at the moment! This is an extraordinary price for this item; I would think between £5 and £10 less would be fairer. The word Frozen has attracted a hefty premium indeed. I have no doubt that many parents will be picking one of these up for their children at Christmas and am certain the recipients will no doubt be delighted with them – it’s a decent toy after all – but the price tag leaves an unpleasantly cynical taste.

Fisher-Price Kick and Play Piano Cot Cover
Fisher-Price Kick and Play Piano Cot Cover
Price: £22.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Musical fun from 6 months!, 10 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a lovely looking toy which will arrive with batteries already inserted and ready to go, as I discovered bringing it home in the car - cue one extremely confused driver wondering what the strange noises were coming from the back seat.

The front of the toy is brightly coloured and attractive with a soft cloth covering while the back is hard plastic to give it structure. There are ties at each corner of the toy to enable you to tie it to cot struts if you desire but it can also be laid flat on the floor so it can be operated by a baby lying down and sitting up when they are older.

The toy is operated by pressing the picture of the keyboard on the front. It takes very little pressure for the piano keys to be activated so small feet or hands will be able to operate it easily. The sound quality of the notes is good and the tunes it also plays are fun, catchy and also of a good quality. It doesn't sound tinny which is a problem I have had with other toys in the past. Though it is worth noting that the sounds are fairly loud (even on the lower settings) which might not be ideal in a cot environment if you want your baby to chill out.

As well as playing music there are two flashing lights on the front of the toy which go on and off when it is operated. This means that baby get both audio and visual stimulation.

Once you or baby have played a few notes a tune will kick in playing fun music for your baby to listen to. It has been mentioned that his really does not help musical development in babies but looking at the product description this is not really what the toy is aimed at. It works on the cause and effect of kicking or hitting something and getting a response. There are also two settings you can chose, one which allows separate notes to be played and one which is more tune based, both of which are good for different situations.

I would say that the toy will be best appreciated from about 6 months onward. Before this time they really are too small to appreciate the relationship between what they are doing and the result. A nice little toy that most babies will enjoy.

Melissa & Doug Water Wow Bundle Animals/ Alphabet and Numbers
Melissa & Doug Water Wow Bundle Animals/ Alphabet and Numbers
Price: £8.62

3.0 out of 5 stars Not Melissa & Doug's best effort but superior to many similar toys out there, 7 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A solidly okay product here. Not Melissa & Doug's best effort but superior to many similar toys out there.

Our son is just over 2 years old and is, therefore, a bit too young to fully get the best out of these - though that does mean the irritating use of USA English doesn't matter to him one iota, though the other reviews have been right to point out that the product does not use British spellings - he does love making a mess though! Which is where this product is a hit.

Sharing much in common with the Aquadoodle concept, our boy can go potty drawing like mad with these pens on the special paper without us worrying about anything more than a bit of water getting on the carpets or on the car seats. Indeed, the product suggests it is ideal for travel play and I have to say that I agree on that point. He thoroughly enjoyed drawing away on the journey to his Grandma's this weekend.

I give this 3 stars rather than anything higher for two reasons - firstly I do feel that the price tag here is a little on the high side, though accept that items well made like these do attract a higher value there are decent alternatives out there that are cheaper. Secondly, the US spelling will mean that these are put away once we are ready to really focus on his word development. Can it really be so difficult/costly to address this?

Bright Starts Hide and Spin Monkey
Bright Starts Hide and Spin Monkey
Price: £39.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit of fun monkeying about!, 4 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First off when this toy arrived in my office it was greeted with much affection from my colleagues. They all wanted to press the buttons you can see through the packaging to see what noises it made. Funnily enough this is exactly what our toddler wanted to do too so it seems big kids and little ones alike are initially attracted to this toy!

The Bright Starts Hide n Spin Monkey is aimed at children aged from 6 to 36 months. Our toddler is now 26 months so is heading towards the upper age range, but this does not mean he does not enjoy it – he loves it and I suspect he will for a long while yet. One major thing to note is that this is a pretty large toy and while I had an idea this was the case it is useful to know it actually stands (when assembled) at about 50cm high. This has positives and negatives – if you lack floor space you may find this is a bit too large for you, but play wise it means it can be used either standing up for toddlers, or sitting down for younger children.

When we opened the box it was extremely clear that this is a toy you need to assemble at home. We found the assembly to be a fairly simple procedure with the most complex part being connecting the barrel to the main head of the toy. You will need a small Phillips head screwdriver to get it all together and sometimes need to be a bit tough to get all the screws in tightly. It’s worth noting that if you are giving this as a present you may want to assemble it first to avoid an impatient child getting agitated. The batteries for the toy are included but for the future you will need 4AA’s to replace them when they run down.

The aim of the monkey game is to insert the balls that are included into either the top of the monkey head or into the hole at the front (better for when smaller babies are playing with it). Once the balls are in there a firm press of the monkey nose will mean he dips down to hide in his barrel and the balls drop into the banana tray below where they are spun about in a roulette style. There is an option to allow the balls to spill out onto the floor as well by opening the coloured gates (shaped like leaves) so that your child has to zoom off and collect them.

The monkey head itself has three buttons on his hat in the primary colours which light up and flash, when they are pressed, and they will also play a little song based round the shape which is depicted on the button and its colour.

Our toddler has always loved toys where you have to drop balls and shapes into something and anything that plays music is generally a hit so this toy is perfect. It also has a good educational side as it works on colour and shape recognition, facial feature recognition as you have to press his nose, hand-eye co-ordination and understanding processes as you need to insert a ball before pressing the monkey nose to get him to hide in his barrel and release the balls.

We've really enjoyed this toy but there are a couple of things that do niggle with me – the American voice being one of them – is it really so hard to record things again in an English accent, surely as this toy costs just under £40 this should be possible. It is quite expensive, although not prohibitively I do think the high price may put people off. That said our toddler loves it and giggles away happily while he plays which is kind of the point. It’s all very well for grown ups to point out negatives but as it’s not aimed at me then these really are side issues. A well made toy with lots of fun to be had.

Graco Evo Pushchair 2014 Range (Khaki)
Graco Evo Pushchair 2014 Range (Khaki)
Price: £179.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Light, manouverable, sturdy and affordable!, 31 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For our first child we bought a Graco Quattro travel system which we loved despite its large size. This time round though with our son now running about we felt we needed something a little smaller and lighter to make it easier for us to move a new born with one hand as well as easily wrangle an excitable toddler with the other.

The pushchair arrives in a large box and requires assembly. We found this was fairly simple following the instructions provided and in under 10 minutes we had our brand new pushchair taking centre stage in our living room. It comes supplied with a lovely thick cosy toes and a rain cover, both of which I am sure will prove invaluable as we approach the colder months! It is extremely light which is fabulous as we will need to be hauling it in and out of a car boot on a regular basis.

Looks wise this is a lovely looking piece of equipment. The khaki colour is really great, not gender specific and gives it a classy appearance when combined with the black metal of the frame and wheels.

The pushchair seat is extremely simple and easy to clip in and just as easy to get out. I did worry that this was an area we would find to be a bit of a pain as we have never had a system where the seat is detachable but we need not have been concerned. It has a simple button release which is easy to use - not stiff or hard to do in any way. The pushchair seat itself is also extremely light so putting in and taking out is not a chore at all. The bar at the front is great too as it unclips from one side with ease to allow you to take your child in and out and then back in just as easily. Superb to hang toys from and to keep small people from getting in and out.

When it comes to moving this pushchair you realise one of its true strengths, it is so easy to push, turn and generally move about. I have tried it one handed, two handed and even given our toddler a turn and we have all managed it with ease. It feels exceptionally light but at the same time is very sturdy. The frame does not wobble and it feels reassuringly safe for a small person - something I was a little nervous about having had such a huge and sturdy beast for our first.

The pushchair seat can lie flat so can be used from birth which is a great plus but you are also able to buy a carry cot to clip on instead of the seat so if you want it to convert to what is essentially a pram then you can do. I know some reviews have said they didn't find this aspect useful but I suspect we will be investing in one as our first spent a lot of his time in the Graco travel system carry cot. The lie flat pushchair seat is really great but being able to add on the carrycot is a great plus for us.

That said you are also able to buy a car seat to attach to the frame meaning you can shift straight from the car to the pushchair and vice versa. This is a useful option and one we will be looking into but we do tend to try not to keep small people in car seats for too long so would probably prefer to invest in the additional carrycot instead.

One feature we have never had before is the ability for baby to face forward or to face whoever is pushing. This is something that our toddler adores. Although he is not intended to be the main user of this system we have been testing it out on him and I cannot stress how much he enjoys being able to look at mummy and daddy. Normally it can be a bit of a fight to get him into a pushchair, but he really enjoys this one and will clamber in himself if he knows he will be able to face mummy or daddy. It's a great feature.

The brake is a fairly standard bar that you push with your foot. It can sometimes be a little bit of a pain to get into place but I think we will get used to this the more we use it. Certainly once it is in place the pushchair does not go anywhere, it is stuck to the spot. Not exactly an exciting feature but one of the most important!

The basket below the pushchair is huge and much bigger than many I have seen. This is extremely useful as it means we can fit both the changing bag and some shopping in there which means no one actually has to carry anything themselves - though if we did it wouldn't be too much of an issue due to how easy it is to steer one handed!

Some people have mentioned that the height of the pushchair is not adjustable and while this is true we have not found this to be an issue at all. It is a good height for us both and there is just over a foot difference in height between us. For anyone super tall or super short there may be issues but for most people this standard height will be just fine.

All in all we have found this to be a superb pushchair. It works wonderfully as it is but as you can add the car seat and/or carry cot it can easily be transformed into a travel system. It is also reasonably priced compared to many of the systems out there so will not break the bank. I am extremely glad we discovered this before spending out on anything else as I doubt it would be any better than this one.

Monster High Freaky Fusion Avea Trotter Hybrid Doll
Monster High Freaky Fusion Avea Trotter Hybrid Doll
Price: £19.61

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Costly Oddness - big hit with the Niece!, 31 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
To my jaded, adult eyes Miss Trotter and her fellow Monster High Classmates are not the nicest looking toys but to my nearly-7 year old niece they are just about the most exciting things in the world. Indeed, the squeals of joy she emitted when I handed this to her speak for themselves. That her four year old sister looked on with disinterest perhaps says everything about the age range this appeals to - though my toddler seemed quite interested in snatching it away!

The plus side to this range, as my sister pointed out, is that they are the 'anti-barbies' in many respects. Celebrating the weird and the wonderful rather than the generic 'beauty' of Mattel's famous blonde Ken-botherer. I can see that appealing to parents and helping develop understanding play. As a lifelong lover of monsters, the range does also amuse me, even if the style of the glamorous/horrific design of the dolls is not something I can fully get my head around!

The doll seems reasonably well made and I suspect it will be strong enough to withstand most games it will be used in. The doll is similar in size to Barbies and the My Little Pony Equestria dolls range so there is compatibility with other ranges which can help youngsters come up with imaginative reasons for the separate ranges to cross over into each others worlds. The doll also comes with a character diary (story booklet) and the obligatory comb that all these sorts of toys come with.

My three star review is largely a comment on the price of this toy - just shy of £27 seems very, very costly indeed. Similar toys of equal quality and size seem to retail around £15-£20 and, whilst accepting that this toy is well made and it's pre-Christmas release, I personally can't see enough to justify this hefty price tag.

Naty by Nature Babycare 8-15 Kg Size 4 Eco Pull On Pants - Pack of 22
Naty by Nature Babycare 8-15 Kg Size 4 Eco Pull On Pants - Pack of 22
Price: £6.49

5.0 out of 5 stars A brand we trust and reccomend, 29 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Our entire household loves Naty products having discovered them after the birth of our son two years ago. We wanted to use nappies on him that had less impact on the environment than most and although we also use reusables from time to time these are the brand we have bought from day one. A little sceptical at first we found them to be well fitting, highly absorbent and extremely gentle on his skin. Yes we have had a few accidents where we have had a nappy that has been too full and in these instances you need to be quite quick and catch them as soon as possible because (due to their eco compostable nature) they can burst and leave you cleaning up absorbent granules, but I would much rather risk this now and again than use some of the other brands about which have always smelled of chemicals and felt plastic to me – our son has also had much worse skin when we have had an emergency and had to buy a packet of ‘normal’ nappies to use on him.

As pull ups they are easy to get on and off and they fit well round his hips and waist and legs without leaving any red marks. One thing to note about these nappies is that instead of having velcro type tabs to fasten them they are actually one single piece of fabric that stretches to allow them to be pulled on and off. I find this is a really great design as it means there is nothing to come undone or to catch on my little ones skin when I pull them on. The fabric that joins the front and back is soft and thin and rather like smocking on a piece of clothing so it stretches with your child and moves easily. There is nothing rough about it which is great.

The nappies also have a simple print on the back of them to let you know which way round to put them on. Nothing large but simple text saying BACK – invaluable if, like me, you are prone to always getting things the wrong way round first!

Overall I highly rate these nappies, they are extremely effective with the added bonus of being more environmentally friendly than most other disposables out there. It is a real shame that Naty does not have a higher profile in the UK as they really do offer some genuine eco credentials and although they are not as eco as reusable nappies they have always been a great halfway house for anyone wanting to reduce their impact on the environment. Plus my two year old loves his ‘pants’, he is not out of nappies yet (and with a sister arriving soon we suspect he may have a few months left in them) but these help him feel a bit more grown up. We don’t pull them up and down like adult underwear so he can use a potty and instead put a new one on each time, but he still sees them as his bog boy pants which is enough for us right now!

Peter Rabbit Treehouse Playset
Peter Rabbit Treehouse Playset
Price: £22.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Peter's on his own in an expensive but good toy treehouse, 29 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The new Cbeebies series of Peter Rabbit has been a firm hit in our household so I was very pleased when this was offered to review as I was sure my son would be very happy to play with it!

The first thing that struck me about this toy is its size, it’s a bit bigger than I expected. Admittedly the dimensions are listed on Amazon but I always forget to check so ended up quite surprised by the size of the box that appeared at my door. It takes up a little more floor space that I envisaged as well. Now, this is neither a good nor bad thing but a recommendation before buying that you take a peek at the sizing information.

The toy is ready built so no assembly is needed and comes with a couple of accessories including a reversible table with treasure map. It’s a very well made toy; the plastic is durable and the moulding high quality. The included figure of Peter Rabbit is well detailed and the tree house has a few nice touches such as a working lift element, a telescope and, its main feature, a trap-door and slide combo

All of this has been well made and presented but is it fun to play with?

I'm saying yes to that. My two year old has really enjoyed playing with this – yes the intended age group is 3 plus and I think that, generally, that is about right but if you have a mature toddler who you are able to supervise when they play then this toy is fine, no obvious choke hazard for example. He had lots of fun sliding Peter down the slide and pulling him up in the lift. Each time he has played with this in the few days we have had it, he has been kept entertained for a solid hour or so of play before deciding to move to a new toy. Not a bad result for a rambunctious little one!

Despite all of the above and my general enthusiasm for it, I feel that I cannot stretch to give it the five star review for the simple fact that it costs, at time of writing, nearly £30 and is only supplied with one single figure.

As good as this toy is, £30 does seem on the costly side especially when it comes with only one figure. For this toy to have longevity you will need to get some more figures to use on it. A quick glance on Amazon will show you that these toys are available but costly and if you wanted to get anyone other the Benjamin Bunny or Lily Bobtail, it appears that you have to buy a set of figures that all include....Peter Rabbit! Yes, the design differs slightly each time but to get a full set of all the main protagonists and villains will cost you approximately another £30 and you’ll have multiple Peter’s. I'm not suggesting that this is a reason not to get this toy but it’s worth mentioning as I feel without other figures the toy may have a limited shelf life.

Overall, it’s a pricey but well made toy and if you have a child who really loves the show then you could certainly so much worse than buying this but make sure your wallet is ready to take a hit on the accessories.

Melissa & Doug Table-Top Easel
Melissa & Doug Table-Top Easel
Price: £28.23

4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly 5 stars!, 27 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The first thing to say here is that there is a lot that I like about this easel but there are a few significant flaws which I feel should be pointed out so there will be positives and negatives in this review.

When the easel arrived the first thing I noticed is that like the Melissa and Doug chalks I recently acquired the easel is only packaged in a cellophane wrap. I understand the reasoning for this, it is light for shipping and you can see the product easily but it does mean that if you are buying as a gift it may lack the wow factor upon opening.

The good bits - the easel is very colourful, it looks good and is sturdy when put together - there is no chance of collapse and trapping little fingers or of tipping over without it actually being lifted up. The design is simple and extremely effective. The instructions provided with the easel are clear and easy to follow which makes a welcome change from many products I have come across recently. They use images and words - something which is getting more unusual as products sell worldwide and tend to only have pictures to avoid the need for multiple languages. That said putting the easel together is not exactly rocket science and so although clear instructions are nice it is also pretty self explanatory what to do.

The chalks and whiteboard marker supplied with the easel work well and make nice clear marks on the surfaces. The easel is easy to clean so small people can draw again and again nice and easily.

Sadly the build quality of the easel is a little off - or it certainly was on the one we have. The joints are a little rough and there are spots where the glue has dribbled out a bit. In a couple of places the paint is not quite even or up to the edges of the pieces of wood. The board cleaner is also glued together badly and so the wooden section is at quite an angle to the fabric cleaning section. None of these issues have any effect on the actual usability of the product and are not noticeable at a distance but they do show up on closer inspection which is a shame.

The four little magnets that are included with the easel are a nice touch - especially since both the whiteboard and the blackboard are magnetised however it would be nice if the magnets themselves were a little stronger. On the whiteboard side they do stick quite well and can hold up a piece of paper, however when used on the blackboard side they have little or no hold, in fact our test with one magnet a single sheet of A5 sized paper failed miserably which is such a shame.

The chunky green screws that hold everything together are easy to use and make the easel set up nice and quick. Although this does mean you need to remove them to fold it up for storage which could lead to them getting lost. It might be nice if you were able to collapse the easel without completely removing some of the components. As the product boasts the ability to fold up for storage as one of its main benefits it would be good if you could do this more easily.

Overall this is a lovely sturdy little easel that our toddler is really enjoying using and that really is the main thing. It does what it needs to do and does so in a safe and practical way. It is a shame that a few corners seem to have been cut which mean that on close inspection it is not the quality level it first appears to be and that some of the good ideas could have been executed slightly more effectively. Almost a perfect little product, but needs the rough edges smoothing off.

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