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R. Stevens (Woking)

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Tomy Foam Cone Factory Toy
Tomy Foam Cone Factory Toy
Price: £13.68

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More bubbles!, 23 Oct. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
You have to expect the uses of this toy to be limited. Outside of making fake ice-creams what are you going to do? Well, our son has adopted the shaker full-time and keeps coming back to stacking the cones or using them to pour water. As for the foam maker, that is always a source of curiosity, but after about 3 days it was no longer requested when we came to bath time. That doesn’t mean that if I stick it to the side it won’t be used, though.

As mentioned in other reviews, the sides of the bath need to be dry when you stick it on or it slips around (making working the handle difficult). Dosing the bubble bath, water mix is really easy and even if you get it a little wrong (for ice-creams) it still makes usable, fun piles of bubbles (you can fill anything, even bowls). It doesn’t need batteries, just good ol’ elbow grease to make the foam, which makes a pleasant change.

The fun ends at the end of the bath because it is a bit of a pig to rinse and clean. You’ve just filled it with soap, which can take an age to rinse out again, so mould is always a worry. I tend to stick it to the wall tiles, upside down, when it is not in use and so far so good. The whole thing is solid, resistant and somewhat heavy – you wouldn’t want to drop it on your foot. Basically it feels built to last.

Basically, after the initial excitement, this is a toy to bring out occasionally for it to be a long-term success. Leaving it always available will lead to over-familiarity and abandonment. But bring it out every now and then for role-playing or just making heaps of foam and it’ll remain a success for quite a while.

Aquadoodle Super Colour Deluxe
Aquadoodle Super Colour Deluxe
Price: £18.89

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Instant toddler fun!, 22 Oct. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First thing to say, this is a great way to get your kid scribbling. Second thing to say, get this version, because the bigger the better.

So, onto the why. First off, have you tried using crayons lately? They suck! They look fun and have lots of colours, but they barely leave a mark on paper unless you push really hard or half melt them. Fill the AquaDoodle pen with a little water and you get nice heavy, colourful lines with hardly any pressure. OK, you can’t control the colour, but that’s not a big deal. Want even thicker lines? Use the paint brush, with its anti-spill water pot, and your kid will think they’re painting a wall.

So why the biggest version? Well, it’s more practical for two or three kids to use at once, but mainly because it takes longer to scribble over it all, either giving your children time to get the scribble out of their system or giving the first scribbles time to dry and be ready to be drawn over again when all the space has been used.
Downsides? Well, for one, don’t be fooled by the marketing photo, the AquaDoodle isn’t the size of a small rug, more like the half of a dining room table. And as implied above, once it is all wet you can’t use it again until it has dried out. My son loves to use the brush to paint huge swathes over and over, does his best to make the anti-spill pot spill and has found that shaking the pen hard enough sends drops of water everywhere. Needless to say, when he’s done the ‘paper’ is soaking. But even so it only takes about 20 minutes to dry out, but that is enough time for him to wander off and start doing something else.

But overall we’re very happy. Our boy took to it immediately and keeps coming back for more, often with friends. There’s little mess aside from some water spillage and everything is easy to prepare and put away. You'll need to take photos to keep as mementos, but with mobile phones so easily at hand that’s not a problem.

Recommended - just get the big one.

TOMY Bath Toys Bathtime Dragon
TOMY Bath Toys Bathtime Dragon
Offered by Checkpoint24 - always a good deal
Price: £10.44

4.0 out of 5 stars Cute and effective - maybe not ideal for younger children?, 8 Oct. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What does ‘fire breathing’ mean? This little dragon works essentially like any bath squirt toy, there’s a soft body which can suck in water through a little hole in the mouth, then squirt it back out. The difference is in the head, which is hard plastic, contains a little red LED in the mouth and a battery compartment in the ‘skull’.

When you squeeze the body, the water pressure triggers a little switch that turns on the light. This is oriented in such a way that it lights the water up red as it exits the mouth and is quite a convincing display. More like fireworks than fire, but not bad at all.

Our son is just over 2 years old and apparently he’s not ready for this toy yet. The problem is that to activate the pressure switch to turn on the light, you have to squeeze surprisingly hard. At first I didn’t think the dragon was working, that the batteries were flat or that I’d missed a power switch somewhere. It was almost by accident that I discovered that it wasn’t faulty. Admittedly the stronger squeeze makes the water spray out more and looks better than a weaker stream. The prolonged experimentation and the final noisy display simply made our boy too wary of the toy and he doesn’t want to touch it now. He might not be able to squeeze it hard enough to get the fire effect in any case.

The hard and heavy head was a little off putting for him too. Though there aren’t any hard corners he could still give himself a good whack if shaking it around.

I think if we’d unboxed it and tried it out without our son present, things might have been different. It is a fun toy and I’m sure that when he’s a little older he’ll take to it with gusto, but for the moment we’ll be putting it away until he’s a few months older.

Britax Dualfix Isofix Rearward and Forward Facing Car Seat - Group 0+/1 from Birth to 4 Years, Zebra
Britax Dualfix Isofix Rearward and Forward Facing Car Seat - Group 0+/1 from Birth to 4 Years, Zebra

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The king of car seats, 18 Sept. 2015
So, all research these days says that rear-facing car seats are safest. But what happens when your rear-facing seat just doesn’t have enough space for your little one to stretch their legs? This is the solution; a rear-facing seat that can be turned to forward-facing when needed. And that is just one of the advantages of this seat.

Amazingly this seat is good from birth (using the newborn insert) to 18kg, which is estimated to be about 4 years. Admittedly, given the price, getting one is a big investment, but if you get four years to spread the cost then it doesn’t seem so bad. And what cost the security of your child?

Downsides include the size of the thing – it is definitely not adapted to smaller cars. When we got ours we had a Mini (new version) and the passenger had to ride very close to the dash because of the Dualfix behind their chair (upgrading to a full-sized 4-door has improved things enormously). If you’re likely to move it from one car to another, then be prepared for the weight and bulk of the thing. As a rear-facing seat, you also have to be prepared for the fairly bulky support leg that goes into the foot well. And for extra impact protection there’s also the seat-back bar (there to prevent the whole seat rotating in that direction in the case of a rear impact), which adds size and weight, but also makes for a handy carry handle.

However, all these bulky bits increase the safety of the seat, the form of which wraps right around your child and thus provides good side protection as well. The form of the seat and the padding is very comfortable and our son is now able to support longer journeys with much less fussing than before. Putting him into and getting him out of the seat is much easier thanks to the ability to turn it 90 degrees and the headrest is also simple to move up and down. Fitting it is easy and very secure thanks to Isofix and the various indicators that show whether you’ve done everything properly or not.

What’s missing? Downsides? Well, some seats come with ways to hold the straps out of the way when you’re putting your child into the seat, but unfortunately the Dualfix doesn’t. To adjust the recline you need to push in and hold a button on the base while lifting a release at the front edge. For some reason this still causes it to block when trying to raise it and requires a jiggle to get it moving, so it is not as easy as it should be. The bar across the seat back, though necessary, does reduce the amount of space for your child’s feet and can hook them up when rotating the seat.

But overall the advantages outweigh the problems and we’re very happy with our choice. Rear-facing seats that can support up to 18kgs and quite rare (many are rated for much lower weight limits) and rotating ones are even rarer. Our only regret is not getting it immediately from birth (we used a carrier on an Isofix socket, which was only rating to 9kgs and was too small before then). We feel confident that we’ll be using this seat until our son is around 4 years old and that we’ll be able to keep him rear facing for the large portion of that time. A great seat, especially if you get it from birth.

TDK A08 Trek Mini Wireless Speaker - Black
TDK A08 Trek Mini Wireless Speaker - Black
Offered by Trusted-Goods
Price: £10.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great little speaker – more than the sum of its parts, 17 Sept. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I can’t really compare this little speaker to others at the same price point because I haven’t owned any. I have used other mobile speakers, but either more or less expensive. In terms of comparison, the Trek is much closer to the £100 model than the £15 one. The sound quality is very good and only really lacks in volume compared to the higher priced unit. The frequency response is not exceptional – some of the high end lacks sparkle and the base is never really booming – but the overall sound fidelity is very convincing. And the maximum volume is easily loud enough for this size factor.

I found it extremely easy to pair with and use. You can only pair one device at a time, but it pairs so quickly that you can pass it from phone to phone in little time. There are minimal buttons; there’s a single, large button on the front for pairing and a little recess with a rubberised plug that hides the external input, USB charger socket and on/off switch.

Actually, it is more of a circuit breaker. If this switch is in the off position you can’t charge the speaker (which is the one thing that led me to read the manual to find out what was going on). When the battery is charging a red LED shine on the front of the unit, when paired to a phone a blue LED shines by the pairing button.

I have found the battery lives up to the promise made on the packaging – I got at least 6 hours from it watching 3 films in three days, plus some other playback, all on a single charge.

If I were to sum up the Trek I would say that everything it does is ‘just enough’ – the supplied changing cable, at about 10cm long, is just long enough. The number of buttons on the unit is ‘just enough’, the fact that is supports both a single Bluetooth pairing and an aux input is ‘just enough’, the maximum volume, audio quality, water resistance and petite size are all ‘just enough’. And on top of all that, you even get ‘just enough’ different colours to choose from.

Each individual aspect of the Trek _could_ be improved, but none of them really _needs_ to be. And thanks to its being more than the sum of its parts, this little speaker is just perfect the way it is.

Nivea Head to Toe Beautiful Skin Gift Bag
Nivea Head to Toe Beautiful Skin Gift Bag
Price: £28.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice gift bundle, provided the price is right, 17 Sept. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I gave this to my wife and this review is based off of her reaction. First off she was quite pleased with the bag – it is much larger than you’d guess looking at the Amazon picture and has the dimensions of a large handbag. The measurements are quoted on the page and correspond well to the bag – 40 x 28 x 14 cm. Inside there is a single large pocket that is not divided in any way and is not equipped with any pockets.

There’s a nice selection of products in the bag, all normal size formats (no mini or travel size items) and all useful. The main surprise was the in-shower moisturiser, which you use whilst still in the shower. My wife said you can feel the effects very well until you dry off with a towel, after which the moisturising effects were no longer so apparent. In any case, you get a wide selection of quality Nivea products.

The £40 RRP was a bit of a shocker and we came to the conclusion that tat felt overpriced. However, at the current Amazon price of £23 this gift pack seems like a bit of a bargain. All in all this would make for a nice gift that should be well received.

Targus THZ59201EU Fit 'N' Grip Rotating universal stand case cover fits 9-10 inch Tablets - Blue
Targus THZ59201EU Fit 'N' Grip Rotating universal stand case cover fits 9-10 inch Tablets - Blue
Price: £21.18

4.0 out of 5 stars A bit bulky, has some issues, but scores high on quality and security, 8 Sept. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The selling point of this case would initially appear to be the rare ability to rotate the tablet so it can be vertical as well as sideways on the stand. But the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that it complied to military drop test standards. Waggling and shaking it around (no, I’m not going to drop my tablet for this review) I can tell that there’s a good degree of impact protection provided by the silicon straps that hold the tablet in place. Each corner of the tablet is secured by a dog-eared corner of silicon that is found at each end of an X shaped cradle. In the event of a fall the ‘arms’ of the silicon will stretch and deform to absorb the impact shock. The case extends beyond the edges of the tablet to provide the gap needed for the tablet to move as it slows, yet not touch the surface.

The downside of all this is that the case can feel a little bulky (at least for an iPad) with almost a cm of extra case above and below the top and bottom edges. The opening side (opposite the spine) has less space and looks like it might not fare so well if the fall occurred in that direction. The case is held closed by an elastic strap, which is more secure than a magnetic system, but also more fiddly.

Aside from the extra size, the case itself feels very nice to hold and touch. The interior lining is soft to protect the tablet’s surfaces and screen. The colours are muted but nice and the whole thing has a professional, folio feel. The rotating screen feels like a bit of a gimmick, a side effect of how the fixing system inevitably ends up at a central fixing point. However the stand works well (make sure surfaces you put it on are clean, even if the cover wipes off easily) at a wide range of angles, not just the two for which there are indents in the case.

The fixing arms can cause issues – for me they partly block the earphone socket and the power button, on different brands of tablet there will be other inconveniences. This is because of those rubberised corners that hold the tablet - they’ll always cause issues since most tablets have buttons on or near the corners. The little camera flap is another nice touch, but there’s no guarantee the camera won’t be obscured by the harness for tablets not in the advertised list.

It took me a little while to get to like the Targus Fit’n’Grip, mainly because my iPad suddenly felt a lot bigger and heavier. But the extra protection, the convenient stand and smart materials are gradually winning me over. The fiddly access to the earphone jack is a constant annoyance, but it won’t affect everyone (and my iPad is oooold). Definitely worth a look and a possible sure-thing if you want that portrait-orientation stand.

Fisher-Price Smart Stages Scooter
Fisher-Price Smart Stages Scooter
Price: £29.06

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quadrophenia anyone?, 8 Sept. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is our 2nd ‘Smart Stages’ toy from Fisher-Price and to be honest, it feels more like it’s a gimmick rather than living up to its promises. At the end of the day that’s not a big deal, unless you expect your toys to teach your children while you do something else. The different stages basically add more complex phrases and suggested tasks. For example, stage 1 will just tell your baby that the shape on the triangle button is a triangle, while stage 3 will ask your child to press the triangle button and congratulate if they do it (it also suggests scenarios for pretend play, but can’t enforce or recognise whether they’re followed). It’s a nice to have and might give some benefit, but in the example of our son, by the time he’s ready for stage 3 he’s also able to switch the stages around himself, so it rarely stays there.

As for the scooter itself, it is a fun little thing. My son has become enamoured with bikes of all forms and is very happy to sit on a ‘moto bike’, that it also plays music is almost irrelevant. One of the good things I like about it is that it has a sensor linked to the wheels, so if it is in stand by and he starts to ride it, then it detects that, activates and says some encouraging phrase. He has other rolling toys that only wake at the press of a button.

There are two downsides – the first affects all ages and it is the lack of an under seat cubby. The seat is fixed to the rest of the scooter and the whole thing is an enclosed form (even underneath). It just seems like wasted space and a lost opportunity. Our son also has a little truck that does have cubby under the seat and we find all sorts of stuff in it, usually his most prized items of the day. This helps him bond with it far more effectively than anything else.

The 2nd issue is that the front wheel can’t be steered. For smaller babies this is probably a good thing, but as they get older the only way to go around corners is to slide or lift the front around. The scooter comes in the box with the handlebars removed and you need to clip them into place when you unpack it. They’re just to hang on to, nothing more.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a fun little scooter, but it best serves the 16-20 month range (in my opinion) than the wider audience the Smart Stages marketing suggests. Otherwise the tunes are fun, the phrases varied and there are just enough buttons on the dash to hold the attention. The bike is solidly screwed together and feels like you could repeatedly drop it down the stairs without it breaking (though it may lose the handle bars if you did). I’m sure it will make a whole host of little toddlers very happy.

Britax Max-fix II Group 0+1 Birth to 18 Kg Rearfacing Isofix Car Seat (Stone Grey)
Britax Max-fix II Group 0+1 Birth to 18 Kg Rearfacing Isofix Car Seat (Stone Grey)
Price: £285.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very safe, solid and well designed car seat, 5 Sept. 2015
First off, a quick disclaimer. We don’t actually own this product, instead we attended an event hosted by Britax where we were free to poke, prod and bash it at will. Of course, a few hours with something may or may not be enough to fully understand all its pros and cons, but as owners similar products (from Britax and their competitors) I can offer our opinion.

If you’re looking at this review then maybe you’re a new parent or soon to be one. There are two key points to keep in mind when looking at this seat;
1/ Rearward facing is considered to be the safest seating position for your child
2/ An alternative would be a removable seat, such as a Maxicosi, which offers the ability to take a sleeping baby out of the car and carry it away
When our son was born, we went for option 2. There are some practicalities, but also inconveniences with it. But most pertinently you still need a pushchair frame most of the time because car seats are heavy – so you’re not that much better off in terms of stuff to transport. Plus our baby carrier became too small *very* quickly. In any case, both have pros and cons, it is just important to know that not going for a baby carrier is a totally valid option.

On to the Max-Fix II. There’s been some great design attention put into this seat. Some of it really basic, but so useful – like harness retainers! Holding your child and trying to get the straps out of the seat before putting them in it is often a 3 handed job (or you don’t bother and have to fish around under their butt to find the various bits and pieces), so retainers are awesome! The easy adjustability of the headrest is another strong point, you just need to slide the assembly up and down rather than faff about rethreading belts and such.

One inconvenience of rear-facing seats is the need for a foot prop (often excluded from product photos), which reaches from the base of the seat to the floor of the car. These can be awkward when carrying seat around as they flap about and generally get in the way (which they can also do when installing the seat in the car). The way Britax has integrated the prop to the back of the seat is great (especially if you change the seat between cars)!

ISOFIX is also great and you should really get an ISOFIX seat if your car is compatible. Having ISOFIX adds to the sense of cocooning solidity of the Max-Fix II, which is already high thanks to the deep sides that wrap right around your child. The cushions are soft to the touch, nicely padded and easily removed for washing. The new born insert is also nicely padded, very comfortable looking and even goes right around the head to provide maximum support.

Weak points? The highly variable recline is really good, but to adjust it you need to use both hands and the knobs are set quite low, so you need to reach right over the seat to turn the inner one. If you’re small and your car isn’t, then this could be tricky. The brace bar is also an acquired taste – it looks like it will get in the way of your child’s feet (which it will), but in the end the slight discomfort is more than made up for by the added security it brings (preventing the seat from pivoting in case of an impact). It also proves to be a handy carry handle.

Overall the Max-Fix II feels robust, comfortable and secure, with sturdy construction and hard-wearing, yet nice to touch, materials. Good from birth to 18kg (approx. 4 years) it seems like an easy to recommend investment. You will need a pushchair and a carrycot to go with it at first, though. Along with a mirror to fix to the rear headrest so you can see your child.

AmazonBasics Apple Certified Lightning to USB Cable - 0.9 m (3 ft) - White
AmazonBasics Apple Certified Lightning to USB Cable - 0.9 m (3 ft) - White

5.0 out of 5 stars As good as the original (just very slightly shorter), 28 Aug. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
All I can offer is observations in comparison to the Apple cable I got bundled with my phone. This cable feels just a solid and fits just as snuggly as Apple's cable.

There are three key differences;
1/ The Amazon Basics version has a slightly larger USB 'housing' (the plastic part behind the plug) - I find this makes it easier to get a grip on
2/ The Amazon cable is a few CMs shorter (metric v Imperial maybe? Small economy that translates to big profit with scale?)
3/ The Amazon Basics logo on the Lightning end

So, length aside, it is just as good as the Apple brand. If the price is right...

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