Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Kidkraft Pirate Play Set

There's no doubt that children love pirates. Give them a chance to don an eye patch and wave a sword about and both boy and girl swashbucklers will jump at the opportunity. They manage to come up with hours and hours of pirate related role play and that's exactly what they'll do with the Kidkraft Pirate Play Set.

This play set contains a large pirate ship (measuring over 60cm long and over 60cm high) which is beautifully decorated both inside and out. Inside the ship there is great attention to detail with the illustrations showing everything from the ship's parrot in its cage to the hammocks in which the pirates must sleep. The ship hinges in the middle so that it can open out, allowing children to play inside easily too.

On the outside of the ship, as well as the ship's wheel (which turns) there is also a tall mast featuring two billowing sails (complete with pirate's skull decorations) and a rope ladder leading up to the crow's nest at the top. The play set also come with two pirate figures (both positionable), a set of steps to allow the pirates to climb to the upper deck, a treasure chest full of gold and a cannon to defend from the enemy.

The pirate ship actually comes in flat pack form and requires and adult with a screw driver to put it together. The instructions enclosed are easy to follow and all the screws and other parts are very efficiently labelled to make the job as easy as possible, but it is still a bit fiddly and can take about an hour in total. If you're wanting to give one of these Pirate Play Sets as a gift then we'd definitely recommend you assemble it first to save yourself a job on Christmas morning!

Once assembled the play set is incredibly sturdy and perfect for hours of imaginative play. Our little reviewer has already staged numerous battles between the two pirate characters and sailed the ship round the world several times. It would make an ideal gift for any pirate loving child this Christmas.

The Kidkraft Pirate Play Set is available in store and also online via the Cuthberts shop and retails at £54.99.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Lego Minifigures Series 11

In the run up to Christmas it can be all to easy to forget about some of the smaller toys that we sell that are popular all year round - and Lego Minifigures are one such toy.

Back in the summer we blogged about the special series 10, including the Mr Gold figures that were hidden in some bags. As far as we know we weren't lucky enough to sell a Mr Gold, but that hasn't dented our enthusiasm for series 11, especially since we know that a Minifigure bag would make a great addition to any Lego fan's stocking on Christmas morning.

So who is inside series 11 then I hear you ask? Those clever people at Lego keep coming up with more great ideas for the mini figure characters and this series is no exception. Here's the full cast list:
  1. Barbarian
  2. Scarecrow
  3. Pretzel Girl
  4. Evil Mech
  5. Island Warrior
  6. Gingerbread Man
  7. Holiday Elf
  8. Yeti
  9. Mountain Climber
  10. Welder
  11. Scientist
  12. Saxophone Player
  13. Diner Waitress
  14. Grandma
  15. Constable
  16. Lady Robot

If you want to know more about each of the Minifigures in the series then look no further than Jay's Brick Blog. There's a full three part guide to series 11 (part 1, part 2 and part 3) and I honestly don't think there's anything about these characters that you won't find out there!

Bags of series 11 Lego Minifigures are available in all our stores (St Albans, Letchworth and Hatfield Galleria) and are priced £2.00 each. We also have some stocks of previous series if you're still looking to finish off earlier collections.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Cuthberts Top 5 Toys for Pre-Schoolers for Christmas

When it comes to pre-schoolers many of the toys which we think are going to be most popular this Christmas come from television programmes that are popular with this age range. When watched in moderation television can be wonderful for encouraging children to play and as a basis for them to start acting out stories on their own.

1. Tree Fu Tom - Ultimate Tom - £23.45

Each episode of Tree Fu Tom sees Tim put on his magical belt and be transported to the world of Treetopolis where he has adventures with his friends and uses his magic to help get them out of scrapes. Sometimes he needs a bit of help and calls upon "the big world" for assistance with spells. This is where the children watching at home are asked to perform moves in front of their TV sets to help send the magic to Tom. The series was actually developed on conjunction with the Dyspraxia Foundation so that the moves children are asked to do to help Tom perform his magic are beneficial to children who have developmental coordination disorders.

The Ultimate Tom is fully posable and also has wings which pop out to help him "fly". By pressing the chest the music from the TV programme plays when you tilt him into a flying position. Both his Sapstone belt and his Holopax (to those of you not familiar with Treetopolis lingo - it's the thing he wears on his wrist!) light up and when they are pressed you hear Tom say one of 30 phrases from the TV show.

Tree Fu Tom fans will love Ultimate Tom and soon they'll be helping him perform magic to save his friends in Treetopolis.

2. Doc McStuffins - Time for your Check Up Doll - £13.50

Dottie McStuffins is a six year old girl who wants to be a doctor, like her mum - and also happens to star in her own TV show on Disney Junior. With the help of some of her cuddly toys, she "pretends" to be a doctor by fixing her toys, earning her the name of Doc McStuffins. As soon as she goes into her playhouse and puts on her stethoscope all her toys come to life. The DocMcStuffins series on Disney Junior has received a huge amount of praise, especially for showing a girl in a leading role like this. Thanks to Doc young girls have been inspired to want to become doctors and help "fix" people just like she does.

This Doc McStuffins Doll comes dressed in Doc's favourite clothes, including her white coat, and with her stethoscope round her neck.

Here on the Cuthberts blog we've previously reviewed the Interactive Doc and Lambie Doll which is also available.

3. Doc McStuffins Doctor's Bag - £24.99

Once your children have finished playing with their Doc McStuffins doll it's time for them to pretend to be Doc herself and that's exactly what they can do with the Doc McStuffins Doctor's Bag. The bag is exactly like Doc's one in the television programme and includes an ear scope, syringe, thermometer and two plastic plasters, plus a stethoscope that speaks 15 phrases from the show. If that's not enough you can also buy the dress up set which includes Doc's white coat and a doctor's name badge with interchangeable inserts.

4. Peppa Pig Muddy Puddles Deluxe Playhouse - £24.99

The appeal of Peppa Pig to small children is incredible - even for those that have never seen the television programme! Rumour has it that even William and Kate named their little Prince after Peppa's brother.

Children who love Peppa will also love being able to act out their own Peppa stories with the Peppa Pig Muddy Puddles Deluxe Playhouse. This playhouse ingeniously folds out (meaning less storage space required when it's not in use) and also has a handy carrying handle so children can move it around. Inside the house there are four rooms, all looking just like they do on the television, and each comes with furniture. Peppa and George Pig figures are included and other figures from the Peppa Pig Muddle Puddles range also fit with it.

5. Playmobil 5810 Pirate Corsair - £30.00

Pre-schoolers love acting out stories and that's exactly what pirate lovers can do with this Playmobil Pirate Corsair.

The Corsair comes with a skull and cross bones sail, a working cannon and anchor winch and three Playmobil pirate characters. It is also fully waterproof and means that children can continue their Playmobil adventures in the bath (although a top parental tip is to make sure you've taken all the small pieces out before pulling the plug...)

Cuthberts Top 5 Toys for Pre-Schoolers are available either online or in our stores (Hatfield Galleria, Letchworth and St Albans). If you want any more recommendations for what to buy your little ones this Christmas then please pop in and talk to our staff.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Cuthberts Top 5 Toys for Toddlers for Christmas

Following on from last week's Top 5 Toys for Babies, this week we're looking at what we think toddlers will love this Christmas. One to two years olds are at that exciting age when they're starting to take much more notice of what's going on around them, becoming really inquisitive about the world  and able to move around confidently too. It's an age when they really start to "play" with toys, rather than just explore them and that's what we've tried to reflect in our top 5 list.

1. VTech Toot Toot Drivers Garage and Airport - £39.99 and £29.99

Since VTech launched their Toot Toot Drivers range it has been hugely successful with both boys and girls. The cars are the perfect size for little hands and they're also really easy for them to push around on the floor. The range is also full compatible, meaning that you can add to it over a period of time as your child grows up. As well as the large components like the garage and airport, you can also buy cars, additional road and now a train station too.

Local blogger Mrs C reviewed the garage back when it was first released and here on the Cuthberts blog we also reviewed the airport in detail just last month.

2. Mini Micro Scooter - 3 in 1 with O Bar and Seat - £74.99

Older children have been enjoying Micro Scooters for a few years now, but even toddlers can get in on the act with the Mini Micro Scooter 3 in 1.

The 3 in 1 set set gives you a normal Mini Micro Scooter (suitable for ages 3+) but also an O Bar handle and an seat which fits on to the O Bar handle. This means that for young toddlers they first use the scooter as a ride on toy and then when they're ready the seat can be removed. The O Bar handle gives them more stability and easier steering than the normal T-bar handle and means they can gain confidence before moving on to the T-bar handle once they're around three years old.

There's a review of the 3 in 1 Micro Scooter available here and the Cuthberts blog can also provide you with an excellent overview of the entire Micro Scooter range that we sell. The 3 in 1 Micro Scooter is available in either pink or blue.

We don't sell Micro Scooters online, but if you pop into any of our stores we will happily show you the Mini Micro 3 in 1 and explain how it all works and grows up with your child. If you already have a Mini Micro Scooter in the family, we also sell a pack containing the O-bar handle and seat.

3. My First Brio Railway - £29.99

Wooden train sets are huge hits with toddlers and again are things that can grow with them. The My First Brio Railway is a perfect introduction to the world of wooden railways and simple enough for young children to be able to play with it effectively.

The wooden track pieces fit together like jigsaw pieces and the set also comes with handy ramp pieces at each end so that toddlers can guide the train up on to the tracks, rather than having to place them on correctly. There's a sweet little tunnel to guide the train through and the train itself comes with three carriages which attach together with magnets. The First Brio Railway is also compatible with the rest of the Brio range, as well as with other wooden railways.

4. Wow - Dexter the Digger - £22.99

One of the best things about the Wow range at Christmas time is that it doesn't require batteries! Dexter the Digger is Cuthberts' best selling item is the range and a huge hit with children.

Like all Wow toys Dexter the Digger is incredibly sturdy and perfect for little hands that might not always be gentle with their toys. Using a slider on the side of Dexter's digging arm he can be moved to scoop and pick up the three boulders that he comes with. He also twists in the middle so that he can turn and drop the load anywhere he wants to. To help keep him in check Dexter also comes with a builder figure called Bill.

5. Peppa Pig Lullaby Peppa - £21.99

For children you love Peppa Pig this Lullaby Peppa is the perfect bedtime companion. If you child presses the heart shaped area on Peppa's tummy then she plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and also projects gentle starlight up on to the ceiling, which will then fade away after 20 minutes. The combination of music and light will help to relax your little one and make it easier for them to fall asleep. 

Cuthberts Top 5 Toys for Toddlers are available either online or in our stores (Hatfield Galleria, Letchworth and St Albans). If you want any more recommendations for what to buy your little ones this Christmas then please pop in and talk to our staff.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Teksta's Space Jump

Here at Cuthberts we're always keen to know that all the toys we sell have been through the most rigorous testing possible, but Teksta is the first toy we know of to have been sent to space as part of its testing!

Teksta, the robotic puppy, went up to an altitude of 97,000 ft before returning to earth by parachute. Whilst up there the air temperature went as low as -61 degrees C and the air pressure down to 0.406 lb/sq ft. It's pretty spectacular to watch!

Teksta really is the perfect puppy for Christmas. Much like a real 8 week old puppy, he will need training, but he will respond to voice, touch and hand gestures, yet doesn't leave puddles on the carpet or need walking everyday. Owners can teach him to sit, walk and even do tricks though, including an impressive back flip. With his expressive eye patterns that light up in different colours you can learn to read his emotions and work out what he wants and needs - whether it be food, to play or just to have some attention. Teksta also comes with a ball to play fetch and a bone for when he is hungry.

The Teksta App also lets him tap his paws along to the beat of music - apparently he can even do Gangnam Style! Puppies don't like being alone and that needn't be the case with Teksta though as if you let him "borrow" your tablet he can even video link with other Teksta friends.

Teksta comes in both pink and blue and both colours are available at Cuthberts. Both colours retail at £59.95.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Cuthberts Top 5 Toys for Babies for Christmas 2013

Here at Cuthberts we know how difficult it can be to find a perfect toy for a child at Christmas. Every year we get customers in store asking us what we recommend for a baby, a three year old boy, a five year old girl or an eight year old that is just impossible to buy for. Parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends are often confused by all the fantastic choice that is out there.

To try to make things easier for you, we're putting together a series of guides showing you what we think the top five toys are for each age range and we'll be publishing these here in the run up to Christmas.

We're going to start off with our youngest customer - babies up to one year of age. Admittedly they may not give you much verbal feedback on what you buy them for Christmas, but we understand that it's their first Christmas and you still want to make it special for them.

1. In The Night Garden - Talking Igglepiggle £14.99


Children love the characters from In The Night Garden and this Talking Igglepiggle will be no exception. This plush soft toy is very tactile and ready for a cuddle from your little one. He also plays songs and sounds from the In The Night Garden television programme which will be instantly familiar to children who watch it. Attached to Igglepiggle's hand is his iconic red blanket which some children choose to use as a comforter.

And if this Igglepiggle isn't big enough for your little one - we also have a large version!

2. Fisher Price Learn & Laugh Cookie Shape Surprise - £16.99

The Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Shape Surprise is so much more that just a shape sorter. With two different modes it detects when shapes are correctly inserted into the holes and says either the name of the shape of the number written on it. It also makes noises if you press the button that is its nose and when the lid is taken off it detects when a hand or shape goes into the jar, again rewarding the child with a phrase or music.

As well as helping young babies develop their motor skills through picking up the shapes and trying to place them inside the jar, it also helps them recognise different shapes and colours. The concept of cause and effect is also reinforced through the way that the jar will make different sounds depending on what the baby does. 

3. Lamaze Octotunes Octopus - £28.99

What's special about the Lamaze Octotune Octopus is that each of his tentacles plays a different note when squeezed. Whilst just the ability to make noises will impress a baby, mum or dad can use the included song book to play whole tunes. The tip of each tentacle is a different colour (as used in the song book to tell you which note to play) and the rest of the legs have either different patterns or textures on them to keep babies amused and develop their sense of touch. With the bright colours and friendly face this octopus is bound to become a firm favourite.

The Lamaze range contains some great toys for babies, all in their instantly recognisable bright colours and variety of textures. Their cot and buggy toys are firm favourites.

4. Woolly & Tig - Woolly Soft Toy £14.99

Woolly and Tig is another CBeebies televison programme starring a three year old girl (Tig) and her spider Woolly. Together they have lots of new experiences - whether it be going somewhere new or changes in routine - and the programme focusses on how these new experiences can make children feel. Any fears or anxiety are soon replaced with fun and laughter when children have Woolly by their side.

This Woolly Soft Toy is soft and cuddly and perfect to accompany small children when they start having new experiences in life.

5. Tomy Hide 'n' Squeak Eggs - £8.99

Tomy's Hide 'n' Squeak Eggs are part of the Play to Learn range, which aims to help educate children through play, and these eggs have become somewhat iconic, found in loads of nurseries and playgroups and they are always a hit with children.

The idea behind them is simple, you have a plastic egg carton and six eggs which fit in it. On the bottom of each egg is a shape (heart, circle, cross etc) and these correspond with shapes in the egg carton so that each egg can only go in one position. The top of the eggs' shells is removable and inside is a coloured egg which squeaks when you press it down.

Younger babies have great fun just holding the eggs and knocking the lids off to reveal the colourful insides. Then as their motor skills develop they love pressing them down to make them squeak, before moving on to learning how to place them back in the egg carton correctly. Whilst they may seem incredibly simple the possibilities for play are endless.

Cuthberts Top 5 Toys for Babies are available either online or in our stores (Hatfield Galleria, Letchworth and St Albans). If you want any more recommendations for what to buy your little ones this Christmas then please pop in and talk to our staff.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Rainbow Loom

Cuthberts are delighted to tell you about one of their newest products - the Rainbow Loom. Over in the US the Rainbow Loom has been a huge success in 2012 and we're proud to be one of the first to sell it in the UK. 

So, what exactly is the Rainbow Loom and what can you do with it?


The Rainbow Loom is a plastic loom used to make patterned friendship bracelets from rubber bands. You place the rubber bands over the pegs on the board following either a simple basic zig-zag arrangement, or one of the more complex patterns that you can find online.

Once the bands have been laid out on the loom you then use the provided hook (very much like a crochet hook) to move the bands and create a joined up bracelet.

When complete you join the two ends together with a provided "c-clip" to form the bracelet. As the bracelet is made of rubber bands it stretches to easily fit over your hand.

The kit comes with the loom, hook, 600+ coloured rubber bands and 24 c-clips, meaning that you have enough to make 24 bracelets. Also in there is a mini-loom so that you can make very quick "single" pattern rubber band bracelets.

The instruction manual that comes with the loom contains everything you need to understand how to make a "single" pattern rubber band link bracelet. These are relatively easy to follow and once you've got the knack of using the hook to move the bands about you can quickly produce a bracelet.

Things don't stop there though. The possibilities are endless when it comes to designing bracelets or other accessories. There is a very high level pattern map in the instruction leaflet, but the best instructions are actually found online, with a great selection of videos on the Rainbow Loom website.

The loom can look quite complicated once you're following some of the patterns online and it does take a bit of practice to know what you're doing. The results are worth it though.

The Rainbow Loom is aimed at children aged 8 and over and is perfect for anyone who loves crafty projects. The friendship bracelets that you can make from it also make it very popular with girls.

We'll be aiming to post some detailed Rainbow Loom tutorials here on the Cuthberts blog over the next few weeks. The Rainbow Loom will be available in Cuthberts stores next week and can also be purchased through our online store here.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Cuthberts Open 2013

There was a fantastic turn out at the Hatfield Galleria last weekend for the Cuthberts Open 2013 - the first time that the Galleria has hosted a speed cubing competition and it was an event that caught everyone's attention. Cuthberts were proud to be the official sponsors and thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyone get into the Rubik's cube spirit.

People of all ages were amazed by the speed that these cubers work at, and it was great to see so much enthusiasm for a cube which started life as a simple children's toy. Judging by the number of cubes we sold over the weekend it looks like the event may well have inspired quite a few people to have a go themselves.

The competition itself was fast and furious - when you compare how long it takes you to solve a cube at home (if indeed you can!) and then look at the speed which these cubers work there often is no real comparison. In some cases, blink at the wrong time and you would have missed quite a bit of action.

Full results from the competition are available on the World Cube Association website. It's worth concentrating on the figures though. The best time logged over the weekend for solving a standard 3x3 Rubik's Cube was 6.58 seconds (by world number 3 Alexander Lau). 6.58 seconds! That's mind bogglingly fast. Even the winner of solving one of these blindfolded managed it in 43.98 seconds (the UK's Oliver Frost) I'm yet to manage to solve the 2x2 cube that I was given as part of my research for writing this article - yet the Cuthberts Open saw someone solve it in 1.67 seconds. I'm left wondering if I've been given a trick one that's impossible to solve!

As if the mental ability to solve these cubes isn't enough the manual dexterity required is also very impressive. Cuthberts caught up with world number three Alexander Lau and watched him solve a standard 3x3 Rubik's cube. Just watch how fast his hands move!

Many thanks to everyone that was involved in making the Cuthberts Open 2013 such a success - organisers, competitors and supporters. We very much hope that the cubing world will return to the Hatfield Galleria soon. If you missed all the action and are inspired to have a go yourself head down to one of our stores as all three will be stocking a range of cubes.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Creativity for Kids - Paper Petals Photo Mobile

After looking at a couple of other items from the Faber-Castell Creativity for Kids range here on the Cuthberts blog, this week we're reviewing their Paper Petals Photo Mobile.

Much as the name suggests the aim of the Paper Petals Photo Mobile is to create a hanging mobile of flowers, where you can include photographs of friends or family members in the centre of them. You can make the flowers as pretty and decorative as you like and this really does allow children (or adults) to use their creativity to decide how they want to do it. 

Once it comes to putting all the flowers together to form the mobile it's a little bit fiddly and not much room for error - making it the ideal gift for perfectionist crafters! A completed mobile would make a lovely gift for a child or new baby, with the flowers all containing photographs of family members. As the flowers are only one-sided it might be that you decide to do something else with them rather than a mobile. Our reviewers thought that they'd also make a very pretty garland, or even personalised bunting.

This definitely isn't a quick craft project, so across the suggested age range of 7 to 97 years it would probably work best for patient younger crafters or someone a little older with some time they can set aside to make the mobile (or garland, or bunting...) The fact that it's flowers means it might not appeal to all young boys, but it's definitely not something exclusively for girls either.

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

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Introducing the Cuthberts Open 2013

How many of you have tried to solve a Rubik's Cube? The iconic 3x3 cube has had people scratching their heads since it's invention in 1974, but for some people just solving it isn't enough. They instead start trying to see how quickly they can solve it. Start trying to solve 2x2, 4x4, 5x5, 6x6 and even 7x7 cubes. Even start trying to solve the standard 3x3 cube with just one hand, or blind-folded, or with their feet. Welcome to the crazy world of speedcubing!

Cuthberts is delighted to announce that you'll soon be able to see all this for yourself as speedcubing is coming to the Hatfield Galleria for the Cuthberts Open 2013. On the 5 and 6 October 2013 the Galleria will be hosting this two day competition for speedcubers from around the world. Competitors are already registered from Belgium, China, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Poland and South Africa, as well as some home-grown cubing talent from the United Kingdom. If you or your children want to see how it's done then come on down and join us.

Russia hosted a winter open earlier this year and this video should give you a good feel for the excitement of speedcubing.

The full schedule of events in the Cuthberts Open 2013 is available here and the competition will be taking place on the upper level of the Galleria. The competition is organised by the UK Cube Association (UKCA) who in turn are part of the World Cube Association. If there's anything you ever wanted or needed to know about Rubik's Cubes then these are the people to talk to!

If you come along and are inspired to have a go yourself then the Cuthberts store in the Galleria will have a full range of Rubik's products for you to take home to try.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

VTech Toot Toot Drivers Airport

Every since the VTech Toot Toot Drivers range was introduced a couple of years ago it has proved to be a huge hit with pre-school children, boys and girls alike. The range started off with a garage and range of little vehicles to go with it. Since then it's been expanded to also include extra road pieces, a fire station, a car transporter and most recently an airport.

The unique thing about the Toot Toot range is that each of the vehicles plays its own little tune, singing about what it does. This can mean that if you have several vehicles and have them all switched on at one you can end up with quite a cacophony of noise. It's not a mistake you make often!

On a one by one basis though it is a really nice touch and one which children seem to love. VTech have also made the cars to be a perfect size to fit in a little hands and they don't have any fiddly bits to cause problems for really young children. The build quality is high enough to withstand a toddler throwing them across the room whilst having a tantrum - and our little reviewer seemed very keen to test this particular feature exhaustively.
The VTech Drivers Toot Toot Airport contains a control tower, refuelling point, a weather vane, lift up barrier and several road pieces, and it also comes with an aeroplane. Attached to the control tower is a "cloud" platform which you can sit the aeroplane on and when you turn the antenna on the control tower this makes the cloud travel around the tower, making the aeroplane fly.

The cloud platform may sound like a bit of a silly feature when it's described here, but all the children I've seen play with the airport seem to find it their favourite part. Also just running round the room with the aeroplane itself also seems to be incredibly popular.

The airport also contains six SmartPoint "sensors" which make the aeroplane play certain phrases and sounds when it passes over them. These aren't really "sensors" in the true meaning of the word as what they actually do is cause a combination of small buttons on the underside of the aeroplane to be depressed as it passes over it. Depending on what combination is triggered determines the message played.

With the track that comes with it you can physically connect the Airport to other pieces of the Toot Toot Drivers range. The slight complication comes with the SmartPoint technology which was only introduced to the Toot Toot Drivers more recently. If you have non-SmartPoint vehicles then they will obviously not be triggered by these sensors. There is more of a problem though which is that the original non-SmartPoint vehicles are actually a couple of mm wider than the newer SmartPoint vehicles. This means that the older vehicles physically do not fit over the SmartPoint sensors in the track - causing a degree of frustration to little hands trying to push them round the track. The newer SmartPoint vehicles work without any problems on the old track, but if your children already have older vehicles it's something to be aware of if you plan to buy them part of the Toot Toot range that includes SmartPoint. All new Toot Toot Drivers range elements now feature SmartPoint, but be aware that some retailers may still hold non-SmartPoint stock and not yet realise incompatibility problems. 

The Toot Toot Drivers Airport is perfect for any pre-schooler who loves vehicles and aeroplanes in particular and provides it an excellent starting point for hours and hours of imaginative role play. The suggested age range for the Toot Toot Drivers range is 1 - 5 years and they really do work very well for children as young as one, making them ideal as a first birthday present.

The VTech Toot Toot Drivers range is available in all three Cuthberts stores (St Albans, Letchworth and Hatfield Galleria) as well as from our online store. 

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.

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Game of Ladybirds from Orchard Toys

Here at Cuthberts we're big fans of games which combine fun with learning, and Orchard Toys are experts at this.

The Game of Ladybirds is aimed at an age range of 3 - 7 years and can be played with 2 - 4 players. The aim is simple - to collect more ladybirds than the other players.

You start by placing all 24 ladybird cards on the table so that you can only see the dice spots. Each player in turn then rolls the dice and picks a card with the same number of spots on it. They then turn the card over and see how many ladybirds are on the leaf. At the end of the game the player with the most ladybirds wins.

What I particularly like about this game is just how many skills development and learning opportunities there are for children. The game is also ideal as a first introduction to playing with a dice. Aged three children just have the right dexterity levels to shake the dice in the cup and roll it onto the table and the game provides them with a great opportunity to practise. Once the dice had been rolled you can count the spots on it and then look to find a card with the same number on - yet more counting practise. When the card is turned over there are also ladybirds to count - or not if you're unlucky with your card choice.

At the end of the game, adding up the number of ladybirds that you have in total may be beyond some of the younger children playing the game, but it's a good use of maths for the older children. The game also provides an example of comparing how many of something one person has to how many others have.

When we first played this with my three year old I was amazed at just how quickly she caught on to how to play and that's all thanks to it being very simple. The fact that the cards showing the dice spots were the same colour as the dice itself was also a nice touch to help with understanding that they should look the same. As the game doesn't have any written down numbers or words in it, it doesn't limit it to children who can already read, making it more accessible to younger children.

If you want your children to have fun whilst learning maths then The Game of Ladybirds is an ideal starting point.

The Game of Ladybirds is available in Cuthberts stores and also on our website here.
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