There are so many great toys out there. I don’t know how anyone choose beyond what the kids say they absolutely must have this year. I can tell you what’s on my son’s list and that will give you an idea of your 8-year old boy:
1. Stylus – his sister has one. Her school gave out iPads in seventh grade, so she spends every evening doing math, English, and science on the iPad. I don’t know if my son really needs a stylus for his Minecraft obsession, but he does want to at least appear as pro as his sister.
3. Calvin and Hobbes Science Progress Goes Boink – All I care is that he’s reading, and if Calvin & Hobbes is the heights of his literary taste right now, so be it. It could be worse.
4. Any LEGO City collection. Yes, the maw of the LEGO god must be filled and my son’s latest obsession is with the worldly objects of the City collection, as opposed to his dalliances with Ninjago and LEGO Star Wars.
2. Fuze Wheel Writer- I love this modern variation on the card-in-the-bicycle-wheel. This small device easily mounts directly not the spokes and shows 12 animated designs as you bike. It even includes a speedometer mode, though that is more for showing off how fast you’re going since it’s kind of hard to read from where the biker is sitting. Works on most bikes wheels 20″ and above. $20 on Amazon.
3. New Perplexus Twist – The family has spent hours on the Original and the Epic trying to get the little ball from Number 1 to Number 80. Now Perplexus as a new twist on the game: you literally have to twist the two halves of the globe at certain points to make the paths line up. I love this game, not only because it reminds of hours spent with my Brio Labyrinth as a child (admittedly pre-video games) but also because it’s a challenging game that doesn’t involve electronics. There’s nothing wrong with video games per se, but it’s fun to see a child again immersed in a problem without attendant beeps of synthesized sounds. The Perplexus Twist is on my wish list. Maybe my son will give it to me and then I won’t have to pass it to him when I lose. $25 on Amazon.
4. Nerf Lazertag System – I’ve wanted this ever since I saw it at Toy Fair a year ago. These guns can be played with as a pretty decent laser tag game, but are best when you add in augmented reality, the future of electronic gaming. To take advantage of this feature, players must insert a WIFI enabled iPhone or iPod Touch into the special cradle in the gun. Then players see reality around them and enhanced reality through the iPhone’s camera. “Enhanced” because the iPhone screen shows real live video combined with animations of aliens or explosions around friends. I can only imagine since I do not have one… $55 on Amazon for a 2 Player Pack.
5. Air Hogs Battle Tracker Helicopter – Could we even have Christmas gift lists without an AIr Hogs helicopter on the list? After the fun we had with Heli Replay earlier in the year, I want to graduate to this helicopter/target setup. The Missile station tries to shoot you down while your helicopter tries to hit it with missiles. Now that these helicopters can do more than just go up and down, this is the next generation. $100 on Amazon.
With even a few of these under the tree for my son, and I’ll be as excited as he is on Christmas morning. What do you think odds are my wife will get any of them for me if I put them on my list?
I received an Earpeace, a pair of noise reducing earplugs a few weeks ago. The Earpeace are an addition to the field of earplugs for adults to cut down the noise while outside or at a loud event such as a concert. They attempt to lower the overall volume while not muffling sound the way foam earplugs do. Independent tests (Michael and Associates) put reduction of sound pressure at 75%. EarPeace delivers 11+ to 17+ decibels of protection. This means that 80% of people will get more than 11 decibels of protection and 20% of people will get more than 17 decibels of protection.
In my tests at a loud concert, I found that they do decrease volume, but to my ear, there was some loss of crispness in the sound though I was still able to enjoy the music and to relax knowing I wasn’t killing what is left of my ears. I wish they made these for smaller kids since we often take our kids to concerts in the parks where the decibel level is just really painful for young ears.
These make a thoughtful gift at $12.95.
GreatDad.com Review Policy: The featured product for this review was provided to us, at no cost, by the manufacturer or representing PR agency for the sole purpose of product testing. We do not accept monetary compensation for reviewing or writing about products. We only review products that we have personally tested and used in our own homes, and all opinions expressed are our own.
It’s December 23rd and still time to answer a Craiglist ad for a new horse, pet pig, or used rabbit cage. Here’s our advice on six pets not to get:
1. Tarantula – Sure, they are cute, furry, and cuddly when you take them home, but wait until your son lays one on your face while you’re taking a post-football Sunday nap. Your heart attack won’t be as embarrassing as what you’ll do in your pants.
2. Snake – Yes, they also look great in the pet store when you’re thinking of how your ex-wife will react. But, trust me, they are a lot less fun when the wily creatures find a way out of the snake cage, free to wander through the walls and heating ducts of your house, ready to jump out at you.
3. Baby Croc – Ever hear of the alligators in the New York sewer system, some of which managed to crawl backwards up the pipes to take bites out of the rears of people sitting on the toilet. Even if it’s the goofiest urban myth imaginable, I still don’t like the image or increasing the probability of it happening.
3. Pony – Unless you have a driver to take your child to the stable a few times a week and a trust fund to cover the stable bills, this is not a gift any sane parent should consider.
4. Cat – Cats are the devil’s embodiment on earth, here to tease us while planting deep, dark thoughts in our brains, while they aren’t plotting to suffocate us while we sleep. Invite one into your home at your own peril.
5. Eboli Virus – It’s alive, active, and hard to kill. Sounds like a perfect pet for young kids then? Think again.
6. Dog – We love dogs. They are smart, loyal, and wonderful burglar alarms. But if you ever want to take another vacation, without a dog strapped to the roof a la Mitt Romney, think again. Even if you never vacation anywhere beyond car range, spending all your free time out walking a dog with a plastic bag of warm feces in your hand is no way to spend middle age.
7. Gerbil – Mess to clean with constant odor. They enjoy drawing blood from fingers just trying to pet them. Worse: a ferret.
1. Ant Farm – Ants make no noise and just eat through the jelly included in the ant farm. When they die, no one cries.
2. Miniature frogs – These frogs, like the ones from Wild Creations,
The Zazoo Photo Clock is really an amazing example of how technology has evolved and prices have dropped on multi-use photo frames. Where single use photo frames were once several hundred dollars, here is one that is kid-friendly, with a kid-friendly price that does so much more than just play a slideshow of photos.
The Zazoo Photo Clock, invented by an entrepreneur mom, can act like a clock. One of it’s key features is the ability to wake your child with a specific image so they know it’s okay to get out of bed in the morning or after a nap. And it’s specifically designed so they understand the message with the choice of image, whether they can read or not.
The Zazoo can also show photos or even movies with a simple menu system available through a remote or easy to use buttons on the back. And, if your child has MP3s he or she likes, it can play music off a memory stick or an SC card. It’s not meant to be an iPod, but for a small child, it does all the things a big kid gadget would do, but in an easy to manage package. Dads can imagine adding lullabies or other favorites to the playlist, even dad reading a story in the case of dads who are often away.
There are several colors available from girlish pink to eco-friendly green. It comes with a remote control that can easily be used to move from screen to screen. On screen menu graphics, controlled also by buttons on the back, are a little weak in design (think bad engineering graphics) but you don’t really see these unless you are moving from movie to images, or changing the clock settings. On the back of the machine are two inputs for regular and mini-USB, as well as an SD/MMC/xD card reader, so it’s easy to plug in inexpensive flash memory of 2-4 gigs for music, images, or maybe even a movie, if you can put it in the right MP4 format. Note: not all MP4s work, but there is a troubleshooting section at Zazoo.com website.
At $89 (slightly lower at Amazon), there are less expensive alarm clocks and photo frames, but when you factor in all the other uses, for some kids, the Zazoo will be the perfect gift under the tree.
Here are four distinctly different headphones, as opposed to ear plugs or buds, for holiday gifts. They come in a variety of price levels and serve different functions.
1. For little kids, consider the Griffin GB10027 MyPhones Headphones ($39.99 list). They are perfect for kids and unaware teens because the volume can’t exceed 85 decibels—the highest level recommended by many auditory health organizations.
2. For more fashion-conscious teens, the Wicked Reverb headphones look hot, and deliver good sound. And, at $20 (Amazon) they are imminently affordable. These headphones have enhanced bass, and include a 3.5mm and 6.5mm jack for use with iPod or phone (no mic though) and better stereo equipment.
3. When I tried the Frends Alli headphones while listening to music, I could hear a baby crying. I found this really annoying but these headphones don’t completely cover your ears. Turns out, it was a baby crying that I had never heard on a favorite piece of music. While these headphones don’t cover the ear completely and can let in outside noise, don’t be surprised if the train you hear bearing down on you is actually on the musical track rather than a neighboring train track. These headphones also have two great additional features. They have a mic so you can use them with your phone or other inputdevice. And, they have a fabric cord, which miraculously does not tangle and stick like most headphone cords. For $35, you can not go wrong with these.
4. Finally, we love our Crossfade LP headphones. They also have a fabric cord and an second cord that includes microphone/call/music button if you want to use them with your iPhone (3GS and newer) or Blackberry. As the more sophisticated phones that they are, they also have a 6.3mm and 3.5mm adapters for different size headphone jacks. These are more expensive at $199, but are high quality headphones with superior sound driven by HD drivers and gold-plated jacks. For this price too, you get a very cool, black “exoskeleton” back case with a red lining. These make a fine gift, but I’m happy to say mine are already in service and I don’t have to to wait until Christmas to disappear into their sweet sound.
It’s amazing how prices have fallen and the quality that is available even at lower spending levels for decent headphones for everyone this holiday season.
GreatDad.com Review Policy: The featured products for this review was provided to us, at no cost, by the manufacturer or representing PR agency for the sole purpose of product testing. We do not accept monetary compensation for reviewing or writing about products. We only review products that we have personally tested and used in our own homes, and all opinions expressed are our own.