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Personalized Chargers Make Great Gifts for Gadget Lovers

Posted on Nov 25, 2014 by No Comments

If you’re looking for a fun personalized gift for the tech lover in your life, Shutterfly has a great new option just in time for the holiday season: a portable charger adorned with your favorite photos.

Shutterfly’s new portable chargers are compatible with most mobile phones, tablets, MP3 players, MP4 players, handheld gaming systems, GPS, Bluetooth devices, and other electronic devices.

The charger has 2 USB ports and 1 micro USB port and includes a 3-in-1 USB cable. You can charge up to two devices simultaneously.

What I like most about this product is that the photos are printed on a faceplate that can be removed and changed as desired. I think this would be a wonderful accessory for anyone who travels a lot and wants a convenient way to keep family photos close at hand. (If you’re looking for a gift for your husband, this is certainly a lot more masculine than many of Shutterfly’s other offerings.)

The portable gadget charger and one faceplate sells for $59.99. Additional faceplates sell for $14.99. Visit the Shutterfly website to check out the full range of designs.

Shutterfly has several sales and coupon offers running now in preparation for the holiday season. If you received their holiday catalog in the mail, there are a few great coupon codes in there. Retail Me Not also keeps a fairly detailed list of money saving offers.

Photo credit: Shutterfly

Hess Toy Truck Makes a Classic Christmas Gift

Posted on Nov 24, 2014 by No Comments

If you’re looking for a timeless classic gift for a special little boy in your life, the 2014 Hess Toy Truck and Space Cruiser with Scout is a great choice. This truck marks the 50th anniversary of the Hess Toy Truck.

In the US, Hess Toy Trucks are one of the longest running toy brands on the market. This year, the National Toy Hall of Fame named the Hess Toy Truck as a finalist for a spot in the Hall of Fame. Induction is based on four categories: icon status, longevity, discovery, and innovation.

To give back to those who are less fortunate, Hess Corporation has donated more than 740,000 Hess Toy Trucks to Toys for Tots, as well as to families living in areas struck by disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Sandy.

The 2014 Hess Toy Truck has lots of fun light and sound effects to spark a child’s imagination. The truck itself has three push-button activated sound effects (ignition horn, ramp hydraulic, and launch alarm).

The space cruiser has three button-activated sounds (ignition, fly-by, and land) and three motion-activated sound effects (climb, dive, and turn). There are 41 lights on the truck and eight lights on the space cruiser.

The truck itself feels fairly substantial, so I think it should hold up well to a child’s active play. (Do your boys like to send their trucks crashing into the wall? This was my son’s favorite activity for about three years!)

The 2014 Hess Toy Truck and Space Cruiser with Scout sells for $29.99 plus tax, so it’s a very affordable toy as well. The trucks will be sold at Hess gas stations for the last time this holiday and online only in future years.

Visit the Hess Toy Truck website for details.

Disclaimer: Product samples were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of preparing this review.

Photo credit: Hess Toy Truck

Teaching Little Ones About Feelings

Posted on Nov 21, 2014 by No Comments

Learning how to identify feelings is an important social skill for any child, but some kids need a little more guidance than others in this area. If your child is struggling to label different feelings, In My Heart: A Book of Feelings is a cute way to work on developing this skill.

Written by Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey, In My Heart: A Book of Feelings follows an unnamed little girl who is dressed like a superhero. As the story progresses, she explains how different situations make her heart feel.

For example:

Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.
I smile from ear to ear and twirl around so fast,
I feel as if I could take off into the sky.
This is when my heart is happy.

The simple text is easy for kids to understand, but whimsical enough to inspire their imaginations. The colorful die cut hearts on each page add an interesting visual element to the book and the drawings have a quirky yet charming vibe that moms will enjoy just as much as their little ones do.

You can purchase In My Heart: A Book of Feelings on Amazon for about $12. The book is recommended for children ages 2 to 4.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Amazon

LEGO FUSION Is a Great Gift for Tech Savvy Lego Fans

Posted on Nov 20, 2014 by No Comments

If you have a little Lego fan who also loves playing video games, LEGO FUSION looks like the best of both worlds.

Kids build creations with real Lego bricks and snap them onto the set’s special capture plate. Then, with a few clicks, their real-world creation is transformed into a virtual world that can be explored as part of a special mini game filled with various missions and activities.

The LEGO FUSION lineup includes:

  • LEGO FUSION Town Master
  • LEGO FUSION Battle Towers
  • LEGO FUSION Resort Designer (Part of the Lego Friends line)

A smartphone or tablet is required for playing LEGO FUSION. The app is downloadable from the App Store, Google Play, Samsung Galaxy Apps, or the Amazon Appstore for Android.

The Town Master set was listed in the December issue of Good Housekeeping in its holiday “Best Toy Awards 2014″ section. However, I’ve seen several online reviews saying that mastering the initial process of getting the LEGO FUSION app to recognize what you’ve built can be tricky for some children.

I would plan on needing to spend a bit of time teaching your child how to transfer real-world Lego models into the game.

What do you think of this idea? Does LEGO FUSION look like something your children might enjoy?

Photo credit: Lego

JOCO Offers an Eco-Friendly Way to Enjoy Your Morning Coffee

Posted on Nov 19, 2014 by No Comments

Did you know that 2.25 billion paper cups are used worldwide each year? This is the equivalent of cutting down 50,000,000 trees.

If you’re trying to be eco-friendly, JOCO reusable glass cups are an excellent alternative to disposable cups for your morning coffee. The JOCO team feels strongly that that glass, rather than plastic, is the best path to untainted taste and environmental sustainability for reusable cups.

The JOCO product line includes 16 oz, 12 oz, and 8 oz cups, as well as a handy 6 cup carry tray. Each JOCO cup is made from high grade strengthened borosilicate glass and features a thermal silicone sleeve with an ergonomic, splash-safe silicone lid.

There’s a rainbow of colors to choose from, so you can get a basic black cup or choose a cheery colored cup to brighten up your day.

The cups are microwave safe, BPA free, and lead free. Since JOCO cup sizes are modeled on common disposable paper cup volumes, they are easy to bring to your favorite barista for a quick refill.

To further encourage reusability, the JOCO cup is housed in a 100% recyclable paper canister can be used to store coins, pencils, or paper straws. You can even use it to plant seedlings!

Visit www.jococups.com/usa to learn more. JOCO cups can be purchased directly from the JOCO USA online store or found in a growing selection of like-minded cafés and retail outlets across the country.

JOCO offers free shipping when you spend $70 or more. Keep in mind that a JOCO coffee cup with a Starbucks gift card tucked inside makes a fab holiday gift for your child’s teacher or your favorite caffeine-addict.  (If you weren’t already aware, Starbucks gives customers a 10 cent discount when they bring in their own cups.)

Photo credit: JOCO

Cra-Z-Art My Look Color Your Own Messenger Bag Encourages Little Fashionistas to Be Creative

Posted on Nov 19, 2014 by No Comments

If you have a crafty daughter who already owns more purses than you do, the Cra-Z-Art My Look Color Your Own Messenger Bag is a wonderful holiday gift idea.

This craft kit includes a trendy messenger bag decorated with a print that girls can customize using the five fabric markers that are included. If your daughter likes a little sparkle, the set also includes a package of gems that can be added to the finished design.

The Cra-Z-Art My Look Color Your Own Messenger Bag is recommended for girls ages six years and up. The only thing you should need to watch out for with this project is making sure that your daughter doesn’t take the markers and use them to doodle on outfits you don’t want customized. (Fabric marker designs can be a great way to camouflage spills and stains on older clothes, however!)

The Cra-Z-Art My Look Color Your Own Messenger Bag is a Target exclusive item that has earned a spot on the store’s list of Top Toys for Christmas 2014.

The Cra-Z-Art My Look Color Your Own Messenger Bag is $10.39, which makes it an extremely affordable holiday gift. I don’t have a daughter of my own to buy one for, but I’m picking one up to donate to a local holiday toy drive.

I think this craft kit would be an especially appropriate donation since it’s something the recipient could use on a daily basis once the actual activity had been completed.

Photo credit: Target

Sparkup Helps Preschoolers Develop a Love of Books

Posted on Nov 18, 2014 by No Comments

If you have preschoolers who love to listen to a good story, Sparkup Magical Book Reader is sure to be a hit.

This clever device clips directly on to any picture book. It contains a tiny camera that records your voice and a picture of each page as you read the story to your child. Then, whenever your child clips the Sparkup to the book, the device automatically reads the story. It follows your child’s pace, even if he or she skips a few pages!

I think the Sparkup book reader would be fabulous for any child who has family members who live far away or travel frequently.

For example, my little nephew adores his Daddy. Daddy’s a truck driver who is away from home for several weeks per month, so with the Sparkup book reader he can record stories for bedtime that my nephew can listen to whenever he wants.

spark 02I also like that you can use the Sparkup with whatever picture book you want.

My son loved the Leapfrog TAG Reading System when he was younger, but the limited selection of books was frustrating and the books that were available were quite expensive.

With the Sparkup, you can use favorite stories from your child’s current library, which will save you money in the long run.

The Sparkup can store up to 250 minutes of audio, which is roughly 50 recorded picture books. If needed, you can use the included cable to transfer files to your computer to make room for new additions to your child’s library.

If you don’t want to record books in your own voice, there are also several professionally recorded narrations that you can download for use with the Sparkup. (See the PDF version of the user guide to learn more.)

The Sparkup book reader is recommended for kids ages 3 and up. Regular retail price is $79.99, but it’s on sale for a limited time for $59.99.  As an added bonus, orders placed before December 15 will get two free large paperback classics with preloaded Sparkup audiobooks ($20 value)

  • Shrek! by William Steig, read by Emmy Award winner Stanley Tucci
  • Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arien Mosel, read by academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden

Disclaimer: Samples were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of preparing this review.
Photo credit: Sparkup

Oregon Scientific SmartGlobe Makes Learning Geography Fun

Posted on Nov 17, 2014 by No Comments

My son really struggles with geography in school, but the Oregon Scientific SmartGlobe Discovery makes learning about the world around you a fun and enjoyable activity.

This unique educational toy for kids features three activity panels and an optical smart pen. When you touch an activity panel and use the smart pen to touch a country, you can learn about its capital, currency, area, highest point, population, or language. You can even hear the country’s national anthem being played!

The amazing facts section is my personal favorite feature of this toy. Here are some of the tidbits my family learned from the SmartGlobe:

  • Americans spend about 6 months of their lives waiting at red traffic lights.
  • There are more than a billion people in China, yet there are only about 200 family names in common use.
  • The national flower of Mexico is the Dahlia.
  • About half of the residents of India are under 25 years old.

For kids who are looking for a bit of challenge, there is a series of mini-games that ask users to touch different places on the globe to see how fast they can locate different cities, countries, and continents. Most kids should find this much more exciting than being drilled on facts via flash cards!

Overall, I think the SmartGlobe is fairly user friendly. We had a few cases when the pen didn’t want to quickly pick up the right location on the globe, but feedback was instantaneous the majority of the time.

The volume can be adjusted up or down as needed, which is a definite plus if you hate children’s toys that always seem to be blaring full blast.

The SmartGlobe is recommended for children ages six and up. Three AA batteries are required for operation. Retail price is $59.99.

Disclaimer: Product samples were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of preparing this review.

Photo credit: Oregon Scientific

Li’l Woodzeez Introduces Kids to the Farmer’s Market

Posted on Nov 14, 2014 by No Comments

Does your little one love going with you to the farmer’s market to pick out fresh produce? If so, this Li’l Woodzeez Farmer’s Market play set is sure to be a hit.

The Farmer’s Market includes 90 pieces of plastic play accessories, including all the fruits, vegetables, and baked goods you’d find at a traditional farmer’s market as well as retail essentials like a shopping basket, shopping cart, welcome sign, food scale, and price cards.

Since the Farmer’s Market contains small parts, it is recommended for children ages 3 and up.

Li’l Woodzeez is a line of woodland creatures who work together to take care of each other and their environment.

There is are several different families in the collection, including rabbits, owls, squirrels, mice, raccoons, turtles, and hedgehogs. Each family of figurines comes with a collectible storybook that explains how they contribute to the Li’l Woodzeez community.

Li’l Woodzeez play sets are a Target boutique brand exclusive item that has arrived just in time for the holidays. In addition to the Farmer’s Market, there is also a Tickle Your Taste Buds Bakery, a Honeysuckle Hollow General Store, and a Walk-in Health Clinic. All three play sets earned a place on Target’s list of top toys for  Christmas 2014.

I love this line of figures because it reminds me of the Mapletown toys I had growing up in the ‘80s. I wasn’t a huge fan of traditional dolls as a kid, but I remember spending hours playing with all the Mapletown animals.

Photo credit: Target