Holidays with kids – even to the most amazing places – can still often involve long periods of inactivity, whether it be at an airport, travelling, or dealing with jet lag.
With that in mind, there are various family card games that are seemingly devised with such scenarios in mind, and Name That! is one of the latest examples.
The rules are simple – each card has a letter and a category on it. The first card defines the category, then the one underneath the first letter of your answer. Eg. Top category is ‘Super Hero’ (it’s superhero to me), and the next card is ‘C’ – so my answer would be Captain Marvel (of course).
The first player to call out a correct answer wins, and keeps the card. Player with most card at the end wins.
This is for 2 or more players, and the round cards come in a handy similarly shaped compact tin.
While this would be perfect to keep a couple of kids amused in the back of the car, the suggested age is 6+, and that is probably about right. If I was being mean I could have quite easily won the game against my daughter. At 4-years-old, she struggled to answer many of the questions, such as naming a ‘make of car’, a ‘musical artist’, a ‘painter or sculptor’, or a ‘historical figure’, as these are concepts we have hardly or ever discussed.
However, as regular readers of this blog will be unsurprised to learn, she had no problem with naming a film, toy, or superhero 🙂
So parents & older siblings will probably have to let younger kids win from time to time, to there may be tears. Unless you really like winning all the time…
Name That! is never going to take the place of a tablet + wifi + Netflix, but it’s an ok game to pass the time.
Name That! by Megableu has an RRP of £12.99
Disclosure: We were given a copy of this product for the purposes of this review.
These Marvel Super Hero Micro Mashers are pint-sized versions (2.5″) of the standard sized Mashers line (6″). Hasbro’s Mashers line, which are where Marvel, Star Wars, and Transformers action figures that are designed to come apart anb be combined to create cross character and property mash-ups.
The Marvel Super Hero Micro Mashers come in 2-packs, and we received two sets – Hulk vs Loki, and Captain America vs Iron Skull (Red Skull with armour).
As you can see, there are only male characters in these sets. In fact there are only male characters in the entire Hasbro Mashers line.
The lack of female Hero Mashers could be because it was deemed troubling to mix male and female characters in mash-ups; Perhaps excluding female characters was seen as making it easier to market the line to boys; Maybe the female characters were deemed to not be popular enough? Whatever the reasoning, the lack of female figures in all of Hasbro’s Hero Mashers line is obvious and unfortunate, as they are missing out some great characters.
The look of the Marvel Super Hero Mashers Micro figures is very cartoony, but overtly inspired by their big screen MCU counterparts. My daughter hasn’t seen The Avengers movies yet, but has seen the first Thor and Captain America ones. She also has a few clothing items with the characters on.
While she also hasn’t seen the Hulk in any of his live action or cartoon versions – he is still probably one of her favourite characters. She plays with a few of my old Hulk collectables, and she has had a large posable Hulk on her wall since she was a baby. Green is also her favourite colour.
So he was the most important character draw to her. While she had some fun pulling the apart and recombining, she mostly enjoyed putting them back together the way they should be.
The figures lack most points of articulation, and the playability comes from being able to swap parts – which are basically the hands and heads, as well as some accessories. The only parts that move are at the joins with the removable parts.
Some of the Marvel Super Hero Mashers Micro figures come with specific accessories, such as Captain America’s shield, or Loki’s staff. The packs also include what I can only describe as additional action limbs, such as Cap’s shield with some energy around it, Red Skull with a Hydra weapon, and Hulk has a large translucent green fist. While these add a little interest, they are so oversized that most of the figures can’t stand up properly with them, because they are so imbalanced. It’s likely that these are intended for use more with the standard Mashers line (as these Micro Mashers are compatible).
Who are Marvel Super Hero Micro Mashers for?
If you or your kid like pulling your dolls and figures apart, and creating mash-up characters, these could be the toys for you. However, my daughter’s biggest criticism was that the legs don’t come apart like the arms – and in fact don’t even move at all.
That’s one of the drawbacks of this budget Micro line – they might be ok as mash-up fodder, but offer limited playability as action figures. And no matter how creative your mash-ups are, you still won’t be able to come up with a female character.
Disclosure: We were given these toys free of charge for the purposes of this review.
Choosing great gifts for girls shouldn’t be that difficult.
But it seems that it is. While you may know what your child likes, others may not and often they will revert to the same tired stereotypes of “what girls like”.
One of the things I want to achieve with my blog is broadening the spectrum of what people think will appeal to girls. So I thought it might be handy to detail some of the great things my daughter has enjoyed over the past year, as potential new ideas for gifts for girls.
These suggestions are of course fine for boys too, but I just wanted to counterbalance some of the traditional gift guides I see aimed at girls. However, as a former boy – and I love all the things on this list too, so I have no doubt they will appeal to them too.
I’ve mostly used Amazon affiliate links, but all these items are available from a variety of other retailers too.
1. Kano – the DIY Computer Kit for Kids
If you and your family purchase only one present for your child, I would strongly urge it to be this one.
Kano is a fantastic build-it-yourself computer and coding kit. While intended for kids age 6-12, younger (like my daughter) and older (like her parents!) will love this too.
This is a wonderfully simple yet complex product. As opposed to the pretend computers that kids often have, this is an actual bona-fide computer for kids.
With this, your child will have a wonderful journey of discovery, and will also be engaged in the fundamentals of our increasingly digital culture.
The kit contains:
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, ARM 900MHz Quad-Core CPU and 1GB RAM
8GB micro-SD Card preloaded with the latest Kano OS full of projects and games
Kano books, illustrated and intuitive
Wireless Kano Keyboard and mouse (USB RF & Bluetooth)
Custom case, stencils and stickers!
Mini-USB power supply (UK plug)
You put the computer together in LEGO-like fashion (no soldering required), connect it to a screen (via HDMI), fire it up, and you’re ready to go.
It is also a great family activity – my wife and I are as excited about using it as our daughter.
If there was any justice in this world, the Kano would be the number one toy this christmas.
The RRP is £119.99 – but you can get it for a holiday price of £89.99 until 31 December 2015.
Everyone loves LEGO, right? It’s probably one of the greatest toys ever invented, LEGO is certainly a perennial plaything at our house. When considering LEGO gifts for girls, please don’t assume you have to limit yourself to LEGO Friends.
We’ve had some exciting new sets this year, but our highlights were these ones that also featured some great female characters.
We loved Rey’s Speeder from The Force Awakens. It’s a simple set with a really funky looking vehicle.
Other LEGO Star Wars sets we had included the Imperial Shuttle and Imperial Assault Carrier. Both were wonderful sets that each featured important female characters – Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels, and Leia in her non-slave Return of the Jedi look.
With a little LEGO invention, you can also make this Leia look a bit like General Leia from The Force Awakens. (Han looks pretty good with a beard too.)
But our top set is Jokerland. It gets played with the most and also has the most female minifigs.
Jokerland is a wonderfully loopy LEGO Batman set that features a theme park taken over by the Joker and his criminal pals. The set features 8 minifigures, and the female ones are Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Starfire. As well as Joker, you also get Batman, Robin, The Penguin, and Beast Boy.
Having female figures in these sets is important. For my daughter, it helps hook her into playing with these sets. But once she does, she enjoys both male and female characters alike. She’s a big fan of Batman and Robin at the moment.
3. Lottie Dolls
We love Lottie Dolls. From their childlike appearance to the range of outfits and accessories , my daughter is constantly playing with them. The other day she professed that they were her favourite toy!
Choosing a favourite Lottie Doll is like choosing your favourite child (though I only have one of those to choose from), but my top ones would be Pirate Queen and Rockabilly.
To be honest they’re all great, and the key for us is the range of outfits and accessories you can get. They lead to great imaginative play, and show that girls can be dancers, engineers, athletes, or whoever they want to be.
Lottie is a doll that isn’t defined by being one thing. That is a great message for children to learn.
If you haven’t seen them, I cannot stress enough how utterly magical and glorious these films are. I am immeasurably grateful that they exist, and that my daughter gets to experience them in her childhood.
Some are more age appropriate than others, but bear in mind I will happily watch any of these with my 3-year-old daughter (who adores them).
We also have story books of Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro, which have been excellent ways for my daughter to engage with these stories without constantly watching the movies (it would be every day if I’d allow it).
While it’s simple, it’s a high quality outfit (unlike most kids fancy dress outfits).
The dress is nicely tailored in cotton, and the bow is delightful.
My daughter always gets smiles whenever she’s out wearing this – mostly from people who have no idea who she’s dressed as.
You can top the outfit off with a Jiji cat toy too.
5. Katie Morag – books and TV show
My daughter was actually the one who introduced us to the wonderful Katie Morag books, stumbling upon one at a charity shop.
These delightful picture books, written and illustrated by Mairi Hedderwick, are all set on the Isle of Struay, off the coast of Scotland, and center around the independent minded Katie, and her family and friends.
So far there are three books in the series, and in them the hero of the title explores the likes of being a pilot, and engineer, and a doctor.
They are fun to read and have already sewn the seeds of big ideas in our little girl.
7. Star Wars – Little Golden Books
Like many parents of a certain age, Star Wars has been something I have introduced my daughter to from an early age.
However, I know some parents – while wanting to introduce their child to Star Wars – feel that the films are inappropriate in terms of action and violence for very young children.
These Star Wars Little Golden Books are a perfect solution. With pared down narratives, simple prose, and cute illustrations, this series of Star Wars books for kids is a wonderful way to introduce a small child to the galaxy far, far away…
These Star Wars books for kids are available individually or as a boxset.
8. LittleLife Gruffalo and Spider-Man Backpacks
A cut above the usual cheaply made kids backpack, the LittleLife collection are well made, with thoughtful designs that look great and are comfortable for your child to wear.
The Spider-Man Kids Daysack is a great looking bag, that has enough room for the essentials a 3+ yr old would need to carry.
We also had a Gruffalo Toddler Daysack, for kids age 1-3, with a rein that some parents may find useful, plus there is a Gruffalo Kids Daysack for children age 3+. Both are wonderfully designed bags that will please any tiny Gruffalo fan.
9. Clothes from Sewing Circus
We are big fans of Sewing Circus, who have a great range of skirts, dresses, tops, and accesories. The themes include dinosaurs, science, space, superheroes, and much more.
Founded by Francesca Cambridge, as a campaigner for unisex clothing (Let Clothes be Clothes) she would likely balk at being included on a gifts for girls list. Just to be clear – boys can wear her clothes too.
My daughter is the proud owner of the Star Wars skirt pictured above, that was the basis for a ‘How to make a Star Wars skirt‘ tutorial Francesca guest blogged here. I think it must be the most worn item of clothing in her wardrobe this year.
With less than a month to go until the release of The Force Awakens, Star Wars continues to dominate our leisure time. As well as enjoying watching Episodes IV – VI in anticipation, checking out trailers, speculating what may happen in the new movie (my daughter already predicts that Kylo Ren will get both hands chopped off), we’re also working our way trough the six season Clone Wars animated series. So it was great to receive two terrific LEGO sets that encompassed these strands of the saga. Continue reading LEGO Star Wars – Rey’s Speeder and General Grievous Playtest plus Giveaway
The Hunger Games movie saga, which stars Jennifer Lawrence as revolutionary poster girl Katniss Everdeen, reaches its conclusion with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. I saw it last week, and the review embargo has just been lifted.
The series – based on Suzanne Collin’s popular book trilogy – took me by surprise. I was lukewarm about the initial instalment, both before and after seeing it. In hindsight, this is probably not because of the quality of the film itself (directed by Gary Ross), but rather my own prejudice.
The Hunger Games: A Running Man and Battle Royale rip off?
As a teen I had seen Arnie in The Running Man (1987) – based on a book and set in a dystopian future where the state sanctions a TV death match as a means of pacifying the populace. Later, I had marvelled at the magnificent Japanese movie Battle Royale (2000) – also based on a book and set in a dystopian future where the state sanctions a TV death match as a means of pacifying the populace.
So with what seemed to be the same set up – teenage ‘tributes’ battling to the death for the masses on mass media – it was through this lens that I watched The Hunger Games (2012). As far as I was concerned it was as expected – largely derivative of Battle Royale and The Running Man (the latter of which isn’t even particularly good) with added YA (young adult fiction) dust.
But looking back, the beginnings were there for what has become an intelligent an engaging saga. With Francis Lawrence installed as the new director for the rest of the series, the first sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) added layers of political and media commentary & satire, while remaining true to being a YA action adventure. The first part of the follow up story The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)took us into the territory of the war film, which is where this concluding chapterremains.
Jennifer Lawrence embodies the how good a female action hero can be
Central to the success of this saga remains the confident and engaging performance from Jennifer Lawrence, who as Katniss Everdeen has come to embody how powerful a well realised female action hero can be.
The film picks up immediately after the events of Part 1 – Katniss is suffering both mentally and physically from the effects of being almost strangled to death by her former District 12 fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), who has been brainwashed by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) into believing that Katniss is evil.
The new Katniss/Peeta dynamic is central to their relationship in this film. Katniss spends much of the story afraid of him, and lamenting that the Peeta she knew is gone. He in turn is full of hate for Katniss, and simply wants to kill her. Despite their mutual distrust/loathing, they are thrown together for the sake of the continuing media battle of Penem, and the pair’s importance as propaganda puppets.
Katniss Everdeen – not just a symbol of revolution
Katniss is beginning to tire of being used as a political tool, this time by President Coin (Julianne Moore). In this film, Katniss finally decides it’s time to write her own story. Like Peeta’s hate for Katniss, she has a singular vengeful purpose now – to kill President Snow. As far as she’s concerned he is solely responsible for the misery of the world about her. She wants to see him dead, and preferably by her hand.
Also remaining in the mix is Gale (Liam Hemsworth). As well as his ongoing role in the love triangle with Katniss and Peeta, he continues his transformation into a callous revolutionary fighter – displaying a crueller streak than before. He is another character hardened by the ongoing war.
Of the other key players, President Snow continues his unsettling relationship with Katniss, and Sutherland is as sinister as ever. In not dissimilar fashion, Julianne Moore’s President Coin is on the surface a heroic leader, but what lies beneath is also troubling. Her determination to control Katniss plays out in the wider context of the war and its aftermath.
The Hunger Games reimagined
There are no ‘Hunger Games’ per se in this movie. Instead, Snow deploys the gamemakers to devise ever more imaginative (and TV friendly) ways to defend the city from the invading rebel army. This leads to some visually stunning scenes, but the stand-out sequence is a subterranean set-piece that is as tense and exciting as anything you are likely to see this year. Jennifer Lawrence displays Katniss’s archery skills to full effect, in a thrilling ensemble action scene.
The previous film suffered from an obvious fault – it was only part of the story, where not very much happened, and there was very little payoff. The whole thing felt like a preamble towards the next instalment.
But this film is given the chance to explore themes and characters fully. It brings the story to a satisfying conclusion, in a way that is surprising, dramatic, and powerful. Friendships are shattered, and loved ones are lost. For everyone left standing at the end, the world will never be the same.
All is not perfect with this concluding chapter. The story has a clear conclusion, and what follows is a lengthy epilogue that is crying out for a pair of scissors to wrap up the story with the brevity it deserves. It’s not quite Return of the King level, but disappointing all the same. Also, while I’m not familiar with the books, a few of the characters seem to get short shrift in the movie, despite the 2hr+ running time.
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last movie
Someone who certainly doesn’t feel absent – but with less do do than previously – is Philip Seymour Hoffman. He died during filming and before his scenes had been completed. I think I spotted a couple of occasions where he may have been digitally inserted into scenes, and there appears to have been one obviously important passage that was rewritten for another actor. But I was on the lookout for these instances and I don’t feel they will distract from the story.
Overall, this is an engaging conclusion to a saga that began with what seemed to be less ambitious aims. The series has cleverly dealt with themes of political manipulation, propaganda, and the damaging effects of war on society. These are all messages that are of great relevance today, and will continue to be so.
The fact that these ideas are dealt with so thoughtfully within an exciting action adventure, that appeals especially to teens, is a great credit to all involved with this – from author Suzanne Collins to the actors and filmmakers. Teens obviously have a natural defiance against authority and the status quo. These stories highlight the positives of that attitude, and how we would all do well to remember that feeling as we move beyond those years.
Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen has inspired a generation of girls
The character of Katniss, and Jennifer Lawrence’s terrific performance, will continue to be a benchmark for female led action adventures. She has inspired a generation of girls to aspire to become confident and proud women, and hopefully educated their male peers to accept this as a reality.
The Hunger Games series has demonstrated once and for all that the time of the female led action adventure is now. That they can be engaging across a series of movies and be hugely popular with audiences, especially if created with integrity, respect, and intelligence like this series.