Review: Get Kids Creating Their Own Batman Tales With Rory’s Story Cubes

The brilliant Rory’s Story Cubes: Batman is a set of 9 custom six-sided dice, with 54 Batman icons, that you roll out and make up a story with.

I love the stories my daughter comes up with. Whether it’s Princess Leia and Cinderella teaming up to kill Jabba the Hutt (turns out Jabba was ‘The Prince’), or Peppa Pig and Mog’s misadventures in looking after George (“Don’t feed him ham!”), her inventiveness and ability to remix story elements into a brand new (and engaging) narratives always makes me smile.

We’ve discovered great way to stimulate this creativity with a deceptively simple product called Rory’s Story Cubes. We were shown them at the recent London Toy Fair, and fell in love with them straight away.

While there are a number of themes and formats to choose from, knowing our love of superheroes we were presented with the Batman cubes. These are a set of nine dice, with each face featuring a different storytelling element from Batman and action storytelling, for a total 54 different icons from characters, vehicles, locales, actions, and more.

The ‘rules’ (more on that later) are that you roll out the dice, and whatever 9 icons land face up you re-order and use as story prompts. I’ll leave the math up to others, but apparently this means there are over a MILLION story combinations.

This is similar to a long running game my daughter likes to do with our Star Wars Top Trumps, where she pulls a selection of cards out, puts them in an order, and then asks me to make up a story about them.

There are a number of nice elements about these cubes. They are solidly made, with the simple line drawn icons embossed in black on the white die; The tactile nature of handling and rolling the die add a nice physical element to the storytelling process; It encourages social interaction – whether telling one or more people the story, or taking turns in a group to add to it; and these dice use Batman iconography very well (mostly).

In terms of female characters while there is no Batgirl (boo!) there is Catwoman and Harley Quinn (yay!), as well as a gallery of Gotham icons including Commissioner Gordon, other villains including Joker, Two-Face, and Riddler, and Batman iconography such as the Batmobile, Bat signal, Batarang, Batwing, etc.

Bat sadly, while there is Robin, there is no actual Batman image (other than his fist). While I guess the assumption is that it is an unnecessary story element to include – a Batman story must have Batman in it anyway – it is a shame an image of the dark knight is missing.

My daughter is familiar with Batman via the 60s TV show and the 90s animated series, so she is well versed in the world of Batman. I applaud anything that encourages children to engage with the media they are exposed to. This takes the passive consumption of Batman stories, and inspires children to interact and create. The stated age is 6+, but my 4-year-old daughter is using these well, and I reckon she would have done so when she was 3 too. She loves us playing with them together, but is also happy sitting there alone coming up with stories.

While we have the Batman cubes, there are a number of different sets available either now or soon – including Doctor Who, Looney Tunes, Moomins, and Scooby-Doo! There are also the original non-licensed sets with themes including Action, Voyages, and many more.

The set also comes with a handy fold-out guide to all the icons, as well as a useful little plastic box to store/carry the cubes in.

A note on the ‘rules’ – there are no rules. These cubes are there to fire creativity, and while they have been designed with particular formats of play in mind, any way they promote creativity is encouraged.

Disclosure: We were given these Rory’s Story Cubes: Batman free of charge for the purposes of this review.

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Review: Batman Unlimited Toys

These Batman Unlimited toys are from Mattel, and feature Batman characters with updated futuristic looks and gadgets. The first thing I noticed were the key differences to the classic depiction of the three characters.

Batman and Robin look broadly similar to what we’re used to, but their outfits are more like hi-tech armour than a costume. Robin also has a hood, which makes him appear more mysterious – just like Batman.

But appropriately, the weirdest one was the Joker. His look has been completely revamped from the purple suit wearing clown to become a muscled up thug with a crew cut and a sash of bullets draped over him. While he is clearly the Joker – with his green hair, white face, red lips, and magical yellow toothed grin – it took my daughter a while to feel confident in identifying it was him.

These are pretty sturdy looking figures, with Batman & Robin’s fabric & vinyl  capes being the only potential weak link. Anatomically, it’s fair to say these are somewhat stylised. For instance, they have lower legs that are 2-3 times longer than their thighs.

While they offer 8 points of articulation (POA), additional movement in the legs would’ve been welcome – there’s no knee joint for instance, which really limits how these figures can be posed by a child. They can’t even sit properly. My daughter sometimes likes her figures to have a rest, enjoys a tea party, or go to the loo!

Actually, The Joker isn’t the weirdest of these Batman Unlimited Toys in this set. It also includes what appears to be a Robot Batdog. It has no limb or head movement. It does have a removable tail, which the characters can also hold as some kind of sword/club/furry duster. Robo-batdog (as we call it) isn’t even named on the packaging. It feels like this part of the set is a toy they had left over from another line.

My daughter even asked “What is that dog doing there?”. Not knowing how to answer, a visit to (as the packaging suggests) indicates it may be one of The Penguin’s robotic Cyber Animals. Who knows? Anyway, while it feels out of place in this set, and is little more than an immovable toy dog, it does look kind of cool.

Overall, my daughter loves that these figures are of Batman, Robin, and The Joker, and they are funky and colourfully designed. But I feel the lack of movement in the legs in particular will be a big drawback for her long term, as she is unable to pose them in a way that she does other figures of this size (about 15 cm high). And the inclusion of robo-batdog is a mystery worthy of investigation by the Batman.


UPDATE: Batman Unlimited Toys Vehicles

Turns out the Batman figure fits a random Bat Jet I bought my daughter second hand for 80p, so there’s life in these figures yet.


Disclosure: We received these Batman Unlimited toys as part of the Toys R Us Toyologist programme. They send us toys in exchange for honest reviews. You can read the original post here.

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Sex Education for Kids: When to Talk to Your Child About Sex

When is the right time to begin sex education for kids to begin? 

We all know how babies are made, right? When a woman is ready to become a mother, a Stork flies down and delivers a new baby to the family.

Peddling this myth to my daughter has never occurred to me, and with the number of pregnant women we see in everyday life, I have no idea how you’d hide the reality of where babies come from – or why you’d want to do so in the first place. Of course, this can lead to the trickier follow up question of ‘How did the baby get in there?”

My parents never really spoke to me about sex. The one time my mother tried, I was 14 and she was driving me home from school, and started awkwardly talking about how I shouldn’t worry if I found a white mess in my pants (I think she was hinting at wet dreams). I shut that conversation down as soon as I realised.

Sex education in school had started when I was 11, but even by then, playground innuendo had already established itself, and sex was something secretive and naughty to giggle at.

Given these childhood experiences, as a parent I feel I sex education for kids should begin early. But in the UK, the Conservative government has refused to make Sex & Relationship Education (SRE) statutory in schools. Under the national curriculum, SRE is compulsory from age 11 – prior to that it is up to individual heads whether to teach sex education in schools or not.

In this digital age, 11 is far too late to leave sex education for kids. So if we want to make sure our kids are learning about sex earlier – before being exposed to playground gossip or the first kid who realises how easy it is to access porn – it’s probably up to us parents.

My first sex talk with my daughter happened far earlier than anticipated. When she was 3-years-old, she asked about a pregnant friend of ours, when she asked the question – ‘But how did the baby get in her belly?’. I explained that a seed from the daddy joins and egg from the mummy, which grows into a baby. “But how does the seed get in there?”

Momentarily pondering the directness of this question, and my mantra of never knowingly lying to my daughter, I rather aptly though ‘Fuck it’, and I told her. So we had our very first sex talk, involving men and women, and how they use their genitalia to reproduce. It was all pretty matter of fact, and having her curiosity satisfied, the conversation ended.

There was of course lots missing from our first sex education talk. Reproduction and sex are two different things. Reproduction regularly happens artificially, and many children are conceived this way. Being a parent isn’t necessarily about your biological relationship to the child.

Other key aspects I feel need to be addressed include same sex relationships, the importance of safe sex, issues around consent, and simply the pleasure of sexuality.

We haven’t specifically gone into those aspects yet, but the ideas behind them have. Kids understand pretty well the pleasure of doing something because you enjoy it. General hygiene is often discussed and the need to prevent the spread of germs and viruses.

Recently, my daughter professed she wanted to marry her best girl friend when she grows up. I said that’s fine as long as her friend wants to as well – covering same sex relationships and consent in one go.

To answer the question posed in the title of this post, I guess the answer is when they are ready. And perhaps that is when your child asks. I’m happy for this topic to remain child led for now. If she asks questions, we’ll answer them. But there are looming deadlines. There is clearly a need for children to know before they hit puberty, and that isn’t as far away as we might think.

But even sooner than that, all it takes is another child with internet access to show yours explicit material. It’s in no one’s best interests for that to be your child’s first sexual experience. I feel the sooner we educate our kids about sex the better, before some kid with a smartphone gets there first.

For more information, please visit The Sex Education Forum


When did you talk to your child about sex? Was it too soon or do you wish you waited? Or what age do you think you will talk to them about sex – if at all? When should sex education for kids begin? Please comment below.

Review: LEGO Marvel’s Avengers Videogame

Review: This fun LEGO Marvel’s Avengers videogame sees a multitude of great female characters hit the screen, putting the movies to shame.

A sequel of sorts to LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, this latest LEGO videogame takes it’s inspiration mostly from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with particular focus on the two Avengers movies.

It begins with a LEGO recreation of the opening of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the game pretty much had me at hello with the fact that my first playable character was Black Widow the female Avenger often missing from licensed merchandise.

You eventually tag team through all the core Avengers until you successfully complete this stage and unlock the free play mode – but you unlock new characters as you progress through the main story.

It has a large open world, that includes New York, Asgard, the Helicarrier, plus Malibu, South Africa, and even Hawkeye’s farm! Once you delve into the game, the shear number of characters is terrific (around 200, 100 of whom new to the series), and despite ostensibly being based on the Marvel movies, you get to play as whole range of female characters yet (if ever) to make it to the big screen.

So as well as Black Widow, Maria Hill, and Scarlett Witch, there’s also the likes of Ms. Marvel (Kamla Khan), the Jane Foster version of Thor, Miss America, and even Squirrel Girl!

The characters also include New Avengers Hulkling and Wiccan – possibly the first openly gay couple to feature in a LEGO product?

If you’ve played any of the previous LEGO video games, the style and gameplay will be very familiar. The controls are relatively easy to get your head round, and the tone is a mixture of being faithful to the source material with doses of in-jokes and knockabout comedy.

Occasionally we’ve been a bit stuck, wondering exactly what the given objective of a scene/set piece is. And the save option isn’t as often as I would like (extended gaming sessions have become a thing of the past since becoming a parent). Plus, the link to the official MCU means the likes of Spider-Man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four are missing from this game (unlike it’s predecessor). But these are niggles in what is a very fun game.

I was worried that their might be a bot of franchise fatigue setting in, a charge that could be be levelled at the Marvel cinematic universe. However, there is just something so irresistible about these LEGO games that I am enjoying this as one much as any of them.

Is this worth purchasing in addition or instead of the previous LEGO Marvel Super Heroes game? I’m not entirely convinced, but the extra open world playability and playable characters make this a fine LEGO superhero game in its own right.

This is clearly a very family friendly game, but the control system is still a little beyond my 4-year-old – despite her obvious love of what she is seeing onscreen.


LEGO Marvel’s Avengers videois rated PEGI 7 and is available now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (RRP £49.99), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U (RRP £39.99) and PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS (RRP £29.99).


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Cute Alert! Itty Bittys Star Wars Plush Toys Hit the UK

We probably didn’t need any more Star Wars plush toys, but when Hallmark offered us some Star Wars Itty Bittys, I couldn’t resist.

We’ve been admiring this range of soft toys from afar as they’ve been out in the US for some time, but this month they’re finally out in the UK.

These Star Wars cuddly toys have been a big hit with my daughter. There are various characters in the range, but we received C-3PO, Yoda, and Darth Vader.

My daughter has been especially taken with her Yoda soft toy, who has always been a favourite character of hers anyway (green is her favourite colour).

The C-3PO plush is made of a very bright gold covering, that looks especially dazzling in the light, while even Darth Vader looks rather sweet as a cuddly toy.

As is the way with Star Wars toys, there will be many adult collectors who will want to buy the set to add to the exhaustive collection. But the Itty Bitty Star Wars plush toys range are the perfect size for little hands, and the cute style of design is suits these character designs, making for some very cuddly Star Wars toys.

Star Wars Cuddly Toys, Yoda cuddly toy, Darth Vader cuddly toy, C-3PO cuddly toy

Star Wars Itty Bitty plush toys have an RRP of £6.

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