LEGO Awesome Ideas Book – Review

As you must know by now, my boys absolutely love LEGO. Well we all do.

So when we were asked to review the new LEGO Awesome Ideas book from DK Books, we couldn’t say yes quick enough.

The LEGO Awesome Ideas book is a brilliant book packed full of so many crazy, exciting, imaginative ideas for things you could build with the LEGO you already have.

Most of the big ideas show you exactly what pieces you would need, and which sets those pieces could be found in. Theres also suggestions for alternative pieces you could use, if you didn’t have some of the very set specific pieces on hand.

However it’s not a step by step guide on how to build LEGO models, it’s more of a general “How about making this?” or “Hey we made this cool space station, how about giving it a go?”

The variety of things included astounded me. Yes theres the obvious  houses, space ships, cars and trains. Theres also crazy things that I would have never though were so easy to make like a box of LEGO chocolates, Bunsen Burner and Test tubes, and a bathroom shaving mirror.

After reading through the book for over an hour, the first thing Jacob decided to try his hand at was the Cream-Pie Catapult. We have lots of Creme-Pies from His favourite Joker and Krusty the clown mini-figures, so we started off with that.

 

I would definitely recommend this book for Lego fans. I think fans from around aged 8 and over would get the most from this book, as it’s not a step by step guide just a jumping off point into Lego Building. Possibly younger fans would get a bit frustrated, as some of the designs can get very intricate and detailed.

However even if your in the mood for building some LEGO, if your a fan it’s simply a great book to sit back and enjoy. The Designs are amazing, the ideas are brilliant, and I just love the whole look of the book.

I think as my children get older it’s a book that’s going to be used more and more.

©2015 The LEGO Group. Produced by Dorling Kindersley under licence from the LEGO Group.

Disclosure: We received this book from the Publishers in order to write a review. All opinions are our own. 

Crayola Colour Alive Minions – Review

After our previous fun with the Crayola Colour Alive Mythical Creatures colouring book, we were thrilled to be sent the new Crayola Colour Alive Minions set.

Crayola Colour Alive is a series of colouring books complete with special marker pens. When coloured you can scan your pictures into the free app which then magically pops them off the paper and onto the screen.

As you can see from the picture opposite, it really does look like your coloured image has come to life in front of you. You can have great fun taking pictures with your coloured creations.

In our last few we had a few problems with the app responding, but these seem to have been fully resolved in the latest update as we had no problems at all.

As well as taking pictures with your new friends, you can also use the app to add more colour or special effects like glitter or for the Minions their favourite Bananas to your creations.

Here a few other pictures that Jacob coloured in and we played around with in the app.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crayola Colour Alive is a great way to get your gadget loving kids creative with pen and paper again. Best of both worlds if you like.

We’ve had great fun with both of the Crayola Colour Alive books we used, so am definitely going to be on the lookout for some new ones.

Disclosure: We were sent this Crayola Colour Alive book to review. All opinions are our own.

 

Yoshi’s Woolly World – Review

This month i’ve been feeling like everything around me is cute, cuddly and woolly, and it’s all down to the latest game we’ve been reviewing on the Wii U as part of the Nintendo Family Bloggers – Yoshi’s Woolly World.

The game is a beautiful puzzler, full of colour and cuddly yarn filled enemies.

Jacob and I absolutely love this game, and we especially love that we can play it together as two Yoshi’s helping each other out to finish the level.

In the game you jump around and flutter between platforms, collecting yarn balls and tossing them at enemies as you go.

You can find yarn balls inside big sewing boxes dotted around the place, and also make yarn balls from your enemies instead of eggs as Yoshi usually does.

As well as shooting your yarn balls at enemies, Yoshi also needs to throw them to create platforms, or sometimes to find secret entrances and hidden rooms.

Each level has tons of collectables to find as you play. If you can find them all you can unlock bonus levels.

One of the funniest parts of the game is when Yoshi suddenly unravels, and then knits himself into an accessory like an umbrella, or a mega Yoshi. It’s exciting when it happens to see what Yoshi is going to change himself into.

Another great feature is the really cool way Yoshi’s Wooly World can use Amiibo’s.

The new Woolly Yoshi Amiibo is definitely my favourite Amiibo so far, he’s gorgeous.

However in the game, if you have other Amiibos like Bowser or Mario, you can change your in game Yoshi to change into one of those.

Mario Yoshi is the funniest we think, as it’s hilarious seeing Yoshi with the plumbers curvy little moustache.


I so wish I could knit as we had such an amazing box of crafting things sent to us from Nintendo with a copy of the game, including some yarn and knitting needles. I’ve even been on Youtube trying to learn as I would love to make a cuddly Yoshi of my own, but to be honest I’m getting nowhere. I will get there eventually though, I’m not giving up :)

Yoshi’s Woolly World is a really fun game, whether playing alone or with a friend. I like the way that if you want you can power through the level as fast as you can and progress onwards. Or you can take your time and try to find every single collectable and hidden area. It’s really up to you.

Thanks so much to Nintendo for our awesome Yoshi’s Woolly World Bloggers box.

 

 

Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush – Review

Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush is the latest game featuring the loveable pink ball on the Wii U.

In the game Kirbys home of Dream Land and all the inhabitants have been drained of all colour, by an evil villain who appears from a portal through the sky. Luckily a magical paintbrush also appears, and helps Kirby and his friend Waddle Dee get their colour back. Kirby then sets off on an adventure to put things right.

You play the game by drawing rainbow ropes for Kirby to traverse on the Wii U’s touch screen gamepad. Kirby travels along the colourful ropes wherever you draw them. You use them to help Kirby navigate obstacles, collect powers and attack enemies.

However the magic paintbrush only has so much ink, so you have to keep a careful eye on how much ink you’ve used in your rope or Kirby might fall somewhere dangerous. Also the colours on the magical ropes only last so long before they start to fade and disintegrate. we’ve found that sometimes making more smaller ropes works best when you can.

Jacob is the biggest Kirby fan in our house, so has commandeered most of the gametime to himself. It’s hard to get him off it to be honest. The good news is that as you spend most of the time looking down on the gamepad, it’s the perfect game to take advantage of the wii u’s best feature, using the gamepad without needing the tv on.

Jacob loves that he can sit on the other sofa with his headphones on, playing a console game like it’s his 3DS. He plays the Wii U like this a lot if the game allows.

However when he finally lets everyone else play 4 of us can play together. One plays as Kirby on the gamepad, and the 3 others play as Waddle Dee’s on either wii Remotes or Wii U Pro Controllers. It’s so much fun all playing together, and very colourful seeing all the rainbow ropes running over the screen.

We all really like the art style of Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush. It’s made to look like everything is made of clay or plasticine. We had a lot of fun making our own Kirby and Dream Land thanks to the amazing art pack we received from Nintendo with the game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you fancy making your own check out the youtube video below, it’s a great step by step guide.

Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush is a lovely game for all ages. It’s very easy to just pick up and play.

Disclosure: We received a copy of Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush and the art supplies as part of our participation in the Nintendo Family Bloggers Network.

 

Crayola Colour Alive – Review

Easter holidays, and the boys have been getting creative and testing out the new Crayola colour Alive colouring books.

With Colour Alive you can see the images you’ve coloured in actually pop out of the screen and into your living room. Which is actually really neat.

As with most things nowadays there’s an app you’ll need to download.

The system works by scanning and recognising the special Colour Alive marker you have used. Each book comes with 7 Crayola Markers, but only one unlocks the special virtual reality pictures. With the two colouring books we had to review, the red marker unlocked the magic in Mythical Creatures, and it was the yellow in enchanted forest.

Once you’ve found the special colour you need to simply scan it in the Colour Alive app.  Then you can scan in your colouring pages and watch as the pictures appear to come alive.

Annoyingly at the moment it seems that the app is having a few problems on certain devices with scanning the coloured in pictures. However if you scan an uncoloured page and then colour it in the 4D effects will work.

Once we figured things out and released that our virtual dragon was located in the “my saved stuff’ section, we got to work taking some virtual selfies with our works of art.

Even Harry the cat got involved.

To celebrate Colour Alive being at the Gadget Show Live there’s actually a competition running this week, for the best Colour Alive Selfie with an amazing prize.

If you have a Colour Alive set you can enter by tweeting #colouryouselfie and your picture, and if you get to see it at the show you can try it out and enter there.

Disclosure: We were sent some Colour Alive sets by Crayola to review. All opinions are my own.

 

New Books about Loom Bands! and Loom Bands Charms! – Review

I was quite dismissive initially about Loom Bands, and how long the Loom madness would last. However I’ve been most triumphantly proved wrong as Loom Bands are still massive with the kids, and shows no signs of stopping. Well in our household at least.

Loom bands seem to have taken over the school playground and beyond, and seem hell-bent on world domination. Before Loom Bands when travelling on a long train journey I would have had to pack the iPod full of music, headphones, pack of cards, and a tablet full of tv shows and movies for the boys to watch.

Last Saturday however we travelled simply armed with a portable Loom band case and two Loom Band making books and we were sorted for the whole way. No moaning “Are we nearly there yet?”, they were totally quiet and fully engrossed for the whole journey.

Loom Bands! and Loom Bands! Charms! from Heike Roland & Stefanie Thomas, Published by Quadrille are two new books totally devoted to the art of creating crazy,amazing, and most importantly awesome looking Loom Bands and Loom Band charms.

Inside the books you’ll find step by step instructions on how to make Loom Band bracelets and charms from the very basics to much more intricate designs.

We loved that each step of the process gives you clear instructions on what to do, and has a full colour photo so you can see exactly whats meant at every stage. Thomas says it’s like watching Youtube tutorials, but better as you don’t have to pause it all the time.

A fun thing that the boys really enjoyed was Looming without a Loom! In the book there are designs that you make using two pencils, and even one which you use a fork.

I’ll admit that as a family were good at the basic designs, but not so good as things get that bit harder. The Loom Bands! and Loom Bands Charms! books are great because the creations are in the book from easier to hardest, and most of the beginning of the books were ok with. I’m just working onto some of the hardest ones now, getting there slowly.

Heres one of the simpler ones, A flower. It’s not perfect, but it was my first attempt at something out of the loom band charm book. I am getting better, and the books have really helped.

 

 

Loom Bands! and Loom Bands! Charms! published by Quadrille are out now with an RRP of £4.99 each

Disclosure: We were sent a copy of both books in order for us to write an honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hue Animation Studio – Review

Over the last month the boys are I have been having a brilliant time together reviewing the Hue Animation Studio.

It’s a kit aimed at kids, helping them to make simple stop motion animation videos.

The box proclaims “Coming with everything you need to make your own animated movies”. Well we put it to the test and they weren’t wrong.

What’s included 

On opening the box you’ll find a brilliant simple to use plug in and play webcam, 5 bars of modelling clay for model making, and an installation disk and download code for the Hue Animation Software.

I went ahead and downloaded the software as I have a Macbook Air with no disk drive. It was probably easier than using the disk, and downloading from the website ensures you always get the latest version of the software.

As soon as you start up the Hue Animation Software and plug in the webcam your ready to go. The software is incredibly simple to get to grips with, just a little clicking of all the buttons to see what happened and almost immediately we were making movies.

Getting started 

Thomas decided to be the director of our movie and made the decision to animate his Minecraft and Moshi Monster figures rather than making a model with the clay.

First thing he did was write up a storyboard of our movie. We downloaded and printed out a template storyboard from the Hue Animation website, and I would recommend doing the same. It’s brilliant to have your story down on paper before you start animating.

Even though we changed some things as we went, we had the main gist of what he wanted to happen planned out. You can get free backgrounds from the website too.

The amount of support on the website is great, there’s a section of tutorials to help you get started and with using effects. Their Facebook page  is another great resource Or if you more of a visual learner they have some brilliant videos on the Hue Animation Youtube channel teaching you tips and tricks.

And this is the movie we ended up creating:

Finished Result

Thomas was absolutely thrilled with his movie, he thinks it’s amazing, and I was so proud of him. He came up with an original storyline, and we worked hard trying to get the frame lengths and text as he wanted. It was a very proud moment for him when he invited his friends around to watch it on Youtube. They couldn’t believe he had made it.

Coincidently saving the file ready for upload the Youtube is simply one click. extremely simple.

As I said Thomas was thrilled with his movie, however the perfectionist in me can see a few problems, and in the next movie were making I am trying to correct these.

Firstly you can see throughout the film that the light changes. That’s my fault really. The instructions do suggest using a static light source like a lamp, but we didn’t have a desk lamp to use. I’m going to get a small lamp to use for our movie making by next time.

The other thing was the blank background. We filmed our figures inside a shoebox so the colour would be all blank and I could then use Hue Animations ‘Chroma Key’ setting, to paste a background behind like a green screen.

Unfortunately it didn’t work out very well as some of the figures we used had white on them, so when we projected the background,  it went over the figures too. Again this was my fault, I should have used a green screen but we just wanted to film as soon as we opened the box.

The shoe box worked well as a film set, but we are going to paint it green for next time.

Final Thoughts

For kids and parents looking to make some fun memories and fab movies the Hue Animation studio is just the ticket. I have no doubt that there is better movie making software out there available for much much more money, but with its £50 price tag  Hue Animation is unbelievable value for money. Plus the software is so simple and user friendly, the kids can create movies all by themselves.

We had so much fun making our little movie, and Thomas learnt a lot too. I would most definitely 100% recommend it.

Information from the makers:

The Good Toy Guide approved Hue Animation Studio contains everything a budding animator needs to begin creating stop motion animation videos.  Children can discover, imagine and create stop-motion animation through powerful, easy-to-use,animation software complete with Hue’s market leading Plug ‘n’ Play HD camera with built-in microphone and a unique flexible neck for unlimited positioning options. 

The software (used in schools and at home) helps children to create simple visual adaptations using toys, modelling clay, play figures and stop-frame animation techniques.  The process of animating with the Hue Animation Studio encourages children to learn a diverse range of skills in both a fun and stimulating way.  They can create a story, create characters, make them from clay or plasticine, design and make sets, compose soundtracks or select appropriate recorded music to enhance a film.

Disclosure: We were sent a copy of Hue Animation Studio in order for us to give a full and honest review. All opinions are of course my own.

Smiggle – Review

This week the Toybuzz boys have been a total whirlwind of creativeness, thanks to the amazing bundle of Smiggle goodies we were sent.

Smiggle are a cool Australian stationary company which are this week branching out over to blighty, opening a store this Wednesday at Westfield Stratford. This will be followed by further store launches in Reading, Brighton and Kingston. You can also check them out at their website www.smiggle.co.uk.

The main thing that struck me about all the lovely things we received was the sense of humour and fun the brand has. Everything was very vibrant and vivid, the theming of the notepads and pens were wonderful, the boys and I just loved the direction of the brand immediately.

We received a great array of different stationary goodies – pens, colouring pencils, notepads, rulers and rubbers, pencil cases, and some great creative activity packs like a scratch art book.

The felt tip pens come in a brilliant plastic case, which is really handy for keeping them tidy. They are slightly smelly too, but not overpowering like some can be. A nice subtlety.

Jacob’s favourite product has been the scratch book. You get lots of black pages and a little plastic stick with which to scratch the black away. Underneath the black is a myriad of colours, so the image you scratch away looks stunning. It’s great fun, and gives you a really dramatic effect.

No sooner had Thomas and Jacob dove into the bag of Arty loveliness, Thomas had come up with the perfect project for him to use them with. He formed the ‘Minecraft Colouring Club’ for him and his school buddies.

Everyday he’s been travelling to school with his backpack full to the brim of colouring pens, sketch books and pencils. All the materials he and his friends need for some cool creative fun at playtime.  I’ve been amazed by some of the things they have all come up with. Plus I’m really happy that for the past week he’s been spending more time drawing at the kitchen table than playing his tablet.

Apologies to Smiggle that the only thing he’s been colouring is video game related, but at least it’s cut down his screen time for a while.

Smiggle’s name means “Where a smile meets a giggle”, and from what I’ve seen in the few days my boys have been busy Smiggle, the name is very very apt :)

If your lucky enough to live anywhere near Westfield Stratford I would highly recommend giving the new store a visit on opening day Thursday 20th February. I only wish I lived nearby as I’d be there for sure.

Disclosure: We received a selection of Smiggle products in order for us to give an honest review

Hama Beads – Review

Sorry everyone for not updating the site as often as usual, busy summer holidays and everything

As well as that there’s another thing that has recently been keeping me away for the website – Hama Beads! My new obsession!!

Hama Beads Starter Kit

I picked up a small Hama Beads starter kit with my goody bag from the Christmas in July show I went to last month.

Initially the set got sidelined as it was heavily pink and lilac beads, and I thought that my sons wouldn’t be that interested in some girly beads.

However Getting close to half way through the holidays, I’m struggling to keep the kids amused 24/7, so we decided to crack it open and give it a go.

If you’re not familiar with Hama beads, they are small craft beads which you place on a pegboard to create a design. When you’ve finished placing the beads, you cover the beads with ironing paper and run the iron over them for about 10 seconds. The beads then fuse together in the heat, and then you can peel your design off the paper.

Hama Beads is a brand of beads, there are also Perler beads which is another brand, or they are also known as fuse beads.

Our first Hama Bead creation was a really simple bird that we copied from the pack photo. I was a bit surprised that the set didn’t come with any patterns or design instructions to use, but we did ok following the bird simply from the photo.

Our First Hama Bead project

Mini, Midi or Maxi

There are 3 different versions of Hama beads that you can get. Maxi, Midi and Mini.

Maxi beads or My First Hama Beads are Toddler sized, and recommended for 3 year olds and up. Midi beads are slightly bigger and the most common Hama Bead size you will find in stores. Midi beads are the size that we have been using and getting along well with.

I’m interested to maybe experiment with the smallest size of Mini Hama Beads, simply to see how much of a difference to the finished product they make. Being smaller they can be used to create more intricate creations, but then are also the hardest to use as they are so small.

Finding Hama Bead Patterns

One of the best places we’ve found Hama/Perler Bead patterns is a simple google image search. It’s crazy the amount of Hama bead designs that will come up. If you’re looking for popular video game or cartoon characters than I can guarantee you they will be there.

If your lucky you’ll find a pixel pattern which tells you exactly what colours you need and where to put the beads on the board. If you buy a transparent peg board you can even print out the pattern and place it behind your pegboard as a guide.

The good thing about Hama/Perler bead designs – even if you can only find a picture of someones finished design, you can use that to copy from. As the designs mostly keep their beady shape it’s usually quite easy to count the beads on the simpler designs and work from there.

After our first effort of the little bird, we quickly progressed onto some really cool pixel art designs.

Wanting to still start off relatively easy, Thomas decided to tackle some Mario Mushrooms. These were actually very simple, and he did them all on his own, copying the design in around 20 minutes for each mushroom.

Hama Bead Mario Mushrooms

Jake the Dog from Adventure Time in Hama Beads

Legend of Zelda Shield in Hama Beads

Once we’d really got the hang of setting up the beads and copying the designs there was nothing stopping us, and we’ve been beading practically non stop for the last few days.

Hama Bead Super Mario Fire Flower

 

The only thing that has scuppered our beading is the fact that we ran out of black beads!!

Buying Hama Beads 

This is obviously my personal experience, but this is how we went about starting our Hama Bead collection.

We started off with our small starter set, and I think that’s definitely the way to go to make sure that Hama beads are for you before you start spending more money on beads.

Once you’ve really fallen in love with them then you can start getting serious. The next step I would recommend is getting one of the big Hama Bead Boxes, you can get big tubs in various different six and colour mixes but we went straight for the mixed 10,000 bead bucket and that was a brilliant starter palette of colours for us.

Once you actually start getting into the serious making you get to know which colours you need more than others, and can then progress to buying the 1,000 bead packs of one colour to top you up.

As we have really got serious very quickly we also splashed out on a craft box with compartments for sorting the beads in their respective colours. Tipping out the big bucket looking for colours every time got boring really quickly, so having all the beads ready and waiting is excellent. Even though you still have to do the initial sort out, it’s so worth it when they are sitting pretty in their trays.

Hama Bead Hello Kitty

So that’s about it. We’ve only been using the Hama Beads for a week, but we absolutely love it. Even if they don’t seem you or your children’s thing, I implore you to just give one of the small starter kits a go. It’s absolutely so much fun, calms the kids down a treat, improves hand eye co-ordination, and is just a joy to do.

Keep a check on our Facebook and Twitter as I will definitely be updating you all with our latest creations.

 

Christmas in July #1

The last few weeks have been a very busy bunch in the toy world.

This is the time of year when all the toy companies and PR agencies hold little get togethers under the title of ‘Christmas In July’. A time for gathering all their latest and greatest products that they are hoping will be the big draws on Santas list for the upcoming holiday season.

Last Week I attended two such events, and made it back alive to tell you all about it.

Firstly I’ll start with Tuesday at Evolution Pr’s Christmas in July event. This is one of the big press preview events for toys, and with nearly 30 different exhibiting companies there was plenty on offer to catch my eye.

There was honestly so much that I had the privilege of seeing, but it would take me all day to go into absolutely everything. So this is just my taster of all my favourite bits.

The first stand I visited was Goldfish & Bison, who are a british company which distribute a range of classic brands like Spirograph and Simon, and totally new products such as Laser Pegs and Trendiy Art.

They had an amazing stand full of some really interesting and innovative products.

Laser Pegs are a new type of construction brick, and I can see them being a massive draw this Christmas time.

These brilliant bricks light up in vivid rainbow colours when you connect them up to their battery pack or a battery base plate.

Another product which I think could do very well is the new Spirograph Studio set.

The set contains all the Spirograph stencils that we all remember, but the new addition is the ability to now view your spirally creations in 3D thanks to the special 3D Ink pens and optical viewing glasses. I had a little go myself and it really did work, and at RRP £24.99 for the set its excellent value for money.

I also had great fun trying out their brand new board game Creepy Hand. It’s a kiddie version of truth or dare, but with a creepy disembodied hand wandering around the table. Whoever the hand stops and points its bony finger at is the unfortunate player who has to answer the question.

Next up I moved on over to Bladez Toyz to check out their huge range of Radio Controlled toys.

Unfortunately those incredible inflatable Minions you can see aren’t actually in production as yet, but I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on one of those soon.

The R2D2 is available though, and he’s very cool too. The toys have to be pumped up first before you can play, but you get the foot pump in the pack. The controls are very simple to use, and being inflatable it wont hurt your toy if you keep on bumping them into the furniture!

I also loved Bladez Toyz range of Gyro Helicopters, which had some extra special skills. Available in 3 different versions, one of the helicopters will shoot bubbles, another water, and the last will shoot tiny projectile darts.

 

I could have spent all day over at The Trash Pack table taking in the vast array of Trashie products they had on show.

The new Trash Pack Playset for this Christmas will be the Sewer Dump. It’s like a dirty and filthy Trashie theme park, with rides and slides, and lots to keep fans happy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The highlight of the whole show for me was the Schleich stand. I was totally blown away by their new Dragon Knights range.

The attention to detail in these Dragon and Knight figures was incredible, and I loved the whole concept of the two groups of warrior knights battling it out.

I really hope that the Dragon Knights from Schleich do well, and I urge you all to check that range out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over at Flair, I saw lots of Doc McStuffins toys, Turtles and even more Trash Pack. However there was one new property from them that really stood out, a range of dolls called Pinkie Cooper and the Jet Set Pets.

Pinkie Cooper and her friends are high fashion pets which love jet setting around the world come with their own Passports.

Strangely even though they are all dogs themselves, they also travel with their own miniature pet pooches.

I loved the styling of Pinkie, and if you have a little budding fashionista in the making I’m sure Pinkie and her Pals would go down tremendously well.

 

 

With that I set off back home for the day, only to be back a few days later with the kids in tow for the Mi-Christmas Open House. I’ll give you all the low down about that tomorrow :0