It’s nearly the most wonderful time of the year! The happ… happiest season of all! The kids jingle belling and everyone telling you to be a good cheer, with much mistletoeing, hearts will be glowing when loved ones a near.. the most wonderful time of the year!
With Christmas in mind we took our chance to trial the top toys for boys and girls for Christmas this year from Vtech and Leap Frog.
Meet Jaxon, one of our Junior Toy Analysts
Favourite colour: Green
Favourite food: Steak
Favourite things to do:
Jaxon loves to be outside – fishing, swimming, building forts or riding his bike with his best friend next door. If there’s ever an opportunity to dress up he’s also really committed to getting into character!
Vtech Switch n Go Dinos – Torr
Jaxon loves anything that he can transform so he was very excited when he got hold of his new dino/car. These clever little guys can be easily manipulated into either a car or a dinosaur, and it makes some very cool sounds in each of its forms. Jax had no trouble figuring out how to switch between the two forms and needed no parental help (although a younger child might need some guidance from mum or dad the first time they try it). He loved the talking features as Torr says some very funny things! You can also press the action button to hear some fun dinosaur facts and sounds and watch as his eyes light up. And when it’s in car form it makes vroom-ing noises so he could drive it around the house and use his imagination to pretend it was driving up ramps and off road before switching into a dinosaur once the driving was done.
He described Torr as “so awesome” and insisted on taking it to school the next day to show off to his friends. Since then, he has played with it almost every day and can recite all the dino facts and the lines that Torr says off by heart. As a parent, often toys that make sounds can drive you a bit crazy after a while but I love that he is actually learning some useful facts about dinosaurs – “Mum did you know that a therizinosaurus only eats plants?”. There is a volume control switch though if you do need to keep noise levels down, but for Jaxon the sounds are very much part of the playing experience so I’m happy to let him run wild with it!
Vtech Kidizoom Smart Watch DX2
Jaxon has been asking for a spy watch this whole year, so he couldn’t believe his luck at getting the chance to try out the Vtech Kidizoon Smart Watch! Although not quite a spy watch, this is pretty much a mini-computer for your wrist with so many clever multimedia features – it has both analogue and digital watch faces on its 1.44-inch screen, an alarm, 0.3-megapixel camera, stop watch and timer, voice recording, pedometer and games.
The first thing Jaxon wanted to try was the games – there are 5 built into the watch, with the option of adding more by downloading extra free content from VTech’s Learning Lodge.
The games aren’t just for fun, they actually have an educational element to them like solving mini logic puzzles. He has to think about a strategy to succeed in the games which helps with his short attention span. It’s really cool to see him trying to work things out by himself – the games are challenging but not too difficult for a 6 year old, so when he does crack one he is so proud of himself. This teaches him not to give up, and that there is always a solution to a problem if you just slow down and take the time to think about it. Good life lessons!
The Monster Catcher game creates an augmented reality gaming experience where you can capture monsters in the real world so this has been hours of fun running around the house and garden on the “hunt”.
The camera is a real hit with him and his friends – they can take selfies or photos of each other and add some cool effects from the Silly Yourself app to create some really fun photos. There is also a video camera so that they can record their adventures and pretend they have their own Youtube channel (which seems to be what all kids want to do these days). They have also been getting great entertainment out of the voice recorder, recording their voices and then overlaying the recordings with the voice changing options included – you can sound like a robot, or add a deep voice effect or slow “snail” effect. Lots of laughter!
We’ve been teaching Jax how to tell the time so the Time Master feature included on this Smart Watch is very helpful and we’ve already noticed how he is improving with his time telling after wearing this watch for the past few weeks.
It’s comfortable to wear and has a safe buckle so shouldn’t be easily lost. It’s quite chunky and looks a little bit big on Jax’s wrist but this does make it easy for him to operate with his other hand. He’s so happy wearing it in fact that he never wants to take it off!
Leap Frog RockIt Twist Handheld Gaming System and RockIt Pets Game Pack
Always up for a game, Jaxon was thrilled to try this gaming system – and I was equally as thrilled because for once he’s not trying to play Angry Birds on the iPad! These games are perfect to help him learn skills including literacy, math, problem-solving and creativity in a really fun and engaging way. There are 12 of them preloaded onto the gaming system across five game play categories, with three levels of difficulty. He loves that you achieve stars each time you progress onto another level with a medal as the big reward if you meet all the targets – he’s constantly striving to earn another star and is so proud of himself when he does!
It’s really easy to operate for little hands with four sides of colourful, light-up controls including buttons, dials, a spinner, slider, switch and D-pad to provide a totally unique way to play exciting games. When he’s playing a game, one of the eight game controls will light up to indicate when each control is needed so he can control it all by himself without any adult help.
What’s really cool about this gaming system is that as Jaxon grows and strengthens his skills, so does the Rockit Twist. You can add an expansion pack to take the challenges to the next level (RockIt Pets Game Pack). We tried Penelope Penguin: Pet Detective which comes in a little egg – inside is virtual RockIt pet called Barkham (which Jax has attached to his school backpack). The idea is that you hatch and grow Barkham from his egg and nurture him into growing big and strong by playing a variety of games – you can even play a game of fetch with him! You just need to plug the USB into your computer and input the activation key to install the game pack onto the RockIt Twist system (mum and dad need to help with this part). Once installed, Jax could go on cases, collect clues and solve mysteries in the Mystery Manor. He has to find clues, identify the culprit and solve the case with a focus on vocabulary, spelling and opposites.
Besides the games, Jax is also really enjoying the other functions like listening to his own music on the built-in MP3 player and getting arty by creating his own pictures using the Maker station.
Since there’s no need for Wi-Fi, kids can play anywhere, which makes this an awesome option if you are travelling with kids. Personally, I like that it gets Jaxon off the iPad where he plays games that aren’t really teaching him anything. My only concern was that he would get frustrated that this is not a touch screen device but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much he enjoys using all the dials and buttons to control the gaming centre, which helps with his motor skills too. This is a win in our house!
Has your child recently discovered a new favourite toy?
- Thumbs Up for These Wishlist Toys
- Puffins Little Book Club
- Top Toys Your Kids Will Love This Christmas
- Vtech Have Fun & Educational Toys for Bubs
- Penguin Book Club
- LEGO Duplo Submarine Adventure reviews
- Get Ready for Pure LEGO Joy | LEGO Toy Story 4+ Playset Review
- Buzz Lightyear Reporting for Play | Toy Review
- Your Kids Will Love These Lifelike Animal Toys
- LEGO Duplo Fire Truck reviews
- Defend the PJ Masks Headquarters | Toy Review
- The Kiwi Version of Scrabble is Here and it’s Awesome | Kids Review
- Must Have Toys for Little Imaginations | Kids Review
- ROBO ALIVE T-REX is a Hit Pick for the Kids
If you have a child aged 8 – 15 who would like to be one of our resident toy, book and movie reviewers, fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch next time we need a kid reviewer.