Friday 15 December 2017

Great Gifts for Girls (and Boys) by Juliette (review roundup)

After having Pierre share his gift guide from a boy's perspective, it's time for Juliette to sit in the hot seat and share her top picks for things to put a smile on the girls' faces when they open their presents on Christmas morning. As with Pierre's ideas, most of these would appeal to children of both sexes though. In fact, forget demure and ladylike - we're on to the first thing on the list and I spy poo already ! Juliette was very excited to learn that The Emoji Movie was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 27th November.

She was even more excited to receive an #EmojiMovieParty watchalong kit, which showcased some of the lovely associated merchandise - volume limiting headphones, socks, a sticker book, a plush toy and, of course, the DVD of the movie. We received some fun activity sheets to tie in with the film, including masks, colouring sheets and a watchalong game that you can print out yourself if you click on my photo to enlarge it. Even without all the extras, it's a great DVD that the whole family will love. Meet Gene, the only emoji in Textopolis who isn't restricted to one facial expression - but he wants to be just like everyone else. He ropes in Jailbreak (the plush toy in the photo) to help fix his rogue code but as he journeys through the magical phone world, he realises that embracing his multiple personalities is the way to go. As well as featuring the emojis and mobile phone apps that today's teens couldn't live without, it has some great positive life lessons about not trying to fit into a box, letting your personality shine through and girls being as good at technology as the boys. It gets a unanimous smiley emoji and a thumbs up from The Madhouse !

Playmags were also a great hit, with both Juliette and Pierre. They are sturdy plastic tiles in a variety of shapes and colours that can be easily connected together to form many different geometric shapes and structures, including houses, towers, cubes, pyramids, cars ... you name it, you can let your imagination run wild and see what you can come up with !

Unlike some construction kits that are difficult to fit together for little fingers, Playmags - as their name suggests - are magnetic. The strong magnets attract on all sides so putting them together (and pulling them apart) is a breeze - keep delicate little fingers out of the way to avoid them being pinched between the magnets when they "snap" together. This did happen to us a couple of times, but it doesn't really hurt that much ! Building with these magnetic tiles inspires creativity and brain development, teaches basic maths concepts like counting, addition and subtraction, as well as providing fun construction-based play for children aged 3+. The bonus ABC letters and numbers ‘clickins’ make the sets even more fun and educational. Playmags sets come in eleven sizes from a 20-piece set up to a 150-piece set plus optional accessories. Available from RRP £19.99 at Amazon or for details visit

Ahh another creative toy - Juliette's crafty streak is shining through ! When we first laid eyes on Simbrix, we thought they would be just like Hama Beads but they have one huge advantage - you don't need to use a pegboard or iron them to fuse them together. I can already hear that collective parental sigh of relief. I've lost count of the number of times I've had to apologise because I couldn't be bothered to get the iron out just for one Hama Beads creation and the board got jogged and the design destroyed before it got finished. Simbrix are a bit like a cross between Hama Beads and Lego - they slot together so your design is robust and needs no adult help. I could tell these were created by a frustrated parent who'd had enough of Hama Beads ... and I was right ! The Cute Kit (RRP £18) that we reviewed contains approximately 1000 brix in 10 different colours, as well as a pack of cards with oodles of designs to help get your creative juices flowing, and a handy storage box. For more information :

I remember having great fun with I-Spy books in my own childhood so I love the fact that Juliette has included these in her roundup. Covering everything from cars, urban landmarks, insects, flowers, dogs, London, aircraft, trees or everything on the road (that really exists, I didn't just make it up !), they are a great way of whiling away long trips (the ferry, motorway and airport ones are a godsend !) or making nature walks extra interesting. Even as a grown-up, it's interesting to be able to put a name to unknown species and it's great to find an activity that the whole family can engage in that is both educational and fun. They only cost a few pounds so they'd make a great stocking filler.

Juliette is a huge fan of the Project Mc2 experiment kits, that tie in with the dolls and Netflix series of the same name. The whole ethos of the show is promoting STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, art and maths) for girls, so coming up with a cute fashion/beauty project and explaining the science behind it to make it educational is a really smart move. If you search "project mc2" on my sidebar, you'll see several reviews of the other kits and dolls with kits from the range that we've already tried out.

Juliette had great fun with the H2O Nail Science Kit (RRP £24.99) which provides a funky LED light/nail dryer unit that allows you to create marbled effect stick-on nails using nail varnish (not provided, which is a shame) and water. It's a bit hit and miss but the more you practise, the better you get at seeing what works and what doesn't. The nails themselves aren't great - the sizes seem either too big or too small and they don't stick on properly - but I'd say it's more about having fun making them and being creative than actually wearing them. There are some great tutorials online (such as this one) which I would definitely suggest watching before you have a go yourself. 

If you have a reluctant reader in the family, of either sex, Juliette highly recommends the wild and wacky Ramion series of books by Frank Hinks. Ramion is a magical, mind-boggling place where anything can happen (and frequently does) and the most extraordinary characters suddenly emerge. In this collection of enchanting fantasy stories, three boys travel the realm of Ramion on incredible adventures with their cat Snuggle, escaping from insidious foes: the witch Griselda, who longs to eat them, and the Princess of the Night, a keen collector of real human sculptures. Rock of Ramion (RRP £16.99), the fifth collection, contains three stand-alone, fantastical stories. In Boris and the Dumb Skulls, Griselda’s pet skull and her guards the dim daft dwarves form a punk band and seek freedom from the witch. The three boys fight to recover their mother’s stolen dream in The Dream Thief, and rescue their rock loving father, who has become possessed by the spirit of Jimi Hendrix in Frankie and the Dancing Furies. It is all as crazy and unexpected as it sounds, and the wild and wacky illustrations add to the whole drug-free but totally psychedelic experience ! This edition got bonus points from Juliette because the gorgeous hardback book is bright pink and gold embossed no less.

Hopefully you've found some inspiration for last minute gifts if you're still struggling !

Disclosure : We received the products in order to write an honest review.

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