Wednesday 6 December 2017

What are little boys' (Christmas wishlists) made of? (gift guide)

Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails? Well, maybe not - but not too far off either, if Pierre is anything to go by. He's obsessed with keeping pet snails and making slime, so he's a bit of a walking stereotype really ! That said, Juliette is just as much of a slime-addict as her brother. I on the other hand, am not so keen because there are tubs of semi-successful tubs of goo dotted around the house ! All of these gift ideas are Pierre's top picks but they would appeal equally to many little girls (and Juliette will be sharing her picks in another post.)

As far as I can tell, you can't go wrong with Pokemon trading cards. I must admit, I'm surprised at just how long Pierre and all his school-friends have been having fun swapping Pokemon cards. Eight-year-old boys are usually fickle when it comes to playground crazes and jump off one bandwagon and onto the next in the blink of an eye. Pokemon cards seem to have lasting appeal though, and this particular craze has been going since way before the summer holidays - that's an eternity in pre-teen years ! Pokemon burst on to the video game scene over 20 years ago and its original premise - creating something that would capture the childhood wonder of discovering new creatures, collecting them and sharing them with friends - is still at the heart of the brand's appeal. There is all sorts of merchandise available, from clothing and soft toys to headphones, alarm clocks and docking stations, but the classic trading cards are what Pierre loves the most, as they can be discovered, traded, battled, collected and shared with his friends.

The cards are available in booster packs of ten random cards or theme decks (shown in the the top photo) of 60 cards, designed to introduce players to the Pokemon Trading Game by enabling them to play right away. As well as creature cards, you'll discover Trainer and Energy cards and, if you're really lucky, you might get some high-powered cards or even a GX or two. The newest expansion pack - Sun & Moon Crimson Invasion - is available in two theme decks, Clanging Thunder or Destruction Fang, featuring  either the Alolan Exeggutor-GX or Gyarados-GX card. (RRP depends on the retailer but is usually about £12 for the theme decks.)

From one set of mythical creatures to another, this time in book form. The Dinosaur Detectives by Stephanie Baudet (RRP £23.96) is a four book set for 7-11 year olds, featuring 12 year old Matt Sharp. Now that he is 12, he is allowed to join his paleontologist father (and his rather annoying cousin Jo) on archaeological adventures to find fossils and dinosaur eggs. He also has an amazing secret talent - when he touches a dinosaur egg, he gets transported back in history to see the dinosaurs roaming around. There's a lot of adventure and suspense as Matt's dad has an arch rival who will stop at nothing to get the glory and money of finding these rare artifacts. Ideal for beginner and reluctant readers of both sexes, the books are short and manageable, with black and white drawings to help break the text up into manageable chunks. Pierre read the whole series back to back and it was nice for him to read the bedtime stories to me for a change ! For more info, head over to Boolino.

Havex Machines, the newest transformer-type toy from MGA Entertainment targetting boys aged 6+, were also a big hit here at The Madhouse ...

... and not just with Pierre ! There are seven unique vehicles to collect, including Combat Bot with its advanced weaponry and powerful armour, Strike Chopper, perfect for attacks needing heavy firepower and the ability to avoid enemy fire, Lightning Sub, offering mighty defence against a coastal attack and Sonic Jet, the best at battlefield recon with its speed and firepower !

Race your micro car into the battle pod and watch it automatically transform into an awesome land, sea or air vehicle, then get ready to #wreakhavex ! (RRP £11.99)

Staying on the transport theme, you may remember back in 2015, I reviewed the original Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus book, by Sue Wickstead. (Click through for that review.)  It is a fictional tale based on a real life bus called Supersonic, transformed from neglected rust bucket to a mobile kids' playground. The second book in the series, Jay-Jay and His Island Adventure (RRP £6.99), follows the next part of his journey, to an island where the excited children have never seen a double decker bus before, let along a play bus ! Despite feeling apprehensive and a little seasick, Jay-Jay heads off on the ferry, with dreams (and play activities) full of pirates and sunken treasure. Pierre loved seeing Jay-Jay going on a ferry, as he's used to regularly taking the cross-Channel ferries himself to visit family, and the numerous brightly-coloured, detailed illustrations gave him lots to look at. At the back of the book, you can learn all about the real-life Jay-Jay, as well as a Scottish play bus heading to the Shetland Islands, which inspired this second story.

Brainbox (RRP £11.99, age 4+, for 1 or more players) is a fabulous educational game that exists in numerous versions, with themes ranging from animals and the Mr Men to Roald Dahl and transport. We've been having great fun playing with the Peppa Pig Brainbox and it's also a great way of improving memory, concentration and observation skills. Inside the box, you get 55 cards (plus a rules card), an egg timer and a dice. You study the picture on one side of the card until the sand has ru through the timer, then roll the dice and ask the question on the back of the card relating to the number you rolled. Pierre actually prefers to do away with the dice altogether and just answer all of the questions on the back of each card! The cards all feature scenes involving Peppa and her family in familiar scenes. It's great to find a brain-challenge type of game that is so much fun and also quick and simple to play.

Pierre's final choice (and I have to say, I was secretly pleased at how many books he included !) was The Desert Challenge (RRP £4.99), from the Bear Grylls Adventures series. Each book in the 12-book young readers series follows a different child on the outdoor activity camp. Once they are given the magical compass, they meet the inspirational adventurer in an amazing place and learn new skills and facts that they can take back with them to their real life. Much to Pierre's delight, this book focuses on Sophie (like his sister) and her fear of insects (like his sister !). With the help of survival expert Bear Grylls as her guide, she will learn how to withstand the extreme temperatures of the desert and how to spot mirages, encounter giant camel spiders, deadly scorpions and snakes . . . but will Sophie overcome her fear of insects back in the real world? And who will she give the compass to next? I loved Bear Gryll's Top Ten Things To Do Before You’re Ten campaign with Persil, encouraging kids to get outside and get dirty, and I thought he was especially lovely when I got to grill (get it ?!) him in an exclusive interview here on the blog. The stories are exciting, educational and promote all the great outdoorsy values that you'd expect from Bear Grylls. 

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


  1. Thanks for.this. I only have girls so.really struggle.when it comes to buying for my nephews

  2. Great ideas - we love the brain box games!

  3. Thanks for these ideas and reviews. I have 2 boys and they would love some of these x

  4. Thanks for these ideas and reviews. I have 2 boys and they would love some of these x


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