Monday, November 28, 2011

Lite Sprites by WowWee: Review and Coupon Code

The bottom line: This toy set is great for keeping kids attention for a long time.  Lots of different interactive parts, and color learning/matching activities.  Be advised if you purchase the Tree of Lite alone, it does not come with any Sprite characters...they are sold separately as are the accessories! The more accessories that you have, the more fun the whole set is.

Visit the WowWee Toy Shop and use the coupon code: blogpromo10 for 10% off of your total purchases!
Ok, the little people in our house were extremely impressed with the new Lite Sprite toys from WowWee! This set of toys kept 5 little girls (ranging in age from 2-11 years old) happily entertained for the longest time.  And to be fair, the boys thought they were kind of cool too. :)

Our set includes:
Tree of Light: Tree house with a stairway, an elevator, and a green scape base for the sprites to play in. The tree top lights up, changes color, and can spin!

Lite Wand with Prisma Sprite and Pod: Sprites can ride in their pods which attach to the Tree of Lite which can be rotated taking them on a fun "ride". The wand causes other toys and accessories to react with light, color and sound!

Lite Sprite with pod: each Lite Sprite changes to a rainbow of different colors and reacts to motion and the Lite wand.

Lite Sprites Lite Pets: pets are nice to add extra "participants" in the play... they come with a log to sleep on.

Lite Sprite Swing: Sprites can ride on their swing and magically change colors as they swing back and forth.

Six-year-old Wyn was delighted when she saw the magic wand. This wand is so completely magical as it makes musical sounds and lights up a rainbow of changing colors! We were particularly surprised when we saw that the wand has a sensor that can copy a color from almost any random object and reacts by lighting up in a matching color. Press a different button, and the wand changes the color of the little Sprite fairies and all of the accessories.

**Warning: We made a fun discovery! If the there are Light Strike games going on while Lite Sprites are "playing", the Light Strikes (also made by WowWee) change the colors of the Lite Sprite toys!  But never fear, the magic wand can overpower the Light Strikes until they run out of "health"!  :)

Thinking of purchasing toys from the Light Sprite collection or any other WowWee toys? Visit the WowWee Toy Shop and use the coupon code: blogpromo10 for 10% off of your total purchases!

Disclosure: We received the Light Sprite toys and accessories listed above for review. The opinions we have expressed are honest opinions and have not been influenced by the companies providing the product. No other compensation was received.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Paper Jamz Pro Series by WowWee: Review and Coupon Code

The Bottom Line:

- Expansion of an already popular line yields some entertaining additions.
- Something for everyone results in a fun "concert" experience. Pick your favorite.
- Still have pre-programmed songs that you will hear over and over and over again!

 WowWee Toy Shop 10% off coupon code: blogpromo10
We were blessed with several new items from the popular Paper Jamz line. In combination with nine children (not all of them ours), they were a lot of fun...and noisy! Now that I have recovered a bit, I can reflect on the experience as follows:

Pro Series Drum Kit
This is a pretty full drum kit, especially compared to stick-oriented setups, but it's on a much smaller scale, for fingers. It is pretty fun to play, The rhythms are challenging to keep up with, but the music (repeating over and over!) gets old fast (this applies to all the Paper Jamz players).
BUT! But now, in the Pro Series, you can load your own music on! Yes! Now we are having fun!

Pro Series Guitar
This guitar was really easy to figure out and was fun to play with. I had to threaten small children with electronic banishment unless they let me check it out, so does it rate with the 3-12 crowd? Oh, yes.
And now it rates with the 40+ crowd because you can load The Who and Rush on it! The Pro Series is the right direction.
Microphone - Amplifier
This mic - amp combo was a huge hit! The six-year-old conducted an entire TV show and did not willingly share. The voice modulator works great and is very fun, especially when you plug the unit into your stereo!  If the 4-year-old gets too close to the amp, the feedback gets pretty annoying! Still, this is a great addition to the band.

Justin Bieber Keyboard Guitar
After I finally figured out how to put this keytar into freeform keyboard mode, I was able to work with it. Until that time, Justin's voice popped out with a different line with every key, which the 3 year old thought was amusing. It is well-designed (as are all the Paper Jamz), but the real reason one will buy this (or not) is that Justin's name and picture are on it...and because it says "Paper Jamz"!

 If your kids, of just about any age, like performing like their favorite bands, I can't imagine a better set of "instruments"! The Paper Jamz name is well-known and the quality is good. When all the instruments get going, it becomes more of a cacophony, but maybe I'm too old. I'm still getting used to the no-button controls, but the kids pick it up just fine. Finally, the features on the "Pro" series (the ability to download your own music choices) definitely moves this series into the 12+ age range, and makes it easier on the parents' sanity.

Now, if I could only change the music on the Justin Bieber keytar... ;)

Thinking of purchasing toys from the Paper Jamz series? Visit the WowWee Toy Shop and use the coupon code: blogpromo10 for 10% off of your total purchases.

Disclosure: We received the Paper Jamz toys and accessories listed above for review. The opinions we have expressed are honest opinions and have not been influenced by the companies providing the product. No other compensation was received.

Light Strikes by WowWee: Review and Coupon Code

Bottom Line:
- A lot of friends + a lot of Light Strikers = Lots of fun.
- Extras are fun, but choose carefully if you are on a budget.

WowWee Toy Shop 10% off coupon code: blogpromo10

Light Strike is a laser tag-type system released by WowWee (the makers of the popular Paper Jamz music toys) this year. We tested two Assault Strikers, one Striker, and the various targets (mini, strike, vest, and the "Intelligent Targeting System" [ITS]). We also used several attachments (scope, refractor launch, enemy scanner, and rapid fire system).

The system works by sending infrared signals out from the Striker; any Striker that receives the signal and is not on the same team (blue, red, green, or yellow - yes, FOUR teams are possible!) loses health. How much depends on the type of shot. Each Striker can change the type of shot it produces, akin to shotgun, sniper, silenced, etc. The Assault Strikers have more options, but the smaller Strikers are quite effective and have some options. They also have an advantage: when playing in the dark (which is a blast), it is hard to find the Paper Jamz-like sensor locations on the sides of the Assault Strikers, but the Striker G.A.P.-024 that we tried has actual buttons on the top. If you get used to the locations, maybe it would not be a big deal, but I prefer a button I can feel when my other senses are engaged trying to see friend or foe.

The ITS is a cool gadget. The team who shoots it five times first "owns" it, then it goes into one of three modes: Medic, Bomb, or Sentry. In Medic mode, the "owning" team can shoot the ITS (which also rotates, making this more difficult) and restore health. Sentry mode can shoot players of opposing teams, while the Bomb sends out a signal that depletes health of opposing teams really fast. It is a fun device, but should be used in close quarters for best effect. The other targets begged one big question: "Why?" When shot, all they do is turn the color of the Striker that did the shooting. Given more time, we may think up some games to play with them (Capture the Flag is possible, but it would be easy to cheat). It may help to include some game ideas right in the packaging, or at least some on the website. Beyond that, the instructions were accurate, but minimal (and had tiny type).

The other attachments supposedly improve aim, destructive power, etc. I am sure that given enough time, maybe we would have developed greater sophistication with the system to use these effectively, but it was just a lot of fun to run around shooting each other and the ITS.
 I enjoy tag-type games a lot and was really looking forward to this review. I played with a couple of 8-year-olds who enjoyed the experience immensely! The worst thing is that I wish we had more Strikers and more people - the more the merrier! The devices were robust (8-year-olds are not gentle with toys) and worked quite well. The range was about 10-20 yards, which made our large-ish yard (200ft x 80ft) a bit too big. Our small-ish house, though, was too close for comfort. Thus, I recommend a small yard with many obstacles for cover, or inside a large house or building. For us, the next stop is our big old church! It would not be the first time such games have been played there.

Overall, it was a fine experience with the system. If I were looking at scaling up for a youth group or recreation group, this system would definitely be on the short list. Again, with a limited budget, I would focus on more Strikers and less on the extras, with the possible exception of the ITS. The Assault Strikers are great for more complex scenarios, but the basic sets are good for a lot of fun. WowWee has a(nother) winner here!

Thinking of Purchasing Light Strikes? Visit the WowWee Toy Shop and use the coupon code: blogpromo10 for 10% off of your total purchases.

Disclosure: We received the Light Strike toys and accessories listed above for review. The opinions we have expressed are honest opinions and have not been influenced by the companies providing the product. No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chico Bag and Cyber Monday Deals Coupon Code

Check out the participating companies for "Save Green" deals on Cyber Monday, November 28th!  If you've been thinking of getting a Chico Bag, now is the time as they are offering 40% off on Cyber Monday!
Use the coupon code 'savegreen' for purchases at any of the participating company websites.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

During the Holidays-Teach the Gift of Sharing

Article submitted by Kathleen Thomas on behalf of Primrose Schools

The principle of sharing is one that really cannot be overemphasized to children. While most children will go through a phase of thinking that everything they see or touch belongs to them exclusively, parents still need to actively teach the value of sharing one’s possessions with others, educational day cares may help but it is best if this act is taught at home. The holiday season is perhaps the best time of the year to help young ones understand how enjoyable sharing and giving to others truly can be, and with a bit of creativity, parents can ensure that this entire Christmas time is filled with fun lessons in giving.

Since the holiday season is really centered on gift giving, this time of the year is perfect for parents to model ideal behavior in this area. Involve children in the process, explaining to them that they can find joy in giving presents to their siblings (or friends); since most children will not have the monetary means to actually purchase such gifts themselves, parents should budget in such a way that they can actually support the bill of any gifts. Later, when children are older and understand the importance of money better, they can graduate to buying presents for others themselves.

A perfect way to involve the whole family in the gift giving spirit is to “adopt” a less-fortunate family in your local community. If possible, choose a family that has a child around the same age as your own child. Make a shopping trip with the sole purpose of purchasing presents for this other family; include your child in the gift-purchasing decisions, especially for those gifts for the other family’s children. This way, your child will be taught the joy of giving to others; at the same time, you are serving as a role model for sharing your own (relative) wealth with others who might not be as blessed. This latter lesson is most likely one that your children will remember into adulthood.

Another great way to teach children how to share is to encourage them to produce a “Christmas Pageant” together. The play can be as short or long as the children would like. However, let the planning of the play be completed mostly by the children with minimal adult interaction. While this idea might not include sharing tangible items, it will encourage cooperative play, sharing ideas, and sharing the spotlight—all ideals that are important for forming a giving attitude in young minds.

Finally, take the holiday season to teach lessons in sharing by planning many family activities like baking Christmas cookies, decorating a gingerbread house, and reading Christmas stories together. Most family activities, by their very nature, demand that all family members work together to accomplish a common goal, and it is only through the sharing of ideas and objects and the respect of others opinions that these activities can be executed enjoyably. Even when planned activities don’t go entirely smoothly (such as a fight breaking out over the snowman cookie cutter), these moments can be used to teach the importance of sharing. Additionally, since many Christmas stories are centered on the importance of gift giving, reading these stories to children will also encourage kindness to others.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

WowWee Toys and Coupon Code!

Be watching in the next week for a review of WowWee toys!  WowWee is the creator of several super fun and unique toys including Paper Jamz, Light Strike, and Lite Sprites!

In the mean time, head over to the WowWee Toy Shop and start your Christmas shopping!  Use the coupon code: blogpromo10 to get 10% off of your purchases!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Free Printable: Get organized for a more relaxing holiday!

Need a great tool to help you get organized for the holidays?  I have been using this free printable holiday control journal from Flylady for years now, and it really helps!  There are places for Christmas lists, menus, recipes, receipts, decorating plans and ideas, traditions and so much more! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Auto-B-Good: Pirates of the Parkway

Pros: Nicely animated, lovable characters, cute artwork, colorful, captivating, episodes are short

Cons: Episodes are short, can't think of any others.

Summary: If you are looking for cute kid DVD's with valuable life lessons woven into the storyline for home or classroom use, Auto-B-Good series is worth checking out!

Purchase: Auto-B-Good: Pirates of the Parkway here.

The dvd we reviewed (Pirates of the Parkway)has 5 episodes:

Car Tune Pirates (a story about honesty)

Up From the Depths (Joyfulness)

Digging for Gold (Cooperation)

And bonus episodes:
A Tidy Plan (Cleanliness)

Shop 'Til You Drop (Self-Control)

Our thoughts:
My kiddos love to watch movies! As a mama and a teacher, I love when movies are not only entertaining, but also teach valuable lessons.  This was a really nicely animated movie series with lovable, colorful  characters and great lessons to learn! My kids love the fact that the cars and trucks in Auto B Good are the main characters. This dvd kept the attention of all the kids in our house with ages ranging from 3-8 years old. Even my 3 year old was able to tell me about the movie afterwards and understood the lesson in the story.  She said, "It's not okay to take away from people when it doesn't belong to you". :) My girls said they especially liked the "girl cars" and the boys liked the "boy cars".  My 8 year old said that he especially like the episode, "Digging for Gold" because he liked the way all the cars worked together to help a friend.

Giveaway: Auto-B-Good is offering one Special Edition DVD: Auto-B-Good, Pirates of the Parkway to one lucky reader!

Disclosure:  We received Auto-B-Good: Pirates of the Parkway for reviewThe opinions we have expressed are honest opinions and have not been influenced by the companies providing the free product.  No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher

Pros: In-depth, well-acted, well-paced dramas that wonderfully capture personalities and events
Cons: Actor/actress shift confusion (if watched in a row), lack of knowledge of British politics may leave non-parliamentarians scratching their heads
Bottom line: Great for anyone who likes drama or history. Will get you looking up deeper facts and details.

I was sent these dvds for my general interest in 20th century history. Some historical dramas just drag, while others skip through events like rocks across a shallow stream. My hopes were dim for these productions until I noticed two things:
1) They were produced by the BBC.
2) There are 284 minutes of screen time.
Since they came from the BBC, I could at least assume that they had to hold closely to facts, that the writers had good access to original sources, and that Hollywoodization would be somewhat minimized. All media has slant, but my hope was that I was in a low-spin zone, even for such a controversial figure as Mrs. Thatcher.
The nearly six hours of screen time put me on guard for a snoozer...needlessly.

I loved it.

The first movie, "The Long Walk to Finchley" is an account of Thatcher's efforts to land a seat in Parliament. Other key events, as well as her struggles against sexism, are woven in seamlessly.

The second, "The Falklands Play" focuses on the Falkland Islands War with Argentina. It depicts the debates swirling around the activities of the Argentinians and the controversies and second-guessing as events unfolded. The Americans are shown as unsophisticated buffaloes that are taken to task by the Prime Minister...but maybe that's what we are and that's what happened. My 8-year-old even liked it!

The third, "The Fall" recounts the political machinations that brought her down. What I found amazing was how quickly this happened...and from within her own party! This was the most confusing of the three movies, as I am not familiar with the inner workings of the British Parliament (and this was produced by the BBC for British consumption). However, it sent me to the internet to read up on it, which was quite welcome. It also had several flashbacks to key events in her life (more on that below).

These movies were well-acted, directed, and produced. Casting was superb and the screenplay was paced just about right. I rarely say that I want to watch a movie again, (especially ones that do not have explosions), but I will someday when the kids are learning 20th-century history.

I had one important trouble with the films: they used different actors and actresses for the various parts. Thus, the Thatcher of "The Fall" actually looked younger that the "Falklands" (and much younger than I remember the real Mrs. Thatcher at the time), I believe partly due to the fact that the flashbacks required the same actress. A little more age makeup may have helped. What really confused things were that different actors were used for the same parts, so MP "John" in "Falklands" looked completely different than MP "John" in "Fall", so it was hard to remember who was who, especially when such matters are critical to the story. Then again, maybe I shouldn't have watched them so close together!

All in all, though, well-done and interesting. What more could a history trilogy need?

Disclosure:  We received The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher on DVD  for reviewThe opinions we have expressed are honest opinions and have not been influenced by the companies providing the free product.  No other compensation was received.