Gift Ideas for Christmas 2014: Toys Part 1

I’m gonna say one thing right off the bat: I’m a big child, and I love toys, and there are a lot of cool ones around these days, so it’s going to be hard to choose just a few. Therefore I’m going to do three of these toy posts to spread things out a bit. I’m also going to do my best to represent lots of different toy categories, including classic stuff, board games, video games, more affordable stuff, and more pricey stuff. So let’s get started!

Build-a-Bear Stuffed Toys

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I’m a huge fan of Build a Bear for numerous reasons. One is that their stuff is so well-made and nice-looking, not to mention being pretty resilient. Another is that they will re-stuff a previous purchase for free if it starts to get squished or worn down, which is just a nice service to have. A third one is that they make a bunch of licensed characters and they do an absolutely amazing job of making them look like the actual characters as they appear in their prospective cartoons/movies/whatever. Currently available in stores and online are a score of My Little Pony characters, all four modern-version Ninja Turtles, and Toothless from “How to Train Your Dragon”, amongst others. And right now you can even get Rudolph and Clarice from the Rankin-Bass stop motion Christmas classic. A single plush in any category averages between $25 and $30, which sounds like a lot for a stuffed animal, but they are a very decent size and very well-made. And if you want to really make the toy special, there’s a huge selection of clothing and accessories for your recipients’ little buddy. Just be warned: if you start delving into the clothes and accessories the price tag is going to rise very quickly.

Monopoly Junior

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Before you say anything, no, I am not bringing this board game up because I got it for free from Influenster. I’m bringing it up because I was genuinely impressed with it, and the fact that my daughter wanted to play it a million times in a row proves that it achieves its primary goal. This board game is a great way to introduce little ones to board games because it is easy to learn, and it is designed for the rounds to take around 10 to 20 minutes, so kids don’t get board or lose interest. There’s even a bit of an educational factor to it, since there’s counting involved, and you can use the game as a way to help teach your kids about money. At $15-$20, I personally think this is a great present that you and your little ones can enjoy together.

LeapFrog’s LeapBand

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Confession time: I haven’t actually seen this thing in action, but I do think it’s a really cute, interesting addition to the LeapFrog family. The LeapBand looks a bit like a smart-watch, and features software similar to the LeapPad “Pet Pals” games. Kids choose from a number of virtual pets, who then guide the child through fitness activities. They’ll be asked to jump, run, hop, roll, and any other number of activities, while the band monitors their motion. By completing activities the child earns rewards for their pet, levels up, and unlocks more games and activities. At $50 it’s not exactly cheap, but if you’ve got a small kid who is already becoming a bit of a couch potato, this might be just the thing to get them up and moving!

Come back tomorrow for more toy gift ideas!

#GameNight Taking Fun Back to the Basics

I recently told you about how I received a copy of Monopoly Junior for free from Influenster for testing purposes. Well, let’s just say that Game Night was a complete success. My daughter and I played 6 rounds in 2 days, and she’s been begging me all day to play again, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that she’s enjoying her free toy.

Nope. No fun happening here at all. :P
Nope. No fun happening here at all. 😛

Yes, it turns out that Monopoly Junior is just easy enough, just quick enough, and plenty fun enough to hold my 4-year-old’s attention for at least three straight days. Kudos, Hasbro. Kudos.

But that’s not the only thing this post is about. You see, as part of the tasks set to me by Influenster in return for the free game, I was asked to share my “favorite Hasbro Gaming experience”. Said experience doesn’t have to have anything to do with Monopoly Junior, just so long as it’s a Hasbro game that we’re talking about.

Well, after looking through the list of possible games that were provided as a jumping point on the Influenster website, I’ve got to say that I can’t really pick one particular moment, because there are so many that come to mind and make me chuckle!

The first game I saw on the list that made me grin ear-to-ear was “Barrel of Monkeys”, because I can remember playing this game with my cousin Tommy when we were only about as old as my daughter is now. We’d play the game normally, but also make a huge show out of stringing as many monkeys together as we could and hanging them over the side of the stairs to see if we could touch the floor below.

Then I saw “Perfection” and “Operation” on the list and I almost laughed out loud, because these two games were my first experience with stress as a child. The anticipation of Perfection’s board popping up into my face, or the Operation buzzer screaming at me, made my heart leap into my throat every time. And yet I kept coming back for more.

Then there was “Twister”, which I was always terrible at because I’m so clumsy, “Jenga”, which was both hysterical and frustrating at the same time because I’m so clumsy, and “Connect 4”, which saw many an outburst from me when my chips went the wrong way because, you guessed it, I’m clumsy.

It all culminates into “Scrabble”, which almost caused a few friendly fistfights between my husband and I, “Taboo”, which no one in the world is worse at than my father-in-law, and “Trivial Pursuit”, which has so many versions that I can’t count, and I don’t think I’ve ever won a single round of any of them.

All in all, I have to say that I never realized how many of these types of games I’ve played over the course of my life, and I find it highly amusing that I’m now passing the torch, so to speak, to my daughter. From her reaction to Monopoly Junior so far, I get the feeling that she’s going to have a list of her own like this 20 years from now. Keep up the good work, Hasbro!

Vox Box is Here! Hasbro #GameNight

So I never really spoke about this on the blog yet, but a few months ago I decided to try out a couple of websites that came highly recommended by some YouTubers I follow, and one of these was Influenster. Basically, what Influenster does is send out free items for people to test and review. The way you get chosen to receive a free item is by joining the website and writing short reviews (a little over a hundred words is acceptable) on products you’ve already used; by doing this and completing tiny mini-surveys, you earn “badges”, which show Influenster what kinds of products you may be suitable to test and review. When they send you a “Vox Box”, which is a shipment of one or more free products, you become a part of the “campaign” to talk about said product; you complete tasks as given to you by Influenster, and if you do a good job they send you more stuff to test and review. Basically, for taking a bit of time out of your day to use and talk about products, you continue to get said products for free. It’s actually quite a sweet set-up, if I do say so myself.

Recently I received my first Vox Box, which was from Hasbro Gaming as part of a #GameNight campaign. Check out the unboxing video:

So basically, for spending a bit of time writing quick reviews, I was sent a $20 board game to share with my daughter. The tasks that are assigned to this particular campaign have thus far taken me about 10 minutes tops, and I expect the rest of the tasks to add about 15 more minutes to the total. So the long and the short is that if you have a little bit of time to waste (I usually work on this kind of stuff when I can’t be doing anything else, like when I’m on the bus to and from work), you can get totally free stuff to try out and keep. Personally, I feel that the time I have put into Influenster thus far has been worth what I received in return, and I hope that they’ll continue to send me awesome stuff to review.

As for how my daughter and I enjoyed this lovely free gift from Hasbro, well…I’ll be writing a review a little later, but for now, I leave you with this pic:

Luv <3
#GameNight Luv ❤