Review – Nerf Bunkr Battle Cubes

These Nerf Bunkr inflatable cubes are the stuff of childhood dreams. We were delighted to be given the opportunity to review them. In the picture above Arlo is hiding right behind them, camouflaged and ready to take aim and fire with his nerf guns to unsuspecting mother over here who’s been the unfortunate target all afternoon, then we realised that these blocks also have targets on the underside which was a game changer.

The cubes are inflatables which come as a set of four and didn’t take long to set up at all, you simply fill with a little bit of water which acts as a weight to stop them flying away, and then continue to fill them with air using the clever double valve device which is wider for water and then thinner with a non return flow for air – Then away you go.

Arlo spent a long time arranging his cubes, making the perfect hiding place down at the bottom of the garden, and he quickly realised it was the perfect place to stop and reload so he ended up taking his nerf Bullet stash down there to hide too, and then he found a little alcove in the top of each cube which made the perfect bowl to store his stash of bullets for re-loading.

They’re a lot bigger than I expected them to be and such a simple idea to create lots of fun, great value for around £20. We’ve already decided to call the cousins and assemble in the local park tomorrow, and to prepare for battle, so I’ve deflated them down and popped them in the backpack ready for more action. As a side note the box includes a puncture repair kit which always comes in handy, and some battle strategy cards to inspire play.

The NERF BUNKR range is available from Argos, Very, Amazon and Littlewoods. The NERF BUNKR range includes the Battle Cubes as well as the Battle Fort, Challenger Pack and Battle Switch.

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Summer Holiday boredom busters with Very

This summer is promising to be a good one. After a year of lockdown it’s fabulous that restrictions have lifted and we can head out and about on adventures, but of course we can’t head out to attractions every day as we don’t have the budget. I’m looking forward to sunny days in parks and long evenings in the garden with barbecues and friends coming over to pass the time, come September Arlo starts school and I’m going back to university and so I’m keen to make the most of every second.

When Very asked me to work with them to showcase some of their toy range I jumped at the chance. With so many different brands and products available I was spoilt for choice and I had a good think about the kinds of things which would keep Arlo busy this summer, as ideally I’d like him to exert enough energy to stick to his bedtime and I also love toys with educational value. Being in the U.K. I also have to consider toys which are suitable for indoor and outdoor use with out interchangeable weather.

So without further ado I’m going to delve right in to a review of the items I chose, consider the the ultimate gift guide for a four year old boy this summer.

1. The pool of dreams £34.99

Bestway Blue rectangular Pool

Paddling pools are a must for hot summer days, and we have had various different structures over the years with all sorts of bells and whistles but nothing beats a simple rectangular pool. It’s not too small or too big, the depth of water is perfect and its robust enough to withstand the craziness of Arlo. He invents his own games, “racing” lengths and adding in toys and during the spells of hot weather the pool is a permanent fixture in our garden. I often end up getting in myself to cool off. This one comes with a repair patch too. For my top tips to setting up click here.

2. Making a splash

Bunch of Balloons £13.99

If the pool doesn’t create enough of a splash then a good water balloon fight will, and these from Zuru are perfect for setting up a battle as they have a clever little mode of action to fill and self seal which saves tying lots of knots and means they’re ready to use in a matter of minutes. Better still they’re made from recycled plastic. There’s eight sets in the pack and so here’s hoping we get eight hot days this year.

3. Dino Time

Overseer the switch and Go T Rex from V Tech £69.99

If you didn’t know, Arlo is obsessed with dinosaurs and this is something he constantly points out. I have to admit I ummed and ahh’ed over the price point recently, I consider this to be a big toy which would be a great “main present” for a birthday or Christmas, but he does have some of the smaller toys from the switch range. I love VTech as a brand for their toys with educational value and find their toys manage to withstand the whirlwind that is Arlo.

As soon as Arlo realised that he was unboxing the dinosaur his face lit up, and so did mine. This robot comes with its own controller which is really easy to operate. You can direct it to walk in all directions, speak, transform and do a few stunts. It didn’t take Arlo long to get the hang of it and it’s absorbed his attention for days. I’m really impressed with how sturdy he is and how well he transforms.

4. Toys with educational Value

VTech Leapstart £39.99

This is something which comes highly recommended from friends with children the same age. It’s essentially a platform for an interactive book which works with a stylus which has some wizardry style magic. The box came with a sample book and you can purchase additional books which work with the leapstart on various topics. Arlo picked up the technique in no time and was particularly interested in pages where he had to spot the animals. I’m hoping that this will help support Arlo in his learning over the summer and as he enters reception, in fact the age guide states that it’s suitable for up to seven year olds. I’ve already been looking at books for phonics which I think will be perfect to add on, as well as the Amazing Animals one as based on the sampler this is the page Arlo liked the most.

5. Tech toys

The VTech Challenger Laptop £34.99

The reason I chose this is because I’m hoping it means Arlo will leave my laptop alone, after a year of working from home I’ve learnt to hide my own laptop up in high places because Arlo is really intrigued with all the buttons. I tricked him in to finding this by setting it up in my office and making him think that it was mine for “work.” In playing with this he thinks he’s getting a rare special treat and being really grown up. Toys like this provide a great introduction to tech and provide educational content through games which doesn’t make it feel like learning is a chore. There’s so many different activities programmed in that it’s going to take a while for him to get through them all.

6. Has to be Nerf

Nerf Rex Rampage £44.99

This is a special treat for Arlo. He’s played with his older cousins large guns before, I got him a much smaller one last Christmas because he kept pestering me and he got the hang of it quickly. We’re quite safety conscious so he knows all about not aiming for heads etc. With the kids enjoying nerf battles in the park together over summer I thought it’s about time he was prepared and it just had to be dinosaur themed. This comes with 20 bullets and is battery powered (x4 AA, not included). Read all about how we prepare for battle here with our stackr’s from Nerf.

As soon as he opened the box he went quiet and sheepish because he couldn’t believe it was in front of him. Setting up was super quick, and it took us about ten minutes of practice for him to learn how to load the clip and use the triggers and off he went. Running around the garden and hiding behind things to get me as I was weeding the borders.

7. Heaven is a half pipe

Micro Scooter Mini £79.99

Another requested toy from Arlo was a scooter. Hes had a very basic version but it didn’t stand the robustness test, He’s long since admired his older and has had a go on them but struggles to maintain his balance. This Micro Mini from Micro Scooters is the perfect transition scooter for the next stage. It’s got the rear break and adjustable handle bar like the big kids versions but still has two wheels to help balance.

Steering is done by leaning which is something which takes time to learn but helps develop co-ordination. He’s working on those gross motor skills, keeping him active and all whilst having fun. We have a long list of local parks to visit this summer and the scooter is light and small enough to pop in the car boot for all manner of adventures.

8. Getting creative with Crayola

The mega activity tub £24.99

We love getting our craft on, and so having an array of different materials to utilise is brilliant. You can’t beat Crayola for quality when it comes to kids bits and bobs. Arlo will be drawing and practising his writing skills most days in the run up to starting school, I always make sure that he has these materials accessible at the kitchen table as an unstructured activity, and I love displaying all of his work on our pinboard in the kitchen. He always says that his favourite colour is rainbow and so here he has everything he needs and it comes with a handy storage container too.

9. Continuing the crafts with play doh

16 tubs value deal £19.99

Another of Arlo’s favourite things to do is use play doh to make all sorts of models, we could set up our own zoo here! Playing with this is really useful for developing his dexterity skills, getting those hand muscles working and ready for school work and pen holding. Arlo likes to mix all the colours and keep his models rather than squish them back down so this handy set is great to top up the stash, and I actually chose these to use some in his birthday party goodie bags – we’ll be giving each child a tub of playdoh and some tinker tray accessories to take home.

10. Ice cream Dream

Kitchen creations drizzy ice cream set £16.99

This kit from Play-doh is perfect for summer. Arlo loves his ice cream and we’ve set up the mud kitchen with all sorts of activities but this set is second to none. With its own soft serve machine to create playdoh mounds of ice cream and accessories to make the toppings and even special sauce I can’t wait to see his face when I pull this out for him to play with. I’m going to save it for a rain by day, but when I pulled open the box to check everything I ended up making my own cherry for the top!

11. Count me in

Math Link Cubes £19.99

These remind me of my time at school and bring back all the nostalgic vibes. They’re such a fab resource for learning to count and do simple sums – clicking the cubes together is a great way for Arlo to engage as he likes construction and building so he gets to see a visual representation of numbers. There’s a hundred cubes here for him to count until his hearts content.

The box also includes zero “numberlings” and some activity cards, stickers and character cards, plus a parents guide which all sorts of ideas. This is a toy we will use over the summer and will also pull out to help with his homework for a long time to come. I can’t quite believe that I’m planning this far ahead already!

(Products in the blog provided for the purpose of review)

A very special kid – Grogu plushie review

As most of you know I’m a bit of a geek, and I’m proud of it. I love all things science related and so when it comes to covering educational topics such as “space” with Arlo of course I have involve some fiction along with facts to bring it all to life for him because can’t jump straight to the laws of gravity with a toddler.

The Star Wars films are a guilty pleasure of mine, my favourite character was always Yoda. Arlo isn’t quite up to watching a feature film yet, his attention span doesn’t last so long but he does love the Disney+ series “The Mandolorian” which takes place in the Star Wars galaxy and has of course fallen in love with Grogu. I love sharing things like this with Arlo which help create a sense of adventure and a thirst for knowledge too.

Grogu, is a Toddler member of the same species as the much loved Yoda and I was delighted to be sent out a brand new soft toy Grogu from Simba Toys. This plush is just £9.99 and available to order on Amazon, and ever since he arrived at our door Arlo and Grogu have been inseparable. I was planning on placing him up on a shelf in my office and keeping him for myself just to look at but he’s far too busy inspiring lots of new adventures with Arlo. He’s had him for cute cuddles at home but when I told Arlo we were going to visit the newly reopened Museum “Thinktank” in Birmingham, with an entire floor dedicated to all things space Arlo slipped him in to the backpack without me knowing. Of course Grogu was right at home.

Arlo held tightly to Grogu as we watched a movie in the awesome planetarium and invented a whole new story for him. We purchased some novelty space snack food to try out – dehydrated apple slices, Grogu didn’t get a look in. So we decided to branch further afield and show little Grogu all around the museum exhibits to teach him about our planet.

Nothing keeps Arlo occupied for longer than half an hour but Grogu oozing with cuteness seems to have captured his attention. He’s just the right size to be his new bestie and as I’m writing this he’s got him tucked in the crook of his elbow as he’s fallen asleep with him.

I think Grogu quite likes being a Brummie, and has been made to feel most welcome here!

Home learning with Play Osmo

The school holidays are about to commence, another few weeks at home, after only being back for a few weeks seems almost crazy! We’ve covered every messy play idea imaginable and it’s fabulous that parks and tourist attractions are starting to open up. Like most families we all still need a bit of down time at home, wether that’s a calm hour every day as part of your routine or just for those days when you just need the kids to sit still so you can get a meal prepped, or rainy days when the kids have exhausted their imaginations, and want something fun to do Play Osmo is the solution.

I wrote about our experience with the Osmo Little Genius starter kit in May last year and have been regularly using four different apps with Arlo (aged 3) ever since. I had so much interest as soon as I shared a picture on our Instagram page and one of the most commonly asked questions is about the longevity of the system.

If you are new to Osmo, it’s a relatively unique concept. The idea is that children use physical game pieces to play with, and these connect via some technical wizardry to your devices and create an interactive game platform. I created a walk through video to demonstrate exactly how one of the games work.

When we were asked to take a look at two more game add ons I jumped at the chance. Logan is aged 8 and in year four. He’s extremely diligent for his age, over lockdown he has missed school. Constantly finding things for an inquisitive young mind is a challenge but watching Arlo with the Osmo system intrigued him.

Logan has been trying to figure out how the device reads the play pieces, and also likes to try and predict the game play. The pizza Co game was perfect for him – pitched as suitable for ages 5-12.

You can use the Osmo Parent app to create profiles for different children and installing the apps on different devices is a straightforward process. Logan uses a Fire Tablet and so he also has his own base now, whereas Arlo uses my iPad. There are no discernible differences with the game play between the different devices which makes things simple for a parent.

The Pizza Co game set comes with two trays of play pieces and a pizza base. One tray contains a variety of pizza toppings and the other has a collection of money in different denominations. These all fit neatly inside the Osmo containers which neatly stack for storage which is another neat little design nuance which is so carefully considered.

Turning the pizza game on for the first time you are introduced to a character who owns a pizza shop and basically tells you he’s going to go on a holiday and leave you to run the place. The game play is more complex and challenging than the ones we have experienced before, it’s fairly intuitive to follow and so would be suitable even for children who have never experienced Osmo before.

You begin with some easy challenges, replicating pizza designs on the screen which customers request – adding 3 mushroom play pieces to the pizza base and then sliding it to the right to put it in the oven. The device picks up the reflection of the play pieces and the movement and you see your cooked pizza appear before a customer. If you get it right they are happy, and if you get it wrong then…. they’re not!

Once they have finished their pizza you get notifications and are asked to collect their payment and organise their change. This is done by flipping the play mat over, and then children have to do the maths. When we first started playing, the game play was fairly simple to get used to the process, but we found it got increasingly more complex.

The game introduced different customers and so Logan had to quickly respond to different orders and instead of being a straightforward request we had customers who shared their likes and dislikes so Logan had to think and invent his own recipes, working out a balance between olives and tomatoes. The game also added in customers with different levels of patience, and VIP’s to take care of.

The settings within the app allow you to adjust the difficulty and Logan chose himself to increase this because the maths was “too easy” – here I found that you could select the complexity of the maths – from basic round numbers to allowing more complex sums with notes and coins required.

As the game play progressed I also noticed that it got increasingly more complex and Logan was really impressed with this, I feel the app responds to the abilities of the child and introduces more challenging problems at a great pace to keep them motivated. There are different levels to complete within this game too. It organises challenges based on paying rent for the day and so you not only have to add up your takings but also consider the delivery charges for stock.

Logan really was fascinated by this game, and I’m impressed with the sheer amount of ways learning objectives have been incorporated. One thing which really surprised us with this game was just how nicely Logan played with Lincoln. Lincoln is aged 5 and has just finished his first year of school in reception. Lincoln also has his leg in a plaster cast at the moment (he’s a particularly energetic child).

Logan recognised that Lincoln could help him with the pizza game and so invited him to join him, teaching him how to follow the instructions and apply toppings so that he could focus on sorting out the change and completing customer orders more quickly. These two boys never sit still for long, and rarely together.

Lincoln was delighted when I revealed we also had a second game to try out, and this one was for him to lead the way. The packaging for the detective agency is lovely, and slightly different to the other games. There’s a selection of different play boards to use and a magnifying glass, all stored in a neat little file.

The only way I can explain this game is to compare it to Where’s Wally – but on a much more interactive level. Each play board is a map of a different location. The game begins in the fictional Osmo Town, and gently eases you in to a fictional plot line.

The concept is that you are a detective and the first game sends you on a search for a thief, who conveniently leaves clues as you chase him around the town. Lincoln had to look intently at the game board to find the clues – and then slide the map along the table in front of the tablet and hold the magnifying glass over the answer to the clue.

This sounds really complex but it’s really easy to pick up and the first few levels teach you the game play, and how to utilise hints if you are stuck. The positive feedback within the Osmo world is fabulous and having constant praise for completing tasks creates a positive learning experience and for Lincoln who loves role play this game was perfect.

Of course Logan was also interested in this game and we were able to flick between child profiles with ease to adjust the difficulty settings. As the game progresses it asks you to utilise different maps to follow your international criminals – and very quickly we were pouring over a map of Rio de Janeiro.

The app pointed out different “real” geographical features based in the city we were exploring giving a fabulous insight in to geography and history which really interested the boys as this mirrored some of the activities they had covered in school and they were delighted to share their knowledge.

As we became confident in chasing clues, they quickly got harder. It went from looking for a specific character or building, to looking for “five food items” – and then I also noticed that we had a timer and countdown clock to find the items on the board too.

The problem solving aspect of the game is probably the best thing about play Osmo, children are given all the tools and resources they need but have to actually think and use a variety of different skills to progress within the game and again, just like all of the other games it uses technology to track your child’s progress and adjust the game play settings to adapt as your child becomes more proficient.

We have been playing with our new games for two weeks now, and still have only just scraped the surface – I love that the kids feel happy that they have had their tech time and have actually been engaging in interactive play rather than absorbed in watching videos on YouTube. We can complete a “level” within 15-20 minutes in most of the Osmo games so there’s an easy way to organise tablet time and create intervals for play for families who like to limit screen time too.

There’s something for everyone within the collection, learning through play like this is great because kids don’t even realise they’re picking up new skills. Watching Logan actually adjust difficulty settings himself to make maths challenges harder was wonderful and finding something which helps Lincoln sit still for longer than five minutes is a win. Take a look at the full range over on Amazon

The products were provided by Osmo for the purposes of a social media campaign, all views and opinions expressed are my own.