VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Songs & Sounds

Looking to get any of the VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels cars as part of a play-set or individually? Then you should have an idea of what songs and sounds they make. I took 4 of the 6 cars we have and turned them all on at once so you can get an Idea of the noise generated when your kid plays with these. The sounds trigger when the cars roll, the button is pressed or when the cars interact with any of the coordinating play-sets. It can get noisy! Luckily each car has a switch on the bottom to turn the sounds off. ūüôā

Alex Jr. Bop and Roll [VIDEO]

We received¬†the¬†Alex Jr. Bop and Roll¬†as a gift, and I will admit, as a new mom wanting all the newest and greatest things for my kid, I wasn’t impressed. But, it was for ten months and up, and he got it around 6 months of age so I wasn’t able to see its full entertaining potential.

My son is now 22 months old and it’s still one of his go to toys. We put it back on the shelf all the time and the next day it’s been pulled down again. Wooden toys win the day with this one! And believe me, now that I’ve been going through the first phase of toddlerhood, the less noise these damn toys make the better!! I will take a ball slowly circling around a hole for 30 seconds over a singing VTech toy any day!

In any case, this toy has turned out to be a favorite. It’s so simple, but my son loves it. It came with a hammer and three balls, which we still have, somewhere. One is usually always around at least, and that’s really all he needs.

My only complaint is that when one of the balls got wet the paint peeled. He isn’t using that one at the moment, so we are down to two, somewhere.

I give this toy 4 out of 5 stars for peeling paint. But it’s still a great toy!

Green Toys Review [VIDEO]

My son has three of the Green Toys brand vehicles in his ever expanding toy collection. As he’s becoming more and more interested in cars, trucks, and planes, these toys are becoming a bigger hit in our house. ¬†The construction is really solid with no sharp burs or¬†ragged¬†slicing edges. ¬†They had held up extremely well to drops, smashes, silly ride-on attempts, sticky fingers, angry meltdown hail Mary passes and more.

Airplane
The Green Toys Air Plane is so much fun. My son walks (or runs) around the house with this toy, making it fly through the air. He sticks one of his animal figurines in the pilot seat (although not always successfully) and flies it around the house. He’s only 21 months old right now so the play is limited, but this is a favorite and I can see him playing with this for many years. ¬†Watching him awkwardly¬†pilot it is adorable as our the whooshing sound effects he makes.

Tug Boat Bath Toy
The Green Toys My First Tug Boat¬†bath toy is something we use in the bathtub occasionally. It’s fun to fill it with water and let it sink, then dump the water and let it float. My son hasn’t quite gotten into playing pretend with this one just yet, but I’m sure as he grows up this will be more fun. Right now he just ignores it. It also doesn’t help that we don’t have a tub, so baths consist of about 1-2 inches of water in the bottom of our shower. We got this boat thinking it wouldn’t need a deep bathtub and it doesn’t really, but ultimately baths aren’t baths without a tub!! Someday, I hope!

Truck and Race Car
The Green Toys Truck and Race Car are lots of¬†fun for my son. I will admit that these weren’t as popular as the plane at first but he’s recently been playing with them more. Technically¬†he doesn’t play with them together much yet. The car he drives¬†around the floor and the truck he tends to sit on and tries to ride. This is rarely successful but leads to lots of entertaining tumbles! Recently his animal figurines have been hitching a ride on the back of the truck. ¬†One of the things we love about this set is that you get TWO toys for the price of one. Vroom-Vroom!

The Green Toys are great fun. They are well made and they have so many different options. It’s hard to resist the¬†Space Rocket we saw at the store a few weeks ago, but it can wait… his birthday will be here soon enough!

Nine Awesome Toddler Toys For Your Holiday Shopping [VIDEO]

It’s nearing the end of 2015 and the holiday season is here!

As always, our lists are compiled after months of extensive research. ¬†We talk to other parents to learn¬†what their kids loved, we dig through internet forums and blogs, read countless reviews online and best of all… We do our¬†Christmas¬†shopping!


VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker

The Vtech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker is a great toy for early walkers.  We inherited this toy from my niece for my son when he was just showing interest in walking and he took to it right away. The music is loud but he really loved it.  He still plays with it now that he is walking, going back to use the telephone and push the buttons to dance to the songs.

We used this walker outside on the street during a block party and he had the best time. ¬†Less than one week later he was walking down the side walk all by himself! ¬†I don’t know if the walker truly helped him walk, but I like to think it did. (Daddy says, “Yes, it totally did.”)


Anamalz [UPDATED]

The Anamalz toy is an eco friendly, wood/fabric animal figurine for toddlers children 3 and older. [See our video review for our updated thoughts on safety]

The toy comes as many different animals such as elephants, giraffes, lions, bears, the list goes on.  It is a cute and attractive toy that can entertain little ones from the earliest stages through pretend play.  A great addition to any toy animal collection.


Big Boom Bat & Tee

The Big Boom Bat and Tee is an inflatable tee-ball set. ¬†Note, all parts are inflatable, making this toy great for indoor play perhaps during the winter months or hot summer days. ¬†The bat is big in diameter and the ball is about 8″ in diameter making it virtually impossible to miss the ball. ¬†The manufacturer recommends this toy for ages 3+, but we¬†know¬†of kids as young as 18 months understanding how to hit the ball off the tee.


Moluk Bilibo

The Moluk Bilibo is a classic toy for toddlers. ¬†The hard plastic form allows children to find multiple ways to play from using it as a tote, a seat, a seat to spin or rock in, or something to wear as a helmet. ¬†The Bilibo is a toy that is supposed to encourage imaginative play, and¬†it will be up to your child whether they use it imaginatively or not. ¬†If you look up reviews on this toy you will find hundreds of people who say their kids loved it, and a handful who say their kids just didn’t get it. ¬†As an adult, I don’t really get it, but our niece LOVED this thing! ¬†The video below pretty much shows why.


Kid O Go Car

The Kid O Go Car is a simple, slightly abstract, car great for little ones to grab hold of and push around the floor.  This toy comes in many colors, is easy to grasp, and is tons of fun for any toddler.

The car’s construction is solid and it can take a beating. ¬†¬† We love the rounded shape too! ¬†You don’t have to worry about sharp angles for your kid to fall and hit his head on. If your toddler is anything like our’s random tumbles are par for the course.

The moment you see your kid crawling around the floor and driving a toy car around will just melt your heart.


Lego Duplo Deluxe Brick Box

The¬†Lego Duplo Deluxe Brick Box¬†is a great toy for kids starting at the age of 18 months. ¬†It is an introduction to legos with larger brick pieces and comes with people, animals, windows, etc. as well as instructions on how to build some items like airplanes and trains. For parents who want to introduce creative play with building toys, this is a¬†great¬†addition to any toy collection. I know I¬†have it on my son’s holiday list!

Bonus item: LEGO DUPLO Play with Letters 6051

The Lego Duplo Play with Letters set is a great set to include with your existing Duplo Lego pieces.  It adds blocks with letters on them to incorporate into any structure your child wants to build.  This is best for children ages 2-5 and can assist your child with learning their alphabet.


Buckle Toy

This Buckle Toy is a great toy for toddlers 1-4 years old.  It provides kids with the ability to practice buckling an unbuckling from an early age and most toddlers will spend oodles of time playing with it.  With over 200 reviews on Amazon and a rating of 4.5 stars you know this is a winner.

The Buckle Toy comes in various designs from a plush square with a face, stuffed animals, a backpack, etc, and it is a great toy to keep a child busy while traveling.


Moluk Plui

The Moluk Plui bath toy is a simple and great toy for the bathtub, or even a small backyard splash pool. ¬†Simply fill it with water and let it rain, plug the hole at the top and it stops. I know this seems dull, but kids seem to find this fascinating and the fact that it kept¬†coming up again and again, and again… and again as we researched awesome toys that we got the message and made sure to include it in our list.

The main complaint with this toy is that it can get moldy if not maintained properly. ¬†Make sure the toy fully drains, and on occasion run some bleach water through it to kill off the mold that is bound to grow in any¬†dark and damp environment. ¬†You have to clean the tub, so it’s only fair that you need to clean a tub-toy now and again. ¬†Otherwise it is tons of fun for toddlers!


Little Helper Broom Set

Every toddler loves helping mom and dad around the house with tasks like cooking to decorating the walls with crayons. Doh! Luckily, they also love to mimic and help clean up too. After several melt downs when we would take the broom away from our son Рin an attempt prevent half the house from being destroyed by an out-of-control broom handle Рwe bought this broom set.  The Little Helper Broom Set proved to be  big hit in our house.  Apparently we are not alone either as this item has over 1350 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.5 stars.  Yes, a broom.

This has become one of his favorite toys. ¬†Our¬†son carried this broom around the entire night and for several days after he was “sweeping” just like mommy. ¬†He definitely still goes for the bigger broom, but not as much and he is perfectly happy using his own now. Months later he still loves to sweep and he has now learned other uses like riding it like a pony.¬†Best of all¬†it’s become a makeshift microphone that he¬†sings into while dancing to music.¬† So glad we got this for him!

Baby Boredom-Ball? [VIDEO]

I purchased the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Basketball toy for my son when he was almost 6 months old.  I liked the toy because I thought it would grow with him well through his first year and, hopefully beyond.  I have to say, once we set it up and gave it to my son to play with, I was a little disappointed.  I was hoping the toy would have kept his attention a little longer than it does.

Also, what’s with the name of this toy, “Learn Learning?” ¬†Is this really the¬†best someone could come up with?

The “learning” aspect of the toy is as follows:¬†the buttons on the backboard light up, and it describes the shapes, colors, and numbers. The hands on the face of the toy really do nothing except move back and forth as you pull the basket down. ¬†I was hoping that they would prompt a song or a noise at least. ¬†It also counts and plays music each time a ball is put through the hoop. ¬†¬†The main joy our son¬†got out of the toy was listening to the voice count as he would drop a ball into the net. ¬†Provided you keep this up at a regular pace the voice and music gets more excited. ¬†For whatever reason our son has always loved counting and this toy delivered on that.

My son only uses the toy occasionally now and quickly gets bored with it.  Perhaps as he gets older and plays differently, it will hold his attention a little better, but by then I might as well have a bigger basketball net for him.

My biggest complaint is that the design¬†is very top heavy. ¬†I would say this is my son’s biggest complaint as well! ¬†He gets pretty frustrated with the toy when it falls over, which is basically every time he touches the darn thing (see video). ¬†In fact, I gave him the toy to play with this evening to see if he would be more attracted to it (at 13 months old,) but all he did was stand in front of it and tip it over backwards. ¬†He put the ball through the hoop once after I showed him, and pushed a couple buttons, but moved on from it very quickly. ¬†He is more attracted to the balls than the toy itself. ¬†I should have just bought him small basketballs to play with!

The batteries die pretty quickly if the toy is left on. Sensors in the basketball hoop detect when the ball  is dropped through.  These are always on, so when you are not playing the sensors are still draining the batteries.  We learned this one night when my husband was up late and catching up on work  He kept hearing this low buzzing and clicking noise.  Thinking he was going insane he eventually found himself crawling around the room trying to pinpoint the sound.  It was the dying batteries in the basketball net.  Turning this off between uses fixed that problem; an automatic sleep mode would be a great addition.

All in all, I give the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Basketball¬†toy a 3 out of 5 stars. Users on Amazon give this toy positive reviews, so perhaps it’s just not right for us.

5-Point Harnessed High Chair! [VIDEO]

I purchased the Fisher Price Space-Saver High Chair for my son at around 12 months of age.  We live in a small Brooklyn apartment and do not have space for a standard high chair, and this one straps to one of our kitchen chairs, saving us a ton of space.  He had previously been using a much older version (about 11 years older, handed down to us by family,) that he was decidedly destroying at mealtimes.

This chair has been a life saver for us. ¬†Mealtimes can be¬†a headache, a mess¬†and¬†with the previous chair my son was able to literally rip it apart whenever he would get angry about the food I was insisting he eat. ¬†This chair is solid. ¬†The tray is solid too; it stays locked on and he can’t rip it off (yet…).

AND this high chair has a FIVE POINT HARNESS. ¬†Which means he¬†cannot get out of the chair! ¬†It’s like strapping him into a stroller. The tray requires two hands to put it on and take it off, but that’s ok. ¬†I will take that over having to pick it and all of my sons food off the floor.

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Note from Dad/Jeff: ¬†This seat was really easy to un-install and re-install from our¬†kitchen chair when I needed to take photos of it for the website. ¬†You can¬†easily bring this highchair over to grandma’s, a restaurant, etc.

Maybe this is overkill, but for a kid who does his best to squirm out of every high chair he encounters (restaurant chairs and the ancient chairs owned by family being the main culprits here,) this one holds up against his tirades.

One thing I have not yet tested is how well the seat comes clean, and boy do I need to test this! [UPDATE BELOW] I¬†do laundry once a week at the laundromat, it’s easy to forget the high chair as I am gathering and putting giant bags of laundry into a cart, and packing up my son with toys and lunch and anything else we might need for an afternoon at the laundromat, aaah… city life… In any case, I will update this review once I give the seat a wash.

5-Point-Harness and the chair fabric in need of a major scrub down.
5-Point-Harness and the chair fabric in need of a major scrub down.

I give the Fisher Price Space-Saver High Chair a 4¬†out of 5 stars because as a stay at home mom, who is feeding my son most of his meals, I have found this chair to perform great for us. ¬†He can’t get out of it and he can’t rip the tray off, which is all that matters to a strung out Mommy! I will update this post once I wash the seat.

Update: Since writing the above review of this highchair, I have washed the seat cover twice.  The first time I sprayed the cover down with a stain remover shortly before washing and it came clean beautifully.  The second time I washed it I did not use the stain remover and it still came perfectly clean!  So I still stand by my originally rating.

Leap Frog: My Discovery House [Video Review]

My son received the My Discovery House for his first birthday.  It is a very simple toy, with moving doors and windows, a light switch, a couple of birds. etc.  For a child who is obsessed with doors and light switches this toy entertains him really well.

He played with this in the beginning for a long¬†time. ¬†It was a lifesaver during a recent long car ride, where he played with it for over an hour! ¬† But, I have stopped giving it to him as it doesn’t keep his attention¬†like¬†it used to. I expect that I can bring it out every so often and he will love it again [see the update to this review below].

The birds on the roof “talk.” [See video] ¬†The little bird has a cute high pitched voice, but the bigger bird has a low adult voice. ¬†It’s rather amusing, but I feel like it could have been a little less of a man voice even though it is the bigger bird. My husband¬†loves when the¬†man’s voice belts out, “TWEEEET.” It’s become an inside joke in our house now and he walks around and will randomly go, “TWEET.”

All in all, we like this toy.  My son loved it at first and he really was entertained.  He did get bored with it after a few days, but as I said, I think it will come back in rotation soon enough.

UPDATE:

We recently took this toy on a family vacation. Because it had worked so well in the car before we decided to try it again. It held our 1-year-old son’s attention for multiple hours during the long car ride to our destination. Once again, multiple hours.

This kept him happy and us sane!  And, it was a hit with his 3 and 8 year old cousins for the week we stayed with them. We were really surprised by how popular this was.

UPDATED RATING: 5 out of 5 stars. We strongly recommend.

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Best dSLR camera for Parents

CameraExamples-1I often get asked by expectant parents what advice I can give as a new parent.  My answer is always to take as many photos as possible.  Our little guy has grown up so fast
and without some of the photos I took we would have lost many memories to the blur of time sweeping past us. ¬†That first month… ¬†Wait, that was¬†a MONTH? ¬†It felt like a week.

I also recommend that you take photos of everything. ¬†You won’t know what you needed to record¬†until it’s too late. ¬†I remember when our son was a few months old and we noticed a dime sized¬†red mark¬†on his scalp.

“Had he always had that? ¬†Did he have it at birth? ¬†Was it getting darker? Is it a rash! ¬†IS HE OKAY!?

We reviewed the photos… yep he’s always had it. ¬†Oh, and it’s actually getting fainter. ¬†How had we never noticed it before? ¬†Are we just that¬†tired? (Yes.)

Besides shooting tons a photos and videos with our iPhones, having a nice dSLR camera has helped me create some really stunning photos of our little guy. ¬†Granted, I’m a bit of a photo nerd, but if you can afford it I HIGHLY recommend the following gear:

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Canon 70d dSLR camera.

This is basically one step away from being a “pro” model – and 5 years ago a camera with these specs would have be pro. The 70d provides excellent image quality, great accurate focus, and a really nice burst mode so you can rapidly take photos¬†and catch the perfect moment. This camera also has tons of shooting options from fully automatic to detailed manual controls.
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To me, the selling point of this camera is the video mode. This is the first dSLR by Canon to offer a super accurate automatic focus system when in video mode. Up until now dSLR cameras had horrible auto focus when shooting video and almost always needed you to manually focus¬†them… This was not a great situation¬†for mom and dad who are trying to capture first laughs, steps and words. The new autofocus on the 70d is so easy and perfect you won’t even think twice about how to use it. It just works.
This camera also includes a great touchscreen and super sensible controls compared to some Nikon models I’ve used.

This version of the 70D ships with a long telephoto lens that will take you from a nice wide angle 18mm to a close up 135mm. This kit lens is a huge improvement over previous models. As to be expected from a zoom lens, it can be a bit big and bulky.  So, what do you do when you want something smaller and lighter?

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Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens

This newly released lens is often called a Pancake because it’s so thin. ¬†This fixed length of 24mm is perfect for cramped interiors and walking around parties as it mirrors your natural field of vision when mounted on the 70d (due to the camera 1.6 crop factor). ¬†The lens is known for it’s super sharp images, light weight, tiny size, and for having a fast aperture of 2.8. ¬†The lower the aperture number the more background blur.CameraExamples-5

An aperture of 2.8, combined with the high ISO options on the 70d, will also allow you to shoot photos indoors without a flash. ¬†This is something I found very useful when taking pictures of a newborn. ¬†I didn’t t want to blind the poor kid! ¬†All this for $125 dollars. ¬†You may find that you use this as you main lens because it’s¬†so good. ¬†Should you still get the kit lens? ¬†Yes. ¬†You will want the ability to zoom and if you were to purchase the zoom¬†separately¬†you would pay far more that the bundled price. ¬†Canon also makes a 40MM version of the pancake lens. ¬†I love using this version¬†as well (I own both).

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Transcend 32 GB High Speed Class 10 UHS Flash Memory Card

You will need a memory card with your new camera. ¬†I strongly recommend the Transcend 32 GB SDHC memory card. ¬†I’ve shot with a ton of memory cards over the years and speed does matter, especially if you are shooting rapid fire bust images. ¬†This one delivers and the price is amazing.

You will get way over 1000 picures in both Jpeg and RAW file formats. ¬†That’s great because if you remember my #1 tip: ¬†take photos of EVERYTHING.
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Secondary options: 

I know not everyone will be able to afford the 70d.  As a lower priced alternative I recommend the Canon Rebel.  They tend to introduce new models every year,  each better than the last.  While I have not used the most recent version, the reviews are very positive.  This camera is also compatible with the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 lens I listed above. Also, you can now purchase this camera with the  same 18-135mm zoom sold with the 70d!

For years I took photographs on a very old rebel and people were always impressed.  You can, and you will, get great pictures.

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If you want to go the other direction and spend even more money, I would always recommend buying higher quality lenses before a more expensive camera body (lenses last longer).  The all time greatest lens by Canon (in my opinion) is the 70-200mm F 2.8 IS II.  This telephoto zoom will create beautiful pictures with razor sharp focus and gorgeous bokah (blurry backgrounds).

Happy shooting!

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