The Coolest Tech Gifts for Kids this Christmas

Ah, I’ve said it, haven’t I?

The C word. The word we’re all trying to avoid as long as possible.

However, it would seem the other C word (children) don’t seem to be adhering to this same we-shall-not-speak-of-this policy.

Therefore, this has left me with no choice but to start doing my research into what toys are must-haves this year.

So here’s what I’ve found in the tech-related genre:

Ricky the Trick Lovin’ Pup

Many of us get the “I want a puppy” speech at least three times a year. Thankfully, this Christmas, you can fulfil your child’s wish without any mess or walkies.

Meet Ricky.

He’s a robotic puppy but one that, I have to admit, looks pretty darn cute. And he has 100 different sound and motion combinations, so he’s capable of a fair few tricks and surprises. Plus, he even comes with a selection of treats.

Ricky is priced at around £110.

Nerf Laser Alpha

Nerf guns have been all the rage for a while, but this one goes one step further, allowing you (I mean, the kids) to embark on live-action laser quests. This nifty device registers each hit through sounds and lights and can even be connected to its own app which tracks performance, earns power-ups, locates opponents and allows you to customise each blaster.

Priced at £29.99 to £49.99

Lego Technics Bugatti Chiron

Now, if I’m honest, I think this is one of the toys many dads will encourage their kids to ask Santa for this year. This 1:8 scale model of the Bugatti Chiron is brought to us by Lego and promises hours upon hours of fun.

However, while in real life this car will set you back £2.5 million, the Lego equivalent’s not too cheap, either. It costs approximately £329.99.

Hoverboard

When you see one of these flying past you in the street, they do make you stop and stare.

Also known as balance boards, these clever gadgets allow you to change their direction and speed using just your feet. This means they do take some mastering but that’s all part of the fun. A hoverboard is also great for getting your kids out into the great outdoors.

Prices vary depending on the brand and how high-tech the hoverboard is but you can expect to pay around £200 to £500.

I-Top

While this may be the cheapest item on this list, that doesn’t make it any less fun.

In fact, this stocking filler will have you reliving your childhood while you’re watching the kids play with it.

This spinning top has been brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century because it not only spins round and round but also counts the number of revolutions. It even allows kids to go head to head to see who can get the most spins.

As you can see, there’s a wide variety of tech gadgets out there this year – many of which will keep you as entertained as the kids!

How to Shave Years off the Way You Look and Feel

Everybody reaches a certain point in life where they begin to feel an urge to shave as many years off as possible, both in the way they look and in the way they feel. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do this, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with acting on these desires.

To act on them, you have to be proactive and you have to resolve to put some work in — if you don’t, you’ll barely shave a day off. To see what needs to be done exactly to make yourself look and feel younger, take heed of the advice that follows.

Frames of youth

If your eyesight just isn’t what it used to be, then it might be time to get yourself a pair of glasses. Don’t see that as being necessarily a bad thing, because it can benefit you in regards to the way you look and feel.

For starters, having an eye test is the single best way to detect any underlying health problems that you may have, and it is one of the most proficient ways of examining the condition of your brain without going through a CAT scan. So, if you want to stop the onset of ageing plights before they take a hold of you, get yourself booked in for an eye test. As well as that, a trendy pair of Mister Spex men’s glasses has the potential to provide you with the frames of youth through the way they can camouflage creases and highlight the bone structure of your face.

Embrace a new diet

Shaving years off of your look isn’t just about directly changing things about yourself, it’s also about changing the way you live — more to the point, it’s about changing your diet.

Ketogenic diets — plans that consist of high fat, low carb eating — are proven to have an impact on any physique, no matter the age of he or she who embraces it, so that is certainly one that could benefit you if you embrace and then stick to it. A diet that could prove to be even more beneficial for you is veganism — studies have shown that such diets provide a healthy amount of fibre and antioxidants through their plant compounds, and that they are far richer in vitamins A, C and E than normal diets are, and this only ever has a positive impact on the skin.

If you or anybody you know suffers from arthritis, then you should know that going vegan helps to reduce the pain of that, too. The probiotic-rich, raw food diet found in most areas of veganism has been proven to improve common arthritis pain, like joint swelling and stiffness in the morning. This is because these types of vegan diets are what are known as anti-inflammatory diets, being made up mainly of foods rich in whole grain.

You have every right to shave years off of the way you look and feel if you want to, and don’t let society tell you otherwise!

Beneficial Birthday Presents

If you ever find yourself stuck when it comes to buying birthday presents, fear not because you’re not alone. Don’t be worried if you regularly find yourself struggling at it, either, because it’s a tough job at the best of times, and it’s made even harder when it’s a milestone celebration that you’re buying for or your particularly picky other half.

To combat the stress of buying birthday presents as well as to waste as little time, effort and money on doing so as possible, from now on, only ever buy gifts that are beneficial to the receiver. Some of the best and most generally useful gift ideas can be found below.

Driving lessons for non-drivers

The most beneficial birthday presents are those that actually benefit the receiver’s life through the things that they teach them, one such educational present being the gift of driving lessons. If you know somebody that hasn’t yet learned to drive, the reason for them not doing so, whether they admit it or not, may be because they haven’t pushed themselves to do it — you gifting them with their first few lessons will see them get the push they need to get over any hurdles that they have previously failed to navigate.

When it comes to choosing the perfect driving education package, you should choose one that offers intensive driving lessons for all learners as that will see your gift receiver get the support they need for the level that they are at, be them a complete novice or someone with a little bit of previous driving experience. When they are passed and on the roads, they can return the gift by giving you lifts!

Stuff for the kitchen

Most of the time, homeowners only ever tend to treat themselves to things that will boost the kerb appeal of their home or make the inside decor of it look nicer. This means, more often than not, the kitchen, quite sadly, gets ignored.

It’s time to stop ignoring the kitchen, seeing as though it is one of, if not the most, important rooms in your friend’s home, by gifting them with presents that can be practically used within it. Whether it’s an organiser to keep all of their knives and forks in place, a sturdy cheese board, an apron that will hide stains or even a bed for their kitchen sponge, if you feel that your friend’s kitchen needs some TLC in a particular area, then make sure you’re the one to provide it with it. Your friend might not be too enthused by the gift at first, but they’ll be more than thankful in the long run!

Money

You may feel like handing your friend money for their birthday is like admitting defeat, but this is just about as sensible and beneficial a present as there is. When you hand your friend a wad of cash in their birthday card, you give them free rein to get whatever it is they want, meaning they are likely to end up getting something that does, in fact, benefit their life. Is there anything more beneficial than that?

The next time you are tasked with getting a birthday present for somebody, make sure to try and find one that is as beneficial as possible.

3 Fun Ways to Keep Your Family Healthy

Having a family of your own is likely an experience like none you’ve had before. It’s a chance for you to pass on family traditions, create some of your own, and raise kids with values that you hold dear. One objective that many parents hope to achieve for their family is instilling healthy habits when it comes to food and fitness. It can be challenging considering the number of outside influences such as sweets and junk food, but it’s definitely possible. One of the most practical ways that you can achieve it is by making healthy living a lifestyle. On that note, you’re going to find three fun ways of keeping your family healthy below.

Set Fitness Goals

When attempting to keep your family healthy, one of the first places that you should start is in the area of goal setting. Look at your health presently and think about what you’d like to achieve in terms of healthy living. This could be having more energy, managing a condition better, or losing weight. In terms of the latter, there are several ways to lose weight which include trying shakes, creating a diet plan, clean eating, and exercise. This will more apply to you as parents than it will your kids but seeing as though you should lead by example when it comes to healthy living; it’s equally important. Overall, you should try and set goals that will help improve your health as a family and that are both realistic and attainable.

Have Family Fitness Days

When looking for fun ways to keep your family healthy, you should definitely think about having family fitness days. This could include physical activities such as riding your bikes around the neighbourhood on the weekend, having a dance competition at home for an hour or two, or watching a family-friendly work-out routine together. You can also try other fitness activities at home such as exercise games, yoga, store-cupboard fitness, as well as running. To make it inclusive and give everyone something to look forward to, try asking everyone what their favourite activities are and take turns doing them.

Create Meal Plans Together

Meal planning is another fun way to keep your family healthy as food is a significant aspect of your daily lives. Also, health has a lot to do with what you eat, so healthy eating is key. You should, therefore, think about meal planning as a family and finding healthy alternatives to some of your favourite foods. In case you need ideas for healthy food swaps, you can swap whole milk for semi-skimmed, white bread and rice for wholegrain varieties, unhealthy snacks with nutrient-filled ones, and swap the frying pan for the grill when cooking meat.

Healthy living can be less of a chore and more of an adventure if you take the right approach. This is why making it exciting, providing rewards and incentives, as well as setting goals, so you have something to look forward to is key. By doing these things, you could increase the likeliness of keeping your family healthy and having loads of fun in the process.

Teaching Your Kids About the World of Motoring

Every parent will want to encourage their children to learn to drive as it will provide them with so much freedom and independence (plus it also means that you no longer have to taxi them around!). Every parent will also be very cautious as driving is a huge responsibility and can be very dangerous. With this in mind, there are a few things that it is worth teaching your kids about motoring before they reach the age where they can get behind the wheel.

Road Safety

The most important thing to teach them from a young age is road safety as the roads can be highly dangerous for both motorists and pedestrians. They should be taught how to be safe when walking and crossing the road from a young age, but it is also important to teach them how to use the roads safely so that they will be an intelligent and aware driver in the future. You can do this by explaining exactly what you are doing and why when you are driving. In addition to this, it can also be a valuable experience to cycle with them on the roads so that they can begin to get confidence on the road and understand the rules.

Vehicle Maintenance

It is also important to teach a youngster about how to properly look after an automobile. Vehicle maintenance is crucial for making sure that the car runs properly and stays in a good condition for years to come. It is worth teaching them how to inflate the tyres, change the tyres, change the oil, clean the car and other similar maintenance jobs. They should also be taught about following the service schedule, taking the car in for an MOT and how to get repairs at a garage.

Buying a Vehicle

Teaching them how to buy a used car is also a smart move as this is something that many adults struggle with and it could end up costing them. This can be done whilst purchasing their first car and you should show them how to research for cars online at places like AA Cars, how to speak to a dealer, how to examine the vehicle and what to look for on a test drive. You can then teach them about negotiating, the important paperwork involved, how to find the right insurance policy and other options like extended warranties, GAP insurance etc.

The world of driving can be fantastic and the majority of youngsters will want to learn how to drive when they are old enough. This should be encouraged as a parent, but there are many aspects that they should be taught from a young age so that they can start to learn with a decent amount of knowledge of how to be a safe and responsible driver.

Let there be light!

 

With a summer (so far) filled with wall to wall sunshine, thinking about lighting is probably the furthest thing from most peoples minds. We however are not most people and have just had some rather nice shutters installed in our bow window (a bow window is similar to a bay window but has more equally sized panes in case you were wondering). This has led us to reconsider the lighting we have in the dining room and sitting room because the amount of natural light has changed and we’ve also been lazy, having effectively the light fittings that were in place when we moved in 12 years ago. I’ve done a lot of DIY since we moved in- last week I was sanding and re-varnishing the parquet flooring that’s been hidden under carpet for a decade- but the lights are the one thing we’ve not really looked at.

We’ve decided to get a modern pendant style light to hang over the dining room table, preferably with height adjustment, so we’ve been looking on various websites like Lights to see what we can get for a reasonable price that is still stylish (hey, those shutters weren’t cheap you know!).

The problem is, once you start looking at lights, it’s quite difficult to stop looking at them, it’s really a case of going down the rabbit hole. Yes, we started off looking at light fittings for the sitting room and dining room but soon enough we were looking at something for the hallway and the landing.

In no time at all the techy in me was pouring over the smart lighting too- it’s seldom that you see a website that deals with traditional lighting AND smart lighting well, it’s usually one or the other in my experience.

I think we’re often in danger of spending too much time thinking about redecoration in terms of wallpaper, wall colours, carpet and furniture, without remembering that lighting is the one thing that can make a massive difference, and doesn’t have to cost a fortune. The only worry I have is the six year old swinging on the lamp like Tarzan, which if you knew him you’d sympathise with me!

 

Five must-see sets at Warner Bros Studio Tours

Five must-see sets at Warner Bros Studio Tours

If you or someone in your house is a self-confessed Potterhead, you will probably already be considering a Warner Bros Studio Tour, but proper planning is key!

Offering a huge variety of attractions, interactive exhibits and a shop that will see money magically flying out of your pocket, the tours are something else, but it’s the sets that are truly spectacular. Around every corner, something recognisable from the films is waiting to be explored, but to get the very best from your day be sure not to miss our top five must-see sets.

The Great Hall. Do you remember how in awe of the Great Hall all the first-year Hogwarts students were in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone? Well, prepare to feel exactly the same way when you first lay eyes on the immense set!

We won’t give anything away, but needless to say, once you are in the Great Hall, everything will demand your attention, from the immaculate student place settings through to the fireplaces and costumes of beloved teachers. The hall is usually decorated to be seasonally appropriate, so you might like to consider a Christmas visit. Don’t forget to get some snaps of the House Points Counter, too – it’s a work of art!

The Forbidden Forest. Sinister, spooky and seriously intriguing, the Forbidden Forest set has fast become a real favourite with adult and child Potterheads alike.

Filled to the brim with enormous trees, ethereal lighting and curious mists, the forest also plays home to some wonderful magical creatures that you’ll definitely want to get pictures with. Keep your eyes peeled for Aragog, as he tends to pop out when you least expect it, among other mystical beings, but whatever you do, don’t forget to bow if you find Buckbeak! You remember what he did to Draco Malfoy, right?

Platform 9 ¾. The place where Harry’s Hogwarts journey really began, the platform is an immersive set that allows you to feel as though you’re on your way to the premier school for witches and wizards.

You’ll be able gird your courage and run at the platform wall, with a trolley, for the ultimate photo opportunity, before boarding the train to take a look at the carriages that your favourite characters have sat in. To complete the experience, you can pop into the platform shop to ‘take the lot’ in terms of sweet treats, just like Harry did when he first met Ron on their inaugural Hogwarts Express journey.

Diagon Alley. If you remember the joy of shopping for new school stationery ahead of every September, you’ll understand how thrilling a walk down Diagon Alley will be! It’s even more special, thanks to the atmospheric lighting and the inherent sense of anticipation.

Lined with all of the most memorable shops from the franchise, including Ollivanders wand emporium, Gringotts Bank and Mulpepper’s Apothecary, you’ll feel as though you’re stocking up on all your back-to-school supplies, but with a magical twist. If only Hagrid would strut around the corner, clutching an owl that he’s bought for you, as that really would be the dream!

Potions Classroom. Finally, to get a feel for just how detailed and imaginative the film sets were, the Potions Classroom is a must-see exhibit.

Yes, there are the self-stirring cauldrons that make children squeal and adults ponder on how useful they would be in real life, but it’s the sheer volume of aged bottles and decanters, not to mention parchment papers and creepy ingredients that really bring the set to life. It’s impossible not to imagine being yelled at by Professor Snape or attempting to whip up a batch of Polyjuice Potion in this moody and atmospheric set.

Of course, there are numerous other, smaller, sets to immerse yourself in too, such as Dolores Umbridge’s office, complete with kitten wall plates, a section of the Ministry of Magic, the cupboard under the stairs and Harry’s Gryffindor dorm room. You can definitely see it all in one day, but you’ll no doubt fancy a second visit, just to make sure you didn’t miss anything the first time around!

If one or more of these set descriptions has sparked an undeniable urge to see them in real life and you’re sick to death of waiting for your owl to deliver an official Hogwarts invitation, take matters into your own hands and reserve your tickets today. Just make sure that your camera is fully charged and ready to go, because you’re going to love zooming in and discovering props and details that you may have overlooked in person.

Blasters at the ready, we’re Lazer M.A.D!

On a baking hot Saturday a couple of weeks ago the boys and I drove down to Greenwich to sweat a lot in a concrete basement. I sweated so much I had to change every single item of clothing I was wearing. It turns out, having fun in the heat makes you sweat and we had so much fun playing Lazer M.A.D. that I must have lost a couple of pints of fluids.

Lazer M.A.D. is a blaster game that you can play in an underground bunker in Greenwich but you can also play at home, in your garden, or in the office (if your boss is understanding). I have to admit Ned’s enthusiasm and excitement as we headed to the event was probably matched by my scepticism- “toy” versions of almost everything tend to turn out to be rubbish, from low megapixel cameras, to drones that crash or fly off and get lost, the market doesn’t have a very good track record in making stuff that is good in anything other than an advert.

I have to say though that two weeks after the event, and two weeks playing quite a bit of Lazer M.A.D. at home with the kids, I’ve been proved pleasantly wrong.

Lets start with the equipment. In each pack of Lazer M.A.D. you get two blasters, with various modular attachments that affect the range and the rate of fire. you also get a little harness and a target (much like you would if you went to an actual Lazer Tag venue). The first thing that impressed me was the durability of the blasters and the add-ons. I could see that they had a bit of heft to them and didn’t look like they would break that easily. Build quality (and general style) is fairly similar to everyone’s favourite dart propelling blaster system and that’s no bad thing in my book. Each of the add-ons snicks on positively and after a few weeks of play haven’t i) been lost or ii) become loose.

Of course, like all these devices, the Lazer M.A.D. blasters aren’t really lasers, they use an IR transmitter that is pretty powerful and pretty focused. As a chap who has been on several 9/10 year old laser tag party teams, I really couldn’t tell the difference between the Lazer M.A.D. stuff and the “professional” gear.

Given that you can use the blaster in different modes, it’s great that you have to reload it (there is a pump action slider on the top, so you too can be Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2 and do it one handed if you really want to be). The target also shows the number of lives you have left, which is handy too.

Although there are no real set rules, since you can set the blasters and targets to “friend” or “foe”, it’s possible to play team games and also, if you set everyone to the A team on the blaster but the B team on the target, you can also play last man standing, or Fortnite in real life as the kids termed it.

Even with the two player advanced battle ops set we played with (and bought home with us), which retails for £59.99, you can have a lot of fun, although if you’ve got a few friends with a set, the fun exponentially increases. The price isn’t prohibitive either if you do want to add more sets to your collection and join in with your kids.

Ned, our six year old, loved Lazer M.A.D. more than I can really articulate. It took him most of the drive home to calm down, and the next hour or so getting excited about playing on his very own set. I was surprised and impressed too. Have I mentioned how hot and sweaty I got playing Lazer M.A.D? Yes? Well that’s probably testament to how much fun we had playing!

From Parent to Grandparent, Making the All-Important Transition

Being a parent and being a grandparent are two very different jobs, meaning the transition to the latter is not as easy as it might seem. However, it is not a hard transition to make, either. What it is, is important. Transitioning from parent to grandparent, for the sake of everybody involved, is an essential thing to do, and you need to get it right.

To find out how to make the all-important transition from parent to grandparent when the grandkids arrive, be sure to heed the points below.

Think twice before giving advice

As a new grandparent, as you see your son or daughter circumvent the early stages of having a child, it’s easy to want to shower them with parenting advice. You’ve been there, you’ve done it, and there’s no denying that you know what you’re talking about. Advice when it comes to parenting, however, is not always welcome. Even from their own parents, new mothers and fathers do not always feel the need for advice, and they certainly don’t like it to be given unceremoniously.

Think twice before you feel the urge to give advice, and unless your child comes to you for it regarding how to raise their own, try to keep a distance. It doesn’t mean that you should refrain from helping them, it means that you should refrain from telling them what to do based on assumptions that you make about their parenting skills.

Follow the rules set by your children

You may have been the one to set rules for your children in the past, but now they have children of their own, it’s up to them to set them. It’s up to them to set any rules they see fit regarding the upbringing of their children, and it’s up to you to follow those rules. Not doing so is a pitfall of grandparenthood that you don’t want to fall down.

If this means not allowing your grandchild a certain treat, then refrain from treating them in this way, or if this means not disciplining them in a certain way, even if you think it is the right way, then simply don’t do it. Your children are in charge of the way they bring up their children, and all, including you, should follow the rules they set to do so.

Put old on hold to do things with your grandchild

Your children will need a break from their kids at some point, and that’s when you should step in. You should offer to look after your grandchild whenever you are called upon, and you should make the most out of every chance you get to spend with them when you are. If this means joining the amazing over 50s putting old on hold to do things you were doing 20+ years ago in order to ensure you and your grandchild have as much fun as possible, then do it! You will not get the time you spend with your young grandchildren back, and, therefore, should squeeze as much out of the time you spend together as you can.

As important as it is to take a back seat and to allow your children the space they need to raise their children their way, you still always need to be there for them. Mastering the art of knowing when to help, and when not to help, is the key to making that all-important transition from parent to grandparent in the right way.

3 Reasons to Try A New Sport Today

Life can get pretty repetitive especially when you’re juggling making time for yourself with also being a parent. To keep your sanity, it’s likely that you have a set routine that you and your family follow on a daily basis, the danger of this though is that things can get boring quite quickly! In order to keep things interesting, it’s important that you consider trying something new every now and again. If you are one of those people stuck in your comfort zone, or feel you are too busy to add anything new to your schedule, it is definitely worth a try! Something you should consider is fitness activities as you’ll be able to both keep fit as well as do something social. In case you’re not convinced about why you should try something new, you’re going to find three reasons why you should give it a go in the following article.

Enables You to Keep Fit

Fitness is something that will likely never get outdated as it is central to healthy living. In light of this, trying a new sport is an excellent way for you to keep fit and make healthy living an easy lifestyle choice. To refresh your memory, some benefits of exercise include reducing your risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as helping boost your self-esteem. It is also advised that you try and do at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through various activities of your choice.

It’s a Chance to Meet New People

Another reason that you should consider trying a new sport is that it’s an opportunity for you to meet new people. There are many benefits to meeting people that you don’t usually see every day, such as learning new things, gaining new experiences and learning about different cultures. By joining various sporting activities on HulaHub.com for instance, you’ll get a chance to try different fitness activities with people who share similar interests to you.

It’s a Chance for Family Bonding

Aside from the many benefits of trying a new sport on your own, trying a new one as a family can also provide an opportunity for you to bond more as a family. Seeing as fitness is so important to general wellbeing, learning a new sport with your loved ones is also an opportunity to make fitness a family affair and a regular bonding activity in your household.
Doing it this way helps encourage fitness as it makes it into a lifestyle choice for all the family rather than just a one-off occasional activity. Some sports to consider playing with family are ultimate frisbee, ice skating, table tennis, horse riding, kayaking, and going to trampoline parks. There are many others as well suitable for anyone to partake in, so it’s up to you as a family to debate and decide!

To recap: you have nothing to lose when trying a new sport as there are endless benefits that come with it. Aside from the many mentioned above, it’s also an opportunity to gain a new experience and, in some instances, perhaps find a new hobby you enjoy. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll be motivated to try a new sport sooner than later.