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Mega Bloks First Builders Play 'N Go Fairytale Table
Mega Bloks First Builders Play 'N Go Fairytale Table
Price: $41.86
9 used & new from $40.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Great starter set for toddlers, October 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I’ve tried purchasing Megablocks sets in the past but I was never impressed by the quality. That was years ago, so I decided to give this “First Builders” a try and I’m glad I did. This is a truly fantastic starter set for little kids. The block sizes a perfect, the colors are vibrant, and the table provides a nice stable platform to work from. If you have a coffee table then you may not really need this table, but it does allow you to move the fun from one room to another.

It’s a small starter set and I can already see needing to get a few more pieces. However it’s the perfect size for trying this out. I have twin three year old girls and I am going to need to add some more pieces right away. If this is for one kid you should be fine for a while. While the block pieces are really sturdy, the table is just “okay.” I would not get this for a young toddler who isn’t standing comfortably – it’s not strong enough to reliably support their weight. Overall this is a really good construction toy that kids will just love. For the price I think it’s a really good deal.


ALEX Toys - ALEX Junior, Porcupine Pounder Baby Activity Center with (8) Colorful Pegs and Mallet, 1955
ALEX Toys - ALEX Junior, Porcupine Pounder Baby Activity Center with (8) Colorful Pegs and Mallet, 1955
Price: $20.74
7 used & new from $20.52

5.0 out of 5 stars Babies need to beat stuff up, October 9, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I’ve got four kids: two boys and two girls. And each one has wanted to beat stuff up as a baby. Mostly me. So it’s a good idea to find a nice “hammer” type toy for them, and this is a really nice choice. I like the whole look of it. I’m not so sure it matters that much to a baby or toddler, but it certainly looks nicer than some of the plastic junk I’ve had around. It’s got really good tolerances: the pegs are just tight enough to hold in place without being too hard for a baby to hammer and see some progress. I really like that you can just flip it over and start again. I had one toy (Melissa and Doug I believe) that involved pounding a ball through a hole. Invariably the ball would get knocked off the toy and I would have to find it and put it back. Or some of the balls would get separated during cleanup and I’d have to track them down. Or worst of all, an older sibbling turns the ball into a TV seeking projectile. So having a toy that can be hammered, flipped, and hammered again without coming appart is a nice convenience. For the price you are getting a toy that looks nice, works well, and seems to satisfy that young need to clobber stuff.


Barbie and The Secret Door Transforming 2-in-1 Mermaid Doll
Barbie and The Secret Door Transforming 2-in-1 Mermaid Doll
Price: $17.99
50 used & new from $14.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice doll for the price, October 9, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have two daughters, and while Barbie’s aren’t too high on their list, mermaids are, so I thought I’d give this a try. Like most Barbie’s the construction is okay: far better than what you get in a dollar store, but not nearly as nice as something like an American Girl doll, but then it’s a whole lot cheaper too.

My daughters did indeed like the whole “girl that can change into a mermaid” deal. While not an instant favorite it has been integrated into their regular play with the “Mermaid Girl” coming by to visit with their other dolls. If you’ve got a kid really into either Barbie’s or Mermaids this is a sure winner. If you are looking for a doll as a gift this wouldn’t be a bad choice since you kind of get two dolls for one. I have noticed however that Barbie in general seems to be on the way out with girls. I think the look is a bit 1950’s and kids seem to be more interested in dolls that are a little more up-to-date. So while this is a good doll for the price, you’re may be better off getting something along the lines of an Elsa or Anna doll.

So a good choice for a Barbie fan, and not a bad choice for most girls, but not exactly a “slam dunk” winner.


Laser Pegs 8-in-1 Sports Car Building Set
Laser Pegs 8-in-1 Sports Car Building Set
Price: $24.24
21 used & new from $18.83

5.0 out of 5 stars A great creative toy - but you'll need more than one, October 5, 2014
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
We have seven or eight of these Laser Peg sets and the kids have had a good time with this one. For us Laser Pegs are a great creative play toy, pretty much Legos with lights. We like that they that can entertain all four of our kids and it's something they can do together. Any kid old enough for Legos can handle these. My kids enjoy just having a box of these to play around with, so they don't stay a separate set for long. My kids had a good time playing with the car but it's just mixed in the bin with the other pieces now. These are really just an extension of their Lego toys - a way to light them up.

This is a good enough starter set. It's not too expensive and it's fun to play with. So far the hands down favorites were the Laser Pegs 6-in-1 Monster Truck Building Set and the Laser Pegs 57-in-1 Dragon Building Set. If you are just starting out with Laser Pegs I'd get the Dragon set first, but this is definitely a fun addition that will give your kids plenty of fun and creative play. They are a little pricey, but it's cheaper than a video game and much better than having them sitting in front of a screen!


Epson WorkForce WF-2660 All-In-One Wireless Color Printer with Scanner, Copier and Fax
Epson WorkForce WF-2660 All-In-One Wireless Color Printer with Scanner, Copier and Fax
Price: $119.99
3 used & new from $119.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great choice for people with limited space, September 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a really nice compact all-in-one. The emphasis here is on compact. This thing is much smaller than my Canon MX922. Feature wise it's pretty much the same except for the lack of a second paper tray. That means with any paper size switch you need to change the paper. If you spend 99% of your time printing one size that's no big deal. If you do switch paper sizes a lot you probably want another printer. The tray it does have is generous for the size of this thing, easily holding 150 sheets of standard 24lb all-purpose printer paper.

It has all the features I would consider "standard" in this class: printer/copier/fax/scanner, built-in wireless, easy-to-use touch screen and printing from your phone or tablet. Ease of use wise I find this as easy to use as my Canon and easier to use than the HP in my office. I did some quick side-by-side comparisons and the print quality looks as good as my Canon. My Canon printed a color photo faster but the Epson was a tad quicker printing high quality text.

I think the footprint of this makes it perfect for a student or anyone with limited space - for you this is a Five Star printer. If you've got the space getting something a little bigger with two paper trays is probably a better option. If space isn't problem this is more of a Three Star printer: good, but not remarkable.


The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults
The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults
by Frances E. Jensen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for parents, September 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have four kids, but none have hit their teen years. I did however have a teenage nephew live with me for a while many years ago and that showed me how little I really understood teenagers. I would have though the experience of being a teenager would have been sufficient, but really it wasn't.

When I started having kids of my own I read What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life and watched Baby Human: Geniuses in Diapers and it really transformed my approach to child rearing. All of sudden I felt informed. Not that you need to accept everything as given, but having a science based reference point really just makes things easier. When you understand the mechanics behind a tantrum, it's a lot easier to keep your cool. When you understand how the brain develops you start to understand eating habits and how to make healthy, age appropriate choices. Not that I'm trying to be the perfect parent, but perhaps because my wife and I are engineers, we like to understand "what's going on behind the scenes."

So I was pretty excited to get this book and I haven't been disappointed. Again, I'm not saying this is the last word on teenage parenting, but giving yourself a better understanding of what's going on inside their head and why really does make the whole process easier on you and on them. Let's face it, teenagers can be half-crazy intolerable beasts at times and the sweetest, kindest people on earth the next. This book gives you some reference as to why their sleep patterns shift, why they eat the way they do, and what's really going on in terms of brain development. And we are talking about development. Teenage brains are still completing the work that I used to thing was done by kindergarten at the latest. I really wish I was armed with this information when I was looking after my nephew: it would have made me a better guardian.

The book covers a lot of ground, but it's well written with an enthusiastic tone. I would encourage any parent to read this. If nothing else you'll come away with more reasons to keep calm during the stormiest teenage moments and in the best case you'll be better equipped to manage or avoid them. Oh and the talking point tips would have been handy to me if I had them and I expect they'll prove useful in the future. Even if you don't use them verbatim (I probably wouldn't) at least you have a starting point.


Safety 1st Custom Care Modular Bathing Solutions
Safety 1st Custom Care Modular Bathing Solutions
Price: $29.99
7 used & new from $21.75

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good baby tub that does the important stuff well, September 23, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have four kids. I've gone through a few baby baths, and none have been "perfect." This one isn't bad with mostly good things to say:

I like that it has two size options so you can start off with the baby in the smaller insert and then step up to the larger tub. The shape of the smaller tub is really good: it positions the baby's head into a stable position and the baby's bottom rest against a stop to prevent slippage. There are little drain holes that are modestly effective. If you use too much soap it will get a bit slippery. You really need almost no soap for a baby, so if it feels slippery, you're using too much soap, or the wrong kind.

I think the larger tub isn't quite as well designed but it works well enough for a baby that can sit up and be reasonably stable. If you have a low tub, you probably won't need it as a tub much, but if need be I think it would suffice through the first 12-18 months or so.

While not as cushy as some padded baths we've had, it cleans up way easier. And babies don't notice if they are briefly sitting on plastic thanks to their chunky bottoms. Sprinkle them with warm water and coo at them and they're happy. As long as you have a tub that can keep the baby upright at a good angle, you've got 99% of what you need out of a tub.


Mead Academie Wirebound Sketchbook, Medium Weight, 11 x 7.88 Inches Sheet Size, 70 Sheets (54062)
Mead Academie Wirebound Sketchbook, Medium Weight, 11 x 7.88 Inches Sheet Size, 70 Sheets (54062)
Price: $16.34
2 used & new from $16.34

2.0 out of 5 stars Not a great sketchbook - there are better options, September 23, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is an okay sketch book but I think it's overpriced. I long ago gave up trying to decode the arcane minutiae of paper weight, but there are differences between how different types are measures and "50lb" doesn't mean it's always thicker than "25lb" paper. That's definitely the case here, were the paper feels no much heavier than a sheet of 20lb copier paper. If you are looking for a light weight sketch book for jotting down an idea in pencil, this will service. I would not bother with pen, marker or charcoal. The paper has little texture and too much bleed through. If you come across this pad at a 1/2 price sale it's a good value. At the full price there are better options. If in doubt, head down to a store an touch the paper. Once you find a brand you like, stick with it. This pad is being consigned my 8 year old who will make good use of it.


Laser Pegs 12-in-1 Indy Car Building Set
Laser Pegs 12-in-1 Indy Car Building Set
Price: $27.36
15 used & new from $27.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Laser Peg fun, September 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
We have a couple of these Laser Peg sets and this has proven to be a great addition. For starters Laser Pegs are a great creative toy, think Legos with lights. They are one of the few toys that can entertain all four of our kids. It's pretty fun for anyone from about 3-15. My kids seem to enjoy just having a box of these to play around with, so it didn't stay a separate set for long. My son built a car. The wheels don't roll all that well but it was fun for the five minutes it stayed a car. Now it's part of some kind of transformer looking dinosaur thing. All I care about is that he's using his hands and imagination instead of sitting in front of a screen.

I think as a starter set it's okay, but maybe not the best "first set". We have about six other sets but the hands down favorites were the Laser Pegs 6-in-1 Monster Truck Building Set and the Laser Pegs 57-in-1 Dragon Building Set. If you are just starting out with Laser Pegs I'd get the Dragon set first, but this is definitely a fun addition that will give your kids plenty of imagination play.


Minecraft Animal Toy (6-Pack)
Minecraft Animal Toy (6-Pack)
Price: $16.69
132 used & new from $13.69

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For die-hard Minecraft fans, September 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have two boys, 7 and 8, who are absolutely crazy about Minecraft. I don't mind that too much since it's one of the better games out there. At least they're using their imaginations and creating stuff. One recently had a birthday and Minecraft toys were tops on his list. So far they are both getting pretty good use out of them. Between action figures like this and some Minecraft Legos they have created a pretty good "pretend" Minecraft world they can play in (when they don't have screen time).

The quality of these toys are pretty good. We've have a bunch of these for a few weeks with no causalities yet. The tail on the ocelot is thin and I expect it to break off any day now, but so far, so good. The legs and head move and usually something else. The favorite so far is the sheep: it has spring-loaded legs, and if you hit it just right it falls over side-ways, just like in the game. This is highly entertaining to my kids.

I did dock a star for the price. This is honestly more like a $10-$15 toy than a $20-25 toy. I would only buy it for a die-hard Minecraft fan, because the value really comes from the kid excitement level. As a toy alone it's overpriced.


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