What are your childhood Christmas toys worth now?

I love to remember the games I played as a child, and I especially like to see how much they are worth now. My wife has bought a couple of her childhood games like Spirograph, Etch-a-Sketch, and a Simon off ebay in the last few years. I think we are all nostalgic is some way or another.

I have still never got over the fact that my mum gave away all my original Star Wars toys that I had saved in the loft without me knowing. They are worth so much money now, but I've let it go... no, honestly... well maybe not!

The fab people over at 2 Little Fleas have put together this great little graphic on a few of those family favourite toys and what they are worth now.

It can be fun to see what they are worth now, if you still have that toy that is!

I'd love to know what you think. Comment below if you had a toy that is now worth lots of money but you don't have it anymore!

Back to school: Scooting is the fun way of keeping kids fit as they start the new school year

As back to school is almost here, dad of two Mark Jennings and his children, Amber, ten and Jacob, three, take some scooters out for a test ride.

Amber and Jacob testing out the scooters

Amber and Jacob testing out the scooters

With September fast approaching, that only means one thing for kids... Back to School. If you have a tween then you'll know they grow up so much quicker these days and want independence far sooner than when we were kids.

This includes the gradual process of your beloved child backing off from giving you kisses and hugs when you drop them off on the school run, to them not wanting you do be within a 10 meter radius in fear of embarrassing them in front of their friends and then not wanting you to walk them to school at all.

At first our daughter Amber, ten, wanted to ride her bike to school, but with not much experience at cycling, we weren't convinced she would be steady enough on a big bike and this would detract her concentration from the traffic. So (still slightly reluctant) we compromised. She could come home from school on her scooter. No soon as confidence on both parts was restored, Amber was moaning that her scooter wasn't up to scratch (it was on old scooter of mine that my wife bought me when they became fashionable in the early noughties) and the back wheel had started to fall off, so what great opportunity to try a few models out.

Zinc Chozen 'Team Series' Scooter - £149.99

The first of 3 differently priced stunt scooters Amber tried out was the 'Zinc Chozen' available in 4 colours, it simply looks awesome with it's colour coded parts and cool graphics. The 10mm high bounce wheels make for a smooth ride and you can pick up a fair bit of speed thankfully kept under control with the fender brake. Spec includes 50cm chro-moly 'sea gul' steel handle bars that turn 360 degrees held in place by an chunky aluminium quad clamp. The dual down-tube makes for a solid scooter built for skate parks, so you can be totally confident in it's durability being able to take up to 100kg in weight! For further information please visit: www.zincsports.com

Mongoose Stance Stunt Scooter - £59.99

Another stylish and colourful medium budget stunt scooter is the Mongoose 'Stance'. The Mongoose brand has been with BMX since the 1970's and pride themselves on being an 'aggressive brand with products that push the limits of what a rider can do'. The steel 360 degrees handlebars are a Y-Bar in design and slightly narrower than the Zinc Chozen at 47cm held in place by a triple clamp collar. With extra grip on the flat down bar as well as the alloy deck gives you some extra standing area and steel brakes make for steady but controlled breaking. For further information please visit: www.halfords.com

Evo Stunt Scooter - £29.99

For a budget option and ideal for beginners, the Evo stunt scooter won't do anything to harm your child's street cred with it's striking black and orange colour scheme. Lightweight yet strong it picks up on all the needs of more expensive scooters. Quick and easy to assemble this is great value for money if you're on a tight budget. For further information please visit: www.houseoffraser.co.uk

Micro Floral White Scooter - £159.95

Now, for something a little more lady-like, the Micro White Floral Grey Scooter not only brings elegance but practicality as it can fold up for easy storage and carrying. Larger 20mm wheels produces a more comfortable ride and having a bigger frame makes it more agreeable for taller riders. Other attentions to detail include a front mud guard to protect you from the British weather and a stand gives you that more grown-up impression instead of just leaning it against a wall. This scooter is not just ideal for pre-teens but adults too, with petrol prices sky high (and if you're brave enough) why not use it for the short daily commute? And men haven't got the excuse it's 'too girly' as it come in a black and white option too! For further information please visit: www.micro-scooters.co.uk

The Amazing Spiderman Folding Scooter - £29.99

One for the little ones now. Our son Jacob, three, didn't need to be asked twice to try out the Amazing Spiderman folding Scooter by D'Arpèje. Suitable from the age of 4 this bright and colorful scooter not only has the famous web-shooting superhero livery, but cool light up 12mm wheels too! Very easy to set up and fully adjustable you'll be sure to get the right height handle bars for your young child and being foldable you can easily keep it in your car to keep him or her entertained when you're out and about. This sturdy scooter is ideal for younger kids and great value for money. For further information please visit: www.ebuyer.com

...and let's not forget safety helmets

We now accept that children should wear helmets when they ride their bikes, but I still see many kids not wearing a helmet when scootering. Some of these stunt scooters can go pretty fast, so it's important to get the message through to the kids that safety comes first!

Both Kiddimoto and Micro Scooters offer an amazing range of cool helmets that conform to en1078 safety standards which will convince even the most stubborn child that it's cool to wear a helmet.

For example, the 'Official Evil Knievel' helmet (£34.99) from Kiddimoto is quite frankly retro-tastic and you'll be the envy of your peers at either home time or at the skate park, I would have loved one of these in the not so safety conscious 70's! And the pretty 'Mirrored Purple' helmet (£24.95) from Micro-Scooters is simplistic but very striking in the way it catches the natural light.

www.kiddimoto.co.uk
www.micro-scooters.co.uk

World Book Day - 6th March 2014

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With the rise and rise of smart phones, tablets and kindle use, it's really easy to be lazy in this day and age and forget about our old friend, the book. Whether your excuses, like mine are you haven't time or can't be bothered to dust them off from the bookcase, just have a think for one moment, where would we be without them? When I was a kid in the 70's/80's we didn't have electronic hand held devices or the internet but things called 'Libraries', and I used to love going to get stuff like Dr Seuss and Roald Dahl. I love things unusual and the pictures inspired me to draw my own characters. 

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My favourite book that I bought from book club at school and kept reading over and over again was 'The Twits' by Roald Dahl and with the perfect marriage of drawings by Quentin Blake sets off a young imagination as If they live somewhere near you. But that's where the perfect marriage ends though, as the book is about a horrible couple that live together and play practical jokes on each other like putting worms in spaghetti eventually resulting them shrinking into nothing! I remember Mr Twit having a disgusting beard with all types of left over food stuck in it and Mrs Twit used to be pretty but turned ugly (and had a glass eye) because she had unattractive thoughts all day long.

I introduced 'The Twits' to my daughter when she was younger and will do the same with my little rascal of a son, who I know will absolutely love it! There's something very special about reading a good book especially when tucked up cosy in bed reading to your little ones before bedtime. Today, 6th March is 'World Book Day', so give a thought what 'made us' as a child into an adult and pass on these great books to your children and hopefully they will do the same when they have their own children.

Packed lunches may be off the menu: A healthier education is needed

As the stay at home dad in our family, I have the wonderful job of staggering down the stairs at 7.30am every morning to make our daughter Amber's packed lunch.

Not only does the bar have to be set high by her expectations for something awe-inspiring every single day, I also have to make sure she's getting the right amount for a balanced healthy diet.

With the news today that schools have been 'urged' to ban packed lunches by a government-commissioned school food review, I can't help feeling like we, the responsible parents are being treated like school children ourselves!

My daughter has a cooked meal every evening, anything from a Sunday roast style dinner to spaghetti on toast, but I make sure it's a balance of food she likes and something I know is healthier than just chips and nuggets every evening.

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Yes, I agree I'm not perfect, but at least I'm in control. Does having a cooked meal at school mean she'll be having two cooked meals a day, or do I have to give her sandwiches for tea?

Another reason why I'm slightly at unease with this idea is apart from not knowing what my child is eating everyday, how will I know if she's eating what we're paying for?

The teachers can't possibly observe every child to make sure they're eating their greens, not that a school child would choose vegetables if they had the chance.

And on a matter of cost, there's mention of actually lowering the prices to boost take-up. Healthy food is far too expensive to implement this and I can see cost just going up and up OR the standard of food going down and down!

Beyond doubt contracts for school dinners will go to companies that can provide the cheapest competitive prices, but at what real cost in the long run?

Surely as a responsible adult, we the parents need to be accountable for the health of our beloved children. It's just another case of the feckless spoiling it for everyone else.

If they choose to put fatty crisps, sugary fizzy drinks and chocolate bars into their kid's lunch box, that's their nonchalant decision and we should educate those parents.

Why should I have the control of what I think is best for my children taken away by the uncaring parent and totally out of touch government?

Kids love cycling: Get on your bike this summer

Need help choosing the right kids bikes? Save £££'s online and instore from Halfords. Stay at Home dad, Mark Jennings, reviews 2 children's bikes.

Jacob and Amber on their bikes

Jacob and Amber on their bikes

As it seems that finally the British weather is starting to warm up, there's no greater way to get the kids fit having fun in the garden by updating their old cycles with the latest great models and fantastic offers at Halfords. Our 9 year old daughter, Amber, is growing up fast and our 2 year old son, Jacob, is getting more and more boisterous and mobile. So when I checked on the bike situation in the shed, Amber's was far too small and rusty, plus this would be our sons 1st proper bike. When it comes to piece-of-mind, you can always trust Halfords to deliver quality, safe products.

The cycle recommended for our maturing pre-teen was the cool looking Apollo 'Krypt' Girls Mountain Bike. Our daughter's into 'Green Day' and 'Blink-182' at the moment so she loves the Gothic-Style decals which perfectly harmonize with the metallic silver/purple paintwork. With a good spec for a childs bike the 'Krypt' boasts front suspension for a smoother ride, 18-speed 'Shimano' gears, front disc breaks for complete but careful breaking all housed on a solid steel frame with 24" wheels!

Amber on her Apollo Krypt Girls Mountain Bike from Halfords

Amber on her Apollo Krypt Girls Mountain Bike from Halfords

Our daughter found this very easy to ride and with a change of gear for the grass, was whizzing around the garden in no time at all and this well made bike gave her total confidence immediately. Now when she comes home from school after her homework she asks if she can go out and play on her bike instead of her games console, so that makes us very happy!

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www.halfords.com

Our little boy's choice of bike was the adorable Apollo 'Firechief'. What budding trainee wouldn't be thrilled to get straight into the action on his wicked bright red Fire and Rescue wheels complete with with siren, megaphone and emergency tool box!

With safety in mind, there's full chain and mudguards so busy fingers don't get dirty or trapped, front and rear brakes for extra confidence and detachable stabilisers for eventually when your little one has enough firmness to try two wheels only! Our son was fearlessly straight onto this bike encouraged by the brightness and interest in the extra gadgets. It's recommended for ages 3-5 so when his little legs get a bit stronger I'm sure he'll be off in no time at all!

Jacob on his Apollo Firechief Boys Bike from Halfords

Jacob on his Apollo Firechief Boys Bike from Halfords

Apollo Firechief Boys Bike - 12" WAS £159.99 NOW £69.99 SAVE £90.00 www.halfords.com

Helmets have become a necessity especially when it comes to the safety of our children and Halfords have got a range to suit every age and style. For our daughters bike the MET Crackerjack 'Pink Hearts' Bike Helmet goes well and is very in tune with her age group. Well fitting, It features an anti-pinch buckle, a safe-t-twist retention system for easy adjustment and an LED rear flashing light! And for our sons bike the Apollo 'Firechief & Police Patrol' Bike Helmet, with it's action and emergency scene decals makes it the perfect match. It has a dial-a-fit system so is easy to adjust without stress, adjustable straps under the chin and plenty of ventilation holes to keep them cool. He loved it so much he screamed his head of when i was time to take it off! Both helmets of course conform to EN1078 safety regulations.

 

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MET Crackerjack Bike Helmet - Pink Hearts (52-57cm) WAS £34.99 NOW £27.99 SAVE £7 www.halfords.com

Apollo Firechief & Police Patrol Bike Helmet (48-52cm) WAS £17.99 NOW £14.39 SAVE £3.60 www.halfords.com

Halfords also offer a FREE 'Bike Build & Safety Inspection' on all new bikes which you can see all about this in this short video, so you really don't need to worry about all those nuts & bolts, seat heights and tricky gear adjustments.

Prices are web exclusive - Save While You Shop on All Bikes* ?*Spend £100 save £10, Spend £200 save £20, Spend £400 save £40, Spend £600 save £60. Discount Applied in Basket. Offer ends Tuesday June 11 2013.

SEGA Super Sonic Raceway experience at Brooklands

Where better than to view the latest SEGA products for 'Sonic the Hedgehog' the iconic blue anthropomorphic hedgehog that has the ability to run at supersonic speeds than Mercedes-Benz World at the historic Brooklands racing circuit.

Our Children, Amber 9 and Jacob 2½ were treated to a one-off afternoon of fun activities including face painting, testing out the latest Sonic game and even speeding around in electric Go-Karts!

Amber with Sonic painted on her face

Amber with Sonic painted on her face

After meeting the SEGA team, Amber and her friend went to get their faces painted whilst Jacob played cars with the 'Sonic & Knuckles Meccano Chemical Plant Racing Playset'. It gave me a chance to look at the wide range of 'Sonic the Hedgehog products now available in the 2013 product catalogue. There's everything from plush toys to bedding, t-shirts to personalised cakes and even a Sonic bike - Sonic's come a long way since I remember playing the original game on my Mega Drive in the early 1990's!

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Now looking the part with her Sonic facepaint, Amber climbed in her Medium Speedster for a few hot laps of the Brooklands Hall. They were timed laps so everyone under 1.5m had a go, but I think she must have had at least 15 goes! At a more leisurely pace, Jacob didn't hesitate to try out the 'Little Learners Drivers Zone' that's available to the public for 3-5yr olds. He absolutely loved testing his road skills on a specially built indoor road course behind the wheel of a miniature SL-Roadster!

After a spot of lunch and some flag making, our daughter and friend tested the latest Sonic racing game 'Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed' - an improved sequel to the last game where players can alternate between car, boat and plane modes and where you can earn boost by drifting around corners or performing tricks whilst in the air. With new weapons and challenges as well as old favourites, this is must for any Sonic or Racing fan.

Our Super Sonic afternoon came to a close with a Medal Ceremony for all the children where the received a certificate, medal and goodie bag to remind them of their racing experience and Sissel Henno head of brand marketing at SEGA Europe thanked us for coming! ...no problem, anytime!

We wrapped up the afternoon by looking around the excellent 'Mercedes-Benz World' exhibition (which is free to the general public) something for the bigger kids as well as the little ones. Apart from the Formula One, historic and modern sports cars to look at they offer several driving experiences to suit any ages over 1.5 meters tall.

For more details please visit: www.sonicmerchandise.com and www2.mercedes-benz.co.uk   

 

Pump 'n' Pitch with Vango Tents

It's been nearly 30 years since I had my first tent and was allowed to camp in my back garden. I remember emptying all the tightly packed bits and laying all the separate poles out eagerly ready for construction. Over the years, tents have become overly complicated, with their incomprehensible instructions and bendy fibre-glass poles! Not anymore so it seems with the Vango AirBeam® range of tents, which offers an advanced 'no poles' structure. I was slightly sceptical that it was so quick and easy to erect a tent in under 5 minutes, but now you can.

 

Mark and Amber at The Hop Farm festival 2012

Mark and Amber at The Hop Farm festival 2012

I tested the 2 man tent, the 'Vango AirBeam® Velocity 200' and what better place than the Hop Farm Festival at Paddock Wood, Kent. The bag that it comes in seems on the larger size for a 2 man tent (as it also houses the excellent quality hand pump), but only weighs 7.5kg and can comfortably worn over your shoulder or as I found across your back.

Amber with the super speedy Vango AirBeam tent

Amber with the super speedy Vango AirBeam tent

Once you've pegged the four corners of the all-in-one tent (groundsheet already attached) you attach the pump to the base of each AirBeam® and inflate with only a few effortless pumps. The beauty of this apart from the speed is that if it's raining you can quickly jump in straight away before you have to complete the construction. After you've pegged the rest of the tent and guy ropes, you attach the inner tent with easy colour coded clips which takes seconds and hey presto, you're done, it's as easy as that!

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In complete honesty it probably took me about 10 minutes to erect, only because is was the first time, but would easily take less than 5 minutes now that I know what I'm doing. The only draw back to this is you've got to wait around for everyone else to put their tents up! One of the first things I noticed once the tent was up was the rigidity compared to all of the other tents around me, it was a windy day and it hardly moved. There's double entry doors for ease of access and extra ventilation on warm days that lead into a very ample porch space (enough room to even sleep 2 children) - the actual sleeping area being a large 210x140cm.

For more information and pricing of these remarkable tents, please visit vango.co.uk

Check out this cool video...