C5 Childs Tracker Watch: Forget big brother, big mother is watching you

Tracker-Watch

When children are little, it’s reasonably easy to keep your eye on them – you can attach them to a strap on both your wrists, strap them in a buggy, or hold on to their reins. Once they’re bigger, Take2Teq is offering a new solution in the form of the C5 Childs GSM GPS Tracker Positioning Watch Phone.

When your kids are older, how do you know where they are? Sure, you might keep an eye on them, but if you take them to festivals (a more and more popular pastime in the summer for families), or for days out, what happens if you get separated? And if they are at secondary school and have a journey to make, and after school clubs to go to, how can you keep track of where they are?

That’s where the GPS GSM Tracker Phone Watch comes in. The phone allows parents to keep track of their child using a smartphone. The makers say that the watch not only offers the child a discrete way to send an instant alert should they be in trouble but also to make and receive calls to up to four set numbers.

This makes it a good in-between product for anyone who doesn’t want their child to have a mobile phone – for whatever reason –while offering them a communication device to use in event of problems.

The phone watch has a SIM card and parents can locate their child using the ‘On Demand GPS location’ function. This will send the GP co-ordinates of the child to the pre-set mobile phone numbers – you might choose parents, childminder and best friend’s parent, for instance.

A total of six waypoints can be inputted, showing entry and exit time from the waypoints, which are sent to the guardian numbers.

There is also an intelligence voice monitoring function, which lets parents covertly dial into the watch and listen in, although this sounds a bit too big brother for my liking.

If you’re out shopping, or at a theme park, for instance, there is a bluetooth tethering function, which sends an alert message if the pairing or connection drops out, which happens when the phone and watch are more than 10m apart.

The watch also acts as an MP3 player and comes in a number of colours. It costs £74.40 from www.take2teq.com.

1stFone Mobile for 4-9 Year Olds

1stfone

Gadgets don’t tend to cause a lot of controversy. Their uses and applications may be called into question sometimes, but an actually device is usually free from any condemnation or disapproval. However you get the feeling that a mobile phone aimed at four-to-nine-year-olds would cause quite a stir…and it has.

Called the 1stFone, this back to basics cellular device is designed to connect a child with their parents or guardian in times of despair. It’s compact, screen-free design features no text or Internet capabilities but can store up to twelve contacts for every eventuality.

“In a world dominated by smart phones, parents face a difficult choice when it comes to finding a first phone for their child,” said Tom Sunderland, founder of 1stFone creator OwnFone. “We wanted to design a fun product that appeals to children but puts parents in complete control and minimises usage while still providing a vital connection between parent and child.”

According to the company, 1stFone aims to reduce the risks of text bullying or being exposed to harmful material online. It will also provide children with a vital contact to loved ones while playing outside, walking to school or at a friend’s house.

In terms of the actual device, it is actually quite a clever and well thought out design, obviously created for ease-of-use. 1stFone is also delivered pre-programmed with a parent’s desired names and numbers ready to go straight out of the box.

Needless to say, 1stFone has sparked anger and fury among parent groups and campaigners. Critics believe that OwnFone is simply trying to commercialise children and make money out of paranoid parents. Siobhan Freegard, founder of Netmums.com commented: “Marketing mobiles to pre-school children is wrong. No four-year-old needs their own phone as they should never be left alone or in a situation where they need to ring an adult.”

It’s somewhat difficult to take a definite stance on the subject. One certainly hopes that OwnFone’s main intention is to protect children from harm and provide essential assistance in a difficult situation rather than benefit from the commercial potential of worried parents. Regardless of personal opinion, it seems like even the youngest of children will be exposed to technology sooner rather than later.

Last-minute kids’ Christmas gadgets

Is Santa still looking for a few treats for the children/teens in your family?

Here are a few neat ideas that should put you in the favourite uncle/auntie category well into the New Year (which means you get first dibs on their Christmas sweet stash!)

ruckjack

If you’re buying for children aged around five to seven, and they have access to a computer, it’s very likely they will be Moshi Monster fans. In which case, this Ruckjack could be right up their street. Is it a rucksack, is it a jacket? It’s both – and they can even go online and create their own design, choosing colours and finishes. You don’t have to have the Moshi Monster lining of course, but what little Monster fan would deny themselves?  And if you have a child who hates wearing a coat, they can slip it off, turn it into a rucksack, and pop it onto their back while they scoot/cycle home.

The Ruckjack comes in sizes 3-12, costs £29.99 and can be ordered from www.miioon.com

Blue-Bird-Mini

Angry Birds fans can bring their favourite furious feathered friends from the screen to real life with one of these Angry Birds Speakers from Gear4.

The ever-raging Red Bird Space, Blue Bird, Black Bomber Bird, Red Bird and explosive Lazer Bird all work with any smartphone, music player, or tablet and have a 3.5mm headphone jack. The speakers feature expandable bass twist function for stronger audio quality and are able to link with multiple speakers, so you could have a string of your favourite birds blasting out your top tunes.

The lithium battery can be charged for two hours to give eight hours of playback.

Priced between £29.99 and £34.99 from www.gear4.com

Penguin-Speaker

More avian-themed speakers are available from Kitsound – this time in the shape of a less angry-looking penguin or cute owl speaker. These speakers will plug into a smartphone, MP3 player or tablet and come in a bundle of three products – headphone, phone sock and speaker for £14.95 from www.phones4u.co.uk

Need to make that homework more appealing? How about treating them to a fun coloured wireless mouse – just for them? Might be just the incentive they need to get down to work. The Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 comes in red, pink or blue as well as glossy black or white and the makers claim it will work on any surface – so the bedroom carpet should be fine! It is designed to be used by left- and right-handers and has rubber side grips for better handling. The mouse costs £29.99, for more details log on to www.microsoft.com/hardware.

Finally, we all know dogs are not just for Christmas, but here’s one pet that won’t need walking, feeding or taking to the vets.

Tech-Pet-Kids

Just put your iPhone or iPod touch into the TechPet body and watch it transform into a friendly pet dog robot! It will move just by hearing your voice or seeing your hand waving, you can play games and music on it and it will even play with other TechPets.

In sitting mode, the TechPet can be used as a music player; put it in trick mode to teach it new tricks, and you can even customize its face – use your own pictures as TechPet’s face via ‘Face Morph’ if you want!

The TechPet is £59.99 from Toys R Us, John Lewis, Argos, Amazon, and The Entertainer. For more details head to www.facebook.com/BandaiUK

The “Wind in the Willows” App Review

The Wind in the Willows is one of those timeless classics that has survived generations – and now it is being brought to today’s children via an app for iPad and iPhone.

One of the things we all remember about the book is the beautiful illustrations – they have been drawn by many different artists over the years, including Ernst Shepherd and Arthur Rackham. But for the new apps they have been beautifully redrawn by by world renowned muralist Steve Dooley.

Wind-in-the-Willows

He found inspiration in what Kenneth Grahame said to the original illustrator back in 1908. “I love these little people,” he said, “so please be kind to them,”

“It’s a message which I took very much to heart, myself,” says Steve. “These characters were loved into existence.”

In order to bring the drawings to life technical magic was needed in the form of Bobby Gilbert who would spend hours researching the minutiae of each and every page.

“I spent a long time researching bumblebee flight to get them as beautiful and captivating as Steve’s drawings,” says Bobby.

“We fell under the spell of the book – its characters, its humour, the wonderful eccentric lyricism of the words. It absorbed us; we had to do justice to it.”

The apps feature 190 interactive pages, where the user can drive Toad’s car, crash it into cliffs, conjure up butterflies, throw stones off a bridge to sink Toad’s boat and much more.

It’s quite magical, and for anyone who wants to bring the magic of a favourite childhood book to their own children, while reliving a familiar tale themselves, this is the ideal way to do it. A real treat to enjoy together – and something to while away a few hours on a cold and wet wintry afternoon.

For more information and links to the App Store, where the app is available to buy for $6.99, head to www.TheWindInTheWillowsApp.com .

The BathBuoy – Save Energy in the Bath!

Anyone with young children will know how exasperating it can be to wait for the bath to fill up – and to see how much water you use each time you bath them. This is when they’re at the age when they need bathing every day – for reasons that I won’t go into for fear of putting off anyone considering starting a family…

BathBuoy

But the truth is that filling up a bath for a very small person takes a considerable amount of water (especially if you have a water meter and have to watch your usage for financial as well as environmental reason) – and heating that water costs you money. So what if there was a way to still let your little ones enjoy a deep, splashy bath, without wasting vast amounts of heating and water?

Well there is, and it comes in the shape of the BathBuoy – an inflatable device that doubles as space filler and bath toy. The idea is that you inflate the BathBuoy, stick it on the bottom of your bath using the suctions pads, turn on the water and hey presto – a nice deep, splashy bath using far less water and energy than before. The makers say it can save up to 30 litres of water for each bath – which is a lot when you’re bathing your grime-magnets every day.

It is estimated that using the BathBuoy could save up to £40 a year on utility bills if you have a water meter or more than £12 if you’re household is not on a meter.

The BathBuoy comes in three designs – Pirate Island, Penguin Island and Treasure Island, and even my six-year-old, who I thought might consider himself too old for it, enjoyed playing with the Pirate Island BathBuoy we tried out with his own pirates and pirate ship.

The BathBuoy inflates to approx 400mm x 400mm, and stands 257mm high to the top of the volcano, and claim the makers, it fits into all types of bath. Well, it doesn’t. We have an old freestanding bath – and it wouldn’t stay stuck to that, so we tried it at our neighbours’ house, where they have a more modern bath. No joy there either – the suction pads just kept coming away from the bath. Although the two-year-old and six-year-old in that house also enjoyed playing with the product itself.

Finally, I asked another neighbour, who has a very recently renovated bathroom with a modern bath that has a shower area at one end. Success at last! Her five-year-old and one year-old both enjoyed sharing the bath with the BathBuoy, and it helped to create a more secure area for the little one, while the bigger one enjoyed playing pirates and reading the words.

So, the idea is a good one, and if you have a wide-based, modern bath, the BathBuoy may well work for you.

Find out more about the BathBuoy, which costs £9.99 plus P&P (although it might be worth checking with your water company to see if they are offering it at a special price) at bathbuoy.co.uk/

Ben 10 gets his wheels with Galactic Racing

If you have a small boy aged between about 4 and 7, you’re likely to be very familiar with Ben 10. Just quickly, for the uninitiated, Ben 10 is Ben Tennyson, ‘an ordinary boy’ who finds a weird alien watch, which turns out to be Omnitrix (or the Ultramatrix as it becomes in later series). This alien device turns Ben into a number of aliens, including one that blasts fire, one who looks like a weird wild space dog, and various others.

Ben-10

Anyway, if you’re looking for a gift for a boy of this age (and some girls) generally you can’t go too far wrong with Ben 10.

So it was with great excitement that we found ourselves trying out the game on the Wii at home, with my five year old, who luuurves Ben 10.

Mario Kart is a favourite in our house – primarily I think because it’s a game we can all play, it’s pretty simple to understand, and doesn’t require too much in the way of brain power.

We suspected that Ben 10 Galactic Racing would be the same. And in some ways it is. You get to choose your character (Ben can transform into different aliens mid-race), your vehicle, and you choose which track of 25, set across five different planets, you’re going to race on.

The graphics are a bit of a letdown – at least on the Wii version. I couldn’t believe just how pixlelated they are. However, surprisingly this didn’t seem to bother Arron too much, and he quite happily drove around the tracks.

There are a variety of power-ups available and these take a while to get to grips with – and the controls are different from those used for Mario Kart, which takes some getting use to as well. It’s actually quite a challenging game, considering what age its target market is.

Surprisingly, Arron has not asked to play the game again since we tried it out for this review – yet when we first had Mario Kart he was like a thing possessed. So while kudos goes to the developers for actually putting quite a lot of thought into what is essentially a kids’ game, maybe they have just missed the mark. Having said that, the extra difficulty may make it a good game for an older child who still enjoys Ben 10.

Kids Apps: My First JCB & Postman Pat Special Delivery Service

It’s amazing how quickly little ones work out how to use a smartphone – but you can use this to your advantage if you find yourself on a longer-than-expected car or train journey, or waiting in a long queue.

So it’s great that there are so many apps out there aimed at little ones. Two recent launches features a couple of very popular characters – Postman Pat and the My First JCB crew.

Postman-Pat

The Postman Pat Special Delivery Service app has been released to celebrate Pat’s 30th birthday – and he doesn’t look like he has aged at all!

There are eight games to choose from, all with easy, medium or hard settings to choose from – and even slightly older children will enjoy them. I thought my five-year-old might turn up his nose at Postman Pat, but he really enjoyed the games on a harder setting;

Choose from the likes of:

Thompson Farm: Help Alf round up the animals into the right pens.

Post Office Sorting Game: Help Pat sort the letters and parcels into the correct sorting bins.

Train Game: Help Ajay direct the trains. Look for the coloured lights on the signal posts then touch the junctions to change the direction of the arrow points.

One point – the instructions (as on so many apps aimed at littlies) are written, so you do have to explain how to play the games. This seems to be the case on lots of apps and sites aimed at preschoolers – maybe it is to ensure that parenst don’t just leave them to their own devices – but spoken instructions would be great so that little ones could play on their own if they wanted.

The app costs £1.99 (which is a small price to pay for a bit of peace and quiet!) from iTunes

My-First-JCB

For those who don’t have a child obsessed with all things vehicular, you might not know about the My First JCB characters. Joey JCB, Marty Mixer and Doug Dumptruck are very popular with small boys who love anything to do with construction.

This is the first time they have appeared on a smartphone app – and the My 1st JCB app has nine games and activities for them to try out. You can have a race, play a memory game, piece together simple jigsaws and do a dot-to-dot.

This app is not as involved as the Postman Pat one and is definitely aimed at the younger end of the market. Without the easy, medium an hard settings on the games, this is not an app that will grow with your child as the Postman Pat one will. But still lots of fun for small boys up to four who loves their construction vehicles.

The app costs £1.99 from iTunes

Make Halloween even more fun with great spooky-wooky gadgets

Yes another Halloween has almost arrived and alongside the terrifying costumes, tins of Celebrations for trick n treaters and candle-lit pumpkins to show that we’re getting in the Halloween spirit, there is a growing emphasis on blood-curdling gadgets circulating each October. Check out some of the best Halloween gadgets for 2011.

Halloween-Apps-One

123 Glow HD Colouring Book, Halloween Edition for iPad and iPhone

With a patent-technology that makes drawing over lines impossible, kids will adore this fun Halloween colouring book.  The 123 Glow HD Colouring Book is educational as well as entertaining, as on top of being creative with Halloween shapes, drawing, stickers and pictures, kids will be able to learn letters, number and colours in four different languages – English, German, Spanish and French.

Although the 123 Glow HD Colouring Book is not just about drawing, arithmetic, reading and writing, as kids can also watch Halloween cartoons and sing along to spooky, Halloween-related songs.

Carve it! Pumpkin Carving app

This Halloween app is suitable for children aged 3+. Kids will have hours of creative fun, carving pumpkins with their fingers and then lighting them up with a candle inside. Their ingenious pumpkin creations can be shared with friends and family via email.

The Carve It! Pumpkin Carving app is compatible with the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch and costs $0.99 to download.

Ghost-detecting cell phone strap

For those convinced their house is being haunted by poltergeist, the ghost-detecting cell phone strap should satisfy their ghostly paranoia this Halloween. The mobile phone strap turns red when it detects a spirit – guaranteed to permeate terror and bedlam on Halloween night.

But that’s not all; this wacky gadget includes a ‘Kotodama’ tuner, which allegedly uses ‘algorithms’ to transform the spiritual energy around us into human language, enabling those of the psychic tendency to communicate with the ‘Great Beyond’.

Who needs a Ouija board when you can pick up a ghost-detecting cell phone strap for $23.20?

Scarecam

Feeling more passive? The Tulleys Farm Shocktober Fest Halloween event near Crawley in Sussex has installed an infrared webcam in one of its haunted house attractions over Halloween. The ‘Scarecam’ is a streaming webcam which is live from 7pm to 11pm each night until 31 October showing a string of victims/customers fumbling their way along the dark passageway before being frightened out of their skins. The webcam includes sound too so you can also hear the nervous chatter followed by the screams coming from the terrified customers.

Logo on to www.ScareCam.co.uk to watch the Scarecam

Death Booth Halloween

Want to pretend you went out for Halloween, when really you stayed in and watched Ingmar Bergman movies? Try Death Booth Halloween, a new app from AppSolution, that does a pretty good job of making you look awful.

Out on iTunes

Halloween-Apps-Two

Freak Show cases

And finally what’s the point in dressing up your kids in a scary costume when their iPod Touch hasn’t made the effort? Griffin have launched a limited edition line-up of spooky cases for iPod touch – the Freak Show series.Freak Show cases surround the iPod touch in a thick jacket of silicone molded into monsters and mythical creatures. The silicone case stretches to fit the iPod touch 4th generation, with cutouts providing easy access to controls, connectors and the camera lens.

Griffin’s Freak Show cases are available for £16 ($24.99) from Thursday 27th October for a limited time only from here.