When I was young, shopping for toys involved perusing the shelves in your local department store throughout the year or, come Christmas, dragging your parents around the overheated, fake snow and glitter filled grottos for Santa.
It’s the heat I remember most. There was always a pensioner having a fit of the vapours parked precariously on a chair just outside whilst the staff fanned them with a towel. Air conditioning was just a distant dream.
As my sister Sarah and I got older, our relatives just gave up trying to guess what we liked and gave us vouchers. Now fond as I am of a voucher, it’s just not the same as being given a present which tugs at the heartstrings because it’s just what you wanted and it’s right for your age.
Today, more than ever, matching the toy to the child’s age requires a mathematical equation not dissimilar to getting the Hadron Particle Collider to work which is probably easier sometimes than finding a child’s gift what will keep them entertained for more than 2 minutes.
So I was intrigued when the devilishly named Wicked Uncle wrote to me and suggested a solution. They have a website filled with an amazing mix of gifts for children of all ages, sorted by age, category or gender.
This is not only useful for buying presents for your own and other kids in the family but a very useful solution to that bane of parents’ term-time lives – deciding what gift to give at a children’s party, what budget is right (without being considered mean) and whether that gift is suitable for their age.
I frequently ask Caitlin and Ieuan “but what does so-and-so like?” to be greeted either by a shrug of the shoulders or ‘Shopkins’ (the modern-day equivalent of the Tribble from Star Trek).
Wicked Uncle kindly gave us a budget of £40 to road-test their site and so Caitlin and Ieuan were given £20 to choose their own gift.
There was, in fact, so much choice that Ieuan was quite overwhelmed with it all and I had to choose for him.
The website is really simple to use –
Simply select the relevant criteria for the child you’re buying for to be taking to an appropriate selection of gifts.
Then choose the category of gift you think they might like. I particularly liked that the girls’ gifts included as many science/maths / experiment gifts as the boys’. Whilst there are enough ‘traditionally girly’ gifts to delight your average pony/kitten/pink loving girl, there are equally plenty of gifts to stimulate their minds and help with the school curriculum.
Caitlin chose Shadow, a Lavish Lanky Cat (£12.95) which is a gorgeously soft, floppy toy cat with baleful green eyes.
She also chose the My Very Own Fairy & Unicorn Torch & Projector (£6.95).
The latter is a fun torch that projects images of fairies and unicorns around your room. It has 24 colour images to project on to your walls and ceilings including fairies, unicorns and their magical homes.
The images project up to one metre wide and come on three slide discs you simply slot in. You can also use it as a normal torch without the slides in place and is useful for keeping on bedside tables to give comfort to children during the night.
I chose for Ieuan and got him the Night Goggles Spy Gear (£19.95). These have tinted blue lenses to enhance night vision and a switch on full mode which gives directional beams of bright LED light, leaving both hands free to explore.
You can also flip out the scope with its 2x magnifying lens to spot targets from greater distances.
Needless to say, we have had to promise to take him to the woods at dusk so he can scare the living daylights out of any dog walker out for a pleasant evening stroll.
Our gifts arrived really quickly (within 48 hours) of ordering and were securely packaged. There is even a rather cute postcard included in the box addressed to the gift-giver.
And, as for the acid test, both kids are still playing with their toys 3 days later and Ieuan has not managed to break his Night Goggles yet.
I was impressed by Wicked Uncle and I think their site will be a godsend this Christmas for choosing presents for kids which will pique their imagination without emptying your purse.
You can find out more at www.wickeduncle.co.uk.
*We were given £40 to spend at Wicked Uncle for the purposes of this review.