Christmas present ideas for children

Christmas is more than just buying presents, filling up on Turkey and tinsel. Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus. But so that you can focus on the real meaning of Christmas I have done some searching online to find the best ideas I can for great christmas presents that will stand the test of time and keep the kids amused until next Christmas. I have five children so kids christmas presents are my specialised subject…

1. Books

We are big fans of our local library – we regularly max out our library cards. But some books you’ll want to buy because the kids will read them over and over. Here are some top picks:

Mortal Engines (Mortal Engines Quartet)

Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engine’s Quartet– great for 10+ year old boys –

I’ve been reading this series to my older kids and they have been hooked. It’s gritty, it’s got great action sequences, and there’s relationships too – so not bad for a mixed audience.The series is set in the future after the 60 min war – which leaves a devastated post apocalyptic earth at the mercy of the great steam powered traction cities. There’s some great twists and turns in the story line – so all is not as it seems. Enjoy the ride…


The Roald Dahl Treasury

The Roald Dahl TreasuryThis is a beautifully presented book on really good quality paper (I am big fan of books feeling good as well as reading well) It has lots of great illustrations and some real treats from the wide range of children’s books Roald Dahl crafted. From Matilida to the Nasty Nursery Rhymes. Well worth the investment as kids won’t want to give this book up and they’ll hold onto this book into adulthood.


Magyk – we have just started this series and we’re really enjoying the pace and the clever ideas in each chapter. Its got a great hook for a begining, and Angie Sage does a great job of brining the character to life – giving them a real grace and humanity. Series are great because once a child is hooked on one – they’ll normally want to keep going – which is great for literacy.


Tales of Prydian – this is the best fantasy series to read with 8-11 year olds. There are five books in the series and they are really engaging – great stories with powerful messages and dare i say great wisdom. I’d read a chapter a night with my two sons (8 and 9) and they would always beg me to read more. Don’t be put off by the really quite terrible Disney version of book 2 (The Black Cauldron.) I can’t recommend these books highly enough.


NG Kids magazine £26.50 children aged 6 and above…


This is an amazingly good kids magazine combining some really good information about the natural world with news about films, computer gamesetc. You would not believe the number of conversations that my 9 year old started with my son introducing a fact at the right time – so the other day I burnt my tongue on a hot drink and my son says:

Son: “Dad, did you know it will take a week for you to grow a new taste bud.”
Dad: “How did you know that? “
“it was in my NG kids magazine.”

In fact it has been a standing joke in our house, that if my son knows anything it’s from NG kids magazine. It’s been a great present that my Mum gave him last year and it’s so exciting for young children to get regular post through the door each month. There’s normally a free gift: a micro kite, a 3D booklet, a book sampler etc.

Lion Graphic Bible

As Christmas is a Christian festival – it might be worth helping your children get an angle on the Christian story. This is a very well produced version of the Bible with excellent full colour art work and gives young people a really good overview of the whole Bible. I used it with my oldest children and we read it together at bed time. The images are really well done and give a great sense of the dynamism and action of a lot of the bible stories. It literally starts with Genesis and ends with revelation covering both the narrative sections and a quick overview of the epistles. It could be a great entry point for a lot of young people with the Bible.

Manga Jesus volume 1, Siku, Hodder and Stoughton

Graphic Artist Siku does an excellent job in capturing the drama of the gospel. This is a short book it is in black and white but printed on very high quality paper. It is artistically of an even higher standard than the Lion bible despite being in black and white. There are some very clever artistic touches that adds another dimension to this retelling of the gospel story.

2. Board Games

OK I admit it, I am mad keen on board games. They are a great family time investment – they teach co-operation, strategy and the art of losing graciously (and maybe winning graciously too). Here are our family favourites that will make some fun present options:

1. Pictureka

This is a very simple game, the object of the game is to find objects hidden inside a very detailed game board. There are individual and group challenges .Its great for a range of ages and is one of the few games that a 6 year old can play with adults. Its fast paced, family fun. We got this for Christmas last year and still play it regularly. Enjoy…



2. Settlers of Catan

My sister bought this for me a couple of years ago, she got into it in Canada and it is an excellent game. Its has a level of complexity that makes it fun to play over and over but the basic rules are simple enough that my 7 year old regularly beats me. Its a trading game that is a cross between Monopoly, Risk and Sim City. We have the basic game plus a number of expansion packs – including Cities and Knights and Sea farers. All of the expansion packs we have really do add value to your original investment – but the basic game is very good in itself. Highly recommended.(WARNING – We played this with some friends at a dinner party, we all got so into the game that we had to take the Robber out of circulation as it was leading to some heated discussions !)

3. Uno

This is an all time classic – if you need a stocking filler for a neice or nephew this could be it. Very simple and compulsive game to play. You can get all sorts of varieties of the game (we had the Spiderman version for a while which had some special features – and a nice tin which made the game easy to store and very robust). There’s a fun Dr Who version too. If you happen to have the good taste to support liverpool fc there’s a great european heroes version ! But the basic game is probably still the best. A great game to take on holiday.




I know lego is expensive but for sheer playability and durabilty there is no other toy like it. My parents carefully preserved all my lego and so my kids are playing with bricks that are 20 years old. My sons and daughters still love the stuff – we have an amazing lighthouse that my 6 year old daughter built shining out in our lounge at the moment. beware the lego that has too many large parts that don’t allow you to change very much. The Star Wars and Harry Potter stuff isn’t that good, but the good old basic lego is unbeatable! Enjoy. Amazon have some deals on at the moment…



geomagThis is a great gift that kids and adults will want to play with. One part executive desk toy , two parts kids building block toy. Geomag is a collection of magnetic linking shapes, ball bearings and panels that fit together to make interesting geometric shapes. They are very compulsive to play with – and you find yourself driven to make all manners of shapes, spinning toys, pyramids etc.

We left it out on our coffee table and all our visitors got stuck in and started making structures with it.

A great toy for all ages.


3. Gadgets

Sometimes rather than getting relatives to buy lots of little presents, we have experimented with a joint present.

Mobile Phone? – tough one this – when is the best time to buy the kids a mobile phone? For our 10 year old this year was his year. We bought him a pretty cool phone which he has used mainly for games, music and the occassional text message. it’s nice being able to phone him when he’s round a mate’s house or when he’s out with my wife but her phone battery has died !

Camcorder – we bought this for our daughter last year and she’s made some cool movies with it when we were on holiday. It was better than a straight digital camera for her – though the stills on a dedicated digital camera would have been better.

Pocket digital camcorder , 5 megapixel camera and 2.36 inch screen £29.50

camcorder1I tried to buy my kids a cheap digital camera kast year and I was really disappointed with the results. Even a 5 megapixel camera proved to be a bit of a dud producing really blurry pictures. So somehow the guys at vivitar have managed to make a handheld digital camcorder which does a great job of capturing video and replaying it on the generously sized lcd screen. I am so excited by this present can’t wait to give it to the kids this year ! It records straight to SD card so there’s no messing around with DVDs or Video tape. You can output the video to your PC / Mac and should be able to edit the movies on windows movie maker or imovie.You’ll need to buy an SD memory card.. but they are so cheap these days you’ll be fine.

For £30 you can’t go wrong with this camcorder and maybe you will end up with the next Spielberg or Fellini… enjoy.

Digital Camera – the boys made cool stop motion videos with these and also enjoyed being able to take their own snaps when we are out and about. This is the best of the relatively entry models you can get.

Nintendo DSi – this has some genuinely cool features – the downloadable pocketmoney priced games and the digital camera have been a hit in our home. It allows you to take pictures and then manipulate them – a fun feature is being able to compare two people in a picture to see how much they resemble eachother. Though there don’t seem to be any dedicated to DSi cartridges yet so you could buy a normal DS lite if the budget is short. Though Amazon are offering a DSi with a game for only £5.

4. Wii games

Wii games have a long shelf life in our house – FIFA09 was a major hit last yearas was Lego Batman as they have played it pretty consistently. So this year I would recommend:

Wii Sports Resort The motion plus device adds a whole new dimesion of game play to the wii – with pinpoint accuracy in its response to movement. We trialled a few of these games at a festival this summer and games such as the frisbee, the fencing, jet skiing and the aerial dogfight are all really good fun. You will need to get another wii motion sensor for the two player games – (you get one free with the grandslam tennis )

Mario Party 8 (fun turn based family game – think Monopoly meets the Wii) £32 I really like the pace of this game. Its like playing a good old fashioned board game – but with some fun twists and mini games. In fact you get more than one game in the box – so its like having a family compendium. It crosses a lot of age boundaries.

Wii fit plus We bought a wii fit this year and it really is addictive – there are some really fun games like the Hula Hoop, Football headers, Down Hill Ski Slalom and other fun balance games. There is also a more serious side to the game – it will measure your Body Mass Index, your centre of gravity and will give you a digital display on how your weight is getting on each day. Its really fun and compulsiev too – I was doing really well until I ate a kebab and it showed up on my weight check! Wii fit does actually help you lose weight or stay in shape and the new version has even more games to make it fun. if you have got wii fit already – the £16 wii fit plus might give it a new lease of life.

Mario Striker’s Charged this is a great fun game – highly addictive and a very good deal at the moment (£11.61) so its a great stocking filler. This is a very addictive high speed football game featuring all your favourtie characters from the Mario universe. You can play on your own, with a friend against computer generated teams or against your friends. You do need two num-chuks for multi-player mode. The genius of the game is that it keeps the action simple so passing , tackling and shooting is very easy – but there are also extra items to pick up, and special moves that add to the fun. So you can be playing a game and suddenly Mario goes super size or the Mole burrows under the goal keeper and shoots. I think this is a great soccer game for younger children and adults too – if you want realism go and buy FIFA 10.

Guiness World Records the video game This has been a real hit in my family. Loads of really fun minigames – including Fridge Throwing, the loudest burp in the world, Landspeed record. The great thing about this game is that if you only have 1 remote and a nunchuck you can still play 4 player mode on this. Colouful graphics and lots of really playable games. It’s a bargain game too – which is always nice. Buy this one you won’t regret it.

Super Smash Bros Brawl This is a fun game. You can play as a vast range of characters – from Sonic to Mario to Pokemon to the cast of Final Fantasy. Up to four players can play at the same time and you can use throws, punches, kicks and special attacks to try and fight against your opponents. The backgrounds are amazing and take their cues from video games new and old – my favourites are from the Game and Watches of the 80s. There are lots of characters, objects, soundtracks and special moves to collect so there’s lots to reward you for keeping on coming back and playing again. You don’t have to have a numchuck to play this game but it is definitely easier if you have. It’s really come down in price so snap it up as a stocking filler.

My Sims My 7 year old daughter loves this game. It has all the sociability of animal crossing but with the additional creativity and fun of its own. You create towns and villages, desigining and decorating houses, building your own furniture and then you go and make friends. My daughter made a fridge, decorated her own room and went prospecting for “essences” and was “being nice” to random people she met in her world not long after getting the game. With bright graphics and lots to explore this is a great game for kids who like being creative rather than competitive.

More ideas coming soon…

Wii games for kids Summer holidays

If it’s raining outside and the kids need to let off a bit of steam…

Here are the ultimate Summer wii games:
1. Mario Power Tennis

At under £20 this is a complete bargain and is my favourite wii game at the moment. it’s very demanding and you really have to “hit” the ball hard to return some of the serves. i love it and i think the kids think its great too. there are lots of mini games – gimmick courts but the main tennis play is excellent. I am a big fan of mario games and this is no let down. It’s well worth the money and even rivals mario strikers charged as the best mario game ever.



2. Wii fit

we just got this as a birthday present in our house. Its really addictive and every one has their target fitness levels. It has lots of content ranging from full on press ups to really fun balance games like hula hoop and tight rope – this is a great game and is easy to get hold of now for around £50. I am currently king of the slalom and you’ll love the header compeitions and ski jump too.


3. Wii Sports resort –

this looks amazing and comes with a complementary wii motion plus add on for your controller. The best games appear to be the frisbee throwing, fencing and table tennis. We haven’t got this yet but the reviews are excellent. let me know how you get on with it. I like the look of the plane dog fighting flying game – where you hold the wii remote (with motion plus add on) like a toy aeroplane and whizz it around the room.



4. My Sims

if energetic fun isn’t for your kids – this is a great game for the more creative and social types. I bought this for my 7 year old daughter and she loves it. It involves exploring a really colourful environment, making friends and building a house and decorating it using various resources you have collected. It can be very addictive.

This again is on a bargain deal at Amazon for only £12. Which is cheaper than a family trip to the cinema and you’ll get more hours per pound ;o)


5. Dora the Explorer rescues the Snow Princess

with its easy controls this is just the ticket for our three year old who likes having her own wii game to play with. the older children want to play too – but this really suits toddlers best. We thought we got a bargain from amazon for £17 but its only £9.95 now.

New U2 Album 2009 No Line on the Horizon

(check out my review on

The rumour mill is on turbo at the moment as we await the latest U2 offering. Bono is confident it could be there best ever. In a recent Q magazine the provisional track listing of the album was revealed. (this was taken from

  • Q magazine’s album preview mentions the following songs, some of which are new and some previously mentioned:
    • “Magnificent” (“classic U2isms” … “atmospheric sweep”)
    • “Crazy Tonight” ( worked on this one)
    • “Stand Up” (“swaggering” … “coruscated Edge guitar work”)
    • “Get Your Boots On” (“a heaving electro-rocker”)
    • “Winter” (“about a soldier in an unspecified war zone”)
    • “Unknown Caller” (“stately”)
    • “Moment of Surrender” (“a strident seven-minute epic recorded in a single take”)
    • “Breathe” (Eno loves this song)
    • “No Line On The Horizon” (there were two versions being considered at the time)
    • “Every Breaking Wave” (Bono: “We might be on to something special there.”

Apparently we are gong to get all the option to buy the album on vinyl, in a box, with a poster a book, you name it.

REM used to be my favourite band by a long way with U2 rocking up second. But looking at the last few albums REM’s output has been decidedly bland in comparison. There have definitely been some great singles coming out of Athens Georgia but nothing to compete with the consistency of albums like How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb or All that You Can’t Leave Behind. We wait with eager anticipation the new album from the greatest band in the world.

Here are some sneak peaks available on youtube: