I’d like to announce that we have now finished our half term construction project: Dippy the Diplodocus. Over half term we were issued a challenge by Apples to Pears. The idea was to build a diplodocus from one of their kits in a tin. The kits in a tin were produced in collaboration with the National History Museum. As you may well know, Dippy the Diplodocus is the National History Museum’s famous dinosaur skeleton who is currently on a national tour. We liked the idea of having our very own Dippy at home with us, but we have visited the real Dippy in London before now.
Our Dippy is made of 60 pieces of FSC wood and he’s 46cm long. His pieces all comes neatly packed up in a metal tin and he makes a nice gift (easy to wrap too, or is just me who thinks about that?). You just press out the pre-cut wood pieces and start work. The pieces pop out of the wood quite easily and you have your parts ready to go. I’d suggest that you pop out a sheet at a time, rather than popping out the sheets all at once, and then having to work a bit harder to identify which piece was which in the instructions. The instructions do refer to particular numbers of pieces of wood and it would be easier to follow if you knew which sheet of wood each piece had come out of.
The instructions are clear and easy to follow (we liked that they were illustrated with photos rather than line drawings), but H decided that we would make it more difficult for ourselves (I’m not sure why) by not using the glue provided. Using the glue would make the dinosaur more robust I’m sure and we did have a few tricky moments because we had decided to do without.
Anyway we managed without the glue and Dippy is still standing now a few days later. We have him on display on the mantleshelf.
Today I took H and his cousin along to Birmingham Hippodrome to see Bouncing Cats and Boom Boom Pups. The show was in their Patrick Centre (accessed through the main theatre lobby) and as it was our first visit we were surprised to find their were no seats. We sat on the floor initially, but most of the hour or so of the show we were on our feet joining in. When we were asked to review it we weren’t sure what to expect, but the show promised beatbox, rap and graffiti in an immersive performance for children.
The performance is hosted and facilitated by 2 performers that seemed to be able to improvise and act their way through any situation. To begin we they rapped about objects that we were holding up from out of our pockets. My nephew was thrilled when they took the empty plastic wrapper he was holding and turned it into a rap. The main performance though concerns a story about a group of cats and a group of dogs that meet up for first time. This is all done with minimal equipment and props, but there was this fabulous scenery painted by one of the presenters. The boys learnt a bit about rapping and beatbox as the story unfolded.
It’s all about joining in, but no one has to do anything – it’s all very relaxed. The boys enjoyed dancing at the end during the ‘after party’. It’s billed as suitable for 5-10 year olds and I think that’s about right. H enjoyed it despite being at the top of the age range and he might still for a year or two. My nephew is 6 and I did worry slightly that it would all be too new to him, but he did enjoy himself and really got into the story and the music. There were younger kids there that seemed to be getting something out of it too.
What’s been the coolest toy on this block this half term? The answer to that is simple: Anki Overdrive. As soon it arrived in the house for us to review it was out of the box; it’s a toy that just exudes excitement and everyone wants to join in. H’s cousins have been keen to have a go and the boy next door, anyone who sets foot in the house really.
Anki Overdrive is a car racing game that uses tablet or phone technology and combines this with a physical track and cars. You download the free app and you are quickly up and running (there is an android app as well as one for IOS). You race the cars using the app to control them and you can build up experience and collect extra weapons as you go along. It’s really easy to use and very intuitive. There are options to play against the game or against a real life opponent. You do need wifi to play with more than one person, even if you both have apps already downloaded. This isn’t normally a problem though for us, but we did encounter the issue at someone else’s house. It is really quite portable (because the track comes apart and it’s pretty flat) and you can easily take it to a friend’s house or a grandparent’s or even on holiday with you.
The track is really easy to slide together and it connects with magnets, so it doesn’t easily come apart. There are lots of combinations that you can make especially if you buy additional pieces of track. The possibilities are endless and we experimented with using things like cushions to create uphills. It’s a really versatile and flexible track system. The cars will leave the track at times, but this is all part of the fun and doesn’t get frustrating.
The cars are very stylish and there are 2 cars in the starter pack, but you can buy extra vehicles to top up your collection. They need about 10 minutes to charge up for 20 minutes play. If you have more cars you could be playing with one set whilst waiting for the other set to charge. If you don’t have extra vehicles, it will stop play every so often.
Included with the Anki Overdrive Starter Pack are:
2 Robotic Supercars
6 curved track pieces
4 straight track pieces
2 riser pieces
1 four-car charging system
1 tyre cleaner
This is all you need to get you started and you can have a lot of fun with it, but be warned, you will quickly get requests for more track or more vehicles. We love it as racing system and I think we will get a lot of use out of it. I like that it works well for an only child like H when he’s playing on his own, but it does just as well when he wants to play with a friend. You’ll need a separate tablet or phone with the game downloaded if you want to play together. Highly recommended.