Archives for posts with tag: Toys

As I wrote previously, I turned my son ‘The Pok’ into a first rate Star Wars nerd. So when his 5th birthday came up, you can guess what he asked for – a Star Wars party. We were a little stumped as to what we should do for his party. Games, costumes, decorations, themed food, and well… all of the above. The first thing that came to mind that ticked off two items on the list was toy lightsabers for the kids. I have to admit that this idea was not original, but I thought that I would bring it to life in the most perfect way.

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First I had to source the blades, and foam pool noodles were the trick. I went to Kmart to grab six of them. In doing so I whacked some poor young woman three times while navigating the aisles (after the third time she thought that either I was annoying or trying a very bad pickup routine – the former was the truth). I grabbed two of each of the major colours seen in the films; blue, green, and red. Grab the hollow ones if you can, the solid ones hurt a bit if you get properly whacked.

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The tools required were:

  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Coping saw (not essential and can be swapped for a Stanley knife)
  • Permanent marker
  • Electrical tape to represent the lightsaber hilt (different widths and colours – but make sure that you have a grey colour on hand)
  • Some sticker dots (again not essential but adds to the detail)
  • Mitre guide on horse (not essential if not using the coping saw)

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The six noodles would end up making 12 lightsabers. First we had to measure the halfway point so we could do some cutting. The Pok was obviously getting frustrated with my perfectionism. The noodles I bought where exactly 1500mm so a cut at 750mm would do the trick.

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Then the noodle was cut in half using the guide and saw. The ends that were cut would end up being the hilt part of the lightsaber (so that the hilt could cover up any rough sawing and pen marks).

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Now I had to measure the hilt, so from the edge that I cut I measured in 200mm. I came to this measurement as a good length for little 5 year old hands to be able to double grip the lightsaber. This length also offered enough room for detailing the laser sword’s hilt.

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I wrapped the first band of electrical tape was around the noodle at the 200mm marker – which represents the emitting part of the hilt.

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Then I wrapped the end in tape to top and tail the hilt of laser sword.

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Filling in the gap with additional cuts of electrical tape allowed me to detail the hilt. I decided to be creative here and use varying cuts and colours of electrical tape to make a unique design for each lightsaber. A finishing touch was for the placement of one or more sticker dots representing the buttons to activate the blade (yes I am a perfectionist).

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The end result was a collection of unique toy lightsabers for each child attending the party to could grab and play with, and at the end of the party take home along with their goody bag.

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The Pok loved them, and as the birthday boy he received an extra special one with additional custom detail and some unique colours.

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Kiki simply thought that her Daddy had just made up the largest ice lolly she has ever seen (then proceeded to try and whack her brother).

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This was relatively cheap, a few dollars per noodle along with the cost of the electrical tape and a Saturday afternoon. The key was to make them unique. But watch out for; the kids fighting over the colours, little people ganging up on the parents, and a couple of bruised child egos from being left wanting in their fencing skills. As I was making them, my wife asked me “should we organise any games?” No need with these things, give them to the kids and let them whack each other for a few hours.

Last point – as a father yours must be red and of a b@d@ss design.

Visiting my parents in Summer is always a fun opportunity to get up to mischief in the backyard pool. The Pok (AKA my son) loves the opportunity to go for a swim with his cousins and anybody else that is prepared to jump in.

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But this year Santa delivered a variety of water weaponry; water pistols, water pumpers, and the piece de resistance is the nerf water rifle with its water cassette.

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I grabbed this last one as my weapon of choice, and so the battle began. I thought I was doing pretty well with my 20 feet of hyper accurate water sniping over the other low volume weapons (and the equally inferior family opponents who were carrying them) until my 9 year old niece, C, yelled out…

“Hey Uncle Chris. If you unscrew the orange lid on the cartridge, and keep that part of the gun underwater while you keep shooting, you never have to reload. You will have unlimited shots”.

What ensued for me was total domination of the battlefield (the pool). And I just got schooled in re-engineering my weaponry.

My niece C will either become the next “Tony Stark”, or end up being a globally hunted weapons smuggler. Either way, she has that “criminal cunning”. Respect!

PS – no permanent casualties were suffered in the pool, and whatever applicable parts of the Geneva Convention were adhered to.

No, we have not been blessed with a second child.

But we now have a fish! This last week I celebrated my birthday and my son, The Pok, decided that I needed a pet as my present. He tried to convince my wife that his Daddy needed a dog. Fortunately my wife does not think impractically like a 2 year old, and proceeded to convince him that it may be easier to take care of a fish.

Please welcome “Marlin” the Siamese Fighting Fish!

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He is only small at no more than 5cm in length (including his tail fins), but he is a beautiful shimmering orange with deep vibrant red fins. They are quite elegant when he spreads them to look like multiple fans of red spikes. The little guy has quite a personality too, and he kicks up a bit when we go to say hello to him. The Pok now has another daily task to add to his morning routine of feeding our fish. When I asked The Pok what his name was, he thought carefully and after a brief few seconds he shouted “Marlin!”

But Daddy, Marlin doesn’t Talk

The day after we got him, I picked up The Pok from day care and the first thing we both wanted to do when we returned home was to say hello to Marlin. As we gazed at his fish tank and spoke to him, Marlin stared back and opened his mouth. But it was confusing for The Pok that he didn’t talk back to us. He was moving his mouth, but no words were coming out.

Then it dawned on me that in my son’s world, everyone talks back. The trains talk in Thomas the Tank Engine and Chuggington, the cars talk in Disney’s Cars, the tools talk in Handy Manny, and the animals talk in Tinga Tinga Tales and Babar. Of course you have Mickey Mouse and his Clubhouse friends who are all chatterboxes too. Even when he plays with his toys, he emulates the conversations that he watches on the television shows and now makes up his own. When we go to a store and he sees a train or car without eyes The Pok says “Daddy, that car doesn’t have a face.”

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So you can imagine his disappointment when he turned around and said to me “Daddy, Marlin isn’t talking.” I provided some Daddy logic that only works on young minds and told him “That’s because Marlin lives underwater, and when you go swimming you can’t talk underwater.” The Pok was happy with that, for now, but no doubt he won’t be fooled for long.

Regardless, both The Pok and his Daddy love very much the new addition to our house. And it is never a dull moment figuring out the machinations of my son’s mind.

 

My little man, The Pok, likes spending time with his Dad (me 🙂 ) scheming and building grand constructions. Well he does have an equally playful “child” friend in me for his indulgence in grand designs. A couple of weekends ago, he dragged me from my lazy Sunday on the couch to insist that we make a grand construction – a bridge for his trains.  We live quite close to Sydney Harbour’s other great bridge – the ANZAC Bridge, so this was going to be the inspiration for our creativity.

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Material of Choice – Lego Duplo

Th Pok is enjoying getting stuck into building stuff more and more (he also enjoys destroying stuff – but that is another conversation), and the material of choice for this construction would be Lego Duplo. The blocks were laid out with meticulous planning. The Pok had great fun arranging all of them before construction began. In that respect my little boy is displaying tendencies to compulsiveness about how all things should be done. I also think that he is a bit bossy – which he doesn’t get from me.

The first part to construct would be the deck and we wanted to build big and to scale. We started in the middle working our way out. I would do one side and I would ask the Pok to match the bricks that I had connected. It was a symmetrical bridge after all.

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The deck of the bridge was quickly consuming bricks.

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We soon realised that this was going to be a big bridge, and were quickly running out of blocks.

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The I reinforced the bridge deck near the tower foundations. It was starting to get heavy and like any real-world bridge would have to primarily support its own weight.

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The Pok tested the width of the carriageway for trafficability. It was wide enough for a single lane.

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The towers were to be constructed next and were proving difficult to source a sufficient bricks in quantities of four. But after a few variations we were able to come up with something that we would be able to duplicate on the other side while still looking vaguely similar to the ANZAC bridge.

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Of course The Pok wanted to check for water clearance in the best way he knew how.

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Meanwhile, the Mother of Pok fabricated a road deck to overcome the grade of the bridge deck. Cardboard and scissors were put to good use to achieve the result. Testing of the road deck was required.

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At over a metre long, The Pok was sufficiently happy with the Grand Design. It didn’t have the cable stays, and in truth The Pok would have done his best impersonation of Godzilla if I had installed them.

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Mini-Thomas the Tank Engine was happy too.

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The next Lego creation will have to be The Eiffel Tower made out of Lego Duplo to celebrate the Tour de France.

My son (the Pok) has been infatuated with Mickey Mouse since before the age of one. I am very much to blame for this as I fed his nascent interest one day by going to K-Mart and purchasing a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse DVD. This was further fueled on a trip we took to North America where we purchased him a Mickey Mouse stuffed toy from the Disney Store in Times Square, New York. Needless to say ‘Mouse’, as he is affectionately known, has not left his side and is now the mandatory travel companion – should one be required. But now as he is getting older, his fascination with the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse TV show has increased, and I find myself the viewing companion more times than not.

Mickey Mouse and Pok

I can see his fascination with the show. In each episode there is a problem, an adventure, some ingenious solutions to the problem, and some funny characters. Don’t forget the obligatory “hot dog” dance at the end of the show – which every guest to our house has to perform with him should the show be on the tube. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

But it got me thinking the other morning at 6am on the couch with my son jumping around and squealing at ‘Tootles’ (if you don’t know who ‘Tootles’ is, then you are either not a parent or your child has not yet been exposed to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse). There is no running plot with the Clubhouse, just a situation with random incidents… just like a show about nothing – Seinfeld! After examining the character personas, I came to a bizarre conclusion that the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is just Seinfeld for infants. Take a look at the characters in comparison.

Mickey Mouse – Jerry Seinfeld

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Both Mickey and Jerry are the stars of their shows. Both shows have revolve around their relationship with their friends, and in a more striking coincidence the key locale for both shows happens to be their place of abode. Both characters usually open and close their shows with an address to the audience (Mickey to the viewer and Jerry to his standup audience). Both shows also adorn their names in the titles.

Minnie Mouse – Elaine Benes

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No I did not Photoshop a bow on top of Elaine’s head – those are her shoes. Both characters are the main female protagonists of their shows. Minnie and Elaine are both “love interests” of the star of the star of their respective shows (at one point or another). They both have similar conservative fashion sense.

Donald Duck – George Costanza

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Both Donald and George are the “angry” characters of their shows. They are both the best and oldest of friends for their show’s star. Invariably, the schemes that both characters hatch during the episodes fail. This is the second most obvious character similarity between the shows.

Goofy – Cosmo Kramer

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For me this is the most obvious character similarity between the show. Both characters are physically clumsy and amusing in their shenanigans. They are both taller than the rest of their cast ensembles. Their fashion sense is eerily similar, with the only thing missing from Goofy being Kramer’s trademark cigar. They also attain the most laughs in both of their shows.

Pete – Newman

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Both characters the primary antagonists in their shows. They both sport the same rotund torsos. And (apologies Wayne Knight) they both have the same head.

A couple of the Clubhouse main characters don’t have direct counterparts in Seinfeld but do represent elements of the Seinfeld show.

Daisy Duck

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Like all of George’s glamorous love interests, Daisy Duck is the object of Donald’s affections.

Pluto

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Well he is a pet dog who doesn’t speak, so he really has no Seinfeld counterpart (Jerry never owns a dog in the show).

Both shows also have many other recurring characters to aid as plot devices. But where I find the most similarity is the ability that both shows have to make their target audience laugh.

Raising an infant is the most enjoyable fun that you can have. It makes you realise that their little world is just a smaller version of your own crazy adult world.

OK – first thing to set straight – I LOVE LEGO!

Good that is out of the way. Even now as an adult, I achieve the same sense of wonderment from a simple set of plastic bricks. For me it is like building a puzzle, but with no set form and untold number of possibilities (and the most phenomenal statistic that I uncovered was that for 6 – 6-sided 8-stud bricks, the classic Lego brick, there are 915,103,765 possible 6-brick combinations – I have found that statistic out on How Stuff Works).Left to my own devices I could build and build and build, restricted only by the time commitments of being an adult and father.But I have not gone down the path of master builder as this would also probably be the path of divorce for me.

6 Lego BricksBut with the birth of the Pok, I have a new reason to play Lego! I probably pushed it a little too early, buying him way too much and constructing a lot of it for him when he couldn’t possibly interact. I do remember him sitting there in his first year watching me as I built him towers and cranes whose arms rotated above his head. We are not playing with Lego proper just yet, more Duplo, but it is great fun nonetheless. Below is our latest incarnation of a tower building, our Lego rendition of the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) – not quite the match that we would hope for, as we are stuck with the 90 degree angles that Duplo blocks push you towards. Obviously, the real thing is the one on the right.

Lego Duplo Burj Khalifa - for PokBurj KhalifaLego Duplo Burj Khalifa - Helicopter ViewWhat is funny is that the civil engineers who design these buildings do so to account for huge wind loads. We have to contend with apocalyptic Godzilla like attacks from none other than the Pok. Which shouldn’t really be much of a surprise given that there are not many real play opportunities for a big tower made of plastic bricks after it has been built. Hmmm… maybe a Lego Duplo Godzilla may be next on the cards – Pok would love that.

Lego Duplo Burj Khalifa - CrashHmmm… notice how he looks innocent again?

As he has been growing, I have waited patiently for him to connect two bricks together. You can imagine my joy when I saw him for the first time connecting the bricks, and then over and over again as he discovered a new found dexterous ability. But now our plotting and scheming is lifting up a level in our creations. The Pok has become quite interested in all things mechanical, and Lego is a great avenue for this. We were watching Cars 2 the other day and saw Mater become a secret agent with all sorts of gadgets. That gave me an idea, how about we make a cannon! But not just any cannon, a proper cannon that can target anything in the room. Below is the creation we landed with.

Lego Duplo Turret CannonYou cannot believe that amount of cheeky giggles that we have got out of this contraption. First target of course was Mummy of Pok. We sat on one couch and shot at her on another – 100 times. The beauty of this little contraption is that it has a full 360 degree arc of fire in the horizontal axis and 90 degree arc of fire in the vertical axis.

Lego Duplo Turret Cannon - Trajectory arcs of fireNow he is probably too young to learn trajectory physics just like a little Napoleon.cannon_trajectoriesI will wait until he turns three years old before I teach him this. The creators of Lego Duplo would probably have a heart attack when they found out that one of their customers was building mini projectile weapons systems from the pieces of the Agent Mater set (the cannon), The Deluxe Train set (the blue struts), both the Play with Numbers and Play with Letters (the support bricks for the bridge), the Stone Quarry set (the turntable to support the base platform) the Car Wash (base platform), and the Big City Zoo (the tiger log bridge which rotates on its supports).

Some people would probably call me a bad parent, but I think that every boy (big and small) needs an outlet for these militaristic tendencies. Hopefully I am nurturing a young engineer, let’s hope he doesn’t turn into a fiendish weapons manufacturer – like Tony Stark.

Lego Duplo Turret Cannon - manned by the PokPlus, he has his mother to teach him about cooking, music, and all of that stuff. 😉

Sometimes, it is too much for the little man and he has to do his own thing. More creations another day.Lego Man pondering and Pok asleep

Judge: All rise. The court is about to hear the case of ‘Parents versus Pok’. The charge is Mummy assault and battery. How does the defendant plead?

Defense (Pok): My want ice cream, not guilty

Pok_Attacks-1blogProsecution (Parents): The prosecution wishes to show the court exhibit A – also known as ‘Bettie’s Train Truck’. The blood splatter on the corner of the vehicle is consistent with blunt force trauma inflicted by the defendant on our victim. This can be seen as highlighted on the photo.

 

Pok_Attacks-2blogDefense: I object, that is not blood that is ‘red glue’ (quote from Pok). My want blueberries!

Judge: Overruled, this house does not contain ‘red glue’. You had already had blueberries for breakfast this morning.

Prosecution:  The prosecution wishes to call to the stand it’s one and only witness – Mummy of Pok. Mummy, what did you do in the moments immediately after the attack?

Victim (Mummy): I called out for Daddy of Pok and immediately went to the emergency room. There I was treated for the trauma, it hurt!

Pok_Attacks-3blogProsecution: Can you describe what the wound looked like?

Victim: Like a cut when a boxer cops a hit to the brow and they have to stop the bout and put on that magic cream thing. It occurred right up here.

Pok_Attacks-4blogProsecution: The prosecution rests your honour.

Judge: Defendant, what do you have to say?

Defense: Mummy – my want ice cream, that is my truck. Puffing down the track, choo choo.

Pok_Attacks-5blogJudge: In light of this irrefutable evidence, the court finds the defendant guilty! Does the prosecution wish to press charges?

Prosecution: No, we will accept a good behaviour bond.

Pok_Attacks-6blogDefense: What happened Mummy?

 

Ah, the joys of raising a two year old.

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