Product reviews

Products you need, products you don’t


Our parent reviewers tell us what works, what doesn’t

From baby wipe warmers to flushing portable potty trainers, parents are bombarded with new must-have products on a daily basis. Do our babies really get cleaner with warm wipes? Do they learn to use the potty faster when it’s made just for them?

These are the questions that try parents’ souls. We want to give our kids the best, and still be able to afford to give them a college education.

In our ongoing effort to help parents do the toughest job in the world, this month brings the debut of our New Product Parent Review feature. We have asked manufacturers to send us samples of the products they say parents can’t live without. Then, we send the products onto one of our more than 100 parent reviewers.

These pages hold the reviews of five new products, from a kit that claims to make it easy to paint clouds on your child’s walls to a gadget that promises to explain why your baby is crying.

Our reviewers tell you whether the products work, whether its worth the price and whether they recommend you buy one to ensure you have the happiest kid on your block. Cindy Richards

Cloudwash by Watercolor Walls,; $49.95

Cloudwash promises to be a complete kit for creating a blue sky and fluffy white clouds in your child’s bedroom. It includes a video demonstrating the proper cloud-painting technique.

The video makes excellent use of real people. The creator explains in easy-to-understand language how to use the product, while an experienced artist allows the homeowner to try Cloudwash both independently and with help to achieve the desired look. Watching the entire process on video was much more helpful to me than simply reading the written step-by-step instructions.

It was easy to apply and went relatively quickly. As with any painting project, a number of coats were needed but this helped to achieve a natural and subtle look. I now have a jealous neighbor who actually painted a cloud theme in her son’s nursery and thinks the Cloudwash would have turned out much better. 

I highly recommend this as a fast and fun way to change a room. It produces quick and easy professional results for the do-it-yourself consumer, and it’s a bargain compared to hiring a painter. Kim Wilson, PLAINFIELD

GoDVD! by Sima,; $129.95

GoDVD! connects between a playback source, such as a VCR, and a DVD recorder to allow users to enhance and transfer old videos to DVDs.

With the world inching ever closer to the long-promised digital nirvana, most parents don’t know what to do with all those old videotapes and the precious memories they contain. The tapes take up a lot of space and in a few years will be, ahem, fairly useless. The simplest answer is to convert them to the slicker, sexier, smaller DVD format.

The Sima GoDVD! offers a simple approach to video transfer and enhancement with stand-alone DVD recorders. The device is a small pass-through box that promises several techniques to spruce up old videos.

Set up is easy. Just plug the output from your video source into one end of the box, then run another cable out the other side into your DVD recorder.

On the plus side, it does a good job of quick, minor enhancements to video. With a press of a button, images can be lightened or darkened. The negative is that it’s not going to salvage any videos severely ravaged by time. In the end, the device really doesn’t do anything you can’t do with a home theater set up given time and know-how. It’s a quick fix, and the price tag is a little high for that.

If you’re looking for a fuller featured toolbox to enhance and transfer old videos to DVD, you’re better off looking to some software for computers. Philip Soell, OAK PARK

Why Cry from Lentek,; $199

Why Cry is the world’s first patented device that promises to tell you in a few seconds why your baby is crying by analyzing different crying patterns. A chart on the back offers advice in comforting and calming your baby.

When used in an otherwise noise-free environment, the device was accurate more than 95 percent of the time, in accordance with the company’s claims.

During my baby’s “cranky time,” it helped me quickly determine if she was still hungry, sleepy or simply overstressed. On the downside, when there was any background noise—adult conversation, television or street noise—the accuracy dropped to about 50 percent and the “error” light blinked almost every time. When that happened, I was left fumbling with the “reset” button while my baby moaned.

If your home is completely quiet except for a crying baby, Why Cry might help you ease the cranky times. But it is rare that the baby is the only noise around. In my opinion, common sense is still the best (and cheapest) way to determine “why cry.” Jennifer Preschem, EVANSTON

Spwipes Sun Protection Wipes by Spwipes,; 69 cents to $1.99 per wipe

Spwipes (stands for Sun Protection Wipes) is an SPF30+ high-quality sunscreen on a wipe. Each wipe is packaged individually in a foil package.

We enjoy boating during the summer, so sun protection is a must. Prior to Spwipes, we were using the spray-on infant sunscreen to protect my 1-year-old son, Michael. Although the spray-on protected him, it was fairly messy to use. Spwipes is convenient to use; just open the package and wipe. It’s not messy or greasy, unlike sunscreens. Spwipes are portable and packaged well, so I did not have to worry about the package opening and leaking inside my boat bag.

I would definitely recommend the convenience to other families, although at 69 cents to $1.99 per wipe, I think Spwipes are a little too pricey for the active family that uses sunscreen a couple of days per week with several applications each day. The cost would really add up. Susan Newton, BATAVIA

ZUCA, the Ultimate Activity Carry-All by ZUCA,; $119.95

ZUCA, the Ultimate Activity Carry-All, is a backpack with wheels and a sturdy aluminum frame that doubles as a seat.

My 19-month-old son Conor loved wheeling/pushing/pulling the ZUCA around our home and he enjoyed stuffing it with some of his favorite toys.  Conor also liked the light-up wheels, although he got frustrated because when he was moving it around he wasn’t able to see the fun blue flashes.

When we went to the park, we packed it with a few toys and snacks and shared the job of pulling the ZUCA along (Conor until he got tired of it and me the rest of the way). It’s great for carting things around and worked really well as a little seat for myself when we were at the park. I must say the double-wheel system worked very well, and I really appreciated the extra help when getting the ZUCA up to our third-floor home.

While the ZUCA backpack is sturdy, durable and easy to move along, the price seems a bit high. If the ZUCA were priced in the $80-to-$85 range with a shipping cost up to $10, that would be much more reasonable. Fiona Clyde, CHICAGO

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