Saturday, 23 April 2022

You can never have too many books...

 Disclosure: Honey and Ace have been gifted three Tales by Mail boxes in exchange for honest reviews and social media content.

It's safe to say, we are big readers in our house. If we aren't out and about, enjoying the fresh air, you can usually find one or more of us curled up with a book.

As a primary school teacher, I am acutely aware of the benefits that reading affords children. From the moment they're born, reading is a brilliant way to bond with your child. Bedtime stories are an obvious place to start, the book doesn't even need to have any words, babies love black and white pictures and they also love the sound of your voice, so you can make up any story you like or just read to them from whatever you're reading at the time! 

Photo Credit: Oobaloos Photography

Toddlers love books, the colours and pictures are obviously most attractive at this age, but seeing words written down on the page and learning to turn pages by themselves are valuable lessons in becoming a reader. From an early age, we introduced half an hour of book time for Honey and Ace, once all the toys were tidied away for the day. Often, we would be reading the same couple of books on repeat (depending on their current favourites), but eventually this turned into them joining in with the stories or reciting facts and asking questions if it was a non fiction book. 

On the subject of non fiction books, don't dismiss them or forget about them! Toddlers and pre school children develop their own interests - often bordering on being obsessions - and finding out about them is a great way to bond and spend time together. Libraries are your friend here, we are lucky enough to live in a large town, with multiple libraries, so we are spoilt for choice and can visit different venues depending on their book stock. Not only can we spend time reading in a comfortable environment, we can also take books home to borrow for free (having to return them is a lesson in itself and often resulted in us renewing favourites for another stint).

As children get older and learn to read by themselves, the flood gates open and they can travel to far off lands without even leaving the house. Sometimes, children hit a stumbling block here, as things can get tricky, but with time and patience they can learn to love reading once again. During this time, don't stop reading to your child, even if they're playing and you don't think they're really listening, or they're tired and can't stay awake for a whole story, reading to them will pay off in terms of the vocabulary they are exposed to and the ideas they can develop based on stories and information they hear. You can also encourage them to make up stories using pictures or objects as stimuli.

If your child becomes disheartened on their reading journey, find a new way in. If they don't want to read their school reading books, what do they want to read? Information signs, comics, leaflets, books from their own bookshelves and even websites all contain words that your child can begin to use their phonic knowledge to decode. Encourage your child to ask and answer questions about their reading matter, this will really help them develop their comprehension skills too. 

Online stories, eBooks and virtual book clubs may be another way you can motivate your child to find something they enjoy reading. Or perhaps giving them a book shop voucher as a birthday gift may inspire them to pick up a book they don't want to put down.

Recently, we have been working with Tales by Mail, an award winning company who supply book subscription boxes for children. There are two age groups available, 5-8 years and 8-12 years. Each box contains 2 newly released books (so it's unlikely you'll already have them sitting on your bookshelf), collectible activity pages, exclusive author content and unique gifts and surprises. You can even request a sibling box, which contains double the activities and gifts. As well as the subscription option, you can also check out past boxes and purchase those if you like the look of them! This is such a great way to ignite a passion for reading or to encourage your children to try reading something new.

Oh and a warning from me, kids books are addictive. We keep having to buy more bookshelves because I find it impossible to let many children's books go and whenever we hand books down or sell any, we inevitably buy more books! As I'm always telling my children, you can never have too many books ;-)

Honey wears... Butterfly dress (preloved H&M)

Honey reads... The Borrowers

Saturday, 9 April 2022

Duck on Call from Playmobil...


Duck on Call is the brilliant new range from Playmobil and Ace was lucky enough to be gifted two pieces from the range to review, DUCK ON CALL - Ambulance Emergency Vehicle and DUCK ON CALL - Ambulance Action: Help the Racing Driver

Firstly, the packaging is eye catching, bright and engaging. Before even opening the box, Ace was talking about the different parts of the vehicle he could see, as well as detailing the role play games he was planning once he'd built the vehicles. He was so excited to see the ambulance, Daddy is a paramedic, so lots of Ace's play features paramedics and ambulances. Ace was happy that the boxes didn't have any plastic elements to them, so he could put it straight in the recycling box. 

On opening the cardboard box, we were pleased to see minimal, single use plastic inside. There were a few numbered bags, each containing small parts to be used in the construction of the vehicles and accessories. The bags themselves are made from recycled plastic and can be recycled again, along with your other soft plastics at the supermarket.

Ace found the vehicles fairly easy to put together (he's at the top end of the suggested age range for these toys). He followed the picture instructions with no problems and only needed a little help to secure a couple of pieces. I think he was afraid of pushing bits too hard incase he broke them, but I can confirm that everything went together securely and without any breakages, with a slightly firmer hand. Ace also got to use his fine motor skills to put stickers on the vehicles, which he loved doing.

While these toys are undeniably made from plastic, it is far from single use and definitely not flimsy. We own Playmobil from the 1980's and it's still going! Both Duck on Call toys we were given are strong and sturdy and look set to provide Ace and then countless other children after him, hours and hours of fun!  

One of my favourite things about Playmobil is its strong links to real life, it really lends itself to role playing games. This morning, as Honey and Ace played with the new Duck on Call sets, they were discussing first aid (including whether to take a racing driver's helmet off after a crash) and the correct number for our emergency services ("it's definitely 999 in our country, but you'd call 911 if you were on holiday in America"), as well as showing empathy for others.

Another thing I love about Playmobil, is how seamlessly the sets can be used together. People, vehicles and accessories can all be interchanged, allowing your little ones to create their own, imaginative worlds together. So, whether you're thinking about purchasing your first set, or you're adding to a collection, we're sure you will love Duck on Call as much as we do!

Check out the Playmobil website for Duck on Call activities, including colouring, hat and badge making, educational activities and character information posters. You can also purchase the sets via their website.

Ace wears... Vitamin Sea sweatshirt: A charity shop find, customised by Mummy.

Friday, 11 February 2022

Good Crafternoon Everyone...

AD| Gifted with no obligation to promote or review

We had such a lovely surprise last week when an unexpected parcel from Babyprints Cheltenham landed on our mat. Honey and Ace were delighted to receive a parcel with their names on and even more excited to find out that they had been gifted a sibling subscription to the Little Fingerprint Craft Box Club. 

Over the next couple of months, we will be sharing our crafts with you over on Instagram, but in the meantime, here is what Babyprints Cheltenham owner Victoria says about this fabulous new branch of her business...

These fuss free, monthly craft boxes (which are all themed), include everything you need for three or more keepsake crafts. They contain many original and handmade items you won't find in high street craft stores, to make some truly memorable keepsakes you will treasure.

Crafting is a wonderful, easy way of developing your young child's creativity, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and knowledge of pattern, texture and colours. For older children, craft provides valuable independent creative play opportunities. 

Just £12 a month will buy you entry into our exclusive and fun club with so many benefits, including these amazing craft boxes, delivered straight to your door, with a bumper December box for those who have been signed up for 4 or more months. There is also a reward scheme where you receive a special prize once the reward chart is filled and every child signing up will receive a birthday card and gift on or around their special day too!

We can also personalise boxes for children with sensory processing diagnoses and hold a range of sensory and fidget items we can swap out for some crafts. Please remember that colours may vary from promotional photographs of each month's box on social media.

We try to make these boxes as plastic free as possible but sometimes it is unavoidable. Please recycle what you can. Don't just take our word for how great these boxes are, here are just a few lovely reviews from some of our members,

"P has loved doing something different and having my full attention."

"We are in love with these boxes, always something different and creative to do, thank you so much."

"Saturday morning fun, I am loving these as much as my daughter is!"

There is even a private Facebook group for subscribers to join, so they can share ideas and see what other members have created. Victoria also posts videos and how to guides in the group, for those who may want a little extra inspiration. 

If you like the sound of the Little Fingerprint Craft Box Club and decide to subscribe, please let Victoria know that you found her through this blog!

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Six Second Rule...

 AD| Gifted for review

Six Second Scribbles proves that good things come in small packages! With Christmas coming up fast, read on to find out the top 5 reasons why you should be adding this game to your list this year!

That’s right, from the postal packaging, to everything inside the box, it’s all recyclable! No plastic wrapping (paper bands to keep the cards together instead), no sellotape (just a well fitting lid), no plastic bags (pencils slotted inside a small, cardboard box in lieu of these). Brilliant, well done guys!

2.  The size of the box. 
If you know me, you’ll know that I LOVE things to be neat and tidy and I hate unwieldy boxes that don’t fit easily into any of our storage spots! Not a problem here, measuring just 12cm x 9cm, this sturdy, little box slots neatly into any drawer or cupboard with room to spare. 

3.  Its portability.
Related to point number one I suppose, but this game is perfect for popping in a handbag or backpack for fun on the go. Everything you need fits into the box, the only addition needed is a timer, which can be found on any smartphone. Think killing time in a restaurant while waiting for food, or taking it to a friend’s house for a play date.

4. Its adaptability.
It doesn’t matter how young, old or (un)artistic you are, there’s a way for you to play. With three levels of cards available, easy, tricky and almost impossible, there should be something that appeals to everyone from toddlers, to even the most proficient (or competitive) artists! Six Second Scribbles is also a fab way to get reluctant writers practising their skills. Short words and phrases will keep those writing muscles working over the weekends and holidays, and they won't even realise!

5. The fun packaging and clear rules.
Even though she'd never heard of Six Second Scribbles before, from the moment this game landed on our doorstep, my daughter has been desperate to play it… why? The packaging is bright, eye-catching and very exciting! I also appreciated the clearly set out rules, complete with suggested adaptations for youngsters and the encouragement to make the game our own, with your own rule tweaks and changes.

We have had great time playing Six Second Scribbles so far and look forward to introducing it to friends and family over the festive period... bring on games night! If you'd like to find out more or browse Gamely's full range of games, head to Gamely's website. Sign up to their newsletter for 15% off your first order.

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Every Day's a School Day...

Disclosure: I have kindly been gifted a year's subscription to the Mrs Mactivity website, in exchange for mentions in my blog and on social media. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Whether you teach in a nursery, primary school or from home, why not let Mrs Mactivity help reduce your workload? Once you’ve signed up, you can easily download resources to support teaching and learning across the primary curriculum.

Eye catching and easy to navigate

With thousands of high quality, teacher made resources available to download, the site can really help streamline your precious planning time. Activities can be downloaded to print or can be added to your lesson presentations for a whole class to view.

I have also been using the site to provide fun, learning activities for Honey and Ace over the summer holidays. I’ve left maths and reading comprehension sheets on their craft table and 90% of the time, they’ve picked up a pen and enjoyed the activity without me mentioning it or getting involved. Great for keeping their brains ticking over!

I love that the resources span such a range of topics, including reading comprehension activities based on Honey’s new favourite creature (since getting into Minecraft), the axolotl! The resources also feature hand drawn illustrations, which sets them apart from worksheets on other sites.

Everything is aligned with White Rose and Letters and Sounds and can be edited to suit your children. There are even some resources you can download for free, to help you get a feel for the site and the quality of the resources. For just £24.97 per year, why not give Mrs Mactivity a try?

Monday, 12 July 2021

Let's get ready to summer...

The countdown is on! We are just over a week away from the summer holidays and we can't wait! Here are my top 5 things you could try, to help your summer run as smoothly as possible. 

1. Book tickets for attractions you want to visit.

With Covid restrictions still in place, many attractions are booking up well in advance. Most places offer an online calendar so you can see which dates are still available and some places even have a gauge so you can tell how close they are to selling out. 

We headed to Slimbridge (gifted ticketsover half term and can highly recommend a trip there over the summer. They have just launched a new app, which allows visitors to interact with the wildlife and learn more about their various species. There are even fun features such as selfie borders and quiz questions in the app! 

We took a picnic, which is great for keeping costs down and being able to eat wherever you are in the park, but there is also a café and refreshment stands available on site (Team Gore thoroughly recommends the ice cream).

2. Set up a snack station at home.

If your children are always hungry, there are some great snack station ideas out there. Some people give their children a set number of tokens or coins at the start of a day and they can ‘spend’ them at the snack station throughout the day. Generally, fruit and vegetable snacks cost less than, say, a packet of crisps.

We have a low, easily accessible cupboard and I fill up the snack box each week. The children know that if they eat all the ‘best’ snacks at the start of the week, they will be left with their least favourite snacks as the time goes on. It’s amazing how much their hunger decreases throughout the week! I also cut costs by buying larger packets or bags of rice cakes, crisps and breadsticks and then decanting them into reusable snack bags from Nom Nom Kids.


3. Fit in some 'sneaky' learning.

Encourage your children to write in a journal. This doesn’t need to be daily, perhaps after a day out of if they have had a great day or a memorable walk.

Ask your child to write a book review if they have read a new book. This can include library books or books borrowed from family members or siblings. If they're reluctant to write, try making a video review to share with others.

Ask your child to write a postcard to a friend or family member.

Head to the library and join their summer reading challenge. Take books to the beach or into the woods for added excitement!

As for maths skills. if you're playing together, ask your children to name shapes they can see or read numbers that appear on boxes, signs or play equipment. Use a tape measure to measure how far toy cars can travel when you launch them off a ramp. Weigh ingredients as you bake or explore capacity while having fun with water play.


4. Have a toy/activity/craft menu

Pre-sort and tidy all your toys, games and craft supplies and make a list of what you have. This will enable children to make choices about what to play with or create. I find it helpful to label boxes, so that anyone can easily tidy up and it doesn’t all fall on me! 

During your pre-sort, make sure all your games and puzzles are complete (thus avoiding frustration and arguments over the summer when pieces are found to be missing). Some companies, such as Orchard Toys, offer free replacement parts, so finding broken parts or pieces missing, doesn’t always to mean that something needs to be binned.

If any craft supplies are running low, now is a great time to replenish them. Some items may need to be bought, but lots can be collected from around the house, namely:

- Empty toilet roll tubes (these are fab for making bird feeders, pencil pots and so much more).

 Packaging and tissue paper (super for collages, paper flowers, sun catchers etc).

 Ice lolly sticks (great for making puppets, mini picture frames and models).

 Straws (use for weaving, to make shapes or chop up to use as beads for bracelets).

- Empty jars (for glass painting and/or adding tea light to).


5. Start an adventure list. 

Seen somewhere cool on Instagram? Children fancy going to the beach? Why not compile a list so you don’t forget about things and work through it over the holidays and beyond. I find that this helps us plan days out in an instant and am always adding to ours and creating new ones once we've ticked everywhere off. We have found lots of amazing places by doing this, so we also make sure we head back to the favourites too! Obviously it helps if you have a car, but lots of the places we have been to are on public transport routes. For starters, if you live in Cheltenham, there’s a bus stop outside the Koloshi restaurant on London Road, which is a couple of minutes walk from both Lineover Wood and Dowdeswell Wood/reservoir. There are also a range of bus stops within walking distance of Robinswood Hill for those local to Gloucester.

I hope you found something you'd like to try, feel free to come and find us on Instagram to see what we get up to this summer! 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

It's what's inside that counts...

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One thing's for sure, we've all had to spend a lot of time at home over the last year or so. Whether you've managed to get round to completing that decorating you never had the time for previously, finally finished your garden project or simply cleared our some clutter to make way for home working, everyone's been making the most of their space and trying to make it work for their bubble. I've rounded up some of my favourite, fast interior design tips that could help you get started on making your home somewhere you love!
  1. Colour Pops

I love bright colours and usually have something cheerful as a focus point in each room. Think shutters or blinds, a quirky piece of furniture or a feature wall. If there’s a dress colour you love, why not take it along to a DIY store and get some colour matched paint? If you already own a fabulous, bright lamp shade, start there! Why not use design bundles craft patterns to upcycle things you already own, colour pops don’t have to be expensive.

  1. Gallery Walls.

How many of us spend our days taking photos of our children, families and the world around us, only to leave them trapped in our laptops? Or perhaps you’ve had professional photos taken, but don’t have them on display yet. I love seeing photos of our adventures wherever I am in the house and it’s so lovely to have reminders of how tiny the kids were! Frames can be identical or you could use frames of different colours and sizes that you may have lying around the house already, it’s what’s inside the frames that counts.

  1. Typography Prints

Prints can make the world of difference to a room. Using Design Bundles tattoo lettering font, you can create your own, bespoke inspirational quotes, type up your favourite song lyrics and design name prints or birth announcements for your little one’s bedroom. Our favourite of the fonts is ‘The Bearded Sailor’, you even get the option to preview your text. 

How you frame your prints is up to you, print at home and pop them in a frame you already have, upcycle a frame from a charity shop or order a larger print online with a custom frame, it's totally up to you.
  1. Wall and Window Stickers

This is an inexpensive way to brighten up any room, without committing to a whole new colour scheme. Stickers can easily be added to existing decor and changed as your child grows or when you want to change the theme of your room. Window stickers offer even more flexibility, as they can be removed and reused easily, so they can be changed each season or in line with special occasions such as Christmas, Easter and even birthdays!

  1. Fun and Functional

Have fun decorating and furnishing your home, but make it functional. Think about who will be living in and using the rooms in your home and take it from there. Why not create a breakfast/snack station in your home so that the children can be independent at mealtimes and help themselves to snacks at agreed times. You could even label the shelves or boxes using the design bundles fonts, to help everyone find their way around. Choosing your favourite or really interesting pieces for your most used rooms is a great way to ensure that you get to enjoy them often. 

Think about how you can set out your furniture so it can be accessed and used as intended. Set up inviting areas for reading, a book nook can offer a much appreciated sanctuary in a children’s playroom and a reading chair can do the same in an older child’s or adult’s bedroom. There are some beautiful reading inspired quotes you could add too. Make children’s areas engaging and be sure to set things up at an appropriate height. 

Whatever your budget or time constraints, hopefully you've found something to spark ideas and help you kick start your interior design efforts.

You can never have too many books...

 Disclosure: Honey and Ace have been gifted three Tales by Mail boxes in exchange for honest reviews and social media content. It's safe...