Snap Circuits

We recently gave my son a Snap Circuit set for his birthday and we have all been so impressed with this set that I thought I would share some photos and info on the set.

Now there are a number of different snap circuit sets that you can buy and I honestly have not investigated all of them.  I knew I wanted a basic set, something  to get us started and this particular set was one that one of his friends has and he liked it.  It is the Snap Circuits Jr. – SC-100

Snap Circuit set

The set comes with all the goodies that you need to complete 101 different circuits (you just need to add 2 AA batteries).

Snap circuit Junior set what comes with the set

The set also comes with a manual which sets out each circuit – showing diagrams of how they are set up and explaining a bit about them. (If you lose or damage the manuals you can download copies from their site)

It does have an age recommendation of 8 years and over and my son was given it for his 8th birthday and he was absolutely fine.  In fact he happily sat and worked through the first set of circuits all by himself without any input from my hubbie or myself (he had seen his friend use this set so he was already familiar with the different components).

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His older sister who had never tried a snap circuit before also managed to work away at the circuits by herself.  The only time she needed input was when she wanted to adjust some of the circuits and she wanted to check with us that she was on the correct path.  I love this, I love that after building a recommended circuit she is finding ways to adjust it, change it and then can discuss why the changes she made worked or didn’t work.  I actually spotted that there is a design tool on the website that the kids can use to design their own circuits.  We have not had time to really do this (my daughter did draw a few of the circuits that she created) but after Christmas we are definitely going to give this a go – Snap Circuit Designer

We have only had this set for a week now but I am very impressed with it.  I like the way the manual is set out with the examples, I like that you can order replacement parts if needed and I like that we can always move onto more complex sets.

The circuits are proving a hit with both my kids, they especially like the ones when you can make the fan fly or when there is noise (from a parent point of view the noise may be slightly irritating but I look at it as an educational irritating noise – he has some far noisier toys that really irritate me that have NO educational benefits).


Disclosure – This is NOT sponsored.  We bought the set and really like it so wanted to share. 

I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

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Surprising Animal Colouring Books

My daughter was given some realistic animal and bird colouring books when she was younger but they never really interested her.  However I liked the look of the books so I kept them packed on our bookshelf (I hate giving anything away when I can see potential for us to use it in a future project of some sort – yes I HOARD educational goodies). Over the past week while we have been at home a lot more than usual (winter bugs) my son ended up going through the bookcase looking for something to do and he spotted these books.  Now he loves learning about animals so he immediately took them out and started paging through.  The first thing he commented on was that he liked the fact that colouring books included coloured pictures of what the animals look like in real life – he likes to be accurate with his animals.

And he started, first with the Colouring Birds book.

Colouring Birds book by Sally MacLarty. The Pheasant picture

He sat and coloured for ages, moving onto the African Mammal book.  Taking breaks to read the short blurbs about the animals

African Mammal Book by Sally MacLarty. Each picture has a short blurb about the animal at the top of the page

and having long inspections of the example pictures that are included in the middle of each book.

pictures of the animals in the middle of each colouring book

He flipped between the different books selecting all different kinds of animals.

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But it  kept him busy for ages, and and he came back to the books the next day

If you have kids who are interested in animals and want to work on realistic yet not overly complicated pictures with good examples of what the animals truly does look like then this books definitely ticked all the boxes for my little guy. (Tip the paper is nice but I still would not use felt tip pens in these books as I think the ink would come through the pages – my son stuck to his colouring pencils and they worked really nicely)

And the other up side was I could show my hubbie that all those educational items that I hang on “just in case” they may come in handy actually do sometimes end up getting used.

The three books that we currently have are African Mammals (Read, Colour and Keep), Colouring Birds and African Birds (Read, colour and keep) by Sally MacLarty (2015-04-19) and after searching online my son found African Reptiles & Frogs (Read, Colour and Keep) and has just requested it as a Christmas present.

I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

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New Books we are enjoying

I feel like I have been writing a lot of book posts lately, not sure if it is just the cold season or the fact that we all seem to be going from bug to bug but we do seem to be reading a lot and finding lots of interesting books.  So this time I am going to summarize 6 new books (well 4 totally new books and 2 that we have rediscovered).

New Books. Ronja the Robber's Daughter, Moonlight Tales and Seeker of the Crown

My daughter is definitely on a “reading about strong women” trend at the moment and 2 of the books that she has enjoyed are Ronja the Robber’s Daughter Illustrated Edition and Seeker of the Crown (Prisoner of Ice and Snow).  Very different stories but both with strong female lead characters.

Ronja the Robber’s Daughter is written by Astrid Lindgren (my hubbie was thrilled when he saw this as he remembered her books from when he was younger and has STRONGLY suggested that we find more as he rates her as an excellent author).  The story is about 2 competing group of robbers who live in a forest with some unique magical creatures.  As it happens both tribe leaders end up having a child each and the kids become friends which cause lots of problems.  But in the end the friendship between the 2 kids ends the feud and both kids declare they will not follow in the family tradition of robbing.  The friendship between the two kids is very sweet (and totally innocent so don’t worry about that) and they go on a few adventures together (nothing too scary).  My daughter enjoyed the story and liked the fact that Ronja was such a head-strong, courageous, determined young girl.  I personally enjoyed the writing style – descriptive, with good interesting characters that you get to know and understand as you story unfolds.

Seeker of the Crown.  A more challenging read than Ronja and I did need to talk about the different characters and events with my daughter as she found it a bit more complex but we liked that.  My daughter and I naturally talk about the stories that she reads and I often read the books myself anyway, so it was not an issue for us.  The setting for this is Russia which we found interesting as it is somewhere that we have not explored that much and my daughter has actually asked if we can find more stories set in Russia as she enjoyed the context.  There were two instances where she worried some of the main characters might actually die but they survived and it was not scary enough to put her off reading.  Oh and she partially liked the fact that in this story only women could rule the land – ie be Queen, there are NO kings in this story – big plus for my daughter she kept telling her dad that if we lived in this story she would be Queen.  I would definitely group this as one of the “older, more advanced” books that she has read.

Moonlight Tales (Animal Anthologies) is actually a book of short stories that I bought for my daughter 2 years ago but with Christmas around the corner the kids dug it out again and they have been enjoying the sweet festive animal stories included.  They have been reading it together (my daughter reading sections to her brother and then him reading sections to her).  It is an easy read for my daughter but it has been perfect for my son.  I personally LOVE the stories they have included, they are festive and sweet and great as a family read together book.  I recommend this for some lovely winter tales.

Usborne Young Reading Series. Anne of Green Gables and Beowulf

We have a habit of always taking a few Usborne Young Reading books out from our local library.  Our library always has a good selection and I have found them a really good way of introducing some well-known stories.  Last month we borrowed Anne of Green Gables (Young Reading 3) (3.3 Young Reading Series Three (Purple)) and Beowulf (Young Reading (Series 3)) (3.3 Young Reading Series Three (Purple)) and they have both been read and reread and the kids just asked if we could renew them for a 3rd time.  We have never read Anne of Green Gables before and he daughter just loved it and she has now asked for a more detailed Anne book.  My son LOVES Beowulf, really LOVES it.  It fits in nicely with his current Viking / Mythology interest.  Both books are definitely worth a read.

And lastly a book that we rediscovered because I was trying to clear out old books (books that are now too easy for my youngest).  He went through my charity shop stack of books and immediately took this one out and asked if we could keep it because it was one of his all time favourites.  So if you have younger kids and you have not yet read The Day The Crayons Quit my son strongly recommends that you do.  He says it is hilarious and according to him all kids are going to LOVE it.

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Disclosure – the books include in this post are a combination of books that I have bought (Moonlight Tales and Day the Crayons Quit), library books (both of the Usborne Books) and books sent to us (Ronja the Robber’s Daughter and Seeker of the Crown).  I was under no obligation to include any of these books.  This is just a summary of a few books that my kids have been reading and recommend.

I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

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My 5 Top 2018 Finds

Last Year I wrote a 5 Favourite New home-ed Items (2017) post and lots of readers really liked seeing which were my absolute favourites so I thought I would write another one for 2018.  This post is NOT sponsored – it is a combination of items I have bought and have been given. So here is my Top 5 for 2018…………….

For those of you who read the posts regularly my first pick is not going to be a big surprise – It has to be the How To Train Your Dragon book series.  Out of all the resources I bought the kids and the ones we were given, this set of fictional stories sparked the most learning and the kids interest just did not die down, book after book my two loved the antics and adventures of these very colorful characters. As far as good fictional stories go I really rate these books because the author does not shy away from using unusual, descriptive words and she paints such vivid pictures with her words.  But these books did not ONLY serve as brilliant fictional reading books these stories have inspired so many of our learning activities throughout the year.  The fascination with Vikings and their traditions has resuted in the kids searching for other fictional Viking stories to read (we recommend this one Riddle of the Runes ) but they have also learnt a lot about the Real Vikings.  The stories inspired art and crafts – like our Viking Name necklaces and TinFoil Longships, the number of dragons that have been created both in drawings and written about has been amazing and they were instrumental in our current map craze .

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The one issue I have with these books is what do I follow-up with ?  Really I am stuck !! I am still searching for another set that is going to be such an amazing springboard for my kids and I just cannot find anything.

Staying with books my 2nd great find this year has been the use of the  Historical BIG CAT readers as a starting point for our History learning.  My daughter LOVES History but my son is, well, not so keen,  well not unless I find the right angle to get him into a topic.  What I realized this year was using a good quality reader like the Collins BIG CAT books for his History meant he was getting these high quality bite-sized sessions,  so they were not overwhelming him and putting him off.  But the books actually encouraged him and he would often want to then go and explore what we had read about in further detail.  These little readers have been an answer to my History dilemma of still covering the same topics with one child who loves History and another who is a bit more resistant to the subject.  For us it really has been about finding the right resources for him that spark his interest and then he ends up loving the History as much as his older sister. (Examples of some of the BIG CAT readers we have used are here – Tutankhamun, The Life and Times of William Shakespeare, Victorian Railways, Mary Anning)

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My third big find was buying a family years membership to the Wonderlab at the Science Museum in London.  My son has a naturally interest in Engineering type projects and is current fascinated by Space but his sister has often struggled with our Science outings as she finds the Science venues we go to very overwhelming.  From a sensory point of view the Science Museum has always been the one Museum that she really struggles in which means we have learnt to go there for short sessions.  For this reason I have kept putting off buying a ticket for the Wonderlab because I was worried she would be totally overwhelmed and it would be a total wast of money.  But this year we bought an annual ticket and we just went for it.

When we first arrived at 1pm (this time was recommended because of the school groups) we still found it very busy and she really struggled, I had to find her a quiet spot and help her calm down.  But then we went into watch a show – which was brilliant and by the time we came out it had calmed down and she was a lot happier.  The biggest hit with her was the Gas Bar – she loved watching them work with chemicals, mixing and seeing the reactions.  (I also must add that when we went to watch the show which had loud bangs in it, the staff were very quick to hand out ear defenders and before each loud bang they always gave us warning so the kids were prepared – from a sensory mom point of view I was very impressed with this.)

We still need to do manage the wonderlab (ie the time we arrive etc) but by buying a years membership we can do just that we can go as often as we like and just go in the quieter periods.  (If you are visiting the Museums in London we highly recommend that you go the V&A Museum for a picnic lunch – they have a stunning courtyard with a water feature that the kids can wade in – it is one of our warmer weather favourites and it is perfect to combine with a trip to the Science Museum or Natural History Museum).

The Chemistry Bar in the Wonderlab at the Science Museum in London

One warning about the Science Museum the shop downstairs is amazing and it is very hard to walk through without wanting to buy some incredible science goodies for the kids.

The fourth item was one of the kids Christmas presents last year although it kind of feels like it was my Christmas present aswell – their climbing fame from CostCo.  This climbing fame has been brilliant.  In the warmer months the kids are out in our garden every day and they spend ages climbing and playing games in, on and around the climbing frame (we discovered that if you add some sheets to the climbing frame it makes a great den).  The reason why I said it feels like it was a present for me is because of the time it has given me.  I have been trying to do more of my own activities – like writing some guest posts at Activity Village or my accountancy work, and having this climbing frame in our garden has given me a LOT MORE extra time to spend on my extra projects.

The Costco Climbing Frame. perfect for garden fun

My fifth one has to be our Insect Lore.  Wow.  This was incredible.  We did both the Butterflies and the Stick Insects this year and the whole family loved it.  We are definitely going to do it again next year.

Insect Lore

Disclosure – As I mentioned above this is NOT a sponsored post in any shape.  If I had to choose our Top 5 items from the past 12 months this would be them.  I bought the How to Train Your Dragon book set from the Bookpeople, I bought the Wonderlab membership, the Climbing Frame and the Insect Lore.  We were given the BIG CAT readers by Harper Collins and they have really been one of our favourite new resources over the past 12 months.  I was under no obligation to include any of these items in my list. 

Also I did not have a nice clear photo of the Chemistry Bar so I emailed the Science Museum and they kindly the sent the photo that I have included.

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Mary Anning

A few years ago we went to a Dinosaur talk mainly so my kids could meet Nigel Marven (which they did and my son thought he was amazing) but while we were there we also listened to a talk about the Fossil Lady (ie Mary Anning) and I was totally fascinated.  So with my daughter’s desire to learn more about famous Historical Women I thought she might be someone interesting for us to investigate. I started searching for resources on Mary Anning and was thrilled when I discovered that Collins had a BIG CAT reader Mary Anning Fossil Hunter: Band 17/Diamond (Collins Big Cat) (the historical BIG CAT readers have ALL been very popular in our house).  So I requested a review copy and once again it did not disappoint.

BIG CAT reader Mary Anning Fossil Hunter. Mary's Skills

The book itself is well written, it tells the story of Mary Anning’s life from her childhood through to her legacy but it is not just about Mary Anning they include a lot more in the book.  I like the way they include lots of background information which sets the scene and gives a good insight into her lifestyle – they talk about how her family was Dissenters and the impact that had on the family, they explain the area where she lived with the cliffs and the harbour which made fossil hunting so popular.  These background bits help the kids to understand more about her life.  We also really liked that they included some fossil facts in the book together with a short explanation of the other people mentioned.

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And even though we have read a lot about dinosaurs in the past both my kids loved learning about how the discoveries were made and how she had to piece the different pieces together to create a skeleton.  You also realize how much she really discovered, it was not just ONE fossil, she discovered multiple fossils and she did not just uncover the fossils, she studied them and was instrumental in a lot of the understanding about how they fit together and what some of the fossils actually were.

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One of the points that come across very clearly in the book is how she was never given credit for her work for the simple reason that she was female.  My son kept reading sections and they would come to me and say, “another man reported her findings and never mentioned she was the person responsible for the discovery.”  It was a big eye-opener for him and something that really made an impact.

The other thing that thing that came across strongly was how they would have to draw the skeletons to keep a record of what they had discovered.  And they loved the fact that Henry La Beche created a picture of how he thought the dinosaurs would look – this really appealed to mine because the picture although very famous is far from perfect.

BIG CAT reader Mary Anning Fossil Hunter includes the picture that Henry de la Beche created called Duria Antiquior

And this seemed to really encourage both of the kids to draw their own dinosaur skeletons and dinosaur pictures.

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Both my kids were really inspired by this story.  And I now have a mountain of dinosaur pictures which are “artifacts” so need to be stored very carefully.  My son found that if he drew an outline of a dinosaur and then filled in its skeleton it was a lot easier than just trying to draw its skeleton.  So he informed me he needed to practice some dinosaur drawing.  We found lots of great Dinosaur drawing pages on Activity Village – they have a great Learn to Draw Dinosaur section, as well as grid copy pages and these complete the Dinosaur puzzle pictures.

Complete the Dinosaur pictures downloaded from the Activity Village site

We also found some great Mary Anning pages on the Activity Village website.

Mary Anning Worksheets from the the Activity Village website

There is a wide selection of pages that you can choose from including a comprehension  and lots of writing pages But I think my daughter’s favourites were the Mary Anning interview worksheet – she really like the idea of being able to have a chat to Mary Anning and ask her about how she managed to achieve so much –

Mary Anning Interview worksheet from Activity Village

and the Booklet – she loves these little booklets and has quite a collection of different ones.

Mary Anning booklet from Activity Village

The Mary Anning book was given to us by Collins but you can get it from Amazon – Mary Anning Fossil Hunter: Band 17/Diamond (Collins Big Cat)

The Mary Anning and Dinosaur worksheets are all from Activity Village and part of their paid for subscription which is around £10 a year

Collins BIG CAT reader Mary Anning Fossil Hunter

I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

Mary Anning Fossil Hunter.  A story about dinosaur discovery in the UKMary Anning Fossil Hunter Book and Activities from Activity Village

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Christmas lanterns from Twinkl

My kids love displaying decorations on our window ledges.  There is just something about Christmas that makes them want to full up all the window space with Christmas decorations.  This year we spotted the Christmas Lanterns on the Twinkl Resources website and thought they would make a good addition to our Christmas window decorations.  They have two different versions on the website (we used both) – the Christmas Nativity Mindfulness Lantern and the Simple 3D Traditional Christmas Lantern.  Both Lanterns are part of their paid for Classic Collection.

The kids started off with colouring in the Nativity mindfulness Lanterns.  When my son (who is 7) first saw the colouring he did comment that it was going to take him ages because it was detailed and the pictures were quite small, but once he got started he realized it was not that difficult and he finished his lantern in one go.

Twinkl Resources Nativity colouring in Lanterns. Christmas Activity for kids

The kids were also keen to create their own versions of the lanterns.  So we printed out a few copies of the Simple 3D lantern template and then I also printed out some of the Nativity Story Stone images.  The story stone images are not an exact fit for the lantern but it is very close and both of mine did not mind that a few of the images slightly overlapped the border of the lantern.

adding some of the Nativity Story Stone images to the 3D lanterns from Twinkl Resources

In fact my son liked the fact that he could add 3 wise men to his lantern.

The kids also wanted to include a star and I remembered a star image included in these Christmas Colouring Pages – I printed our star image at 20% to get the correct size for the lantern.  And I must admit I really liked their idea of combining the star image with some of the story stone images.

Christmas lantern with added story stone and colouring page images. All from Twinkl Resources

My son also wanted to try one lantern with something hanging in the middle.  This was slightly more tricky but it worked.  We cut out the white sections of the Simple 3D lantern and then stuck all the sides together to get our lantern.  Then he cut out and coloured in one of the star images (coloured it on both sides) and we managed to hang in inside the lantern with a bit of sellotape – (I did have to help him with this).

But he really loves the end result.

The Star Christmas lantern

And I must say all of our Lanterns really do look good.

Christmas lanterns made using story stone and colouring page images

Disclosure: Twinkl Resources have given us free access to their website so we can use their resources and share our favourites with you.  All Links and References to the subscription packages are correct at the time of me writing this post.

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Create Your Own Christmas lantern using pages from Twinkl Resources websiteNativity Christmas lanterns from Twinkl Resources

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Discover Our Solar System Book

After our amazing trip to the Planetarium over the summer my son has become very interested in learning about our solar system and beyond.  He likes discovering facts about the different planets, how they move, what makes them similar and what makes them unique.  Unfortunately we do not have a good selection of books on the topic and our local library has not really been able to provide us with suitable material (either too basic or way tooo complex).  So I was excited when I saw that Button Books had a new book out called Discover Our Solar System.  I saw a few photos and I was very interested so I requested a review copy.

reading his Discover Our Solar System book by Colin Stuart

The book arrived and my son loved it.  It is set out in a really easy reading format yet it contains lots of interesting bits of information.  He really likes the two page spread for each planet.

Discover Our Solar System. Each planet has a 2 page spread filled with facts

And the What’s inside bit at the bottom of page was a massive hit with him.  At our talk at the planetarium they had mentioned the Rocky Midgets and the Gas Giants so we liked that he could now see a more detailed breakdown of how each planet is made up.

Discover Our Solar System. Each planet page contains a What's Inside section

And yes we have paged through and compared planet after planet to see the different layers of each planet. (I must be admit I find this very useful as I can quickly check back to the diagrams when he is talking about the differences).

They also included lots of other interesting bits of information like the different moons – again my son really liked this as he is fascinated by the different moons and how many moons each planet has.  And the sections on how moons and rings etc got their names has been discussed in such detail in our house.

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And although we have mostly been reading and re-reading the sections about the different planets the book contains more.

The book starts with the Big Bang and some history about how the Solar System was discovered.  Then onto the Sun and the planets in our Solar System.  After Neptune it goes onto the Dwarf planets, Asteroids, The Space Race (I found this very useful), bits about Space Rockets and Space exploration today.

Discover Our Solar System by Colin Stuart. The Space race summary included in the book

For our family this book has been a great addition to our limited space knowledge and we have found it very informative and interesting.  It definitely filled the gap that we needed – a book that was not too basic yet not too complicated for my eight year old (and his mom) to understand.

Disclosure : As I mentioned above this book was sent to me by the Publishers.  All opinions expressed are that of my son and myself.

You can buy this book from Amazon here – Discover our Solar System

Discover Our Solar System written by Colin Stuart

I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

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