Learning about Castles

As part of our Middle Ages theme we have been spending some time learning about Castles.  The kids have enjoyed learning how castle designs developed from wooden structures to stone buildings and how so many features of the castle were for protection.  Also some of the more “yucky facts” have been very popular – like that fact the moats must have stunk with all the waste and sewerage that was dumped into it.

We had an Usborne Castle book in the house – Stories of Castles (Young Reading (Series 2)) (Young Reading Series Two).  It is a great book for setting the scene on how castles came about starting with basic wooden castles which were later replaced by stone castles as the wood burnt very easily.

Usborne Young Reading book The Story of Castles starts with wooden castles

The book covers aspects of the life inside a castle, with some humourous pictures.

Usborne Young Reading book. The Story of Castles is written in a very child-friendly manner

I really like the way the book is set out as it takes the kids through the stages of how a castle evolved in a very easy manner.  It explains how lots of the features of a castle where actually there for defensive purposes.

Usborne Young Reading Book. The Story of Castles deals with castles being attacked in a very child- friendly manner

The book deals with the castles being attacked in  very child-friendly manner, the illustrations really help with this as the people depicted all look non-threatening.

If you are looking for a child-friendly book about castles this one is perfect.  It is informative and really well structured taking the kids from why castles initially came about to how castles stopped being so important.

Usborne Young Reading book The Story of Castles. A lovely children's book all about how castles developed during the Middle Ages

After reading the book the kids asked for some Castle pages as part of their home education activities.  We used these ones (all FREE to download from Twinkl)

The kids had a go at filling out all the labels on the Castle and Knights Self Registration pages.

Free to download Self Registration Castles and Knights from Twinkl Resources. Great to use with children who might enjoy labelling a toy castle

My Youngest is still very much a beginner speller so I gave him the Castle and Knights Word Mat to use.

Castle and Knights Word Mat free to download from Twinkl Resources. great tool to help younger kids write words that they are uncertain of

Once we had filled out all the labels we tried to match as many as we could to our play mobile castle.

Labelling our Playmobile castle using some castle and Knight pages from Twinkl Resources

My son enjoyed this and actually pointed out a few things about the play mobile castle that did not meet with his idea of what a “REAL” Medieval Castle would look like.  My daughter also had a go at labelling this Castle diagram.

Free to download. Label the Parts of a Castle from Twinkl Resources. A useful activity to use with children learning about Medievale Castles

And this coming week we are having a home-ed trip to a Medieval castle. The kids are very excited as their dad is coming with us and they are dying to “teach” him about castles on our little field trip.

Usborne Young Reading Book. The Story of Castles. A great book for young kid learning about Castles, Knights and the Middle AgesParts of s Castle. Free to download pages from Twinkl Resources includes a word mat and labelling activity





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Grouping Numbers in a Sum

When you are given long sums it can be hard to figure out where to start.  This has always been something in our house.  My daughter just does the sum the way it is written, which is sometimes the hardest order.  We have shown her ways to make it easier, like grouping numbers together to get 10, finding doubles, adding the smallest together first and she gets all of that but when faced with a long list of numbers all added together she often just forgets and starts at the beginning and just works through in the order it is written.  And yes there is nothing wrong with this, you get the same answer but reorganising the numbers and reworking the sum is quicker and easier and as she gets older and the sums get harder it is going to become more and more helpful.

Recently I was doing Maths with my youngest, we had some foam dice and he was throwing the dice and creating his own sums.  We started with just adding two numbers together and then went onto adding three and four numbers together.  And I noticed he was naturally finding the basic patterns and grouping them together (finding numbers that add to 10 or double).  The foam dice that he was using had dots on them representing the numbers.

Creating sums using foam dice. A fun, relaxed way for children to practice basic maths

Once he had  finished I called my daughter over and we started throwing the dice and creating the sums.  I left her to do the first few by herself and then I noticed she naturally started grouping any doubles together.

Using foam dice to help kids with sums where they need to regroup the numbers

So we started an activity.  Every time she threw the dice we created groups, doubles, numbers that add to 10, that type of thing.

Grouping numbers together to make sums easier using foam dice

We also sometimes redid the same sum because when you are adding 6 different numbers together there are often more than one way to group the numbers.

Sometimes you can regroup the numbers in more than one way to make the sum easier

Using the dice to practice really seemed to help.  It was fun and she was creating the sums and  she has regrouping the numbers by picking objects up (the dice) and moving them.

It was a great way of getting her to totally “re-see” a few sums eg

2+6+4+6 +3 = (2+4)+6+6 +3 = 6 +6 +6+3 = (6×3) + 3

And I have already seen her starting to apply this to her  written sums that she works on.

Now that she has a good visual image of what she needs to do (the dice with the dots) and now that she has been in control of what needs to happen (actually physically picking up the dice and regrouping them) doing the same with a written series of numbers is coming much easier for her.

Using Foam dice to help the kids practice regrouping numbers within a sum to make it easier to solve

For those of you based in the UK we bought our faom dice from the Tiger Store.

Regrouping the numbers to create an easier sum using foam dice




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Getting started on the Middle Ages with a book

It feels like it has been ages since we had a History topic (dance shows and two bouts of chickenpox are the main culprits) but finally both kids have latched onto a new time period – The Middle Ages.  I am over the moon.  A fascinating time period. I am already thinking of all the home-ed trips we can do and the activities and yes I am getting excited as there are so many ways we can explore our new topic.

I must confess I may have had a slight hand in the new topic – I may have left some Medieval themed books casually lying around the house hoping that one of the kids might discover them. It worked. The kids paged through the 100 facts Knights & Castles together and then asked if we could do a family read of the book. (Family read is our way of reading a book together, we all take turns reading sections out of the book and when we discover something interesting we often branch off and chat about it).

The book was a hit.  Both kids started asking lots of questions and it really was that starting point that I was hoping for.  So I thought I would share a bit about the book.

It starts off with a big double page picture showing basic castle set-up and then it starts explaining how castles were initially as wooden buildings before becoming stone.

Miles Kelly 100 Facts about Knights & Castles. A historical book for children learning about castles and the medievale time period

It covers the significant people within the castle and introduces the feudal system as well as knights.  What being a knight meant, what they wore and used to fight with as well as the colours and coats of arms..  The book also touches on some famous knights, I really liked this as it is a great way of bringing in some extra characters that we can the read about later.

100 Facts Knights & Castles inlcudes lots of information about what life as a knight would have been like

It covers more details about life inside the castle, like the lack of toilets, feasts, who a troubadour was, how jousting started as well as some facts about The Hundred Years’ War and a bit about defending the castle.

It introduces some famous events and people from that era.

100 Facts Knights & Castles introduces children to the Medievale period

100 Facts Knights & Castles introduces children to people, events and what life would have been like in the Middle Ages

And it gives a few examples of famous castles.

100 Kinights & Castles also includes some of the famous castles built in the Middles Ages

The book manages to introduce a lot of different facts about castles and the lives of the people who lived in them.  It is a great book for introducing kids to what life was like and a great starting point for some discussions about a fascinating period of history.

100 Facts about Knights & Castles. A great book for introducing children to what life was like living in a castle

100 Facts Knights & Castles. A way of introducing children to the Middles Ages











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Design a garden activity

With all the time the kids have been spending helping out in the garden I thought it would be a good idea to do a few garden designing activities.

We had done the first activity before but I thought it was a great cutting and sticking activity for my youngest so we had another go at it.

FREE to download Cut and Stick Garden Plan activity from Twinkl.

The Cut and Stick Garden Plan Activity is FREE to download from Twinkl.

I really like this activity as while the kids were practicing their cutting skills they were also chatting about which plants grow in the soil, ie a vegetable patch and which ones would be on a tree, ie fruit trees like apple trees and pear trees.  We even discussed how some plants that we eat have to be dug out of the ground like the carrots and potatoes and some grow on top of the soil.

We then moved onto mapping out a garden on some grid paper – we used these pages from Twinkl – Garden Design Activity Sheets (these are platinum)

Designing a garden using pages from Twinkl Resources. The cut and stick page is free to download

The kids actually ended up doing a few different versions.  There was a big discussion around where the paths should go.  My son first did a design with the path near the outside but then realized it was not that practical so he started creating designs with the pathways more in the middle.

Design a Garden activity from Twinkl

My oldest also branched out and tried to make her designs with tissue paper and some pom-poms (The big pom-poms actually make really nice trees and the smaller colourful pom-poms made great flowers).

Designing a garden using tissue paper and pom poms

One of the finished designs.  She tried rolling the tissue paper into thin long strands to create  a fence and the brown rectangle is a bench by the pond.

Twinkl Design a garden activity using tissue paper and craft pom poms

And once we had finished designing our gardens my youngest even had a go at designing his own maze (using tissue paper for the hedges).  He started off creating a maze that just went one way – without any dead ends but has since moved on to creating a few with some dead ends (but that is starting to look a whole other project starting up).

Here is his first attempt – the coloured tissue paper is supposed to be flowers growing on the hedges.

building a maze craft for children. using tissue paper for the hedges

Design a Garden Activity for kids. Pages from Twinkl Resources including one Free to download cut and stick activity










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Magic Maths game by Orchard Toys

I love finding fun educational games that the kids can play at home.  Any time the kids get to practice maths, reading or spelling in a fun way that does not involve a worksheet is a bonus for me.  Because the more the kids enjoy it, the more they end up practicing.

When Orchard Toys asked if we would be interested in trying the Magic Maths game I was not too sure as my son is not really into wizards but I was looking for a maths game for him so I agreed to give it a go.  My son LOVES the game (aged 6). He LOVES the idea of collecting all the “yucky ingredients”.  In fact he kept asking to play the game just so he could see which ingredients he could collect.

Magic Maths game by Orchard Toys. The aim is to fill your board with ingredients by answering some maths sums

How the game works – Each player gets a board and 6 ingredient/answer cards (the ingredient cards are turned so that the answer is facing the player and the picture of the ingredient is on the back).  Then the players take it in turn to select a star card.  They turn the star card over to reveal a sum.  If they have the answer to the sum in their 6 cards in front they  can add that ingredient card to their board.  If they do not have the answer then the other players get a chance to try and answer the sum and see if they have the correct answer card.

Playing Magic Maths by Orchard toys. Pick a sum card and find the correct answer card to reveal an ingredient to go onto your board

If they are not sure what the answer is the kids can rub the star on the reverse side of their sum card and the answer will appear (you do need to give it a good rub to reveal the answer).

Magic Maths by Orchard Toys. If you rub the star of the reverse side of the sum card the answer will appear

The first player to fill their board with the 6 ingredients is the winner (and in our house that means you get a massive hug from your sister).

Playing Magic Maths by Orchard Toys. The player who fills their board with the ingredients is the winner

The sum cards that are included in the game vary from fairly basic addition and subtraction to harder addition and subtraction sums and also a few times table sums.  As the focus of the game was practice for my youngest I did got through the sum cards before hand and take a few of the harder ones out.

Magic Maths by Orchard Toys. some examples of the sum cards included in the game

I have spotted the game at our local toy store and it is online at Amazon  –  Orchard Toys Magic Maths Game

Magic Maths by Orchard Toys. A fun way to practice maths at home. answer the sums and collect ingredients






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