Pompeii – Usborne Young Reading Series

Last year when I was looking for some new reading books for my daughter I bought her a copy of Pompeii (Young Reading (Series 3)) (Young Reading Series Three).

Usborne Young Reading series - Pompeii. A great historical reader for young childrenThe day the book arrived she sat down and read it cover to cover.  And the whole of that week she kept reading the book over and over again.  She was fascinated.  The book actually prompted a new interest in learning about the Ancient Romans, a topic which she had never been interested in before.   One little book (think I paid just over £5 for it) ended up being an excellent reader (had some new challenging words for her), a fascinating story book for both kids, a historical account of what it would have been like, a starting point for learning about Ancient Romans and volcanos.  So I thought it was time I wrote a proper review about this book – This is my own opinion, I have not been asked to write this.

The Book starts in February AD79 when an earthquake caused some damage in Pompeii and makes it clear that no-one took much notice of the first signs of life in Vesuvius.  It goes on to set the scene of what life would have been like in Pompeii before the eruption occurred.

Pompeii Usborne Young Reading series. excallent book about Ancinet Roman life and the city of Pompeii

Through the book it focuses on a few key figures – like the old man in the square, Pliny the elder and Actius the gladiator.  This gives the kids glimpses into the different lifestyles in Ancient Roman times.

Usborne Young Reading series book - Pompeii. Describes what life would have been like before the volcano errupted

The book is also filled with stunning illustrations which depict the general Ancient Roman lifestyle (like the town square) as well as the actual volcano, its eruption and the result of the eruption on the town below it.

When it comes the actual volcano erupting the book explains how it would have happened gradually starting with rumbles.  It also explains how difficult it would have been for people to leave.  The pictures do show people dying and the text explains that most people would have actually choked to death but it was never gets too graphic.  My daughter is highly sensitive and she did not have nightmares or get scared after reading the book.

Usborne Young Reader series 3 - Pompeii, the book describes what it would have been like when the volcano erupted

After describing what happened when the volcano erupted the book goes onto to talk about how the city of Pompeii was later rediscovered and how work progressed on the site including an interesting explanation about how they created a new way to dig out cavities (both my kids who have long been fascinated with fossils and archaeology enjoyed this extra bit of information).

At the end of the book they include some photos of what Pompeii looks like today as well as a plan of the existing ruins and a Pompeii timeline.

Usborne Pompeii young reader book endes with a map of the ruins and a timeline

As far as reading materials that I have bought for my daughter this has to be one of the best books that I have bought for her and I know that both she and my son are not finished reading it yet.

(All children developing reading abilities at different rates but to give an idea my daughter was 7  when she first read this book).

I have included 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 own, use and love.

Usborne Young Reader Pompeii. A brilliant historical reader for young children











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Kids Mardi Gras Masks

The past week the kids have been going through a mask making spree.  The kids just recently watched Rio for the first time so they liked the idea of making some masks like the ones some of the people were wearing in the parade. When I saw the Mardi Gras Masks from Activity Village I thought they would be perfect.

We downloaded three different versions  – Mardi Gras Mask 1, Mardi Gras Mask 2 and Valentine Mask  (all Masks are included in the Members Only package from Activity Village which is currently £12 per year).  I printed all our masks onto thin card just so they would be a bit more sturdy.

Mardi Gras colouring Masks from Activity Village

I was really impressed with how hard the kids (and 2 of their friends) tried with these masks.  My youngest sat very patiently and worked very hard on the details – making sure the patterns were just right (my daughter did help him with the cutting).

Mardi Gras masks from Activity Village being coloured in using STABILO Cappi Pens

Mardi Gras Colouring Masks from Activity Village

And we also had a go at adding some extra details to a few of the masks.  We added some coloured feathers to a few masks.

Mardi Gras colouring mask with some feathers added

And even some craft jewels that we have.

Mardi Gras colouring mask from Activity Village with some craft jewels added

It is a really simple and easy craft activity for the kids to do and mine loved it.

As I am often asked about the craft supplies that we use.  Here are the details on what we used in this post.

The craft jewels are a combination of jewels that I have bought over the years and include these ones Self-Adhesive Acrylic Jewels Assorted Designs & Colours Embellishments for Children’s Crafts (Pack of 200)
and Large Self-Adhesive Acrylic Jewels Assorted Designs and Sizes for Collage, Card Making, Children’s Arts & Crafts (Pack of 120).  The feathers are from all over, I have a habbit of buying colourful feathers for our crafts whenever I spot them in a store.

The pens are the STABIL Cappi pens which I highly recommend.  They have a lovely grip which places the kids fingers in the perfect position.

Colouring in with our STABILO Cappi pens. Perfect grip for young hands

STABILO Cappi Felt-Tip Pen – Assorted Colours, Wallet of 12

I have included 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 own, use and love.

Kids Mardi Gras colouring masks from Activity Village

Colouring in Mardi Gras Masks for kids



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Days of the week and story sums

I printed off these Hamish Cat Days of the week (from the Lighthouse Keeper story resources created by Twinkl – free to download) around 3 years ago when my daughter was reading the whole set of Lighthouse books (old post on the Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch). And as I may have mentioned before I rarely thow any learning resources away, so these days of the week baskets have been sitting in one of my files waiting for another go.

This time the focus was my youngest.  He knows the days of he week but I thought it might be fun to use them some “story-sum activities” plus he loves cats.  Before I actually had time to set anything up he had the days of the week all set out on the floor and he gave each cat 1 fish to eat (the fish are these ones – Learning Resources Fun Fish Counters ).

Hamish Days of the week (lighthouse keeper's cat) and some fish counters for basic maths problems

So I started asking him some questions like if it was Thursday how many fish would Hamish have already eaten that week ?  Or what colour fish did he eat 2 days ago if today is Friday.  Nothing to fancy.  He then suggested that Hamish might like extra fish.  So I suggested he double the fish, which he did and I asked a few more questions.  And we even mixed it up so that Hamish received different number of fish on different days.

Hamish the cat with different fish as part of working out story sums

We then fetched some of the toy food and had some fun allocating different food to Hamish on each day.  This really ended up being a great lesson in greater than and less than and adding.  My son did comment that by the end of this week Hamish would have a sore tummy with all the junk food he had eaten.

Hamish from Lighthouse kepper's lunch with toy food. Great for a maths lesson

My son really started getting into the little scenarios.  And even went to fetch a toy mouse for Hamish to eat on one of the days, he found a toy bottle of milk and even an eel.

Free to download Days of the week on Hamish the cats basket

The toy mouse actually lead to a whole new discussion about weight and how one object could be heavier than a number of other objects combined.

All in all a fun way of doing some Maths with my youngest.

Story sums using Days of the week baskets, fish counters and toy food. Great Lighthouse keeper activity. Free to download from Twinkl

I have included 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 own, use and love.





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Painting-in Book (easy art) – we Love this book !!!

I enjoy doing arts and crafts, it is definitely a “comfortable- learning – activity” area for me.  But as a busy home-educating mom I always LOVE finding something that is easy for me (ie require little or no preparation), is good quality (and I do mean this) and something that is enjoyable for the kids to do.  I was quite happy when Laurence King Publishers asked if I would like a copy of the Painting-in Book (I mean really any art book is welcome in my home) but I NEVER realised how much I would LOVE IT.

It is an A3 size book with a picture on each page (and the paper is good quality thick art paper).  On each page there is a simple heading and some instructions which the kids can follow (but they do not have too).  No preparation work required.  Get the book out and let the kids choose a page (or 2 or 3 to do), some paints and you are set.  So Easy and quick.

Painting-in Books. Painting wild flames using a mix of colours and wavy brushstrokes

But what I love it is the Thought that has gone into this book.  Yes it is simple, straight forward pictures where the kids just need to paint to complete them but on every page the kids are learning.  Learning how it helps to add more than just one colour to get depth and movement, learning how to swish your paint brush stroke to create movement, learning about depth, colour, patterns, using small or big brushstrokes ………………..

Painting-in Book. Great for easy, no prep painting projects at home

I love this book.  I think it is the prefect art book for a family where the parents are not “confident” in their own art ability.  I think it is the perfect art book for parents who are busy and want to include some art projects with their kids but are not sure what to do. I think it is perfect for home-educating moms who sometimes need a ready, no-prep art activity for those crazy busy days.  And it is even perfect for “art-confident” parents.

Would I buy this for my kids – YES YES YES !!!  And in case you are wondering I have used this book with both my kids (ages 6 and 8) and I think it is great for both ages.

Painting-in Book being used by my 6 year old son. He loves choosing a page

(and yes they do give some basic instructions on how to complete the page, but like my 6-year old always does the kids are can totally make the pictures there own by adding all kinds of different details – In the wave picture he added kelp – the purple bits – to the water).

Painting-in Books. waves with some kelp added

The book has just been released and is available on Amazon – The Painting-In Book: 30 Paint and Play Activities

Painting-in Book. The long-haired dogs page

I do have included an Affiliate link. 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 we use and love.




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Times Table strategies we used

Over the weekend I received two emails asking me how I taught my daughter her times tables.  I started writing my response and realized that what I wanted to say was a lot longer that a quick email answer so I thought I would try to put it down in a post instead.  This is just the way we did it and what worked for us.

Before we started with any of the times tables my daughter learnt how to count in 2’s, 5’s and 10’s.  We made sure that she was very comfortable with this before we moved on (and I am so glad we spent our time on this first).  Because once she had the basic skip counting down the 2 times, 5 times and 10 times came very easily for her. (Twinkl have some great free to download Number posters where the skip counting numbers are inside the numbers – we had these up all over the house.)

Free To download from Twinkl, Number Multiple Posters perfect for helping kids with their skip counting

When we were looking at the 2 times at the very beginning we spent some time talking about what multiplication is.  We did lots of repetitive addition (ie 2+2+2 is the same as saying 3×2) and exercises were we spoke about groups (eg 2 x 4 = two groups of 4 apples).  When we looked at the groupings we used all sorts of different manipulative (snap cubes, beads, our fish counters – anything that was available).

learning times tables by grouping objects

We moved onto the 3 times and 4 times doing the same exercises.  But by the time we got to the 8 times she started battling to remember them.  Until one day we got her to work it out for herself (why it took me so long to do this I do not know).  She wrote out the 8 times table up  to the point she knew –  5 x 8 = 40 then she came to 6 times 8 and she was stuck.  So  she added 8 to 40 and got 48.  Then 7 time 8 again we got her to add 8 to the previous total 48+8 = 56 and we continued doing this all the way to 12 times 8.

Okay so it probably sounds really simple and I am kicking myself that we did not do this earlier but for her it was the simple trick that worked.  Once she sat down and worked out the totals by herself she remembered the answers and more importantly she knew a quick way of working out an answer when she was not sure.

We did the exact same thing for the 6 and 7 times tables (and this time I took some photos).

working out the times table by adding

And we have ALSO played lots of games with her (like our bean bag throwing game) and we have made learning aids (like our multiple flowers)  – I am a firm believer of trying to make Maths fun and interactive and I am also a firm believer that repetition is key but we do try very hard to make that repetition as enjoyable as we can.

Because I am often asked about the Maths manipulative that we use here are some links- for times table and division my daughter seems to like using these Learning Resources Snap Cubes (Set of 100).  And the Times table cards are the ones from Twinkl that we have used A LOT – links for all of these cards are in my bean bag throwing game post.

Times tables at home using our snap cubes and working out the answers by adding to the prior total

I have included 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 own, use and love.










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Match and Spell Next Step Game

We were recently sent the Orchard Toys Match and Spell Next Steps game.  We used the original game with my youngest last year (Match and Spell Game post) and found it useful in helping him with basic spelling words.  The new version – Next Steps – is the same format as the original game however this one includes “harder phonic sounds” like sh,  th, ch,  all the long vowel sounds, as well as sounds like igh, ng, ph and a lot more.

Practicing spelling word with the Orachrd Toys Match and Spell Next steps game

The game includes 18 double-sided word boards (same idea as last time on one side of the board the word is spelt out and on the other side it is blank with a picture).

Match and Spell Next Step Word boards one side has the word on it

But this time both the word boards and the cards either have a line underneath or a single dot.  The dot indicates when the sound is made up of a single letter and the line is when the sound is made up of 2  or 3 letters combined.  My youngest found this added feature on the boards a big help when he was trying to spell the words by himself.

Orchard Toys Match and Spell Next Steps game

I think it is a great way for the kids to practice blending their more advance phonic sounds and for my son the big bonus is he is practicing spelling without having to do a worksheet. Because he is playing with sound cards he ends up spelling out a lot more words than he would if he was just using a pencil and piece of paper.

And he even used the sound cards to build his own words.

Create your own words with the Match and Spell sound cards

I am a fan of having educational games in the home as I think the kids learn best when they are relaxed.  And I think playing games like this does build the kids confidence in sounding out basic words which will end up making them more confident when it comes to writing.

The Match and Spell game was given to us by Orchard Toys in exchange for a review.  All thought about the game are mine and my children’s.

Orchard Toys Match and Spell Next Step game





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Desperate for Spring

I think my kids are as desperate for Spring to start as I am.  I have noticed they are talking a lot about plants and which ones they want to grow this year and they seem to be a Spring crafty mood as well.  We recently received some lovely Spring goodies from Baker Ross and my daughter immediately started working on the flower wreaths they sent (pack of 6).  And she has done flower wreath after flower wreath after flower wreath.

She really seems to enjoy colouring these flower wreaths in and I must admit they do look lovely and cheerful when they are finished and she has found somewhere to hang them.

Baker Ross colour in flower wreath

She even tried adding some coloured sand to one of them – “just for Fun”.  (We have had these bottles of coloured sand for over 6 months now and they have lasted really well considering how often my kids use them.)

Baker Ross flower wreath with some colour sand added

The flower wreaths did not get as much attention from my youngest (although his big sister did manage to convince him to do one – he choose to do his with water-colour pencils and he added some tissue paper onto the flowers).

Baker Ross colouring flower wreath with some tissue paper added

But he has been loving the Pond sticker scenes.  (He has actually asked me if I can buy some more of these sticker scenes for him to do).  He likes making up little stories to go with the pictures he creates.

Baker Ross Pond Sticker Scene

I am wondering what it is about the flower wreaths that have been such a hit with my daughter – is it that it’s a wreath or that it is the detailed colouring on a cut-out piece of card which she can then hang up as opposed to a straight forward colouring page ?  I have been searching for something similar that might be as big a hit and I found these birds – they are also cut-out on card and you can hang them afterwards.  I am hoping they will be another big hit with her.

Baker Ross Flower wreath

If you are also wanting to get into the spring crafting mood here is the range of Spring themed goodies from Baker Ross – Spring crafting

I do get sent parcels of Baker Ross goodies for the kids to use but I also buy  from the website on a regular basis.






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