Water Beads, letters and Word Mats

My kids love water beads, they love sinking their hands in tub full of water beads and they love hiding their toys in-between all the water beads.  I have to admit I also find the feeling of submerging my hands in the water beads very relaxing so I understand why they get super excited when they see me emptying a packet of water beads into a tub of water.

water beads

We have actually been working on Capital letters (Upper case letters) with my youngest so I thought we could hide the Lower case letters in the water beads and get him to find the Lower case letters and then match them to the Upper case letters.  However my son had his own ideas.

finding letters in a tub of water beads

He wanted to build words.

He told me he was tired of all the phonic words and wanted to try some “tricky words”.  If you follow my facebook page you probably saw the photos of all the printing that I have done lately (I admit I may have gone slightly overboard).  But the positive side of all the printing –  I happened to have printed out 2 words mats from Twinkl (part of their paid for Platinum package) – Year 1 word mat and Year 2 word mat so I quickly slotted the word mats into my Learning Resources Wipe Clean Pockets and gave them to my youngest.

{Tip when letting the kids work with water beads any paper left lying around next to the tub of water beads will get wet.  Good idea to laminate any pages or use the Wipe Clean Pockets.}

And he was off.

Using our letters to build words from the Word mat

It was quick but he kept himself busy while I cooked dinner, practiced some words (and some fairly hard words) and he even convinced his sister that she should also have a go.

Word building using letters and the Word Mats from Twinkl

Very quick and simple but a fun way to work on some words.




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Nature Storybooks

We have been fans of the Nature Storybook range for some time now.  We own 3 of the books –Yucky Worms, Big Blue Whale and The Emperor’s Egg – and both my kids love all 3 books.  We have read the stories multiple times and with all 3 stories the kids have learnt about the animals involved.  My daughter also regularly chooses these books as stories to read to her younger brother which for me  means win-win as far as books go.  So I was thrilled when Walker Publishing sent us 5 new Nature Storybooks.

Nature Storybooks

All 5 books are a great addition to the kids bookshelf.  The books are written and illustrated in a style which suits each individual animal (there is no one formula applied to each book they are all individual and unique).  The Tigress book contains lots of vivid illustrations of the tigress and her cubs, lots of orange, green and yellow through the book.  Whereas the Tracks of the Panda is more white/ black with some green yet they are both incredibly striking books.

Tigress stunning image from the lovely Nature Storybook range


Nature Storybook - Tracks of a Panda

The Tracks of a Panda book starts with a young Panda cub being born and how the young panda cub is really small and fragile at first and then how the mother and cub end up having to move territories to find more food.  The Tigress book also follows a mom and her young but the differences between these two animals is very clear in the different books.  Even though both books are written by the same author (Nick Dowson) and both are about a mother and her young the way it is written and illustrated you really get the differences  in lifestyles and natures of these two amazing animals.

Nature Storybook - inside the Tigress book, stunning imagery

Each book contains lots of information and I have to be honest and say that I have learnt something new about each animal from reading the books.  The information is not too dry or too advance for the kids, both of mine (aged 5.5 and 8) have found the books informative but in a nice relaxed manner.  They are not encyclopedias on the animals (so don’t expect each book to contain every last fact about the animal that it is based on), they are stories about animals with facts included.

Bats love the Dark

The Fabulous Frog books is great as it is not about the frog life cycle but rather focuses on the many different types of frogs (I never realised you got so many different frogs and how different they all look).  This lovely book spurred my kids on to create their own versions of colourful frogs.

Fabulous Frogs kids had fun creating their own grogs after the read all about the different types of frogs

(the frog template that we used is from the Twinkl website it was part of their Brown Bear Brown Bear colouring sheets)

Reading our new Nature Storybooks

I am hoping to use each book as a way of encouraging more detailed learning about the animals on which the stories are based.  Which means hopefully there will be some individual Nature Storybook posts over the next few months, where I share crafts ideas or learning activities based on the animals in the fab books.

To help me with the planning for this I have set up a Nature Storybook board on Pinterest and I am going to be pinning ideas that link in with the different books.


The Nature Storybooks that we have are in the photo below but if you want to see all the books included in this range look here – Nature Storybook Full Range

Nature storybooks we are using to learn about animals

Disclosure: As I mentioned above 3 of the books I have included in the post were purchased by me but our 5 new Nature Storybooks were sent to me by Walker Publishing after I requested copies for us to use as part of our learning about animals.  All opinions expressed about the books are mine (or my children’s).









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Learning about flowers

We are extremely lucky that we live just a few minutes drive from a wonderful farm which has pick your own fruit, vegetables and flowers over the warmer months of the year.  The kids love it there.  We have been going for a few years now and every time we go I am always interested to see how much they learn.  Sometimes you only realize that they have learnt something new when they start asking new questions a few days later and other times the questions arise while we are in the fields picking.

This past week we went specifically to pick sunflowers – my daughter had heard one of the farm employees mention that the sunflowers were ready for picking on a previous visit and had been asking ever since.  While we were picking the sunflowers both kids noticed all the bees just sitting on the sunflowers.  The bees were so busy “working” that they totally ignored the kids and the kids actually ended up getting really close to them and watched them for ages.

bees on the sunflowers lots of chatting about what the bees do

And the questions started, were the bees collecting pollen or nectar ?  what is different between the pollen and the nectar ? what happens when the bees flies to another flower ? when do the seeds come from etc etc

We got home and my oldest was immediately in her bookcase looking for books to read and then both kids dug out their magnifying glasses and had a really good close-up look at the center of the flowers (our flowers never made it into a vase, they were examined and dissected by the kids instead).

My daughter was asking more and more questions about the different parts of the flower so I printed out The parts of a Plant labelling and Reference Sheets (free from Twinkl) for her.  I slipped the parts of a flower page into a plastic sleeve for her and the parts of a plant into a plastic sleeve for my youngest.  My daughter had a great time examining the flowers and trying to see if she could find which parts of her flower matched the parts in the diagram (we had also picked some Dahlias at the farm).

learning about flowers

My daughter then wanted to try to label her own diagram.  The Parts of a plant labelling and reference sheets from Twinkl include a reference page for a flower and a plant as well as the matching labelling pages (see pics below).  This was very helpful for us as it was the first time that my daughter has been interested in this type of detail about flowers so there were lots of new words for her (and some which I needed reminding about).

Free Twinkl Parts of a Flower diagram and label worksheet

Free Twinkl parts of a Plant diagram and label worksheet

We also downloaded the free  Parts of a plant visual aid

parts of a plant free visual aid from Twinkl

and the free Part of a Flower visual aid.

Parts of a flower free visual aid from Twinkl

And the kids asked if they could stick both in the back of their life cycle book (I know their this is not really life cycle stuff but the kids wanted it in their life-cycle book and I want their life cycle book to be theirs, one that they can add whenever they want).

I love that all of this was a result of us having a fun morning picking a few flowers. What started off as a trip to our local farm ended up being a great introduction to the parts of a flower.

Parts and a plant and Parts of a flower free to download pages from Twinkl





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Tricky Fingers Game

Edushape game called Tricky Fingers great kids game

My son’s Occupational Therapist has been using Tricky Fingers with him in a number of sessions and suggested that it would be a great game for us to have in the house. (Have I mentioned lately how much we love our Occupational Therapist and how amazing she has been with the kids ? – so any suggestions from her automatically jumps the que of “must have goodies.”)  She originally bought her game from South Africa but I have since found that you can get the game from Halilit here in the UK.

The game comes with 2 puzzle boxes with marbles inside and a set of 14 patterned cards.  The kids need to move the coloured marbles with their fingers through little holes in the bottom of the puzzle box.  The objective being that they want to get the coloured balls in their puzzle box to match the patterns on the cards provided with the game.

Edushape Tricky finger game. Matching the coloured marbles to the pattern card

Each patterned card is double-sided but on the reverse side of the card the marbles are all left blank so that you can also create your own pattern (love that they included this extra bit).

Edushape Tricky Fingers pattern cards included with the game

The first time we tried the game with my daughter she did battle and almost gave up but my hubbie sat with her and helped her work though it step by step.  Once she got it she quickly tried again and again and is now loving it but I do think for some kids it might require an adult sitting with them and helping them with the first card.

I love the planning angle of this game – sometimes the kids need to move a marble which is already in position to create a space for another marble to move (this was quite a concept for my youngest – once a marble was in position he REALLY did not want to move it).

Edushape Tricky Finger game moving the coloured marbles with your fingers so it matches the pattern card

The instructions that come with the game say that the objective is to be the first player to get their game box to match the pattern card (ie you would have 2 kids playing against each other).  I have to admit we have not played it quite like that.  Both my kids have tried really hard to get the hang of it and are really proud when they get the game box to match the pattern card so we have left it as more of an individual challenge – the kids against the game.  Sometimes my hubbie and I join in with a game box but we have made sure not to let it get too competitive yet (that can come with time once the kids are confident with the game and have practiced it more).  For us the uses of this game it terms of manual dexterity, fine motor precision, visual perception and organizational skills are more important right now.

Kids playing Tricky Fingers game. Game recommended by Occupational Therapist

After my son’s occupational Therapist recommended this game to us I did contact Edushape and asked if we could get the game to test out, they kindly referred me to Halilit UK who sent me our game.  After watching the kids play the game and after playing it with the kids myself I can totally understand why the Occupational Therapist recommended it to us.  I personally think it is a brilliant kids game and I think it is going to remain popular with our family for some time.

Here is the link for the game – Edushape Tricky Fingers Game









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Butterfly and flower maths activity from Twinkl

I have been attempting to sort through our home-ed goodies, trying to figure out what the kids have outgrown and also attempt to get a better idea of what we might need for our “new school year” (I say that when really we do not strictly keep to term times but over the summer we do slow down a bit as the kids naturally spend longer playing out in the garden).  To be honest my attempts at going through everything is very unorganised and I start and then get distracted by something the kids are doing or by a request to go somewhere and the “organisation” gets left lying in a big mess.  The result is it takes me a lot longer but my attitude is we need to enjoy the good weather while we can.

One of the Home-ed goodies that I came across while I was sorting was this lovely butterfly and flower maths matching activity.  I love maths activities where the kids are not just sitting doing worksheet after worksheet.  With this activity she had to match the correct butterfly (the butterflies all have sums on them) to the correct flower (the flowers have numbers on).  And as luck would have it a day after I found the activity I was searching for some old photos and I came across the photos of my daughter doing the activity so this is what it looks like.

Flower and butterfly maths matching activity

It really is so simple.  Just set the flowers out and then the kids match the correct butterfly to the correct flower.  Nothing fancy but I remember my daughter loving this.

Flower and Butterfly maths matching activity - you match the correct sum to the correct number

And I remember she did it over and over again.

Butterfly and Flower addition activity from Twinkl

And they have an editable version so when my daughter was first learning her times table I used the editable version and made her a times table version.

Editable butterfly and flower 2x table

Sorry the photos are old photos before I learnt a trick or two about taking better photos of our activities but I really just wanted to share the idea as I think it is a lovely idea for Maths.  It got me thinking that I need to find something similar for my son maybe a version of this but using animals (he is not into butterflies like his big sister so do not think this would be such a hit with him).

The download that we used for this activity is a Twinkl download and it is part of their paid for goodies (gold package) – Butterfly and Flower Addition Activity

Back to more sorting I go until I get distracted by something else that I find………………………..



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Pens for on-the-go-learning

It is no secret we are fans of STABILO products.  Both my kids have used the STABILO 3-in-1 pencils and the easycolour pencils and both kids love them.  So when I heard STABILO have some pens designed for use when you are out and about I could not resist testing them out.  STABILO kindly sent us a set of the Cappi pens to use in our home learning and I have to say we are now fans of these pens aswell.

The pens have been specially designed with caps that allow you to thread a loop through them (they call it a cap ring) which links all the pens together.  This hopefully means there will be less chance of the kids leaving their pens behind or losing them while they are out.  And as I found my kids were a lot more aware of the fact that they had not put the pen back in its cap once they had finished using it as they would see the empty cap on the ring when they went to get another pen.

STABILO Cappi pens

My kids enjoy taking activities out with us when we go on our walks (they enjoy a good nature / colour hunt, anything really that involves them walking around with a clipboard and ticking boxes or making notes on the clipboard) which is why I was so keen to test these pens out.

We actually found that the plastic cord, which comes with the pens, is perfect for attaching them to the back of my backpack.  This way the kids can grab a pen without me having to take the backpack off and unpack a pencil-case etc.  For us this is a perfect solution for all our clipboard activities.

cappi pens attached to our backpack

And then when the kids want to sit down and use the pens on the ground all we do is unhook the link.  Super easy.

STABILO Cappi pens are perfect to use when you take the kids out on walks or outings

But apart from being great pens to use out of the house the pens themselves are really nice pens.  I love the ergonomic grips.  After watching my youngest use the pens on multiple occasions I could see that he always ended up holding the pens correctly (his pencil grip has been something we have been working on).  Both kids fingers naturally rest in the correct position on the grips, I have never once had to remind or correct my youngest (the website does say the pens are for kids 6 years and over and my youngest is 5).

STABILO Cappi pens have lovely grips for where the fingers need to go

STABILO cappi pens easy for the kids to get the pencil grip correct

The pens also do not roll off tables (which is a real bonus if the kids are using them out at a coffee shop while I am trying to drink a much-needed cup of caffeine)

The colours are really vibrant and apparently you can leave the pens uncapped for 24 hours without them drying out – we DID NOT test out the 24 hour without a cap as we really like the pens and did not want to wast them.

Also my youngest is quite good at getting ink all over himself when he is “creating an art work” and with these pens it always comes off very easily (also wiped off our plastic table).

All three of us think these pens are great and I have no doubt my “clipboard happy kiddies” will be using them over and over again when we are out exploring.

Using our STABILO Cappi pens while we are out at a picnic



The STABILO Cappi pens were given us by STABILO but I was not paid for this review.  Also the Basic Transport Template shown in the photo above is from the Twinkl website and it is Free to download





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Activity Village pages for Home Ed (version 2)

It has almost been a year since I wrote my first post about using Activity Village pages in our home-ed and since then I have discovered a number of new pages on the Activity Village website which we have used (or I am planning on using) so I thought it was about time I wrote a version 2.

I have to start by sharing the link for these Large Number cards with Dots for younger kids learning their numbers.  Mine are too old for this but I used something very similar with my daughter and it was great.

I am loving all the Ordinal Number pages that they have up on their website, my youngest is just starting to learn his ordinal numbers so I have spent quite a bit of time looking at all the different pages and worksheets that they have.

I like the ordinal number match up where the kids have to match the ordinal numbers to the correct words.

Ordinal number puzzle from Activity Village

And my son loves the ordinal number racing cars.  We have had some fun games where he races his cars and then allocates the correct  ordinal numbered car to his toy cars.  He thinks this is great fun and has come up with little challenges for himself where he tries to get certain cars and in certain positions.

Ordinal Number cars free to download from Activity Village

My youngest has also been doing a number of mazes lately.  I love mazes as they are a great pencil control activity for him and he enjoys the challenge.  There are lots of mazes on the activity village website to choose from and the great thing is they are all slightly different and they are aimed at different aged kids.  So my youngest can do a maze while his sister attempts a harder version.  Perfect for the way my kids like to work together.

My daughter has used a number of the Rainbow number bond pages that are on the website, they have posters and worksheets which you can download and use.  The photo below is of the Rainbow Number bond to 20 Worksheet. 

Rainbow Number bond worksheet free to download from activity village

My daughter loves reading about animals so I have started printing off the animal fact-finding pages for her.  They have been great at encouraging her to do some writing (and her younger brother also has a bit of a go).  They have a huge range of these pages for lots of different animals – Animal Fact Finding pages. I was actually thinking the kids could use the animal fact-finding pages to make a small book.

My youngest is still a very early reader but he likes copying his big sister.  She has just started reading some basic chapters books and as a result has made herself some bookmarks so naturally my youngest wanted his own bookmarks to go in his readers.  I made him some of these High Frequency Word Bookmarks.  He thinks he is very grown up with his new bookmarks and it is helping him with his reading as he is forever practicing the words on them.

High frequency words bookmark free to download from activity village

And in case you missed the photos I shared on our facebook page my son has been loving all the animal word puzzles.

word puzzles

The word puzzles in the photo above are the following

Whale word puzzle, Shark word puzzle, sheep word puzzle and kangaroo word puzzle

My daughter enjoyed using the vocabulary extension pages earlier in the year.  It turned out to be a fun exercise in coming up with different words which we could use instead of good/ bad/ nice etc

Vocabulary extension page for Good from Activity village

And the animal alphabet challenge has also been a hit with my two kiddies.

animal alphabet challenge page from activity village

And just in case you missed the original Activity Village post here it is – Using Activity Village for homeschooling

Also you might enjoy our – Froggy 4 times table post and our Autumn has arrived with some help from Activity Village

Activity Village pages used in our Home education







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