Lucky Gecko Summer Holiday Box Review

Last weekend we were given a Lucky Gecko Summer Box.  We have never done subscription type boxes before but I have heard some good feedback about the Lucky Gecko Boxes (I have hear great things about their Ornithology Box) so when they asked if we would like to do a review one of their Summer Boxes I said yes.

As soon as we unpacked the box I was impressed with the contents – the fact that it included an IQ Puzzler Pro game,  an interesting book, a Hexbug and all the other items that the kids would need to complete the challenges.  From the start this impressed me because even once the kids have finished the challenges included in the puzzle book they will still be able to use a number of the items again (I like it when kids can reuse items for other activities).

Lucky Gecko Summer Box 2018. Lots of puzzles and challenges to keep the kids thinking over the summer

Also Let me reassure all parents that they send you an answer booklet via email (Yes I know I should be able to answer all of the questions but when you are sitting with the kids and it is 31 degrees outside believe me an answer book is much-needed by this mum).  The Summer Puzzle box is aimed at kids entering year 5, 6 or 7 and I understand why they say this (my daughter would be starting Year 6 in September and my son Year 3 if they were in school).  The puzzles are a mixture of Maths, English, General knowledge and although my son could join in and he did do some of the General knowledge questions with ease the maths based ones were not things we have covered yet.

Lucky Gecko Summer Box one of the Maths puzzles included

The puzzle book contains 31 pages of questions – so 1 page a day and each page has a puzzle and then a challenge on it – both my kids really enjoyed trying the challenges included (if you have younger siblings I would suggest seeing if they can join in with the challenges as my son found he could manage most of the challenges that we tried – he does love puzzles so he was very keen to join in).

Lucky Gecko Summer Box one of the matchbox challenges included

We received our box a week ago so the kids have not tried every puzzle and every challenge yet but I wanted to write about the box for readers who are looking for something to do over the summer.  So far everything we have needed was in the box. And so far puzzles and challenges have been interesting and nothing that my daughter could not manage.

Lucky Gecko Summer Box, a tangram challenge

We have not started reading the book included in the box – Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library, but I skimmed a few pages and it looks interesting.  I also really like the fact that at the end of the puzzle booklet they include 3 other book suggestions, I always like getting book recommendations.

Now I mentioned that the box includes a IQ Puzzler Pro.  We already have an IQ Fit game and I am a huge fan of this game – it is often stashed in my bag when we go out as it is the perfect activity to keep one of the kids busy when they are waiting for their sibling to finish an activity.

Lucky Gecko Summer Box includes an IQ Puzzler Pro game

And I must admit I have read up about the IQ Puzzler Pro and actually it is on my Amazon wish list as something to buy the kids even though we have the IQ Fit – for the simple reason that it has 3 dimensional challenges.  This game is brilliant.  The game starts on the same 2 D level as the IQ Fit about after a number of examples it goes onto 3D.

Lucky Gecko Summer Box has an IQ Puzzler Pro game included which has 3D challenges

Wow – the 3D is brilliant – we have only just started trying but boy does it get both the kids and me (totally admitting) thinking.  Really LOVE this.

We have never had subscription boxes before and we have only had this one for a week but I am truly impressed.  I am impressed with what they included and how they have thought out the questions and challenges.  I am positive we will finish all of the pages over the Summer and I am looking forward to seeing what my daughter thinks of the book included.

We were sent the box in exchange for a review.  I am under no obligation to write anything positive, the only obligation I have is to be honest and express our own personal thoughts

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Snake Paper Chain from Twinkl

I have am trying to make sure that our craft activities appeal to my little guy but with this heat we have been having my desire to get creative has vanished and I really needed something easy to set up but something that would still suit him.  He loves all animals but recently he has been more fascinated by reptiles and insects so I searched for an activity for one of those and found this snake paper chain activity (Twinkl Resources part of their Classic package).  We printed out a few copies of the black and white version.

My initial idea when I saw this was that it was a fun, easy paper craft activity and that we would just use our sharpies to colour it in and my son did initially make some just like that (scissors, glue and sharpies).

Snake paper chain craft activity colouring in with sharpies

Even sticking with just his sharpies the end snakes came out so bright and colourful.

Snake Paper Chain Craft activity from Twinkl Resources

But when his sister joined in we decided to try something a bit different and dug out our stash of decopatch paper (I have bought the paper from a number of different sources).

Snake Paper Chain template from Twinkl adding some colourful decopath paper.

We covered the links that make up the snake’s body in the colourful paper (glueing it onto both sides).

Snake Paper Chain craft activity from Twinkl Resources adding decopatch paper to the links

Snake paper Chain Craft activity using some decopath paper for the links

And I must admit using the decopatch paper is such an easy way to create some truly stunning snakes.

Snake Paper Chain craft activity made using a template from Twinkl and some colourful decopatch paper

It really was the perfect, hot weather, easy to set up craft activity that required very little thinking or prepping from me and I had two happy little crafters who liked their end results.

Snake paper Chain craft activity from Twinkl Resources

The snake paper chain template that we used is from the Twinkl Resources website and is part of a paid for subscription.  For more information about their subscriptions please contact Twinkl directly, I do not work for them, we just use some of their resources in our home education.  Also all links and mention of package structures are correct at time of publishing this post.

Snake Paper Chain Craft Activity.  Made using a template from Twinkl Resources



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Summer Reading Ideas

I believe that the kids are learning the whole time.  They are not only learning when I am giving them a maths equation to solve, they are also learning when they are out in the garden, building planes and cities out of lego, baking, out on trips and when they are reading.  We tend to do a lot of learning based on our books and although I love our local library I also love having a small collection of books in the house which are ours.  I am very fortunate because some of the publishing companies allow me to select some of their books for the kids to read.  So we do end up with a nice selection of good quality reading books.

So even though our more formal ways of learning tends to slow down over the warmer months (mainly because we spend more time learning outdoors and enjoying the sunshine, getting some much-needed Vitamin D) the kids are still constantly losing themselves in good books.  We have never really done reading challenges as such, never really felt the need as both of mine always have a book that they are reading (or in my daughter’s case she normally has 4) but my kids are reading a couple of series and have a few books that they want to read over the next few weeks.  So I thought I would share some of their picks (and a few of mine)

They want to finish the Secret Seven series – both of them are really keen to read all the books in the series (they have currently read 8 out of the 15).  I know The Secret Seven is not on everyone’s list of good reading for kids, but for fun enjoyment mine have been reading them together and even made badges and a den for themselves, so enjoyment wise it has ticked a lot of boxes.  And they are also re-reading the How to Train Your Dragon series.  Wow this book series has just been such a gem for us.  My kids have loved the stories and I must say I think the way they have been written is brilliant – lots of creative language and such interesting descriptions. (The Bookpeople are selling the set – that is where we bought ours from).

A few Summer Reading Ideas. How to Train Your Dragon, Riddle of the Runes, Night Zookpeeper, Bee Boy, Little Women, Butterfly Lion

But as much as we have / still are loving the How to train your Dragon series my daughter has felt it was a bit male dominated – she has voiced on more than one occasion that she wished there were more strong female main characters in the stories.  So I started hunting for a Viking themed story with a female lead (not that easy I might add) and I found – Riddle of the Runes (Viking Mystery 1).  The Story is based on a crime solving Viking Alva (female lead) and her pet wolf – Fenrir.  And it appears to have a coded message in Runes – my daughter has just read the first chapter, but so far it sounds like it could be a very interesting Viking story for her and she already loves the whole Rune solving angle.

She is also reading some Michael Morpurgo books.  She recently chose her third one from a local 2nd hand bookstore – The Butterfly Lion.  I really like his writing and I am trying to encourage her to read more of his books (again I find them a good level for her with nice descriptions and some interesting words) but I must mention for highly sensitive kids my daughter does tend to cry when reading his books as she finds the stories a bit sad.  What we do is when she gets to the sad part she comes and sits with me and we read it together.

She is also enjoying some classic stories (see our Little Women post) and we are trying some Shakespeare together (my pick which we are slowly introducing).

My son has only recently started reading chapter books by himself.  He loved the first Night Zookeeper book and the first Bee Boy book so  we are trying the 2nd book in both series.  The Night Zookeeper: The Lioness of Fire Desert was an instant hit with him.  The day it arrived he unpacked the book and started reading it, on the first day he only put it down to go swimming and as soon as he was back he picked it up and continued.  In fact he is already asking about when the third Night Zookeeper book will be out (he informs me the third one is about penguins).  Honestly I have not yet read the book myself so I cannot comment, I know it involves the main characters for the first book and a lioness but that is about all I know at this stage.  I will write a detailed review about this book soon – just need to be allowed to read it myself.

Reading the 2nd Night Zookeeper. The lioness of Fire Desert. Another brilliant night zookeeper adventure

Bee Boy: Attack of the Zombees (Bee Boy 2).  He read and re-read the first Bee Boy book so I am sure this one will be a big hit with him.  He loves the idea of the boy (Melvin) becoming a half-bee and the fact that he can talk to the other creatures (something I am sure my son wishes he could do).  The Wizarding for Beginners was recommended for him as a funny light-hearted story.  I have skimmed a few pages and it does look like something that might appeal to my little guys humour so we are going to give it a try.

The Railway Revolution is something I chose for him.  When we was younger he loved trains and recently he has been asking more and more questions about how trains developed over time and the different stages that the railway system went through (something which I have very limited knowledge in)  so when I was recently browsing the BIG CAT readers for new titles I spotted this and immediately asked if we could test it out.  We have read a few of the non-fiction BIG CAT readers and have been very impressed with them so I thought this one would be perfect for my little guy.

I have no doubt as the summer progresses we will be adding to our books (I have already been reading some reviews about the Warrior Cats series and have a feeling that my two would love this so that could be something we might try as well).

As I mentioned above our books are a collection of library, some I have bought and some which have been given to us by Oxford University Press and Collins BIG CAT department.

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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Classic stories and Little Women

This past week has been a really chilled week, the kids have been tired and overwhelmed and I have just wanted to curl up on the couch and not move.  So most of our learning plans went out the window but even without me guiding them, they have been learning non-stop.  Mainly due to their love of reading and stories.

We have a set of audio stories that I bought years ago (Ladybird Classics: The Complete Audio Collection).  Both kids love these CD’s.

Ladybird Classics the Aomplete Audio Collection. Lots of classic stories perfect for kids to listen to in the car

They are Classic stories and some of the language is a bit different to what the kids are used to so there are lots of “mom press pause, what does that word mean, or why is she saying that or what is a workhouse ?”  But they have been listening to these stories over and over again and keep asking for them when we are in the car.  They tend to pick 2 or 3 and then for a week or so they listen to those same stories a couple of times before they move on to the next batch.  But every now and again they ask for a repeat of one of the older stories.

One of the brilliant side-effects of these audio stories is that the kids have been seeking out the book versions to read – my daughter has actually now read 3 different versions of the Wind in the Willows after listening to the audio version.  And that has sparked another interesting conversation – Why are there so many different versions of these stories?  Why in one version does a character do or say x but in another version they do or say y?  Lots of interesting observations have been made.

My daughter’s current favourite has to be Little Women – she has loved being introduced to the wonderfully different characters by her audio story.  So she was thrilled when a copy of Little Women – Little Women: Band 18/Pearl (Collins Big Cat) arrived in the post for her.  She immediately started reading it.

reading the BIG CAT Classic reader Little Women

This is the second “classic” story that my daughter has read in the BIG CAT reader series (the first one was Black Beauty) and I am really happy with them.  They have managed to condense the classic story into a very manageable 77 pages (the book band for this one is Pearl which is aimed at Year 6 children – my daughter would be going into Year 6 in September if she was in school and easily managed this by herself).

Collins BIG CAT Classic reader Little Women. An example of some inside text

And yes we love the fact that Beth is home-schooled (look above).

I like this for the very simple reason – it makes an old classic accessible for my daughter.  Once she has read the more condensed version, understood the key story events she then has the confidence to look for a longer more complex version of the story and try that.  By reading this reader she is gaining confidence both in her reading ability and the actual story (she does not like stories that are too scary).

Collins BIG CAT Classic reader Little Women. A lovely way to introduce the story

One of my passions is to build a love of stories and a love of reading in both the kids.  And I want that love to include a wide range of stories.  I don’t want the kids to be “put-off” reading classics because the langauge is a bit different or because they don’t understand all of the events.  I think exposing the kids to condensed versions of the classic stories helps to prevent this.  They have already got a love for stories like Black Beauty, Little Women, Oliver’s Twist.  They are learning some of the older words and afterwards they are not as intimidated by a larger, thicker, more complex version of the story.

Collins BIG CAT reader Classic Little Women

From time to time the lovely people at Collins Primary send us a few books for us to use.  This copy of Little Women was included in one of our bundle of books.  I was not paid for this post and I am under no obligation to write anything.  I am sharing about this book because my daughter has enjoyed it and I think it is a great way to introduce a classic story to younger kids.

Collins BIG CAT Classic reader LIttle Women

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.

Little Women one of the Collins BIG CAT Classic readers. Perfect for academic years 5 or 6 or home learningCollins BIG CAT reader Little Women.  Perfect for primary ages.  Year 5 and Year 6

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Twinkl Posters

We have different posters scattered around the house.  Some are semi-permanent and some we just put up while we are looking at a topic but either way these visual learning aids are a big part of both the kids learning.  So I thought I would share some photos and links for the Twinkl posters that we use (or have used).  A couple are FREE to download but the most are part of their paid for classic membership.  All our posters are displayed on really simple cork boards (we bought these ones from amazon – 5 Star Indigo Noticeboard Cork with Pine Frame W 900 x H 600mm)

One of our semi-permanent set of poster are our British History Timeline Posters.  There are quite a few and each page is A4 size so we used 2 of our notice boards for this but it is proving to be a really useful reminder for both the kids and me (I totally admit that I sometimes have a quick look to check dates if we are discussing an event or person and I want to make sure which period it/ they belonged in).

British History Timeline Posters from Twinkl Resources

There is also a World History Timeline set.

Most of the posters that we have up tend to be Maths.  One of the first ones we ever out up was this 0 – 200 number poster (I loved the fact that it included numbers great than 100).  If you are busy looking at Number Bonds we used their Rainbow Number bond Posters, there are three different ones – Number Bonds to 10, Number Bonds to 20 and Number Bonds to 100.

And our multiples poster – you can get the poster with all the numbers on one page – Number number poster.

Multiples, skip counting poster from Twinkl Resources

Or the individual numbers – we love these and they are FREE to download.

Multiples inside the NUmber Poster. Free to download from Twinkl Resources

If you are working on times tables – we really liked the 9 Times Table Easy Way Poster

Twinkl Resources Learning the 9 times table the Easy Way

and the 2, 4 and 8 times table poster.

2, 4 and 8 times table poster from Twinkl Resources

For Fractions I think this Fraction wall is a very useful poster (FREE to download) we have had ours up for ages.

Free to download Fraction Wall from Twinkl Resources

We also like this Fractions, Decimals and Percentage poster.

Twinkl's Fractions, Decimals and Percentages poster

And for Geometry – we have found this Angles poster useful.

Angles and Measurement poster from Twinkl Resources

Maps are another one we like – since I am originally from South Africa we have a large Map of Africa up so I can continuously point out the different countries in Africa (I get very irritated when people talk about Africa as  country so I am determined that both the kids are going to have a good knowledge of the different countries in Africa).

Twinkl Resources Map of Africa showing the different countries in Africa

They have lots of different maps on the site including this one of  Europe

Oh and this FREE to download Water Cycle Poster.

There are so many posters that we have used and I know I am forgetting a bunch but these are the ones that are up at the moment / or the ones I can think of.

This post is NOT a review post.  It is just me sharing some of the learning posters that we have used with our kids

Educational Posters from Twinkl Resources

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Co-ordinate Grid Copy Pictures

The kids have looked at co-ordinates before and as we are working on Geometry at the moment it seemed like a good time to go back and revisit it.  But we have also been slowing down the learning activities this week while my daughter catches her breath a bit so I thought it might be good to link the co-ordinates with a drawing activity. (In our house any learning activity with a slightly arty angle seems to be popular.)

We had completed a few of the grid copy pages from Activity Village before and I remember thinking at the time that it reminded me of co-ordinates so I went back and had a look.  I started off by printing out the butterfly grid copy page and then “added in an x and y-axis”.  I purposely labelled the one axis with letters and the one with numbers so as it avoid confusing my youngest.

Using Grid copy pictures to practice co-ordinates

My youngest actually told me that labelling the picture helped him and stopped him getting so muddled up when he was trying to figure out where he needed to work.

Grid Copy Sunflower picture from Activity Village with the 2 axis labelled to help the kids

And I noticed the more pictures he did the more comfortable he became with telling me exactly where he was working – the co-ordinates just started rolling off his tongue without a second thought.

Grid Copy the Tropical Island page from Activity Village

He did amend my idea though – he wanted the letters at the top and bottom of his page so he could quickly see where he was.

My daughter actually struggled a bit with this.  But what helped her was if she first plotted a few intersecting points on her page and then tried to draw the lines.

Grid Copy with co-ordinates. First plotting some points before you draw the lines

This definitely seemed to help.

Grid Copy Snowdrops from Activity Village

I really like these grid copy pages and I think the more the kids practice the easier the get.

All of the grid copy pages that we used are from Activity Village (you need a membership for their site which is currently around £15 for 12 months).

The Grid Copy Section is here – Activity Village Grid copy pages

And the individual ones that we used in the photographs are these ones – butterfly, sunflower, tropical island, snowdrops.

Grid Copy Sunflower page from Activity Village with the x and y axis labelled for the kids

This is a totally independent post. It is just a learning activity that we have been doing lately and I thought someone else might like the idea.

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A Short History of the World review

We enjoy learing about History and although I try to study individual time periods with the kids we often end up discovering other bits of history during our  learning activities and our trips into the museums. For me it is one of the benefits of living where we do, within such easy reach of the  London museums and attractions like Hampton Court Palace so we embrace and explore all the old wonders whenever we come across them.  But every now and then I do wonder if it becomes a bit mixed up for the kids so I like to try to use resources to discuss the general timeline of events so they are able to slot everything in a rough sequence of events.  We have used and still love our Story of London Book (real little gem this one, it has been read cover to cover and individual sections have been re-read after we have spotted certain landmarks in London).

But I really wanted a world history summary for the kids.  I wanted something that sorted the events into order but something that was kid friendly and not too detailed so they could read it and focus on the order of events.  I spotted the A Short History of the World and I was very intrigued.

Usborne a Short History of the World. A brilliant children's history resource

The book is NOT a detailed encyclopedia of History.  It is a well written, easy to read account of events throughout the history of the World.  They introduce key events that happened and also talk about general shifts in the way that people lived (eg the when towns starting forming in Europe or how cities grew because of new inventions and machines).

A Short History of the World by Usborne. Towns and Guilds start developing

The book itself is not massive (21cm by 15cm ) and it is 160 pages long yet somehow they manage to cover every major historical period.  (I actually really like the fact that they have not made this book big and thick as I think the size means lots of kids will not be intimidated by it).

It is divided into 4 general categories – The Ancient World (includes Ice Age), The Medieval World, The Early Modern World and the Modern World.  Each category covers all continents.

A Short History of the World by Usborne. An excallent summary of the key historical events

We really like the way they have written this book.  The pages are not crammed fill of fact after fact.  They have written it in a style which is just easy to read.  Short paragraphs explaining what happened, how it possibly linked to other areas of the world and any impact it may have had.  They mention key dates and figures but it is so naturally included in the paragraphs that you don’t feel you are getting name after name or date after date.

Usborne's A Short History of the World. The fall of Constantinople

They have also included interesting diagrams throughout the book which help explain key elements.

Usborne A Short History of the World. Ancient Greece

Usborne's A Short History of the World. Building an enpire. Ancient Rome

We really liked these visual summaries that are scattered through the book.

A Short History of the World. European Society

I have been very impressed with this book.  It is a great summary of the key events and written in a way that I think is just right for my ten-year old to read.

This book retails just under £10.

I searched for a world history book that I thought would be appropriate for us to use in our home education and this is the one that I choose.  After I choose it I approached the publishers and asked for a review copy which they kindly sent us. 

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