Fun Christmas Cone People

The past week we have all been very slowly recovering some flu and have not done a lot of our usual activities, instead the kids have started with all their Christmas crafts.  One of the ones we worked on this past week were these lovely Christmas Cone people from the Mrs Mactivity site.

MrsMactivity Christmas Cone people. Print out the black and white set and let the kids decorate them

You print the template out and then the kids do the colouring, cutting and sticking so it was the prefect starter Christmas craft for us as we did not need to venture out and buy anything extra.

Colouring in the Gingerbread man cone toy from the Mrs Mactivity site

One of the things I really liked about this set is the flexibility it gave the kids.  Each cone person / cone toy comes with its own set of extra “add ons”.  In the picture below my daughter is working on the angel and you can see the main angel cone and then there is a second page with extra wings, a halo and arms.

colouring in the angel from the Mrs Mactivity cone toy set

So the kids could just stick to the main cone if they wanted or they can add these extra bits on.

The MrsMactivity Angel part of their Christmas cone toy craft set

And the kids don’t need to add all the items if they don’t want too.  My son created 2 elves (using the same template) but he did not add all the same items to both elves and he choose to cut part of the top off one of the elves.  So even though it is the exact same template he did end up with a different effect.

Mrs Mactivity Christmas elves part of the Christmas cone toy set.

The angel and the elves were our favourites but the set also includes a sweet Father Christmas and a gingerbread man.

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In the colder months the kids often come and sit in the kitchen while I am baking or cooking and work on an arty/ crafty activity.  And these are perfect for that because they can colour and chat away while I am cooking.  So I have also printed out the  lovely Nativity set and I am leaving it in our Christmas crafting pile for when the kids want something to do.

Disclosure – both sets I have mentioned are part of the Mrs Mactivity subscription package – they come in a colour and black and white version – which is currently just under £10 a year.  All links and references to external sites are correct at the time of me writing this post.

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Creating our own Maps

Both kids have become really interested in maps.  We have found a number of their fictional Viking stories include maps and the kids love looking at them and figuring out where the different events written about in the stories occurred.

So it was no big surprised when I suggested they try to create their own maps that they both immediately went for a Viking/ Dragon fictional set of islands.

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We dug out a number of our How to  Train Your Dragon books and the kids used the maps included in them as inspiration. And yes my youngest did create an island in the shape of a dragon.

creating a map of fictional Viking islands after reading the How to Train Your Dragon books

But even though the kids were creating fictional maps, for fictional characters they were still talking about how to denote certain things – trees, a small village, beaches on the island, where should they place their compass, names, we even discussed if my son’s map was a true Viking map it would need to be somewhere in Scandinavia, so which direction would the Roman Empire be and where would America be (again this is important because of what happens in the How to Train Your Dragon books).  For a totally fictional map they both still thought about a lot about real map work points.

map of fictional islands

And the idea of creating their own map to go with a game or story they are writing really seems to be appeal to them.

So after all the fun of creating a map of a group of islands we started talking about creating maps of areas within islands – so possibly a map of a village, or a smaller area.  We started looking at our Collins Mapstart 2 (Collins Primary Atlases) books and the kids used a reader – You Are Here; Maps and Why We Use Them: Band 12/Copper (Collins Big Cat) and we discussed how they could denote roads, verse railway lines verses rivers.  We also spoke about using a key instead of always writing out the words for every item.  And again they created a map for a fictional place but this time it was a more detailed map.

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I have mentioned before the Mapstart books that I bought the kids and they have been really great at giving us examples of maps, maps that the kids can look at and see how the converted an area into a map.

Collins Mapstart and You Are Here books. Both give examples of different types of maps

My kids have mostly been drawing their maps freehand but after looking at some examples in the mapstart book my oldest has started trying to creat a few maps which are more accurate – using some grid paper and some stencils.

creating maps at their desk using grid paper and some stencils

We have now gone onto talking about contour lines and so much more – but I will put all that into a different post with a picture of the island we are trying to make.

The grid paper she is using is this one from Activity Village – Grid paper (we use it a lot for Maths).  The Stencils – the yellow circle one I have no idea where I bought that one and the other colourful shape stencils are these ones – Learning Resources Primary Shapes Template Set

Disclosure :  I bought the Map start books and the How to Train your Dragon books for the kids.  The BIGCAT reader You Are Here was given to us in a group of BIGCAT readers.

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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Christmas Crafting with Tiger Items

Last week I happened to go into our local Tiger store and I spotted some lovely Christmas ornaments which I bought not really knowing what we were going to do with them.  But as  it happened my daughter ended up under getting sick so so she decided to use the ornaments in some easy Christmas crafting activities.  So was really not feeling that good so she kept it very simple but I must admit the cards that both kids ended up making are very effective.

We used some glitter paint that we also bought from Tiger and our Sharpies together with a few crafting jewels and some card that we had at home.

Some of the Tiger Christmas Ornaments decorated by Kids. Easy Christmas Craft activity

With the ornaments she first started my using the glitter paint by itself but then we decided that it was more effective to add the glitter paint over an already coloured item – so the kids first coloured in with their Sharpies and then added the glitter paint on top.

Addin the glitter paint to the Christmas ornaments that we bought from Flying Tiger

You do need to let the glitter paint dry properly – we actually left ours overnight to make sure we did not smudge all the extra details the kids added in.

My son also add some crafting jewels that I had onto a few of his ornaments.

adding some crafting jewels onto some of the Tiger Christmas ornaments

For the Cards we just started off by glueing some of the ornaments that the kids had decorated directly onto cards.

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With the Christmas Bauble card we cut up and glued some satin ribbon as the string on which the baubles are hanging.

My son also liked the idea of using some corrugated card that I had and he even decided that he could use the ornaments which had not been decorated.

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And just for fun we also used a piece of card on which we had bled some tissue paper (if you have not done this before my kids love it – bleeding tissue paper).  The bleeding tissue paper normally ends up with a very pretty pattern so we choose to use plain ornaments on top of it.

Reindeer Christmas Cards made using ornaments from Tiger UK

Now for the disclosure bit – all the items featured in this post were purchased by me.  It is not a sponsored post in any form.  For those of you interested in the items I used you can buy at Tiger.  The ornament set if £3 and features 27 ornaments), the glitter paint comes in packs of 3 and costs £3.

The Tiger Christmas ornaments that you can buy instore and decorate yourselfTiger Glitter paint that you can buy in store in sets of 3


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Why We LOVE Audio Books

We LOVE audio books.  LOVE them.  But let me start by saying in no way do I think they take the place of reading with the kids – they are not a substitute for that one on one time but they are a great ADD-ON,  an extra way for the kids to enjoy stories.  I have seen some comments about Audio Book and people are not sure so I thought I would explain why we love them so much.

I first bought the kids some audio stories as a way of entertaining them on our car trips.  My youngest gets car sick and can not read while in the car and we don’t use devices either (iPads tends to get mine overwhelmed which is not great when you are going out as you want them to arrive calm).  It was a few year ago and they were still very much into Julia Donaldson so I bought the Julia Donaldson audio collection for them.  The stories were great, well told and mine loved listening to them on our car trips.

As soon as we started listening to them I noticed two things – firstly after listening to a story the kids would come home and dig out the book and read it to themselves or read it with me.  Listening to the audio books actually encouraged them to read more.  Secondly when they would read the stories themselves they started to add more and more expression, I loved the expression they added.

After that I bought them the Ladybird Classics The Complete Audio Collection.

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

Now this one has longer stories and the story versions are more “old-fashioned”.  But my kids loved them.  The audio collection introduced them to lots of classics – The Jungle Book was an instant hit, and so was Little Women, Heidi, the Secret Garden, Three Musketeers and so many more.  And as they listened to the classics they started wanting to read the classic stories themselves.  We hunted down many copies at our local library (I think my daughter has now read three different versions of The Wind in the Willows – all because she loved the retelling from the audio collection).  We also started to build up our own collection of more classic stories for the kids.  And once again after listening to the stories both of mine spent ages reading and re-reading the stories themselves.

reading the Children's classic story Black Beauty. The version used is the Collins BIG CAT reader version

And the classic collection had the added benefit of introducing them to some new topics.  Oliver Twist resulted in a discussion about what being a child in the Victorian age would mean and what Workhouses were.  Little Women resulted in discussion about how in the past women were not treated equally.  The Railway children resulted in a discussion about how someone innocent might end up in jail.  Listening to these stories often started fascinating conversations.  And both of mine have listening to them multiple times.

In fact if one of the kids were sick they would take the audio stories up to their room and listen to them while they lay in bed.

The Classic story collection was such a big hit with my kids and I could see how much they were gaining from the audio stories so I recently bought them the Roald Dahl set as well.

Roald Dahl Audiobooks perfect for car trips

The stories in this set are longer (3 or 4 disks per story).  With this set we actually got into a slightly different habit.  The kids would listen to the stories at home while they were busy with arty/ crafty projects.  They loved it.  The would colour, draw, craft away while they listened.  It was magic.  (The picture below is my daughter working on a BFG picture while she listened to the audio story  – the page she is using is this one – BFG)

colouring the BFG picture while listening to the audio story

I have come to really love these sessions.  And with the Roald Dahl stories we still read the books – not only did I read the BFG tgether with the kids cover to cover but my daughter has now read it herself twice and my son has read James and the Giant Peach on his own.

We have really found audio books enhance the kids enjoyment of reading.  They always read the books either before of after they listen the stories, often multiple times, they read with more expression and understanding, they are relaxing and great for entertainment when kids are under the weather and now they have even been included in our art sessions.

And I have no intention of stopping.  I happen to know my oldest is going to find the Michael Morpurgo Audio collection under the tree this year.

Michael Morpurgo Audio Collection

If you are looking for inspiration for other great audiobooks it really is worth having a look at the Bookpeople’s selection here – Children’s Audiobooks

Please note all the Audio Collections / audio books that I mention in the above post were purchased by me.  I have included links back to the Bookpeople because that is where I bought our sets from. This is NOT way a sponsored post.  I did ask the bookpeople for an image of the Michael Morpurgo set as I have not yet bought one for my daughter.

Why We Love Audio Stories and the Audio Stories that we have used


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Norse Myths

I have mentioned time and time again this past year how my two have been reading Viking themed book after Viking themed book after Viking themed book.  I thought it was going to be a quick theme for us but it has become much bigger than I ever imagined.  And in all of the Viking themed books we have read about characters from Norse Mythology but we have never really understood how everything was set up and how everyone was linked.  So I decided it was time to get a proper Norse Mythology book (but a child friendly one).

We went with the Illustrated Norse Myths (Usborne Illustrated Story Collections) (Illustrated Stories).  As soon as the book arrived it was a hit. (That is my youngest reading one of the Myths to his older sister)

reading the Usborne Illustrated Norse Myths book together. Great for understanding Viking Mythology

My son really liked that they start off with a few pages setting out the main characters and realms – this really helped as I must admit I do not know that much about Norse Mythology so I have not been that helpful.

Usborne Illustrated Norse Myths. Includes a section explaining the main characters and the Nine Realms

We also discovered a chart showing the Nine Realms at the back of the book – which has also been very popular with both the kids as they like turning to it when they start reading a new Myth so they can get their bearings. (And yes the Names are Interesting)

Usborne Norse Myths. The Chart of the Nine Realms

The Book itself is 279 pages and is divided up into sections and under each section there are three Myths.  So after they introduce the main characters and realms the sections are

In the beginning

  • Ymir and the Gods
  • Odin’s Thirst for Knowledge (the reason why he only has 1 eye)
  • The War of the Gods

Usborne Illustrated Norse Myths. Odin's Thirst for knowledge

Stories of Loki

  • Loki lends a Hand
  • Loki’s Children
  • Loki Tricks the Dwarves (where Thor’s hammer comes from)

Usborne Illustrated Norse Myths. Loki Tricks the Dwarves

Stories of Thor

  • Thor and the Sea Serpent
  • Thor’s Wedding Day
  • Thor and the Frost Giant

Stories of the Giants

  • Hrungnir Against the Gods
  • Thiazi and the Golden Apples
  • Lost in the Land of the Giants

Inside page from Usborne Illustrated Norse Myth book

The Golden Curse

  • The Otter’s Ransom
  • Sigurd the Dragonslayer
  • Brynhild and the Ring of Fire

The End of the World

  • Balder the Invincible
  • Ragnarok
  • A new Beginning.

I really like the book because it has helped explain how different characters are linked and the Myths are written in such a way that my 2 kids are totally fine reading them by themselves (well some of the names are really hard to pronounce but we don’t stress over that).  I also really like how they have included the extra bits like the Chart of the Nine Realms and information like how some of the Days of the Week come from Norse Characters (LOVED THIS)

Days of the Week are based on some of the Norse Mythology characters

We are really enjoying finally getting to grips with some of the Norse Mythology that has been included in so many of the kids fictional stories.  And mine are actually so fasinated by all the characters and their antics that we are thinking of doing a big project next year where we compare Norse Myths to Greek Myths and Roman Myths.

We are NOT Norse Myth experts (Not yet anyway, my son might change that soon) but we are really enjoying this book and for us it is ticking all the boxes.  The kids and I highly recommend this stunning book.

Disclosure – I found the Norse Myth book that I wanted to read with the kids and then I approached Usborne and requested a review copy.  All opinions expressed are that of my two testers and myself

reading the Usborne Illustrated Norse Myths Book

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.

Usborne Illustrated Norse Myths.  Perfect to use when Kids read Viking themed books as it explains the mythological characters


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Horace and Harriet – Friends, Romans, Statues

I definitely feel like we have hit the right combination of reading material with my daughter – she loves reading non-fiction as well as historical based stories, stories with a slight adventure and stories with strong women characters.  But my son seems to be very much an animal based reader – ie anything and everything about animals.  And although I am thrilled that he is reading the way that he does I really want to try to broaden his reading topics, but he is proving more of a challenge.

The one thing that I have picked up on is his need for a fictional stories to include some humour so I was intrigued when I heard about Horace and Harriet: Friends, Romans, Statues! (Horace & Harriet) – I mean a talking statue – I immediately imagine some funny incidents.  So we tried our first one and – the very first page they introduce the statue and his long-winded name includes Nincompoop – well that immediately got a chuckle from my son and the book had his interest.

He read the first half in one sitting and then the next morning processed to re-read it to us while we all ate breakfast (yes he is in his pyjamas)

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The Story is about a walking, talking statue who thinks quite highly of himself.  He follows his friends to Rome and has an adventure discovering a long-lost relative.  It is a sweet story but what got my son was the humour – he loved the section when someone labelled the statues bottom – Heavy Load and when Horace, the statue goes around Rome putting tablecloths on all the naked statues and there are a bunch of other funny incidents but that would give the whole story away.

Horace and Harriet. A story about a freindship between a little girl and a talking statue

It is a great early chapter book (115 pages) and it does include some more challenging reading words and lots of great references to places in Rome, Roman numerals and a few Italian words (some sneaky learning included here).

One of the great things was after reading the book my son wanted to learn more about Roman Numerals (he loved the chapter headings).

We have actually covered Roman Numerals (Roman Coins) before but it was 2 years ago and he really only remembered a few basics.  He did not remember the pattern that if the smaller number is in front you take it away and it if the smaller number comes after a bigger number you add it.  So I had a quick look on the internet and I discovered two lovely Roman Numeral printouts which are FREE to download from Twinkl Resources (you need to set up a free account to download their free resources).

The first are these Roman Numeral scrolls.  My son is going through a craze where he loves creating scrolls – really we have scrolls filled with times table practice, different ones with writing, some with maps drawn on them.  He Loves scrolls so I knew he would appreciate having the Roman numbers on a Scroll.

Free to download scroll pages from Twinkl Resources

And in case you are wondering they have actually been cut out and rolled into scrolls.

And I also found these Roman Numeral Matching Cards

Free to download Roman Numeral matching Cards from Twinkl Resources

And I must say the matching cards really worked well.

Roman Numeral Matching Cards. Free to download from Twinkl Resources

My son quickly picked up the pattern and was soon creating his own more complex numbers using Roman Numerals.

The Admin Bit – Oxford University Press sent us the copy Horace and Harriet so my little reader could test it out.

The links included to Twinkl Resources are correct at the time of me writing this post.  Twinkl do change their resources from time to time and they can also change what is included in each subscription package.

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.

reading Horace and Harriet. A funny early chapter books for children.

Free to download Roman Numeral Cards from Twinkl ResourcesHorace and Harriet, Friends, Romans, Statues. A funny early chapter book


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Enjoying Learning

I will never deny that I have moments when I wonder if we are doing enough learning activities.  Am I providing enough learning opportunities but still providing the kids with free time to explore and play on their own ?  Do I have a balance between written activities and hands-on learning ?  Are we spending enough time enjoying the museums and workshops ?  Are we spending enough time covering xyz – you get the idea.  It is a tough.  And I think all parents have moments when they think about this.

This past week was one of those weeks when I wondered have we done enough? (And yes I even went out and ordered a few extra books to use.)  Then we had today, Saturday.  I had a few errands I needed to run so I left the kids with their dad and charged out early to try to beat the crowds.  When I got back home my youngest opened the front door and started explaining what Marsupials are and how there are two mammals in Australia which lay eggs (The Joys of documentaries this time The Life of Mammals series).  He had so much to tell me that he even walked with me to the post office so he could keep telling me all the new facts – okay he did change into a dragon part of the way to the post office and start talking about his latest dragons (he loves creating hybrid dragons that contain some features of the dragons from the Hiccup series.)

By the time we got home my daughter had converted the “play area” into her office and she was busy sorting and ordering all the stories she has been writing recently into a new folder she had found.  And then she started writing a new story.  Not because it was a learning activity I had set for her but because SHE WANTED to write a story.  She had some words that she could not spell so she dug out a dictionary and found the spellings herself.  She wrote and wrote and when I thought she has about to stop she went back to writing.  It was hours of her sitting and happily working away writing multiple stories.

writing stories for fun

And while she wrote her brother was designing town centres with his toys and then drawing maps of the town centres.  Again not because I had set the task (it was something we did during the week) but he was doing it because HE WANTED to create some of his own maps.

And that sums up what I want.  That sums up all the agonising I have done and I am sure will still do.  That sums up my entire learning objective – For the Kids to enjoy learning, to have a desire to want to learn.

I want them to become lifelong learners.  I never thought about this concept until we started on our home education journey.  But the more we home educate the more I acknowledge that I am just the facilitator, I guide, help and encourage.  But ultimately the kids need to want to learn and hopefully enjoy it.



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