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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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Read On – Get On

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Information | Posted on 15-09-2015

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We love books in our house. The boys get a story read to them every night before bed, and their bookcase is bursting with books for them to choose from. Little Dude has a small box of books in his room which he can pick up and look at, and there’s also a pile of them in the playroom. You’re more likely to find him with his head in a book than Little Man, but with him now off at school I expect his interest in books will explode as he learns to read.

Learning to read is such an exciting adventure for children, opening up a whole new world for them of independence and discovery. I couldn’t imagine not being able to read, but research has found that many children are leaving primary school unable to read well, and struggle to ever catch up. The Read On, Get On campaign is out to fix that, and ensure that by 2025 all primary school leavers are confident readers. I can’t wait to help and encourage Little Man on his reading journey so I’m a big supporter of this campaign.

Read On. Get On. aims to get all children reading well by the age of 11. Our reports set out this challenge and some of the solutions:

1. Our Read On. Get On. launch reports for England and Scotland, (September/November 2014) explore how reading well can help children escape poverty

2. Reading England’s Future (November 2014) maps how well the poorest children across England read, showing that some parts of England are doing vastly better than others at getting the poorest children reading

3. The Power Of Reading (April 2015) sets out our policy calls for the government in England to unlock every child’s potential through reading

4. Ready to Read reports for England and Scotland (June 2015) highlight the importance of closing the gap in early language skills so that every child can read well. Ready to Read reports for Wales and Northern Ireland are coming soon in September 2015.

So what can you do? Well there are lots of activities you can do with your children to encourage language and reading, and most of them are just simple day to day things which you no doubt do anyway. The Read On, Get On website is packed with tips but my top three are:

  • When talking with your child or looking at books together, help them to focus on what you are saying: Turn off the TV, the radio or the mobile. Removing distractions helps your child.
  • Conversations are more than questions and answers. When you talk to your child, try to comment on what they say and do. In the park, say something like “I love going down slides”. Then wait to hear what your child says next.
  • When sharing stories together, comment on what your child shows an interest in. Repeat back to your child what you know they meant, even if they didn’t say it quite right. This helps encourage them to keep trying.

The campaign was launched recently in Brighton at Costa Coffee, one of the partners. Janet Ellis hosted a gathering where books and reading was the talk of the day.

Janet Ellis-Costa Storytelling-Sussex Mummy

I’m looking forward to supporting both my boys on their journey to becoming readers. Let’s all help our children to Read On, and Get On!

Play Patrol: Ferry Boat with Cars

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol, Product Launch, Product Reviews | Posted on 15-11-2013

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You’d think after all the Green Toys that we already own I’d struggle to find anything new and exciting about other items from the range. Well, thankfully, I didn’t. Play Patrol strikes again, and once again Bigjigs has sent me over a Green Toy to review. This time, a Car Ferry.
This Car Ferry is brand new from Green Toys, and Little Man and I were lucky enough to receive it first from Bigjigs, at least once George had finished playing with it!
The Car Ferry comes with two cars – one yellow and one red – and has an extendable ramp which allows the cars access on and off the ferry. Now we all know that the Green Toys are dishwasher proof but it never occurred to me to put them in the bath. Until now. This is the ideal bath toy, and Little Man has really enjoyed testing it out at bath time. It has been sailed up and down the bath with the cars on board, they’ve been driven around the edge of the bath, and the ramp makes a rather fun water slide. The ramp is easy enough to use for Little Man to be able to do it himself, and the bottom of the boat is removable for easy cleaning and to bail out when there’s an inevitable capsizing incident!
Educationally wise this would be a great purchase if you’re about to embark on a journey on a car ferry, or if your child is learning about different modes of transport at school or nursery. I think all it really needs is a few people to stand on the deck or maybe a few faces inside the cars.
I can see more of our Green Toys ending up in the bath, especially the Rocket. Little Man has always been a big fan of bath time and its great to now be able to change around the toys he currently uses, and add some of his favourites from outside the bath.

Starting Preschool With Marks & Spencer

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Back To School, Product Reviews | Posted on 29-08-2013

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One week to go until Little Man’s first day at preschool. I’m sure he’s going to be fine. I hope he is at least. He’s often a bit nervous in new places, but we’ve been to several drop in sessions at whenever we drive or walk past he points preschool out and wants to go in. Whenever we’re there he’s perfectly happy, playing with the toys and running around the garden. I know it’ll be different being there without Mummy there too, but I’m sure he’ll settle in soon enough. The preschool he’s going to is just a small one in the village. There’s no official uniform but there was the option to buy t-shirts with the name and logo on, and jumpers too. Little Man has always been a fan of routine and consistency, doing things to same way and doing the same things with the same person. This is why we decided to get him a couple of t-shirts and a jumper. So he’d have a consistent outfit to wear. So he’d know that it was his day to go to preschool. We were told he could wear anything he wanted on his bottom half – shorts, trousers, whatever. Preschool did request no open toe sandals but otherwise any sensible footwear. When Marks & Spencer got in touch after reading a previous post on here and asked me if I wanted to look at their Back To School Range I wondered whether he should have a specific set of clothes to wear. I wondered whether a uniform of sorts, albeit not official and not compulsory would help with the settling in process. I had a look around on their website and picked out a few items which looked ideal for Little Man’s first day.

Marks&Spencers Back To SchoolFirst up I wanted a pair of trousers. I wanted something that would be hard wearing and long lasting. We’re advised by the school to not put them in anything new when they start as they do a lot of playing in the garden as well as painting and water play. There’s also lots of Playdoh going around. They are bound to get messy/wet/dirty so wearing something new would be a waste. The trousers I chose from M&S have Stormwear+. They repel both water and stains to keep them looking newer for longer. They also have Supercrease. This means the crease down the front stays there, even after washing. No extra ironing for Daddy. The trousers also have adjustable waists. Perfect for my skinny Little Man. The best thing though is that there are no fastenings on them on sizes below 5-6 years. They just pull up. As you know we have just potty trained Little Man – with incredible success, both during the day AND the night – and he is very keen to be independent. He wants to pull his own trousers down and up when he goes to the toilet at home, and I wanted to make sure he could do it at preschool too when I’m not there to help.

Back To School Shoes

Footwear was next on my list. Something smart yet comfortable. Something again which would be hard wearing and which he could take off himself if needs be. Did we mention him being rather independent? Anyway, I found what I hope will be the ideal pair. Black, leather, proper quality soles and scuff resistant. Even better is that they come with Marks & Spencer’s patented Fresh Feet technology so hopefully, even after a day running around like a mad thing, his shoes at least will still be fresh and clean. I’m sure these shoes will become a fast favourite and no doubt he’ll end up wearing them all the time. Another reason I chose them – they don’t look specifically like school shoes.

And finally whilst I was wandering – virtually of course – around the Back To School pages of the M&S website I found socks. All of Little Man’s socks are brightly coloured, socks you’d expect an almost three year old to be wearing. Some have Angrys Birds on and others feature the cast of Toy Story. Hardly the most appropriate for preschool, especially when you’re so smartly dressed otherwise! So I thought a few pairs of plain black socks would do the trick nicely. And what better way than to plump for some Fresh Feet ones. Little Man should hopefully be spending his time at preschool in comfort.

I think we can safely say that clothes and footwear wise Little Man is ready to start his preschool adventure. I hope he loves it. It’ll be very strange not having him here one morning a week, but I can’t wait to see what he gets up to.

Guest Post: The New Importance of Child Led Learning in Primary Schools

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Back To School, Guest Post | Posted on 19-08-2013

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Children are being encouraged to develop skills that go further than the ability to read and write. Schools are now focusing on the idea of helping children learn to become independent, assertive, confident and to develop an idea of importance. Although this is an area of focus for children of an older age, that has since changed and children as young as 5 will be encouraged to become independent and take as much control as possible for their own learning.

Studies of home-schooled children have been taken and comparisons made between those in mainstream education and those that are taught at home. Home schooled children were found to be far more independent and willing to learn, they had the opportunity to choose the areas they learnt about on each day and this not only made them far more interested and focused but they performed well during tests and exams.

Teachers are keen to work closely with parents in a home-school agreement to ensure that the need to learn educationally and with regards to child’s environment is continued outside of school. Parent mail is one of the best ways to ensure the constant communication between school and parents and this will ensure that the child is not only the main priority but that any issues are ironed out, both parties are constantly aware of anything relating to the child and the education which is taking place. PrimarySite developed the concept of parent mail for this exact purpose with this new self-directed learning concept in mind.

Within school environments, the concepts of traditional schooling and home-based schooling will be united to, hopefully, develop the perfect learning environment. The environment will be substantially more relaxed to allow children to learn, as they want to and to reduce the immense pressure that is currently put on children to perform well and to learn specific areas regardless of interest levels and abilities.

Although the curriculum will remain specific, children will now be responsible for their own learning. The rate at which they learn, the involvement they wish to have and the enthusiasm in tasks will hopefully increase dramatically with the new system and children will not simply learn just to pass tests but will take a genuine interest in their education and the things they are being taught. Not only does this concept encourage self-motivation, it also encourages children to feel relaxed at school and even enjoy themselves whilst they learn.

“Children learn the most and do their best when allowed the freedom to take control, lead the way and explore as their confidence grows.”

The classroom environment will not become a free for all, with children dominating the room, running wild and taking self expression to the extreme. Instead it will be a room that is filled with participating children that have a desire to learn and will be proactive about their education. The main purpose of the change to the traditional teaching methods is to increase student engagement, provide a good education that children are keen to have which will eventually shape and mould the rest of their lives.

Make Family Life A Little Easier

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Guest Post, Information | Posted on 26-07-2013

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Anyone who has a busy family life will know that there’s no secret formula for keeping everything running smoothly and keeping everyone happy. Mostly it just takes hard work, determination and a lot of compromise.

However, there are some things that you can organise to make life a little easier and any unexpected events simpler to cope with. So for anyone looking to get their home life in order, here are the top four issues to address first.

Finances

Many a sleepless night and family argument has been caused by troublesome finances, and there’s nothing worse than not knowing where you stand when it comes to money.

If you’re struggling to get your financial matters straightened out, consider hiring an adviser to guide you through the more complex areas.

It’s also important to organise your finances in case of emergency. Drawing up a will, allocating the person you want to deal with probate registry and making your relatives aware of your final wishes will all make you feel more in control.

Insurance

Getting your money sorted may be one thing, but if your house gets flooded, your pet needs medical treatment or a tree falls on your car, money can pour out of your account quicker than you can put it back in.

This is where insurance comes in. The more comprehensive insurance you can get, the better. Talk to your bank or building society as well, as many will offer great deals on various types of insurance.

Education

Parents have been known to go to extraordinary lengths to ensure a good education for their children, and getting this sorted at an early stage can really take the pressure off further down the line.

If you can, enrol your child into a primary school that feeds directly into a good secondary school. Where this is not possible, look for alternatives, like scholarships to fee-paying schools, or free schools that are due to open in the future.

Food

Getting your family’s diet in order and on the right track will help to make you all feel healthier and happier and will set a great precedent for your children.

Try and get into good habits, eating lots of fresh foods and cooking from scratch whenever you can.

Though these steps may not solve all of your problems, they will make a big difference in your family’s life, so get out your to-do list, get planning and get everything in order and ship shape. 

The ParaNorman Local Legends Schools and Libraries Initiative

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Information | Posted on 22-01-2013

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January 28th sees the much anticipated release of “ParaNorman” on DVD. “ParaNorman tells the tale of Norman, a seemingly ordinary boy with the extraordinary ability to talk to dead people. Norman ends up taking on ghosts, zombies and all kinds of paranormal activity to save his town from a legendary curse.

The team at Universal have set up a very special website to help children in schools and libraries up and down the country to learn more about their own local legends and community history. Together groups and classes can explore creative writing, history, research and community thanks to lesson plans, event ideas and resources for Year 5 and 6 teachers and library staff. As well as having great fun and learning more about their local area, children will be learning and putting into practice skills that will last them a lifetime, without even knowing it!

The lesson plans cover History, Geography, English, PSHE, Drama, Art and ICT, and as well as being lots of fun and very creative, they also fit in with the National Curriculum.  Local libraries can host a range of events and activities too so the whole community can get involved.

Information for Teachers and Libraries goes live on the ParaNorman Local Legends website on Monday 28th January where all the lesson plans and downloadable details can be found. If your local school or library takes part they can win an amazing spook-tacular prize, so pass on the details on to them today and make sure they sign up this week.

Next Week: Read MY review of the “ParaNorman” movie and win your own copy of the DVD PLUS a special ParaNorman Pack.

Guest Post: Keeping Your Children Safe Around Heaters

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Guest Post, Information | Posted on 13-11-2012

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As the cold weather draws in and the nights get longer, many families will be investing in new heaters for their home. This is an excellent way to ensure that your children remain happy and warm over the winter season, but comes with its own risks which must be understood and dealt with.

Educate about dangers

If you have installed a new kind of heating into your home, it is vital that you educate your children about the dangers it might pose. The best way of doing this is to educate positively. Make sure your children are fully aware of how the heater works, including how it can be switched on and off, and which elements might be dangerous. Often, parents will simply issue a blanket ban on approaching an electric heater. As anyone with small children will eventually realise, this actually acts as an invitation to some curious young people! Children naturally explore what they do not understand, particularly if it has been entirely forbidden. A much more sensible approach is to educate them fully on the heater and why it can be dangerous if not treated with appropriate respect.

Warn about other dangerous objects nearby

The education provided to children should not only include the obvious guidance that the new heater will be dangerous to touch when it is switched on. You should also explain the other dangers which can ensue from an activated heater such as the effect the heat can have on other objects placed nearby. Many children (particularly older ones), will easily understand that heat is dangerous for them. Touching the heater and burning themselves is unlikely to be the major issue. Instead, they may not properly understand that objects left on or around the heater can become very hot in a short amount of time, and may melt or catch fire. As a parent, you will need to explain that it is not only contact with the heater that can cause problems, but also the potential for secondary fires which may ensue if care is not taken at all times.

Consider safety when making your purchase

Of course, education is not always enough. Even the most conscientious child will make mistakes, and it is for this reason that you should always ensure that your heaters have the latest safety features. Many radiators now come packaged with the option of a radiator guard which makes it much more difficult for children to burn themselves or get close enough to the heater to cause any other issues. The designs of such guards are now also frequently decorative so you won’t be stuck with an ugly wire meshing surrounding your living room. If you have purchased a moveable electric heater rather than a fixed radiator, you should also check to see whether the model you have bought has all the necessary safety features integrated within it. The most important is the presence of a shut-off switch which activates when the heater is knocked over and immediately cuts the power to the heating element. This feature alone can prevent many accidents, particularly those caused by clumsy or overly enthusiastic young children.

As long as you educate your children, and ensure that you have invested in appropriate safety features, you should be well positioned to have a safe warm house with a safe heater.

BIO: This is a guest post on behalf of Economy Radiators who offer a range of heating products including storage heaters, central heating radiators, electric heaters, storage heaters and more!

Safe Outdoor Play

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Information | Posted on 10-10-2012

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Guest Post: Helping With Homework

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Guest Post | Posted on 01-10-2012

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I know what you’re thinking – children’s homework is easy, particularly if the child is still primary school age.  A few simple sums and a bit of reading – piece of cake.  However, times have moved on and helping your child with their homework could turn into a stressful and confusing situation for both the child and parent without a bit of forward planning.

Here are three of my top tips for avoiding any last minute homework panics and to make sure you can be top of the class:

  1. Shouting the words ‘well, that’s how I was taught’ won’t help.  If the grid method and number line sound like world war two codes, then arrange for some after school tuition to learn how it is done now.
  2. Have the right equipment ready so there can be no excuses.  This could include plenty of plain paper, pens and pencils (sharpened) a PC or laptop and wireless printer.
  3. Reward good homework.  It’s easy to leave reward and recognition to the class teacher, but your child will be so proud if you praise them for a job well done.  This should also encourage them to try even harder next time.
This article was written by Kathryn Thompson, a freelance writer and mum to three daughters aged 12, 10 and 5.  Kathryn once bought a leather Filofax for her eldest daughter in a last minute shopping panic, as she convinced her they needed to record all their homework in it.  Her daughter was in year one at the time.

Book Review: New Books For Children

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review | Posted on 10-09-2012

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From Smellessence…

I’ve previously featured a title from Smellessence on here before – “Chocolate Chipped” – which though a brilliant book was written for children who suffer a bereavement. This Autumn sees the release of two more Smellessence titles which are more of an everyday read for your little ones. First we have “Theo“. Theo is a dog who has lost his sense of smell, and sets out on an adventure to find it. Theo visits some of his most favourite smelly places, and we get to go along too. The smells in this book are hugely realistic and I love the idea of having them included to add an extra dimension to the stories. Little Man loves this book because there is a dog on the front cover, but I’m sure once he understands the smelly factor he’ll love it for that too.
Next is “The Story Of The Famous Farter“. This book is not for the faint hearted! This book regales the story of artist Joseph Pujol who was a famous entertainer at the Moulin Rouge in the late 1890s. Pujol was famous for being a ‘Professional Farter’ – imagine writing that next to occupation! – who had the ability to fart on demand. The story is delightful and the drawings inside are so good and, along with the aroma, bring the story to life. This book is definitely educational, whilst being somewhat witty too. It is bound to appeal to all children who no doubt think farting is hilarious fun.

From Macmillan…

This year marks the 30th Birthday of the excellent “Dear Zoo” book. To commemorate a new title has been released – “Dear Zoo: Touch & Feel“. This is ideal for little children as each animal has a touchable part to it. There’s the lions mane, the frogs sticky feet, the snakes basket, and many more. Little Man has thoroughly enjoyed looking through this book. Whilst he sometimes lacks the patience to listen to you reading a story to him, he likes to be able to interact with his books when he’s looking at them by himself. Books with flaps, pop-ups, or touchable parts are big favourites, and this one is no different. I love this book too. I am a big fan of the original Rod Campbell classic and I do enjoy reading that to Little Man when he lets me, but this allows him to enjoy the story himself, even if he’s doesn’t know entirely what’s going on. A must for all “Dear Zoo” fans.