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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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Educational Play with Schleich

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Educational Play | Posted on 22-06-2016

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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 by Schleich about receiving their new “Educational Play The Schleich Way” guide – which you can download yourself via the handy button to the right – and a selection of their animal figures to play with, I jumped at the chance.

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I was a big fan of the guide, which is full of practical information and ideas for playing with your children. It was created with the help of Amanda Gummer who I’ve featured on here before, and she is wonderful at coming up with different ways of playing. We tailored some of the suggested games to make them more appropriate for Little Dude who is just 2 years old, for example asking him to bring us a certain animal and teaching him the noises that they make. We also used them with existing toys we have, for example an animal jigsaw that features an elephant, and a farm yard set had a new cow and horse to visit. As the guide suggested there is lots of potential for speech development with these toys, and as a 2 year old who is very much in the midst of finding his voice they are a tremendous addition to our existing toys. I can also see there getting dragged out into the garden if the weather ever sorts itself out and becomes consistently sunny. I can already imagine a strange zoo farm emerging on my grass!

The Schleich figures themselves are fabulous. The quality is outstanding, and the detailing on them is incredible. From the wrinkles on the elephants skin, to the marks on the horses hooves, and the prominent ribs on the cow, they are phenomenally lifelike. I can see more of these figures making their way into our playroom soon, especially now I’ve spied the impressive range of dinosaurs they do!

#Montessori: Flockmen

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Montessori | Posted on 09-03-2016

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Where better place to start my new series on Montessori Play than with the gorgeous Flockmen.

I first discovered Flockmen on Instagram. I think it was a regram from someone I follow, and I remember thinking how versatile they looked, and how gorgeous they were. I contacted them to see if they were interested in working together, and was thrilled when they said they would send me a set to review. With an almost 2 year old and a 5 and a half year old in the house I saw a wealth of play possibilities, and was interested to see how each child would play with them.
Flockmen-CollageWell we’ve been making shapes, building armies, doing basic counting and math, and they’ve even been on a bus trip. We’ve had towers of Flockmen, rows of Flockmen, and even Flockmen playing with Happyland and being attacked by dinosaurs. They’ve been rather busy.

For me Flockmen are what Montessori is all about. A basic tactile object that provides endless play and learning activities. At just a few inches tall these little wooden figures have been used in a huge number of ways in our house in the last few weeks, and I’m sure there’s a huge number of other ways yet to be discovered.

I spend a lot of time on Instagram and if you search for Flockmen on there you’ll find them being used to build gravity defying structures, climbing trees, getting used in art and crafts, and even helping themselves to some cake. I am hugely inspired by what I’ve seen, but I’m also keen to let my children decide how they want to play with them, and to see what they can come up with themselves.

Flockmen arrive in a lovely hessian bag, and come in a choice of two sets – 16 or 32. For me there is no contest – I’d go for the bigger set every time as the play options are just endless. Prices start at just £19.99 for the toy that will truly last a lifetime, but if you take a peek in my sidebar, and on my Instagram, you might just find a discount code…

There’ll be more from Flockmen and the team behind them soon, with a few guest posts planned. Keep your eyes peeled!

#PlayPatrol : Number Fun

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol | Posted on 18-06-2015

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For our final Play Patrol mission with Bigjigs we were asked to choose something to test out and review. In light of Little Man starting school this coming September I decided to browse the more educational offerings as opposed to adding more toys to our playroom. He’s very good with letters and recognising them, and we have a wide array of books and posters and stickers throughout the house with them on, including the alphabet going down the stairs. What I wanted to do was improve his number recognition, look at his counting and basic math, and help his knowledge of time. He is really keen to learn to tell the time because so much of his day is structured by what time it is, for example he is only allowed to play Minecraft from 4pm – otherwise he’d be on it ALL day. With this in mind I selected a lovely bundle of number related items from the vast Bigjigs catalogue.

The most logical place to start was the popular Learn To Count set. The board comprises of the numbers zero through to nine, and they are represented by the corresponding number of dots. You also get ten tiles with the number written on, and colour coordinating rings of each appropriate number. Your child matches the tiles to the dots, and then pops the rings on the relevant stick. It teaches counting as well as matching up information, whether it be numbers or colours. I love this, and its one of those Bigjigs items I’ve had my eye on for a while now. Little Man is enjoying matching the tiles to the dots, and both he and Little Dude like to play with the rings, though to be fair Little Dude  mostly likes to try and eat them.

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To continue the counting and matching them we also got the Traditional Wooden Dominos. Dominos is one of those classic games and I’m surprised we don’t own a set already. There are many ways to play the game, but for now we are putting the double six domino down and leaving all the others faced down on the floor. We then take it in turns to pick a domino and see if we can place it. This is a great way to teach taking turns, and with each domino we pick up we are counting the dots and seeing they match. Each number of dots is the same colour – if there are six dots they are all red, five dots are all blue, etc – so again we can match up colours as well as numbers.

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Looking ahead to him beginning school and starting on expanding on his math skills we also got the Add & Subtract box and the Times Table Box. Both boxes contain square wooden tiles which are, as you’d expect, brightly coloured. On one side is a sum, and on the reverse is the answer. This is a great tool for learning, though its a shame the boxes don’t contain sums with higher numbers than 9. I think the inclusion of up to the 12 times table would have been beneficial as that is typical what is taught in schools. One of my favourite things about these two math boxes, as well as the dominos set, is that they come in sturdy compact storage boxes so everything can be easily packed up and put away for another day.

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The concept of time and telling the time was aided by the Clock In A Box. Little Man spends most of his day asking me “What is the time…?” “Is it nearly four o’clock…?” which can get a little wearing. He recognises what four o’clock looks like on our large wall clock but what I loved about the Clock In A Box was that it taught children to read the time in both digital and traditional forms. You set the time with either the moving fingers or using the tiles in the tray, and your  child matches the other clock. What is seriously lacking however is the 24 hour clock times. The digital numbers only take you to 12:00. Surely all digital clocks then go to 13:00, 14:00 and so on? Not this one unfortunately. A disappointment for me.

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To ensure Little Dude wasn’t feeling left out of this #PlayPatrol mission we also got him something to begin his number journey. My First Matching Numbers puzzle is a cute simple matching jigsaw puzzle. The base board features bright animal pictures. One snail, two – oddly fat – butterflies, three ladybirds and four bees. You get four numbered tiles and your little one has to match them up. Each bold number features similar patterning to each animal to help you on your way. This is a super cute little puzzle that keeps Little Dude entertained and most importantly occupied whilst Little Man and I tackle the maths sets he received.

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Numbers are a massive part of life and I want both my boys to be confident in their ability to recognise numbers, to count and to do maths throughout their lives. These six wooden sets from Bigjigs are certainly going to help introduce them and support them in their early years of learning.

It has been an absolute PLEASURE working with Bigjigs toys during this year of Play Patrol, and in the previous year too. They are without doubt my favourite wooden toy company and one I will continue to support for years to come. Rumour has is that new Play Patrol operatives will be being sought this summer so do make sure you are following them on all their social media channels to be in with a chance of working with this wonderful company. Thank you Bigjigs – you’re the best.

#BookReview: “Play” by Amanda Gummer

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review | Posted on 03-05-2015

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As parents we want to give our children the best possible start in life, and we want to do all we can to aid their development. Milestones are something I don’t take much notice of because all children are different and they all develop at different rates, but I still want to ensure my two boys are following them “approximately”. ‘Learning Through Play’ is a great way of encouraging and aiding development in children of all ages. Play is a massive part of their lives from very early on, and can be a big part of their learning as well as their entertainment. A new book from Dr Amanda Gummer entitled “Play” provides a guide to “help your child reach their full potential.” We were sent a copy to take a look at.

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The book is divided into age based sections, following a similar pattern to clothes sizes actually! With my two I was most interested in the 12-18 months section and 4 years and older, but I did have a brief look at the other sections too. Each section talks a bit about what your child “should” be doing – again with the milestones pressures – and how you can encourage the different aspects of their development by playing certain games, or doing certain activities. For example with Little Dude who will be 1 in just under a fortnight (how, I do not know…) it suggests shape sorters, building blocks and ride on toys as something to focus on. There is a lot of focus on the child’s new found mobility, and both the fun and dangers this can present. For Little Man who is just four and half, there is a focus on starting school (which he will be doing in September) with activities to encourage social skills, following instructions and their imagination, like small world play and simple ‘Simon Says’ games. Each section also includes ten fun activities to do with your child, as well as space to make your own notes and observations, so its rather like a memory book as well.

I found this to be a very interesting book to dip into. Some parts definitely got me thinking, other parts didn’t seem age appropriate for my two, but as I said children develop at different speeds and nobody knows your child better than you. Some of the activities and toy suggestions generally seemed a bit young for my boys, but that’s just us. I like the idea of using the book as somewhere to write your memories in, but we’ve never been organised enough to do that in any form with either boy! There was a lot of information which I regarded as obvious, but there were certainly tips and play ideas that I will definitely be utilising as a parent. We’ll definitely be looking in more detail at the advice on preparing for school with Little Man as we approach September for example.

On the whole this is an informative book and certainly one to use as and when required, but for us at least, I wouldn’t live my life by it. As with all parenting guides they should be taken as just that, guides and not rules. No two children are the same, and they certainly haven’t read any of the manuals, so I don’t think they can be expected to live by them. Parenting is a chaotic and fun journey, and whilst all the advice that’s out there is helpful and well meant, I think at the end of the day its down to US to raise our children, not the “experts”.

“PLAY” by Dr Amanda Gummer is out on May 7th.

Review: Ravensburger Flashcards

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 11-09-2014

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Readers of my blog will perhaps be aware that Little Man has some speech issues. I think it is technically described as “Speech Delay”. He has full understanding of what people are saying to him and he wants to respond or reply, but he doesn’t always know how. He uses a mix of speech and sign language and more often than not he gets his point across. This has improved vastly since he began preschool last September and everyone who knows him has commented on a great improvement again since the arrival of Little Dude. There are lots of people out there that are helping him and guiding us, but basically talking to him is going to get his vocabulary and speech improving. As a reviewer I like to keep my eyes open for product offers that I think will help us in our quest to get Little Man speaking, and so I was very keen to review the new flashcards from Ravensburger. I’m aware that there is mixed opinions about flashcards as a learning tool, especially with children this young. I think they’re great, and Little Man reacts well to them so I was sure they could only help. We were sent two sets to review: My First Flashcards and My First Number Flashcards.

My First Flashcards is a set of 34 double sided cards. On one side is a child friendly picture of an object with the word written below, and on the other side is just the word. This means you can show your child the pictured side and you’ll be able to tell what they are looking at. It also means you could put the cards picture side down and ask your child to pick out a certain card by reading the word, but at almost four we’re not quite at that point yet. We’ve been using the cards in groups, taking out eight at a time and going through them. I ask Little Man to identify the picture if he can, and if not I say the word for him. We try to talk about the picture as well, for example with the picture of the apple I might say “Oh you like apples don’t you? You had one for your snack this morning. I like apples as well.” With some of the shorter words, and especially with words that he can say we also sound out the words and highlight each letter. This works best we’ve found with the three or four letter words like “Cat” or “Fish”. We also make a bit of fuss over words that start with the first letter of his name as that’s one of the letters he instantly recognises.

My First Number Flashcards is a set of 35 double sided cards, set up in quite the same way as the other set, but contains smaller sets within it. First of all there are cards with numbers and pictures on one side counting up to 20 from 0. On the reverse is the word, again going from zero to twenty. Next up there are five symbol cards, with the symbol on one side and its name on the reverse. This set incorporates plus, minus, times, divides and equals. There are then the mathematical terms more and less. The remaining cards feature a number of dots ranging from 1 up to 20 set out in a variety of patterns for your little one to count. All numbers aren’t there but there is a decent range. We’ve only used the picture cards so far, encouraging Little Man to count past ten and up to twenty. He’s really good at counting from 1 to 10 and with these cards he now can go a little further with some help when saying each number.

We’ve had a lot of fun with these cards, and I think they’ve helped Little Man greatly. He’s learnt a selection of brand new words and numbers and has greater recognition of words and numbers he already knows. I am a big fan of these cards as they are a great handy size and are all so bright and colourful – perfect for appealing to young children. The style of the pictures is really fun and the words and numbers are all written clearly. A great tool for expanding vocabulary as well as encouraging reading, spelling and basic maths later on. Definitely something we’ll be coming back to again and again.

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.