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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!

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.

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.

Guest Post: Local Bookstores Suffer the Wrath of Ebooks

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Guest Post, Information | Posted on 24-09-2012

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“There is a strong feeling of pessimism amongst people within the book industry. This feeling spans from novelists to publishers, largely down to financial reasons. The worry these individuals have comes from the introduction of the eBook, the digitalised version of the traditional book. The impact of this new form of literary medium is causing massive reverberations throughout the field, and none more so perhaps than that of quaint local bookstores.

There has been plenty of coverage over the closure of independent record stores over the past five years or so, due to the explosions of internet downloads and mp3s. But the troubles local independent bookstores are going through seem to have been neglected somewhat in the media. This may partly be down to the appeal it has to people, as believe it or not, everyone enjoys reading, but to find someone who doesn’t like music of any kind? Impossible, surely.

It is quite a serious issue however, and one that I did not really contemplate until the last local bookstore in my nearby town was forced to close after over a twenty-five year residency there. When interviewed in the local paper the owner of the store explained that he simply could not compete and keep up with the conglomerates, the big chain stores and the influx of online literature, particularly their prices. He did manage to joke however that one the final books he sold was The Great Gatsby, jesting that had he perhaps read it he’d have been able to put up more of a fight into keeping is dream alive.

He had a fair point though concerning the financial competition, as eBooks are almost always sold for a cut price in comparison to physical books, with companion books such as Twilight and Philosophy – Vampires, Vegetarians, and the Pursuit of Immortality available for under half the price of a hard copy. It’s not even unusual now for many eBooks to be made available online for free now, and it makes you wonder, how can anyone really compete with that?

There are not many independent bookstores left in the UK now, but hopefully, if communities band together, more and more can be saved and keep the true essence of the book alive.”

I love the concept of e-readers, and there is no escaping their popularity. But sometimes, for me, nothing beats a real book. I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Book Review: “The Mystery Of Mercy Close” by Marian Keyes

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review | Posted on 11-09-2012

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After a three year wait the much loved Marian Keyes returns to our bookshelves with “The Mystery Of Mercy Close”.

The book sees the return of the great Walsh family who have featured in several of Marian’s titles over the years since we first met them in “Watermelon” in 1995. “The Mystery Of Mercy Close” focuses on Helen, the youngest of the Walsh sisters, and one of my personal favourites. Helen is a Private Investigator called in to help out when a member of the boyband “Ladz” goes missing shortly before a much hyped reunion concert. Helen has her own demons to battle as she sets about trying to find Wayne, and none more so than her ex Jay who seeks out Helen’s help just as she’s getting her life back on track following their “messy” split.

I adore Marian Keyes – she is without question my favourite fictional author, and she sets all her books in my favourite place, Dublin – and it is a joy to have her back writing again, especially about the legendary Walsh family. Her writing style is brilliant and I love the quirky twists and turns on every page. This book is a real page turner that will keep you entertained, and a little on edge, from the very first page. All of Marian’s previous books have pride of place on my bookshelf and are excellent stories which I can read and re-read again and again, and I have no doubts that this one will be just as well read as those before it.

The Mystery Of Mercy Close” is published by Michael Joseph and released on September 13th.

For all you Walsh family fans out there, I suggest you download “Mammy Walsh’s A-Z of the Walsh Family” for a bit of a reminder of their ups and downs over the years!

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.

Product Review: Pkolino Fire Engine Book Buggee

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 18-07-2012

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Books are very popular in our house and Little Man’s already epic collection seems to grow almost daily, so we are often on the look out for new ways to store them. Already owning the Tidy Books Book Shelf means that the book stash in the lounge is contained for now, and in Little Man’s bedroom we have a couple of stacking boxes with yet more titles in. Recently Little Man started carrying his books around with him and you often find them on the stairs or in the kitchen – I guess he just likes to be prepared! When Pkolino offered to send me a “book buggee” to review, I said yes immediately. Take a look:

The “Book Buggee” is a beautiful wooden truck decorated to look like a fire engine – you can also get it in orange, natural or to look like a princess crown. As you can see there are four slots at the back to hold your books, and it hold books of all sizes. There is also a section at the front – just in front of ‘The Gruffalo’ – where you can pile very small books or anything else your little one needs to take with him. Attached to the front is a length of white rope which your child can use to pull along the “buggee” wherever they go – something Little Man particularly enjoys. He can often be found wandering about trailing his Fire Truck behind him. Sometimes its empty, and sometimes there are a few books in there. I’ve also seen him use it to transport drinks and snacks, but the most popular use for it currently in our house is this:

I’m thinking that Milo The Monkey needs some kind of helmet…

You can read more about the Pkolino Fire Truck Book Buggee – and the rest of the brilliant Pkolino range – here, as well as locating your nearest stockist.

Bagabook Giveaway At Brit Mums Live!

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Blogger Event, Brit Mums Live, Competition, Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 18-06-2012

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Bagabooks are designed to protect your precious paperbacks from damage when you’re reading them if you’re out and about. Whether you’re travelling by train or plane, or sat on a warm sandy beach (clearly not in the UK…) or just like to have your book with you in case you fancy a quick read, your paperback may end up a little dog-eared and damaged. Bagabook to the rescue!!

Bagabooks slip around the cover of your book and protect it from the elements. They come with a built in bookmark and a handy pocket for a travel card or train ticket – perfect for all you commuters out there. There is even a pen holder as your Bagabook can also house a notepad or diary. You can even fit an e-reader or 7 inch tablet inside – and that’s why I’m bringing my Bagabook to Brit Mums Live this weekend with my new Kurio inside. As you all know I’m going to be showing off the pre-release 7 inch Kurio to anyone who wants a look, but I am also going to be running a competition to giveaway a brand new Bagabook of your choice.

Bagabooks come in two designs – Classic or Executive. The Classics look rather like a stylish handbag, with a strap to pop it over your shoulder or carry it.

The Executive has a briefcase look to it with a much shorter and neater handle, and has a discreet zipped pocket to pop in your mobile or mp3 player or some loose change.
Take a look at the full range on the Bagabook website – there are a host of colours and designs to choose from.

Fancy winning one of your own?

Track me down on Friday or Saturday at Brit Mums Live and give me one of your business cards.  You’ll be entered into a Prize Draw and on Sunday I’ll pick one of the cards out of a hat – or the discreet hidden pocket of the Bagabook – and that person will win a Bagabook of their choice from the website. What’s more is that ALL entrants will be emailed with a discount code to use in the online store.

Product Review: Tidy Books Bookcase

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Competition, Product Launch | Posted on 23-04-2012

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Well it was only a matter of time before my book buying for my Little Man habit got out of control and we needed a better storage solution! Books have previously been piled in the lounge with his toys or in boxes upstairs but they’ve never been very tidy or easy to access for him without causing chaos. How’s this for tidy and accessible:

 

Whilst this is only a fraction of his books there is still loads of room for more on the shelves. With them being nice and deep you can put taller ones towards the back and smaller ones at the front. I love the fact that the books are facing the front so Little Man can see which one appeals and then get it out himself without scattering books across the room.

The bookcase comes flat packed and is so easy to build with the help of the included Alan key and a screwdriver – I managed to build it fully myself even with Little Man “helping” by moving the screws around. The panels on the front with the alphabet on are reversible, so you can have those parts plain and use it for other things when its been outgrown by your little one. The bookcase tilts back against the wall and attaching it is very important to avoid tipping it over – Little Man does try and reach the top shelf the best he can!

I guess the key question is does it work? Well I built it and propped it up against the lounge wall and put a few books on just to test out if the larger ones fit. It didn’t take Little Man long to do this:

That is Little Man reading his favourite “In The Night Garden” book. I can only apologise for the lack of trousers – not uncommon for him at the moment!

A brilliant piece of furniture that would look at home in any child’s bedroom or, as we have it at the moment, in the lounge.

Want to win your own?

Tidy Books Bookcases come in a variety of colours and finishes, and you can win your very own now by clicking here. Competition closes May 11th 2012.

 

 

Product Review: Ministry Of Letters

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review, Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 16-04-2012

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You’ll know by now how books are a big part of our lives in my house, and you’ll have some idea of the small libraries’ worth that my Little Man has, despite being just 18 months old. We hope that by having books in his life from an early age that he’ll continue to enjoy them throughout his life, and that he won’t be put off by the idea of words and reading. For a lot of children though reading, letters and the alphabet can be a hugely confusing and intimidating thing. “The Ministry Of Letters” has come up with a fun and interesting way for children to get to grips with this sometimes scary world with the help of a brilliantly entertaining book and website.

“Operation Alphabet” is the tale of Charlie Foxtrot, a little boy who starts school and finds letters and the alphabet totally confusing – he has a bad case of the ‘alphabetaheebeegeebees’. The SAS is called in – “Special Alphabet Services” – and with the help of some rhymes, songs and a whole heap of adventure Charlie finds that letters are so much fun.

This book is a brilliant tool for any young children who are about to start school, or have perhaps started and found themselves in a similar situation to Charlie. You also get a special poster of the alphabet to stick on your bedroom wall to remind your children of how the letters look and the order they come in. I think Little Man will adore this book and the Charlie Foxtrot story when he’s a bit older, and the poster will be a brilliant tool in helping him learn the shapes that make up the alphabet.

A brand new phonic app is landing on the website soon – The Orchestra Game – but for now why not take a look at the letters in action:

You can learn all about the Ministry Of Letters at their website, where you can order your copy of Operation Alphabet too!