Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Developing maths skills in pre-school and early years schoolers

Our son has always loved numbers, they seem to make sense to him more than letters and words.  Our daughter is showing the same aptitude.  I think they will both be engineers!

I have no idea if their maths skills are a result of luck or judgement, but maybe some of the games we've played with both of them have played a part?

Water measuring

We've always had some cheap jugs and cups in the bath.  Both of them love to fill up the jugs and pour the water into others.  We try and talk about this too - 'the volume of water is greater', 'now it's overflowing because there's too much'.  They both check this all over the bathroom floor regularly!

Local buses
Our son started this one when he was quite small and now we always notice the number of every bus that we get on or pass.  This really helps early recognition of numbers, and when added to a conversation about the number 23 bus being a higher number than seven, adds to early understanding of the 'value' of numbers.

Shut the box

Our son had 'Shut the Box' for Christmas when he was in reception year at school.  The idea is you roll two dice, and then 'shut' any combination of wooden numbers that add up to the dice value.  He initially needed a bit of help with this, but loves the game and is fluent with his number bonds now.  All without him realising he was learning - bonus!

We sometimes use the blocks of Jenga to make repeating patterns, and when playing normally talk about higher and lower towers.  All this helps early maths understanding.

Connect 4
Long before our son could count, and now a toddler girl is approaching three, we use my vintage Connect 4 set to make colourful patterns and take turns to put the coins in the frame.  Again, it can start a dialogue and easy opportunity to count (and take turns).

Colour days

Sometimes when toddler girl and I are home alone, we have 'colour days' where we look out for everything of a single colour.  So we spot red cars, roses, red swing seats, eat tomatoes etc.  Again this provides a great opportunity for counting and also promotes colour learning too.

I feel sure there are loads more ways to promote maths skills in pre-schoolers and early years schoolers.  What are your favourite?

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Year two infant school literacy and maths

Our son is now in year two at school.  I'm told he's working to a new, harder curriculum this year and it definitely feels like the pace of school life has stepped up.


The focus on literacy this term so far seems to be on handwriting, reading and comprehension.  Having started reception learning to write letters in a joined up style, year one didn't seem to focus on this at all.  It's back in year two though, and his homework so far this term has concentrated on writing letters in this way, and ensuring the sizing is all correct. 

Having been writing for many years now, I take letter sizing for granted but watching a six year old try and deconstruct why capitals are high (and different), some letters go under the line (p, g) and some are greedy and are high and go under the line (f) is amusing!

He is also concentrating again on sentences, making sure to always use a capital letter, full stop and ensuring it is grammatically correct.

Spellings are concentrating on suffixes - so working out and learning the rules around adding ing and er.  Who knew there were three rules for doing this?!

We continue to get a reading book everyday which are getting longer (sometimes 32 pages).  As our son is now a fluent reader, the focus is on comprehension and the books are a mix of fact and fiction to support this.


His maths work so far has seemed easy in comparison to literacy, maybe the harder stuff will come later in the term or maybe he just prefers maths?

School's requested that at home we look at odd and even numbers, counting up in ones and 10s and number bonds to 10 (all the ways you can add up to 10 for those of us not down with school lingo!).  The focus is on using a 100 number square grid.

This week's homework is all about money, and uses coins to find ways to add up to every amount between 11p and 20p.  We have been set a similar maths challenge this term which asks the children to add up rugby scores and find all the ways to get to certain scores.

Our son is really engaged at school and listens to his teacher well.  As a result, none of this is a massive challenge for him, but is stretching his ability to focus and apply himself to it at home when he'd rather be at the park.  I'm loving seeing the progress he's making - in just two short years he's gone from very early letter marks and recognising words to reading, writing and adding up fluently.  Amazing!

Are you kids in year two?  What are they working on?

Monday, 28 September 2015

Christmas Makes Prima Special 2015

I'm already starting to get excited about the Christmas build up.  I love this time of year most of all, when Christmas can be enjoyed from afar, with little to get on and do!

I was so excited to see the first Christmas magazine in WH Smith a week or so ago.  The Prima Makes Christmas Special with Create and Craft leapt out the shelf at me, and screamed buy me! 

With a few free gifts, it was in a plastic wrapper so I couldn't take a look inside.  At £12.99 this is a decent price - so is it worth it?

Free gifts

You get three free gifts with the magazine; 5m of 6mm white organza ribbon, and Embellishment Attic mini bow maker - a great gadget to help you make perfect bows and a Cake Crafting snowflake stencil, which is perfect for dusting icing sugar through to get a snowflake pattern.

These are lovely free gifts which add to the quality feel of the magazine.  I can definitely see I'll use the bow maker on extra special gift wrapping and the snowflake stencil will look great on some Christmassy cup cakes.

The magazine

The magazine itself is loads bigger than a standard mag.  There are 252 pages to the entire book and so many Christmas craft ideas suitable for experienced crafters or enthusiastic novices like me.  It's helpfully indexed by type of craft, from papercraft, die cuts, easy makes, stitching, through crochet, knits, baking - to name a few!  In fact there's so much, the index goes over four pages!

I particularly love the kids' makes section whih has four lovely makes of its own.  I can see our two making these lovely napkins and candy cane mouse decorations.

I also love this candle display, and will definitely use the idea of wrapping things up in music paper.  This would be great for someone in our family who plays guitar and loves his music!  The photography is top notch too - don't you think?

The magazine ends with all the templates you'll need for the makes and even some printed Christmas paper for use with card making or even some gift wrapping. 

This is a lovely craft magazine that I have picked up almost every night so far since I've had it.  It has loads of smaller ideas contained within each craft, and I really think there is something in here which would appeal to everyone.  It has a lovely quality feel which is reflected in the paper stock used and photography throughout.  At £12.99 it's quite a lot, but I think it's worth it and will definitely buy it again next year.  

I am inspired by it and feeling very Christmassy.

I'd love to know which Christmas magazines you like, please let me know by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Family life is...

Family life is.... selling off old baby gear that has been very much loved, but no longer has a use or a home.

I know the sensible thing is to let someone else enjoy perfectly good baby stuff that we no longer need, but I will miss the music on this cot mobile that I have listened to for more years than I can almost remember.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

A scarecrow to suit you #LVschoolboyerrors

Looking through family photos a couple of weeks ago, I found this picture of me taken in the mid-80s, all dressed up and ready to take part in the local carnival.

I was so proud of this scarecrow costume; I'd made it myself and it even won a prize!

A week or two later, Dad was getting ready for a really important work meeting.  I realised, with a sinking feeling, that until carnival day he'd had two dark suits.  Apparently, I'd run scissors, mud and straw all over the wrong one.

This is my entry to LV='s blogger competition to identify the funniest schoolboy error.  You can find out more on its blog.  I'd love to hear your schoolboy errors too.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Win a FireAngel carbon monoxide alarm worth £30

Project Shout is working hard to raise awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning and carbon monoxide alarms.  You can read more about the project on my blog post from a few days ago or check out the Project Shout website.

As a blogger for Project Shout, I was lucky enough to try out a FireAngel CO-9D carbon monoxide alarm.  The CO-9D digital alarm has a seven year life internal power pack and provides an early warning of the presence of carbon monoxide in your home.  This could save your life.

The digital LCD display shows low levels of CO down to 10ppm and also peak readings over the previous four weeks. The display can be switched between CO monitor and the integrated room thermometer.

It's smart, safe, easy to use and provides a very high level of reassurance against the odourless and colourless carbon monoxide gas.  You can find out more about it here.

I have one of these potentially life saving devices to giveaway.  With an RRP of £30, no home should be without one.

To enter the competition, please complete one or more of the Rafflecopter options below.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • You must be resident in the UK to enter. Prize will be emailed to a UK address.
  • Competition runs from 17 Sept until 23:59 on 30th September 2015.
  • Entry is via one and/or more of the methods in Rafflecopter widget.
  • Winner(s) will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter.  Winning entries will be checked and must be current at time of checking.
  • There is one prize.  The prize is a FireAngel CO-9D carbon monoxide alarm  There is no cash alternative.
  • The winner(s) will be contacted by email or on Twitter (if appropriate) by 7th October and asked to confirm their delivery address within 48 hours.  If no reply is received, a new winner may be chosen.
  • Winner's details will be passed to Project Shout's PR team, so the prize can be sent.
  • The winner's name, as registered when logged into Rafflecopter will be displayed after the end of the competition.
  • Me add three’s decision is final.

Competitions at ThePrizeFinder

Monday, 14 September 2015

Shouting to make sure this silent killer is heard

Right now, this very second, 16,400,000 households in the UK could be at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. This horrifying statistic is from Project Shout, a new initiative which is shouting about carbon monoxide alarms and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas which cannot be seen, smelt or heard and is known as ‘the silent killer’. This gas is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels like coal and natural gas and common sources of carbon monoxide (known as CO) are faulty cooker, boilers and fires.  CO can't be seen or smelt and the only certified way to protect yourself from it is through an audio alarm.

Like almost two thirds of household in the UK, we hadn't considered a carbon monoxide alarm. We moved into our house a few years ago and our boiler, cooker and fire are all new-ish. We didn't think we needed one.  Yet the age of an appliance doesn't necessarily make a difference. Louise Aspinall had a newly installed boiler that was faulty - a CO alarm alerted her to highly levels of the gas once the boiler was up and running. That alarm potentially saved the life of everyone in her house. You can watch her story on the Project Shout YouTube channel. 

Project Shout very kindly sent us a FireAngel CO-9D carbon monoxide alarm to install in our house. With an RRP of just £29.99, this digital LCD alarm has an integrated battery which gives it a seven year life.  It gives visual and audio alarms for CO as well as peak CO reading over four weeks, CO test facility and also a handy digital room thermometer.

The alarm is about the same size as a smoke alarm and is very light.  It comes with screws to fix it to the wall, or it can be freestanding as we're now using it.  The instructions on where to position it and how to get started are very clear, and you'll be up and running with it in seconds.

It now provides absolute reassurance to me, especially as our kids are an especially vulnerable group to CO.  After reading the Project Shout website and realising the full dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, I definitely will never be without an alarm again and this one is reassuringly well made, easy to use and reliable.  You can buy this alarm from a range of retailers, including Amazon, Tesco, B&Q and Sainsbury's.

For more information visit the Project Shout website or connect via social media.  The project is active on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.  You can also join the thunderclap to help raise awareness and encourage others to buy a carbon monoxide alarm.

Let's all get shouting about this silent killer, so it's never silent again.

Disclaimer: thanks to Project Shout for providing the alarm and access to the information for this post.  I'm proud to support this excellent cause with my own words and thoughts.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Fistral beach is #MySundayPhoto

Last weekend we got back from a wonderful week's holiday in Cornwall.  This picture was taken on one of my favourite days at the gorgeous Fistral beach in Newquay. 

Living in the landlocked Midlands, the kids loved the sea, watching the surfers and building sandcastles.  The air was chilly but the sun was warm and the sea and skies almost completely clear.

We had a wonderful time and will definitely return.  Soon I hope!