British Science Week – A guest blog by Science Sparks

Emma is a busy mum to three even busier children. She is passionate about the importance of science education and making science fun for kids. You can find Emma’s science-based activities and investigations over on Science Sparks, a website bursting with creative and engaging ideas for children of all ages.

Emma has pulled together some fun science experiments that you can do at home to celebrate British Science Week. read more

Science in Play: A Guest Post by Emma from Science Sparks

Children are full of questions about the world around them and are like little sponges in the early years. It’s the perfect time to add science to play and learning activities, which will hopefully inspire a love of science throughout childhood. Science activities don’t need to be complicated or heavily planned, the best ideas are often those that use only a few simple materials you probably already have at home.

For example a tray of colourful, glittery ice, warm water and a pipette, can lead to hours of making the ice melt, talking about how it feels and how to make it melt faster ( or more slowly ). Just a few bits of ice provide the opportunity to learn about melting, freezing, temperature, team work, problem solving and so much more. My biggest piece of advice for encouraging an interest in science is to let children explore, ask questions and design their own investigations. If they have the time and space to play, the questions will come. You just need to set up a starting point and that can be something as simple as a bug hunt in the garden, or going on a nature walk to collect treasures.

The Primary Science Lab Set from Learning Resources is perfect for inspiring scientific play. Use the magnifying glass on a bug hunt, the pipette for dropping water on ice or trying a bit of chromatography and the beakers and test tubes for making fizzy potions.

Magnet wands are also great for all kinds of investigations. We used them to test objects around the house, for making magnet mazes and even painting with magnets.

I find STEM challenges are a fantastic way for children to learn using their natural problem solving skills, if the first attempt to solve the challenge doesn’t work, they can try again, changing the solution a little each time.

Coding activities are also wonderful for inspiring children and Botley the Coding Robot from Learning Resources is a brilliant starting point. Botley is a coding robot that helps children develop critical thinking and problem solving skills which is so important in later years.

Science gives you an invaluable opportunity to learn alongside your children and make the ordinary, extraordinary together. There really is nothing better.

International Talk Like A Pirate Day – A guest blog by Ian Goldsworthy

Ian Goldsworthy is here to help Learning Resources celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Ian is a Year 2 teacher at Manor Lodge School in Shenley, Hertfordshire and he also does teacher training in Science for Essex Teacher Training.

If you’re anything like me (late 30’s, balding, social life not as full as it once was) you’ll have had the 19th September circled in your diary for a long time – International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Yes, it’s time to batten down the hatches, hoist the main sail, and fly the Jolly Roger once again as otherwise sane people pepper their vocabulary with a boat load of ahoy, aha and avast.

The salty seadogs at Learning Resources asked me to don my captain’s hat and take a look at three of their fantastic products to make sure they were ship shape ahead of this year’s talk like a pirate day and to think of a few ideas for how each product could be used to aid learning.

Jolly Roger’s Pirate Pieces

This is a great game for 2-4 players to begin to recognise fractions, specifically halves, quarters and thirds.  The pirate loot is gathered in the centre of the board and players take it in turns to use the spinner to determine which piece of treasure they will be able to take from the centre pile: ½ a gem stone, a 1/3 of a gold medallion, a ¼ of a treasure map or a whole golden chalice?

The winner is the first person to fill up their treasure chest, helpfully indicated by empty shapes split into halves, thirds and quarters.  But, crucially, there is not enough treasure for all four players; there will need to be some skulduggery in order for any pirate to complete their haul.  Once all the treasure has been collected from the middle you can then steal treasure from the other buccaneers, robbing them of their whole fractions whilst adding to your own.

Opportunities for learning

  • The strong, clear visuals of the game really help reinforce the differences in the fractions and how many parts make a respective whole. If a player has ¼ of their treasure map, ask them what fraction they have still left to find (3/4).
  • Collect more parts than can fit on your whole to demonstrate improper fractions i.e if you collect four parts of a medallion this would be 4/3
  • For more advanced players you could use decimal or percentage equivalents, encouraging children to recognise that ½ = 50% = 0.5

National Curriculum links

Year 1

  • recognise, find and name a half as one of two equal parts of an object, shape or quantity
  • recognise, find and name a quarter as one of four equal parts of an object, shape or quantity

Year 2

  • recognise, find, name and write fractions 1/3, ¼, 2/4 and 3/4 of a length, shape, set of objects or quantity.

Year 4

  • recognise and write decimal equivalents to ¼, ½ and ¾

 

Play Money

No pirate plunder is complete without some sterling, and this set of UK coins and notes has everything you would need to introduce working with money.  The coins are exact replicas of all current UK coins from 1p up to £2 – they’re even a little bit chunkier than the real thing to make handling a little more straightforward.  Also included are a set of notes from £5-£50.  Everything you might need to set up a role play area or to start working with money more in depth.

Opportunities for learning

  • Thanks to the fantastic accuracy of the coins and notes, this set makes a fantastic introduction to recognising the different shapes, sizes and values of the coins and notes.
  • Asking children to find all the different ways they could make a certain amount with the money they have is a great investigation and really gets them to start to see that there is more than one way to reach an answer.
  • Understanding the relationship between the notes and the coins can sometimes be tricky so working out how many of the different coins would be needed to make a £10 note can help children understand both money and place value (10 x £1.00 = £10, 100 x £0.10 = £10 etc)

National Curriculum links

Year 1

  • recognise and know the value of different denominations of coins and notes

Year 2

  • recognise and use symbols for pounds (£) and pence (p); combine amounts to make a particular value
  • find different combinations of coins that equal the same amounts of money

Year 4

  • use place value, known and derived facts to multiply and divide mentally

 

Playbrix Pirate Adventure

A pirate is not really a pirate unless they have a tall ship upon which to sail the seven seas and this fantastic resource allows them to build just that.  The set comprises of a number of different cardboard bricks: some shaped in squares and rectangles; some in triangles and pyramids.  This range of building materials allows any budding Blackbeards to create a ship, a fort or anything they want as part of their pirate universe.  Thanks to some clever reinforcement in the construction of the bricks they are all impressively durable as well.

Opportunities for learning

  • This set is a natural fit for any Early Years roleplay area and, though it comes with a number of decorations to help give it that pirate look, the bricks themselves could be reused for any number of different scenarios.
  • The variety in the types of bricks also makes this a great opportunity to introduce the properties of 3D shapes to the children by introducing them to cuboids, prisms and pyramids.
  • Don’t miss an opportunity to use this set with older children. The set comes flat packed with the shapes having to be assembled from nets.  Whilst the assembly would be too tricky for younger children, children in Years 5 or 6 should find a great challenge in predicting what shape will be made from each net before justifying their reasoning.

National Curriculum links

Year 1

Year 2

  • identify and describe the properties of 3-D shapes, including the number of edges, vertices and faces

Year 6

  • recognise, describe and build simple 3-D shapes, including making nets

 

This Is Rocket Science and science at home

Hello, my name is Emma and I write the blog Science Sparks. Learning Resources kindly asked me to share some tips about how to get children involved with science at home and tell you all about my brand new book, This Is Rocket Science!!

My children and I had a great time working together to design and create the activities in the book, it was a real family effort. People often ask me how I think of ideas for Science Sparks, but the truth is most of the activities come from questions my children ask and then one thing tends to lead on to another.

By actively exploring science at home you are changing youngsters’ perception of science, supporting their learning, and having fun all at the same time! Science based activities encourage the development of core skills from logical thinking and problem solving, right through to communication skills. But if you are lost for where to start when it comes to science play at home, then read on for my top pointers.

Tops tips for getting children involved in science at home

Be inspired

Many of our activities are inspired by books. For example, we’ve made bridges for The Gingerbread Man, underpants for Aliens, a zip wire for Jack (and the beanstalk) and houses for the Three Little Pigs. So my first top tip is to read a book together and then work on an idea to solve a problem for the characters.

For older children, try a non-fiction book and work to demonstrate something. For example use a prism to split light into the colours of the rainbow.

Work together

Science projects are a great way to learn together whilst working as a team. You could work on a tricky project together or try something more simple independently and then come together to share your results.

A great project to work together on is something like our viscosity race. In This Is Rocket Science a viscosity investigation is used to demonstrate lava flows on Venus. You can see we found our Learning Resources test tubes and holder very handy for this activity. The test tubes are easy to hold and generously sized making them perfect for holding our test liquids! We also used one of the handy stopwatches to time how long each liquid took to flow between the lines.

Get Creative!

If you have a child who loves art projects our filter paper chromatography planets are sure to be a winner. Simply draw small dots on a piece of filter paper and use a dropper to drip water onto the ink spots. Watch the colours spread through the filter paper and leave to dry. For a longer project try to create a filter paper picture to match each planet of the solar system.

Ask questions

Look around, ask a question and try to find the answer! This Is Rocket Science has lots of activities demonstrating gravity for example. It contains 70 fun and hands-on activities designed to help children understand how a rocket is able to blast off into space, how astronauts manage to cope with the difficulties of living in space and also takes you on a tour of our incredible solar system learning about the unimaginable distances involved and features of each planet.

 

How do you get children involved in science at home and what are their favourite investigations?

We’d love to see your experiments, be sure to tag us on Instagram using @learningresourcesuk and @sciencesparks.

Design Your Own Beaker Creature Competition!

Add to our range of Beaker Creatures!

Learning Resources are giving children the chance to have their very own Beaker Creature design made into a plush toy!

Throughout August, we’re inviting your kids to send us their unique Beaker Creature designs to enter our competition. Five lucky winners from the UK will then be chosen at random and will receive a plush toy of their design made by Custom Cuddlies.

See below for full Terms and Conditions.

  • Design your own Beaker Creature using any medium, i.e. pencil drawing, paint or clay
  • Five winners will receive their Beaker Creature design as a plush toy
  • One entry per child will be accepted. Please provide name and age with the entry
  • UK entries only
  • Entries must be submitted by Friday 31st August 2018 23:59
  • Entries can be submitted via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, emailed to marketing@learning-resources.co.uk or sent via post to Learning Resources Ltd, 51a Bergen Way, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, PE30 2JG
  • Winners will receive their prize by 30th September 2018
  • Please consider the custom cuddlies toy safety laws here 

Learn more about Beaker Creatures on our website!

Outdoor Play: 5 Ways to Explore the World Without Leaving Your Back Garden

Outdoor Play: 5 Ways to Explore the World Without Leaving Your Back Garden

Outdoor play boosts kids’ confidence, develops their motor skills and brings out their natural curiosity. Keeping outings fresh and interesting can be a challenge, so we’ve done the hard work for you: read on for our favourite outdoor activities to inspire your little adventurers.

Rule the countryside with a nature crown

nature crown

Rule the countryside. All you’ll need is some paper, a roll of tape and some scavenged bits and bobs from the great outdoors. This fun activity comes courtesy of Muddy Puddles. They’ve even got a printable activity sheet that you can take out and about with you. Alternatively, watch their video:

 

    1. Start by measuring a strip of paper to roughly the circumference of your child’s head, add a few inches more to allow for fastening, and cut to size.
    2. Go outdoors and get little hands gathering anything from leaves and feathers to sticks and flowers. Visit any green space and you’re sure to forage a whole host of seasonal curiosities.
    3. Apply double-sided tape to the strip of paper and get sticking. Children can have a lot of fun positioning the items, layering leaves and making patterns.
    4. Use sellotape to join your crown together to fit. Voila! You are countryside royalty!

    “This crafty activity helps to improve children’s observational skills as they hunt and gather in their surroundings. It also advances their fine motor skills as they pick flowers, leaves and more, and carefully attach them to the headband.” — Katie Smith at Learning Resources

    Build a brilliant birdbath

    Birdbaths aren’t just for drinking from: our feathered friends also use them to preen and keep their feathers in top condition.

    Build a birdbath, fill it with cool water and place it in a nice open spot (safe from predators such as pouncing cats). The birds will be grateful, and you and your little ones can have fun identifying the different species that stop for a drink.

    build a birdbath

    You will need:

        • a terracotta pot
        • a terracotta saucer
        • all-purpose glue suitable for outdoors
        • 4-7 large stones

      As a thrifty option, you could use any old dish or bin lid – just make sure the dish is large but shallow.

      Here’s how:

          1. Flip your pot upside down and apply a generous layer of glue.
          2. Place the saucer on top, settling it into the glue and leave to dry thoroughly before moving.
          3. Place the bath in a flat, open spot where it doesn’t wobble, and add a small pile of stones then fill with cool water.

          Finally, sit back and wait for the birds to arrive. Keep the water topped up in hot weather. The stones will give somewhere for the birds to perch when they are having a drink from the bath.

          Fun fact: Honeybees are also frequent visitors to birdbaths. In hot weather, they need water to regulate their temperatures. However, they can easily drown in water, so the pebbles in your birdbath will ensure they can climb out of the water should they get into difficulty.

          Picture and fun fact courtesy of Kate Bradbury, Gardeners’ World

          Going on a food hunt

          Summer provides a great opportunity for children to learn about foods, outside! Our friends Emma and Charlotte over at Little Foodie have compiled an activity called “Going on a food hunt”.

          Little Foodie

          The activity involves hiding some fun, slightly unusual foods around the garden for children to search for.

          The food hunt is perfect for encouraging young children’s counting skills, increasing their awareness of different foods and opening up their vocabulary. At the end of the activity, why not cut up the foods and eat them together? Children are more likely to try new foods if you make it fun.

          You will need:

              • sack/bag
              • selection of foods to hide – coconut, pineapple, mango, grapefruits, melon and watermelon are all large enough for young children to find and most can be eaten at the end. Yum! Foods with some colour are easier for smaller children to find

            Here’s how:

                1. Ask the children to close their eyes.
                2. Hide the foods as they count to 20.
                  3. Ask the children to find the foods using hot and cold as indicators.
                3. When the foods are found, ask the children to name them. This is also a great opportunity to discuss a bit about each food.
                  food play

                This foodie learning activity is sure to fuel young imaginations, and develop their food naming skills. Encourage your little ones to describe the texture of the foods and describe how they feel. For example, with the coconut – “very hairy”!

                The Little Foodie team would love to see you trying out their activity. Be sure to tag them on Instagram @littlefoodieorg if you try it out.

                Did you know Fresh Veggies Day is coming up on the 16th June? The perfect excuse to give this food hunt a go!

                Get wiggly with your own wormery

                Introduce children to the wonderful world of bugs and insects by building a wormery.

                A wormery will teach kids a lot about how a worm lives, feeds and survives. Worms are vital for plants, as their tunnelling helps water reach their roots. Their waste also adds nutrients to the soil.

                build a wormery

                Image credit: Science Sparks

                To make your own wormery you will need:

                    • an old jar (the bigger the better)
                    • sand (the stuff from your sandpit will work just fine)
                    • soil
                    • gravel or small stones
                    • leaves
                    • grass clippings
                    • water
                    • worms

                  Here’s how:

                      1. Start by adding a layer of gravel or stones to the base of the jar for drainage.
                      2. Next layer soil, then sand, then soil. Sand around a centimetre or two thick ending on a soil layer but leaving a couple of centimetres gap at the top of the jar.
                      3. Add a little water to dampen the soil.
                      4. Place your worms on top of the soil then add your leaves and clippings.
                      5. Get an adult to make some holes in the lid of the jar then screw it on.
                      6. Keep the jar in a shaded spot. In no time at all you should see the layers get mixed up and the grass and leaves get pulled down into the soil.

                      wormery jar

                      Be sure to return your worms to nature after you have completed this activity. Layering the sand and soil and handling the worms carefully is great for the development of fine motor skills. It is also a fun sensory experience. Get your little one to describe what they feel using descriptive words, e.g. ‘slimy’, ‘wet’, ‘smooth’.

                      Top tip for collecting your worms: dig a few inches down in any patch of soil on a damp day. Earthworms absorb oxygen through pores in their skin so you are more likely to find a worm close to the surface on a wet day. They will have come up for air if their burrow is waterlogged.

                      Decorate a tree

                      Give decorating a tree a go! Our friends at The Wildlife Trust have lots of fun kid-friendly decorations you can make.

                      What you will need:

                          • Ribbon or string
                          • Scissors (and adult help using these)
                          • Natural objects such as twigs, leaves, dried fruit, feathers
                          • Coloured wool
                          • Beads (preferably wood)

                        Here’s how:

                        Get creative using your foraged natural objects, wool, ribbon and string! Wrap wool around twigs, create dream-catcher inspired hanging decorations, bind twigs and even make dried fruit minibeasts. Then hang your decorations from a tree, your garden fence or shed.

                        Decorate a tree

                        Tell a friend

                        Your final outdoors challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to tell a friend!

                        We need nature, and nature needs us, so why not invite friends and family along to join in with your activities. Be an inspiration by sharing stories of activities on social media, or even talk to your child’s school about arranging a nature ‘show and tell’ session.

                        Be sure to tag us using the hashtag #LoveLearningOutdoors if you try out one of our ideas above.

                         

                         

International Bath Day: A guest post by Life Unexpected

Chloe, blogger at Life Unexpected, and her daughter Evie help Learning Resources celebrate International Bath Day.

Did you know that it’s International Bath Day on June 14th? What better way to celebrate than letting your kids splash in the bath with some super fun, but educational bath toys!

Inspired by International Bath Day, Learning Resources have sent us three of their favourite bath toys to try out and review with Evie, my four year old daughter.

All three of these bath toys are part of the Bright Basics™ range by Educational Insights. The range was created to inspire your little ones to play and learn as they grow. All three of them are not only super fun and will be loved by kids aged 2 – 5, but they’ll help your kids to develop some key developmental skills through play.

 

Bright Basics™ Slide & Splash Spouts Box

Bright Basics™ Slide & Splash Spouts

The first bath toy I’m going to share with you is the Bright Basics™ Slide & Splash Spouts toy. This toy is suitable for ages 2 – 5 and I personally love that it’s a toy that can grow with your child and that can be played with in so many different ways as they get older. The Bright Basics™ Slide & Splash Spouts come with:

  • Two elbow pipes
  • A straight pipe
  • A spinning faucet
  • A sprinkle cloud bin
  • A sun-themed pouring cup
  • An ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ themed ball
  • Parent Activity Guide

How To Play

The Bright Basics™ Slide & Splash Spouts toy is such an amazing tool for using with little minds because there are so many teaching opportunities. Firstly, you can build it together!

Slide & Splash Spouts

Build It!

The Bright Basics™ Slide and Splash Spouts comes with three colourful pipes, two of which are different sizes. Each of the pipes come with suction cups so that you can stick them to the bath. This makes it super easy for kids to slide the pieces around, so that they can build themselves a route.

Evie loved becoming a little engineer and had lots of fun designing different routes with the pipes. The idea is to set up a route that allows the ‘Itsy Bitsy’ spider ball to run through the pipes and the spinning faucet, all the way to the end. You can encourage its movement by pouring water through the pipes using the sun cup.

I really enjoyed watching Evie experiment, make predictions and learn all about trial and error with this toy. Just by playing with this toy she’s already building on her early maths and science skills without even realising it!

The first time we played with it, we planned and designed a route together. We planned where each pipe would go and then we watched which way the water flowed to try to work out how to get the ball through all of the pipes and if we needed to make changes. Evie found it so tricky at first but seeing her think, experiment and put together the puzzle was a lot of fun to see. This was also amazing for encouraging discussion, developing fine motor skills and for recognising cause and effect. After the first go, Evie wanted to try building several different routes by herself and she did so well.

Sense It!

Another fun way you can play with this is toy is by playing a ‘Sense It’ game. This particular game is great for very younger kids as you can use the sprinkler cup to pour the water onto your child’s hands. They can then try and catch the water. As Evie is older we used both a pipe and the sprinkler cup to pour water onto her hands. I then asked Evie to talk about the differences in feeling, which encouraged a lot of discussion. I also loved using the sprinkler cup to talk to Evie about rain and how the water collects in clouds and then sprinkles down on us. She then used this idea to make it rain down the pipes on the spider ball.

Sing It!

This encouraged another way to play with the Bright Basics™ Slide & Splash Spouts toy; singing. This is also a game that is encouraged in the toys main activity guide.

The Itsy Bitsy Spider ball that comes with the Bright Basics™ Slide & Splash Spouts toy, has been cleverly named after the famous nursery rhyme. During one of our play sessions I started singing the nursery rhyme and as I did I tried to push the ball back up one of the spouts.

Evie grinned and instantly took over and role played the song with the Itsy Bitsy Spider ball. She made him climb up the pipe and then when he reached the top, she filled the rain cloud with water. She then used the rain cloud to pour water down the pipes so that it would push the ‘Itsy Bitsy’ spider ball back out again. Then she picked up the sun cup to ‘dry up all the rain’ and pushed the spider ball all the way back up to the top again.

For smaller children, singing the nursery rhyme will help to encourage their listening skills and language development. It’s also such a fun way of learning with this toy.

Once you’ve finished play time, the Bright Basics™ Slide & Splash Spouts can be tidied away into a mesh bag which comes in to the box. This can then be hung to dry when it’s not in use.

 

Bath Blocks

 Bright Basics™ Bath Blocks

The second bath toy I’m going to share with you is the Bright Basics™ Bath Blocks. These are also suitable for ages 2 – 5 and again there are so many learning points for little minds. The Bright Basics™ Bath Blocks come with:

  • 15 floating sandcastle bath blocks
  • 4 floating sea creature friends
  • A floating foam base
  • Parent Activity Guide

How To Play

Just like the previous toy, there are several ways to play with these bath blocks. Evie is 4 years old and currently she is a mini builder. She loves constructing things so straight away she started to play with this toy by building it.

floating bath blocks

Build It!

The Bright Basics™ Bath Blocks comes with a large floating base and lots of bricks and accessories that can be stacked and built on top the floating the base. The idea is to make a giant floating sandcastle.

For early learners and younger children, they can start off playing with this through balancing and stacking. Why not build a huge tower with the bricks so that your child can see what happens? Then you can knock it down so that your child learns cause and effect, before you build it back up again. This will help them to develop sensory awareness and fine motor skills as they try and balance the blocks on top of one another.

As Evie is a little bit older, for her it was all about working out where the different parts could go, so that she could complete the sandcastle.

Bright Basics™ Bath Blocks

Imaginative Play!

The bath blocks also come with four sea creatures; a seal, a whale, a dolphin and a turtle. As soon as Evie finished building the castle, the imaginative play began and for the past few bath sessions Evie has been turning the castle into a home for the four sea creatures, who she makes interact with each other. I also used this toy to introduce Evie to a new nursery rhyme that we haven’t sung to her before.

Sing It!

One thing I love, is that Bright Basics™ team include an activity guide in each toy pack, so that you get inspiration of things you can do with your child. One thing they encourage with each toy is learning through singing.

Singing helps with listening skills and the repetition in songs such as ‘nursery rhymes’, really helps to support early language development. The song they recommend singing for this toy is the “She Sells Seashells by the Seashore” nursery rhyme. After I sang this song to Evie, she was inspired to turn the castle into a ‘shell shop’, where the creatures would come in to buy shells from the turtle who was chief shell collector. She would re-sing the song as each animal swam around the bath and up to the front door of the castle.

 

Bright Basics™ 123 Tubbies

Bright Basics™ 123 Tubbies

The final toy we were sent to review is called the Bright Basics™ 123 Tubbies. This bath toy is suitable for ages 3 – 5 and is a great bath toy for introducing shapes and numbers to small children. The Bright Basics™ 123 Tubbies comes with 26 individual puzzles.

  • Twelve are number puzzles
  • Eight are shape puzzles
  • The remaining six pieces are for building structures

The pieces can either float in the water or they can stick to the side of the bath, or even your bathroom tiles, when wet.

How To Play

This toy is perfect for introducing counting and shapes to early learners. The chunky foam puzzles are easy to grab and easy for little hands to piece together. Again, like the previous two toys, there are several ways to play.

Count It!

When I put all the numbers and shape puzzles in the bath, I made sure to take them apart first. Then I challenged Evie to piece them back together again. We started off with the numbers and she had to count each animal and then find the matching number to fit with it.

When she got the hang of it, we then used the numbers to make sums. I would pick up two different animal numbers and then I’d ask Evie what new number they would collectively make. For example, I’d pick up the ‘1 bee’ and the 2 birds’ and I asked Evie how many animals there were all together. She could then work out that 2 + 1 makes 3 and she’d find the ‘number 3’ to give to me.

For us, this is going to be the perfect bath time game for helping to get Evie ready for starting school in September. It’s also been great for helping her to recognise shapes and learn early geometry skills.

Bath Toys

Build it!

The second way you can play with this toy is by building with it. Using the shape pieces and the construction pieces, your child can you put together a building on your bathtub wall. This gave me the opportunity to discuss shapes a lot more with Evie as she built different structures on our the wall of our bath.

Every time she picked up a piece to add to her building, I asked her to tell me what makes each shape unique. For example; a square has four sides the same. I then encouraged her to discuss the difference between a square and rectangle. I loved hearing her thoughts on this.

If your child is a bit younger than Evie though, they can simply play with this toy by building different structures, which will help them to develop fine motor skills. You can then use this opportunity to help you to teach your child the name of shapes and to encourage shape recognition.

Sing It!

The final way we loved playing with this toy is by singing yet another new nursery rhyme. Singing is particularly good, especially for younger kids. This time the Bright Basics™ team encourage you to sing the ‘One, Two, Buckle My Shoe’ song. Singing this song helps to reinforce patterns and number recognition and generally makes play time with this bath toy a lot more fun.

Bright Basics

 Our Thoughts

Thank you so much to Learning Resources for sending us these three bath toys to review. My favourite thing about all three of these toys is that they all combine both learning and bath time fun. Evie didn’t feel like she was in a strict learning environment, yet at the same time, each time she plays with even one of these toys, she is learning life skills and is being encouraged to hit new milestones, which is fantastic preparation for school and beyond.

We can’t even pick a favourite out of all three of these bath time toys. All three of them are so unique, fun and educational and we will definitely be continuing to have fun with them over the next year and beyond.

To hear more from Life Unexpected, go to www.lifeunexpected.co.uk

How Toys Can Help Children With SEN: A Guest Post by Georgina

I’m Georgina, I’m a mum of two, qualified teacher/ SENCO and have set up my own tutoring service for children with special educational needs.

I run The SEN Resources Blog, a site to support parents and teachers. The SEN Resources Blog provides advice and suggests fun, skill-based activities that can be tried at home. It also recommends children’s resources, toys and books.

 

How Toys Can Help Children With Special Educational Needs

Play is so important for all children and not just because it’s enjoyable, but it’s how children of all abilities and ages first learn. You may be surprised to know that simple games that generations of children have played are rooted in key developmental learning. For example, hide and seek and peekaboo both teach children an array of skills such as counting and object permanence (the idea that something can exist even if you can’t perceive it anymore).  Throwing and catching develops hand eye coordination and gross motor skills.  Hopscotch teaches early writing skills, number recognition and gross motor skills. The list goes on!

Whether it be playing independently, alongside other children or with a caregiver- it is essential that children are given the opportunities and time to play. For children with special educational needs and/ disabilities – free play may sometimes present a challenge with factors such as accessibility, visual/auditory impairments, social difficulties etc needing to be navigated. However, parents are often experts at trying to find ways to create opportunities for play and provide adaptations that are needed to allow it to take place.

What’s brilliant is most toys are also designed with learning in mind. In my experience for children with special educational needs, chosen well, a toy can help provide fun and engaging ways of mastering skills that they may be finding difficult and frustrating. Here are a few examples of skills that I believe toys can play a part in helping to develop.

 

Fine Motor Skills

If a child is finding it challenging to grip a pencil or do up buttons on their clothes – it might be an idea to provide them with options of fun fine motor skill activities. These should help build strength and develop the tiny muscles in their hands and fingers needed for these tasks.

For example, one fun activity is using squeeze tweezers to pick up colourful pom poms and put them in a bowl. Children can also be stretched to sort the pom poms by colour, or try picking up trickier, smaller objects.

Imagination

Some children love nothing better than to throw themselves into Imaginative Play, whether it be pretending to be shop keepers, police officers or vets.

Imaginative Play can help children practise their speech and language skills as well as make sense of the world we live in. But for others Imaginative Play presents a challenge. It may be that a child is not yet at that level of play and still plays with toys in a more functional way (e.g pushing a car to watch it move). In my experience, patience is key – give the child time, provide them with Imaginative Play opportunities but without pressures, play is meant to be enjoyable, so allow them the freedom to play how they choose to.

Speech and language

In my opinion, some games can be brilliant at helping to get kids talking and expand their vocabulary. Played as a family, games such as Petting Farm can help to reinforce key descriptive language. In this game children spin the spinner and try to find the animal that matches the texture, taking it in turns to describe what they feel like from touch alone.

Learning to Read (Phonics) 

The way primary schools now teach children to read, is different than how a lot of us learnt to read ourselves. I’m a big fan of Phonics as a method of teaching how to read. It’s logical, focuses on the sounds of the different parts of a word and helps build children up to learning how to sound out and read words. However, like I said, many parents are unlikely to have come across Phonics until their child is learning to read. This poses a challenge when parents want to help support their child learning to read at home, but don’t want to confuse their child with a different method.

As a parent of a child learning to read, in addition to reading LOTS of books together, I can genuinely recommend Hot Dots not only does it support the Phonics programmes they learn at school but it’s fun! My little boy asks me to get it out to ‘play with’.

Sensory Play  

Sensory play is beneficial and enjoyable for many children with and without special educational needs. Sensory play is play that uses children’s senses, whether it be touch, smell, sight, sound or taste. It can be extremely therapeutic for children with sensory processing disorders and or ASD. It can also be enjoyable and beneficial for children who have a visual/auditory impairments.

A good resource for touch (tactile) sensory play is Playfoam. Like other Sensory play activities it also has the potential to help develop other skills such as fine motor skills and creativity.

The SEN Resources Blog can be found here www.senresourcesblog.com, and on Facebook www.facebook.com/cheshiresentutor and Twitter www.twitter.com/cheshiresentut

Tried and Tested: Botley™ The Coding Robot Activity Set

Botley the Coding Robot Activity Set

Product: Botley™ The Coding Robot Activity Set

About Botley: Botley is a fun, friendly robot that teaches critical coding skills to children as young as five through play.  Botley is entirely screen-free.

Price: £79

Botley the Coding Robot Activity Set
Botley the Coding Robot Activity Set

Jo Moore, a reception and year 1 teacher at Snettisham Primary School in Norfolk, was asked to test Botley™ the Coding Robot Activity Set.

Botley the robot is a fun, friendly way to teach critical coding skills to children as young as five and is entirely screen-free.

After taking Botley into her school and allowing her children to play and explore the new robot by Learning Resources®, Jo Moore gives us her feedback…

How was this product used within the classroom?

I introduced ‘Botley’ to the children as a whole class carpet session. We discussed what ‘coding’ meant…’making a sequence to make something do something’ and we looked at his basic functions. We set up a little course and I gave the children the challenge to get the ball to the goal. We started off just programming in one-step instructions. Then after this we tried programming a sequence.

Botley in the classroom

After a short whole class session, I left Botley out during our coding session on the computers and children freely chose to come and play. They set up their own mazes and challenged each other to code Botley.

How did Botley support learning in the classroom?

Botley is a perfect way to introduce and develop coding with this age group (4 – 6). They absolutely loved how Botley looked and were so engaged in the activity. Everyone wanted a turn and were sad when we had to put it away for lunch! ‘Coding’ can be a tricky concept to explain to young children but is a requirement of the National Curriculum and essential for our modern technology, so Botley helps children to learn in a simple effective way.

Do you believe Botley is innovative?

Yes, I haven’t seen any other products like this that offer so many features. You can begin to teach coding with Botley but because of the range of features he offers it enables you to build on the learning and introduce more complex features and coding such as the object detection. Also, the hand held remote is a great addition as it really helped my younger children to look at the directions and position. One of them worked out they could turn the remote to match the way Botley was facing and this helped them to understand the way that he needed to go or turn.

Botley in the classroom

Do you feel Botley has a positive impact?

 I have a child in my class who does not have any speech. For her, this made the activity fully inclusive as it was so-hands on and active. She could show everyone which way she thought ‘Botley’ needed to go by showing the cards or the arrows on the remote.

Do you feel Botley supports your role as a teacher?  

Yes, it’s a fantastic resource to introduce coding to the children. They can be very hands-on and active, learning the ideas of ‘coding’ before they try more complex coding programmes on the computer or ipad. Everything comes in the box that you need so it doesn’t take any time at all to plan and set up.

What would you say are the greatest benefits of Botley, both to you as the teacher and to your students?

  • Hands-on, active
  • Easy/simple to use
  • Bright, colourful – the children loved the robot!
  • Sturdy so will not break easily using with young children
  • Covers many areas of learning from computing to maths
  • Encourages collaboration and group working

Do you feel Botley will meet your requirements to teach the National Curriculum/Early Years Foundation Stage Framework?

Yes, for the EYFS children it covers the ‘Technology’ area of ‘Understanding the World’ plus also enables them to begin to explore position and direction which features in the ‘Mathematics.’

For the National Curriculum it is perfect for the ‘Computing’ curriculum and has massive scope for how you can incorporate computing into mathematics to look at position and direction which features in ‘Geometry’.

Alongside these main strands of the EYFS and National Curriculum I also feel it helps to develop many group working skills and interacting with each other.

Botley the Coding Robot

Does Botley offer any support for SEND pupils? If yes, please explain why. 

Yes, as explained above for the little girl that I have in my class, but also because the product is so engaging and hands-on it would be perfect for many children with SEND. It is very simple to use and all the children quickly picked up on how to use it.

How would you rate the long-term appeal of Botley, both to you as the teacher, and to your students?

Very good. I would definitely purchase some of these for the school. As computing subject lead and teaching the younger children, this product is what I had been looking for.

Do you feel Botley is unique or different from other resources in the subject area? Please provide details.

Yes, I feel it is unique with the range of features offered such as the object identification and also the hand held remote. The hand held remote made it much easier to use with a whole class as it could be passed around rather than the children having to follow the robot around to be able to programme it.

How cost effective is Botley is in terms of the educational aims it achieves?

Very cost effective.  Everything comes in one box and it seems like the product would last a long time.

 These are the children’s comments:

“A very good robot.”

“Helps us learn about coding.”

“A very good friend because he helps us learn about robots and controlling.”

“‘We can control Botley with a remote which makes it easier.”

“Botley is cute. The eyes are cute and I like the colours.”

“Botley is amazing because I can make it put the ball in the goal!”

“Botley helps us to learn to share because we took it in turns.” 

The final Score

Fun factor – 5

Educational benefits – 4

Ease of use – 5