Thursday, 30 August 2012

Apps for toddlers

This, I take it, is a bit of a controversial issue and to be honest, if Reuben had not been using the ipad already I don't think it would have occurred to me to give it to Isaac (who is two and a half). But as ipads feature prominently in this household, as well as computers, cameras, smartphones and similar, and I don't like to limit my children's experiences (we are autonomous/child led educators), they are used quite a lot and I never have had reason to worry as my children use them as just one of the tools at their disposal and are not obsessive with them.

So this is a list of apps (in no particular order) that Isaac in particular really enjoys (all available from the app store on your iphone or ipad, and android often has a twin version).

  • Anything with Dora the explorer or the spin off Diego. These are interactive stories with puzzles to solve to allow the story to continue.

  • Disney digital books, interactive stories, we have Toy Story, Nemo, Mickey's spooky night puzzle book, Pooh's birthday surprise, Winnie the Pooh puzzle book
  • It's a small world. From Disney this is a really lovely trip round the world on a balloon app to charming images and music
  • From Ladybird, Happy babies and Peekaboo. For very young children, touch and discover where the animals and their babies are, very sweet, Isaac still likes it!

  • Dr Seuss books and games. We have a lot of the books, Isaac's favourite is Oh say can you say dinosaur. Isaac also likes the music app Dr Seuss band and the colouring one

  • Monkey preschool lunch box. A collection of matching games involving numbers and colours, this was really popular with my boys and my stepchildren
  • Boowa and Kwala. A spin off from the website which is a bit too difficult for Isaac but the apps are nice. We have the circus and the farm one. It's a little journey with games and songs through a farm and a circus, French and English options, Isaac seems to like both!

  • In the night garden. Very sweet app from the Cbeebies programme
  • Peppa Pig. I must confess we have all of them and Isaac likes them all...
  • iWriteWords. Handwriting app that Isaac very stubbornly tries to do!

  • ClikyStickyTrains. He LOVES this one. Make your own train and watch it go. There are more in the series, we also have the cars and Christmas ones
I'm sure there's more as Reuben has flooded the ipad with apps and Isaac gives them all a try but I think these are the ones he uses more often. Ok, now off to play in the sand pit!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Make a Pop-up book

Pop-up cards and books are addictive!!! Reuben wanted to make a small card for his daddy and next thing we knew we were making a pop-up castle half as big as the table.

Our first attempt

Wizard of Oz from a template
A very good one stop website with instructions and templates to download is Robert Sauda's the artist and children's books illustrator. And the cards can be put together to make a book.
Here are some examples, the pop-ups are divided into simple, intermediate and advanced.

Advanced: Ship pop-up

Intermediate: Shark pop-up

Simple: Rabbit pop-up
Or you can get a ready made kit like the Creativity for Kids one.

Britannica Kids apps

We use the iPad a lot and the boys came across a Dinosaur app by Britannica Kids. It's a bit advanced for them (nearly 3 and 5, it's aimed at ages 8 to 10) but they still enjoy looking at the pictures of dinosaurs and doing the puzzles.

It's divided into different categories: The World of Dinosaurs - Dinosaur Characteristics - Death of the Dinosaurs - Discovering the Dinosaurs - Dinosaurs A-Z (featuring 36 different dinosaurs) and there is a good games and quiz section. The pictures are great too, scary but the boys like that!!

So this led me to find out if there were any more apps from Britannica and of course there are! They can be used with both smartphones/tablets and the pc/laptop, and tie in with the Britannica Kids website (note: the encyclopedia is subscription only but there are a lot of other resources on the website).
A list of the apps can be found here and this includes The solar system, Knights and castles, Egypt, Ancient Rome, Rainforests, Volcanoes, Snakes and the Aztecs

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Project Noah

This is a very worthwhile, educational and fun project to get involved in. Share pictures of wildlife and plants to help document our planet's biodiversity.

It works through a smartphone app with linking website and facebook page.

You can take pictures on your phone then post them to compare with similar ones, to add to the database or for others to help you identify the animal/plant. You can help identify organisms yourself, join missions and help build up a worldwide map.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Cardboard Swords

As a life long pacifist I knew this moment would eventually come, and it wasn't so bad! Reuben watched a cartoon version of the Three Musketeers and, as usual, he watches something and takes inspiration/wants to experience the things he liked in real life. So of course the question arose: Mummy can we make some swords so I can challenge you to a duel?
The safest thing seemed to be cardboard so off we went to the craft corner, this was the result:

Not quite d'Artagnan... but good for a four and a half year old

Cardboard reinforced at the back (with another two strips of cardboard, cross shape) lots of silver foil and a mountain of sellotape to keep it together. The duel? Scary stuff... I kept losing my weapon!

Facebook page

I sometimes post snappier stuff or the odd photo on the Facebook page so if you are on Facebook why not get the complete Science and Fairies experience?

Knebworth House and gardens

This is a real favourite with the boys! Not so much the house (yet, although Reuben did express an interest) but the gardens with the maze and dinosaur park.

From their website ( One of England's most beloved stately homes, Knebworth House is famous worldwide for its rock concerts and as the home of Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer Lytton - author of the words "The pen is mightier than the sword" - this beautiful Gothic mansion is situated 29 miles north of London off the A1(M) at Stevenage.

Isaac spots baby t-rex

Running around the bandstand


One of the gorgeous Knebworth carvings, for sale, a modest 15k!

Running down the hill

The name Knebworth is familiar to me for the rock concerts (Led Zep anyone?) so I was very surprised to find that the house and gardens are open during the Summer and there's a lot for children to do. There is an adventure playground at one end of the grounds with a miniature railway but the boys weren't really interested. What they loved was the top part of the grounds with the house nestled in like a fairy tale castle. The cafe is good and we had a nice lunch there, we got lost in the maze, ran up and down hills, enjoyed the gorgeous carvings scattered round the gardens and of course loved the dinosaur park which looks a bit like a zoo but with dinosaurs... statues of course!

Friday, 17 August 2012

The power of conversation

We use a lot of different resources (hence this blog!) in our everyday life and learning journey but today, as I was driving with the boys to a science park (and Reuben was chatting away, trying to make sense of how rainbows are made), I realised that probably the most important thing of all is all the talking we do, all the trying to make sense of things. Sometimes I know the answers and sometimes I don't but it is when we talk things through that the boys vocalise their thoughts, pull things together, realise when something doesn't make sense, ask more questions, we might then search for things in Google and talk some more, experiment and still talk some more. It's a real conversation, not an adult imparting knowledge on a child, I feel.

I enjoy this process enormously but it also makes me quite sad for the child I was, my experience of being in school meant that I was silenced for all the hours I was there (and at home too as homework could not be questioned either), there were no conversations, no trying to make sense of things together, just a dumb acceptance of what the teachers said and unpleasant consequences if any questioning did arise (I still remember refusing to kill any insects for a science project... my teachers weren't happy...).
I often look at the boys and all the joy they get out of learning and think about how important human relationships and respectful communication are to the acquisition of real, long-lasting knowledge, the power of conversation indeed!

The Unschooling Unmanual

This is a truly lovely and inspirational book, edited by Jan and Jason Hunt, the people behind the Natural child project

It is not a guide or manual (as the title suggests) but a collection of writings and quotes on the topic of Unschooling. You don't have to be an unschooler to read it, it is a fascinating insight into how children learn and it challenges perceived ideas that children are passive learners and need teachers to show them how and what to learn. I think this would be of interest to anyone wanting to see how child directed learning works in practice.

I particularly like the passage by Earl Stevens:

"When people ask, 'What do you do?' my answer is that we follow our interests - and our interests inevitably lead to science, literature, history, mathematics, music - all the things that have interested people before anybody thought of them as 'subjects.'

"A large component of unschooling is grounded in doing real things, not because we hope they will be good for us, but because they are intrinsically fascinating. There is an energy that comes from this that you can't buy with a curriculum. Children do real things all day long, and in a trusting and supportive home environment, "doing real things" invariably brings about healthy mental development and valuable knowledge. It is natural for children to read, write, play with numbers, learn about society, find out about the past, think, wonder and do all those things that society so unsuccessfully attempts to force upon them in the context of schooling."

We got our copy from Amazon but you can also get it direct from the NCP website

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Cbeebies Art magazine

We have a ridiculous amount of fun with this magazine, we never do what we are supposed to (meaning following their instructions), instead I let the boys loose with the materials, scissors and glue to some great results. It is aimed to 4 to 6 year olds but Isaac who is 2 and a half has just as much fun!

We get it monthly from our local newsagent or you can subscribe here

Yoga cards to download

Following on from our yoga post, Reuben asked me for some pictures of other children doing yoga so we found these sets online to download and print.

Featuring a little boy, available in English/Italian and English/French

Featuring a little girl, download from a Flick photostream

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Wai Lana Yoga

A couple of years ago I came across Wai Lana's Little Yogis DVD and Reuben fell in love with it, I had never heard of her but I gather she is a TV personality in North America with her yoga programme (and lover of colourful clothes and much make up).

I am recommending it because this is one of the most watched DVDs in the house! I have always practised yoga and Reuben used to do a little with me when he was a toddler, but having their own DVD they can stop and start as they please (with lots of cute children and nice songs and animations) has made the boys really motivated. We also have the yoga mat that goes with it so Reuben can practise on his own (and he does!!)

More information on Wai Lana can be found on her website as well as a huge range of yoga related products, this is a US website but we got the DVD from Amazon and the mat from YogaStudio

The Usborne Complete Book of Art ideas

I can't recommend this book enough, it's divided into Art Ideas, Skills and Projects and we have been able to open at random and give it all a go.

The boys are very interested in different techniques, I studied Art for many years at high school and college so I like to be reminded of long lost projects (tissue paper painting?). There is an overview of techniques, materials and ideas. Our favourite remains watercolour! This book works very well for structured education and lesson plans (each topic is covered in the two page spread) and is equally great for an autonomous approach as children can look through it and pick and choose the bits they find interesting.


As you know we are great fairy lovers, especially Reuben. Here are some fairy related pictures and things we made:

Fairy dressing up at Hesfes

Reuben's puppet fairy, hand made by us

Card and tissue paper wings

Reuben counting his Pixie Hollow fairies

Our first attempt at puppet fairies

Fairies on sticks

Not strictly fairies, butterflies on sticks

Still not strictly fairies, pop up angel book

Paper wings

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Some of our art projects

These are some of the art/craft projects the boys (mainly Reuben) have worked on recently. We very rarely plan what we are going to do, the boys like to root around in the art corner (all materials are available to them) and try things out, sometimes they know exactly what they want to do or they look through books to get ideas from or just mess about and see what happens. If I think they'd like something in particular I might sit down and do it myself, sometimes they do it too, sometimes they don't. But it's always fun and they tend to spend some time in the art corner every day.

Make up painting. I drew the big face and the boys applied the (watercolour) make up

This is one of Isaac's (2 and a half), he painted the background with watercolours then stuck on some dinosaur foam stickers

Lego fish in the (tissue paper) sea

A bit of a cheat as me made this from a kit! But we were in Cornwall in the caravan and really wanted to make a sail boat

Play Clay. I think this was supposed to be a rescue boat as we had been to the Maritime museum that morning

Decorating the caravan

iPad art

Reuben's iPad art

Butterfly mask, really easy to make: Reuben drew the pattern on card, coloured it and I cut it out + put some elastic string around it.

The result of Reuben let loose in his daddy's studio. I gave him the little canvas and he used pastels, oil crayons and drip acrylic paint

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