Create Your Own Happy – Learn to Relax

Create your own Happy Book

Written by Penny Alexander and Becky Goddard-Hill, Create Your Own Happy is a beautifully illustrated activity book with a nod to self-help.  Aiming to empower children with the skills and knowledge that will enable them to boost not only their own happiness and self esteem but that of those around them as well.

Create your own happy book for 7-11 year olds

As the old saying goes,

“Tell me and I will forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”

It’s all well and good telling our kids what they can do to be happy or to improve their self esteem but Becky and Penny’s book gives them practical activities and solutions to encourage them to get out there and do it themselves, as well as telling them why it works, thus developing lifelong tools to support their own mental well-being. Read More »

KS1 SATS Prep with Letts

*Commissioned post for Letts*

The start of the second half of the spring term at school signals a countdown to an array of statutory testing for many children – be it the Phonics Screening Check in Year 1, or SATs in Years 2 and 6.  The validity and benefit of each of these tests is of course a post in itself but if you have children preparing for tests later this year it stands to reason that you will want them to feel prepared and able to do their best.

This year, Chloe will take her Year 2 SATs – and I don’t expect this to phase her at all if I’m honest – her school don’t put huge amounts of pressure on their six and seven year olds and the tests are simply treated as “jobs” to do.  And, whilst I do want her to do her very best and will be pleased if this is rewarded with high scores, in reality I know that the results of the tests mean very little to the individual child.

Essentially “revising” for the Key Stage 1 SATs test isn’t something I would particularly advocate, however there is nothing wrong with doing extra work at home to reinforce what is being taught at school!  I know I loved a good workbook when I was younger and Chloe is much the same.  She was genuinely excited when I presented her with the Letts KS1 SATS Success Revision Guides for Maths and English.

KS1 SATs prep with Letts

The books are very much ‘revision’ guides, giving you a brief overview of the different topics your child is expected to know by the end of Key Stage 1.  The books are filled with tips and tricks to help your child to understand and remember the important bits of each topic alongside helpful suggestions of ways in which you can further reinforce this as a parent.  Each page also features key word definitions which as well as being helpful for your child, could be a complete lifesaver for you as a parent – things in education are so different now compared to when we were at school and the technical language our children learn can be a bit mind-blowing at times.

Lett KS1 SATs revision guides

All the information is clear and concise and laid out in a child-friendly way so that, left to their own devices, your child could probably manage to work their way through a good chunk of the revision guides by themselves.  Of course, they would get far more out of them if you sat down together and did it though as this means that you can check their understanding and address any misconceptions as they arise.

Practice KS1 SATs test questions

Throughout the books there are opportunities for your child to practice and test their knowledge as well as practice SATs style questions to work on too meaning that you can both ensure your child is confident and prepared when May arrives so that the tests just feel like any other school job, nothing to get stressed about or panicked over.

Letts workbooks for KS1

*Read more reviews here*

Make and Move Minibeasts – Review

I knew as soon as I saw Make and Move Minibeasts I knew that this was going to be one for Ben.  He loves building and creating things and has recently discovered the joy of Origami – don’t get me wrong he’s not a Japanese paper master by any stretch but he loves being able to follow the instructions and create a 3D model out of paper.

Make and Move Minibeasts

Make and Move Minibeasts by Sato Hisao contains twelve paper puppets for you to press out and play with.  The models are all ready to make so don’t need any cutting or sticking – no scissors or glue required (hurrah!).

The book is set out so that the simplest model (a grasshopper) comes first meaning you can steadily build your skills and confidence as you work your way through to the trickiest ( a stag beetle).

The first half of the book comprises of clear, colourful, step by step instructions on how to make each model with the second half of the book being made from a thin card and holding each of the models. It is bound in such a way as to ensure the whole book doesn’t just fall apart the first time you try to use it – though if your child is anything like Ben they will just want to build the full set of 12 minibeasts as soon as they can!

Make and Move Minibeasts - press out parts

Make and Move Minibeasts - clear instructions

Make and Move Minibeasts - fold to make

The book is aimed at age 6+ making it ideal for upper KS1 studying minibeasts as a topic this summer term!  Because the diagrams are supported with written instructions you might find you need to support younger children with this.  Ben is 7 and a half and had no trouble whatsoever with following the instructions and making the first few models in the book.  I’m sure his experience of LEGO building probably had something to do with that!

We found the models to be of really good quality, Ben was able to press the parts out without damaging them and put them together to creat surprisingly sturdy minibeasts with moving parts.

Make and Move Minibeasts - grasshopper & spider models

Ben loves the Make and Move Minibeats so much he’s decided he’s going to buy himself Make and Move Robots too!

* We were provided with a copy of Make and Move Minibeasts free of charge for the purposes of review.  All thoughts and opinions remain my own*

*Read more reviews here*

Draw & Discover books – Review

Draw & Discover - having a go

At the moment Chloe is super keen on anything to do with drawing and colouring in.  She’s suddenly discovered a real love of it and will spend huge amounts of time carefully choosing her colours and doing her work to the very best of her ability (and getting suitably cross with herself if she makes a mistake.)  The latest offering from best selling children’s author & illustrator Yasmeen Ismail, “Draw & Discover” activity books are aimed at inquisitive children age 4-7 and I was sure they would appeal to Chloe.

Draw & Discover

Due for release at the start of February, the Draw and Discover series features two books “Push, Pull, Empty, Full” and “Inside, Outside, Upside Down” – each book features simple text and instructions to guide children on an adventure through 30 fun colour and drawing activities.

As it turns out the Draw & Discover books are a hit with both Ben and Chloe.  I love that they give both structure and freedom – sometimes a blank piece of paper to write or draw on can be a bit daunting.  The Draw & Discover series gives you some guidance to get you going but your only limit after that is your own imagination!  (Or in my case a complete lack of artistic talent!)

Draw & Discover

Draw & Discover - having a go

*We were sent the Draw & Discover books free of charge for the purposes of review.  All thoughts and opinions remain our own*

*Read more reviews here*

Oxford Children’s Books Christmas Titles – Review

Books make such a great gift – especially for children who may well end up overwhelmed with exciting toys this Christmas.  This Christmas, Oxford Children’s Books have a fantastic selection of festive picture book titles ready to solve your gift giving dilemmas!

Christmas Picture Books - Oxford University Press

Greatest Animal Stories, chosen by Michael Morpurgo (£12.99)

I am completely in love with this collection of animal stories chosen by award-winning children’s writer and former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo.  It’s beautifully illustrated and the stories are the perfect length for a bedtime story or for Ben to read to himself.  This is the sort of book I could imagine keeping in my classroom to dip into just before home time!

Inside "Greatest Animal Stories" - Morpurgo

Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa, by Valerie Thomas illustrated by Korky Paul (£12.99)

I loved Winnie the Witch as a child so I was excited to see what Chloe thought of this book!  (According to the sleeve, Winnie & Wilbur have been delighting readers since 1987 . . . I feel old).

The festive pictures are busy and exciting with plenty of things to look at and discuss as Winnie and Wilbur come to the rescue of Santa who is, rather predictably, stuck up the chimney!  The special pop-up at the end of the story is a lovely surprise too!

Inside "Winnie and Wilbur meet Santa"

Walking in a Winter Wonderland written by Richard B Smith, illustrated by Tim Hopgood (£12.99)

We all know Peggy Lee’s iconic song “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”, you can hardly get through a December day without it ringing through your ears at some point.  This book brings the song lyrics to life with the most gorgeous illustrations.  I defy you to read this book out loud without breaking into song (and just in case you need a little music to accompany your singalong, the book comes with it’s very one Walking in a Winter Wonderland CD)

Walking in a Winter Wonderland CD

Inside "Walking in a Winter Wonderland"

The Mouse That Cancelled Christmas by Madeleine Cook illustrated by Samara Hardy (£6.99)

This paperback offering is the perfect festive bedtime story, with super cute illustrations, a little bit of counting and plenty of humour all with a nod to the seasonal traditions which make Christmas Christmas!

Inside "The Mouse that Cancelled Christmas"

A Dot in the Snow by Corrinne Averiss illustrated by Fiona Woodcock (£11.99) 

From the outset my girls were drawn to the glitter on the front cover of this story – I don’t blame them, who can resist a bit of festive glitter?  This book is not so much Christmas-themed as Winter-themed which I really liked as, much as I love Christmas, you can only read them for a few weeks of the year (or at least we do – I think it keeps it special that way)

Inside "A Dot in the Snow"

*We were sent this selection of books free of charge for the purposes of review.  All thoughts and opinions remain our own. This post contains affiliate links*

*Read more reviews here*

Orchard Toys Colouring & Activity Books – Review

Regular readers will know we have been fans of Orchard Toys for many a year (in fact you can read all of our previous reviews here).  The brightly coloured, high quality games always well thought out, educational family fun – besides being fabulous for playing at home, you will also find them in many an EYFS / KS1 classroom!  Ben and Chloe love their ever growing collection of Orchard Toys games and for me, the fact that they can play them independently or as a family is a big bonus.  Even Amy can join in with some of the simpler games and is just starting to do some of the easier 2 and 3 piece jigsaws by herself.
The latest addition to the Orchard Toys range is a collection of colouring & activity books.  I knew immediately that Chloe would love them. Since starting school she has been fairly obsessed with phonics and loves spending time doing her homework – the opportunity for further practise in glossy activity books was always going to be a winner.
The team at Orchard Toys sent Chlo a selection of the range to try out; ABC, Number and First Words – each of these books is aimed at age 4+.  (There’s currently three other books in the range which are either 3+ or 5+ and look equally gorgeous.)
As soon as I held the books in my hand, I was impressed by the quality of them.  The glossy finish, the print quality, the thickness of the paper all go together to make a really appealing book.  I know as a child I would have been really excited by these books and keen to make sure I did my best work so as not to spoil them! (Remember the joy at a new exercise book at school?  I still get that now!)
Orchard Toys colouring and activity books
Each book contains 24 high quality pages designed, as you would expect from Orchard Toys, with education in mind. Bold images, stickers and familiar Orchard Toys characters are the order of the day. Chloe was more than capable of completing the tasks without support – it was clear what she was expected to do, be it colouring in carefully, tracing letters and numbers or adding stickers.  She was happy to indulge her new found love of colouring in and took care to trace the letters and numbers whilst reading them out loud to me.  At 4 and a half, Chloe is pretty capable when it comes to her literacy and numeracy.  These books are not going to teach Chloe anything new so much as help her to practise and reinforce what she already knows in a really enjoyable way.  And let’s face it, repetition is vital at her age!
These books are absolutely gorgeous and well worth the premium price – I think they’d make fabulous gifts and Chloe agrees!


*Disclaimer – We were sent these Orchard Toys colouring & activity books free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

*Read more reviews here*

Lonely Planet Kids – Review & Giveaway

Lonely Planet are a well established, trusted brand of travel books loved the world over and famed for offering nuggets of information which might be brushed over by other books.  What I didn’t know was that they also have a sister brand; Lonely Planet Kids, aimed at kick-starting the travel bug in children from an early age.  I love the idea of developing an early lust for travel and exploration in children!  There is so much to discover if only we’d step off our own front door step.

  - Lonely Planet Kids

Ben was sent a selection of Lonely Planet Kids books which he was super excited about – you can see what he thinks about them here:

So now you’ve seen what Ben thinks about his books, it’s my turn to share my thoughts with you.

The Travel Book (Ben doesn’t mention this book in his video)

My own geography and knowledge of the world is pretty poor so I found this book really interesting myself.  I love the way the book is laid out in a really friendly and accessible way – small snippets of information that can be dipped into.  This is great for more reluctant readers as it’s not too overwhelming and I think it makes for great conversation starters as you read together.  The sheer number of interesting and random facts really appeals to Ben!  He loves a good “Did you know . . . ?”

You Rule!

This book is laid out in such a way as to give you all the information you need to start and run your own country.  I love this sneaky way of actually teaching you all about how countries are ruled and managed with sections focusing on Border Security, Migration / Immigration and Democracy.  The tone of the book is really chatty and friendly but gives a lot of really detailed information at the same time.  The teacher in me loves this!!

You Rule! - Lonely Planet Kids

Adventures Around the Globe – World Atlas

This special edition Atlas is designed to introduce young readers to the continents with a beautifully illustrated map along with all sorts of activities and stickers to really help them get involved.  I think this is particularly great for those kinesthetic learners who learn more by doing.

How to be an international SPY

Obviously as soon as this book arrived I knew Ben was going to be thrilled with it – who wouldn’t want to learn about being an international spy!  It’s the coolest thing ever!  Obviously we can’t share all the details of the book with you . . . it’s a secret!

How to be an international spy - Lonely Planet Kids

We love this selection of Lonely Planet Kids books and think they would make for great Christmas presents!  They’re so exciting and interesting for kids but full of information too.

*Disclaimer – We were sent the books free of charge for the purposes of review and have been compensated for our time however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

*Read more reviews here*

Sparkup: The Magical Book Reader – Review

Being as how this product is a bit techy I gladly handed it over to Dave to set up so he has done the review for you as well! 


One of the things I enjoy most about being a dad is reading to Ben, Chloe and Amy. It’s lovely to have their undivided attention and both Ben and Chloe snuggle into me as I read. I have no doubt Amy will be the same. That feeling is one of the things that get me through the tough times. I’ve always wanted to read to my kids. Before I was even really sure if I wanted any children, I knew that I wanted to read to them if they ever came into being.  Being read to is one of my earliest memories, sitting with my mum as she read a book to me. I can’t even remember the story, just the feeling of happily drifting off into a fantastic land. It’s no surprise I became a keen reader. Something Colette and I both share and try to pass onto the kids.

With that being said I completely understand the point of this product. If you’re away from your kids a lot then this might just keep them a little happier in your absence. No substitute for actually being there but even if it just means they don’t forget your voice then that’s something.

I’ll say right now that this isn’t something we would have bought. I’m not giving up reading when I am here and I’m rarely away for more than a night but as I said above I get it if your situation is different.

SparkUp Magical book reader
Sparkup: The Magical Book Reader

Anyway on with actual reviewing. The Sparkup is a camera and recording system that you clip to a book of your choice that will read the story to your kids as they turn the pages. You record what’s on each page and the camera takes a picture and ties your recording to that picture. Hey presto! Show it a page and it’ll read back to you.  Without fault in my experience. The bonus of this personal system, aside from your own voice reading to your nippers, is you can be creative and tie it to your kids by mentioning them or something they like which tallies with what’s on the page. All good stuff.

Actually using the Sparkup is a fairly straight forward process once you’ve got past the long winded explanation the device announces to you on first use. You can’t skip this. Which is a pain if you’ve already read the manual. You can re-record any pages that you don’t fancy after reviewing them with the press of a button. If you’re anything like me then you’ll feel a bit of a berk performing to a inanimate object. Especially if you’ve got Colette giggling at you from the couch and spoiling your flow!  That feeling passes pretty quickly though.

Using the system is pretty straightforward. I fairly quickly recorded the book we had been sent without too many hiccups. I messed up the recordings once or twice (most likely due to giggling!) but overall the experience was stress free. The kids really enjoyed using the Sparkup. Straight after their first try they asked me to record more books which is a strong vote in its favour. I think it’s a well executed device and I recommend it for people who need something to read to their kids. Other than themselves that is.

Just to add in my two pence worth . . . whilst I agree with Dave that the Sparkup isn’t something that would be used especially regularly in our house as we do really enjoy the experience of sharing books with your children and talking to them about the stories we are reading.  I can see other uses.  Children benefit from hearing lots of different voices telling stories so it would be lovely to have Granny, Grandad, Aunty Nic, Uncle Will and so on and so forth recording a variety of books for them to hear.  I also think that as Ben is really enjoying learning to read now it would be quite cool to have him do his own recordings to listen back to – so he could hear his own storytelling voice. 

To my mind this would be a lovely gift this Christmas for a family where one or both parents often miss bedtime due to work commitments or, if like so many of my friends, you have nieces, nephews or grandchildren who live abroad.  How wonderful to be able to send to Sparkup, along with a selection of books, pre-recorded with lots of lovely bedtime stories for when they are missing you?

We're going on an adventure

*Disclaimer – We were sent the Sparkup free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions are our own*

*Read more reviews here*