Learning Success System: Help Your Child To Thrive! (Review and Giveaway)

Have you heard of the The Learning Success System before? It is an educational programme that helps children develop the key skills they need for learning. Whilst this is especially beneficial to those with SEND, the activities are actually useful for any child. It is available at the discounted reader price of $197 for a 12 month subscription, with a 90 day guarantee. You can purchase it here.*

How Does It Work?

In Brief…

It uses various approaches to overcoming learning difficulties, using new findings in neuroscience, as well as tried and tested techniques developed by experts in the field. New exercises are delivered daily via email, and there is also a support forum too.

The More Technical Details…

The first principle of the Learning Success System is small steps. In Japanese culture, it’s called Kaizen. It comes from the idea that crash learning doesn’t work, at least not long-term; continuous improvement over time is more effective. Therefore the tasks are only brief but to work well, the programme should be carried out regularly, although the exact amount in terms of length of time and frequency are flexible. Tasks can be approached in the way that works best for your child/ family.

In summary, the programme works on the following strategies for better learning:

Build up micro-skills

Trigger neuroplasticity

Build confidence

Brain integration

Build grit

The exercises focus on developing different skills such as working memory, auditory discrimination, cross- lateral coordination and other skills that help across many areas of learning. Find out more info here.

The Learning Success blog, The Learning Success System, SEND, learning skills, educational resources, home education, homeschool, online education programme, learning difficulties, discount

The Verdict

The exercises are quick and simple, but also fun and engaging. They are all very much active learning techniques, not passive teaching. (This is a good thing!) If you do find the activities are starting to get abit dry after a while, you can easily be creative and adapt them to make them more interesting. As an ex teacher and SENCo, I have experienced the benefits of using exercises such as these in the classroom too and feel they do help alot of children.

I have also been told about some of the upcoming new features. I can’t share that information with you yet, as it is top secret still at the moment… but I will tell you they sound very exciting and I am looking forward to checking them out!

Further Information

There is a huge wealth of information over on The Learning Success Blog.

They also have an online dyslexia test with detailed report, which some people might find useful.


One lucky reader can win a 12 month subscription to The Learning Success System. Enter via rafflecopter below. Competition closes 27th March 2018. Open worldwide. Other T&Cs apply.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Post contains affiliate links. This means I get a fee for each person that signs up, this does not cost the buyer anything extra. Thank you for supporting me in this way!

Disclosure: I was given a free subscription for the purpose of this review and giveaway.

Mud & Bloom Nature Crafts and Gardening Subscription Box: Review, Discount Code and Giveaway

Mud & Bloom is a fab new monthly subscription box for nature lovers. Each month the box contains two seasonal activities; a gardening activity and a nature craft. There are also quizzes, spotting cards, information sheets and so on. The boxes include everything you need to complete the activities, except occasionally for everyday items that would generally be around the home anyway, such as finding some kind of pot for planting – a yogurt pot or other such item would suffice. It is aimed at approximately 3- 8 year olds and costs £7.95 per month with free UK shipping.

Mud and Bloom nature crafts and gardening subscription box - image of contents

About The Creator

This lovely idea came from a mum of 2 young children, Anja, and was inspired by her love of nature. The activities have been created by qualified teachers and are influenced by various educational approaches.

About The Box

The box I reviewed (February) contained the following activities; grow your own cherry tomatoes, grow your own basil and paint your own pebbles. (This doesn’t get old even if you have done it before!) The only things we needed to get ourselves were the actual rocks and pots for planting, plus a plastic bag.

It also contains a nature spotters activity for things you might see in February, which is a nice little activity to do whilst outdoors on a nature walk. (And might encourage you and your littlies to venture out in the cold even if you don’t usually!)

A Sample Activity

We have only done the grow your own basil activity so far. (Squiggle is still unwell and hasn’t felt up to it but was keen for me not to do it without her!) It was a simple activity that children of any age can enjoy doing.

Grow your own basil - mud and bloom - packet of seeds and instruction card image.

The instructions are detailed but still written in a straightforward way. They are well explained and easy to read/ follow. They are high quality and very well produced in my opinion!

Image of Squiggle reading grow your own basil instruction card.

I liked the fact that it came with soil pellets that are part of the fun – and save messing around bringing soil in from the garden!

You just put them in warm water for 10- 15 minutes and they expand. I used that time to grab the stuff we needed (pots and a plastic bag) while Squiggle watched them grow.

An image of everything needed for grow your own basil. Soil pellets expanding in water.

Squiggle did find it tricky to get the seeds in the hole – you would think we have never planted seeds before! However it would be very simple if she had been carefully pinching a few seeds from her hand or the packet with thumb and forefinger, rather than just pouring them – I would think this goes without saying generally though of course, she just wasn’t quite with it bless her!

Our Verdict

We really like these boxes! The packaging has been carefully thought out to avoid waste wherever possible. The activities are good for a range of ages and are still fun if you have done them before. The instructions are clear and everything about the contents feels high quality. I personally feel they are reasonable value for money given the price includes postage and the subscription is flexible; it can be stopped or paused anytime. They get a thumbs up from us!

Discount Code

For 50% off your first box please use the code LIVINGLIFEOURWAY


One lucky reader can win a 3 month subscription to Mud & Bloom. Enter via rafflecopter below. UK only. Ends 25th March 2018. T&Cs apply. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Disclosure: I received a 3 month subscription in exchange for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Five Fabulous Reasons To Go Skiing

I have a confession. I am 38 and have never been skiing. It was never high on my list of my priorities to be honest. (Although I suspect this might be because my parents tried to convince me I wouldn’t like it when I was growing up, due to the expense!) However, Squiggle has asked me several times to go skiing and it has got me thinking… am I missing out? More to the point, I don’t want her to miss out; surely I should provide her with the opportunity to try it out if she desires? So I asked some friends and fellow bloggers why they love skiing and what the benefits are. And it would appear there are several great reasons to go skiing…

5 fabulous reasons to go skiing title with beautiful scenic picture of skiing underneath.


This has to be at the top of the list. It was an almost unanimous response from everyone who was asked what they love most about skiing. And I can understand why. You only have to google the word skiing to see a whole mass of phenomenal scenic photos. Who could resist those glorious picturesque views?

“The views are incredible, the air is so incredibly fresh, the sound of skis on fresh powdery snow is one of a kind and I love how skiing makes you feel so free and exhilarated!” ~ Hello Baby Blog

It’s An All- Inclusive Sport

I am sure we all know why doing any sport is good for us and carries a range of benefits; certainly I have written before about why sports are so important. Skiing however, as a sport has its own unique benefits. As Blissful Domestication points out, it is a sport you can take part in just once a year and still improve on!

It is also good for SEND children (and adults), as Tickets, Passports, Kids explains: “I believe it’s rather sensory… I believe the snow takes the edge off the sounds he hears, plus the helmet makes everything quieter. I believe he hears the world so loudly, that the snow makes it easier for him to hear. Plus, it’s not a team sport.” Indeed, I can see exactly why it might be so beneficial for some autistic people for these reasons.

As I read and speak to people about it more, I do notice that whilst skiing and other snow sports might not seem like obviously the most SEND-friendly sport to take part in by nature, in reality it is quite advanced in its level of awareness and is therefore very accomodating; alot of effort has been made to make adjustments and adapt the sport to meet a wide range of needs and disabilities. (This is a generalisation of course, as with anything, individual’s experiences will vary greatly).

In summary, skiing is an inclusive sport that is suitable for all ages and abilities. Awesome!

Skiier skiing down mountain slope with beautiful scenic snow mountains in background.

The Recreational Side of Skiing

Another popular reason to go skiing is actually not about the activity itself; people often value the recreational aspect of it just as much. Cosy evenings in together, sharing a bottle of wine whilst surrounded by breathtaking views or enjoying a hot chocolate in the open air – there is far more to skiing than just… skiing! It is even a good opportunity to make new friends too!

Travel Opportunities

Having a passion for skiing also then sparks the desire to travel to ski resorts in beautiful new locations that you might otherwise not have a chance to visit. Travelling for a specific purpose, such as skiing, offers a great incentive to get saving for the next trip!

Life is an Adventure

Last but not least, skiing is an adventure! Discovering new places, trying new activities, exploring new locations… it is all part of the wonder and excitement of living life to the full! And there is no better reason to give it a try than that!

A close up picture of a skiier skiing on snow

Things To Consider

Skiing can be expensive but even if you can’t afford to go to a fancy ski resort, there are lots of indoor snow centres around where you can still take part in the activity on real snow. Some people like to try it out or have a few lessons before their first ski trip, so it might be worth checking if there is one near you. Of course, there are still dry ski slopes around too as another alternative. I hear some people say this doesn’t quite compare to skiing on real snow, which I can imagine is very true. But it is another option nonetheless.

In most places there is equipment available to hire. But even if it doesn’t become a serious hobby, you will still need some essentials in order to be dressed for the weather, so of course you will need to invest in the right gear! If you are looking to buy ski clothes and accessories, Simply Hike have a lovely range of ski wear and accessories, including some gorgeous womens ski jackets. Don’t forget those googles too!

A lady (blogger Kiki Blah Blah) standing outside in the snow in her ski outfit.
Kiki Blah Blah

Happy skiing!

Thanks to The Money Whisperer, All About A Mummy, Pink Pear Bear, Kiki Blah Blah and Truly Madly Kids for your helpful insights and contributions to this post.

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Fun Ways to Get Children Active Outdoors

In this day and age, children have grown up with technology. Smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and instant access to the internet is completely normal to them – meaning it’s a different world from when we grew up. While technology is fantastic, it does mean it can be difficult to get kids outdoors. When they have the world at their fingertips they’re less interested in running around outdoors than previous generations have been. But it’s so important to get them away from their devices and outside, learning about the real world and what matters. Here’s how you can go about it…

 Fun Ways to Get Children Active Outdoors title with image of child throwing leaves

Get Them Involved in the Garden

Gardening is an active hobby, and also teaches children patience. It shows if you work hard now, something fantastic will grow later on. It shows them the importance of daily care and nurturing of the garden, helping to develop empathy for the natural world around them. They will also learn about things like soils, types of crops, fertiliser and much more.

Since the growing season is relatively short in most places, it’s worth investing in a greenhouse to stretch this out as long as possible. If you have an old dilapidated one in your back garden, you could bring it back to life with some new sheeting for your greenhouse and a good clean. Choose some crops that are easy to grow in your climate zone, and then work your way up to more difficult ones. Children are more likely to try foods that they’ve grown too, so could be a good way to encourage healthier eating.

Take Them Camping

Camping is a cheap and cheerful vacation that all the family can enjoy, and is a great way to get kids outdoors. From putting up tents to building dens, and generally running around and having fun, it’s a great way to get kids outdoors and away from their screens without it feeling like a chore. You could stay in a tent, an RV or more of a glamping experience in a ‘pod’- check out local campsites and see what kind of things are available. If you go away with friends and their children it could be a fun bonding experience too.

Two children outdoors studying something on the ground next to a pond.

Go on Hikes

Hiking is a great way to keep your family fit; even if you have younger children you could simply pick an easier hiking trail. You get to observe nature, you could print out fun worksheets from Pinterest and do a fun nature trail, take photos or look at birds and wildlife through binoculars. You could collect items such as feathers, pine cones and interesting pebbles, then use them to craft with later on. Or see if your local area does rock hunting even!

Make these walks fun, keep the conversation light and upbeat, and encourage them to really get into it. Even during the colder months, simply wrap up warm and wear wellies to keep your feet dry. If you have a dog you could take them along too, or alternatively you could all take your bikes out and follow biking trails instead.

Find An Outdoor Sport Or Hobby

There are lots of outdoor sports and hobbies that encourage children to have fun outdoors. From water sports and team games, to geogaching or traditional orienteering, there are many examples of lovely activities that will inspire children to spend time outside.

Another example is fishing; this isn’t just a fun hobby, there’s plenty that it can teach children. One of the main being patience, this isn’t a skill many children (or adults for that matter) are blessed with, and it’s something that could come in useful to them throughout their lives. Learning that good things come to those who wait and practicing calm and patience during uncertainty is a fantastic lesson.

*This is a collaborative post.

Dicovery Channel Smart Phone Telescope and Smart Phone Microscope Review: Educational Resources – STEM Science

Over the past couple of days, we have been having fun trying out two Discovery Channel products; a smartphone microscope and telescope. I was kindly sent both of these items to review from Paladone. Here are my thoughts…

Dicovery Channel Smart Phone Telescope and Smart Phone Microscope Review: Educational Resources - STEM Science

Discovery Channel Smartphone Telescope

RRP £19.99 (Buy here via Amazon)


Capture images from a greater distance than ever before with a standard smartphone or tablet camera using this 11.5cm telescope with an incredible 10x zoom. The Discovery Smartphone Telescope can be easily clipped onto the phone/ tablet and has a mini stand to steady it further.


I found this abit fiddly to use with my particular phone (Samsung Galaxy S8+) as it took a few minutes to get it aligned. When I tried to adjust the lens it then slipped again. However, perhaps it is easier to use on different make/ model phones or other devices.

Discovery Channel Smartphone Telescope

I was abit disappointed to discover it didn’t seem to work in the dark, unless I was doing something wrong maybe? But I did expect a telescope could be used at night to study the stars to be honest.

However, I decided to try to spot Santa in his sleigh indoors under artificial light instead, to see how it fared under those conditions. I used the telescope from about 5 metres away and found it zoomed in very well, it lost a fair amount of quality to say the least, but it did the job of making it seem closer up.

I think it would probably be better to invest in an actual telescope but this does make an interesting novelty item. It is ok for exploring the principle of telescopes and discussing how they work.

Dicovery Channel Smart Phone Telescope in use - photo on phone vs telescope

Discovery Channel Smartphone Microscope

RRP £9.99 (Purchase from Amazon here)


This microscope smartphone lens captures images in microscopic detail and is compatible with most smartphone cameras. The lens has a powerful 30x zoom, enabling you to capture images with your camera phone in great detail.


I really liked this smartphone microscope. It aligned easily on my phone and worked well under a range of conditions, including in the dark. See the photo below for an example; it is of ice particles and was taken outdoors at night under the microscope.

Ice particles under the microscope

I tested it out using different items, including man-made materials and natural items too. I compared it to the zoom on my phone and was really impressed with the detail and quality!

Discovery Channel Smart Phone Microscope: comparison of photo taken on phone with no zoom, zoomed in on phone vs microscope.

In summary, I think this is really good value for money and works very well. It is definitely worth buying in my opinion!

Discovery Channel Smart Phone Microscope - leaf under the microscope.

*Disclosure: I was sent both of these items for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Carmel Industries Review – Paint Markers, Paint Crayons and Damp Erase Markers

Carmel Industries got in touch with me to see if I would like to review some of their range of markers. Since we do alot of creative activities at home, I was more than happy to test them out!

Selection of Carmel Industries Paint Markers, Paint Crayons and Damp Erase Markers.

Initially I thought these would be child-friendly wipe clean markers that Squiggle could use, that we would be able to use for educational purposes. However, when they arrived, I realised these are not intended for children; they are actually heavy duty industrial ones! So I reviewed them myself from a more general creative perspective. Here is what I thought…

Faint picture of markers as background to title 'Carmel Industries Review - Paint Markers, Paint Crayons and Damp Erase Markers'

Paint Markers and Paint Crayons

These can be used on a range of surfaces. For example metal, wood, MDF, concrete, stone, plastic, rubber, glass, cardboard, canvas etc… They can mark surfaces regardless of whether they are rough, oily, wet, dirty, or rusty, and work on all temperatures too. Both come in a variety of colours.

The permanent water- based markers are very easy to get started and use. The paint comes out well with a good flow and the colours show up bright. They would be ideal for rock painting! The crayons don’t show up as brightly in comparison to the markers, and the darker colours are far more visible than the light coloured crayons. However, this is the case for crayons vs markers generally so is no surprise!

Demo of green and red water- based permanent paint markers.

Wide Tip Wow Markers

These are large chunky wipe clean markers with a thick marking nib for bold lines. They are intended for glass. They flow easily and show up in beautiful vibrant colours. They wipe off very easily with a damp cloth. They come in a selection of bright colours.

Demo of Carmel Industries WOW wipe clean chunky markers for use on glass.

You will need to phone or email Carmel Industries (based in Canada) to find out product prices and make an order.

*Disclosure: I was sent the items free for review. All opinions are my own.

Duffy’s Lucky Escape (Duffy The Sea Turtle): An Inspiring and Educational Childrens Book About Ocean Plastics (Review and Giveaway)

About the Book

Duffy’s Lucky Escape is a fantastic engaging story with the most stunning gorgeous illustrations that takes children on an adventure with Duffy when she encounters plastic pollution in the sea after a storm. This beautiful book, aimed at ages 4-10 years old, highlights the relationship between humans and wildlife, and how we negatively impact their health by polluting their natural habitats. It also teaches how to help in a fun and friendly way.Cover of the book Duffy's Lucky Escape by Ellie Jackson

This book is the perfect present for a special child in your life or even gift a copy to a local school, community group or library.

Educational Value

The book and the accompanying website is exceptionally high quality with a wealth of learning opportunities. It can be used as an educational resource in any setting to discuss recycling, reducing use of single-use plastics, global citizenship, environmental activism and empathy for our natural world. The website has plenty of great ideas on the resources page. There are also some interesting little video clips on their facebook page about the making of the book too.

A picture of Duffy the Sea Turtle swallowing a plastic bag. One of the beautiful illustrations from the book.

The Story Behind Duffy

Duffy was suffering from something called Floater’s Syndrome where the plastics she had eaten were stopping her from diving down under the water to eat. Luckily turtles who are on the surface are more likely to be spotted by people out on boats and so are more likely to be rescued. The first thing they do is to build up the turtles strength before they can find out what is wrong with it via x-ray. In lots of cases they see plastic caught in the turtles throat, stomach or intestines causing the blockage and making them feel very ill. If the turtle is well enough the vets can operate and remove the plastic before they can eventually be released back into their natural habitats. The whole process from the initial rescue to the release can take up to a year. Read the story in more detail here.

A stunning illustration of Duffy in rehab at the rescue centre. A page from the book Duffy's Lucky Escape.

About the Author

I never thought about becoming an author, it was a process that I fell into by reason of circumstance and luck. An amazing opportunity to live for a year on a tropical island in the Great Barrier Reef was not something that I ever thought would lead to a new direction for me – we moved there as a family for beaches and adventure! The most beautiful beaches, framed by palm trees and sunsets, just how you would imagine an island paradise to be. We didn’t wear shoes for a year, we had our own pool, and a great circle of friends. My three children were all under school age and it was the perfect chance for us as a family to experience a more laid back approach to life and give our kids real freedom. My husband works from home and this allowed us the chance to try something different before we had to start real life when our eldest started school.

We heard about a turtle release happening on one of the beaches – I have to say I didn’t realise what a big deal this event was going to be – the whole island turned out plus TV cameras and journalists. When it was time for the turtle to be put back into the water, we formed two lines into the sea and the turtle was released on the beach and immediately headed for the sea and was gone in a matter of seconds. It was a surprisingly emotional experience to see this turtle who had spent a year in the aquarium getting fit and healthy again, returning to her ocean home.

After the turtle release, we visited the Turtle Hospital on the mainland and heard all the different reasons as to why turtles need our help – one of which is where they suffer from eating too much plastic. As soon as my young children had made the link between plastic on the beach and turtles, every time we went to the beach they were running around picking up rubbish saying “Mummy, I’m saving a turtle!”. Well that was it for me, I was amazed at how such a simple true story could motivate and encourage such enthusiasm for picking up rubbish!

An illustration of Duffy the Sea Turtle after her release back into the ocean.

Further Information

Shop: Purchase via Duffy the Sea Turtle website directly or buy on Amazon.*

Cost: £7.99 with a percentage of all profits going to UK national marine charities.

To find out more, visit duffytheseaturtle.com or find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

*Contains an affilliate link.


One of you can win a copy of this wonderful book! Simply enter via rafflecopter below. UK residents only. Ends 15th December 2017. Other T&Cs apply. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Educational Gifts For Children (Gift Guide) 

Are you looking for childrens gifts that provide educational value as well as fun? This educational kids gift guide will give you some great gift ideas!

As home educators, we often look for gifts that inspire learning and provide educational value. There is no reason why presents can’t be both fun and useful! So I have compiled this gift guide full of fab educational ideas…

A collage of the items featured in the gift guide. 'A Gift Guide...' written at top. Title 'Educational Gift Ideas for Children' in middle.

Whotchilli Games

Whotchilli games by PLYT are competitive, fun and mentally stimulating number games, suitable for families of all ages and abilities to enjoy together. They are perfect to play at home or take on your travels so are a very handy addition to any family. PLYT games are also endorsed by National Numeracy and leading maths consultants, so these really are effective from an educational viewpoint too.

There are several different games to play with the Whotchilli set, and more games will continue to be added too. This helps to keep things fresh and fun, which makes this longlasting and great value for money! The games available so far are:

Lookin’ hot – This game is about reading the minds of your opponents to work out whotchilli they’re playing whilst using cunning and skill to bluff and double bluff each other. The hottest player wins the game leaving everyone else feelin’ chilli. A fast, fun game for 3 to 6 players

Salsa – A game of logic for 2 to 3 players as you try to work out whotchillis are in your opponent’s Salsa recipe.  Build your rating and try to be the first to unlock the recipe.

Chilly Chilli – A game for 2 to 6 players where you try to stay cool by remembering whotchillis have moved where.  The coolest hand wins the game.

Scorchio – The aim of this game is to build the hottest score by correctly predicting the number of tricks you will win. 

The rules for these and future games will be available on the PLYT website and they will also send them via email.

RRP £9.99

A photo of the Whotchilli game boxed.

Azoomee Premium

Azoomee is an amazing edutainment app aimed at children aged 5 to 9, which provides a safe and secure space for them to watch, listen, play, learn, make, do and share. Learn and have fun with 1000s of the best videos, games, tutorials, learning content and audiobooks along with a packed creative tool box for this age group, all carefully selected by children’s media experts, teachers and parents. With a huge library of content including favourite kids shows such as Charlie & Lola and Horrible Histories, there’s something for every child!

There are no in-app purchases and no adverts to worry about, making this super child- friendly. An online safety curriculum – Smart Safe KindOnline – is threaded through the app: a programme of short films, games and activities, unique to Azoomee, which shows how to be independent, safe and responsible online.

They’ve also launched a fantastic coding game called Run Marco which teaches young minds the concept of coding to not only stimulate their learning but stretch their imagination with creative and challenging ideas. No wonder they’re BAFTA nominated! It is even supported by NSPCC too.

The app is available on Google Play, the App Store and Amazon Appstore.

Buy an annual pass to Azoomee and give a child 12 months of unlimited safe entertainment on any mobile device. The gift card will be posted to any address in the UK on a beautiful coloured Oomee postcard. The perfect gift for any child.

1 Year Gift Pass to Azoomee £44.99

Readers can get 50% off monthly subscription for 12 months by using the code FAMILY.

An image of Azoomee saying the safe entertainment for kids. App logos. Photo of a tablet on a wooden floor with a few toys around. Azoomee app is open on the screen.

Wise(ish) Words – Book of Everyone

Wise(ish) Words is latest book by The Book of Everyone. This is a wonderful way to inspire children and offer words of wisdom and advice. The books are totally personalised so you can choose the style and content that will best match the child, from jokey to heartfelt sentiments. £1 from every book sold will be donated to WellChild, which is a brilliant national charity for children living with serious illness or exceptional health needs in the UK, and gives them the chance to thrive at home with their families.

In conjunction with the launch of the book, a photo series has been created in collaboration with WellChild with the aim to raise money for sick children this Christmas. The series, ‘3 Wise Words for Kids’ is a collection of portraits taken by award-winning photographer David Boni of inspirational people who all work with children, displaying their 3 wise words for kids this Christmas. You can join in by uploading a selfie holding up your own ‘3 Wise Words for Kids’ on social media using the hashtag #3WiseWords.

RRP £23.95 for paperback (other versions available)

An image of the front cover of Wise-ish Words by Book of Everyone and double page inside the book.

Katie’s Classroom

Katie’s Classroom is a fab online teaching resource and she also sells revision cards too. Katie’s Classroom delivers outstanding online video tutorials, with further examples of the practical applications in a lesson summary whiteboard-style tutorial, then there are also worksheets to complete for the final part of the lesson. This is currently only available for Year 4 Maths (which covers all National Curriculum lesson objectives and topics) but Years 3 – 6 in both Maths and English will be available soon.

Subscription is £10 per month or £99 per year.

Revision cards £10.50 per set.

Squiggle sitting in bed looking at year 4 revision maths cards.

Musical Instruments

Musical instruments of any kind make a fantastic gift for all ages. Music teaches many skills and brings out creativity. It can also support emotional development and mental health, plus builds confidence. From perscussion instruments for general musical enjoyment to keyboards, drums or guitars etc… to learn at home or through lessons, there is a huge choice to suit any budget.

A photo of Squiggle playing a Yamaha keyboard.

*Disclosure: I was sent some of these items to review/ for inclusion in this gift guide. The post also contains affiliate links.

Educational STEM Toy Reviews: Tin Can Cable Car and Salt Water Engine Car (From Wicked Uncle) 

Tin Can Cable Car review and Salt Water Engine Car review. STEM science and engineering educational toys from Wicked Uncle.

Quite sometime ago we received a Tin Can Cable Car (RRP £14.95) and Salt Water Engine Car (RRP £15.95) as part of our Wicked Uncle review. Now we have had plenty of opportunity to play with these, I would love to share my thoughts with you all!

STEM, STEAM, educational toys, science, engineering, home ed, Wicked Uncle, toy review, salt water engine car, tin can cable car

Tin Can Cable Car Review

Firstly, the tin can cable car. Here is a quick demo…

This is easy to set up and is fun to play with. Admittedly it is abit of a novelty item that probably won’t have much longevity in terms of holding interest, but that said, we have had it out a few times and she has played with it for several hours. It is pretty durable too; Squiggle had alot of fun attaching her toys to it so they could use it and it held quite an impressive weight! (Note: it is not intended to be used this way!) 

STEM, STEAM, educational toys, science, engineering, home ed, Wicked Uncle, toy review, tin can cable car

Overall, it makes quite a cool gift as long as expectations on amount of use aren’t too high. 

Salt Water Engine Car Review

The salt water engine car is great for sparking discussion on natural energy sources. It is also educational in terms of simple mechanics and engineering too. 

STEM, STEAM, educational toys, science, engineering, home ed, Wicked Uncle, toy review, salt water engine car

We discovered this kit had far more parts than we might have imagined it and Squiggle personally found it too fiddly to do independently but children with better motor skills and more patience might be able to do so. She enjoyed doing it alongside an adult instead. 

STEM, STEAM, educational toys, science, engineering, home ed, Wicked Uncle, toy review, salt water engine car

STEM, STEAM, educational toys, science, engineering, home ed, Wicked Uncle, toy review, salt water engine car

It didn’t move as fast, or as smoothly, as we hoped but it was on carpet and I suspect we just needed to check connections! However, it was pretty exciting that it went along at all just using salt water! Great learning tool.

This is the salt water car in action…

Thanks to Wicked Uncle for these items to review.

Smartick Method: Online Maths Program – Review and Giveaway

I have to admit I hadn’t heard of Smartick prior to doing this review, but I am glad they got in touch as it is well worth knowing about! In brief summary, Smartick is an online maths program for children ages 4 to 14 years old. It is rather cleverly designed to be based on ability and progress with the child at their own pace, using latest Artificial Intelligence technology. This means it is not restrictive and challenges the individual child to go as far as they are capable.

Smartick, maths program, online resources, educational activities, maths, home education, review

As an ex- teacher and home educator, I really like this program. I feel it teaches methods and skills clearly in a simple but effective way. It is quite focused and maximises learning, but it does have visual aids and some basic gaming elements that aim to help keep children engaged and improve concentration levels. I think the way it adapts itself to the individual to personalise their learning is really impressive!

Smartick, maths program, online resources, educational activities, maths, home education, review

Each session lasts 15 minutes per day, set for maximum concentration and motivation. This is great as it is just a short, manageable burst of learning and isn’t ‘too much’. Smartick recommends that children do a session at least 5 days a week to truly experience the benefits of the program. This is fine for most children, but I knew we might find that challenging personally because if Squiggle perceives it as a demand, her anxiety goes up and she avoids it. As predicted, this happened very quickly!

We also weren’t able to make best use of the program because it is intended for the child to work on independently. Squiggle was not able to do this though because she felt that she needed me to explain it to her, which then added more time, so her speed and other data were inaccurate. Obviously this affects the function of the AI. I should point out though that this was not a reflection on Smartick; it is very clear and I think the majority of children would have no problem using it independently whatsoever. It was simply down to her anxiety and the high level of support she needs.

However, I totally admit that I knew from the outset that the structured approach might not really suit the nature of Squiggle’s particularly complex SEND needs, but I decided to trial it anyway because I was curious if we could make it work for her, and I was also interested in reviewing it generally for others too. So regarding the above comments, we are a very tough crowd to be fair! And we did find it very beneficial in our own way. Whilst we weren’t able to take full advantage of some of the best features of Smartick, it still motivated and inspired her, and provided an excellent springboard for maths practice off- screen. This is really valuable, and was totally worth it just for that!

Smartick, maths program, online resources, educational activities, maths, home education, review

Anyway, I feel that I am digressing a little now as this is probably not relevant to most families! Back to the review…

Smartick, maths program, online resources, educational activities, maths, home education, review

Parents receive an email as soon as their child completes the daily lesson with a summary of performance. This is really useful! Plus there is a parent dashboard, so you can log in and see study plans, questions and units that the child has answered, data about performance and other things. Also, there is a team of educators behind the scenes to answer any questions that parents or children have, via phone or email. I found the lady I emailed with was absolutely lovely and very helpful.

Smartick, maths program, online resources, educational activities, maths, home education, review

Overall, I do recommend Smartick – it is a great tool for learning maths. If you would like further information, or to subscribe, see their website: www.smartick.com

To be in with a chance to win a 3 month subscription to Smartick, enter my rafflecopter giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Last but not least, there is also a referral program whereby parents can benefit from a £20 discount if they recommend a friend, and the new friend that subscribes will receive 25% off the first subscription they buy. So do feel free to mention me for a discount!

*Disclosure: I was given a free subscription to Smartick for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.