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!

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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!) 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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!

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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!

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

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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.

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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.


Little House Of Science: STEM Classes For Curious Minds 

Little House of Science provides fun and educational STEM classes for kids. Little House Of Science have a wide range of STEM classes suitable for ages from 6 months – 11 years in London and across the UK. Little House of Science also offers STEM parties, workshops and tutoring too. Lots of educational fun!

Little House of Science provides fun and educational STEM classes for kids. The company was founded in 2014 by a trio of entrepreneurial and enthusiastic parents, with a keen interest in the science community, who wanted to inspire their own children to explore and seek answers about the world.

“We at Little House of Science foster this natural curiosity in boys and girls and re-enforce STEM subjects in a fun, project-based way so that children can connect with science from an early age.”

There are many classes and workshops held across London, and has also extended to other parts of the UK due to its popularity; including Hampshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. There are a range of classes suitable from 6 months right up to 11 years old.

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The youngest classes, Little Discovery, are from 6-12 months and 12-24 months, Little Maths covers ages 2-3 years and 3-4 years old, Little Science has classes suitable for 3-4 years, 4-7 years and 5-8 years old, then Big Science Academy is aimed at older children aged 8-11 years old. Each class covers a diverse syllabus with age-appropriate topics delivered in a fun yet educational way using a hands-on practical approach to learning.

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Little House of Science, STEM, kids classes, science, educational, workshops, parties, home education, London, UK, Living Life Our Way

As well as these classes, they also offer project- based creative science workshops, which include take-home items and parents notes, and tutoring too. They even offer educational fun-filled entertainment for kids parties!

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Their aim is to ensure the kids leave feeling inspired and enthusiastic about learning, with a desire to know more about the world.

“We would like to think of ourselves as creating or fostering the spark for the next generation of scientists, but the main aim is to provide a foundation for youngsters where after each session, they will have gone home knowing a little bit more about our wonderful world and how things work.”

As an ex primary teacher, and now home educator, I think these classes and workshops sound fantastic! Several years ago, when Squiggle was much younger, I genuinely seriously considered setting up an early years STEM discovery type session myself, but it never happened sadly. However, I think it is great idea and so valuable! If I had found something like this, I would have been very keen to attend and I would definitely consider the older age classes now if we were able to, or a home ed workshop would be fab. Hands-on, practical fun is definitely the way to approach STEM activities!

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For more information, check out their website at ​www.littlehouseofscience.com 

You can also find them on twitter,facebook and instagram.

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Sylvanian Families Cake Shop Review and Giveaway

We love Sylvanian Families; we think they are so cute and collectable (and also have educational value too!) Squiggle has a huge ever- increasing collection and loves looking at the website or browsing the catalogue to see what she can add to her wishlist next! So I think I might have been nearly as excited as she was when we received the fab Sylvanian Families Village Cake Shop to review…

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The cake shop comes with the mum of the Toy Poodle family, who is the shopkeeper, and alot of lovely little accessories to stock up the shop with. There are 90 bits in total, including the figure, shop, till, cake stands, counters, various cakes, boxes, piping, tongs and other cool stuff. Not everything included is pictured in my photos because Squiggle inevitably spreads half of it across the floor within 10 seconds of opening it… but that just makes it all the more realistic – after all, you wouldn’t expect such a delicious cake shop to be fully stocked at all times, would you?!

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Sylvanian Families, village cake shop, Poodle Sylvanian, review, giveaway, toys, imaginative play, gift ideas, Living Life Our Way

Sylvanian Families, village cake shop, Poodle Sylvanian, review, giveaway, toys, imaginative play, gift ideas, Living Life Our Way

Anyway, back to the review….

What I really love about this set – and other Sylvanian Families sets too – is the quality and attention to detail. Squiggle said “I think it’s very cool the way the cake stacks up to make a big cake.” When asked what her favourite part of the set is, she said “Those strawberry filling cakes looked very yummy!” It is also great for fine motor skills, as you will see when you watch the video…

(I just love her giggle too!)

Sylvanian Families Village Cake Shop (rrp £39.99) is available in stores now.

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Sylvanian Families Village Cake Shop Giveaway!

One incredibly lucky reader can win their very own awesome cake shop. To be in with a chance to win this fabulous prize, simply enter via rafflecopter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ends 6th October 2017. Open to UK residents only. Other T&Cs apply.

*Disclosure: We received the village cake shop free of charge for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Rock Hunting: Nature’s Answer To Pokemon Go! #30DaysWild 

Have you heard of the new craze? Painted rocks have been hidden all over our local area to encourage people to get outside and explore to find them. And to spread some love and positivity around; like a little act of kindness for the person who finds it. What an amazing way to put a smile on peoples’ faces! Of course, we could not wait to go out on a rock hunt to see what we could find!

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It turned out to be much harder than we thought! We knew very rough locations, and had vague picture clues, but looking for small rocks in a very large area is… well… abit like looking for a needle in a haystack! But that just encouraged us to look more closely, stay out longer, walk further and explore different areas – which is great!

Just a little note to anyone considering doing this as a set activity (e.g. home educators or organised groups for example): it would be easier, and an awesome educational activity, if they were mapped out in advance. Great for developing old school map reading skills too! (I guess this would make it more of a geocaching style activity). Of course this would rely on people not removing, or relocating, any of them. (Hopefully no one will remove them anyway though obviously, as it is meant to be an activity for everyone to enjoy!)

Also, if you were doing this, a handy suggestion might be to map them out with a small circle radius rather than a precise location, so that it still gives abit of freedom to rehide them elsewhere – as long as it is within close proximity to the original spot. I say this because Squiggle was really keen to move one to a new hiding place so we compromised and she hid it right by the next tree instead, less than a metre away!

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Anyway, they are just little tips if anyone is thinking about doing it as a home ed activity or setting it up as an ‘organised’ event. But back to our fun of rock hunting…

We were incredibly lucky to find not just one, but two painted rocks! Squiggle was delighted that she spotted them!!! The first was a beautiful heart rock…

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The second was a pretty colourful rainbow…

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We had so much fun! It is such a lovely activity and a brilliant, creative, inspired idea – love it!!! Thank you so much to the wonderful people who came up with this initiative and organised it in our area. We are so grateful! For more information, check out St Albans Rocks UK.

We then also painted our own rocks when we returned home, so we will be hiding those in our local park soon too! Thanks again!!!

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Happy rock hunting! 

Exploring Nature Through All Of Our Senses #30DaysWild

Yesterday for 30 Days Wild, I used all of my senses to explore the natural environment around me. Even in a small urban garden, this is a very simple activity that really connects us to the world around us, and helps us to feel balanced and calm at the same time.

Sight

Looking around for natural items, I could see an array of colours. All around there are a variety of flowers, different types of grasses, a few weeks, a tree in our garden with many more in the distance, our growing area, a mass of tiny wildlife hiding in every corner. Such a wealth of things to see.

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Smell

Not just the flowers, but the air in general. Does it smell clean and fresh? Or maybe something is polluting it? Some of the common smells from an urban garden might be things such as freshly cut grass, food, rain, flowers and herbs, smoke, earthy smells etc… Focus on the natural ones. My favourite is when it has just rained!

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Sound

Listen to the sounds around. I could hear alot of other noise; an ice cream van, people talking, lawnmower, some kind of DIY, the bouncing noise of a trampoline… I tried to filter all of these out and tune into natural sounds. If I listened carefully, I could hear four different bird calls.

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Touch

I touched the grass, then took off my shoes and walked barefoot through it. We did this same activity, called Grounding, last year and I wrote about it briefly here.

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Taste

I didn’t taste anything. However, I could have made nettle crisps so that is perhaps inspiration for some other time! I would also love to learn more about foraging in general, since at the moment I don’t feel confident doing it (except for berries)!

#30DaysWild #LivingLifeWild

Nature Printing Pebble Art #30DaysWild

Inspired by The Pinterested Parent, I sat in the garden yesterday afternoon and tried to create some beautiful nature printed pebbles. I say tried, because it turned out to be harder than it looked – or at least for me! 

However, this didn’t bother me in the slightest. Just as I teach Squiggle, it wasn’t about the finished result, it was for the sheer enjoyment of doing it. Plus it is relaxing. I love to be artistic simply for pleasure not gain. Sure, creating something that looks pretty at the end is very satisfying, but if it doesn’t work out, it is no loss. 

I found the painted leaves and grass quite interesting, and photography is my favourite creative outlet, so I decided to compose a couple of photos. However, regardless of how the original idea turned out, this was a really fun creative activity!

Remember this week’s linky is open to share your ‘wild’ adventures too! 

AniMalcolm: Book Review

AniMalcolm is the latest children’s novel by comedian and author David Baddiel, who already has two previously published bestsellers; The Parent Agency and The Person Controller. It is aimed at ages 8 – 11 years old and is the perfect book for any child, especially animal lovers!

The story of AniMalcolm centres around a young boy called – you guessed it! – Malcolm. He comes from a family of animal lovers and has a house full of pets… but the problem is, he doesn’t like them. However, when he attends his Year Six school trip to a farm, Malcolm changes. In many ways. As the blurb says:

He learns what it’s really like to be an animal. A whole series of animals, in fact…

It does make him think differently. And speak differently. And eat differently. And, um, smell differently. But will he end up the same as before?

Because sometimes the hardest thing to become is… yourself!

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Behind the light-hearted humour and imaginative storyline that had us giggling out loud at times, there are hidden depths. The story teaches empathy and demonstrates beautifully how putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes can really change our perspective towards them. The down to earth writing style is wonderfully descriptive with quirky footnotes that really draws the reader fully into the story and keeps them right there throughout.

The story touches upon some insightful points like how one ‘traumatic’ incident in childhood can actually deeply affect how we feel about something and can cause a disconnect. It also highlights how understanding and empathy is essential in creating an emotional connection, which then fosters positive feelings and actions towards them. These underlying messages may not be explicit or obvious to children whilst reading the book necessarily but nonetheless it will help build the right foundations for them.

In conclusion: I adore this book!

AniMalcolm is available to purchase now in paperbook for £6.99 RRP. You can buy it via Amazon here (affiliate link).

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and I was sent the book for purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Clever Tykes Storybooks: Inspiring Stories For Children 

Clever Tykes are wonderfully inspirational storybooks for children ages 6-9. They are the creation of husband and wife team Ben and Jodie Cook, who were recently listed in Forbes 30 under 30, for social entrepreneurs across Europe. The initiative is sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, which has allowed these education storybooks and teaching resources to be available to UK primary schools completely free. There is a portal available where schools can sign up and access everything they need to teach enterprise education for key stage 2.

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The Clever Tykes stories are centred around entrepreneurship. The characters are fantastic positive role-models and the storylines also promote other important traits such as problem-solving, resiliance, positivity, persistence, innovation and playing to strengths or following a passion. The founders aim is to “help you inspire and empower your children to be the most creative and proactive young people they can be.”
 

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Clever Tykes, books, educational resources, PSHE, positive role-model, schools, Home Education, entrepreneur, inspirational, review, Living Life Our Way

Clever Tykes, books, educational resources, PSHE, positive role-model, schools, Home Education, entrepreneur, inspirational, review, Living Life Our Way

As an ex-teacher and now home educator, I think these books are absolutely brilliant! Everything about them resonates strongly with me, and I wholeheartedly agree with the founders’ values and thoughts behind these stories. As I read their website, I found myself constantly nodding along and thinking to myself ‘yes, this is so my thinking too!’ 

They want to “adopt a grass roots approach to inspiring innovative behaviour.” They go on to state: “As a society, we must demonstrate to young people that a challenging and rewarding career can be as an entrepreneur in a private venture, social enterprise or charity. We need to promote the right role models for our children to emulate.” Yes! This. 100% agree.

The books are very well written and provide awesome role-models who children can relate to, and encourage thinking outside the box and creativity. They genuinely empower children! They also cover a range of subjects; an excellent teaching resource in so many ways. 

My favourite story is Change-it Cho. I have fallen in love with this story to be honest! I love her demonstration of persistence, even in the face of adversity. It reminded me so much of the phrase ‘Nevertheless, she persisted’. It shows children how to stand up for what is right and not give up, or take no for an answer – in a good way, of course! It teaches children the traits that are necessary to thrive in today’s world. 

I can see these books have the potential to really help create a young generation of go-getters and change-makers! I seriously cannot recommend these stories enough. Parents and educators – check them out! 

*Disclosure: I was sent these books free in exchange for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Fun Family Activities To Celebrate Earth Day

​Today is Earth Day. So here are some lovely ways you can celebrate, either today  or any other (because really, everyday should be Earth Day anyway!) 

  • Nature art. There are lots of fun nature art activities that you can do as a family. One that is particularly great for Earth Day is to collect some large pebbles, arrange them in a solid circle, then paint them with a map of the world (I decided to add a peace sign too!)

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  • Make an Earth Pom Pom. Check out this super cute creative activity over on Monkey and Mouse!
  • Sign up to Global Guardian Project to get their monthly digital multi-media resource (learning capsule) full of stunning pictures, useful information, inspirational ideas and activities, and wonderful facts about the amazing world that we live in, and how we can care for it. This month the focus is on Israel. Use my affiliate code LIVINGLIFEOURWAY to get 10% discount off subscriptions. (Usual price $14.99 per month). This discount code can also be used for their new special edition National Parks capsule too.

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  • Go on a nature walk. Use all your senses to explore the natural environment around you. Stop for a few moments, be still and listen. What do you hear? What do you see? What can you smell? Touch the bark of a tree, go barefoot on the grass. Take it all in and connect with our earth.

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    • Make a paper mache globe. This project takes several days but is lots of messy creative fun! Head on over to The Crafty Classroom to for a detailed tutorial.
    • Give the earth a helping hand. Do something that helps protect our environment. Small changes can have a BIG impact. Maybe a 5 minute litter pick in your local park? Find ways to reduce energy consumption in your home? Pledge to say ‘no thanks’ to plastic straws with your drink? Or perhaps buy yourself a reusable cup rather than using disposable coffee shops ones? You could even try to give up single-use plastics completely! The possibilities are endless and remember, every small change helps. Other ideas can be found on my previous Make A Splash blog post.  

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    What are you doing for Earth Day? Tell me in comments, I look forward to reading about it!