Educational Resources For The Family Home

Whether you home educate or not, educational resources are an important part of every family home. From books and writing equipment, to art supplies and games, here are some of our top essentials…

Educational Resources for the Family Home

Reading Material

The number one must-have for all ages! Whilst this may seem like a given, I couldn’t write a blog post about essentials and not include it! And remember, it is not just all about fiction books; non- fiction material, magazines, catalogues, recipes, or anything else that is appropriate for the child’s level of development and that captures their interest also matters just as much too!

Squiggle reading Change It Cho by Clever Tykes

Writing Equipment

For older children, pens or pencils, and for younger children, a variety of markers, plus a good selection of paper, is of course a necessity for every child. Tablets/ computers etc.. are another form of writing that definitely should not be overlooked in this digital age, especially as those with SEND might find this form of writing easier. For a child-friendly email account to practise writing and communication, we use Tocomail.

Screenshot of a tocomail email with attachment sent by Squiggle

White boards and chalk boards are also another great way to practice writing. As Boo, Roo and Tigger Too explains: ‘Whiteboards are great for all sorts of activities. From drawing and counting, to practicing handwriting.”

Teacherboards sell a range of whiteboards and chalk boards, including larger versions for the wall and also individual, portable workboards too. Both are really useful to have in the home! They also have a lovely corkboard/ whiteboard combo that I just love, it would be perfect for keeping the family organised!

Cork and whiteboard combo from TeacherBoards

Creative Supplies

Whilst many parents understandably cringe at the idea of getting the paints out, particularly with younger kids, they are a vital resource! As are colouring pens, chalks, crayons, charcoal and other art supplies. Plus different items for collages. And don’t forget fabrics for textile projects too!

Squiggle drawing with art supplies

Musical Instruments

A small selection of percussion instruments for young children is on my essentials list. For older children, a chosen instrument to learn to play and practise is beneficial.

Kitchen Supplies

Measuring jugs, mixing bowls and a range of ingredients to carry out kitchen experiments are excellent for all ages! Perfect for maths and science.

Squiggle doing a science experiment using kitchen supplies

Messy Play/ Sensory Activities

For young children and SEND children, opportunities for messy play (such as cornflour, coloured rice, porridge oats, slime, sand and water for example) and sensory resources such as playdough, light ups, tactile objects, bubbles, and fidget toys are on my must-have list.

Nature/ Gardening/ Growing

Even if you don’t have a garden, you can have a go at growing your own food, such as herbs for example, indoors. Nature is without a doubt an essential resource!

A selection of gardening supplies for indoors and outdoors

Sports and Physical Games

Bats and balls, skipping ropes, hula hoops, and any other equipment that helps to encourage physical activity is of benefit. Most would consider a bike an essential, or things like scooters and skateboards too. Trampolines and climbing equipment is an asset but not all families have the space or finances for these of course.

Family Games

There are lots of educational games available. Orchard Toys is a popular brand, especially for younger children. Learning Resources also stock brilliant games, suitable for a range of ages. And don’t forget the classics like Connect 4, Dominoes, Scrabble and Uno for example; all of these are educational, as well as fun!

Orchard Toys game boxes

Electronics

Whilst we personally don’t have a strong emphasis on screens ourselves, mainly due to Squiggle’s specific needs and her own choosing, there are certainly plenty of educational websites, apps and games available to choose from. We personally liked Reading Eggs and Maths Seeds when Squiggle was younger and we found the Cbeebies website useful too. Soph Obsessed says Phonics Play has helped her son with alot his phonics.

Sticky Mud and Belly Laughs also recommends the LeapPad. She says ‘It has all kinds of games, songs, videos and apps that are both fun and educational.’

For older children, there are far too many excellent choices to name, but we did particularly like Smartick Method. Coding games such as Play Osmo are very popular at the moment. Minecraft is also a huge hit with many and has alot of educational value. Of course, the internet itself is beneficial for research purposes – and to develop actually research skills – too.

Squiggle using a smart phone microscope

Puzzles and Jigsaws

Puzzles are educational for several reasons. As well as fine motor skills, spatial awareness, problem solving and observation skills, as Big Family Organised Chaos pointed out, many also have educational things on them. Her children, like Squiggle, discovered alot about where countries are just from a world map puzzle for example.

For older children, larger complex jigsaws are a brilliant educational resource. Even adults enjoy doing these too!

Construction

Lego! So useful for counting, building and sorting! ~ The Mum Diaries

We use Magformers every day, for all kinds of learning for every age. Colours and shapes for the youngest, maths and engineering for the older ones, moving onto physics and more complicated experiments for the oldest. And all whilst they think they are playing. SO Great! ~ Inspire Create Do

What are your educational essentials? Do you have any favourite resources? I would love to read about them in the comments section!

Thank you to the following bloggers for contributing to this post, in addition to the others already mentioned:

Ankle Biters Adventures

Freddies Mummy UK

Joanna Victoria

Household Money Saving

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Fun Family Activities To Celebrate Earth Day!

Sunday 22nd April is Earth Day. So here are some lovely ways you can celebrate, either then or any other day (because really, everyday should be Earth Day anyway!)…

Fun Family Activities To Celebrate Earth Day!

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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Get Crafty!

Make a paper mache globe – a project takes several days but is lots of messy creative fun – head on over to The Crafty Classroom to for a detailed tutorial. Or make an Earth Pom Pom, pop over to Monkey and Mouse for info!

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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Complete a Challenge

Go from room to room to find ways to reduce energy consumption in your family home. Who can spot the most ways?

Give Earth a Helping Hand

Clean up your local environment with a two minute litter pick in your local park or nearby beach.

Earth Day, Living Life Our Way, litter picking, park clean up, activism, global citizen, green living, our world, natural environment, family fun

Family Movie Night

Watch an eco documentary such as A Plastic Ocean or Blue Planet 2.

Storytime Snuggles

Grab some books from your local library, such as Duffy’s Lucky Escape.

Duffy's Lucky Escape

Plastic- Free Picnic

Can you manage to hold a plastic- free family picnic? Which part is most difficult? How could you resolve it?

Take Part in a Project

Create your own family documentary about whichever aspect of green living you choose. Or make a poster about it. Or whatever format you prefer! The key is to engage with your ideas and share them with others.

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

Sustainable St Albans Week 2018 and Launch of Plastic Free St Albans!

There are only a few days to go now until Sustainable St Albans Week 2018, so I want to share with you some of the fab things that will be going on! If you are local, then pop along to some of the events to learn more about eco living and show your support. And if you aren’t local, maybe these ideas will inspire you to host your own event in your local town!

The week will be kicking off with an afternoon of talks to launch the event, as well as over a dozen activities on just the first day alone. Over the course of the week there is a massive range of fun, educational and inspiring activities for all ages.

Sustainable St Albans Week 2018 logo

Some of the highlights include the grand opening of our first ‘Little Free Library’ – where you can take a book and donate another, several guided walks and cycle rides, organised wildlife watch, vegan cooking demo and tasting (yum!), plenty of talks and workshops on various topics, eco tours, growing activities, seed swaps, clothes swaps, litter picks, poetry recitals and film screenings. The list goes on and on…! It is a jam packed week full of brilliant options to choose from.

Children can also meet Munch the recycling lorry and discover more about recycling, do creative activities using old items, take part in interactive storytelling, attend woodcraft taster sessions, and swap books, amongst other things. Lots of the other activities are very family- friendly and suitable for all ages too of course!

For the full event schedule visit the Sustainable St Albans website and download the booklet.

There is also a one day Know- How Festival, which sounds brilliant! I thought this was worth a specific mention as it has so much going on for the whole family. Here is further information…

Know How festival flyer - part of Sustainable St Albans Week 2018

As part of Sustainable St Abans Week, on Sunday 22nd April, which very aptly is also Earth Day, marks the official launch of Plastic Free St Albans. I am so excited about this, so let me tell you more about it!

Plastic Free St Albans is inspired by Surfers Against Sewage – an environmental charity who are leading a national campaign called Plastic Free Coastlines, to encourage communities to drastically reduce single use plastics – and is an alliance of several local activists. It was founded by Emma Tyers, who previously ran the hugely successful St Albans Refuse the Straw campaign and also has members from our fantastic local groups, Sustainable St Albans and St Albans Friends of the Earth, too. What a team! The group aims to hopefully achieve S.A.S Plastic Free status eventually.

Plastic Free St Albans logo

The main goal is to work with local businesses, schools, and other organisations to remove, as far as possible, plastic straws and stirrers, water bottles and balloons from St Albans. These particular items are being targetted because they are so rarely recycled, and therefore form such a large part of our plastic waste and litter.

They are also working on St Albans Refill scheme, which asks businesses to provide free water bottle refills to anyone who asks, free of charge. Look out for other upcoming projects in future too!

Last but not least, check out their excellent interactive map of all things plastic free, so you can see how the campaign is developing and, more importantly, know where to head to avoid the plastic! Awesome initiative, looking forward to seeing the map grow!

You can also read more about Plastic Free St Albans in this Herts Ad article.

To launch this fantastic new campaign, there will be a plastic-free picnic at Highfield park on Sunday afternoon, followed by a screening of A Plastic Ocean in the evening, along with a panel of guest speakers, hosted at the beautiful Odyssey cinema. There are only a few tickets left, so grab yours now!

Enjoy what promises to be an inspirational and exciting week!

Handmade recycled silver labradorite stone ring image and giveaway wording

GIVEAWAY!!!

To help celebrate and support both Sustainable St Albans Week and Plastic Free St Albans, the lovely Sally from Leonard of London has offered us a stunning piece of jewellery to giveaway to one lucky campaign supporter! This gorgeous handmade ring is made from recycled sterling silver and has a beautiful labradorite stone.

The ring will be resized for the winner as per the measurements given before sending it to them.

Check out Leonard of London on facebook for more of her work.

Handmade recycled silver labradorite stone ring

The giveaway ends on 21st May 2018 and is open to UK residents only. Enter via rafflecopter below. Other T&Cs apply.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

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.

Giveaway!

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

Giveaway!

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.

THE VIEWS!!!!

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)

Description

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.

Review

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)

Description

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.

Review

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.

Giveaway

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!

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