Is there any value in pre-schoolers using iPads?


As you may have read in previous posts I am very interested in harnessing technology to engage children in early literacy.  I have been reading a number of articles about using iPad with pre-school children and am still yet to come to a satisfactory conclusion. 

In Maine there is an initiative to give iPads to  pre-schools in the hope that it will open up new worlds of learning for students.  It is recognised that this it will take a great deal of thought to achieve optimum benefits.  The hope is that it will be used to open up new avenues for exploration and not purley for entertainment.

This is where I struggle.  My 7-year-old has just been allowed a DSi and I had hoped that she would use it as a camera and music player, creating projects to share . As yet I have only seen her engrossed in solitary activity and pushing her younger sister away.  I fear that this could also be the case with iPads if the applications are not creative and far-reaching enough.  Are there any applications that promote creativity and open-ended activities?  Are there any that are designed to be used with groups of children collaborating on tasks?

I have looked for many recommendations but have so far found that most involve variations on the same theme.  The kind of things that have been around on children’s websites for years – memory match games, puzzles, flashcards, colouring in, matching and tracing. Also I have seen a number of interactive books which are great on some levels but would worry that they would replace important aspects like bedtime stories.

So I’m very much on the fence at the moment .  If anyone has experience of using an iPad with pre-schoolers (particularly in the classroom) or has found any ground breaking applications in line with an active, play based,creative and interactive classroom I would love to hear about your experiences.

There’s a Spider on the Floor – Fun with Rhyme


My 2 year old is just beginning to get the hang of rhyme and we often have fun at the dinner table making up rhymes for words. This morning at breakfast the girls found a plastic spider and I remembered a song that I used to sing with the children at nursery.

There’s a spider on the floor, on the floor
There’s a spider on the floor, on the floor
There’s a spider on the floor and it wasn’t there before
There’s a spider on the floor on the floor.

The children then choose where the spider should go next.  My 7 year old chose her head and rhymed it with bed.  This was a bit advanced for my 2 year old but she enjoyed choosing parts of the body – it was a great fun activity,  that they could both join in with at their own level and engaged them for about 10 minutes.  They liked it when I made up funny verses e.g. There’s a spider on my knee please don’t fall in my cup of tea.

Fun like this reminds me of the reasons I like to sit with the kids at mealtimes.

Leapfrog Maths Adventure to the Moon–A Review and the chance to win one of 3 copies.

Maths Adventure DVD 3DI wouldn’t recommend that you teach a child mathematical concepts via a DVD, however for all of us the electronic babysitter is at times a necessary evil .  If the kids are going to watch DVDs without me I’d like to know that it’s well made and entertaining and if it’s educational too that’s an added bonus.  Our kids watch DVDs in the car on long journeys, I think my husband may throw the Mr Men out of the window if he hears the music one more time, so a new addition to the collection is always welcome.

My 2 year old and 7 year old watched the DVD together, I didn’t expect the 7 year old to enjoy a DVD about counting but actually it has lots of levels and would appeal to a mixture of ages.  She managed to watch it till the end and  I even caught her joining in with the counting in 2’s, 5’s and 10’s.  The story revolves around  Tad and Lily ,a girl and a boy frog who are finding maths difficult and go on a journey to space where they see how maths can be applied in all kinds of contexts.MathsAdv1  It explores simple concepts like counting to 10, but also counting backwards, counting in 2’s 5’s and 10’s , following repeated patterns, sorting by shape, size and colour and simple addition. Many of these are introduced using a catchy song helping to engage the younger children.  My 2 year old has asked to watch it again after watching a few times so I think it will be popular with her.  I would say it is ideally suited to children aged between 2 and 6. It lasts around 40 minutes and there are additional features including 5 songs and a sorting game.

It is a good quality, entertaining DVD that I think children would enjoy for a number of years before growing out of it.  Don’t use it as a quick fix to teach your child maths, but if you want to use it to back up playful, active mathematical learning then I think it is a good choice.

This never before seen on television title is released on May 9th with an RRP. of £9.99. 

I have 3 copies of this DVD to give away.  To be in with a chance simply subscribe to my blog or post a comment on any of my posts before 9th May .  Winners will be chosen at random on that date.

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Real Parenting Through the Eyes of Tim Minchin

The Real Parenting Revolution

I have just returned from a wonderful weekend in Edinburgh for my 40th birthday.  As part of the trip we went to see Tim Minchin. He was clever, funny, a stunning pianist and brave.  He has added a new song to his repertoire called lullaby.  How many of us have been in that situation when the baby is constantly crying and there is that very fine line between loving your baby and wanting to throw it out of the window?  I had one of those moments recently when I was sat in the car with noise and demands coming from all directions and I just wanted to shut the door, walk away and never come back.  We don’t do it because we love them and the benefits outweigh the tough times but I’m sure we have all had those fleeting moments.

A weekend away without the kids is a rare treat – did I miss them?  If I am honest no because I had the chance to be me for the weekend, to enjoy being a couple, to live at a different pace and forget about everyone elses demands.  On my return, how lovely to see the baby’s smiling face and have big hugs from my girls.  They always amaze me when I haven’t seen them for a day or 2, staggered by how tall they are or how amazing their vocabulary is and I appreciate them so much more.

New Pets That I Can Cope With – Littlest Pet Shop Hamster Playground (A Review)


My eldest daughter is almost 7 and has a bedroom full of toys, some are played with regularly and others hardly at all.  I wasn’t quite sure which category this would fall into.  Polly Pocket is a firm favourite with both my daughters so the small bits are likely to appeal (if they don’t get lost in the first week) and we have been nagged on many occasions about getting a hamster (2 dogs, 3 kids, fish and an inability to keep her bedroom tidy make this a firm NO).

My expectation before it arrived was that it would be an overpriced toy with huge amounts of packaging, revealing a few tiny bits once the packaging had been discarded. The amount of packaging used on children’s toys in the quest to make them look more enticing  drives me mad.  However, I was pleasantly surprised that the playhouse was not swamped by packaging and there were no unnecessary inserts.  When it arrived my daughter and her 2 friends (both boys) had great fun getting through the packaging and working their way through the tags to get it out of the box.  The 3 of them played really imaginatively with it, giving the hamsters names and roles to play and it was an instant hit. The set comes with a hamster  and a mouse and the girls have named them Cutie and Patch.

When I observed the girls playing there seemed to be quite a lot of creative thinking going on. There is an ambiguous tool in the set that looks a bit like a frying spatula – my girls thought it was a trowel and stuck the carrots in the grooves and dug them out.  I thought it might be a poop scoop (they didn’t know what this was).  After explaining they decided they were having a hamster cleaning day.  They used the tube for cleaning the apples

‘It’s not really for cleaning apples, I just pretend it is – I expect you could put water in it.’

Maybe she has found an added dimension as a bath toy or in the garden with a jug of water.

I tried to explain to my daughter what a review was and why I needed her help with this one.  I explained that she needed to tell me things like why she liked it, if there was anything she didn’t like or thought could be improved. She liked the fact that the hamsters slot inside the wheel without falling out. Her other comment was this

‘You know I’m meant to say something I don’t like about it – well there isn’t anything I don’t like.’

So in my household for now it is a hit, time will tell whether it will become a firm favourite or pushed to the back of a shelf.  The RRP. for the set is £24.99 but I found many places selling them for around £15 and I would be happy to buy it at this price.

Turning 40 – What have I achieved in the past decade?

It’s my last week in my 30’s so I’m doing a lot of reflecting on the past 10 years.  I don’t really feel like I have done a great deal in that time but when you sit down and think about it there is quite a lot that I can be proud of.  Here are some of my greatest achievements in that time:

1. I Got Married 

Not much of an achievement I hear you say, perhaps not for some.  I remember saying to my mum when in my late 20’s that I didn’t think I would ever get married because I didn’t think I would find someone who would love me enough.  She told me not to be stupid and as always she was right.  When my husband proposed to me on the eve of my 30th birthday, I was overwhelmed that he loved me enough to want to spend the rest of his life with me.  I think that’s a great achievement and that we are still married after 9 years isn’t bad in the scale of things either.  Marriage isn’t all moonlight and roses and I’m not the best wife in the world.  Keeping it together is a huge challenge when you throw in the demands of young children, stressful jobs, working away and running a business, not to mention how much we change as individuals.  I don’t know if we will make it through the next decade, it will be my greatest achievement in life if we do.

2. Had 3 Wonderful Children

There was a time when we thought we would only ever have one child.  We tried for years to have a 2nd but suffered 2 miscarriages and felt it was our fate to only have one. My eldest is the most amazing child, clever, confident, beautiful, well behaved and sociable, you couldn’t ask for more in a child.  We still used to feel sad when she was playing on her own and hoped that one day she would have a brother or sister.  Now she has 2 sisters. My 2 year old can be hard work but is also clever like her sister, has a wonderful loving nature and frequently makes us laugh and the baby is a beautiful, happy, easy baby who smiles at everyone she meets.  I am proud to be raising 3 such lovely girls and I’m sure they will make me even more proud as they grow up.

3. Got a Masters Degree

My husband always makes me think outside the box and when I was unhappy at work he helped me to see that I had the power to change things and to go back and study.  I loved studying for my Masters and I found that I was surprisingly good at it.  I’m so glad that I did it.

4. Played Maria in ‘The Sound of Music’

I have been involved in musical theatre since I was a child and it was such a buzz to play Maria at Cardiff’s New Theatre, playing to full houses of 1000+ every night.  It was tinged with some sadness as it happened just after mum had died and I knew it would have made her so proud. 

Getting to do any theatre since having children has been an achievement in itself but I have done fairly well by appearing in a few musicals, playing Jane Eyre , a cocktail waitress in Shakers and appearing in my first opera.

5. Finding 2 Jobs that I Loved and in Which I Could Make a Difference.

In my early 30’s I worked with families of pre-school children who were on the autistic spectrum.  This was such an amazing job, I learned so much and met so many wonderful children and parents.  Watching the children progress and the families become more able to cope, I feel that I really did make a difference and that is so satisfying .

Between my first and my second child I worked for the local authority as an early years consultant.  Again I met some inspirational people, loved coming up with solutions to problems, learning about and sharing good practice and watching Continue reading Turning 40 – What have I achieved in the past decade?

Sesame Street on Kinect


I know it’s a bit sad but I was very excited to hear this news.  Firstly, I am a huge fan of Sesame Street – my mum often attributed my intelligence to the fact that she watched Sesame Street whilst carrying me.  Secondly no more shouting ‘Get out of the way’ when my youngest tries to join in with Kinect games because this one will be aimed at her.  When we got our Kinect for Christmas I thought it would save all the arguments over controllers and my 2 year olds inability to handle them properly, but so far there hasn’t really been able to join in.  She has played bowling with some success and manages some of the games on Kinectimals but I do feel that she is a little young for these. So Hooray, finally a game aimed at pre-schoolers and with Sesame Street behind it I trust that it will be good.

I love that ‘Once Upon a Monster’ is aimed at families playing together – we often have 5 children trying to play ours and it can get a little manic.  The game is aimed at teaching young children about emotions like sensitivity, empathy and friendship that’s got to stop the arguments surely!

I can’t wait to see the finished product – I hope it lives up to my expectations.