Stickle Bricks – A Toy for All Ages

It is a rare treat to see all my 3 girls playing together with the same toy.  When my 3 year old chose to play with Stickle Bricks, my 1 year old and 7 year old joined in, each getting very different things from it and adapting it to their own interests and developmental stage. For me this is the mark of a good toy.

My 7 year old launched into making a full-scale model of a roller coaster.  She got a little frustrated when it fell apart a few times but with persistence completed it.

 My one year old was happy with just 2 Stickle Bricks, handing it to me to push together and then concentrating hard on pulling it apart.  A repetitive game that kept her occupied for a good 10 minutes.

Later she found the board and enjoyed discovering the texture with her bare feet, stepping on and off and laughing.

 stickle bricks and bare feet

My 3 year old created a piece of modern art adding things to it as she went along.

stickle brick artAdding a sock to make a bridge for the Billy Goats Gruff.

stickle bricks and sock No Pepper isn’t the Troll. I’m not having a Troll and there aren’t any goats.

pepper and stickle bricks

No it isn’t finished yet.

As she gathered random objects from around the roomstickle brick art finished Now it’s finished.

It isn’t often that we find a toy that the girls can play with without worrying that the baby will ruin their play or put something small in her mouth.  It was an added bonus that the baby enjoyed playing with the Stickle Bricks in her own way.  We have had the Stickle Bricks since my 7 year old was a toddler and they still get lots of use.  It’s just a shame we don’t have a greater quantity now that we have 3 girls playing with them.


Happy Feet 2 XBox 360 Game Review

The Happy Feet 2 game is a family game aimed at children from 3 years old. As I haven’t personally played this game I asked my 7 year old if she would like to review it. Here are her thoughts.

The object of this game is a mixture of things,for instance collecting penguins and when you have done that you have to do a few things to get to the exit.On some levels you don’t have to collect penguins, you have to do things like races.

I think this is a really good game and is very good for education,because it can help small children recognise where and what the buttons/controls mean.  I have enjoyed going through the levels (so far I have got to stage 11)some levels can be very hard but others are quite easy .

I like doing the challenges,especially on levels 5 and 13 where all you have to do is do what you would do in a challenge,on some levels you have a timer .In challenges you have to press a different button when a red ball hits the button.

On some levels you have to race another penguin/character,these levels are the hardest for me.

By E McClary.Age 7

Clear as mud? Clearly she has enjoyed playing it and is progressing nicely through the levels.

Personally I think this game is a missed opportunity.  When I heard that we were getting a Happy Feet 2 game to review I expected it to be a Kinect game with lots of funky dance moves.  I’m really not sure why a game about a dancing penguin would not involve real dancing when the technology is out there to support it. As it stands I think it would be a fun game on a hand held console but am a little disappointed that there isn’t more to it for the bigger consoles.

A preview copy of the game was received for the purpose of this review.  No payment was received.

The Changing Face of Literacy

As an Early Years teacher I have always capitalised on opportunities for literacy in everyday life. Making children aware and involving them in these things is often key to children viewing reading and writing as fun. Traditionally these would have been things like writing shopping lists, reading road and shop signs, mark making in diaries and calendars or following recipes.

However literacy in the real world is changing. Children these days are just as likely to see you read or write on your phone or laptop as they are to see you write a list or note.

This really hit home with me when I watched my 3 year old playing on my iPad a few weeks ago.  She asked if she could download an app called Dad book, designed for dads to record stories for their children.

But mummy it’s not doing anything

she said once it was downloaded.

No, someone has to tell the story and record it.

I replied.

I asked her 7 year old sister to record the story for her, they sat together as my 7 year old narrated the story.  When she was finished my 3 year old listened and then repeated the words as she had seen done with another app Pat the Cat .

What a great opportunity for playing with literacy for both children.  This made me think about all the other literacy activities my children tap into on the iPad.

My 3 year old is learning about the alphabet and phonic sounds using the wonderful Elmo loves ABC’s app.  This has loads of different levels of games all based around learning letter names and sounds and includes lots of  memorable Sesame Street clips.

Another favourite is Me Books a children’s picture book reader for classic Ladybird books.  Both my children enjoy following the stories and adding in their own sound effects. This is simple for the children to do and another great way of getting different aged siblings to share reading.

The Ladybird Touch and Say books are also a great way for my 2 year old to learn to read simple words and even my one year old loves the Baby Touch app.

My 7 year old loves creating her own stories and animations using Toontastic or Puppetpals and these are also simple for pre-schoolers to use with adult guidance.

We have even discovered new songs and rhymes through English Songs and Chants. My 3 year old loves this one and can be heard walking around the house reciting the chants and singing the songs.  The chants are excellent for teaching rhythm and steady beat, a concept I usually teach using Ros Bayley’s Beat Baby.  I wonder whether Ros has considered creating a Beat Baby app?

There are a number of things that I really appreciate about the way my children use technology to play and learn about literacy.

  • The children freely choose the literacy apps and never feel like they are learning literacy skills.  Everything they choose to play is fun and interactive.
  • The apps are an added dimension to their experience of literacy. They still love books and choose to read traditional books more often than  e-books, still love to write, tell and listen to stories.

Current touch screen technology is still a little small to offer good mark making experiences for the youngest children but the drawing apps are good fun for when they get a bit older and are able to work on a smaller scale.  I look forward to a time when I can roll out a big screen onto the floor and let the youngest children explore markmaking on a large scale.

I also think Kinect holds great possibilities for literacy. My children talk to their dad via video Kinect when he is not at home. There would be great potential for speaking and listening activities if they connected with other children from around the world and shared experiences about their life and culture.

My girls are avid readers, I’m not afraid that new technology will distract them from traditional literacy, but that it adds a richness to their lives and new possibilities for exciting literacy experiences.

‘ Once Upon a Time’ Raising Money for Save the Children

Once Upon a Time

A few weeks ago I responded to a request to contribute to a children’s story book entitled ‘Once Upon a Time’  to raise money for Save the Children.

I have always wanted to write for children but have struggled with the inspiration.  This was my perfect chance to have a go and raise money for a fabulous cause. Myself and 16 other bloggers have written short stories for young children.  The only rules were that the story should begin with ‘Once Upon a Time’ and should be written in 350 words.  I was lucky to already have an idea in mind. This was based on a story I  told to my 7 year old when she was afraid of going to bed because she thought she might have bad dreams.  It was incredibly difficult to condense this into 350 words .  After multiple edits I got it down to under 400 but not quite to the 350 .  It made me realise that writing for young children isn’t as easy as it looks.

The illustrations in the book are all provided by our own children – this is my 7 year olds picture that appears with my story.

All the writers have given their services for free so that we can raise as much money as possible.  The book looks really beautiful and would be a very special present for a child who loves stories.

I  hope this won’t be my last attempt at writing for children, I have ideas for a few more projects so watch this space.

To order  a copy and view a preview click on the picture on the top right hand sidebar or  here .

Win a My Way Spinbrush – Fun Toothbrush Design Competiton on Cartoon Network


A little while ago I reviewed the Arm & Hammer  ‘My Way Spinbrush’, a kids electric toothbrush that the children can customise with their own stickers.  My kids loved them and they really encouraged them to brush their teeth. They would make a brilliant stocking filler for the kids.

During December there is a fun competition  offering kids a chance to win one.  Play the Cartoon Network  interactive game where boys and girls compete against each other to design the best toothbrush by dragging the virtual stickers onto the brush.  The 5 best entries each week will be showcased in the gallery and will win a My Way Spinbrush.

If you would like one for a stocking filler I have one boys and one girls My Way Spinbrush to give away.

Simply add a comment telling me which toothbrush you would like before 11th December.   Bonus entries are available by liking my Facebook Page and/or a follow on Twitter (links to both are on the right hand sidebar).

Fun with Magic Snow

A few weeks ago, I picked up a tube of Magic Snow.  I have never seen this before but I thought it might be a nice Christmas play idea. It comes as a powder in a  test tube shaped container and when you add water to it, it expands to 100 times its original size to look like snow.

It feels really soft and just a little bit cold

You get all the fun of playing with ice and snow but it doesn’t melt or feel too cold on little fingers.

We tried to mould a snowman and make models with the snow.

Then we added the Happyland Christmas set

I’m putting snow in Father Christmas’ sleigh

The snow was a big hit but was gradually creeping onto the floor and getting a bit slippery, so I suggested we put the snow in a tray.

We found some snow animals and the penguins slid around on the ice.

 We went out and left the snow in the tray for a few hours, it showed no signs of drying up during this time so I am hoping that we will get a few days play from this batch.  Magic snow is a big hit with my 3 year old who loves messy, tactile things and I’m sure it is an activity she will return to regularly in the lead up to Christmas.