Pizza Express School Visits & Home Educators

Some time during last summer, we booked a home ed visit for one of the Pizza Express School Visit sessions, and though we had to wait several months for our session, we arrived on the agreed date and had a fantastic and informative visit.

Pizza Express School Visits offer groups the opportunity to not only see how pizza is made but also to get hands on and involved. For some children this is a brand new experience, of course, and for our group there was a mix of abilities too, considering our participants ranged from about 3 – 14 years.

Obviously the details may differ from visit to visit, but for ours on the Isle of Wight, the children were decked out in chefs hats and aprons, and given loads of flour to flour their work surface – a set of tables in the restaurant. Each child was given a ball of dough. The chef – whose name I sadly can’t remember – was amazing. He had such great rapport with the children, and was engaging and informative and did a fantastic job of managing such a range of ages.Pizza Express Visit

They spoke about the different steps they went through, the chef demonstrated, and the children were able to take their own dough ball, and knead it, twist it and shape it into circles – they even got to toss it up into the air. Read more: Pizza Express School Visits & Home Educators

Free Printable Resources For Roald Dahl’s Matilda

When we plan our themes, I always spend a bit of time making printable resources that can act as time fillers – something to keep the kids busy for 5 minutes while I do something else, which means they don’t get distracted and find it hard to come back to their activity. Often just having a colouring page or a word search available is all it takes for me to get their ‘main’ activity – like painting, or crafting, or building something else, ready.

Here are three free printables for the Matilda theme:

(I make printables simple, because I don’t want to use a ton of ink on a pretty border or background. I really don’t see the point in wastefulness for short activities.)

Matilda Wordsearch

Click on the image below to download and print a Matilda themed Wordsearch. (This word search has small letters, and words are written left to right and top to bottom, pitched at a 5 year old.)

Writing practice

Ameli can write pretty well, but her letters are often all the same size, squashed onto one line. I was worried about it till I saw a schooled friend in the year she would be in doing the same, so now I don’t worry about it any more. We are just spending a few minutes every week copying words in their correct format.

Click on the image to download the Matilda Word Formation Practice:


Matilda Maze

This activity only takes a few minutes, but I think it’s a great exercise in logic, in planning ahead and in memory too, if you get them to trace it with a finger or use a light colour first, till they find the way, then use a dark colour.


I hope you find these Matilda Resources useful!

For more Matilda themed posts, click on the image below.



Free Printables From Tiny Me

While I’m perfectly capable of creating my own worksheets and printable signs and labels for the girls, they are very time consuming, and I use printables from both free and paid sites a lot. Free Printables From Tiny MeFor me it’s a matter of saving time, sometimes and spending time doing paid work, versus the amount of time the girls have to sit around doing not a lot because I am busy making worksheets.

It’s something I do like doing, when I have the time, but in a lot of cases it’s a matter of ‘why re-invent the wheel?’

One of the sites I use is TinyMe, who offer loads of seasonal and occasional printables. Here are a few we’ve used recently:


Gelatin Bird Feeders For The Garden (With Recipe)

I love the idea of helping out nature, though living on a lush green Island with rolling hills and meadows, it can be hard to imagine that we need to. But, because here and now we might not need to, doesn’t mean I don’t need to instil a wish to protect our wildlife in my children. At five and three they are perfectly capable of learning how, and now is the time that they are still so full of enthusiasm, so it’s the perfect time to do it.

Recently we’ve been talking about birds and how birds fly, and the different types of birds and all that, so it seemed fitting to make gelatin bird feeders for the garden, though this is something we’d normally do in Autumn. We don’t actually have a garden either, so we’ve just hung them in trees around us.
bird feeders

These bird feeders are made with gelatin, as they last a little longer than for example peanut butter, and gelatin isn’t harmful to the birds – and probably helps their beaks grow stronger too!

We’ve made them in cookie cutters so that we can play with the shapes, and have fun with them. Since we live by the sea, we’ve even had a few ships to hang in the trees.


Tip: Don’t hang them in direct sunlight. If it gets too hot the gelatin begins to melt. Also, press as much together as you can in one shape to hold them tightly together. Gelatin Bird Feeders

How to make gelatin bird feeders:

  1. To make the birdfeeders, plan on a packet of gelatin (powder) to a cup of bird seed. So if you’re making two cups (500ml) bird seed, add two packets of gelatin and so on.
  2. Prepare the gelatin to the manufacturers directions, but only add 1 cup of water to one packet of gelatin (250ml water). (Or double if you’re making double) It needs to be thicker than jelly to hold it all together. Once the gelatin has melted, leave it to cool for a couple of minutes, then add in the bird seed. It mustn’t be runny and since your seed may differ to mine, just add more if it’s too wet and liquid.
  3. Stir in well till all the seed is coated, then scoop in to your waiting shapes.
  4. We scoop half the amount needed to fill the shape, then add a length of string, before adding in the rest of the seed, so that the string is in the centre when you pull the shape out of the cutter. Press down firmly to compact everything as much as possible, before setting aside overnight to dry.
  5. Don’t leave in the sun or it may melt again.
  6. Carefully remove from the cutter, and hang somewhere to enjoy.

Google ‘garden birds’ in your local area and see if you can find a checklist of what you should be able to find in your country. Keep an eye on your bird feeder and see how many local birds you can spot in your garden.

We love the RSPB’s ‘First’ Series of books. They are perfect for small people.  And why not turn it into a full experience by using a bird watching kit to really feel like a nature explorer.


Skills - Sensory Skills - Explore Nature Skills - Creativity

Greenwich Planetarium For Under 5’s {Mamaventurers}

Greenwich Planetarium, actually called Peter Harrison Planetarium, is a 120-seat digital laser planetarium, situated in Greenwich Park, London and is part of the National Maritime Museum. Every Tuesday during term time, (and school holidays and weekends) they have a special showing for children, in what is actually a very affordable and fabulously enjoyable day out.First a couple of negative points:

Since we had to travel to London and plan ahead for it, we set a date in our calendars well in advance, but didn’t actually book tickets because with little children, you never know what comes up on the day.

We chose the day we did, however, because the website said that it was a show for under 7’s – Space Cowboys.  On arrival at the reception to book our tickets, I asked for tickets for that and the man at the desk was really unhelpful and really miserable and uninformative.

He said the show for the day was “Meet the Neighbours” and offered no further info. I pressed for more asking if it was appropriate for under 7’s and he just looked at me and eventually said “It’s a family show”. It was like pulling teeth to get information! The woman sitting next to him just stared at me through the whole exchange! When we decided we’d go for it anyway, he  asked if we wanted tickets for the Observatory too. I asked if he could tell me more about it and he just gave me the prices, I looked at the children – who admittedly were lying on the floor giggling at the ceiling at this stage – and asked my friend Y if she wanted to get the combined tickets, when the man said it wasn’t really appropriate for children! (So why ask me in the first place!)

Our initial exchange was frustrating, but once we were in, we decided to start at the cafe and have an early lunch. There’s a lovely outdoor area where we could drink our bought coffees while the children had their lunch box snacks and have a bit of a run around after a long drive.

We also used this as an opportunity to work on a Space sticker book, which was perfectly aimed at the under 5’s. (Amazon has a few similar Space Sticker Books from DK) This was a great introduction to space, astronauts, things you can find in space and so on.

Greenwich Planetarium

On the entry to the Planetarium there was a beautiful photo exhibition, The Astro Photographer of the Year exhibit, which gave us the opportunity to chat about the stars and other solar events – like the Aurora Borealis – before heading into the theatre.

Greenwich PlanetariumThe staff on the actual Planetarium were fantastic. Ameli and her friend A were both dressed as astronauts, and the staff here were the first to give them any acknowledgement of that fact, something they were thrilled about.

They let the (most well behaved ever) schoolgroup in first, and then told our little astronauts that it was time to launch!

When we walked into the ‘theatre’, we lay back in the reclining chairs – Ameli and A both proclaiming how awesome this is – and waited.

Meet the Neighbours is a show about the planets next-door and the search for extra-terrestrial life. The show was presented by a lovely Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomer who allowed the children to ask questions after – although the show itself was pretty informative, and the school kids had more questions about the presenter (Rupert Grint, AKA Ron Weasley, although there was no Harry Potter connection in the show itself).

Inside the planetarium – for those who’ve never been to one – to roof is a curved dome, and the roof itself is the screen. This provides an almost 3D appearance, but also places the viewer in the centre of the action. It’s pretty phenomenal, and even the under 2’s in our party were enthralled.

The show lasted about 30 or so minutes, which was just the right length for the children, and while Meet The Neighbours wasn’t aimed at our children, it was animated enough and in the right ways that it engaged them and the school children equally. While many of the finer details of extraterrestrial life forms will have passed over their heads, the fact that they did in fact learn and gain from it was obvious afterwards, when we went through the interactive exhibits and looked at the different activities and experimental exhibits. Y and I were even able to launch (and crash!) a mission to the moon, I think it was. (There’s a reason NASA engineers don’t take their children to work, I’ll have you know!) Greenwich Planetarium

Overall, it was a fantastic experience, and I’m sad that even when we lived in Greenwich we just assumed the Planetarium would be too expensive, and never went!

The children loved it, and have already asked when we can go again!

Greenwich Planetarium

The practicalities:

It’s in London, so you have to work out your travel and then add an hour or two to get from the outskirts of London into Greenwich, which isn’t in the congestion charge zone. (But you might travel through one to get to it).

Greenwich mainline station and Greenwich DLR station are about a 20 minute walk up a steep hill to the Planetarium. Blackheath Station is probably about the same, but approaches the planetarium from the back.

If you’re driving, there’s (largely unadvertised) parking via Blackheath Avenue. At the time of publishing, there is a four hour maximum parking time, at £1.20 per hour.

There’s a cafe on site, and gorgeous park land for picnics.

Show times: 12:45 and 13:45*

Prices: Adults £6.50 | Concessions £5.50 | Children £4.50 (Under-3s free) | Family £20 (2 adults + 2 children); £14.50 (1 adult + 2 children) | Members FREE*

*PLEASE check before departure

Find out more at:

Find it on the Mamaventurers map


The Living Rainforest, Berkshire {PlayLearning Themes}

Our playlearning – slash – pre homeschooling theme this fortnight is rainforests. I was very excited, therefore, to discover that there’s a living rainforest an hour and a bit’s drive from where we live. The Living Rain Forest is in the village of Hampstead Norreys in Berkshire.

In preparation for our visit, and because Ameli, who is almost four, has not had any previous exposure to rainforests, we did some pre-work with the books In the Rainforest* and Make your Own Rainforest*, colouring rain forest pictures, reading about the animals, and creating a pop up rainforest, complete with a discussion on the different layers of the rainforest, and acting out being all the different animals represented in the books. (Amazon has loads of books and DVDs on rainforests – no relation, I’m sure – so look to see what takes your fancy.)The Living Rainforest

On arrival at the Living Rain Forest, my first impressions left me a little disappointed. I had expected glass houses, but somehow I still had hoped for the height of the rainforest, which was obviously impractical of me!

After parking – there’s plenty free parking – we found the entrance and made our way in. We were meeting friends there, so made a beeline for the play park. It was a lovely park and while it has similarities to normal play parks – swings, a slide, a climb frame – it also has some other spinny and twirly things I’ve not seen before and the children loved. The park is set among large leafed trees, and is well themed, down to the large dinosaur peeking through the bushes.

The Living Rainforest Playpark

There are also picnic tables outside so that you can take your own food if you wish.

The cafe inside served real coffee, which was a bonus for me – I hate paying for bad coffee – so we topped up our reserves before attempting the rain forest green houses, which as it turns out, really surprised me.

As you walk through the first set of doors you are hit immediately by the tropical weather of the rain forest.

Ameli knows about the equator and the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, and she was able to tell us that it was hot in the rainforest because most rainforests are between the two tropics and close to the equator, but England is further from the equator, so it’s cooler.

As we ambled our way along the first circular route we saw orchards and a large and beautiful Turaco, a red crested Turaco, which the children watched for a while with glee. It sure is a beautiful bird. The first green house also housed a cacao tree on which we were pleased to find a bright yellow pod, leading to an explanation of how cocoa and chocolate are made. (Did you know it takes one tree’s entire production of beans for an entire year to make 450g of Cadbury’s chocolate? That’s insane!)

The Living Rainforest PlantsAcross the walkway from this, there are flytrap plants, where we happened to see a roach of some discription pop in for – and to become – lunch. Again, a great time for learning!

There’s a second greenhouse which was even warmer than the first. Immediately upon entering, we saw scorpion boxes, fortunately secure. There was also a beautiful set of Toucans with their brightly coloured beaks, and other unidentified free-flying birds. There’s also a large pond with hundreds of tiny little brightly coloured tropical fish, and larger species too, including sting rays. There’s a turtle breeding area and even a dwarf crocodile.

The Living Rainforest Animals

The children were probably most taken by the variety of monkeys in the Living Rainforest. They loved watching them and when the marmoset stuck it’s tongue out at them, they squealed with glee and did the same back.

The Living Rainforest Monkeys

We did also catch glimpses of a python (in a cage) and a sloth, curled up in a corner of the room. The children are a far cry from quiet, and there were a few school groups, so we did miss a few animals, like the free range frogs.

Possibly the most horrible critter in the Living Rain Forest, however is the bird eating spider, which fortunately was not eating a bird but was safely behind glass. It was larger than a child’s outstretched hand though, and not a pretty guy.

Overall, we had a fabulous time at the Living Rain Forest, and since our tickets give us annual free entry, I’m pretty sure we’ll go back (Your entry ticket is an annual pass, basically, and entry is currently £9.95 for adults and £8.45 for children 2-14 years. Please check the site for up to date prices and opening dates and times.)

The children had a great time in the rain forest, and it definitely was a learning, exploratory experience. As far as I can tell, they all took something away from it, and they certainly all enjoyed it.

Location: Hampstead Norreys, Berkshire, RG18 0TN
Educational Benefit/Topics: Rainforest, Tropical Plants, Equator and Tropics, Tropical Animals

See the Living Rainforest on the Mamaventurers map

Butterfly Learning

Mondays tend to be either field trip or home days for us, and today was a home day. I bought a bunch of activity books some time ago, and today we opened up Insects and Bugs and used the first page: butterflies, for a theme.

We read the very limited text on the pages, and matched up the blank spaces to the butterfly stickers, which Ameli matched up pretty quickly and easily.  We discussed how, just as we are ‘people’, but have different colours, hair, and faces between races, butterflies are a ‘species’ and have different wings and names, but similarities within their own types. We recognised the ‘Monarch’ and ‘Swallowtail’ butterflies, and just spoke about the patterns on the others.

I then drew a picture of a butterfly, which Ameli coloured, and used some of the left over stickers , the extras, to decorate the butterfly.

We still wanted some more crafts, so I cut butterfly wings out of cardboard, and cut holes to make shapes. We decorated scraps of paper with glitter and glued them to the back of the butterfly, so the ‘holes’ shone through sparkly – Ameli loved that.

Next, she coloured, stamped and decorated the butterfly.

Finally, we watched a video on youtube about the life cycle of a butterfly, starting at the caterpillar, moving to pupa and finally emerging as a butterfly. Ameli role-played the life-cycle, by crawling around the floor and ‘eating’ a (green) cushion (leaf) then rolling up in a blanket (pupa) before emerging as a beautiful butterfly. Aviya enjoyed the pupa stage, but didn’t really get the rest of it!

I wanted to end the day watching A Bug’s Life, but couldn’t find the DVD.

It was good fun, anyway, dong arty crafty stuff and throwing in a little learning too!

Mamatography 2013: Week 23 – Busy, So Busy

We have been so incredibly busy lately. It’s been good, but, man alive. My children don’t strive for the same peaceful existence I do.

Day 150 – Fancy dress, a walk in the park and asparagus picking

The girls were up with the sparrow-farts this morning, so we had a play with our fancy dress goodies.

We met up with an old friend – Ameli’s first non-family childcare provider, actually, – who is a fully fledged, and absolutely lovely child minder these days.

We walked around a new, man-made nature reserve.

And had a swing on one we found there.

Then some friends were going to pirate puppet show at a pick your own farm near us, so we decided to join them, and ended up asparagus picking. We were all pretty shattered and ready for a good night’s sleep by the end of that day!

Day 151 – Growth

There’s been growth! Our weather is so beyond bad at the moment that nothing’s growing. I’ve had to move all the plants and the seedlings indooors to get any signs of life from them, and finally we have a sign of life. Yay.

Day 152 – A quiet day

The problem with a quiet day is that I have to find a million ways to keep the children occupied at home. Today we did some very simple origami, which Ameli loved. Actually this book was pretty good for beginners. It comes with papers and everything. I’m not sure where it’s from even – I’ve had it in my bookshelf for years. I knew we had busy days ahead, so was grateful for a low key one.

153 – Mothers, Friends

A beautiful day with my mother’s circle, we spent the morning in quiet meditation, and sisterhood.

After that we went to a friend’s house for her son’s second birthday. It was one of the rare beautiful afternoons of this year so far, so we sat outside, had a barbecue and had fun. We were supposed to go to a second party in the evening, but by the time we were ready to go, the children were more than ready for bed.

The girls certainly loved it…

154- Naming Ceremony

We went to the naming ceremony of a lovely little girl and spent the afternoon surrounded by people we’ve known and loved these last two years. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I have a strong disconnect from most of them at the moment, and I am finding it draining and hurtful, but at the same time… I can’t cope with the drama of trying to forge connections again. I’m hoping in time it will heal itself, but in the meantime, well. We’re just trucking on.

One of the daughters of one of the older mothers is a really good facepainter/bump artist and she treated the girls and boys and some of the mamas to some art.

My insecurities aside, the children had a great time, and one of Ameli’s best friends, P, had a lot of fun with them. I wish I could be more childlike and just have fun with everyone.

Day 155- Breastmilk

I miss the days where I donated breast milk, actually, I am blessed with such a huge supply. This was a six minute expressing job!

Day 156 – Science Club

One of the homeschool groups local to us has a weekly science meet. It’s really for older children, but I took the girls along for the ‘sound’ session and it was brilliant. The ex-science teacher was fantastic and he really engaged the children. I don’t know how much they really ‘learned’ as such, but they certainly ‘got’ the experiments, and loved them!