My First Story Writing Book {Book Review}

If you’ve been inspired by National Storytelling Week or you’re simply hoping to encourage your little storyteller to grow in the craft, there are a number of books on the market that offer just that. We recently bought My First Story Writing Book from Usborne books to work through during the week and we loved it so much, I wanted to share it with you.

My First Story Writing BookRead more: My First Story Writing Book {Book Review}

Ideas For Celebrating Winnie The Pooh Day (January 18th)

Winnie the Pooh Day in on the 18th of January. It’s actually A.A. Milne’s birthday, which is why the date was chosen.

In it’s Disney era, Winnie the Pooh has been cast as a character for baby-nurseries and babified for toddlers, but in truth, I think this has done them something of an injustice, with the stories being much more suited to early readers. They are clever, and funny and well worth dusting off for a quick evening read.Winnie the Pooh Theme

As such, we’re learning around the theme of Winnie the Pooh, which means we’re using the topic, however loosely to underpin our learning. Below are our ideas for celebrating Winnie the Pooh Day. The list will grow and link to other pages as the day gets closer, but I’m populating it as I go along.

To give you something to get stuck into in the meantime, however, here’s a FREE PRINTABLE BOOKLET for you to download and print. It has all sorts of puzzles, games and suggestions for your Winnie the Pooh celebrations.Winnie the Pooh Activity Book

Read more: Ideas For Celebrating Winnie The Pooh Day (January 18th)

Four Printables For Alphabet Learning

It’s finally happened. My baby has decided she’d like to be able to read. Her big sister can spend hours lost in her latest favourite book, and she wants to be able to do the same, I guess. With Ameli it was easy – one round of Reading Eggs and she was on her way. Aviya needs a little more interaction in her learning though, so we’re working our way through the alphabet.

I found a few different alphabet-learning printables on educational resources website Twinkl, and here’s how we’re using them.alphabet-printables

Read more: Four Printables For Alphabet Learning

Learning Games: Using Go Fish For Anagram Words

We’ve been working on a bit of a loose ‘ocean’ theme the last few weeks, so I decided to let the literacy activity for this week be ‘go fish’.

For this game, we used a magnet to pick up our magnetised fish – say, 5 fish, or pick a number – then make up as many words as we can from those five letters. Pretty simple, really, and great for word exploration, spelling and a general word-building exercise, without looking or feeling like learning.Go Fish Game

Read more: Learning Games: Using Go Fish For Anagram Words

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory – The Book Vs The Movie

It’s Roald Dahls’ birthday in a couple of weeks, so our home-ed theme to get us back into a learning routine now that summer is over, is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We are really easing into it since it’s important to me that at 5 & 3, the girls still have a lot of time for simple play. We started today with watching a favourite movie for us – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp – and then we started reading the book*.

I thought that a good way to gauge reading comprehension would be for Ameli to keep track of the differences between the movie and the story, so I created a chart for her with two overlapping circles.

On the one side I wrote ‘Movie’ and on the other ‘Book’ – where things overlap between the book and the movie I wrote ‘Both’. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Reading Comprehension Worksheet

On first reading we got five chapters into the book, which is a very short distance into the movie, but Ameli has been really quick to spot the few differences between the two, and pointing out the main storyline similarities. She sometimes even points out differences in the spoken words between the film and the book, but since we’re not trying to de-construct the story, I’ve tried to steer her towards major themes.

Similarities include the fact that the grandparents spend all their time in bed, and that Grandpa Joe worked for Willy Wonka and that the family ate a lot of cabbage. Differences include things like Mr Bucket being the one who finds out about the Golden Tickets in the newspaper, while in the movie, Charlie sees the signs go up.

We’ll keep track of differences as we go through the book, but it’s great to see her engaging with this as much as the movie, and being conscious of and excited by the differences. I love knowing that she’s actually comprehending what we’re reading.

You can use our chart if you like. Download it free here.

Study Unit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Find more Charlie & The Chocolate Factory activities here.

StoryBox – The Perfect Magazine For Budding Storytellers

We’ve recently started a subscription to StoryBox, a storytelling magazine for children. It’s the ideal first magazine for families who don’t want their children inundated with branded characters and plastic toys.

With babies, tracking development is simple. There’s no missing that they’ve begun crawling, or walking, or talking, or moved on to solid foods. With older children though, the development can come as quickly, but it’s a little harder to see unless you’re paying close attention.

Recently, 5-year old Ameli’s reading has come on in leaps and bounds. In the space of two months she’s gone from spelling out three letter words, to writing text messages to her aunts and uncle on Whatsapp! Since she loves receiving mail, I thought a magazine subscription would be a lovely idea for her, and so I signed up for a couple of children’s books from

The first one we received is the title StoryBox. I am honestly so impressed with this magazine. From the glossy thick-paper cover to the decent quality paper inside, this feels more like a book you’d keep in the shelves than a throwaway magazine.


Not only is the first story – about a pirate – almost like a regular kids story book, but then you get to go on to the educational pages – in this issue that’s on ‘why do we use suncream’ and some facts and information-in-story-form about sharks.

From there on there are cartoon strip style stories, and the best part of the book for my little story teller, the cartoon strips where you get to tell your own story to go with the pictures. That’s what she’s doing here:

StoryBox2Just as little brains tire from all the reading and story telling, there are a couple of pages of activities, like spot the difference, match the words to the character and so on. There aren’t a lot of games, but that’s not the point of this magazine, so it’s not a problem.

One of the main things I love about this magazine is that despite the obvious quality of it, there’s no advertising, except for two pages that promote the magazine. There’s no mainstream advertising, no products, no must-have really-don’t-need toys or anything else that makes me reluctant to buy off the shelf magazines normally.

More often than not, when I buy a magazine for the children, it ends up torn up into bits in no time, but though they’ve had two weeks with this magazine, it’s still in great condition, which leads me to believe they’re treating it more like a book than a magazine.

I am looking forward to having a shelf full of StoryBox magazine’s from, and can’t wait to see my small one grow into them too.

Click below for a walk through of the magazine if you want to see what the different stories in it look like:


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StoryBox magazine subscriptions are £50 per year for 10 magazines. Find out more at


Learning “A” Sounds & The Difference Between Vowels And Consonants

It’s funny how despite our best efforts of printing out worksheets, making sensory play tubs, and becoming crafting masterminds to help our children learn things, it’s sometimes the simple things that just flip the switch and cause the lightbulb moment.

I have been noticed in Ameli’s reading that she struggles to ‘place’ some letter sounds when there are options – like “a” which could be “apple”, “armour” or “away”. The same goes for other letters and word sounds, so over the next few weeks I’m going to help her focus on word sounds, word combinations and see where we go from there. It does feel good to have a focus again though.

The irony is, I grabbed a bit of paper and the lid of a storage tub, and drew some lines and we just chatted through it.

Here’s three ways the letter “a” can sound: a: “apple”, words that sound like ae “armour” and /ə/ “away”. Can you think of more letters?

… and five minutes later, she’d come up with more than half the words on this list. I was rather impressed.

A Letter Sounds

Then we started talking about vowels and consonants, and at first she didn’t understand, but I told her that “a,e,i,o,u” and sometimes “y” are vowels, so we went through the whole alphabet, separating out the vowels into a different row. Vowels and consonants

And when I explained about “y” being a sometimes vowel, she pointed out that it’s only a vowel when there weren’t other vowels around. A lightbulb moment.

This is not the prettiest post, I know, but it’s to point out that sometimes we don’t need amazing resources and effort to reach those beautiful light bulb moments that make home education – any education really – so worth it.

Salt Dough Alphabet Learning

My life over the last year has not been ‘my life’. It’s been a crazy attempt at keeping my head above the water as both a mother and an employee.  My job is winding up this week, and while I’m panicked to the hilt about how on earth I’m going to stay afloat, there’s also a part of me that feels a huge amount of energy returning to my day to day. I feel excited about spending time in home education again, and not like my little girls are just another thing on my to do list every day. We’ll see how the next months go, but I’m excited about getting back to being a mother first, even if the government is trying to push mothers back into work – even those that don’t want it. But that’s a post for another day.

Today I decided that it was time to start at the beginning again. Ameli is reading beautifully and mostly confidently, when she can be bothered to. Aviya is slowly starting to recognise letters, and I think it’s time we start focusing on our play-learning themes again. At least for Aviya it’s a formal start to alphabet learning.

I thought a fun introduction for us all would be something crafty, so I went with the Little Cooks Collection alphabet letters. I gave them all to Ameli to sort out for me, “so that we can see if we have them all”. I was really pleased that she got it right as far as I expected her to – that is, she still confuses “j” and “g”, but we’ll work on it.

Salt Dough Alphabet Learning

Salt Dough Recipe

The salt dough I used is probably the best recipe I’ve used to date. I’ve often found that making salt dough is fine, till you try to dry it, then it tries to rise and cracks and breaks. This one didn’t do that. For this recipe I used 270g flour, 160g fine salt and about 170g water (2/3 cup). Mix it all together, so that it’s properly combined, then knead the dough. I have a Thermomix so I did a quick three minutes in that, but a 10 minute knead by hand should produce a similar result. You want it pliable, and not crumbly. It should also not stick to surfaces.

Roll the dough out, and cut out your shapes. We transferred ours to a pizza stone (two, actually) and put them in the oven for 2 hours at 135C. This may vary from oven to oven, so keep an eye on it. It needs to be dry, but not browned.
Salt Dough Alphabet Learning

Leave the shapes to cool completely, then paint and decorate as you wish. I let the girls run with it, but they  had to make sure the sides were painted too, which is pretty good fine motor skill training. We used a water-based paint, which I wasn’t initially sure would work, but it did work beautifully.

Salt Dough Alphabet LearningOnce properly dried, we will focus on a letter a week and do alphabet learning around it, using some for word sounds (like ‘ch’ and ‘th’ and so on too. It should keep us busy for a while!

For other literacy themed ideas, click here

Skills - Learn to Write Skills - Learn to Read Skills - Creativity Skills - Cognitive


Learning To Read With Reading Eggs

Ameli is only four years old and I have never tried to force her to learn to read. Her dad has read to her pretty much every night of her life, with a few months’ exception when her Oupa (grandad) did too. She was only just three when she started asking us what different words were, or what letters were, or how they sounded, so when we first saw a free trial of reading eggs, we tried it.

Ameli was very small still and would only do a few of the ‘games’ at a time before running off, but over the months of our subscription, she got more and more into it.  Learn To Read With Reading Eggs

Initially, she would read a word, like ‘chick’ and say the word ‘chick’ but not realise that she was reading, so if I asked her to read the word, she’d say she can’t read! We never forced anything, but we’d get really ‘excited’ when she read a word, and that excited her – so she kept going, learning to read with Reading Eggs.

Ameli also started carrying a notebook and pen around, and asking us all what we wanted to eat – and then how to spell that. She’d write pages and pages of letters. No, we couldn’t decipher them, mostly, but it was a start.

As I sit writing this, she’s having her ‘learning time’ as she calls it when she asks for it, and is playing the Reading Eggs game and is about half way through the program. She’s doing so well, I am so proud of my little girl!

So let me tell you a little more about Reading Eggs.

Reading Eggs is an online reading and maths program for children aged 3 up. We only do the reading at the moment, but when the program is done we might go on to the maths if she’s interested in it.

The big thing with Reading Eggs is that she’s playing games, all the time learning.

There are 120 reading lessons that travel through 12 maps with ten letters or letter combinations in each map. Each letter has a number of games to help children recognise the letter and the sound it makes. You can find out more details about these games on the website itself.

As they play the games they collect eggs, which can then be used in the ‘shop’ to buy accessories for their avatar, or used in the arcade.


Reading Eggs is played on line, so you’ll need internet access, but there are also free printable resources that underpin what you’ve learned in the lessons.

While children play and learn, summaries of their lessons and progress are emailed to the named email address – a parent’s normally – at the end of each map, which is nice as it shows you what they’ve learned so you can help them underpin and encourage them.

Reading Eggs offers everyone a two week trial so you can see if your child is ready for it. There are the pre-reader section for those who don’t read yet, and the early reader for those with some reading experience.

Aside from the reading, books and learning sections of Reading Eggs, there’s a whole game area too, and a shop for ‘buying’ ,as well as songs you can learn to compliment the games.

If your little one is looking reading ready, or you want to help them out a little before they head to school, or even if they’re at school and need a little extra help, there are hours upon hours of game time for the  £29.95 or £39.95 for 6 or 12 months.

Normally you can sign up for a free 2 week offer with Reading Eggs. Use this code to claim FOUR free weeks instead!


Totally worth it in my book!