A Book Subscription: Book Lover Gifts

I’m an avid reader, and while it’s something I try to encourage in the children, it’s something that’s always come very naturally to me. I did a little tally the other day, and in 2017 I read 76 books, though technically you could say more, as I read some of them more than once! I may not ever have celebrity crushes, but I do have character crushes regularly (here’s looking at you, Peeta Mellark! *sigh*), and if I find a character I bond with on some level, I’ll happily read their story over and over.  When I came across this book subscription service, I thought it was a fantastic idea!

I always love the idea of subscription services anyway, because while it’s a gift given on one day, it’s a reminder month in and month out of the gift, and isn’t that just perfect?

Book Subscription

Read more: A Book Subscription: Book Lover Gifts

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 “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.

Literature To Crafts: The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

It’s been absolutely ages since we’ve had a chance to read a story and do crafts from it, but the opportunity presented itself today and I grabbed it with both hands.

A few weeks ago we were going to make an ocean diorama, so we painted out a box in shades of blue and green. Our plans didn’t quite work out – my girls aren’t fond of colouring, what’s that about? – so we abandoned it, but I still had the box, in hope.

We read The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile by Margaret Wise Brown (currently £5.16 at Amazon UK/$7 Amazon US), which is a story about … well, endurance, I guess, because I couldn’t really find many other lessons in it. But endurance is a valuable skill and in this story, the fisherman search high and low for a fish with a ‘Deep Sea Smile’. They don’t find one for ages, but come across many other fish in the meantime: there’s one with a strong jaw, one with an electric tail, one with eyes on sticks, one with terrible claws and even one with a laughing eye.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

The ability to see something through, in this case finding the fish they were looking for, is valuable, and uncommon in our quick-win society, so I think it’s a great life skill to talk about.

I also love the illustrations in this story. They are done by Henry Fisher, and if I was to have a book illustrated, I’d love him to do it. They are so beautifully done. The pictures don’t really do it justice – especially the electric fish (second on the right below).

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

To bring our book to life, I cut the parts of the fish from coloured paper, and put the different parts of the fish together in piles so the girls could ‘build’ their fish from the given parts.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

I must say that I love our finished product. In all honesty I’m  not always ‘yay’ about the crafts we do, and we’ll keep them on display for a while before letting them ‘disappear’. I really do like this ocean diorama though. I have no idea where we’ll keep it, but it’s cute, bright, colourful and the fish are so friendly and fun.

It’s a great reminder of the story, which the girls thoroughly enjoyed.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

*We received this book as part of the Parragon Book Buddies program. You can find Parragon Books on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. You can find this book on Amazon UK here or Amazon US here.

Disclaimer for reviews

Skills - Learn to Read Skills - Imagination Skills - CreativitySkills - Fine MotorSkills - Hand Eye Coordination

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!

Learning: Frogs Are “Amphibianins”

I had an absolutely lovely morning with a friend of mine at Birdworld in Farnham. It’s a bit of a drive for us, but it was worth it. I’ve been before and had been underwhelmed, but today it was so much more fun. Aviya just loved it. It’s the first time I’d been to a city-farm style place with her, and she was so sweet.

We were walking around the animal farm section and she started singing ‘he-hi-he-hi-o’ and grunting like a piggy. I almost melted. So sweet. She can barely say any words, but she can sing. That’s my girl. Also, she has a thing about cups. That’s an empty coffee cup in the picture, but she carried it around for most of the morning. Watching her cross that bridge, she looks so grown up.

Birdworld and coffee

Back home I carried on with the Summer Camp at Home theme, and we made frogs. We chatted about the comparison between reptiles and amphibians – or amphibianins as Ameli calls them.

It made me realise I’m going to have to read up some of these topics before I lead discussions on them! We had so much fun though. I often DO things with  my girls, but I rarely PLAY with them. While we were waiting for the glue to dry on our frogs, we read a few books that happen to feature frogs – Quack! Quack! and Five Speckled Frogs* (the latter is great. It has a ‘croak’ button which Ameli likes pushing, and it leads nicely into the song, which we hopped around the living room to.)

Once the glue had dried we had frog races across the playmats, which was good for a giggle too. Who ever knew frogs could be so much fun?

Learning Points:

*though these are old books, not currently for sale, the links are still affiliate links. Should you purchase through these links, you will not pay any more, but Amazon will pay me a percentage of the sale price.

AnyBook Reader Review And Competition

You know how every now and then, you find a product, look at it, dislike it, and then on closer inspection fall in love with it?  Well, this is one of those.

The AnyBook Reader is basically an electronic-pen-slash-voice-recorder-and-player-backer.  The premise being that you read your child’s favourite books while recording yourself and they can listen to them at any time, in your voice.  Initially, I have a problem with this in so many ways. If used as a replacement for time with your child, for example. But, after a while of thinking about it, I realised that there are examples of where this would be wonderful – like when a parent is deployed, away on business or otherwise unavailable. It’s a great way for the non-custodial parent to still get to be part of the bed time routine, for example.

And the more I thought about its potential application in our lives, the more I loved it. I decided to try it out and came up with this: I typed up a book, and emailed it to my parents. They then read the story into their phones, recording it on Whatsapp. They sent it to me and I recorded it into the reader and just like that, Nana and Oupa can read Ameli a story from across the world.

I’ve done a little video clip to show you how it works, so watch this:

[youtube M231T9qWZMk nolink]

But in short, click a button, record, hold the pen to a little sticker you’ve applied and listen.  There are no cables to connect, nothing to upload or download, and no new stories you need to buy or keep adding to.

In your started pack you receive 200 reusable stickers, which you can attach to each new page or to the front of the book. You also receive character stickers – faces – that we’re using to identify who reads each book. (So a book read primarily by Nana has the little face with glasses on it, and my parents have added a ‘we’re going to read a story now, so settle down and snuggle up’ type welcome message.) There are also some sound stickers you can use in stories – a cow, bell, ringing phone and so on. You can also buy another 600 stickers if you need them.

The AnyBook Reader is so simple and easy to use, and I think when a parent or other family member isn’t available, it’s perfect for keeping a connection alive.

The AnyBook Reader is available in the DPR-4000 (£69.99) model can store up to 60 hours of recordings and the DPR-3000 (£49.99)which can store up to 15 hours of recordings.

We have been shortlisted in the MADS awards as best pregnancy blog and best new baby blog. I would be so grateful if you would take 1 minute and vote or us to win in those categories.


If you’d like to win an AnyBook Reader, leave a comment below telling me the name of your favourite story that you’d like to record for your (or another) child.

For an additional entry, (which is not compulsory, and is not sponsored by Facebook and which has nothing to do with Facebook or its employees) you can like Any Book Reader, and leave a second comment below saying you have. Also, leave a message on their wall telling them I sent you!

This competition finishes at 23:59 on 11 June and the winner will be randomly drawn. Winners will be announced here and on the Diary of a First Child Facebook Page. Please check these to find out who won.


Please read the competition rules.

You do not have to tweet or share this competition to enter, and doing so does not give you additional entries unless otherwise stated, but doing so helps ensure that I can keep bringing you competitions! You can subscribe to Diary of a First Child by RSS  or to our competitions only RSS feed or email. You can also follow us on Facebook or on Twitter. We hope to see you back again soon!


Your Surprise Personalised Book Competition

I am absolutely thrilled about this review and competition today. As a child, I loved reading. I would read rather than ride a bike, or climb a tree. Why would I want to ride down the dusty road of a border town when I could be off exploring a castle with the Famous Five, or solving a mystery with my best friend, Nancy Drew? Why would I want to be dirtying my shoes by kicking a ball when the Hardy Boys were off on a grand adventure? Holidays were the best times. I’d start reading a book in the morning and keep reading till the early hours of the morning, then dream about the story. I loved it so much.
Read more: Your Surprise Personalised Book Competition