You know those days when you wake up in the morning and mentally go through your day, only to suddenly remember the birthday party you’re meant to be at in two hours, so you stumble bleary-eyed over to the gift cupboard and realise that you now only have gifts left for babies, blessingways and older kids, so you log in to your online banking really hoping your client has paid you, but alas, she hasn’t… so you have less than two hours to come up with a present. What do you do? I’ve mentioned before what I do – I go to Twinkl, so that’s precisely what I did today.
I can’t claim to have grown up with much awareness of religious diversity, and I can’t claim to be one way better or worse off for it, but I do know that my children are growing up in a much different way and in a very different place to the close, conservative, and supportive community that I did, so I think it’s important for them to learn two things: 1) Tolerance for other religions, 2) an understanding of other religions in relation to what I believe, and what I hope they will believe. Religious observances are also different now, and sometimes more commercial – for example the Colour Run, based on the Holli celebration, or locally, we have Electric Woods, where Robin Hill lights up the autumn nights inspired by Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. While we could just go and enjoy the prettiness, I think there’s value in explaining what it is that we’re exposing ourselves to, so that the children can learn something about ‘other people’. As it was, the Electric Woods event saw us walking through the woods at Robin Hill enjoying the cold evening air, listening to music and looking at light displays. It was a lovely evening out, fuelled by hot chocolate. Read more: Learning About the Hindu Festival Of Diwali
I really enjoy game cubes – I’ve made a few of them over the course of parenting, like this activity cube for rainy days – and was going to make one for animals & emotions to go with our feelings and emotions theme, but then happened across this printable version on Twinkl. I decided to save my wooden blocks for another time, and printed this emotional animals game instead.
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.
We’ve been spending some of this week indoors, getting our Mother’s Day crafting going on – it’s a bit early, but if you have things to post it’s useful to get it done in advance! A really useful resource for easy mother’s day activities is Twinkl, an educational resource for schools and parents, and particularly useful for home educating – or homeschooling – families.
One of the things I love about using online resources is that it saves me a lot of time and effort in turning a simple gift – while nice enough – into an adventure, something I know my own girls would love.
For a birthday party this weekend, I bought a gardening kit for the birthday girl – a spade, fork and shovel, as well as twin planters and a little watering can, ideal for indoor planting. With that, I bought a little sunflower seed pot and a runner bean seed pot, so the recipient could get planting straight away. All of this came to about £12, which I thought was pretty good value for money.
But, much like the bug hunter kit, I wanted it to be an experience rather than just a gift, so I headed over to Twinkl and printed off a few different worksheets: Flower Display Bunting, the Bean Life Cycle and the Sunflower Writing Paper.
The flower display bunting I put in the gift for her to make, and the sunflower writing paper – for making notes or writing letters. For the bean life cycle I got to use my laminator! I printed out the life cycle, cut out the cards and laminated them so that they can be part of the growing experience.
My girls and I did a fabulous fun experiment with beans, so this is a wonderful learning experience and one I hope our recipient will enjoy too!
So, that’s how we turn a basic garden gift into a garden adventure, complete with bunting, and letter writing.
A few months ago I discovered an online resource for Early Years, KS1, KS2, and SEN teachers, classes and home educators called Twinkl. I emailed them to find out about a rate for Home Educators, and eventually got the full membership, so that I can give it a try.
Twinkl is essentially a compilation of teaching resources and themed printable documents. While it’s true that a home educating parent could probably sit and create all their own resources for whatever theme you’re working on, I have found Twinkle to be an invaluable website for a number of reasons:
1. Twinkl gives you resources on tap
While we tend to plan our PlayLearning themes well in advance, I don’t always have time in the run of daily life to actually prepare all the resources in advance. At those times, it’s wonderful to be able to quickly head over, type in our theme, print out a few pages – be they colouring pages or activity sheets – and give those to Ameli to keep her busy while I put together other things, like craft projects, or experiments to go with our themes.
2. Twinkl gives you a starting point for your own projects
Last week we were looking after two friends who are moving to Australia soon. I printed out Australian and UK flags, and cut them out. The children coloured one of each flag and while they did so, we spoke about our friends moving away and what that means. We then made those into bunting to show we’d always be connected, even though we’re in different places. Of course I could have printed these from other places, but I didn’t have to search, sort or think about it too much, they were there and ready.
We took an ambulances word sheet from the role play section, and cut them out and used them for a treasure hunt, before using the same pieces to trace the letters and try to read the words.
3. Twinkl gives you options for themes
One week we went to the fire station for emergency services week. We printed out paper themed with little firemen all around it to write thank you notes for the firemen. Of course this wasn’t necessary but it was nice! (And I now remember I haven’t posted them yet! )
If we had a theme for a longer period than a week, we could, as an example, print off themed alphabet pages – emergency services, spring or whatever we were working on. (Remember Ameli is still preschool, so we’re not using all the formal bits yet.)
4. Twinkl saves you a lot of time
Again for the fire services week, I found a ‘game’ where you can mix and match the fronts and backs of emergency service vehicles. I printed these off (I printed them 4 to a page, if I recall, so that they were smaller), then cut them and laminated them. Again, I could have searched for a variety of vehicles, edited them all to the same size, spent time looking for similar styles – but with just a few clicks we were on our way, and Aviya still plays with them, weeks later. This is so useful for reinforcing learning – in this case of the 999 number for my two year old.
There was also an interactive PowerPoint with videos of emergency vehicles that I didn’t have to search through YouTube to find – it’s ready and fit for purpose.
5. Twinkl printouts can make gifts with no effort
We recently went to a birthday party for a four year old. I had a very small budget, and didn’t want to buy a toy, as such so instead I bought a box file, magnifying glass, basket, stick of glue, a note pad and pen on a lanyard. Inside the box, I placed a few printed worksheets for mini beast hunting, a spring hunt checklist and so on.
If I was doing them for an older child there would have been more difficult activity sheets or experiments in the box, but I thought a nature explorer slash bug hunter would be great for a four year old. I know mine would have loved it! Again, of course I could have spent time searching for something good online, but the whole gift took me half an hour to assemble (once I’d bought a few bits) and I was very happy with the price, and the end result.
6. Twinkl can be your first port of call
Tomorrow we will be spending some time on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I can spend my evening on Pinterest looking for ideas, for sure… or I can pop over to Twinkl and download the massive resource they have available, and cherry pick what we want. If I have more time, and more ideas, I can go to Pinterest. But if I need something quick, easy, accessible and quality, I know where to go. If the resource isn’t there, you can request it – it won’t be immediate, but if you plan ahead, you can make that work for you too.
I know the argument some people use against paying for a subscription service with a resource like Twinkl – mostly because as educated, computer literate people, we can all design our own stuff, or even better, use the many, many free resources around the internet including some on Twinkl.
I also love how, if I do want to create my own resources, I can do so using their templates, and I can share and save it to the site, for which you get points too, and enough points can win you ‘freebies’ and prizes too.
If you’re in a position to be able to do that, great stuff, but for me as a working and home educating mama, I love the ease of Twinkl, how it takes the pressure off me on the small, standard stuff, so I have more energy and time to spend on the fun stuff.