National Nest Box Week 2019

National Nest Box Week 2019

February 14th sees the start of the 22nd National Nest Box Week. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) focuses on nesting birds and encourages everyone to put up a nest box in their garden or local area in order to support the conservation of our breeding birds.

The loss of hedgerow trees, changes to woodland management and increasing urbanisation have all contributed to a decline in available natural sights for nesting birds like the Blue Tit, Starling, House Sparrow and Robin. Nest boxes replace lost opportunities, increasing the numbers of nesting birds and boosting their populations. read more

The Perfect Gifts for Christmas:  A guest post by Granny Smith 

Having become a grandmother for the first time Granny Smith started blogging almost exactly a year ago, not long after Daisy’s first birthday.  Now, 50 blogs later, she has followers all over the world who appreciate her informed observations, down to earth style and grandparent- oriented view on watching grandchildren ‘grow, play & learn’. A retired lecturer in child development Granny Smith lives in Norfolk with her husband who works in the toy industry.

I was delighted when Learning Resources asked me to write a ‘guest blog’ for them recommending which of their products would make perfect Christmas Gifts for children of Daisy’s age. While these selections are from their wide range, they did give a free hand to choose what I thought appropriate.

I’ll start with fine motor skills development because right now Daisy cannot get enough time moving, fiddling and adjusting things. Last weekend we saw her posting felt tips into her wellies while she was wearing them. So, I know Daisy would welcome Spike, the Fine Motor Hedgehog as a special gift. The endless placing and re-placing of his coloured spines would make her very happy.  The Bright Basics Peg Garden would also interest Daisy and perhaps challenge her skill and stimulate her imagination as well.

Sticking with motor control a game that would be a big hit with the family and one that Daisy could play is The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game.  Squirrels are always a hit with toddlers and it is so common to see them now in our urban environment. Great for learning to cooperate and take turns Sneaky will also help Daisy learn her colours as well. Look out for other games in this ‘tweezer’ series.

Sometimes Daisy needs to express her development of gross motor skills and when she’s in that mood she would benefit from having the New Sprouts Fix It Set with its pretend tools! There are many great items in the New Sprouts range from tools to food items and cooking sets, and when Daisy feels like making more noise, she could turn to the Learning Drums.

I don’t think Daisy is too young to enjoy Crocodile Hop, the early maths activity set. This is a fun active ‘cross the river’ type of game with plenty of whole-body movement for all the family.

Daisy has always loved small world animals so an apt Christmas set would be Jumbo Forest Animals.  These chunky and rather seasonal animals are just the right size for toddler’s hands and stimulate pretend play that you can link to young children’s’ favourite books. Speaking of books, Daisy has been looking at them since she was a baby and is now reciting simple stories and words. Now would be a good time to give her some Letter Blocks to manipulate, use as dough cutters and watch as I form simple words for her. There are Number Blocks too to help with simple counting.

Granny Smith says

Daisy will be 27 months this Christmas and would be lucky and happy to receive any of the toys I have chosen. Of course, whatever she is given I wonder if removing the wrapping paper and opening boxes might delight her almost as much as the contents; I’ll keep you posted as always at 

www.grannysmithsdiary.blog read more

10 Stocking Fillers to give the gift of learning!

Are you looking for the perfect stocking filler that will keep your young learners occupied? We’ve pulled together a list of 10 toys perfect for filling up your little one’s stocking! With a mixture of both educational toys and fun filled games, these stocking fillers are guaranteed to keep children of all ages engaged. We have sets for creative play and activities that will spark curiosity and encourage discovery whilst having loads of fun, so you’re bound to find something they will enjoy!

1) Playfoam® Pals™ (£6.00)

Children just love surprises and collectibles! See their faces light up on Christmas day with Playfoam® Pals™. Inside the squishy, squashy Playfoam are cute animals waiting to be found! Each set has different pals to collect:

  • Snowy Friends – 13 to collect including Sven, the super-rare snowman.
  • Pet Party – 13 to collect including Penelope, the super-rare potbellied pig.
  • Wild Friends – 12 to collect including rare, golden versions of each animal.

Children will love creating their own pals as heads and bodies pop apart for colourful, mix and match fun. Encourage imaginative and creative play with the Playfoam, as little ones sculpt beds, nests, igloos and more!

Playfoam never dries out so can be used again and again straight from the pod.

2) Stems® (Tub of 20) (£9.00)

This flexible 3D maker toy introduces STEM to young learners through play with this creative construction toy. Brightly coloured and incredibly tactile, Stems’ possibilities are endless! Every Stem is exactly the same simple shape and they’re so bendy that you can make pretty much anything you can imagine! It’s fascinating fun for the whole family.

As children zip together the weird and wobbly pieces, they develop key learning skills, including:

  • Problem solving
  • Fine motor coordination
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Curiosity

Both children and adults can make balls that bounce, wheels that roll, frogs that actually leap and much more!

3) Colour Cubed Strategy Game (£9.00)

Children will get addicted to this puzzle game as they develop their colour recognition and matching skills. Score points by matching the colour squares on the cards, the player with the most points wins!

How to play

  • Set up game as per instructions.
  • Place one of your cards against any side of the centre card, matching one or more of its colour squares.
  • Each colour square in a matching sequence is worth 1 point.
  • The scorekeeper adds up the player’s points and writes them down. It is now the next player’s turn.
  • Players can match 4 corner colours, connecting them to make a square.
  • Players continue placing cards, making matches, and adding up points until all cards have been played.
  • The player with the most points after all cards have been played is the winner!

Other ways to play Colour Cubed

Double Up

  • For this game, designate any colour as ‘wild’ – points are doubled when players use that colour to make a match. For example, if purple is the wild colour, and you match 3 purple squares, your points earned would equal 6.

Four-Square

  • In this game, players earn double the points if they can match 4 corner colours, connecting them to make a square. For example, if the player makes a blue square, that player would earn 8 points. Each four-square only counts for double points one time. After that, the square is only worth 4 points when extending the sequence.

4) Beaker Creatures™ Reactor Pod (£4.00)

Beaker Creatures™ combine the amazement of learning through science with the anticipation of surprise collectibles. There are 35 Beaker Creatures to collect from five different planets: The Astrolytes, Frostonians, Buglettes, Oceanites and minisaurs. Children will love building an out-of-this-world collection! There are even five rare, 24-carat creatures to find!

Create amazing bubbling reactions by simply dropping the Beaker Creature Reactor Pod into a bowl of water. Watch it fizz and bubble before revealing the collectible creature inside!

Included in the set is a Reactor Pod, classification card to identify your Beaker Creature and a mini-poster featuring amazing science facts and fun images!

Use the Reactor Pod with one of our Beaker Creature sets for more scientific fun:

Beaker Creatures Liquid Reactor Super Lab

Beaker Creatures 2-pack with Bio-Home read more

Create your own Monster Game

Christmas is just around the corner and the cold weather and darker afternoons have arrived. It’s the perfect time to get indoors, stay warm and play a game! We’ve teamed up with RedTedArt, one of our favourite craft bloggers, to bring you a festive, printable Monster Game. This isn’t just any monster game though, it’s a create your own Beaker Creature Game!

Using our Beaker Creature characters Hyclops, Peetle, Twinkle, Merf, Clomp and Flurry, RedTedArt has created a fun, creative game the whole family can enjoy. How many legs will your Creature have? What pattern? Will they have antlers like a reindeer? Play to find out!

Not only is this game fun but it also gives opportunities for learning and development:

  • Practice counting with numbers 1 to 6
  • Explore and discuss colours
  • Develop fine motor skills with drawing, colouring and cutting
  • Discover new shapes
  • Spark imaginations by creating adventures and new stories for your Beaker Creatures
  • read more

    10 Family Games for the whole family to enjoy

    Get everyone together this Christmas for a family games night! We’ve brought together 10 family games perfect for a festive family night. Ages range from 2 all the way up to 14 so there’s something for every member of the family! From educational board games to intriguing strategy games, we’ve got something that will appeal to everyone in your family from the youngest to the oldest. Young learners won’t even realise that they’re learning as they develop core skills through engaging game play whilst joining in with the rest of the family.

    1) Sculptapalooza™ (Ages 10-14)

    It’s the squishy, squashy, sculpting party game!  This fast-paced sculpting battle combines the creativity of Playfoam® with engaging imaginative play. Mess-free Playfoam never dries out so this game can be played time and time again! Simply get into two teams and battle it out to mould the Playfoam into a specified model!

    How to play

    • Place the category cards face down in the play area
    • Decide which team will go first
    • A player from that team takes a category card and rolls the numbered die to determine which challenge they need to complete
    • That player must use the Playfoam to complete their challenge before the timer runs out
    • Can their team mates successfully guess what it is?
    • The first team to successfully guess 25 challenges wins!

    Sculptapalooza™ includes sculpting challenges such as:

    • “Straight up Sculpt” – simply create the specified model
    • “Put it on your Face” – mould the Playfoam onto your face to bring your creation to life
    • “Just close your Eyes” – master your creation with your eyes closed
    • “Playfoam Props” – incorporate props into your masterpiece
    • “Sculptor’s Choice” – build anything in your imagination for your team mates to guess

    Take a look at DIY Daddy’s review of Sculptapalooza!

    2) Code & Go® Mouse Mania Board Game (Ages 5-9)

    A learn-to-code board game! Code & Go® Mouse Mania is a way to introduce coding and inspire primary children in STEM. This engaging game follows the same screen-free concept as our award-winning Code & Go Robot Mouse. It provides a basic introduction to early coding concepts such as step coding and logic and encourages problem solving skills, but most importantly, it’s fun to play!

    How to play

    • Each player selects a mouse and places it in its coloured corner of the game board
    • Give each player a Super Mouse card
    • Players take turns rolling the die and selecting that number of coding cards
    • Encourage players to lay out their coding cards in a sequence to map their mouse’s path. The path should take them closer to the cheese!
    • Players then move their mouse according to the steps in that sequence
    • If a mouse lands on some cheese, that player takes it
    • Players clear their cards after each sequence ready for their next go
    • Play continues until all cheese wedges have been collected
    • The player who collects the most cheese is the winner
    • Enhance the game play with:
      • Maze walls – roll these on the die and place a wall anywhere you want on the game board to block your opposition
      • Warp zone spots – instantly jump to another warp zone spot in one move if it will benefit you
      • Super mouse – Can be used only once in a game! Use this card to jump over a maze wall

      3) Hooplastack™ (Ages 7-12)

       A game of steady hands and quick reflexes! Hooplastack™ is an easy-to-play game that encourages fine motor skills and strategic thinking as players pile the wooden pieces high, then try to snatch the bottom piece with the hoop!

      How to play

      • Remove the assortment of wooden pieces from the pole and stack them on a table
      • The first player places the wooden hoop over the tower and rests it on the table
      • They quickly yank the hoop, aiming to snatch out the bottom piece
      • If the stack remains upright the play passes to the right, if the stack falls the player is out of the game
      • The last player remaining wins!

      4)

      The Sneaky, Snacky, Squirrel™ Colour Matching Game read more

    Top 10 Toys for Christmas – A Gift Guide by Learning Resources

    Give the gift of learning this Christmas with our hands-on selection of fun and educational learning toys! Our top 10 Christmas toys have all been tried and tested by some top family bloggers and their curious little learners. You can rest assured they will last way beyond the festive season and provide hours of fun!

    In our top 10 guide we have a wonderful range of gift ideas that encourage a love of learning. From coding to construction, imaginative role play and family games to collectibles, there is something for everyone!

    Meet the top 10!

     

    Botley™ The Coding Robot Activity Set
    Beaker Creatures™ Liquid Reactor Super Lab
    Gears! Gears! Gears!® Machines in Motion
    Sculptapalooza™
    Pretend & Play® Original School Set
    Design & Drill® My First Workbench

    Pretend & Play® Pet Vet Hospital read more

    Science in Play: A Guest Post by Emma from Science Sparks

    Children are full of questions about the world around them and are like little sponges in the early years. It’s the perfect time to add science to play and learning activities, which will hopefully inspire a love of science throughout childhood. Science activities don’t need to be complicated or heavily planned, the best ideas are often those that use only a few simple materials you probably already have at home.

    For example a tray of colourful, glittery ice, warm water and a pipette, can lead to hours of making the ice melt, talking about how it feels and how to make it melt faster ( or more slowly ). Just a few bits of ice provide the opportunity to learn about melting, freezing, temperature, team work, problem solving and so much more. My biggest piece of advice for encouraging an interest in science is to let children explore, ask questions and design their own investigations. If they have the time and space to play, the questions will come. You just need to set up a starting point and that can be something as simple as a bug hunt in the garden, or going on a nature walk to collect treasures.

    The Primary Science Lab Set from Learning Resources is perfect for inspiring scientific play. Use the magnifying glass on a bug hunt, the pipette for dropping water on ice or trying a bit of chromatography and the beakers and test tubes for making fizzy potions.

    Magnet wands are also great for all kinds of investigations. We used them to test objects around the house, for making magnet mazes and even painting with magnets.

    I find STEM challenges are a fantastic way for children to learn using their natural problem solving skills, if the first attempt to solve the challenge doesn’t work, they can try again, changing the solution a little each time.

    Coding activities are also wonderful for inspiring children and Botley the Coding Robot from Learning Resources is a brilliant starting point. Botley is a coding robot that helps children develop critical thinking and problem solving skills which is so important in later years.

    Science gives you an invaluable opportunity to learn alongside your children and make the ordinary, extraordinary together. There really is nothing better.

    2018 Award Winners

    2018 Award Winners

    At Learning Resources, a lot of time is invested in understanding what children need to learn and how they might learn it. Products are then developed around that need, ensuring that products are appealing, easy to use and of a high quality. Moments are created where learning and play become one, and Learning Resources products are designed to instil a love of learning in both boys and girls, who often do not realise they are learning as they play.

    Throughout 2018, multiple Judges have put our toys and games to the test! We are delighted to have received several prestigious accolades that have recognised our toys for their quality, durability, educational benefits and fun factor. Discover which toys have award winners this year below.

    Botley™ The Coding Robot Activity SetBotley™ The Coding Robot Activity Set

    What is Botley?

    Meet Botley! The interactive robot here to teach children aged 5+ the fundamentals of coding, without the need for a screen!

    Botley, from Learning Resources, is the fun, friendly way for young children to learn coding and, unlike most coding robots aimed at older kids, doesn’t require a tablet or smartphone. Ready to use straight out of the box, Botley is the only robot on the market that comes with a full activity set, allowing children to create obstacle courses for endless hours of coding fun.

    Awards

    Botley Awards

    Judges’ Comments

    Primary Teacher Awards – Gold – Score of 95.4%

    “An excellent product that introduces children to the concept of coding. The younger ones were happy to program in basic commands while the older children tried the more complex sequence of coding”

    “We loved Botley! The appeal was instant. Children were able to follow the written instructions and had him working straightaway. Ninety minutes later they were still engrossed. They were able to program him and create obstacles with the shapes provided and not a cross word between them! It is rare to find a toy with instant appeal that requires no input from the adult”

    “This clearly supports STEM, with children using their imaginations to create what might be possible. It is a great introduction to computer programming to younger children. The colours were equally appealing to both boys and girls. I liked the detailing on him – his tyre treads being computer circuitry. The control panel was a good size for small hands”

    Right Start Awards – Top Winner – Gold

    “Botley makes abstract concepts concrete and gets children excited about coding. Our four-to-eight year olds enjoyed plotting mazes and (without realising it) using logic to programme Botley out of dire situations”

    Good Toy Guide – Recommended

    “How can Botley see the things in his way?” – Boy aged 8

    “Botley introduces children to coding in a fun way – a real favourite with our testers. They loved the concept of a robot and were eager to get programming! They needed some help initially to understand the commands but once they had read or listened to the instructions, they were well on their way. The younger children engaged in simple programmes – one group enjoyed programming Botley to move from one child to another (they were sat in a circle). This teaches cause and effect and logical thinking skills which are ideal as a basis for important STEM learning”

    “The children showed a high level of engagement and determination when coding the robot – they did not want to give up, demonstrating perseverance. The option to build upon simple codes and functions and two levels of difficulty provides opportunities for children to progress their knowledge and develop their understanding. We also observed some excellent teamwork and enjoyed seeing the children discuss their successes and failures, building on them in their future codes”

    Playfoam® Pals™ Wild Friends 2-Pack

    Playfoam® Pals™ Wild Friends 2-Pack

    Meet the Pals!

    Playfoam® Pals™ feature 12 collectible pods that open to reveal a unique animal character encased in Playfoam®! The super-squishy, sculpting material is child friendly, won’t dry out and doesn’t stick to clothes or carpet! Children love opening the Playfoam Pals pods to reveal their surprise collectible. Heads and bodies can be mixed and matched for endless character combinations; look out for the ultra-rare golden pal!

    Playfoam makes the perfect material to sculpt props such as nests and beds for animal friends and a handy collection sheet illustrates the home countries of each animal, helping children to keep on track of what Playfoam Pals they need to complete their set!

    Awards

    Playfoam Pals Awards

    Judges’ Comments

    Good Toy Guide – Approved

    “This foam is really cool, especially how it sticks together” – Girl aged 9

    “The crocodile is so cute, I love it” – Girl aged 6

    “The Playfoam pals are both cute and creative and definitely appealed to our testers. They were keen to see which pals they had got and there was much excitement when one of them contained a golden pal. They loved the fact the foam could be used to make things for their new pals: homes, food, beds… It provides many opportunities for creative play, which develops imagination and storytelling skills”

    “The unique sculpt-able quality of the playfoam also encourages sensory play. This exploration of different tactile elements, textures, sounds and smells is not only great for developing fine motor control but can also enhance memory, problem solving and language skills. Sensory play also provides opportunities for calming and managing emotions. Due to their size, these toys are great for taking out and about as they are self-contained”

    Right Start Awards – Silver

    “Playfoam will keep children busy for ages: they’ll enjoy moulding it into weird and wonderful creations and the animal surprise makes it a must-have. Good value for money”

    Primary Teacher Awards – Bronze – Score of 78.1%

    “The children were eager to open this and were excited to see what Playfoam pals were inside.”

    Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog™Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog™

    Say Hello to Spike!

    Ideal for toddlers, this beautifully designed hedgehog-themed learning toy will develop a variety of

    key early learning skills read more

    International Talk Like A Pirate Day – A guest blog by Ian Goldsworthy

    Ian Goldsworthy is here to help Learning Resources celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Ian is a Year 2 teacher at Manor Lodge School in Shenley, Hertfordshire and he also does teacher training in Science for Essex Teacher Training.

    If you’re anything like me (late 30’s, balding, social life not as full as it once was) you’ll have had the 19th September circled in your diary for a long time – International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

    Yes, it’s time to batten down the hatches, hoist the main sail, and fly the Jolly Roger once again as otherwise sane people pepper their vocabulary with a boat load of ahoy, aha and avast.

    The salty seadogs at Learning Resources asked me to don my captain’s hat and take a look at three of their fantastic products to make sure they were ship shape ahead of this year’s talk like a pirate day and to think of a few ideas for how each product could be used to aid learning.

    Jolly Roger’s Pirate Pieces

    This is a great game for 2-4 players to begin to recognise fractions, specifically halves, quarters and thirds.  The pirate loot is gathered in the centre of the board and players take it in turns to use the spinner to determine which piece of treasure they will be able to take from the centre pile: ½ a gem stone, a 1/3 of a gold medallion, a ¼ of a treasure map or a whole golden chalice?

    The winner is the first person to fill up their treasure chest, helpfully indicated by empty shapes split into halves, thirds and quarters.  But, crucially, there is not enough treasure for all four players; there will need to be some skulduggery in order for any pirate to complete their haul.  Once all the treasure has been collected from the middle you can then steal treasure from the other buccaneers, robbing them of their whole fractions whilst adding to your own.

    Opportunities for learning

    • The strong, clear visuals of the game really help reinforce the differences in the fractions and how many parts make a respective whole. If a player has ¼ of their treasure map, ask them what fraction they have still left to find (3/4).
    • Collect more parts than can fit on your whole to demonstrate improper fractions i.e if you collect four parts of a medallion this would be 4/3
    • For more advanced players you could use decimal or percentage equivalents, encouraging children to recognise that ½ = 50% = 0.5

    National Curriculum links

    Year 1

    • recognise, find and name a half as one of two equal parts of an object, shape or quantity
    • recognise, find and name a quarter as one of four equal parts of an object, shape or quantity

    Year 2

    • recognise, find, name and write fractions 1/3, ¼, 2/4 and 3/4 of a length, shape, set of objects or quantity.

    Year 4

    • recognise and write decimal equivalents to ¼, ½ and ¾

     

    Play Money

    No pirate plunder is complete without some sterling, and this set of UK coins and notes has everything you would need to introduce working with money.  The coins are exact replicas of all current UK coins from 1p up to £2 – they’re even a little bit chunkier than the real thing to make handling a little more straightforward.  Also included are a set of notes from £5-£50.  Everything you might need to set up a role play area or to start working with money more in depth.

    Opportunities for learning

    • Thanks to the fantastic accuracy of the coins and notes, this set makes a fantastic introduction to recognising the different shapes, sizes and values of the coins and notes.
    • Asking children to find all the different ways they could make a certain amount with the money they have is a great investigation and really gets them to start to see that there is more than one way to reach an answer.
    • Understanding the relationship between the notes and the coins can sometimes be tricky so working out how many of the different coins would be needed to make a £10 note can help children understand both money and place value (10 x £1.00 = £10, 100 x £0.10 = £10 etc)

    National Curriculum links

    Year 1

    • recognise and know the value of different denominations of coins and notes

    Year 2

    • recognise and use symbols for pounds (£) and pence (p); combine amounts to make a particular value
    • find different combinations of coins that equal the same amounts of money

    Year 4

    • use place value, known and derived facts to multiply and divide mentally

     

    Playbrix Pirate Adventure

    A pirate is not really a pirate unless they have a tall ship upon which to sail the seven seas and this fantastic resource allows them to build just that.  The set comprises of a number of different cardboard bricks: some shaped in squares and rectangles; some in triangles and pyramids.  This range of building materials allows any budding Blackbeards to create a ship, a fort or anything they want as part of their pirate universe.  Thanks to some clever reinforcement in the construction of the bricks they are all impressively durable as well.

    Opportunities for learning

    • This set is a natural fit for any Early Years roleplay area and, though it comes with a number of decorations to help give it that pirate look, the bricks themselves could be reused for any number of different scenarios.
    • The variety in the types of bricks also makes this a great opportunity to introduce the properties of 3D shapes to the children by introducing them to cuboids, prisms and pyramids.
    • Don’t miss an opportunity to use this set with older children. The set comes flat packed with the shapes having to be assembled from nets.  Whilst the assembly would be too tricky for younger children, children in Years 5 or 6 should find a great challenge in predicting what shape will be made from each net before justifying their reasoning.

    National Curriculum links

    Year 1

    recognise and name common

    2-D and 3-D shapes read more