Learning with Dobble/Spot-It

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I was so excited to get the game Dobble (UK), also known as Spot-It (US) (affiliates), for my birthday this year!




If you don’t know it, Dobble is a card game in which you match cards according to the pictures on them. Each card has 8 pictures, and each card matches every other card in the deck, so when you see a match you have to shout “snowman” or whatever the match is. It is usually a fast-paced party game.

“So how can I use this to teach my tot?” I hear you ask! And “what educational value is there in it?”

Let’s deal with the “why”: Have you ever known a child to struggle telling the letter b from letter d? Or one who confuses the 2 and 5 on a digital clock? (Much to a parent’s distress…) That is to do with a skill called visual discrimination – discriminating between the different characteristics of letters or numbers. In other words, it is important for reading, writing, mathematics… Dobble allows you to practice visual discrimination in a fun and friendly way.

“How can I use it?”: The way Bunny and I use Dobble is by taking turns rather than the regular “whoever shouts the shape first wins the card”. If, however, Bunny sees the match between the cards before me when it is my turn, I let her take the card. We choose one of three game styles: trying to get rid of all of your cards; trying to win the cards from the middle; or laying the cards out in a grid, face-up, and spotting matches as quickly as you can, being allowed to take multiple cards if they all have the same object on.

Since Bunny loves to play games, this really works for us.

I wanted to know how Dobble works (can there really be exactly one match between every pair of cards?), so when I saw someone had made their own version (!) I looked at the page and found a link to Radigan Engineering. This site had comments from people talking about making their own versions with sight words or family photos. One man has made a site where you can easily create your own from pictures. (The pictures are only stored on your own computer).

We’re on Review Week 2 from Raising Rock Stars Preschool so I thought I would make a review game using the colour, shape, number and letters of the week for the six weeks we are reviewing:


You can download RRSP Review Week 2 Dobble and use it in your learning if it helps you!


Bunny really enjoyed it! I made a second version as she found the lower case v, z and x difficult to distinguish from the upper case V, Z and X. I made the colour of those letters different from any other colour I’d already used in the game. If your tot would find that easier, you can download the simplified version of RRSP Review 2 Dobble instead.


  • I decided to print mine on 9-to-a-page, similar to regular playing card size, but you can choose what size to print yours (2, 4, 6, or 9 to a page are easy to do in Adobe Acrobat), and I would make sure you tick the “Print page border” option
  • Using the make-your-own website and wondering how I made the text in the font (Primer Print) and colour I wanted? Each object is a picture, even the numbers and letters, which I made in Paint. It didn’t take long once I worked out how to do it! I slightly regretted having to make letters and numbers in the colour white…
  • I struggled to get my game into pdf format so I could have card outlines. Your computer may be different, but in the end I: used 4×6 card size on the website; printed from there into Microsoft xps writer using envelope size C6; used an online converter to turn the xps document into a pdf
  • You can set the images to be rotated to any orientation but you need to leave quite a large white space around the edges if you want to do this and not lose any of your image

Thanks for reading! I’ve been inspired to play more games in school this January as I followed along with the My Little Poppies Gameschool Challenge.

Linking up to Tot School at 1+1+1=1.



Christmas Shape Review “Lesson”

I love Christmas! Today I’m sharing my favourite go-to maths “lesson” for the last day of term. I would very happily do this lesson 5 times in a day. And yes, it did, unbelievably, take the class the whole 50 minutes of the lesson! I’ve done the lesson with ages 11-16, but you could definitely do this with younger kids too.

Along with Christmas, I also love origami. I think it’s a brilliant fine motor skill, and I found when teaching that a lot of kids and young people really lack some of the fine motor skills for folding and mathematical drawing and measuring.

So, Christmas meets origami for my last-day maths lesson!

Earch student needs a rectangular piece of paper. I tended to use cheap gold and silver wrapping paper, but in the pictures below I simply used A4 paper. The wrapping paper is easier to fold and more exciting, but you do have to cut it into pieces before the class arrives. They don’t have much patience for watching you cut paper. Ask how I know.


Sorry these pictures aren’t numbered but I will number them in the instructions anyway! After each section I would ask the class a question about the shape they have now folded.

1) start with a rectangular piece of paper and then

2) fold in it half length-ways. What shape is this?

3) unfold the rectangle and now do the trickiest bit of the origami – it’s all downhill from here- take the top right corner and fold it to meet the fold line you have in the middle of your paper. This new crease needs to go exactly to the bottom right corner. What shape is this? (Irregular trapezium) What new angle size have we made? (60 and 120 degrees) ,origami-star-4-to-6

4) Now fold the top edge to meet the folded edge. What shape is this? (Pentagon, irregular pentagon, concave pentagon)

5) Take the little bit sticking out from the bottom of the triangle and fold it up. Tuck it inside the triangle. What shape is this? (Equilateral triangle) What size are the angles of this triangle? (60 degrees)

6) Fold the triangle in half. What shape is this? (Scalene, right-angled triangle) What size are the angles? (30, 60 and 90 degrees)


7) Unfold your right angled triangle and fold it again the other two ways so you end up with three crease lines on the equilateral triangle.

8) Fold the top point of the triangle down to meet the crease line on the opposite edge. What shape do we have now? (Isosceles trapezium) What size are the angles? (60, 60, 120 and 120 degrees)

9) Do the same for the other two points. If you have all three of these folded at the same time, what shape do we have? (Equilateral triangle again!)


10) This step is just for the maths teaching! Unfold the little equilateral triangle you had in step 9 and then hold the three points together. What shape do we have now? (Triangular-based pyramid, tetrahedron)

11) Unfold the tetrahedron and flip it over so that the folds you have previously done look like mountains instead of valleys. Now fold the top point down to the centre of the triangle, marked by the creases you made in steps 6-7. What shape do we have now? (Isosceles trapezium) What are the angles? (60, 60, 120 and 120)

12) Fold the other two points in to the centre. What shape do we have now? (Regular hexagon) What size are the angles? (All 120 degrees)


These pictures are in the wrong order…

13) This is the middle picture. You need to turn your hexagon over and this should be really easy to do as you’ve already made all of the creases. Fold like I’ve shown in the picture.

14) The picture on the left: do step 13 for the other two points. You can see I’m holding  it down because otherwise it pops open.

15) This is the step where we get the star to hold its shape. This reminds me of when you’re closing a box lid and each of the four flaps needs to be over one of the others and under the next one. You need to tuck the last flap you folded down under the first flap, and then it will stay. Bunny couldn’t wait much longer to have the star at this point…


16) Turn it over and you’re done! What a beautiful Christmas star.

You can look for the easier answers to questions or more difficult ones, depending on the age and understanding of your students (it is meant to be a review after all!). As I was writing this I worked out that you could ask about the angles, which makes a nice extension to the activity. You could ask them to work it out in their heads through knowledge of the total internal angle of a polygon or by using a protractor.

To sum up, I find this a nice, relaxing lesson – students are happy to do it because it seems like a fluffy lesson but you can actually extend it to have some great learning and review applications.
I hope it gives you some ideas for your last few days at school this year, if you’re not already on holiday.

Merry Christmas!

8 Games for Preschoolers

I’ve written about some games for maths-loving kids (or adults!) and games we love for adults or families over the last few weeks. Today I’m going to write about some games Bunny loves. If you don’t know already, she is 3 and a half, and has the corresponding attention span (generally 1 minute per 1 year old…) so shorter games work best for her. I love including games in our day and in our homeschooling, they really engage her and satisfy her need for fun (think Sims!) while she learns. Something that every game teaches her is turn-taking – not something which comes naturally to a small person, so I’m glad for the extra opportunities! These games do not require reading, so they’re great for Bunny now.

Many of the games we play I find online for free, by searching other blogs and Board Game Geek (which is a forum-style website where people who play games and invent games share free print-and-play files). Some of the traditional games we play are in this list. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one then I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

1. Busytown by Richard Scarry UK/US

This reminds me of a giant Where’s Wally? (Waldo) page, but as a game board. It’s 2m long, so you need a big floor space! It is a cooperative game (my new favourite game style, if you have any favourite cooperative games let me know!) so there’s no friction between the players. If you spin a GoldBug (don’t ask me why it’s called that!) then you take a GoldBug card, look at the item on it, and then all the players have 30 seconds to find as many of those items as they can. When you find an item, you put a magnifying-glass shaped marker on it. Then you count them up and everyone gets to move forward that many squares! This has helped Bunny so much with her one-to-one correspondence (counting one for each one object), visual discrimination (important for learning to read – think distinguishing b from d etc) and teamwork (dividing areas of the board between players to hunt for objects). It’s fun for adults and children too! Thanks to Uncle C for buying it for Bunny!

2. Don’t Break The Ice UK/US

This game gets mixed reviews for various reasons. It takes at least as long to set up a round as to play it (generally about a minute for each, depending on how well your children will follow the instructions to wait, take turns, etc). An adult has to set it up because it’s too hard for children to do themselves. When playing, you take it in turns to hit one block until it falls out of the ice rink; the person who makes the big block with the polar bear fall out of the rink is the loser. If you have more than two players, the loser from the first game is out and has to watch the remaining players play until everyone bar one person has lost. This may not work well for bigger groups. It’s quite noisy – kids using plastic hammers on plastic blocks isn’t the nicest noise ever. So why do we like it? For Bunny it’s quite difficult to have the self-control to only tap one block out and to take turns. These social skills are important to develop and this game is a nice way to do it. It provides lots of teaching moments! I’ve linked to the Frozen version, since it’s currently much cheaper than the original!

3. Operation UK/US

already wrote about how we use Operation in our house as a fine motor skill game for Bunny. She asks to play every few days. It’s a fun way to do some fine motor practice. We don’t use it as a game – taking turns, using the cards and money etc – but we will definitely progress to that once she is older and can play with the battery pack in so that the buzzer works!

4. Dominoes UK/US

The domino set we use was mine when I was little – I love the nostalgia! It has animals and numbers on it so Bunny can learn to match the pictures, rank the numbers (e.g. when starting we ask who has the highest double, and that player goes first), and connect the number of animals/pattern of animals with the numeral on the domino. I struggled to find similar modern dominoes, so the UK ones are pirate-themed and the US ones are animal themed.

5. Number Cards

We have a set of number cards, and you can use them in so many ways! Games of Snap, memory matching games, and war games. For a war game, you can give a player a number of chances to see if they can beat the card on the table with a higher number. These games teach numerals, value of numbers, and comparisons between numbers. You can find them cheaply in shops or if you want to print your own, Life Over C’s shop has some great number card packs with game ideas you could buy.


UNO is a fun game you can use to teach colour- and number-matching. I cut out the trickier rules (like the bit where you say “uno”…) and introduce them as Bunny gets older. If you’re playing a card game with small people it might be worth investigating making or buying card holders UK/US.

Games on our wishlist:

7. Pengoloo UK/US

You collect penguins from the centre of the board/layout by rolling dice and matching the dice colour to the colours of eggs under the penguins. You have to remember where coloured eggs were when others are playing so that you can get the penguins on your turn! 6 penguins on your iceberg wins the game. I think this will be good for colour-matching, turn-taking, communicating, strategy and concentration span.

8. ThinkFun Swish Junior UK/US

These transparent cards are so attractive! You lay out 12 cards on the table and then look for a “swish”. This is when cards match by one card having an outline of a shape in the same place that the other card has that shape. You can have 2-card swishes, or swishes that require more cards to be stacked up together. This should make it really fun and challenging for the whole family! I think Bunny should be old enough to work cooperatively on this game now, though ThinkFun recommend it for ages 5+.

So if there’s anyone little left on your Christmas shopping list, why not think about some of these games as a present for them?!


Teaching Tots about Treasure

In a shop – food, homewares or (the worst) toys:

“Can I have this?” Small Child.

“No.” Parent.

Please can I have this?” Small Child.

“No, it isn’t on the list/in the budget/what we came here for.”

Option 1: Child throws a tantrum and you have to punish them and leave the shop in embarrassment.

Option 2: You find a cheaper option and allow the child to have it.

Option 3: You completely give in and wish you hadn’t made an issue of it to start with.

I don’t know about you but I haven’t been that successful at finding other options. One good way to avoid the discussion is to shop online…! Anyway, one thing we are doing which is helping Bunny to understand why she can’t have everything she lays her eyes on is teaching her about money (i.e. treasure – I just liked the alliteration. Sorry if you were looking for pirate-themed activities.).

We started this a couple of months after Bunny turned 3 (just after we found Dave Ramsey). We pay her 50p for each of her paying jobs. These are unpacking the shopping and helping me to change the bedding. This means she can earn £1 per week. She doesn’t get any other pocket money or allowance, though sometimes she will receive gifts of money.


This may be the point in this post when some people get upset at how we are training our child, but for us it has benefits.

I usually find with any parenting advice that everyone loves their own method – which is fair enough, as they’ve tried it and it worked brilliantly with their own child(ren) – and will argue for it, perhaps to the point of making you feel that your way is wrong or harmful for your child(ren). I try to listen, hear their idea, decide if I like it and want to investigate more, or that I don’t, and if it is the latter I will try to nod along and not take it to heart as an attack, and won’t try to argue my point as it won’t change their opinion. That doesn’t mean I would like hate-replies to this post though…! It doesn’t mean I’m always that great at doing it either. I love to argue my point, but in parenting conversations it’s just not that helpful.

So how do we teach Bunny household responsibility if she gets paid for jobs around the house? Well, there are lots of jobs she doesn’t get paid for. She sets the table for dinner, tidies rooms with me, makes the beds with me and sometimes helps me clean (though that is playing really!).

So, now that we have been doing this for a few months, what has Bunny learned?

– She can earn and save up money for something for herself. A little while ago she was able to buy this Thomas the Tank Engine (US affiliate links – if you purchase after clicking an affiliate link I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you, thank you in advance for your support if you do purchase through my link) for her wooden railway set, with £10 of her own money which she had earned and saved herself. We’ve really tried to emphasise the big achievement this was to her!

– Bunny definitely knows the connection between work and money. I can’t neglect to pay her – she remembers! She will remember, even if it is a day later, that I haven’t paid her yet for the work she has done.


– “You can spend money on something to play with or eat” (I just asked her what she knows about money)

– When we find ourselves in a shop and Bunny asks for something, we have another option: “You can buy it with your own money if you want it (and have enough)” – I always make sure to tell her that it means it will take longer for her to save up for whatever it is she is saving up for at the moment, and I might ask her to think about it overnight and we can come back the next day if she still wants it, if it is a larger purchase

– Along with the last point, Bunny knows that you can’t buy everything you want. Money is finite!

What does she not yet understand?

– More coins does not mean more money! She knows that the coins have values but she hasn’t made this connection yet.

I’m sure that there are many more things which she doesn’t understand yet but she has definitely made so much progress in fiscal comprehension in the last 6 months. I just want to make clear that we are teaching her about money for her benefit, and that the supermarket scenario shows us a child with a lack of understanding about money and therefore a need to learn. It does happen to have benefits for us as parents and as a family too, but they are life lessons which are firstly for Bunny herself.

So the main points are:

– Do small jobs around the house to get paid (immediately), though these are not the only jobs the child does, and if the child refuses to finish a job they don’t get paid

– Encourage the child to save up for something they want to buy, and count as you go along – only so much to go, only so many weeks, etc

– Get to buy the toy and celebrate by getting the child to tell friends and relatives all about their achievement!

I hope this helps you to think about how you might teach your tot about treasure. Don’t forget what I said earlier about parenting advice!

Linking up to Tot School at 1+1+1=1.


10 Games We Love

I’ve mentioned before that we love games in our family. While Bunny was really little we really struggled to play games for a few reasons (partly related to sleeping issues and sleep deprivation issues). When she was a small toddler she just wanted to be involved in what Mummy and Daddy were doing, which means that most games were no good – anything with tiles or small counters just had pieces flying everywhere when she came to look.

Another hazard of gaming and parenthood is the rattle of dice. Whatever you do, you can’t wake the baby! I found a solution to this online (in the BoardGameGeek forums) – use a fabric placemat or napkin to roll the dice onto! This has seriously changed our ability to play games during naptime. Polystyrene or foam cups can help with the rattle if you use a dice cup too.

All that to say here are some of our favourite games, some which we can play as a family with help or adjustments for the smallest person, who is 3 and a half (I’ve used a code “F” – Family – for this), and some which I play with hubby while Bunny sleeps (I’ve used a code “A” – Adult – for this – not because it is rude but because it is difficult or too easy to mess pieces up!). If you like the look of a game and want to click over to Amazon to buy it, (remember Christmas is on its way and there are plenty of people you might want to buy for!) you should know that all the links are affiliate links, and thank you in advance! If you buy after clicking on an affiliate link I receive a small commission on anything you buy at no additional cost to you.

1. Carcassonne UK/US

This is a tile-laying game which never turns out the same and makes a really pretty picture. You make a map with cities, fields, roads and more, which you can score from in various ways. You don’t (necessarily) know who is going to win until the very end. There are lots of expansion packs for it too. (A)

2. Pandemic UK/US

I got this for Hubby for his birthday this month and we’ve had a lot of fun playing it! It is a cooperative game, which is great as neither of us are good winners or losers, so at least we can be happy or miserable together! You fight the game to try to cure 4 epidemics before various losing situations happen. (A, Bunny does like to join in when she is awake, but she tends to get bored after a few turns and we always tell her what moves to make anyway)

3. Nab-It UK/US

A tile-laying game which has similarities to Scrabble or Upwords, so you create a sort of crossword grid, but without a board. The strategy element comes in through laying your tiles on top of other players’ tiles, so that when the game ends you gain points for words in which you have laid the highest tile. (A)

4. Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot UK/US

This is a card game in which you collect carrots (while collecting bunnies and killing other players’ bunnies and trying to avoid the death of your bunnies). The winner is not the person with the most carrots, but the one with the correct carrot! This means that when the game ends, pretty much any player (as long as they have at least one carrot and at least one bunny) can win! There is a lot of strategy involved in the game but the actual choice of winner is somewhat random. This is quite good for us as it means that the winner doesn’t feel as proud – because there is an element of luck – and the loser doesn’t feel as upset – because it’s not really their own fault! (A)

5. Quirkle UK/US

A tile-laying game with colours and shapes, in which you end up with a “crossword” grid but it is based on colour- and shape-matching. The game scoring is where it gets a little more complicated, so if we play with Bunny then we don’t bother scoring – though we try to stick to the other rules when we play with her. (F)

6. Star Fluxx UK/US

This is a fun card game in which the rules change as you play! They can change (e.g. number of cards you pick up or play in a turn can increase or decrease) or you can add entirely new rules (e.g. a maximum hand-size limit) and the winning scenario changes frequently too! That is true for any Fluxx game – there are a lot of variations – but as a child I experienced a lot of Star Trek and so I find the Star Fluxx amusing. There are other SciFi references too – to Star Wars, Hitchhikers Guide and more. (A)

7. Uno UK/US

An old favourite card game with lots of versions out there to entertain you and your family. Bunny can pretty much get on with playing this with us, though scoring is tricky and little hands don’t like huge handfuls of cards – try looking for card holder tutorials online or you can buy them on Amazon UK/US. (F)

8. Monopoly UK/US

Another old favourite! I do love Monopoly, and took it into my head (when I was at University) to make my own version, based on my college. A few years ago, before Bunny was born, I made a version for Hubby called Pokémonopoly. It just adds a little interest and fun factor – especially the Chance cards. Yes, I laugh at my own jokes. (A)

9. Monopoly Deal UK/US

This card game version is a great idea – shorter gameplay than the full board game, so it will actually fit into a nap time. It makes a nice change! (A)

10. Exploding Kittens UK/US

This card game is a little rude – bottoms, gas and back hair, not swearing (there is an explicit version too so make sure you choose the one you actually want) – and involves exploding kittens. Not real ones, obviously. In case you wondered, I’m not a cat person. Anyway, the strategy is in trying to avoid picking up an exploding kitten, keeping defuse cards in your hand, and trying to force your opponent to pick up an exploding kitten! It’s a fun game, light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek. I especially like that you don’t need a huge table space, just room for a draw pile and discard pile. (A)

Thanks for reading through some of our favourite games! I hope they give you some ideas for family or grown-up fun after your Christmas dinner.


Fine Motor Fun and Games

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase anything after clicking on a link, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

A couple of years ago, when Bunny was about 1 and a half, we started Tot Schooling her. We put together a little fine motor activity using pompoms and a non-spill paint pot (US affiliates), which has a small hole in the lid to poke pompoms through. We also used measuring spoons to transfer the pompoms (which are nice scoops for pompoms because of the shape). Bunny’s baby cousin (16 months) enjoyed playing with it when he visited recently.

We extended the activity when she was a little older by adding in some kids tweezers (US affiliates).


Bunny hasn’t actually grown out of this as a toy to play with, but her fine motor skills have advanced beyond this. She is not yet, however, up to performing surgery on people. To improve her fine motor skills further in this area we let her… perform surgery on people! Well, person. Cavity Sam, to be precise.

She loves “playing Doctor game” (in fact she is asking to play it right now)! We don’t use the cards or money, and just let her play it as a solitaire, unaided game (but not unsupervised – the pieces are pretty tiny). She is improving all the time!


One more trick you might be able to see in the picture (I have a different version to the Operation game (US affiliates) I linked to on Amazon so I don’t know if you can do exactly the same with the classic version) – Bunny is scared of the buzzer. So when she plays Operation I take the electronic buzzer pack out and it can’t upset her! It makes it easier to reach parts with the shortish wire on the tweezers too. You could still take out the batteries of any version though to quieten the scary noise. Speaking of versions, there are loads of new versions of Operation now! Minions, Frozen, Doc McStuffins…!

So if your tot has outgrown the pompom-in-a-pot game, give Operation a go!

Linking up to Tot School at 1+1+1=1.


That Christmassy Feeling

Have you got into the Christmas mood yet? If you’re over in the US you may be waiting until after Thanksgiving. In the UK we tend to hear a lot of Scrooge-esque complaints if you start thinking about Christmas before December.

Unfortunately, as many parents know, kids don’t live on the same calendar as adults.

Bunny started asking “Is it Christmas yet?” well over a month ago. I know this because by the nineteenth of October I was utterly sick of it. What’s a mother to do?

This is what I did: create a calendar. I drew out the number of rows we needed for the number of days remaining until Christmas (67 at the time…) and numbered the days. I added numbers counting down to Christmas every 10 days, working backwards from December 25th, since I knew Bunny would want me to count them every day!


We added stickers for the things Bunny would be looking forward to (Daddy’s birthday, my birthday, mums and tots group days… oh, and Christmas. Did I mention Christmas?) and since then we have crossed off days at least every other day. She loves the countdown, we get to talk about Christmas and what it’s about and why we celebrate, and importantly for my sanity she has stopped asking me if it is Christmas yet! She knows perfectly well that there are 33 more days to go. Yes, 33.


Yes, she is crossing off the wrong days while I try to take a picture of her… I figure we will get to 25 and 26 November soon enough!

I’m sorry if this has come too late to save your sanity. Still, with 9 days to go until Advent it could be worth 10 minutes with card, a pen and some stickers if any of your babies are as excited for Christmas as mine is!

Don’t forget to check out my 10 Gifts for Maths-Loving Kids if you have some kids on your gift-list who’d love a mental challenge while they play with their Christmas presents.

Linking up to Tot School at 1+1+1=1.


10 Gifts for Maths-Loving Kids

Well, it is that time of year again when we all turn towards finding presents for loved ones. Some people are so easy to buy for (and I’ve already bought for them!) and others are… Well, let’s say I’m hoping for some inspiration. And a wishlist or two.

With inspiration in mind I’m hoping you might like some of these ideas for the STEM-loving kids in your life (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

Every link you see is an affiliate link, which means that if you click the link then I will gain a small commission from any purchase you make with no cost to you.

1. ThinkFun Robot Turtles UK/US

This is a great board game for ages 4+ which provides a fun introduction to computer programming. And the bonus is that parents don’t need a degree in computer science!

 2. Magna-Tiles 32 piece set UK/US

These 2D shapes magnetically attach to one another to make 3D shapes, which I love! There’s the opportunity for so much learning, and you can make really cool buildings too. There are lots of brands of magnetic tiles, and I chose this one to include because of the recommendations. Some other tiles seem to have problems with the magnets being polarised, but that hasn’t been said about Magna-Tiles.

3.IQ Link UK/US

I got this last year for Christmas and I love it! There is a booklet with patterns in which you copy and then fill in the remaining spaces with the leftover pieces. The main problem I have is keeping Bunny away! She loves it too. It says it’s for ages 8+ but Bunny (age 3) is able to fill in the pieces for the easy level once we set it up for her. The pieces remind me of fruit Polos so I wouldn’t leave anyone small alone with it. It’s hard enough not to try them myself!

4. K’NEX Simple and Compound Machines UK/US

My brother loved K’NEX when we were little and this set gives you instructions and pieces to build all sorts of simple (lever, wheel and axle, pulley etc) and compound machines. I love the focus on engineering, which I never really realised when we played with K’NEX as kids. This set is recommended for ages 9+ and includes a teacher guide.

5. Snap Circuits Extreme UK/US

Snap circuits allow you to build electronic circuits by clicking parts in and out. This set has 80 pieces which can make over 750 circuits. I get excited thinking about it! Snap Circuits make other sets too so you could start with a smaller one or add to a collection over time. Electronics are so fun!

6. Laser Maze UK/US

Speaking of fun, what’s not to love about lasers?! I mean, how cool is this! Any kid (or adult) who loves a mental challenge and LASERS (!) would love this logic game.

7. Gravity Maze UK/US

What about if you’re just not that into lasers? Maybe you’re a little more old-school and Newton is your favourite scientist. I’m sure he’d have loved Gravity Maze! Forget the apple falling on the head, this has marbles, towers, logic and fun for everyone aged 8+.

8. Jet Car Science Kit UK/US

There are so many science kits out there. I’ve found a bunch made by a company called Koontz, which enable you to build something and then explore how it works. I love a bit of engineering so this is right up my street, and I bet you could find a kid who would love to build a Jet Car, Safe, Periscope, Clock, Kaleidoscope, Chaotic Pendulum (that’s my pick!), Combination Lock, Catapult…

9. Number Jumble UK/Prime Climb US

Number Jumble is a game for 2 players where you have to arrange 16 tiles into a 4×4 square such that adjacent tiles always have at least one number in common. Prime Climb involves using mathematical operations (+, -, x and /) and prime numbers to travel round the board to reach the centre first and win. I really want this game! I know they had some stock issues around Christmas time last year so if you want to do some prime-climbing yourself make sure you buy early.

10. Sumoku UK/US

This is another game on my wishlist. We love games in our house and so anything where I can exercise my brain while playing gives me an added bonus! It has aspects similar to Bananagrams (US), building a crossword-style grid, and adds in multiplication practice as you have to make multiples of the number shown on the die. There are 5 different game styles included in the instructions.

I hope this has given you some ideas for mentally-challenging Christmas gifts for those kids (or adults, I’d love to get most of these!) in your life who love the STEM subjects. Happy shopping!


Teaching Tots with Living Books

This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on the links I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make at no extra cost to you.

I’ve had a look at lots of different homeschooling methods and have been most attracted to the Classical and Charlotte Mason styles.

One of Charlotte Mason’s schooling beliefs was that children learn best from living books, which means books which teach through stories rather than encyclopedias. I can certainly see that in how much Bunny has learnt about sea creatures from watching Octonauts! (UK/US affiliate) (I know that’s a TV program rather than a book but let’s call it a living TV program…)

With this idea in mind I started to write some simple stories for Bunny to teach her some maths, when she was about 2 and a half. I used her name and her best friend’s name so that she would be extra-engaged, and drew simple pictures.

The first time I read the stories to her, she was so excited that I had to read them over and over again. I call that a success!

I think this would work for any subject you want to teach to your children, so if you can’t find a living book out there to teach the topic or principle you want to teach then go ahead and have a go at it for yourself!

The first story I wrote for Bunny is called The Numerical Adventures of Bobby and Bunny 1: Bobby and Bunny Count to 10. It really helped her to engage with counting (at the time she had trouble with the numbers 5 and 7) and improve. She still likes to look at them now as well.

Would you like to see more of Bobby and Bunny’s Numerical Adventures?


Menu Plan Monday 3/10/16 with Grocery Budget Tracker

I didn’t do a brilliant job of sticking to my menu plan last week, but this week it is a little more important as we’re having our bible study group round on Wednesday and my in-laws are visiting at the weekend!

I am, however, doing ok at sticking to my grocery budget! We’re quite new to the budgeting process as a family but now that we’re a couple of months in we are starting to get the hang of it. To keep track of my grocery spending (as it is unfeasible for us to use cash, à la Dave Ramsey, following his baby steps, most of my grocery shopping is online) I made a spreadsheet! Yes, I’m the nerd. But you’d probably already guessed that!

The problem I’ve always had with a grocery budget is splitting it into the different weeks of the month, and then what happens if I go over or under? I decided that I would borrow from the next week (or add to it) and then I know how much I can spend next week in my shopping.

My grocery budget tracker keeps track of my budget for me when I tell it how much I spend every time I shop, so I know when to stop spending or when I have a little extra money to stock up. I include a budget line for a monthly expense, mine is Amazon Subscribe and Save (UK/US store, both affiliate links which means I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make at no extra cost to you), see this post to see how I calculate if it is worth it to subscribe.


Here it is! The yellow boxes are where you fill in to adjust your budget and the green boxes are where you write in what you have spent. There are lots of different sheet options for how the month works out in terms of full and part-weeks, and whether you have a monthly expense (a big stock-up trip or a subscription) or not. When you open the spreadsheet you can create a new sheet for the current month by right-clicking on the correct style of sheet and clicking “Move or Copy”, then make sure you tick the “Create a Copy” box at the bottom of the pop-up, then click OK. You can now alter it with your own budgets.

If you use my grocery budget tracker and find it helpful I would love to hear about it!

Now on to my menu plan:

Monday: Sausages (it’s already 5pm and I can’t think of anything else…)

Tuesday: Pork loin steaks (since my delivery is coming tomorrow)

Wednesday: Bolognese (times lots and lots of people, with 3 different types of pasta…)

Thursday: Toad in the hole (see bottom of post for recipes)

Friday: Pizza! (See bottom of post for my pizza base recipes)

Saturday: Italian chicken? Have to check with hubby!

Sunday: Maybe leftovers from Wednesday, or something fried.

Thanks for stopping by! Linking up to Menu Plan Monday at Org Junkie.

Menu Plan Monday