Spielgaben: Activity 4

As part of our Spielgaben activity this week we will be exploring the times tables.

In this activity children will learn how to work out and remember times table facts using wooden points to help them visualise the numbers rather than making them memorise abstract sums which can often be frustrating for some children. Learning times tables is often laborious and traditional methods can lack engagement, where as this activity aims to keep the child engaged as there is an element of play. As we are studying the 3 times table, this is the example we will be using in this blog.
As always, although this is a Spielgaben activity, I’ve done my best to provide alternative ways to get involved at the end of this blog, even if you don’t own a Spielgaben yourself. I have also provided free downloadable content for those using other manipulatives. 

I would recommend this activity for children aged 7+ but obviously it doesn’t matter what age your child is as your knowledge on their ability will be more relevant.

All you will need is the Spielgaben Cookie Grid, which is free to download, a pen/pencil, set 9 and set 10 of the Spielgaben. It is not essential but you may want to laminate the cookie grid so you can reuse it multiple times with a dry wipe marker. Another fun optional extra for this activity is a baking tray!

Below I have provided a guided script that I feel works well for us.

Parent: Shall we make some cookies? I will start by making one cookie. I am going to put three chocolate chips onto the cookie. How many cookies are there?

Child: There is one cookie.

Parent: How many chocolate chips are there?

Child: There are three chocolate chips.

(At this point, have your child write a 1 in first cell of the ‘Number of cookies’ row and a 3 in the first cell of the ‘Number of chips’ row)

Parent: Would you like to make another cookie? We need another cookie with three chocolate chips.

(Child makes cookie with three chocolate chips)

Parent: How many cookies do we have altogether now?

Child: We have two cookies.

Parent: So how many chocolate chips do we have altogether now?

Child: We have six chocolate chips.

(As before, have your child write in the next cell along of both the rows with the correct answers. Keep repeating the process of making cookies with chips to work out each mathematical problem. As you work along the grid you may notice your child counting all the chips, if so, help them to see that they don’t need to do this. Have your child look at the grid to see the previous number on the ‘number of chips’ row and simply suggest that they count three up from that – it should save a lot of time) 

Once you have finished playing and you have finished your grid as far as you and your child wish to go, you can use your grid as a reference for the abstract sums (e.g. 5×3=) at a later date. You can also repeat this game until your child can recall the sums from memory.

If you don’t own a Spielgaben then you can download this free Plates And Jelly Beans Printout For Times Tables, all you will need to buy is some jelly beans and the best part is you can snack on them after you’re done playing! Or if you feel you have a bit more time, perhaps you could bake some real cookies and use real chocolate chips!

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A Week of English – And Story Cubes!

So this year, now Ava is older, we have introduced many new subjects and more variations of certain subjects for her. For instance, English no longer consists of Reading Eggs sessions everyday. Although this was fun and it served its purpose, there was only so much it could provide and it ended up just being a supplement to her English studies so I decided for her we would not continue with the subscription. Having said that, I cant recommend it enough for younger children just learning to read the basics, it gamifies the whole learning experience which makes it less laborious for both parent and child.
So here is how a week of English goes for us at the moment.

Every day of the week we follow the Writing With Ease Workbooks by Susan Wise Bauer. A big recommendation from us for its simplistic scripted lesson plans and worksheets to go with the lessons. She has literally done all the legwork for you so you don’t have to do a thing. Each book has a whole years worth of lessons! 

We also listen to chapters of audio books together daily with breakfast. We might also do this while we are drawing or doing some sort of handcraft. It’s an opportunity for them to hear a variety of different of writing compositions and words along with their correct pronunciations. The theory behind this practice is that even if they don’t understand the literature they’re listening to, the seeds are being sown for future understanding and it will help them to grasp the more complex literature down the line. Essentially we use audio books in place of television and both the girls love it! 

Monday: We follow First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise. I also cannot recommend this book enough. Just like the Writing With Ease books, the lessons are scripted so it makes it nice and simple for parents and each book also has a whole years worth of lessons!

Tuesday: Ava has independent reading, this is simply where she will read a book with literature that’s suited to her ability. She’s really enjoying David Walliams’ books at the moment. She’s almost finished the entire series of his books! 

Wednesday: First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise.

Thursday: First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise. 

And finally,

Friday: I try and make Fridays super fun and relaxed to round off the week and create that ‘It’s the weekend!’ atmosphere, so on Friday we explore creative writing together with the help of Story Cubes. Story Cubes are dice with icons that are designed to prompt story telling. Not only do we love using them for creative writing but we use them for puppet shows, I will use them for bedtime stories and sometimes we will play them as a game and each take it in turns to roll a dice and take it in turns to narrate the story in which direction we’d like. I love Story cubes, they’re so versatile and I love to make learning play based as much as I possibly can. 


Here’s how we use them for creative writing.

  1. I like to start by having Ava look at the different genres. We tend to choose one small genre pack or three dice from one of the large genre packs and mix them with five dice from the original pack, the orange one. 
  2. We then roll all the dice at once and set them aside while we look at our story template from Usborne’s Write Your Own Story book.
  3. Then, I’ll ask Ava to place a cube on each prompt on the template.
  4. For help with ideas on key words and settings we use the Story Genres Display Poster Pack from Twinkl, we then set about trying to think of a story to match the icons rolled.

And she ends up creating something like this..

(I have translated the image underneath as I appreciate not everyone will be able to understand her awesome and unique spellings). 

“Once upon a time there was a girl called Emily, she had a pink dress and ginger hair. She lived near a train station that always stopped outside a haunted town. One day Emily got on the train and she got off at the haunted town and a monster appeared. And so she ran into a haunted house but she did not know it was haunted. However as she walked in, the door slammed shut. She was locked in. Then a ghost chased her so she closed the door and locked the ghost in. Eventually she found a key and got out. In the end she never went back to the haunted house again, not even the haunted town. The end.”

I really love how such simple tools can spark imagination to allow children to create such exciting ideas. I’m quite impressed with how her story turned out. She grasped how a story works and was able to create her very own. 

Do you have Story Cubes? If so, how do you use them? We would love to see your ideas as we are always looking for new ways to make learning more fun and exciting for our family. Feel free to share your ideas on our Facebook page or leave a comment below to your website, we’d love to read and follow your journey!

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Emily’s First Day… Of Not Going to School!

Home education starts from birth – at least if that’s what you’ve planned from the beginning anyway! Nevertheless, this week still marked a special milestone. Emily’s first day… Of not going to school!

This week would have been Emily’s first week of school, she would have started reception. I know. We home educate so there’s no actual start date but I still wanted to take lots of photos and mark it as a big milestone because that’s what it is for us.

Some people may think it’s ridiculous to take lots of photos of another day of what is essentially her just doing what shes been doing since she was born – learning at home. But for us it was important to document, because these ‘first day of..’ photos symbolise something more than that.

When we look at these photos we have a memory of the day of course, the milestone, the ‘I can’t believe how fast you’re growing up!’ moment, but what we also have is images that makes us feel so grateful that we are able to home educate, images that say ‘You don’t have to wave goodbye for six hours a day, the fun still carries on!’

These images represent our freedom of choice, whether to home educate or otherwise and I am incredible grateful to live in a country that allows us those freedoms.

We have images of a little girl that is happy because she feels safe and because of this, she is open to learning and engages in the activities presented to her. For those of you that know Emily personally, you will know that she is extremely shy and she shuts down in very large groups. She refuses to engage. She is such a gentle and sensitive soul. My point is that these photos paint a bigger picture for us; they remind us of how we are doing the right thing and how we are on the right path, for us.

Whether you are home educated or you go to school, we hope you all had a fantastic week starting the new term! Good luck to all the new starters of 2017!

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Spielgaben: Activity 3

As part of our Spielgaben series, this week we have been exploring the alphabet.

In this activity children will learn lowercase letter recognition. This activity in particular is designed to improve early reading skills. As always, although this is a Spielgaben activity, I will do my best to provide alternative ways to get involved at the end of this blog, even if you don’t own a Spielgaben.

I would recommend this activity for children aged 3+ but obviously it doesn’t matter what age your child is as your knowledge on their ability will be more relevant.

All you will need is the Alphabet Grids which are free to download and five medium circles from the number 9 Spielgaben drawer in whatever colour you prefer. It may also be beneficial to have some lowercase sandpaper letters for this exercise, although it’s not a deal breaker – some lowercase flashcards would also be fine if you have them.

If you would like the grid in a specific font then please feel free to drop me a message and I will do my best to assist you.

The objective is simple; encourage the child to identify the most common letter on the grid by placing the circles on the correct squares. There should be five of the same letter on each grid among a selection of other random letters. Take it slow – keep doing the same grid over the space of a couple of days before moving on to another. Most children learn best by repetition.

I also find sounding the letter out the same way as I taught animal noises effective. For example ‘This is the letter E. E says (or makes the sound) eh’.

If you don’t own a Spielgaben then instead, why not get your child to colour in the letters? Or you can use some hair ties or rubber bands to place on the correct squares.

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Things might be quiet for a while…

Just a quick post to apologise in advance. We may not post over the next few weeks while we plan curriculum, crafts and of course set up our YouTube channel. 

Soon as we’re back, we will post content on here at least once a week! 

We hope you enjoy the rest of your summer. Feel free to share what you’ve been getting up to over on our Facebook page. Are you on instagram? Check out ours by clicking here, and don’t forget to follow to keep up to date with our adventures.

How To Clean Block Crayons

Am I the only one that loves block crayons but hates how dirty they get?

Ours had gotten so speckled with the other colours, they just didn’t work the same. We would use the yellow and we would end up getting little streaks of green, brown, black and… you get the idea!

Anyway this is just a quick post to share how to clean them as I was honestly worried that we would have to buy a new set they were so dirty! I didn’t think they could be saved – if that’s what you’re thinking then don’t worry because it’s easy to get them good as new!

All you’ll need is some kind of oil and an old cloth of some kind (I used a flannel and sunflower oil).

Simply put the oil on the cloth and wipe the crayons and they’ll be good as new again. It’s really that simple!

And just look how pretty the flannel went!

I hope this post helped! Don’t forget to head over to our Facebook page and give us a like. Also don’t forget to follow us on instagram too!

We hope you’re having a wonderful week so far.

Goldilocks And Just The One Bear

“Goldilocks and just the one bear? But Mummy, there are three!”

This morning Ava read and reviewed the book Goldilocks And Just The One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson. The story is about a little bear who gets lost in the city, only to stumble upon Goldilocks’ house!

This story is cleverly written and really funny, it’s a great spin on the original fairy tale. Ava laughed a lot through the whole thing and I think other children will find this story amusing too! If you want to buy this book for your children then click here. I highly recommend it – even I thoroughly enjoyed the story! It’s not too long-winded, it’s really entertaining and it is jam-packed full of beautiful illustrations.

We used a free printout from Twinkl for Ava to review this book. We love using this template for all of our book reviews. It’s so engaging! If you want to have a go with your children then you can get this template by clicking here. I find that getting Ava to do these book reviews is an effective and enjoyable way for her to practice reading, writing, critical thinking and comprehension skills. It also encourages her creative side as she loves to draw!

There’s been quite a bit of formal learning this morning and now we will enjoy the rest of our day together. The weather is a bit gloomy here today so we will cosy up and play some board games and perhaps do some baking together. (No doubt Ava will play some Minecraft as well!) All still educational but a little less formal. Perhaps we will head out if the weather perks up.

What are you up to today? Let us know in the comments, we love to hear from our readers.  Don’t forget to head over to our Facebook page and give us a like. We also have an instagram if you fancy following us on there too!

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Please feel free to check it out and follow us.

We hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend. What have you been up to? Let us know in the comments and feel free to share your photos over on our Facebook page!

Exciting Update

So we have some exciting news to share with you all! To make things a bit more diverse and interesting we have decided that in September we will be setting up our very own YouTube channel! On our channel we will upload videos once a week – what sort of thing would you like to see? We were thinking of doing some general vlogs now and then of what we do in a day, ‘cook with me’ videos, family board game reviews and perhaps some general topic discussions. Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Here are some little snippets of what we’ve been up to this week. We’ve been enjoying the gorgeous weather, meeting up with wonderful friends.

What have you been up to lately? We hope you’re all doing well and do be sure to like our Facebook page. Soon as we have set up our YouTube channel we will give you the links. We are really looking forward to sharing our journey on a more personal level with you all.

Allotment: The Beginning

So last year we took on an allotment. I was unable to do much with it at the time as I was heavily pregnant but because they are so hard to come by I couldn’t turn down the offer when one became available.

Now I’m not pregnant anymore I’m excited to get started on creating a magical space for us to relax on stressful days.




This is just a quick post to start tracking our progress. I’ve included some pictures from last year when we started as an introduction point. I really feel that gardening is one of those skills that all children should have the opportunity to learn – knowing how to grow your own food is just as important as knowing how to cook it!

We found and carefully removed a few frogs while we were weeding our plot. I’m hoping to build a pond for the wildlife at some point. Having a pond with frogs is very useful for controlling the slugs without having to use nasty pesticides.


We hope you’re all well. If you have an allotment or a garden then please do share your ideas over on our Facebook page! We would love to see your spaces for inspiration!