Friday, May 17, 2013


This has got to be one of the best buy toys ever! It is a full-size foam skeleton puzzle and though it was not cheap, we play with it many times each day. Nikki has learned the names of all the major parts of the skeleton and loves to tell me which parts attach to which.

Now, he likes me to 'help' put "Little Nikki" together. By help, I mean he will shout out to me "Mummy, what comes next?" when I am not paying attention and while I turn and check what piece he wants me to help him find, he shouts the answer:


Colouring with Precision

I am really impressed with how much Nikki's accuracy in colouring has developed the last couple of months. He has never really shown an interest in colouring - he loves to write - but recently this has changed.

When he wants to, he can colour so beautifully...

And when he doesn't, he perfects his toddler-scribble!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tantrums Over Lessons

"Mummy, I NEED my lessons NOW!!!"

Not your usual lesson-related tantrums, I expect!

His favourite activities are cutting and sticking:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Using our Moveable Alphabet

I put a missing-letter CVC word worksheet in our lesson packets but the text is small and so I had to write in the missing letters for him to be able to read the word - what a perfect point to introduce using our newly-boxed moveable alphabet!

Nikki and I worked through the sheet together, and I still filled in the missing letters for him, but then he got the fun job of finding the letters and making the word all by himself!

He liked to trace the letters with his fingers first, practicing - and explaining out loud - how to write them:

His current phrase of choice is "I really love..." and guess what - he really loved his new box of letters!

Linking up to Montessori Mondays

Reading Eggs Review

We have just finished a 65 day trial of the Reading Eggs program and so I thought I'd write up a little review for you.

We extended the 14 day trial using two codes (UKB24MBT and AU567) I found on the brillkids forum. It is only possible to add two codes to any one account, so this is about the maximum free time you can get, but I thought it worked out as a perfect trial run for us.

To start with, Nikki loved reading eggs. There is a placement test at the beginning so you don't have to repeat stuff you already know, but because Nikki didn't know the sight words we started right at the beginning. This wasn't too bad, he got a lot of phonics review and the letter sounds games were easy for him, but the phonics moves slowly so even at lesson 30 there was nothing new being introduced to someone who knows all the basic letter sounds. 

That said, Mr I-won't-read-sight-words needed to start at the beginning for precisely that reason. The sight word games worked wonders and he began to read simple sentences. Not just sound out CVC words, but actually read. I was very impressed.

The games are great fun and brilliant for encouraging reluctant readers, but we did have some problems. At first, maybe 2 or 3 games in any one lesson would require computer skills Nikki just doesn't have - like catching moving objects on the screen with the mouse. As we used the program his skills improved, but the difficulty of the games did as well. This is a program designed for children at least 2 years older than Nikki and he couldn't keep up.

For example, one game has you catching moving fish with a word written on them, reading the word and  putting the fish into the right box. The text is probably a font size 12 or 14 to fit on the little fish. Probably not too hard for a six year old, but Nikki needed me to do most of it for him.

Also, the text in the reading books at the end of each lesson is quite small and you can't adjust the size of the book on the screen to make the text bigger. This really intimidated Nikki, even when the sentences were 3 words long and he had easily read the same sentences in much bigger font in a previous game.

The end-of-level test after every 10 lessons had even tinier fonts (maybe 10 or 12pt)  and Nikki just refused to do them and guessed the answers. I had to really help him through the test when I knew he was able to progress because he couldn't cope with small fonts.

We got up to lesson 32 and Nikki's reading really progressed, but I could already see the sharp increase in difficulty of both reading and computer skills and I could tell that we had maybe a month before it got too hard and he lost interest altogether. He was already dreading the end-of-lesson book.I have decided not to pay for the program at the moment. This is not because it is bad - I actually really liked it and may well invest in a year or so when his computer skills are a bit better, if he still needs the lessons.

For now, I think I have found another program that I like... 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Great Big Tardis Box

"Mummy, when is the postman going to bring my Great Big Tardis Box?"

False Perspective with a toy Tardis

Monday, May 13, 2013

I Wanted You To Be Poorly!

"Mummy, are you poorly?"
"No, I'm fine."
"Oh. I wanted you to be poorly because then I can watch lots of DVDs."

Nothing gets past them, does it!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bedtime Potty Training

Nikki has been dry in the days for around 15 months now, and I have long been finding excuses for putting off the night-training because, really why would I want 3am bedding changes? I have been feeling worse because my nephew has been doing really well and he is the younger cousin (though they were actually due on the same day).

Last week, my sister bought her son a goldfish as reward for 2 months of dry nights. She managed where hours of discussion and feeble bribery had failed - Nikki is now a big boy and doesn't wear nappies at night, because he really, really wants a fish too!

Unfortunately, somebody forgot to tell his bladder.

He is getting better. The week started with around 3 accidents each night and this morning it was 6am before he woke me up to ask where his dry pajama bottoms were. He doesn't always wake instantly when wet, so I have no idea how long he is really lasting, but at least I am not getting woken repeatedly - that's progress, right?

So now there is a fish tank on the stairs waiting to find a permanent home, and the promise of a tank decoration to celebrate his first dry night. Maybe one day there will be a fish, too, but I won't hold my breath!

Russian School!

As I alluded to in my previous post, Nikki has started Russian school!

We finally found a school locally (all previous searching had found a 1.5 hour train into London was as near as we could get) and the only downside is that it clashes with the drama school I was going to enter him into this term. I'll have to book him in for private lessons with Auntie V instead!

Nikki has classes from 10 til 1 and I get to wander around the nearby shopping center without a bored preschooler - bliss! He has lessons in Reading, Writing, Russian Conversation, Music and Art in a class of six 3-5 year olds. We have finished our 3-week trial and today we are signing up for the rest of the term. So far his teacher has been really impressed at his reading ability - even though we have only been learning to read in English, the ideas of letters having sounds and blending sounds to make words give him a good foundation!

He has been a bit shy starting out, despite bubbling over with excitement the whole way there, but last week he finally started speaking unprompted and so I expect he will now start showing off what he knows and really getting confident in communicating in Russian.

At the moment, he understands spoken questions and commands but struggles to respond with more than one or two words. Or perhaps it is more like refuses to put in the effort of speaking more than a couple of phrases when he knows full well that I understand him if he replies in English. Hopefully having regular exposure to a completely Russian environment, with Russian speaking teacher and friends, his speaking skills will develop to the point that we can have Russian conversations at home without him whining "Speak in English!" at me all the time!

He also gets HOMEWORK so we can start getting used to studying Russian in a more structured way - in a few weeks I will want to set up some entirely Russian lesson packs to work through. Is it wrong that I am so excited?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Lesson Packets

We haven't done much structured learning so far this year. Between perpetual colds, three chest infections and a bout of the 'terrible threes' neither of us has been much in the mood for sitting down learning.

Since starting Russian School, though, Nikki has once more started asking me for lessons. As we haven't done much for a while and I am only now getting over a generously donated cough/cold bug, I didn't want to put too much energy into planning work that he might decide is 'boring' very quickly!

So, I printed out some alphabet/phonics, shapes and maths worksheets from 1+1=1 and filled 26 plastic wallets with them. I then ripped up a couple of colours/shapes/counting workbooks that I have been meaning to use with Nikki for months and stuck a page or two in each wallet. When he asks me for a lesson, I just empty the next wallet and we work through them.

This method is working out so well for us right now! The worksheets are easily finished in 1-2 minutes each and is mostly revision work but it is getting us back into the habit of sit-down work which is great.

Below is an example of one worksheet we have finished - he did it all perfectly but because drawing circles is so fun we had to circle everything else in another colour. He is making a real effort to trace the letters and is really eager to learn, something that I have really missed this winter!

Making Breakfast More Interesting...

Sitting on top of the sofa with his cheerios - the milk now has to be separate (in a cup with a straw on the table!) because otherwise the cereal won't stay 'crusty'. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Making Materials: Moveable Alphabet Storage

I bought a cheap set of plastic letters ages ago (I just can't justify the expense for the beautiful wooden Montessori ones) and they have been stuck in a box because I just couldn't figure out how to store them in a way that all the letters would be separate and visible.

So, today I googled and came up with a rather obvious idea using a craft supplies box - just perfect because know that I have a spare one!

Obviously, it was nowhere to be found now that I had a purpose for it. However, whilst searching for it I came across an old display box of watercolour paints that was just the right size. The paints were moved from the plastic holder into our arts and crafts box and the plastic was ripped out to leave an empty box.

To make the dividers, I cut up some card runners to fit the length and width of the box and cut notches to slip them together.
The final grid fits fairly well into the box and keeps the letters separated - so long as the box is kept nice and level. I don't expect the letters will ever look this neatly arranged again, though!

And yes, I measured the spaces to be equal and that means that the m and w letters don't fit in horizontally, so they have to be put in sideways. It was far easier to put a couple of letters in wonky than fiddle about re-sizing the grid to make them fit!