Category Archives: Printables

Spooky Halloween Games (designed by a six year old)

Mighty-Girl is very keen on parties. She starts serious planning for her birthday party in September every year. Her birthday is in February… This year I thought we’d throw an impromptu mini Halloween party for a few friends (three families including us, seven children between us!)

This was Mighty-Girl’s cue to go into serious party planning mode. She has drawn lots of witches, mummies, skeletons, bats and pumpkins that are now stuck around the house, but I want to share these (in my completely biased opinion) utterly wonderful Halloween games that she designed entirely alone (all her own idea, plan, and execution – I just leave her to be creative, it seems to work!)

Firstly we have Spooks and Ladders, a snakes and ladders game with lots of spooky pictures. I like the way you have to fly across the board at the end of each row, and the really evil snake on square 57.

Spooks and Ladders by Mighty-Girl, age six

Secondly, and in my opinion the best, there is a spooky Halloween wordsearch. Again, completely from Mighty-Girl’s imagination. She made the grid, chose the words, filled everything in and drew all the pictures. I am in awe of her actually and think she’s quite brilliant 🙂

Spooky wordsearch by Mighty-Girl, age six

The wordsearch is quite challenging, she’s added in a lot of misdirection. Did I mention how impressed I am with this?! However, I might look out a prize if you can find pumpkin, because I can’t find it and on asking the expert, she thinks she might have left it out 😉

You can download PDF versions of Mighty-Girl’s Halloween games by clicking on the images above, or the links below:
Mighty-Girl’s Spooks and Ladders Game
Mighty-Girl’s Spooky Halloween Wordsearch

Happy Halloween 2013!

Activities inspired by Ella by Alex T. Smith

Ella: Alex T Smith (Scholastic, 2012)

As part of The Educators’ Spin On It Summer Book Exchange, I chose Ella by Alex T. Smith as the book to send to our swap partner, Here Come The Girls. This is a book that my girls love (actually, we’re all fans of all of Alex T. Smith’s work) and one that was too easy to think of activities to fit. Ladybirds and Spiders, what’s not to love?!

Here is the content of the box we sent, hoping to inspire lots of open-ended crafts. You can read about what they did with it here.

Ella Swap Box

I’d love to have more time to create printables to download for this blog, as they’re something I’m slightly addicted to, but this swap gave me the perfect opportunity to and you can download our Ella inspired craft sheets here.

I’ve reproduced one of the activities below as a taster:

Antennae Hair bands

Materials:
Hair band
Black chenille stems (pipe cleaners)
Large red buttons

antennaeInstructions:

1. Choose two red buttons for the antennae – one circle and one flower to match Ella, or any that you like.

2. This part may need grown up help.

a. Thread a chenille stem through one button hole
b. Turn stem and thread back through second hole.
c. Twist excess stem.
d. Repeat for second antenna.

3. Wrap other end of chenille stems around hair band, spaced so they look like antennae.

The craft ideas could also be used alongside other ladybird or spider picture books.

I found the buttons, chenille stems (pipe cleaners) and googly eyes on eBay for very reasonable prices but they can also be found in most children’s art/craft sections in large stores.

When choosing craft materials for the swap, I stuck to a limited colour palette of reds and black/greys, which also made me think of the Claude books by Alex T. Smith. Using a limited (duochrome?) palette is another interesting art / craft experience for children.

Belle & Boo and Mandy Sutcliffe

As part of the Blog Tour to promote the first two Belle and Boo Activity Books (reviewed here), we were given the chance to interview Mandy Sutcliffe. I asked our lovely local school if they’d ask the children for any questions and the KS1 class (5, 6 & 7 year olds) came up with the following:

Belle & Boo Stories

Children: How many books are there about Belle and Boo?
Mandy: There are 3 books currently in print ‘Belle & Boo and the Birthday Surprise’ ‘Goodnight Kiss’ and ‘Yummy Scrummy Day’ and a Christmas book out this September

Belle & BooChildren: Is there a reason that both names begin with B?
Mandy: As soon as I first drew the pair I knew their names were Belle & Boo, it was just a lovely coincidence that they began with the same letter.

Children: Are they based on a real child and a real toy?
Mandy: Belle is based a little bit on me as a child, I had the same hair style, mind you my mum based my hair on my favourite story book character Milly-Molly-Mandy, so there is that influence also. I had a pet rabbit when I was a child although he was pure white and called chalky. 

Children: What makes them best friends?
Mandy: Because they do everything together, because Belle looks after Boo and Boo makes Belle laugh a lot.

Children: Why isn’t there any other characters in the story? [They were read “The Goodnight Kiss” only]
Mandy: The only other characters that feature so far are the other toys, Snuffly Elephant, Raggedy Doll, & Yellow Duck. 

Belle & BooChildren: What else do they like doing together?
Mandy: They love to climb trees, kick leaves, bake cakes (especially carrot cake), draw, paint and sing.

Children: Who else lives in the house?
Mandy: The other toys & a few mice.

Children: How long does it take to illustrate a Belle and Boo book?
Mandy: Approximately 3 months, some spreads are super quick to draw and others can take a little bit too long, when that happens I try to leave the one I am struggling with and work on another and then come back to the troublesome one, that usually works.

Children: Does Belle have any other favourite toys?
Mandy: Yes she loves all her toys but Boo is definitely her absolute favourite.

Mandy Sutcliffe

Thank-you so much Mandy for answering our questions; lovely Sarah from Hachette for organising everything; and of course the staff and children at our local school for the questions.

We also have part four of the exclusive blog tour downloads, click on the image below to collect the hangers for your wardrobe.

Belle and Boo exclusive downloads

Collect the rest of the exclusive downloads by visiting the blogs below:
Colouring-in Dress-up Belle from Read It, Daddy
Belle’s Summer Outfits from StorySeekers
Belle’s Wardrobe from Book Sniffer
Belle’s Winter Outfits from Library Mice

Belle & Boo Sticker and Activity Books

I’m not the best person to review sticker and activity books because I’m not a huge fan. Despite my feelings on the activity book concept, the Belle & Boo books are beautiful examples of their type.

Belle & Boo Play DayBelle & Boo Play Day has four pages of dress-ups; a kite to design and colour; cupcakes to decorate; spot the difference; a maze; matching game; colouring page; story and more pages to add stickers to. There is very little freedom with the dress up clothes, most are one outfit to stick in the ‘correct’ place but I’m not one for teaching my children to follow rules so DG stuck her stickers wherever she wanted to anyway, and had a great time ignoring all the instructions! This is my favourite of the two books because the designing and colouring are more open-ended, and therefore I think it’s suitable for any age.

Belle & Boo My Favourite ThingsBelle & Boo My Favourite Things is, to me, more suitable from an older age (e.g. 4/5+) due to the activities included. There is a grid picture copy activity; wordsearch; spot-the-difference; sticker pictures; finding objects; weather words; shadow matching; writing and numbers. MG loves wordsearches at the moment, so she chose this book straight away, and I think she chose the right one of the two for her and her sister’s ages. There are more smaller stickers in this book, good for designing patterns after the bigger ‘special use’ stickers have been used.

Both books are A4 size with gorgeous matt pages and are filled with beautiful artwork. There are two double pages of stickers stapled in the centre, and 24 pages of activities. At £4.99 RRP they won’t break the bank, and would be lovely start-of-summer-holidays gifts. Easy to transport and beautiful to look at, these Belle & Boo books almost change my overall opinion on activity books.

For a taster, you can download the wordsearch here (although the one in the book is in colour) and a similar grid picture copy activity here.

Please read our interview with Mandy Sutcliffe, and collect your exclusive blog tour download (part four of five) after the interview.

I Heart Bedtime Blog Tour: Bunny Crafts

It’s PUBLICATION DAY!!!! If you haven’t already, get running to your nearest bookshop and grab a copy of I Heart Bedtime! After you’ve done that, why not read on about my bunny crafting attempts 🙂

Clara Vulliamy is the sort of person who could inspire practically anyone to have a go at some kind of craft. From her website packed full of things to try; to events where there’s always something to make involving felt, button and ribbons; to tid-bits that arrive in the post occasionally from the Happy Bunny Club. We’ve had the pleasure of bunnies in matchboxes, bunny ears, felt bunnies with satin hearts inside, colouring and sticking…

Not only is Clara an extremely talented author illustrator and crafter, she can do mechanics too. Look at this amazing music player that she actually made: (You can watch the video of it playing at www.claras.me)

I Heart Bedtime: Clara's Music Box

I jumped at the chance to be part of the I Heart Bedtime blog tour, and knew something crafty would end up happening. I’ve already reviewed I Heart Bedtime in a separate post, and to celebrate publication day I offer you: my rubbish sewing skills! Don’t worry, there’s also a little treat from Clara herself to download too 🙂

I didn’t know what I wanted to do so just wandered into the local haberdashery (I know how lucky we are to have one: Masons in Abingdon, if you were wondering) and wandered. Near the entrance I saw the most utterly perfect material for the book: mini hearts in pink, blue, yellow and orange. Squee! And then my latent inner-crafter took over and I came out with a bag including white fleece, felt, mini sewing kit (I didn’t even own a needle and thread) and from their sister shop next door, embroidery thread in pink and black.

We had a paper colouring-in template from last year, which I traced around to make a simple bunny doll template. Actually there was about five iterations, because the picture was designed for colouring in, not for cutting out. I traced around the head, and then moved the body to make a neck; then I ditched the idea of fingers as they’re too small and fiddly; and I moved the legs closer together so they looked better as a doll; plus I widened the arms and legs (but not enough as it turned out!) Finally I drew a dotted line around my template for the seam and cut it out.

I Heart Bedtime: Martha Pattern

The only way I know to make soft toys is the very simple “cut two of the same shape and sew them together” method! I do know enough to leave room for a seam, and to sew inside out and then turn round to fill, so I realised that I would need to create the face first. I pencilled in the face and cut out two inner ears in felt to sew in place then used the black and pink embroidery thread to sew her sunny smile.

I Heart Bedtime: making the bunny toy smile

Next, I put the two fleece pieces back to back and sewed around, leaving the head unsewed for turning. I used backstitch – at least, I think that’s what it’s called! – to make the seams stronger. Oh, I wish I had a sewing machine! Hand-sewing seams takes forever! As I was sewing I thought the arms and legs were a bit thin, and I’m not going to admit to how long it took me to turn them the right way round, with copious help from the back end of a pencil. When the body part was turned, I used the same backwards method to sew the face and ears, leaving a small hole at the top for filling.

I Heart Bedtime: Sewing the bunny toy and dressing her

My plan was to use a funnel and fill the bunny doll with rice. Could I find a funnel anywhere? Hah! We have at least three plastic funnels in the house and the last time I saw one it was in the correct drawer but Destructo-Girl does have a habit of stealing things from the real kitchen for her pretend games and after searching through three boxes of their toys I lost patience! I then looked up toy fillings and it said rice was a bad idea because it went mouldy when wet too, so the next day I went back to Masons and bought proper hollow fibre toy stuffing instead.

I Heart Bedtime: Not Quite Martha Bunny

Of course, having made Martha for Mighty-Girl, I had to make Pip for Destructo-Girl. I made a couple of changes when cutting round the same template, widening the arms and legs, ditching the feet (they were so fiddly) and thinning the neck. I think the original one looks better, maybe third time lucky I’ll get a suitable template, or just leave that to the experts!

I used the perfect material for Martha’s dress (nightie) and decorated it with mini buttons and ric rac we already owned (I’m a bit of a button and ribbon addict!) It was a very simple “cut round the outline and sew it up” design! My plan was for the dolls to have several outfits to dress and undress but I got the sizing totally wrong and it’s a good thing Martha was filled with her outfit on or it would never have fit her! Pip is obviously wearing Monty’s old pyjamas because they’re Monty’s favourite colour and Monty loves stars too (well, he loves rockets, so he probably loves stars too), DG wanted Pip to have stars because he is wearing stars in I Heart Bedtime. I didn’t do any seams on the clothes so they are fraying and rubbish, but it’s the thought that counts?!

I Heart Bedtime: Two soft toy bunnies, entirely hand made!

All the above was something that was a little more complex than my little bunnies could cope with so I begged the lovely Clara for some paper dress-up bunnies and she e-mailed me a set of bunnies and their pyjamas. I printed out a few sets and they’ve been lying around this week for my girls and any guests to have a go. There’s been some great decorating and cutting going on, and a whole lot of mess!

I Heart Bedtime: DG and MG's paper doll bunnies (I might have coloured in one of them!)

You can download your own paper bunnies too! I made two sizes – one where all three bunnies fit on one page and their pyjamas on a second sheet; and another where each bunny and two pairs of their pyjamas are on each page.

I Heart Bedtime Paper Doll Templates

Bunny Paper Dolls small (takes you to OpenDrive to download)
Bunny Paper Dolls medium (takes you to OpenDrive to download)

I Heart Bedtime is a dream of a book, and has spent its life so far in the Chaos household being dragged up and down stairs like a yo-yo so that it can be read just one more time… 🙂

I Heart Bedtime Blog Tour so far:
23 March: Clara Vulliamy guest post at Netmums
24 March: Bedtime routines with Jax and family from Making it Up
24 March: Illustrated interview with Martha herself from The Book Sniffer
25 March: Princess C interviews Clara Vulliamy at Read It, Daddy!
26 March: Bedtime routines with the Library Mice
27 March: Bedtime with Smiling like Sunshine

Teaching Rainbows

It was Takeover Day on Friday, a day when children are encouraged to join in decision making and responsibilities. MG’s school offered the opportunity for every child in years 1 to 6 to ‘apply’ for a school job. These included headteacher, secretary, class teacher, kitchen assistant, pre-school supervisor and maintenance. MG loves playing school with her little sister so her first choice was teacher, she chose to teach her own class (year 1 and 2 mixed).

After chatting together, taking MG’s ideas and interests and trying to simplify them to fit in a 25 minute teaching slot, she chose teaching about rainbows as it was a mix of art and also a bit sciencey which are her favourite things. I suggested showing how to make a rainbow out of three colours because it really needed to be simple – we left out lots of things like using prisms to split white light and talking about primary colours of paint and light! I wrote something for MG to read and made the templates for making the rainbow. Paint wasn’t an option giving the time constraints but cutting and sticking coloured cellophane was probably a lot more fun anyhow!

As MG was at school and is tired after, I did the preparation but it was all based on her ideas. Okay, I maybe took over a little… But she felt that it was hers, she gave the lesson and she input into everything so she was happy. Phew! I made up 30 packs which had a cutting template, sticking template, coloured cellophane (approx 16x24cm pieces) and a paper plate.

The paper plate was for making freestyle rainbows or patterns with the left over cellophane after making the rainbow from the template. I’m not a school teacher so I overestimated the time. For one or two children, this could be done in 25 minutes but in a big class with people not listening etc, even with doing it in pairs they didn’t all finish. I also underestimated the cellophane. It looked like plenty but 5-7 year olds make more mistakes and want more cellophane (so working in pairs was good for that too!)

I didn’t have time to shop online for cellophane, and traipsed round Oxford before eventually managing to get some in the art shop I should have gone to in the first place! But I could only get one roll of each colour, each of which was approx 500mm x 2.5m so 24x16cm (approx) was the only way I could get 30 pieces from the roll. It really did look as if it should be plenty big enough! I would therefore suggest, if doing this for a class of 30, to get two rolls of at least the red cellophane (assuming rolls the same size) and cut bigger pieces. For smaller groups, perhaps individual A4 sheets of coloured cellophane or acetate. I did look at tissue paper, but it wasn’t transparent enough. Also, the red we got was too deep so the orange and purple didn’t look as nice as they might have!

In case MG got too shy when she was faced with her entire class, I wrote teaching notes of the order she was to go through her sheets. I wrote a bit of blurb for her to read as background to the activity, and I created the cutting and sticking templates. As we’re using three colours, you need to cut each one to cover three lines of the rainbow so the cutting template isn’t as simple as six arches. And because it worked so well, you can download these three files for your own use 🙂

Rainbow Lesson – Teacher Notes

Rainbow Lesson – Templates

Rainbow Lesson – About Rainbows

The picture above shows MG’s teaching pack! I laminated everything mainly because I could, but also to separate it as being MG’s. I laminated the cellophane template pieces into three sheets so that MG could easily hold and show the three colours and put them together to show the rainbow. We had colour paddles so I put them in too in case she wanted to show the colour mixes with them.

At the end of the day, when I picked her up from school, MG was buzzing with excitement from the whole day. She’d given her lesson (a little shy at first but her teacher stood with her to start with) and the children really enjoyed it, as did she! I am utterly proud of her achievement. Okay, and a teeny bit proud of me for creating the templates and managing to get the blurb pitched at the right reading level for MG!

I’m linking this up with Montessori Monday because I think it would work well as a hands-on unit lesson. It can be simplified for very young children, there’s opportunities for hands on experimentation with colour mixing, and it can be a springboard to further study. Enjoy, and please visit Living Montessori Now for tons of brilliant Montessori inspired ideas.

Montessori Monday from Living Montessori Now

Hama Bead Pattern: Union Flag

The summer of Olympics and Diamond Jubilee have ignited an interest in flags with MG, especially the union flag so she’s been drawing and making flags and we looked up how the Union Flag is made from St Andrew’s, St George’s and St Patrick’s crosses.

Hama Bead Union Flag plus St Andrew, St George & St Patrick crosses (as squares)

My blogging completely slid over the summer holidays, plus MG and DG have a tendency to strip naked making photo taking opportunities few and far between 😆 So I’m a little late to the party, so to speak, but I’ve never planned on being topical!

Thanks to Merry at Patch of Puddles and the Merrily Empire, we have the Hama Bead bug! MG mainly loves making rainbow patterns, DG puts beads on randomly. Other than plenty of beads, they love the Maxi Bead Set I reviewed here, and this transparent board for midi beads. For the Union Flag pattern, I used a large square board that came in this Dinosaur kit but this transparent square board would be perfect as the design can be viewed through it.

The gaps in the circle aren’t intentional, I just haven’t worked out how to iron the designs to make them robust enough for MG & DG’s playing yet!

After making my Union Flag design, I found that Merry had already done a much better and proper union flag at Bead Merrily plus almost identical square flag designs but I’m still posting mine up!

You can download the design here, I’ve tried to make it to match the size of the beads so it can be easily followed or put under a transparent board. You need to print it full size on a sheet of A4 to use as a pattern.

Hama Bead Pattern: Union Flag

Note: Links are not affiliate links and all products mentioned on this page are ones I have purchased myself. Please see my review policy.

Travel I-Spy

With a very long drive / ferry trip from Oxfordshire to Mull, I was trying to think of in-car entertainment for MG and DG. An I-Spy checklist to tick off seemed a good idea, but I couldn’t find anything I wanted online so made one.

After making these sheets I realised what I was thinking of was Bingo, for which there might be something I was looking for but I didn’t search. But to me it’s I Spy, because we’re looking out for things!

For younger children, I thought a simple colour-matching sheet would be best. There are 21 cars on the sheet; three each of the more common colours and then three unusual colours to spot. Children can spot either cars, vans, lorries or whatever they want if it makes it easier.

You can download a pdf to print two A5 copies of the I Spy sheet to a page by clicking the picture above, or here. Alternately, an A4 version is here.

I gave the A5 version to MG and DG on the trip up. MG used stickers of the correct colour to match the cars on the sheet, and did sort-of grasp the idea that we were looking outside the car but not really! DG just looked at the sheet in a confused manner. To be fair, they were both really tired the whole way and the sheets might work out better on the way home!

I also did a more detailed sheet of things we’d probably see on the journey through Scotland – completely forgetting essential things like sheep or cows – which DG was very excited by. “Helicoptor!” she cried, but when we asked where she’d seen it, it was on the sheet itself… We might try that one on the island too, although it really needs sheep, cows and coloured houses added to it. I’ll upload a version if I make it!

You can download the travel I-Spy sheet by clicking on the picture above, or here.

Number Bonds to 10

It’s been six months since my High Frequency Words post, and I had planned to do more printables but that just hasn’t happened. MG has got through many more key words without the printables, but I do plan to update the word lists for download at some point…

I spent a little time going through various PDF files I’ve either purchased or found free online from various places and I couldn’t find what I wanted to give MG a hands-on method for learning number bonds, so I’ve made a printable to share.

This printable includes tiles to make half of the number bonds to 10 so you can either print two copies, or swap the numbers round to show that, for example, 9 + 1 is the same as 1 + 9.

0000

The files come in three colour schemes: to match the colours of Cuisenaire Rods; to match the colours of Montessori Bead Materials; and plain for practice without colour-coding. I don’t think number bonds are particularly Montessori, but I’m following what’s used in school as that’s the education route that we’ve currently chosen for our daughters. Some people combine approaches, so the download might be useful.

I’ve chosen to give MG Cuisenaire Rods for number bond learning initially, therefore this is the colour scheme I’ve printed out.

I’ve changed the green in the Cuisenaire file since printing the set in the picture because I didn’t think the original green was light enough.

There are several stages to be taken to cover number bonds, but I can miss many of them because of what MG has learnt in school. For our home use with these unfamiliar materials I wanted to cover two things first:
1. Experimenting with the different ways any two rods exactly match the length of one orange rod
2. Matching the number tiles to the relevant rods

MG can already read up to two-digit numbers and knows the plus and equals operator symbols. Since making these, MG hasn’t shown an interest so I haven’t tested them but instead of keeping this post in draft for any more weeks, I’ll update on how we used them in a later post – or please let me know if they’re useful in the comments!

High Frequency Words Learning Game

To commemorate over 1000 tweets and 250 followers on Twitter (wow!) I wanted to give something away. A physical something was never going to be an option, so I am sharing something I made for Mighty Girl’s “homework”.

Fortunately her school is not pushy with homework in Foundation Stage, and I’ve certainly not made her do anything but she has been getting small lists of ‘key words’ to learn by sight and sometimes she wants to move onto the next set of words so we work on them at home. She loves letter sounds and writing (see First Words) and I’d collected some Montessori materials from when I was planning to home ed so I combined the two to make a game to help cement the words in her head.

We have the small moveable alphabet, Sassoon font in red with blue vowels from Absorbent Minds Montessori and the key words from school were printed in Sassoon font too (it’s a good font for distinguishing b from d etc and easy to read). However, I expect that a wooden moveable alphabet isn’t something that most people own so I’ve modified the files slightly to include a printable moveable alphabet for the matching game. The size of the moveable alphabet and large word cards are to match the wooden small moveable alphabet (it’s not 100% accurate but very close.)

There are four files you can choose to download:
moveablealphabet.pdf – paper version of the moveable alphabet with red consonants and blue vowels. Usually there are 5 of each consonent and 10 of each vowel printed for a “complete” alphabet, to get this print the file 5 times (I’ve included y in red and blue as it can be both).
HFwords1.pdf – the first 22 high frequency “key words” that eldest has brought home from school to learn so far in large red and blue letters (can be flash cards, matching with moveable alphabet).
HFwords1wde.pdf – as above file, but the words are spaced out so that the paper moveable alphabet can be placed on top of the cards more easily.
HFwords1sml.pdf – the same 22 words in smaller black Sassoon font for more traditional “flash cards”, matching with the large word cards etc.

For durability, print onto card and laminate (and definitely don’t let your two year old drip water all over unlaminated paper copies :lol:) There are all sorts of games that can be played, the most obvious of which is probably matching the individual letters with the words. I usually set out three to five words and the exact letters needed for those words (to give “control of error” – there should be no letters left over when all are matched). MG knows almost all letter names and sounds so tries to read phonically for words she doesn’t know and can say the letter sounds as she matches.

The game MG made up that she likes to play is to have either the pile of small cards or big cards and give the other pile to whoever she’s playing with. We mix the cards up and see if we match. I add in questions like “What does yours say? What does mine say?” for words she knows or “You’ve got x and I’ve got y” if she’s not sure. If the “learning” bit is annoying her I stop it of course, it’s supposed to be fun! Seeing the words regularly, matching up different size word cards, creating words with the moveable alphabet and talking about the words (then recognising them in books when I’m reading to her) is cementing the words in her mind and she is happily memorising these words at her own pace.

For an idea of the Montessori method of introducing language, see Montessori Print Shop‘s Language Overview. MPS also offer lots of printables to support using the moveable alphabet, and their moveable alphabet file includes lesson plans, lower and upper case letters in three colour schemes and images of phonetic words to sound out. This file is also included in the MPS Montessori at Home materials bundle for an even more bargainous price, very useful if you want to follow some Montessori principles at home and get the Montessori At Home! book (which is fantastic!) No, I’m not on commission, I just like these 🙂

Montessori Monday