I have a new trick and it works really well, you see I don’t have a lot of time to keep up with what’s good to read out there and what to avoid but lots of my friends and family are avid readers.

I was lucky enough to get given a Kindle a while back and it’s perfect for taking on train journeys if I have to go up to London and of course on holiday, I am able to load lots of books on there and read at leisure all on one device.

So what’s my trick? I write a Facebook status update – I know it’s not groundbreaking stuff but I got so many excellent tips that I thought it would be good to share them.

Top books to read summer 2014

  1. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson came out tops with most votes. I am half way through it and love it
  2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. On the Kindle and still to read
  3. The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Brilliant read had me hooked all the way through.
  4. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton.
  5. One Summer by Bill Brysone
  6. The Monk who Sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma
  7. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  9. Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge
  10. Tandem by Alex Morgan

Other suggestions included: Americanah, We Are Completely Beside Ourselves, Sisterland, Raising my rainbow, Shantaram, The Fever Tree, A Change in Altitude and The Making of Miranda.

Do you have anything to add? Please let us know

back to school year 1We are one week in to Year 1 and I had tears Tuesday morning from Twin 1 who didn’t want to go into school.

She did say her throat hurt and in all fairness she was exhausted the night before not moving from the sofa after teatime, so I gave her some Calpol and sent her in.

Is that really bad mum practise?

I could have kept her home, I work from home but I was brought up that unless you were on death’s door, off to school you went. Anyway moral of the story I got called at lunchtime to pick her up and then she really did look poorly, big red eyes and a hot forehead, all symptoms that weren’t clear in the morning.

Cue mum guilt.

I’m lucky that working from home allows me to be on call all the time as we don’t have anyone who can step in for us should there be a call but occasionally I do get invited up to London to attend an event or a press day and this made me realise I need to put an action plan into place. I need to speak to a school mum or neighbour and ask their permission that in the unlikely event that I am in London could they pick my child up from school and keep her until I can get back from London which would most likely be an hour at least.

I’ve heard from school mums of various little ones this week having break downs before school, crying and being taken into school by a teacher, heart breaking for a mum to stand and watch and one thing we’re all having to get used to is no contact with the teacher at all other than the contact book. This makes me feel jittery, these people are with my children all day and I am interested in what they do, how they behave when I’m not there, how they cope with various situations and of course, it’s the start of a new term, I want to know about it.

Some children are really good and relaying to their parents what has happened at school, my twins aren’t. I ask them how their day was and the reply ‘Good.’

I try to find out what they’ve been doing but if I push too hard they both clamp up and say ‘Can’t remember.’ in a real teenage way, like ‘lay off mum!’

We’re taking up a few after school activities too. Last year we did gymnastics and the girls loved it, we also did swimming which they adore too so we’ve continued those until such a time they tell me they don’t want to any more and to the mix we’ve added two new school activities, Dance and Drama.

Yes this may be too much but I’m hoping it will be more play than hard work and I’m hoping they will enjoy these new experiences and gain courage from them because that is what it’s all about. The minute they tell me they don’t want to do it anymore we’ll stop.

We had our first homework on Friday evening, 1 A4 page of sums. Count the animals in the boxes and write the number. Both of the twins forget which way round 2, 3, 5 and 7 go even though we did practise over the summer. 6’s and 9’s also need a little thinking over but slowly slowly they’ll get there. The other exercise was number lines, fill in the missing numbers like this

1 2 3 _ _ 6 _ _ _ 10

maths whomework

The girls found them easy and parents were encouraged to add extra challenges and mark the work ourselves all to be handed in by Wednesday. I added 5 simple sums as we’ve been practising over the summer (ie 1 + 3 =  ) they are easy for the girls, they use their fingers to count and they are very happy to get their ticks and smiley faces plus a Very Good written at the bottom.

I’m looking forward to getting our reading books sent home too, we need to get back into a reading routine.

How’s your back to school going?

cursive alphabetWhat a great school the girls are in! All parents have been invited to three workshops last week to enable us to help our children get to grips with the learning system our school are using with our children and I am so pleased they are encouraging parents to take part and help them help our kids learn.

One of the most important messages they’re sending us is they cannot stress enough how important it is for parents to take an active role in their children’s learning and this imput doesn’t have to take up hours of a busy parents time, for example five minutes alone reading time and games played around the house all help the child memorise and utilise what they’ve been learning in class.

The main point being raised at the moment is our children are learning mostly through play, games in the classroom, lots of outdoor activity – even when it’s raining as we have a sheltered playground and a game may cover three of four different parts of the education syllabus.

Phonics for foundation stage

Phonics is a method for teaching reading and writing the English language by developing learners’ phonemic awareness—the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate phonemes—in order to teach the correspondence between these sounds and the spelling patterns (graphemes) that represent them. – Wikipedia

The above jargon explained in ‘proper’ English means our children will learn the sounds that make words and although there are some ‘tricky’ words that will have to be memorised as they don’t follow the phonics rule it is proven by following this method of teaching, children learn quicker. There’s even a video on You Tube to help parents recognise the sounds

Another rule they will be following is learning to use cursive writing from the start. The teachers say they have seen excellent results already with previous years that have used the method and they will also encourage the children to recognise letters in many different fonts. In fact how can we as parents help?

Well, think of the logos, and fonts used in every day life from store names to cereal packets to comics and basically anything that has the written word on it. Encourage the children to recognise the letters.

Play games which encourage children to think about the word they’re saying ‘what sound does cat start with?’ c would be the answer (see video for correct pronunciation)

This morning at breakfast I asked ‘Who wants some ‘te’ for toast?’ followed by ‘Would you like ‘ge’ for jam or huh for honey?’ I’m not sure I’m spelling those phonics correctly but you get the point and what’s more the girls loved it.

We’ve been given lots of sites where we can play games with the children that I’d like to pass on to you too and also note down for myself in case I lose the piece of paper!

  • click on games but also printables available
  • – Phonic and numeracy games
  • Kent ITC games – Phonic and numeracy games
  • Starfall – American site
  • Crickweb – variety of games
  • CBeebies – alphablocks
  • Letters and Sounds – printable games

Reading foundation stage workshop

Our second workshop was to help children learn to read and to assist their learning we are encouraged to spend 5 minutes a day listening to them, even if it’s just a picture and they are telling you what is going on in that picture. To ask questions like “What happened next?’ How did it end? so they get a notion of beginning , middle and end of story.

Preschoolers reading a book

We shall be receiving books home next week with a special contact book to write each child’s progress and it’s not important they finish the book in one go but concentrate on one/ two pages at a time and get them right. Make sure the child understands what they are reading.

Useful sties include

Maths foundation stage workshop

Lastly today our maths workshop. Most games played outside will include a numeracy aspect or shapes, mass, size, weight, and proportion. children will learn to recognise numbers 1 – 20 and know which number comes next and before. Our role is to let them help us measure when we cook, show them numbers around the house, ie on the remote control, telephone, clock and so forth. Get them to recognise the numbers on number plates and ask them to add one on to a number to get the notion of one more.

John crane High Tea Shape sorter, number

some helpful websites are

So I’m sure you agree we have plenty of resources to help our little ones learn easily over the next year

One of my favourite moments of the day is story time, it’s the end of the day, I’ve often got a headache and am exhausted but NOTHING will stop me from reading our daily stories together.

As you can imagine we’ve got quite a collection of books now but as the girls are getting a little bit older they are crying out for new titles so when Barefoot Books got in touch asking me if I’d like to review some of their books I jumped at the chance.

In fact our books arrived just in time for our Siblu holiday so I popped them in the suitcase for another ‘new’ activity to share together.

The titles we were sent were My Mama, The Real Princess and The Prince’s Bedtime and out of all three I cannot pick a favourite as they are all utterly gorgeous.

My Mama Earth

My Mama

This hardback book is beautifully illustrated, there aren’t many words, just clear, short phrases that allow the mind to wander the page and soak in the beauty of the colours and imagine which is such an important part of childhood. Each page has the figure of ‘mama’ hidden somewhere, a little boy and a cat, the rest of the page reflects the phrase.

I found this book particularly calming and reassuring and have enjoyed reading it to the girls immensely. We study each page searching for mama, the boy and the cat before turning over and then we have a good look at everything else on the page.

My vote 10/10

Real princess


The Real Princess

Adorable story of a prince and his two brothers searching for their princess. Two brothers are happy with the first Princess they find but the oldest prince can’t find his Real Princess at all so his mother steps in to help with a lot of mattresses and a few of her golden peas. He manages to find a Real Princess and everyone lives happily ever after.

Fun. Again beautifully illustrated, lots of numbers and items to count in this book, 9 mattresses, 5 peas, 3 maids and so on and a princess story that has captured my girl’s hearts. This book also comes with a CD so they could listen to it on their own if they wanted to

My vote 10/10

Princes Bedtime


The Prince’s Bedtime

If you have trouble settling your little one of a night this is the book for you! Here we have a Prince who won’t/can’t fall asleep so his dad, the King calls upon his kingdom for help and droves of people turn up to help the prince sleep but all sadly fail. Until a little old lady appears with a very clever idea that works.

A fun book with a brilliant story that delight’s children’s hearts. They adore all the fun and commotion in the palace but appreciate the calm at the end of the book when the prince eventually falls asleep.

Again fabulous illustration and a CD to listen to too.

My vote 10/10

Barefoot Books

The illustration used in these books is as important as the story itself and in each of the three books I have reviewed the pictures and colours are stunning. I shall certainly be buying more, in fact Barefoot Books have set up a special reader discount for Mari’s World readers,

We have set up a special reader discount for you, offering 20% off all our books! They simply have to follow this link to our site, navigate to the shop and purchase the books. The URL automatically detects the code and gives the discount. The promotion will run until June 30.

If you are interested then please do take advantage and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Barefoot books also have an ambassador scheme which gives parents a way to earn income or fundraise for their child’s school by selling children’s books. Check out this link for details on how to make 30% on every book sold:

For some free digital content for family fun including storytime podcasts and animated videos featuring some of the best of Barefoot Books. You can check them out at:

·         Barefoot Books Podcast:  (also on iTunes)

·         Fun digital videos: (under Crafts and Activities, left-hand side, also on YouTube)

·         Barefoot Books Blog:

Abigail Story Buddy HallmarkAbigail is the latest Story Buddy from the Hallmark range and she is the softest, fluffiest and cutest rabbit ever. Very girly and very adorable

She arrived last week and has been read every day since. She gets swopped from one twin to the other on a daily basis as she teaches them to share as well as listen to her story and they adore her as much as they love Watson the Racoon and Jingle the Christmas Story Buddy.

The concept is very simple, Abigail responds to certain sentences that can be easily picked out in the book as they are written in a different colour. When a clear adult voice reads these phrases, Abigail will pipe in with her contribution to the story bringing delighted smiles to the little listeners as they are tickled pink by the idea of a talking softie who adds to the story. Abigail responds to clear voices and may not pick up the quieter, softer tones of young children.

Abigail helps tell three stories and we were sent Abigail and The Balance Beam which is really quite fitting as the girls have just completed their first term of gymnastics at our local club and adore it. (and they each have their first medal #proudmum)

Abigail story buddy hallmarkHer story is an important one of wanting to do things that big people do, in this case walk a beam, and although she finds it very difficult she doesn’t give up and is very pleased to win a prize for her effort and achievement.

This is something I’m very willing to teach the girls as life is hard, it doesn’t always come easy but we have to at least try and give it our best shot! I’d like them to feel that they can have a go at anything and as long as they’ve done their best then they have been successful. I’d like them to see that the trying is part of the fun.

Abigail and the Balance Beam can be bought for £19.99 at Hallmark and makes a perfect educational alternative to chocolate at Easter!