Over February half term I had booked tickets to take the girls up to London to visit the Body Worlds exhibition. (I know – it’s taken until now to get this post written and published!) I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but as we had been studying the body in school for Year 6 which included the circulatory system, the digestive system and the skeleton I thought it would be good to see what the body looks like close up. I got much more than I bargained for and would thoroughly recommend a visit.

The exhibition is on Piccadilly Circus on the same site that Ripley’s – Believe It Or Not used to be, so it’s very easy to get to. The entrance is on the ground floor and you are taken to the start of the exhibition, which is at the top of the building, in a lift.

You walk into a dark, black room with spotlights pointed on the bodies, this adds so much more focus to the exhibits. You follow a carefully planned journey around the body, each section focusing on a different element that could be the skin or the skeleton. You dive into the circulatory system; the respiration and the blood, the digestive system and even the sexual reproduction organs. Nothing is missed out.

Each section is mind-blowing and there are over 200 anatomical specimens that individually reveal what is happening under our skin.

Dr Gunther von Hagens, the brains behind the plastination technique used to preserve the bodies, has discovered an intriguing and compelling way to show us a greater understanding of the human body. Being able to see what lies under our skin so close up and to be able to take a look at some organs taken from people after misuse (lungs after smoking for years, the body of an obese person against that of a non-obese person) had a very deep emotional effect on me. Seeing the liver of someone who died of cirrhosis against a healthy liver clearly indicates what is happening on the inside when people become alcoholics.

At the end of the tour, there is a fantastic video which explains how the plastination process takes place. Well worth a watch!

I came out with a huge respect for my body and a determination to be more aware and conscious of how I treat it. I also loved seeing the awe on the girl’s faces as they too looked on with a curiosity and desire to learn that I wish could be found in all of their subjects!

I would recommend this exhibition to all ages. There is a sexual reproduction area that can be avoided should you wish, I chose to take the girls in and everything was set out in a clever, creative but very mature way. There is one specimen of a man and a woman having sex but as the skin is stripped off and the organs cannot be seen, I thought it was very educational.

As you leave the exhibition, and we really would have enjoyed going over it all a second time, you are asked if the show had any effect on you and would you make changes to your lifestyle as a result. I said yes, reduce my alcohol intake, take more exercise and eat healthily.

I am sure the girls have taken away so much from this day out and I am determined to revisit in a few years time to refresh their memories.

Parragon Gold Stars Challenge

I am really pleased to see the twins have excelled themselves at school in Year One this year both getting a superb report and having over achieved their targets setting them well up for a great Year Two.

Having asked throughout the entire year at school pick up time, ‘What did you do today at school?’ and receiving a non comital, ‘Nothing.’ or ‘I don’t know.’ It’s been really lovely receiving their books home and being able to see what they’ve been up to. Apart from a wonderful memory of their early learning years it’s also a valuable insight into what they’ve been covering.

Many say that the six week summer holiday causes memory loss and that a child may struggle in the new class with a new teacher who has yet to know and understand them and with a new curriculum.

I want to help my girls keep ticking over but not in a scheduled and vigorous manner, just by ‘playing’ and when I saw the Parragon Gold Star books at BritMums Live this year I knew they’d be perfect for the job.

They have been developed by teachers and educational specialists and take into consideration parents tips and advice. Each activity is illustrated using bright fun colours and in engaging the child with simple instructions like ‘Draw curly hair on the clown.’ Each activity also supports the National curriculum, in our case KS1.

Parragon Gold Stars challenge

Each book has 50 gold star stickers that parents can use when finished an activity as a reward system, there is a practise pad with extra exercises and each page also has a note for parents like ‘This activity helps your child to recognise nouns, verbs and adjectives.’

You can find the Parragon Gold Stars books in Sainsbury’s, WHSmith, Morrisons and Wilkinson. I am taking part in the Summer With Gold Stars challenge where once the child has successfully completed their 30 day challenge, which is a lot of fun anyway, they will receive a congratulatory letter and a personalised certificate.



LeapFrog has introduced a LeapReader Book Club on Facebook and we were delighted to be asked to review a book for the month of June. Our LeapReader Interactive Book to review is Dora the Explorer – Tale of the Unicorn King.

It’s part of the Early Reading Series that includes long and short vowels, sight words and word families. On opening the book you find a panel of options with very simple and colourful symbols on which to place your LeapReader, this gives the book many possibilities.

LeapReader symbols

Read the Page uses the colour purple for identification. By touching this symbol the LeapReader will read the page to you

Read the Story uses the colour yellow and a play symbol for identification. By touching this symbol LeapReader will read the whole story and give a musical note as a sign to turn page but you have to be quick, I think it’s best for a parent to help out.

The games included throughout the story are simple but clever, For example, Can you see a rainbow? Touch the rainbow with your LeapReader. Dora then says in Spanish, ‘Che lindo! – it’s beautiful’. I was surprised to hear her speak Spanish but it’s translated straight after and adds another dimension to this book. Each green symbol has more than one game to play on each page.

Sound it/Say it identified as yellow allows you to touch a word and hear that word sounded out in phonics example ‘sss — eee’ = see. Followed by a muscial note or two to let you know it’s ready to sound the next one

Repeat button 

Stop button. 

The LeapReader works by recognising words on the page and can say them when the child gets stuck if reading alone or it can read the story as an audiobook whilst the child follows the words. 

It really is simple and the twins picked it up very quickly and immediately started arguing as to whose turn it was to hold the LeapReader!

Dora the Explorer – Tale of the Unicorn King


Tale of the Unicorn King is perfect for children who love fairy tales and myths like mine do. It includes a mix of beautiful and wonderful things to keep turning the pages like rainbows and rabbits, like enchanted forests and a map to follow.

dora the explorer

The story is simple, the animals of the Enchanted Forest want Unicornio to be their king but Unicornio is full of self doubt; a king must be kind, smart, brave and strong and he’s not so sure he has those qualities so Dora helps him out.

At the back of the book there’s a page of information on short vowels, long vowels, word families and sight words. It’s really informative and helps parents understand teaching methods too.

The LeapFrog LeapReader is an educational system that uses a talking pen together with a vast range of books that encourage children to read and write. There are writing sheets for the child to trace with the pen gradually getting the hang of forming the letters and writing them. The LeapReader teaches reading comprehension, vocabulary and listening skills too. It’s aimed at children aged 4 – 8.

The pen needs to be connected to a computer via a USB cable which opens up LeapFrog Connect where you can access your account and add or subtract apps to each device you own. On buying a new book, you have to touch one of the symbols in the book and then connect to the pc in order to download the content. The USB is also used to recharge the pen.

Our verdict: 4/5 – one point less as I think the Read the Story needs to allow a bit more time for turning the page, little hands (who like to do everything) are slower than an adults.

LeapReader Dora book 

We are very proud to announce that we’ve been chosen to be part of the LeapFrog Blogger Panel. The twins LOVE their LeapPad Ultras and they go everywhere with us. I love their LeapPad Ultras as we can chop and change the uploaded apps to keep them constantly amused, revisiting ‘old’ games and discovering new apps at the same time. One of my favourite LeapPad moments is listening to them with their earphones on singing along to pop songs. Like this early photo shows.

Disclosure: We received a copy of Dora the Explorer Tale of the Unicorn King for the purpose of this review

LeapFrog Blogger Panel

K2 crosswords puzzles skips

Easter holidays and isn’t it lovely to watch the children play without a care in the world? I daren’t reprimand them for a messy room of an evening when I can see they have clearly had loads of fun playing with their toys, we’re making it part of our day to tidy up at the end so ‘we know where to find everything’ for play the next day. Sounds good on paper and no it doesn’t always work but we have years ahead to perfect this idea of mine.

We also have homework to do and as I am constantly saying I am amazed at just how much the children are learning at school. Our recent parent’s evening blew me away completely when I looked at their exercise books and saw for myself the sums, the writing, the projects completed when they’re not with me, hats off to Mrs J and her assistant Mrs G for the excellent continued work.

I do believe in a little exercise throughout the holidays, I think it should never be too much but enough to tick over so on their return to the classroom they’re not overwhelmed by the work load again.

skips crossmaths

I have been sent two of the Skips books to have a look at, I have bought them puzzle books before but some are a bit too boring and get put to one side, others are a bit too complicated and therefore are no longer enjoyable but become a task.

The Skips books are constructed around Key Stage 1 and 2, they aim to improve your child’s education and give them confidence with their homework, there is a huge emphasis on parental interaction, the thing is if we as parents are positive about homework then our children will enjoy it al the more too.

I have been sent two Skips books KS1 Crossmaths and KS 2 Crossword puzzles, I have flicked through them and like what I see but I will have to order another copy of each as each child needs their own copy.

The pages are bright and colourful they are set out very easily and are appealing to the eye. The one thing I like the most is they were developed by a mum, Ash Sharma, for her child to remove all the moans and complaints associated with homework.

The books are engaging and you can do as little or as much as you like, let your child set the pace and do their own puzzles when they want.

If they enjoy it it makes life so much easier and they are learning and practising their new skills all the time too, bingo!

my best toy - writing practiseI’ve been meaning to write an update on the girls progress for a while (since half term!) but keep getting side tracked so I’m biting the bullet and here we go.

Just before half term our school opened the classroom doors and invited the parents in to have a look around. This is an excellent opportunity to discover what the children have been up to as more often than not presented with the question, ‘What did you do today at school?’ the answer will be ‘I can’t remember.’ which is more of a don’t bother me now mum, I’m tired and don’t want to think but leaves parents wondering what the heck the kids do at school.

Here’s what I managed to discover …

Our class of 30 has been split into groups of 6 and both twins were in the Rocking Horses group which I discovered yesterday has been renamed Lanterns but more of that in a minute.

Each group sits at desks with a tray underneath holding their work, they have places to put their water bottles and the first weeks of school were learning all the new rules. The children are expected to sit at their desks to complete ‘jobs’ which consist of writing and numeracy tasks.

Jenny in bed - year 1 topic

On the walls there were lots of posters and work that the children had been working on, the twins were very excited to take me around the classroom and show me all their hard work. They were very proud.

The first term of school was to focus on toys as a subject to talk and discover. They made robots – see Jenny in Bed above and also robots hanging from the ceiling below.

classroom wall

We have had reading books from the first week and I was delighted to see the girls have been moved up two levels to turquoise since the start.

We also get homework at the weekends which is writing or numeracy skills.

To keep the kids enthusiastic our teacher has a star system and she will reward two children ‘Star of the Day’ daily. It just so happens that on the Open Day both Alice and Bessie had been rewarded their first Star of the Day awards and they were thrilled.

Star of the day

If you are a lucky star of the day you also get to bring home a  signed certificate from the teacher. This certificate is duly bluetacked up for everyone to see in our house ;)

Another system our teacher has put in place is a sticker chart. Each child on completing a job or for being particularly good at something is rewarded a sticker. The sticker goes on the sticker chart and once you have completed the 20 spaces with stickers you are rewarded with a gift from teacher. Well you can imagine the delight when they are given stickers. There’s a lot of discussion about who has completed their chart of an evening.

This term, term 2, the topic is Light and Dark which is why they are now in Lanterns, we have been given number charts and will be learning to count in 2s, 5s and 10s. Literacy and Phonics is assisted by Digby Dinosaur, a book of challenges to complete as and when we want to but fortunately for me the girls LOVE them and we seem to be doing one a night. A short exercise like find 5 words with the sound ‘ee’ in them and to write one sentence using one of the words.

I am really pleased to see they are enjoying school, on a few occasions they have returned home with a sticker from the head teacher which is a very special occasion, the latest was Alice who was rewarded for her excellent writing.

We do do an awful lot of writing at home as they love it and Stabilo recently sent us their Early Writers kits including some fabulous writing tools with easy grips and a tripod shape which is so much easier for little fingers to grasp and use.

You can find lots of resources to support young learners with their early writing skills on the Stabilo website, all completely free and ready to download