Tag Archives: numeracy

Is your school part of Premier League Primary Stars?

Some children take to school and learning like a duck to water, while other children need a bit of gentle encouragement and motivation. Premier League Primary Stars have been visiting and supporting my son’s school since they launched earlier this year. The Premier League Primary Stars scheme uses the appeal of the Premier League and links with local professional football clubs to inspire children to learn, be active and develop important life skills.

Premier League Primary Stars is available to every primary school in England and Wales, and is open to boys and girls aged 5-11. All teachers need to do is register on the Primary Stars website and they can instantly access a wealth of free teaching materials covering English, maths, PE and Sport as well as PSHE.

Is your school part of Premier League Primary Stars?

There are free to download lesson plans all linked to the National Curriculum. The lesson plans help to underpin a range of key values including equality and diversity; self-esteem; resilience; teamwork and fair play. Being part of Primary Stars means schools can also access extra resources such as videos, free football kit and sports equipment as well as free book boxes for school libraries.

The free resources have been created in partnership with industry experts Edcoms and the PSHE Association; National Literacy Trust and other key stakeholders. Children’s authors Cressida Cowell (‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series) and Dan Freedman (‘Jamie Johnson’ series) helped create the programme’s English resources, while Rachel Riley the Sky Sports presenter and mathematician is a consultant in the development of Maths teaching resources.

Schools can work with a local Premier League football club who will come in and work with the children. The teams help to inspire their learning, as well as teaching them a few footballing skills along the way. The kids really benefit from having their local football club coming in. My son’s school is linked to Manchester City FC and last term they had players coming in to work with the kids, which was great!

Launched in March 2017, Premier League Primary Stars is already in 10,000 schools across England and Wales. The scheme is having a positive impact on the learning and outcomes for so many primary school aged children.

Premier League values underpin everything on offer, encouraging children to:

  • Be ambitious – work hard and never give up on their goals
  • Be inspiring – set a great example to others
  • Be connected –work well with others and in a team
  • Be fair – treat people equally and think of others

Is your school part of Premier League Primary Stars? If you’re not sure, ask your class teacher. They might not yet be aware of this brilliant scheme to inspire and encourage kids all over the country to learn and develop a whole range of life skills.

Is your school part of Premier League Primary Stars?

For more information on Premier League Primary Stars visit their website www.plprimarystars.com.


Premier League Primary Stars are currently running a Writing Stars Poetry Competition. To find out how you can get involved click here.

This blog post was written in collaboration with Premier League Primary Stars and Mumsnet.

Premier League Writing Stars Kids Poetry Competition

This month I’ve been finding out more about the Premier League Primary Stars programme which is currently being used in over 10,000 primary schools across England and Wales. Primary Stars helps to develop literacy, numeracy, PE and PSHE skills in the schools, with all participating being linked up to and supported by their local football teams. My son’s school has had several exciting visits from Manchester City FC players to help motivate and encourage pupils.

Premier League Writing Stars Kids Poetry Competition

Primary Stars has recently launched a fantastic kids poetry competition, with winning entries being published in a book. Other prizes include author-led writing workshops and Premier League Trophy school visits, as well as poems being read aloud by football stars.

Premier League Writing Stars is open to all primary schools in England and Wales and aims to get pupils writing poetry in different creative forms, whether it be in a rap, song lyrics or haiku.

The great news is, the first 1,000 schools to enter the competition will also receive a bespoke “Book Bag” of poetry which is great for expanding school libraries and encouraging a love of poetry.

For more information on how to enter Writing Stars click this link.

The Writing Stars competition invites schoolchildren aged 5-11 to write around the theme of resilience; what does it mean to you to try and try again? Have a look at this brilliant advert from the Premier League Primary Stars campaign, where footballers and children recite the William Hickson poem “Try, Try Again”.

A few famous faces have had a go at writing a poem on the try, try again theme and they’re brilliant. Take a look at the poetry of Alan Shearer, Ben Shephard and Alex Scott (female footballer who has played for England and Arsenal).

All Writing Stars entries will be read by a panel of judges including former Chelsea midfielder and children’s author Frank Lampard; Lauren Child, the author-illustrator of the Charlie and Lola series and Waterstones Children’s Laureate; Yannick Bolasie, the Everton winger and lyricist; and Young People’s Laureate for London, Caleb Femi.

The closing date is 22nd December.

How can you get involved?

Primary Stars is a fantastic scheme for primary schools to get involved in. They have a huge range of free resources for teachers to use, so it is worth checking with your child’s teacher to see if they are using Primary Stars already.

Get writing! I’ll be showing my son the advert and talking to him about resilience and how try, try and trying again is the secret to success in all things. We will also be having a go at writing a little poem at home.

Reading and writing poetry at home is a great way to encourage a love of the written word. Poetry doesn’t have to be hard work. You can write a limerick, haiku, sonnet or song. You can even write a rap. It doesn’t matter what you do, the goal is to enthuse children and encourage them to love learning!

Review: Orchard Toys Magic Maths Game

My son is six now and does seem to enjoy doing maths at school and at home. I’m keen to encourage this, especially as I was always terrible at maths myself. I’m a great believer in making learning fun, so when we were sent the Orchard Toys Magic Maths Game I thought he would like it, and I was right!

Review: Orchard Toys Magic Maths Game

The Orchard Toys Magic Maths Game is for ages 5-7 and helps to teach and reinforce addition, subtraction and multiplication. Designed for 2-4 players this is a game my son really, really loves and makes us play every night after dinner.

The game play is really easy to get your head around. Each player chooses one of the four wizard boards, you spread the magic sum cards face down and star up on the table. You also have a selection of spell ingredient cards, deal each player six of these cards, these have a number on one side and a gruesome spell ingredient on the other.

Review: Orchard Toys Magic Maths Game

To play you turn over a magic sum card and do the sum on the card eg 5+2= if you have the number 7 on any of your spell ingredient cards, shout abracadabra and put your gruesome spell ingredient onto your wizard board. If you need to check your answer is correct, rub the star on the back of the magic sum card and this will magically reveal the answer.

Review: Orchard Toys Magic Maths Game

If there’s no match or you answer the sum incorrectly then the other players have a chance to win that card if they get the sum right and have a spell ingredient card to match. The winner is the first layer to fill their wizard board with all six spell ingredients. It’s actually much easier than it sounds.

The horrible spell ingredients include worm-infested cupcakes, brains and bogies. For my son the eye of newt and wing of bat element is something he particularly enjoys.

The game has been designed specifically for KS1 maths in collaboration with teachers and educational professionals. It incorporates a broad range of sums including addition, subtraction and multiplication to offer a challenging game.

The Orchard Toys Magic Maths Game helps to develop the following areas of learning –

  • Develops Number and Counting Skills
  • Supports first multiplication, addition and subtraction
  • Encourages Observational Skills
  • Develops Personal and Social Skills

Review: Orchard Toys Magic Maths Game

I know from playing the game with my son that he is very engaged with it, he enjoys creating the spells and the challenge of doing the maths to get enough of the cards to win the game. For my money, this is probably one of the best Orchard Toys games we’ve had and is perfectly pitched for my 6 year old.

If you do get this game, can I offer a small tip. The magic sum cards are in sets for addition, subtraction and multiplication. I know my son is pretty confident with addition and subtraction; so for a while we just played with these cards to bolster his confidence. Over time we have introduced the harder sums, the multiplication cards etc and he has found those easier to do and has approached them with greater confidence.

I didn’t think it was possible, but this game really makes maths fun for us all!

The Orchard Toys Magic Maths Game is available from a wide range of retailers and costs around £12. For more information, visit the Orchard Toys website.

Review: Orchard Toys Magic Maths Game

Note: We were sent the Orchard Toys Magic Maths Game for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Review: Spiders and Spouts Mini Game from Orchard Toys

When we go out for a meal, a day trip or a break away from home I always pack a bag of activities to keep my son entertained. When we go out we try to encourage him to work through an activity book or play a small game. We think it’s better for him and a more inclusive activity than just giving him our phones to play with. 

We were sent the new Spiders and Spouts Mini Game from Orchard Toys to try out. These travel sized games tick all the boxes when it comes to packing our activities travel bag.

Review: Spiders and Spouts Mini Game from Orchard Toys

Spiders and Spouts is an update on the traditional snakes and ladders game, featuring characters from the Insey Winsey Spider nursery rhyme. Climb up the spouts to reach the finish line, but beware the rain clouds which will wash you back down again! The Spiders and Spouts travel game is suitable for children aged 4-7 and for 2-4 players.

Review: Spiders and Spouts Mini Game from Orchard Toys

The Orchard Toys Spiders and Spouts mini game is a cleverly designed 6 piece jigsaw puzzle which you piece together to form your classic board game. The box also contains four counters (for up to four players) and a dice.

Even though it’s only 6 pieces, my son was keen to help out and put the board together. The design on the board is lively with lots going on. The illustrations are really cheery and the Insey Winsey Spider theme was fun. Although it’s printed thick board, this game still has the practicality of being able to break the board up and fit it into a small box. 

Review: Spiders and Spouts Mini Game from Orchard Toys

Like the Orchard Toys games, the Sprouts & Spiders Mini Game has some educational and developmental benefits including –

  • Developing Personal and Social Skills
  • Encouraging Number and Counting Skills
  • Encourages Observational Skills

The Orchard Toys mini games cost around £4.99 and I think they are excellent value for money. They are light and compact, so I can just stick them in my bag and take them out with us. They’re brilliant for days out and holidays and are a fantastic travel game for children and families.

Review: Spiders and Spouts Mini Game from Orchard Toys

Note: Orchard Toys sent us the Spiders and Spouts Mini Game for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Win a Double Flip Fun & Games Mat worth £28

One of the best way children learn is through messy play. Messy play is also lots of fun, which is why kids enjoy it so much and are keen to engage with messy learning. Regrettably and inevitably this means that sometimes you can discover crayon and felt tip graffiti on the walls and carpets. No matter how carefully you think you’ve supervised them.

We love the Fun & Games Mat from Double Flip which is a great way to encourage a bit of creative play without having to worry too much about your walls. It’s perfect for taking out and about to the park for a picnic, or for having some rainy day fun at home. It’s been featured in the Guardian Christmas Gift list and the Saturday Telegraph Magazine. The mat has been designed, printed and hand made in Britain.  The Fun & Games Mat makes a great gift – and is practical, educational and above all fun. Double Flip Fun & Games MatSuitable for children aged 3 to 10 years, the Double Flip Fun & Games Mat is reversible and printed with fun activities on both sides. The mat encourages creativity, numeracy and literacy and is ideal for entertaining up to five children at once!

The pack includes a large reversible mat (120 x 100cm), ten double washable felt tip pens, a box of 5 dice, 6 counters and a fabric carry bag.

Kids will have hours of fun playing and drawing on this mat with the washable felt tip pens.  When they’ve finished, pop the mat in the washing machine on a cold wash, hang out to dry and play again!

Double Flip Fun & Games Mat

The Double Flip Fun & Games Mat includes a range of activities such as creative drawing, dot-to-dot, noughts and crosses, colour by numbers, letter writing practice, snakes and ladders and other dice games for older children. They won’t even realise they are learning while they play!

The Double Flip Fun & Games mat is available to buy online from the Double Flip website for £28. If you sign up to the Double Flip newsletter (at the bottom of their homepage) you can get 10% off your order!

WIN A Double Flip Fun & Games Mat worth £28

To be in with a chance to win a Double Flip Fun & Games Mat worth £28, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5.The winner will receive a Double Flip Fun & Games Mat worth £28.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 16th November 2016.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winner, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
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12. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
13. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Review: Orchard Toys What’s the Time Mr Wolf?

This month the small boy started Year 1 and his learning has definitely stepped up a level. One thing his class are starting to look at is learning to tell the time. We’ve been talking about the time all year and trying to figure out what the time is on our kitchen clock, but Orchard Toys have just brought out a new game – What’s the Time Mr Wolf? to help 5-9 year olds learn to tell the time. We were sent one to put to the test, so what did the small boy think?

Orchard Toys What's the Time Mr Wolf?

What’s the Time Mr Wolf? is based on the popular playground game and is for 2 – 6 players, aged 5 to 9. It contains a jigsaw game board, character pieces and stands, time cards (with analogue and digital times on them), a slot together wolf and a large clock face with movable hands.

The game has been designed to help children to learn to tell the time and it is also fun and easy to play. Like many of the Orchard Toys games, it can be played at different levels. First play and learn to tell the time on a clock, once that skill has been mastered you can move onto learning to tell the time on a digital clock.

Orchard Toys What's the Time Mr Wolf?

When you open the box and get the game out, there are a lot of different elements, so it might look more complex than it is. The first version of the game (which is what we are playing, as the small boy is only 5) is pretty simple.

Choose a character counter (I was badger, he was hedgehog), go to the start and roll the dice. Move however many squares and if you land on a question mark you pick up a card from the stack of time cards. Then you read out the time, for example “ten minutes past ten” and without looking at the clock face on the back you move the hands on the big clock to that time. If they match then you can add your card to your collection board (with the matching character on it). The first one to fill their board wins.

If you don’t get the time right, then you have to return the card to the pile and the next player has a go. If you land on the wolf you shout “dinner time” and you must take a card from your collection board and feed it to the wolf. The small boy especially liked the shouting part, but I guess shouting is optional.

What's the Time Mr Wolf?

We played after school and the small boy couldn’t wait for his dad to come home from work to play it with him too. It’s great that the What’s the Time Mr Wolf? game is so enjoyable for him, it really helps with his learning. He’s got the game out most days after school which is really encouraging for me. I do have to watch him, I’m not saying he cheats, but I am saying that cheats never prosper!

I can’t really comment on the other version of the game for older players, as we’re not there yet and we’ve not played it, but it does help to teach older kids how to tell the time on a digital clock.

The What’s the Time Mr Wolf? game from Orchard Toys is made with sturdy recycled board and has a wipe-clean finish. All Orchard Toys games and puzzles are really robust and we’ve still got some which are four years old and have been played to death.

What’s the Time Mr Wolf? is another cracking educational game from Orchard Toys. If you can make learning fun, then it doesn’t feel like learning at all.

To find out more about the What’s the Time Mr Wolf? game, visit the Orchard Toys website.

We were sent the Orchard Toys What’s the Time Mr Wolf? game fore review purposes. All Images and opinions are our own. 

Travel Toys: Jungle Snakes & Ladders Mini Game from Orchard Toys

One of the latest releases from Orchard Toys is their new range of Mini Games. The games are mini because they are small and very portable, making them ideal for travel or to slip into your bag for days out.

There are six new mini games to choose from –

  • Build a Beetle
  • Dinosaur Dominoes
  • Little Bus Lotto
  • Penguin Pairs
  • Jungle Snakes & Ladders
  • Crocodile Snap

The games vary, but generally they are for children aged 3+ and are based on classic games. We were sent the Jungle Snakes & Ladders game to play with, so I slipped it in my bag and took the boy out for a milkshake and a game or two.

mini games

The Orchard Toys Jungle Snakes & Ladders mini game rather cleverly is a 6 piece jigsaw puzzle which you put together and it forms your classic board game. The box also contains four counters (for up to four players) and a dice.

First of all the boy really enjoyed putting the puzzle pieces together. The board is lively with lots going on and he enjoyed following the numbers to ensure he was putting the pieces together correctly. He liked the monkeys and he’s re-christened the game “Monkeys, Snakes & Ladders” which seems factually accurate if nothing else.

The board is colourfully printed thick card, the usual thickness of Orchard Toys games, but with the practicality of being able to “break it up” and fit it into a small box. The game is really colourful and well illustrated in a way which wouldn’t put off older children or adults so much.

Like the Orchard Toys games, the Jungle Snakes & Ladders mini game has some very helpful educational benefits including –

  • Developing Personal and Social Skills
  • Encouraging Number and Counting Skills

And that has certainly been evident every time we’ve played the game. As well as reinforcing turn-taking in game play, we also have used it to practice counting and learn to deal with the disappointment of sliding down a snake. He may have also practiced his cheating and I practiced calling him out on that. Cheaters never prosper!

These mini games cost around £4.99 and are excellent value for money. They are light and compact, so I can just stick it in my bag and take it out with us. They’re brilliant for days out and holidays and are a fantastic travel game for children and families.

Note: Orchard Toys sent us this game for review purposes, all images and opinions are our own.

Review: Orchard Toys Activity Books

Working in a small independent toy shop I am lucky enough to get to hear about quite a lot of new toys, games, books and puzzles before they hit the shelves. I was super-giddy when I saw the new puzzles for this year from Orchard Toys, and several of them will be joining our collection at home at some point very soon. However I was especially interested in the new range of Orchard Toys Activity Books.

The small boy loves an activity book, he fell in love with them over Christmas and has been working his way through one a week ever since.

There are six Orchard Toys Activity Books available, they are –

  • Animals Sticker Colouring Book, ages 3+
  • Make Believe Sticker Colouring Book, ages 3+
  • ABC Sticker Colouring Book, ages 4+
  • Number Sticker Colouring Book, ages 4+
  • First Words Sticker Colouring Book, ages 4+
  • Things To Do Sticker Activity Book, ages 5+

Each of the Orchard Toys Activity Books is 24 pages long and contains stickers for them to stick on the pages as they go along. We chose three of the activity books;  the Things To Do Sticker Activity Book, the Number Sticker Colouring Book, and the First Words Sticker Colouring Book.

Orchard Toys Activity Books

The activity books have colourful covers and are black and white on the inside, with large drawings and shapes to colour in. Where there are words or numbers to copy and write, they are dotted lines to draw over and lots of space to practice.

The Number Sticker Colouring Book goes from 1 – 10 and includes practice writing the numbers, as well as counting activities, colouring in and sticking. All of which are great for encouraging the fine motor skills children of that age need to develop.

The First Words Sticker Colouring Book has 23 words to identify and write, as well as colouring in and stickers to stick. The words include cat, dog, drum, teddy and rocket. Again there are several chances to practice writing each word and extra space if you need it.

The Things To Do Sticker Activity Book is aimed at children aged 5+ and contains 20 pages of puzzles and things to do, including matching puzzles, word searches, dot to dots, mazes and simple sums.

I think activity books are great, we always have them out on the table to do a page or two when we get home from school. We don’t like to push him to do them, but he often asks to do a page of numbers or a dot to dot. They’re also great for taking out and about, an activity book and a couple of felt tips weigh virtually nothing.

Orchard Toys Activity Books

These Orchard Toys activity books are ideal for supporting the learning he is doing at school. We have been asked by his teacher to do more writing and pen holding at home, so even things like colouring in and learning to colour in the lines is great for his development.

  • Encourages Observational Skills
  • Encourages Number and Counting Skills
  • Encourages Discussion
  • Develops Shape and Matching Skills
  • Develops Hand Eye Coordination
  • Promotes Language and Literacy

For me, as equally important as supporting his learning and development at home is that he enjoys doing them and actively asks to do them with us, which he has done. We enjoy sitting with him and talking about what he’s doing and what’s happening on each page, we try not to make learning a chore.

These activity books are priced at £3.99 which I think is about average for an activity book like this (and I’ve bought lots and lots of them) and quite reasonable given the content and design. I think they’ve been well thought out and are a welcome addition to the Orchard Toys range.

You can find out more about the Orchard Toys Activity books on their website.

Note: We were sent these three activity books for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.