Tag Archives: reading

Six Brilliant Nature Books for Children

This summer has been brilliant. Most days it’s been nice enough to go outside to play and explore. It’s been a brilliant summer for enjoying the great outdoors and learning more about nature. We’ve been reading lots of nature books, doing some nature-based crafts, some scavenger hunts, and reading lots of nature books. My son has thoroughly enjoyed himself, and I have too.

I’ve picked out six of our favourite nature books for children which we’ve been enjoying this summer. Do you have a favourite nature book?

Six Brilliant Nature Books for Children

six Brilliant Nature Books for Children

Hello Nature by Nina Chakrabarti is a wonderfully illustrated 160 page nature scrapbook. It’s full of interesting facts and activities to help you explore and learn more about nature. The book encourages you to “draw, colour, make and grow” all over its pages. Hello Nature is aimed at children aged 7-11 years, but it’s so beautiful it would make a great present for anyone interested in drawing or painting nature. You can read our full review here.

My RSPB Nature Clipboard by Eryl Nash and illustrated by Hannah Tolson is a great place to start discovering more about the nature in your neighbourhood. Learn to make bird and butterfly feeders, a minibeast hotel or a windowbox garden. Become a nature detective and head outside with your clipboard to explore the nature on your doorstep. Use the spotter sheets to identify birds, plants, animal tracks and much more, and record what you’ve found on your beautifully illustrated poster. The perfect gift to engage nature-lovers and budding bird-watchers with the wildlife all around them.

The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane. We’ve just returned home from the Just So Festival which had an area in the woods set aside for a piece about this most wonderful nature book. Inspired by the decision to remove fifty ‘nature’ words from the Oxford Junior Dictionary to make way for what are mainly transitory, computer-based words such as ‘broadband’ and ‘chatroom’. Author, Robert Macfarlane wrote this book to celebrate some of the lost words, such as dandelion, conkers, otters, adders and other wonderful nature words. This is beyond a shadow of a doubt the most beautiful nature book I have ever laid eyes on. Full of wonderful illustrations and thought provoking poetry, it’s a real treat for nature lovers!

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: My Adventure Field Guide by Hannah Pang. Inspired by and featuring artwork from the original We’re Going on a Bear Hunt story by Michael Rosen, this field guide to the natural world is informational and fun. Eager readers will discover a wealth of facts about plants and animals, bugs and birds, clouds, the night sky, the weather and so much more. The book features facts galore, but also recipes, science projects and tips for how children can help protect the environment. Whether swishy-swashing through the grass, or squelch-squerching through the mud, there’s something here for everyone. You can read our full review here.

i-SPY Nature: What Can You Spot? We love this i-SPY series of books. They’re little pocket-sized spotter guides which are great to take out for the day. This nature book is a really fun activity book encourages kids to explore outdoors; from down by the sea to town and country animals, in search of i-SPY points. A fun, interactive way to encourage curious children to learn about the world around them.

The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer is  a great introduction to the creepy crawlies with lots of tips on how to become a young bug spotter. The book is divided into key groups of bugs; including beetles, moths, butterflies, bees, snails, crickets, grasshoppers, worms and spiders, all wonderfully illustrated. It’s a real treasure trove of information, and can you spot the hidden fly on each page? Can you?

If you enjoyed this round up of nature books, you might also like our pick of five books about the environment.

Six Brilliant Nature Books for Children

Five Books about the Environment for Earth Day

Taking care of our environment and doing our bit to look after our planet is something we’ve always talked about with our son. We’ve always been keen recyclers and I’m known for being a bit frugal with the gas and electricity. Over the last few months the boy has been learning more about the environment both at school and at Beavers. It doesn’t hurt to reinforce the message at home too, so we’ve been doing some reading about the subject. We’ve got lots of great books about he environment and with Earth Day just around the corner, here are our five favourites.

Five Books about the Environment for Earth Day

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers. Like all of Oliver Jeffers’ books Here We Are is a beautiful, heartfelt story, it’s about the wonder of our planet and about how we should love it and care for it. It’s a simple story with a big message and one which children will enjoy reading and sharing with you. It’s a book about kindness and respect and care.

Five Books about the Environment for Earth Day

Compost Stew: An A-Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals. Composting is one of the first environmentally friendly things I learned to do as a child. It’s a really easy introduction to learning more about the environment and climate change. How do you start a compost pile? What’s safe to include? This book is perfect for Earth Day reading and provides answers for children and families looking for simple, child-friendly ways to help the planet.

The Coral Kingdom by Laura Knowles and Jenny Webber celebrates the beauty, diversity and fragile ecosystem of the coral reef. This visually stunning picture book has a strong ecological message about the need to protect this most precious environment. Follow and explore the life cycle, diversity and colour of the coral reef ecosystem; learn about the threats the reef faces and what we can do to save it. Each beautifully illustrated page is packed full of delightful sea creatures to discover and enjoy. A beautiful book with a powerful message.

Look out for Litter by Lisa Bullard is part of the “Planet Protector” series. This Look out for Litter book shows how little pieces of litter and rubbish can become a big problem. Find out how to deal with litter responsibly and learn how to reduce, reuse and recycle.

This is Our World by Emily Sollinge. This lovely board book for smaller children is printed on recycled board and uses vegetable ink! Take little ones on a fun interactive journey learning to clean the air, reduce pollution, recycle, and much more. It’s never too early to learn to care for the environment!

Do you have any favourite books about the environment you like to read with your children? 

If you enjoyed this, you might also like my Five Superb Books About Science.

Five Books about the Environment for Earth Day

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Children’s Books: Five Brilliant Books About Spring

Believe it or not, it’s spring (as I type this there is snow on the ground and the heating is on full blast). Spring is one of our favourite seasons; with the first garden flowers of the year popping up; some blue skies, and the birth of new life. We always like to visit a local farm in spring, helping to feed the orphan lambs is a particular joy. As ever, we like to keep our reading seasonal too, so here are five sensational books about spring we love…

Five Sensational Books About Spring

Spring by Gerda Muller is one of a series of four books without words, which lead the young child through the seasons of the year. Full of fun and active illustrations, this chunky board book shows the joys of playing with lambs, sowing seeds, painting Easter eggs and watching baby birds. It’s the most wonderful book to share with little ones this spring!

Children's Books: Five Sensational Books About Spring

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. Join the tiny seed on an adventure as it becomes a giant flower! In autumn, a strong wind blows flower seeds high in the air and carries them far across the land. One by one, many of the seeds are lost. They are burned by the sun, fall into the ocean, or eaten by birds. But some seeds survive the long winter and, come spring, sprout into plants. The delicate plants face new dangers; being trampled by playing children or picked as a gift for a friend. Soon only the tiniest seed remains, growing into a giant flower and, when autumn returns, sending its own seeds into the wind to start the process over again.

Little Baa by Kim Lewis. For me, spring isn’t spring until I’ve seen and preferably snuggled a lamb. This book is perfect for lamb-lovers like me! One spring day, Little Baa jumps, skips and runs in the field. Soon he leaves his friends far behind – and his Ma too; but Little Baa’s Ma misses him and searches for him. Will she ever find her Little Baa?

Animal Seasons: Rabbit’s Spring Adventure by Anita Loughrey. Animal Seasons are a beautifully illustrated series of picture books for young children and emerging readers and they are great for learning a little more about the natural world. In this spring adventure, Rabbit leaves his warren and discovers that the woods are full of new life. There’s so much to discover that poor Rabbit loses his way, but who will help him find his way back home?

A Year in Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklam. When I was a child, I was completely enchanted by the Brambly Hedge stories. I still have my little collection of books today. The mice of Brambly Hedge have many beautifully illustrated adventures throughout the year. They mark the seasons with feasts and festivities and, of course, the mice never miss an opportunity to have a little party. This wonderful collection would make a great gift for any child and it really is a collection to treasure.

If you enjoyed these books about spring, you might also enjoy my five classic books about bears.

Children's Books: Five Sensational Books About Spring

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Review: Storytime Magazine for kids

Sometime last year we were given a copy of Storytime Magazine to read with the boy. I was immediately impressed with the beautiful illustrations and the stories which were just the right length for a bedtime story. Each issue was filled with stand alone stories with some related activities. The boy recently picked up a copy and with his new-found confidence with independent reading, read it over and over and over, to the point of near obsession.

At first I wasn’t sure how he would feel about reading a magazine instead of a book (because he can be a bit funny like that sometimes), but he went nuts for it. Every night he would race to bed so we could read several stories together. Each story was the perfect length for a bedtime story and beautifully illustrated. Overnight, Storytime Magazine became a firm favourite with us both.

Giveaway & Review: Storytime Magazine for kids

Storytime Magazine is a kids’ magazine full of great stories. It’s packed with fairy tales, myths, poems, and much more; all of which are beautifully written and illustrated, with puzzles, games and colouring in too. What I really like about it is there are no adverts. I always find adverts quite distracting, so it’s nice not to have to fend off an attack of the I wants when you’re reading together.

I feel like we’ve stuck gold with Storytime Magazine. Every story is interesting, exciting and seems very different to his school books, but at the same time it’s all linked to his curriculum. At this point reading, all reading is great for him and if we can instill a love of reading then it opens up wonderful, fantastical worlds for him to discover.

Giveaway & Review: Storytime Magazine for kids

My son really loves his Storytime Magazine. He likes to flick through and really study the illustrations before picking out a story for us to read. We’ve always enjoyed reading together. These magazines are a bit different and in a world full of school books and reading schemes. Reading these stories together isn’t a chore, or like homework. It just feels like we’re reading for pleasure and that is such a lovely gift to share with your child.

For more information or to subscribe to Storytime Magazine, visit their website.

I contacted Storytime Magazine and told them how much we loved them. They kindly send us two issues of Storytime for the boy with no obligation to review them. All images and opinions are our own.

Milestones: Learning to read

I hope you’ll forgive the indulgence, but today marked a bit of a milestone for my boy. He’s in Reception at school and every week he brings a bedtime book home for us to read together. The more able children have been bringing home reading books since September, each week more and more of his classmates were taking home reading books and we wondered when he would be considered ready enough to start reading with us at home (although we’ve been reading to him and with him since before he was born). Today he brought home his first reading books and we couldn’t be more excited for him.

The first thing he wanted to do when he got home from school was to get his books out and read with us, I’m sure this level of enthusiasm won’t last but I love it. He has always enjoyed books and together we devour two, three, four books a night and I’m so pleased for him that he’s taking his first steps towards learning to read with school. 

Learning to read

Reading is such a wonderful gift, being able to lose yourself in a good book does wonders for the soul. By learning to read the boy can visit different universes, different times, different lands. He can travel the world without ever leaving his room. 

When he was Christened we asked that if people wanted to give him a present, that they gave him a copy of their own favourite childhood book, so he’s got a shelf of Roald Dahl books, Harry Potter , Alan Garner books, as well as Rupert Bear to tackle. I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but today was half a pixie step towards being an independent reader and I’m glad that he is as excited as I am about that.

As an aside, I know I should probably have been worried about him falling behind his peers, but I knew that he’d get it at some point. My brother didn’t read until he was older than Ben and he’s got a PhD now. They all develop at their own pace, but they usually get there in the end.

Learning: Writing letters and numbers

Over Christmas a few developmental things seemed to fall into place for the small boy and he couldn’t get enough of activity books, specifically practicing writing letters and numbers. Not one to discourage this, I spent a small fortune on activity books, we were going through one book every other day over the Christmas holidays and he was thoroughly enjoying it. But there had to be a cheaper way.

I mentioned this to Karen from That Lancashire Lass and she suggested I have a look at Twinkl. Twinkl is a brilliant website full of fun educational resources for parents, teachers, childminders and home educators. It’s full of more resources than you could ever wish for, and whatever their flavour of the month is (it’s usually fire engines and dinosaurs here) there are loads of easily downloadable activities available. 

We thought we’d start off simple and just print off a number formation workbook and letter formation worksheets. Because we’re fancy, I got my OH to print them and bind them into workbooks (it is here when being married to a printer finally comes into its own), but they’d be fine loose or just stapled together.

Writing letters and numbers

The boy loves them. He’s had them about a week now and he comes home from school every day and wants to do a few pages with us, which is so great, we’ve not wanted to push him to do things too much so it’s a delight that he’s genuinely interested and excited to do things. We had an inset day on Monday so we spent some time doing crafts and working through some pages of his new workbooks.

Writing letters and numbers

Although he’s been able to write his name for well over a year now, I’ve found that since he’s been doing some writing practice every day that his letters are much clearer and smaller, he’s even grown in confidence enough to write Benjamin instead of Ben, it’s a big name for a little boy! As you can see from the above picture he’s totally nailed writing the number 12 too.

What we chose to start our Twinkl journey with were fairly straightforward activity sheets. I’m already planning for a few themed rainy afternoons using some of the downloaded Twinkl resources, so I’ll be blogging them at a later date.

If you need a bespoke resource they have a new tool to create your own resources – twinkl create.  I think Twinkl is a cracking website for anyone who likes doing activities at home with their kids, as well as for teachers needing some inspiration; I’m looking forward to doing some lovely learning with my boy.

Miles Kelly – Learning All About Space

We recently re-decorated the small boy’s bedroom so it resembled a starry night sky. The idea was to gradually add things to it, rockets and astronauts, planets and such like. The small boy loved it and was really keen to find out more about space, he loved looking up at the night sky at the moon and the stars, so with the help of Miles Kelly Publishing we’ve been learning more about space.

Miles Kelly are an independent children’s book publishers based in Essex, founded in 1996 they have published over 400 titles and their books are available all over the world. 

We were sent two of the Miles Kelly space books – The Sticker Playbook Spaceship and the Convertible Spaceship to read and play with.

miles kelly space

The Sticker Playbook Spaceship is a double sided fold out book which is aimed at toddlers. It includes an illustrated short story about a rocket journey into space, as well as learning activities and 50 reusable vinyl stickers.

The fold out book is double sided, with one side telling the story of the space mission and the other side being for the stickers and activities, such as learning about colours and shapes. The playbook is beautifully illustrated, with depictions of the planets which you can recognise as well as funny aliens and spaceships. It’s a fun book, rooted in facts but with an interesting and enjoyable story too. Also it has stickers, any book with stickers is always a winner.

The Convertible Spaceship is perhaps one of the most awesome things the small boy has ever been given. It is essentially the same story and illustrations as the sticker playbook (above) but instead of the other side being activities, the other side is a space rocket design. Following the easy instructions you can quickly convert it from a book into a space rocket which you can sit in!

miles kelly space

Aimed at children aged 3-6 years, this is a fantastic thing full stop (the full price is currently £17.99, but it’s sometimes on special offer). As you can see from the pictures the boy loved it, in fact he filled his rocket with everything he’d need for the afternoon, drinks, snacks, an ipad and a blanket and he just stayed in there playing, occasionally we’d hear a “blast off” countdown and noise, but I don’t think he could be happier.

The story part of the space rocket is on the inside, so while he was in there he was pointing at the pictures and talking about what he could see, as well as spelling out some of the letters and words. It’s the kind of thing which would make a fantastic present, and I know Miles Kelly have a whole range of these convertible books, including fire engines, pirate ships and trains.

We really loved these gorgeous Miles Kelly space books – the boy learned a thing or two, but more importantly enjoyed playing with them and it gave his imagination a workout, which is always good. We are very impressed and we’d recommend these great books, especially the convertible space rocket – what’s not to love?

miles kelly space

Note: We were sent these Miles Kelly Space books free of charge for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Fun to Learn First Friends Magazine

Whenever we go into a supermarket the small boy always heads for the magazine stand and spends some time weighing up his options before choosing a children’s magazine to take home. When he was younger I used to have to hide it away until we got home or he’d trash it in the car, but these days he sits beautifully in the back of the car pouring over the contents and deciding what he’s going to colour in or put stickers on when we get home.

This month a brand new children’s magazine has been launched by award winning pre-school publisher, Redan Publishing Ltd. They publish a whole range of kids magazines which you will be familiar with, such as Peppa Pig Magazine, Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom Magazine as well as Friends Magazine and Favourites Magazine – all of which we’ve bought and read a number of times.

The new publication, Fun to Learn First Friends Magazine, is aimed at pre-school children aged 2-4 years. It contains stories and activities featuring popular children’s TV characters including, Elmer, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Spot, Woolly & Tig, Abney & Teal amongst many others.

Fun to Learn First Friends Magazine

This lovely magazine encourages learning through play, with easy to follow stories and fun activities, including early learning crafts, letters, counting, making, matching, puzzles, colouring, all of which are great for a spot of stealth learning and for sparking a bit of creativity.

The first edition of the monthly Fun to Learn First Friends Magazine costs £2.99 and is published on 8th July. It comes with a free gift of a Very Hungry Caterpillar Tea Set, 33 stickers, an Elmer height chart, a Spot the Dog poster and the chance to win a Gruffalo Trunki.

Fun to Learn First Friends Magazine

As you can see, the small boy really enjoyed Fun to Learn First Friends Magazine, he loved the activities, especially the colouring in. He liked the Spot the Dog poster and he really, really loved the little free gift of a tea set. It was the perfect activity for an afternoon stuck in the house.

Book Review: Personalised Peppa Pig Book from Penwizard

Toddlers, like most humans, develop obsessions. We’ve had Curious George, Chuggington, In The Night Garden and more recently, Peppa Pig. It’s not that we don’t embrace his obsessions, we do with some gusto; it’s just that his repeated and rather adorable requests to watch “the piggins” do become a little wearing. I’d much rather snuggle up with him and read a book than plonk him in front of the telly. But sometimes the telly wins.

I was asked by Penwizard if I wanted to create a personalised Peppa Pig book for him, my first thought was that if he was frolicking around on the pages of a Peppa Pig book he might let me turn the telly off. I was right.

Creating the book was easy. I went to the Penwizard website, selected which story we’d like, in this case “Peppa Pig and Benjamin Go Swimming”. You then choose from a selection of facial features to create a likeness of your child, throw in a few words of personalised text and away you go.

Book Review: Personalised Peppa Pig Book from Penwizard

The book arrived quickly and was well packaged. It comes with a little letter to your child which has a picture of them and Peppa on the reverse for them to colour in. We thought that was a nice touch.

The book itself was soft back and A4 sized (though hard backs are available). It’s a colourful, beautiful book. The illustrations are simple and engaging, much like the cartoon series. The little cartoon Benjamin (my boy) was pretty accurate and he recognised himself immediately.

I loved that there was real attention to detail with the book, such as the personalised message from Mummy and Daddy. The story itself – Peppa and Benjamin Go Swimming was fun-packed and engaging, as I read it to him he listened carefully and pointed things out on the page. He enjoyed it so much he demanded I read it several times before he went to bed. It’s a real winner.

Book Review: Personalised Peppa Pig Book from Penwizard

It’s a lovely book and a great way to encourage reading with your little one. It is a Ladybird book, a brand who I remember with great fondness from my childhood. The soft back book is just £14.99, I think it’d be a lovely present for any little one. They have a few characters to choose from too, like Noddy, Ben & Holly and Roary the Racing Car.

I can see this being a bedtime favourite and I’m sure that we’ll be ordering others from the series. He loved his bedtime adventure with Peppa and I did get to turn the telly off for a change.

Click here to read more of our book reviews.

Disclaimer: I was sent the Penwizard Peppa Pig book for review purposes. It’s worth £14.99 and it’s just lovely.

Review: A Personalised Book for Toddlers from love2read

We’ve always felt it was important to read to and with our boy. When he was nought but a bump we’d regale him with a host of stories in the hope he’d pop out reciting the works of Shakespeare, or at the very least The Gruffalo. That surprisingly enough didn’t happen, but he has always, always loved books and bedtime stories are something we all look forward to.

He’s three now and although he can’t read yet, he is starting to recognise some letters; it’s time we stepped up our bedtime story routine and got him joining in a bit more.

The other night I happened across love2read on Twitter. They create personalised photo books around your child’s family and life. The idea being that if they’re matching words to pictures of things they love and recognise, then that will enhance their love of reading, make it more relevant to them and ultimately more enjoyable.

You select from a pretty wide range of titles including – I love…, All About Me…, When It Snowed… and Where I Live. We plumped for I Love… because Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and we’ve been talking a lot recently about the people and things we love.

The whole process is incredibly easy. Once you’ve chosen which book you want, you need to select and upload your pictures. Generally you’ll need about 10 digital photographs of fairly decent quality. You can drop your pictures in and swap them around on the pages until you are happy. Then enter the text you’d like, for example “I love Daddy”, check you’re happy and then order your book. Easy-peasy.

We ordered our personalised book on Wednesday morning and it was sat in my hot little hand by Friday lunchtime. Delivery time depends on when you order in relation to their print runs, but delivery was fast and it was well packaged.

personalised book

Now my delightful husband has his own printing business, so the first thing I did was hand it to him for his professional opinion. He thought the print quality was good, with the inside pages being of a decent weight (which means good quality paper). He was pretty impressed (and in terms of print he’s the most critical man in the world). His one criticism was that the staples were too small, but that’s something only printers and the overly fastidious would notice, and let’s face facts, that’s not going to massively impact on your enjoyment of the book.

Bedtime rolled around and ta-dah, I revealed his new bedtime story. He wanted to examine every page carefully, delighting in the pictures and describing what was in them. One of the pictures was him on the beach, which sparked a lovely conversation about what we did that day and what he liked about it. We then sat and read the personalised book properly, cover to cover, several times.

The wording is very simple. In the “I love…” book we put things like “I love the playground”, which he does. He instinctively repeated the words after I read them out and I pointed at the individual words as I read along so he’d start to get the idea of reading left to right. It was all good and we read it several times over. He loved it so much he’s taken it to bed with him.

personalised book

We’re impressed. The process was simple and the product of good quality with clear educational value. What I liked about it was it is also a lovely photo book which you can use to record special days, such as birthdays, holidays, Christmas and Valentines.

At just £14.99 a book I think it represents good value for money, given it’s not only an unusual but lovely learning tool, but a photo book of memories. My top tip would be to sort out 10 or so photographs before you sit down and create your book.

I think these are really lovely gifts for toddlers. I like that the range of titles you can choose from is pretty vast so you can personalise books to be read with Grandad or Auntie Lisa or whoever. If there isn’t a title which matches what you want there’s the option to create your own. It’s flexible and honestly it took very little time to create. As I said, sort your pictures out first, that’s always the hard bit.

Would I recommend? Absolutely yes. Will I be buying more, absolutely yes. Does he love it? Oh my goodness yes. Just don’t show it to someone fastidious about staple length.

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of the personalised book  “I Love…”  for review purposes, but my reviews are always honest, especially regarding staple length.