Friday’s review and other bits…

Well today I thought I’d start off with a couple of useful items that we got to help our children learn letters and simple words. Would love to hear if you also have any suggestions of things you use to add in the comments!

1. Melissa and Doug – See and Spell

This is a bit pricey (around £18!) and doesn’t come with a lid BUT my 2 year old loves it! The colours are bright and the words are simple and pictures recognisable. The boards are also double sided. It’s great for young children! We can spend a good half hour playing with it.


2. Melissa and Doug Self Correcting Alphabet Puzzle


Have to be honest, I prefer the See and Spell but this is a nice one to learn the alphabet. My biggest criticism is that the links link to easily in the wrong one. Especially with a forceful 2 year old who proudly tells me “Look it fits mummy!! It fits!”  after giving the ” A”a good bash so it fits “car”. Woe betide me if I try and help change it! 😂 Good pictures but young children will need lots of help as the links are too easy to get wrong.

3. Dr Seuss Flash Cards – Opposites

These are great for learning basic word recognition. There are little pictures on them. Good entertainment! One of the games we play is making up little sentences with the word on the flash card.

And now for the book reviews!

So thought I’d do two to keep us going over the weekend. Still animal themed for  this week.  The first one we read this morning (been sitting on the shelf for a while so thought I’d try it out) the second I read to two children I babysat for almost 20years ago and it was so entertaining it stuck in my mind. Was one of the first books I got for my eldest. Hope you enjoy the reviews!

Farmer Duck by (the very aptly named!) Martin Waddell

This is a book about a hard working duck and a lazy farmer. It’s a lovely little story about how the duck’s friends come to his rescue after being overworked by the idle farmer. There are a lot of fun “moo, cluck, quack” noises to be made and it’s beautifully illustrated.  I can’t help but read it and think of a pre-school version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm,though of     course not at all as sinister. It’s not a “Wow I will never read another book again apart from this one!” But the boys enjoyed it as a story.

And now for one I could read over and over! :

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

What a book! As I mentioned, read it years ago and always remembered it. It does what it say on the tin – tells the true story of the pigs. It’s written from the wolf’s (A.Wolf) perspective. That poor misunderstood wolf- turns out all he wanted was a cup of sugar. Just goes to show “never judge a book by its cover!” I won’t spoil it for you but it’s humorous and I can only believe that it’s historically accurate as it makes perfect sense. My only warning for parents would be that the pigs do get eaten. That said, this book is definitely one of our family favourites!







A little Thursday rhyming time..

Do you or your kids have any favourite children’s rhymes? One of Oliver’s favourite rhyming books at the moment is  The Giant of Jum by Elli Woodward. A very entertaining book about a giant who looks for a boy called Jack -to eat him! On the way he meets lots of children who he unwittingly helps and then befriends. Not to give too much away but of course it has a happy ending. It’s perfect for ages 2-6 and another one that we’ve had to read over and over.

If your kids are into silly poetry (and these are for slightly older maybe 6+) I can recommend my personal favourite Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl -not for the faint hearted but imaginative, gruesome  based on classic fairy tales. The other one I loved as a child would say age suitably from about 4+ is An Imaginary Menagerie by Roger Mcgough. Oh my goodness this is a book i would read over and over again as a child. A-Z poetry about an Allivator, a Catopillow, Badgers and Goodgers, Anaconda in a Honda….this book is the stuff that (very weird!) dreams are made of.

And on that note here’s a little (not so weird) poem. My fiercest critic has just made me read it 5 times to him! All names have been changed to protect the not so innocent 😂

The Tale of the Naughty Monkey 

Kirsten Allen 12.07.17

Naughty monkey, naughty monkey!
Where on earth can monkey be?
Naughty monkey, naughty monkey
Is climbing up the coconut tree!

Naughty monkey, naughty monkey
Picks a coconut without a sound.
Naughty monkey, naughty monkey
Throws the coconut on the ground!

Naughty monkey, naughty monkey
Has a thought and picks another.
Naughty monkey, naughty monkey
Then throws it at his little brother!

Naughty monkey, naughty monkey
Made his little brother cry.
Naughty monkey, naughty monkey
Said it fell out of the sky!

Mummy Monkey crossly said
It wasn’t nice to hurt his brother’s head!
Little brother was very sad
And naughty monkey felt quite bad.

Sorry monkey, sorry monkey
Said he was as sorry as could possibly be.
So his brother then forgave him
And together they played in the banana tree!



Happy Wednesday! So as well as book reviews and just for fun challenges I thought it might be useful to post info and tips on encouraging children to read and story-write etc. This is entirely based on my personal opinion and  trials and errors with my own kids. I can by no means claim to be an educational expert or a genius science boffin who’s studied the minds of kids since time began. I just think it’s important to learn to read and encourage using their imagination. Who knows where it can take our children? Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, biographies, magical lands…it’s all there for the taking! My husband through his work met with someone (I think it was the dean) of one of the top universities and after telling him we’d just had our first born the dean told him that the single most important thing parents can do is read to babies from birth. One of my 7 month old’s favourite (I mentioned it in a previous book review) is Toddle Waddle by Julia Donaldson. My 2 year old loves it, my niece enjoyed it and now baby George loves it too. Wonderful pictures and simple sound words which you can have lots of fun with. So below are a couple of links which I found helpful for tips:

Here’s a useful article about reading to babies:

and below (slightly different topic and off track but handy none the less) is another one for helping children who may need encouragement with reading. As a diagnosed dyslexic (mild but attended the Dyslexia Institute once a week as a child for tuition) I can identify with some of the methods suggested. Particularly the phonics and shapes. I learned to read out loud and recognise words from an early age (I struggle making sense of context rather than specific words) and one of the methods I remember naturally using was picturing the words in my head. It’s a bit weird to explain but essentially  I saw the shape of words as pictures in my head to help me remember them and reproduce them in spelling tests (my handwriting is shocking though!)

And after a bit of random rambling here’s today’s book review:


Another favourite of ours (particularly mine!) This is the first in the Hairy Maclary series. A dog and his friends on an adventure where they encounter Scarface Claw “the toughest Tom in town.” (Product warning: be careful when making the cat noise…during one reading I was a little overzealous and scared the living daylights out of Oliver…oops!) It’s wonderfully written in rhyme with a fab rhythm and seems to be easy for children to remember. Oliver knows exactly when to say “Hairy Maclary” on each page. Brilliant vocabulary too. Could read it over and over. There are others in the series I’d love to get too. Don’t know who loves this more – the kids or me!









Ok so every Tuesday I will post a reading and/or writing challenge for parents and children. Some of my fondest memories are of my mum’s made up bedtime stories that I’d get her to tell me …until she fell asleep! Then there was a random hippo poem (I promise I don’t have an obsession with this animal!) that I made up together with my now sadly late father on holiday. For years every holiday we tried to finish it and even now I can only remember the first bit….”When you’re lying on your tummy and you haven’t got a dummy, or a hippopotamus from Timbuktu…..” Didn’t make sense then and doesn’t now. Answers on a postcard! Anyhow, for years I haven’t written anything. At some point work, life, adultness got in the way. When you’re knackered and have all the grownup stuff to think about, it’s easy to put imagination and the childish fun stuff to one side – splashing in puddles, making dens with sheets and pretending you’re on safari, twizzling until your dizzy…  Or even looking at half a raisin and imagining it’s a snail (My 2 year old – it did actually resemble one!)

So in keeping with a bit of an animal theme, the challenge this week is to make up a story or a poem with your child(ren) using their favourite animal, colour and place. A blue giraffe at soft play? A red monkey at Grandma’s? Stomping, roaring, squeaking, screeching, hiding, scurrying?  Flying in a plane? Riding on a train? It doesn’t have to be long or rhyme or even make sense. It’s just for fun! Would love to  read them so please feel free to add yours to the comments or email them to me at I’ll put a few of them up on here next week. Enjoy!

Jungle Mix-up
Kirsten Allen 10.07.2017

Marvin the Monkey walks like an elephant.
Stomp, stomp, stomp!
Leo the Leopard eats leaves like a giraffe.
Chomp, chomp, chomp!

Polly the Parrot swims like a fish.
Splish, splash splosh!
Tommy the Tiger wades like a hippo.
Slosh, slosh, slosh!

Frankie the Frog hoots like an owl.
Twit-twoo, twit-twoo, twit-twoo!
Jacob the Jaguar munches bamboo like a panda.
Chew, chew, chew!

Lots of animals as you can see.
Which one would YOU like to be?


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The first book review!

THE HIGHWAY RAT by Julia Donaldson

“Give me your pastries and puddings!
Give me your chocolate and cake!
For I am the Rat of the Highway
and whatever I want I take.”

So let me start by saying in our house we LOVE Julia Donaldson books. So many to choose from – The Gruffalo, A Squash and a Squeeze, Room on a Broom, Toddle Waddle (this one is brilliant for babies and very young children.. my son made us read so many times we know it by heart!)

The Highway Rat however has it all, a baddie, a goodie and a fantastic tale about a rat who steals all the food from all the animals, until a plucky duck comes up with a cunning plan. My eldest (2 1/2 years) is completely obsessed with this book (particularly when my husband reads it in a really funny voice!) It’s written in the style of The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes (thankfully not as dark or gruesome!) The illustrations are vivid and bright (by Axel Scheffler). There’s a moral to the story but it doesn’t come across as preachy or patronising. Would say the age range is from 2-6. Definitely one for the bookshelf!

Once upon a time….

…there was a mum with a family who loved books. Even her 7 month old baby had got a taste for them (literally had to prise a couple of them out of his mouth…) She wanted to start a blog that included honest informal children’s book reviews, reading and writing fun things to try at home and also bits and bobs of her own stories and poetry for kids.

I hope you enjoy this one!

There’s a Hippo in my Bathtub

Kirsten Allen 09/07/2017

There’s a hippo in my bathtub!
I think she’s been there all night!
I went to go and brush my teeth and she gave me such a fright!

Should I call the pet shop?
Should I call the zoo?
If I call the fire brigade, will they know what to do?

I ask the hippo “Are you stuck?”
The hippo answers “No!
But please could you move the rubber duck?
It’s tickling my big toe!”