When it comes to kids magazines we have a love/hate relationship. The kids love them, I hate them. Gone are the days where I could carefully select a magazine for its educational and developmental benefits, nowadays it’s ALL ABOUT THE FREE TAT! Who cares about the actual content when there’s (another) free fairy wand or miniature skateboard thingy on offer eh? Fair to say I’d fallen out of love with the lot of them until I was recently sent some issues of ‘OKIDO- The Arts & Science Magazine for Kids’.

This is not your average kids magazine. For starters I’m a bit jealous of just how cool it looks. The whole design and illustration is fun, modern and enticing. Spud and Flump instantly recognised the characters from the hit Cbeebies show ‘Messy Goes To OKIDO’ and couldn’t wait to get stuck into them, pouring over the pages and pages of stories, puzzles and (secretly educational- shhhhh!) fun ideas.

The usually flimsy pages are replaced with high quality heavy paper giving the magazine a more book-like feel and making the cut-out activities sturdy and durable. Usually I try to get the kids magazines into the recycling bin as soon as possible without them noticing but I’m more than happy to keep hold of these for their reading baskets.

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So despite the fact I’m typing this in what feels like the Earth’s core while the paddling pool is filling outside, I think we’ve all accepted that the Summer holidays are over and normal business has resumed – boooo….

Thankfully the kids have settled back into the old routine nicely while I’m still busy clearing up/recovering from the aftermath of school holidays.

Spud and Flump thoroughly enjoyed their break from the classroom (as much as I enjoyed my break from the school run!) but in an effort to stop their brains from grinding to a complete halt I employed a few sneaky tactics to encourage learning in a relaxed, enjoyable way.

  • Reading. Every year we take part in the Summer Reading Challenge which encourages children to read books in order to earn stamps, which they can then exchange for prizes. This year was particularly special as it was also part of the celebrations to mark the birth of Roald Dahl 100 years ago! It’s free and had both kids devouring books enthusiastically – the power of a scratch n sniff sticker eh?
  • Writing. We chose postcards while on holiday to write and send to friends back home.(Did you know it can take the average 5 year old up to 35 minutes to choose 4 postcards? Neither did I). Spud kept a diary of his adventures in a caravan, wrote to Blue Peter and penned his very first best-seller based on Ronaldo and himself fighting aliens in space in order to save the world from an invasion. I successfully tricked Flump into practicing her writing by ‘playing schools’ with free printouts from this website which worked brilliantly until she decided she was going to be the teacher and I was the pupil.
  • Maths. I wrote about my kids very different approach to learning in Beauty and the Brainbox and this is particularly evident when it comes to numbers! Spud is a natural, he just ‘gets it’ and writes out number grids and times tables for fun . Sadly it doesn’t come quite as easily to Flump who has a more ‘I do not like the numbers and you cannot make me like the numbers’ attitude when it comes to maths. When the lovely people at HappyCalc  asked me to review their new maths puzzle I had a feeling it would be right up her street. I was right…

The box comes JAM PACKED with pieces (138 to be exact), a mixture of illustrations and numbers which are combined to make simple equations and awesome spacecraft creations. As you can see Flump took over the floor with her sprawling masterpiece and the space theme couldn’t have been more apt as this is her Year 1 topic – result!


It’s aimed at 3+ from an educational point but to be honest any child who enjoys puzzles would love it. In fact Spud is almost 8 and spent ages playing with it, particularly enjoying all the funny little illustrations (I have to say I was impressed with the details, so many different little creatures to spot!). Unlike any other jigsaw I’ve seen this one is completely free form with no specific rules, allowing the child to create their own original design every time. Ideal for any little anarchist.

If you’d like to get your mitts on one you can purchase here  (currently on offer for around £23 plus P&P) or you can WIN one by entering via the link below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Despite being brought up by the same people, in the same environment it’s quite common for siblings to develop into very different characters. I mentioned briefly in my post The Quiet Man ,  the difference in my children’s characters and having spoken to other parents I know this is the case in a lot of families. It has come as no big surprise to me then that this is also the case regarding my children’s approach to learning.

Spud (7) is the logical one. Information goes in, is processed and documented accordingly. This is his brain:

Flump (5) however, well let’s just say she was never quite as interested in her ABCs or 123s. I mean what’s interesting about a bunch of letters and numbers right? Jigsaw’s? Pfff. Join the dots? SNOOOORE. Her brain looks like this, but with more glitter:

I have no doubts that she’s gonna get along just fine in life, she knows her mind, she’s independent, tenacious, funny, perceptive, did I mention tenacious? To be honest, I kind of admire her “Why would I want to do that when I can just get someone else to do the boring stuff for me” approach, however I know this is not going to do her any favours in the classroom.

When Spud started school he was more than ready for it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he’s a child genius, just that he has a natural interest in learning, or more specifically understanding things. How does it work? Why does this happen? He likes symmetry, order and logic. Plus he’s one of the oldest in his year so he has a big advantage over some of his classmates.

Obviously that’s great and entirely a result of  our excellent parenting and encouragement through his early years. Or so we may have thought until Flump arrived. One ‘Baby Einstein’ CD and a few phonics books from Poundland does not a boffin make apparently.  Nope, it seems we can take none of the credit when it comes to our son’s thirst for knowledge.

Now it’s relatively easy to encourage a child to be more creative, Spud likes Lego, Minecraft or K-Nex as they suit his little cuboid shaped mind, although if I sat him down with a bunch of crafty bits and NO INSTRUCTIONS he would definitely be out of his comfort zone. Trying to trick  encourage a creative child to think more logically however is a much more challenging task in my experience! How can I help my daughter approach learning in a way that sparks her interest and will give her the mindset she needs to thrive in the classroom and beyond? (This is a genuine question by the way, if anyone has any experience in this field then I’m all ears!)

It’s possible of course to achieve great things without a Masters in Quantum Physics  – literally change the world in some cases ( Shakespeare, Einstein, Churchill, Jobs all either poorly educated or dropped out of college) but like any parent I don’t want to see my child struggle through their school days any more than they need to.

It came as quite a relief to me then when I discovered a book by Hilary Wilce,”Backbone: How to build the character Your Child Needs To Succeed“. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have all the answers at the back (I checked), but it does describe “The 6 key qualities that children need to live a fulfilled and successful life” (tell me more!) and shows how parents can help their children develop these qualities. I won’t go into too much detail here as you can check out the link above for more info and the authors credentials etc but in a nutshell here’s what we’re looking at:

  1. Love – Feeling loved and connected allows children to comfortably develop links with others. Appreciating themselves as a valuable part of the world with their own unique talents and taking their place in teams, being led and leading. Appreciating the world around them.
  2. Resilience – A resilient child will make friends, ride out setbacks and develop a robust but flexible attitude, giving off an optimistic vibe to which others gravitate.
  3. Honesty – Living authentically builds trust and allows you to have good relationships with others. Being honest with yourself gives you a clear and balanced view of the world and your place in it.
  4. Self-Discipline – Children with better self-regulation do significantly better at reading and maths than those who give in to their impulses. It also helps to manage friendships and resist unhelpful peer pressure.
  5. Kindness – Having a kind, empathetic disposition lifts our mood, improves our health, boosts our image and makes us feel more positive and optimistic. 
  6. Courage – Mental courage (failing then trying again), moral courage (saying no to what is wrong) and steadfastness allow a child to live their life with resolution and direction.


The book explains in more detail the importance and relevance of the 6 values and what parents can do to encourage each one. It’s a thought-provoking read and for less than the cost of a glossy it’s certainly (sadly) more relevant to me than “30 cool ways to wear culottes” these days.

An interesting concept and whether or not it works in practice I think these are all values that we would like our kids to practice in life regardless. It’s also a very short book. I like short books. I mean what’s interesting about a bunch of words anyway?



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