Unlocking phonic sounds with a padlock and key

My little one is 4 years old and currently learning his phonic sounds, he is doing really well and is beginning to master his individual sounds and blending them together to read simple cvc, cvcvv words. We are now moving on to learning digraphs and vowel digraphs, which are two letters that make one sound, eg. sh, ch, th, ph, ai, ow, ee.

Making a game out learning is fun and can really engage the child .

We have made  a simple little game up, using padlocks and keys.


Place a picture on the padlock and then add the beginning sound onto the key. So it could be a picture of an ant and then add the initial sound on the key, which would be a. As my child is learning jolly phonics in school I used the pictures from the jolly phonics sound card. This way they can not only recognise the sound but also the picture. Using name tags I wrote the sound on and attached it to the key. The pictures need to be fairly small to fit onto the padlocks.


This game is fun to play and easy to make. Children can play for hours unlocking the padlock, not only learning and recognising sounds but also working on their fine motor skills.


You can use the padlock idea for number bonds, equations and words.

Hope you have found this post helpful :-)



A Christmas Star DVD Giveaway #win

A Christmas Star

The feel-good family film of the year, spreading a truly special Christmas message…


This Christmas, prepare to believe in miracles as Belfast-based children’s charity Cinemagic and Signature Entertainment present A Christmas Star, released in UK cinemas nationwide from 13th November, 2015 and on DVD, Blu-Ray, EST and VOD from 23rd November, 2015.

Staring film and TV’s elite, A Christmas Star tells the heartwarming story of Noel, a spirited young who embarks on a magical journey to save her friends and family. Newcomer Erin Galway-Kendrick and a host of actors including Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Suranne Jones (TV’s Scott & Bailey, Doctor Foster), Robert James-Collier (TV’s Downton Abbey, Coronation Street), Bronagh Waugh (Hollyoaks, The Fall), and Richard Clements (A Belfast Story). The film is narrated by Liam Neeson (Taken, A Walk Among The Tombstones) and features a cameo from Kylie Minogue and guest appearance from Dermot O’Leary.

Born in dramatic circumstances under the Christmas Star, Noel believes she has the gift to perform strange miracles. When conniving developer McKerrod threatens her peaceful life she teams up with a misfit gang of local kids to save the village from demolition.  However, one by one her friends lose faith in Noelle’s abilities and she is left to fight McKerrod on her own. The town’s future hinges on a final showdown in Belfast’s historic Stormont building as Noelle implores politicians, her friends and the watching world to believe in the true meaning of Christmas…love.

‘The innovative film production gave budding young actors the chance to star alongside movie legends. Over 40 trainee crew aged 18 – 25 were mentored by industry professionals who trained them in all aspects of filmmaking including director Richard Elson (M.I. High, Steffi), award-winning film composer Patrick Doyle (Brave, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), music supervisor Maggie Rodford, (The King’s Speech, Anna Karenina), casting director Ros Hubbard, (The Commitments, Dracula Untold), camera operator, Ian Fox, (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man), producer Iain Smith, (Children of Men, Mad Max: Fury Road) and production manager, Terry Bamber (The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Skyfall), who all took a break from their own shooting schedules to mentor the trainees.’

Cinemagic patron and Oscar-winning writer, Julian Fellowes, said: “I am proud to be associated with the fantastic work that Cinemagic has been delivering for twenty five years. We are told on every side that it’s time to lower barriers and cross frontiers and this is exactly what Cinemagic is doing.” He added: “Young people, from every type of background and culture, are being encouraged to explore the world of film for themselves, first hand. We want them to break through the glass ceilings and walls that surround them, and see for themselves what it’s really like. Whether or not they continue to live or work in the Arts, there can surely be no better preparation for seeking and finding the right life.”

Cinemagic Chief Executive, Joan Burney Keatings, MBE said: “Our Christmas feature film has brought young people from different cultural backgrounds together, and representatives from the worlds of film, television and music collaborated to celebrate creativity and highlights the importance of developing young people’s skills and offering them unique film and television related opportunities. We are enormously proud and excited to bring this to cinemas nationwide for all the family to enjoy this Christmas.”

I’m giving away a copy of the DVD to one lucky winner. Enter below. Ends 12/12/15 midnight. Uk entries only please.

A christmas star dvd giveaway

Calling all BRATZ fans! Lakeside, Essex hosts the #Snowkissed photobooth

The #Snowkissed photobooth is in town!

Grab your bestie, your favourite accessories and strike a pose… the famous Bratz® photobooth is back by popular demand, with an all-new festive theme, and is visiting intu Lakeside this weekend!

When: Saturday 21 November

Where: intu Lakeside Shopping Centre

Cost: Free activity, no booking required

Perfect for getting in the Christmas spirit, the Snowkissed themed photo booth comes equipped with lots of winter themed Bratz props including skis, fur hats and festive accessories for added fun. It’s free and you and all of your friends will receive a copy of your picture to take home with you.

Head to Facebook.com/BratzUK and tag yourself in your picture for a chance to win great Bratz prizes including a hamper of Snowkissed goodies.

The photobooth will travel across the UK visiting intu Lakeside, Thurrock (Saturday 21 November), intu Metrocentre, Gateshead (Sunday 22 November), intu Trafford, Manchester (Saturday 28 November), intu Victoria Centre, Nottingham (Saturday 5 December).

For the full Bratz® photobooth tour schedule and more information see www.facebook.com/BratzUK

538028 Bratz SnowKissed Doll Asst XS 01_opt

To celebrate the Bratz snowkissed photobooth visitng lakeside I’m giving away one of the Bratz dolls. To enter just head on over to my twitter page and RT this tweet



No payment has been received for this post!

Word building with Bricks, learning to read

Learning to read can be tricky, but making it fun can help children learn.

Phonics involves children learning the sounds of the letters and not just the name, how to segment and blend them together to make words, for example s – a – t blended together reads sat. Phonics consists of identifying sounds that are in spoken words and recognising the common spelling of each phoneme (the smallest unit of sound) Tricky isn’t it! And that is just the beginning of learning Phonics.

Learning the initial sounds and building cv, cvc words together is the beginning of learning to read.

I made up our own little word building game using different length duplo bricks.

You will need:

  • Duplo bricks, 2,4 and 6 pronged long
  • A marker pen
  • Sticky labels preferably white
  • Scissors

Use the smaller bricks for the individual sounds and the bigger bricks for the words that you want your child to learn to read and write. Following the Letters and Sounds phases, It’s always good to start with the sounds s,a,t,i,p,n and cv (consonant and vowel) words first. It will help the child to blend smaller words and once they have the hang of it add-on another letter.

Cut the sticky label to the size of the brick. Write on the individual sounds to the words that you want them to build and then on the longer bricks write down the words.


As your child is building the word get them to sound out the letter, once they have recognised them and found the sounds that make up the word they then build the word. When the word is built they can then try to blend the sounds together and read out the word

DSC_2824_optGet your child to point to each sound when reading

DSC_2826_optOnce your child has mastered the cv words you can then go onto cvc words, like sat, pin, pat and sit. You can then add in the digraph (2 letters that make 1 sound), trigraph (3 letters that make 1 sound) and blends


This is a fun activity that encourages children fine motor skills as well as letter recognition and blending words.

Thank you for reading :-)




Octonauts GUP-I Transforming Polar Vehicle Review

Sound the Octo-Alert!

The Octonauts have wrapped up warm for their latest arctic adventures with a new playset addition to the Fisher-Price® toy range, as well as the introduction of new vehicles for more exciting deep sea missions.  

GUP I Playset 


“The brand new Gup-I playset is the perfect vehicle for polar adventures. The Gup-I is inspired by the durability and adaptability of the water bear. Part polar exploration station and part rugged vehicle, the Gup-I is equipped with everything the Octonauts need for creature rescues, despite the worst of weather conditions.

This Gup transforms for three different ways to play. In Water Bear Mode, the Gup’s legs can extend into “snow stilts” to give more stability for polar rescues so it can race and roll to the rescue. In Scout Mode, the Gup-I stands upright, giving the team the perfect view to scan and spot any creatures in trouble. In Command Center Mode, the Gup-I opens to reveal everything the Octonauts need for their rescues, including a snowball launcher and a small Snowprowler vehicle that is perfect for short scouting missions. This smart Gup recognises when it is in Water Bear Mode or Scout mode and will respond with different fun sounds and phrases. The Gup-I includes Kwazii in his snowsuit, a snowball launcher with 2 snowballs, a satellite dish play piece, a small Snowprowler vehicle and a Weddell seal with an icy “coat” that can be rescued”

When the box arrived, the boys thought Christmas had come early! They couldn’t wait to have a look inside and try it out. I was a little apprehensive as to how big the toy was, as the box is quite large and I was quickly thinking about where it would live in our small house, but I was soon smiling away as soon as I noticed that it was fairly small and compact. The boys were quickly exploring the GUP-I and it was soon introduced to the rest of their toys in an arctic rescue mission to save the Weddell Seal from a Killer Whale (love their imagination)

There are three ways to play with the GUP-I, as it easily transforms into 3 modes:

  • Command center mode

DSC_2809_optMake sure that all 6 legs are in the lowered position, this is done by just gently pushing the GUP-I down and the legs will click into place. Raise the roof and lower the ramp to release the snowprowler vehicle. There is an interchangeable station for the satellite dish or the snowball launcher. The dish or the launcher can be placed at certain points around the GUP-I or on the snowprowler, just push them in and they are secure.


The snowball launcher works by pressing in the red button, watch out as they fly out fast! The launcher comes with 3 snowballs, they are quite small and can get lost rather quickly.  Use the snowball launcher to defeat the enemy and rescue the Weddell seal (who is very cute and comes with a changeable ice coat)

  • Scout Mode

With the legs pushed in, the GUP-I Stands upright on its hind legs giving Kwazii a clearer view of what lies ahead and spot creatures who are in trouble


Kwazii has little holes on the soles of his feet, which help him to stand up on the GUP-I, at the command center and at the control seat in water bear mode and scout mode.


  • Water Bear Mode

The legs can extend into stilts, by sliding the little orange lever on the side of the body and can roll to the rescue.


With flashing lights and phases and sounds the GUP-I comes to life in your hands. Children can not only control what mode the GUP-I is but also by pulling on the antennae to hear phases like ‘Octonauts to your stations’ ‘Octonauts do you read me?’ and ‘Well done Octonauts, everyone is safe’


 When transformed from one mode to another the GUP-I recognises the activation with sound and flashing lights


The GUP-I playset is easy to assemble and store away for future play. The extra items can be stored within the playset. It is durable and sturdy.

The playset encourages creative and imaginative play, it brings play to real life with sounds of music and characters from the cartoon. My boys enjoyed playing with the GUP-I (you know when the toy is good when there are arguments over who wants to play with it) they particularly enjoyed transforming it from one mode to the other and listening to all the familiar phases from the TV show.

Suitable from 3yrs + RRP £39.99 

We was sent the GUP-I playset for the purpose of this review, thoughts, opinions and pictures are of my own.

Kidzania, Where the kids are in charge!


Have your children ever dreamt of becoming a Pilot, a Firefighter or an actor/actress?

Kidzania is child size city, situated on the roof of Westfield, London where the children are in charge! Not only with the job that they choose to do but also with what with they would do with the money that they would earn. There are more than 60 role play activities to try, each lasting anything from 10-20 minutes long. Each activity experience is designed to teach children the essential life skills including team work, independence and economy. Children are paid in Kidzos for every activity that they undertake. Upon entrance into Kidzania, children are given 50 kidzos. They then have the big decision as to what to spend their kidzos on, some activities you have to pay for or you can purchase goods at certain locations throughout the City. As soon as children have 70 kidzos they have the choice to use Kidzanias banking system, where they can debit their money into a bank account, receive a bank card and use the ATMs throughout the city. The debit cards are customised to each child with their name and signature.

Kidzania is all based on role play. Role play is an important part of children’s learning. Children get to pretend play, get into character and act out real life context to develop their knowledge of the role. Role play allows children to take risks, develop social skills, become creative and sparks their imagination.

kidzania signs

A couple of weeks ago, during October Half term, We were invited along to Kidzania to the special Halloween event. The children were excited about going and had spent time the previous day looking through all of the activities and deciding on what activity they wanted to try out. I would advice doing this before your visit as there are 60 role play activities to choose from and with only 4 hours in the city you don’t want to be disappointed when your time is up and you haven’t done what you wanted to do. Kidzania was easy to find within the shopping centre Westfield, Shepherd’s Bush. We was greeted by members of Kidzania on the ground floor and pointed into the right direction to the entrance. After travelling up a couple of escalators, we got the sense that we was a the airport and about to board a plane when we was greeted by a huge 18 mtr, 16 tonne A319 British Airways aircraft hanging above us. The boys couldn’t wait to get inside and see what it was all about. At check-in we was all given electronic wristbands, these are for safety reasons and a way of us parents finding out where our children are. With a map in hand, we was ready for our role-playing adventure.

Entering the city we was a little overwhelmed by it all, although the boys had done their research on the activities seeing it all in front of us confused us a little. There were children running around with kidzos in hand, tour buses passing by and a Fire Engine siren going off. We took a little walk around and finally settled on a bench outside of the university. Whilst we was waiting for the activity to start, we saw a few Zombies walking by and a group of Police Officers searching the premises for them. As it was Halloween, we were already pre warned that there were some Zombies on the loose.

halloween kidzThe boys thought that the going to Kidzania University was the most important of all activities to do first, not only do they get a Bachelor Degree but it helps them to earn more money on certain activities ie; Pilot and Doctor.


As our little one is only 4 he was too young to be involved with the University as he couldn’t read and write on the computer by himself, I took him off to find somewhere else that would suit his age. As Dad is an Engineer and works with Air Conditioning units, Oliver was interested in finding out a little more about it. We made our way upstairs and found the air conditioning area. With his hi-vis and hard hat on he was ready to take to the pipes.


As parents can not partake in the activities, bar a couple, they can not enter with the children. Oliver is a very shy little boy who lacks confidence when taking part in new things with out the support of someone he knows alongside him. I thought that this activity would be a good start for him as it was little like an indoor climbing play area. With a little encouragement and telling him that I was waiting right outside the exit for him, he went on in. With in minutes he was out and wanting to go back in. After 3 turns, he was handed over some kidzos for his hard work. With a big smile on his face, he was eager to try out some more activities.


The next activity we turned up for, we had just missed! So we had to wait around for 15 minutes until the next one started. It’s tough for young children to wait, they get impatient and restless. We managed though. The boys chose to try out the Aviation Academy.

kidzania pilotThe Pilot gets taken away first to do a little training in the cockpit, where they get to learn about the crucial elements of navigating a real plane. Next the cabin crew are fitted up in the clothing and off they are taken to learn the safety instructions. For the last 5 minutes of the activity, parents are invited through to the plane (the actual BA plane) where you take your seat and follow the safety instructions given by the children. Our little one handed out some food and drink to us as he was in charge of the trolley. Children who choose to become a Pilot have to pay kidzos for the experience but those that choose cabin crew, earn kidzos. I think that’s why the youngest chose to try cabin crew because he was so excited on receiving kidzos on the first activity he wanted to get some more.

Outside of each activity, on the wall, is a plaque; stating what the activity is, how many children are allowed in, how long it will take, the suggested age and the salary they will earn or what they need to pay for it.


There are many activities to choose from and not so easy to keep all of the children together, as one wants to try something a different from the other. We allowed the two eldest to go off on their own . It was easy to keep track of where they were with the security watch that they were given before we entered Kidzania. There are machines that you scan your watch onto and on the screen it will show you a map of the city and the activity that your children last scanned into. At the beginning and end of each activity, the child gets there security watch scanned by the staff.

DSC_2487_optI used this system a few times and found it to be really helpful.

As the boys wouldn’t be able to try out every activity I told them to only try what they really wanted to experience first, so that they wouldn’t be disappointed if they didn’t manage to fit it in before our time was up. They tried quite a lot, and you would be surprised on how the time goes by so quickly.

Between them these are the activities that they tried

  • Acting Academy
  • Air Conditioning
  • Animation Studio
  • Aviation Academy
  • Bank
  • Climbing Building
  • Courier Service
  • Dentist
  • Engineering Centre and Pit Lane Experience
  • Police Department
  • Science Lab
  • The Kidzania Newspaper
  • The Vault
  • University

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There are many more that they missed out on doing like the Fire & rescue unit and Hospital A&E but the queues for these were a long wait and my boys don’t do well in waiting. Even though they didn’t get to try them out they still came away at the end of the day with a huge smile on their face asking to go back again.

Whilst the children are off exploring Kidzania, there is an adults only area where you can relax, have a hot drink or a light lunch.

kidzania cafe

There is a lot of waiting around for the children, as you as an adult, can not enter into the activities with them. The OH found the perfect place to sit a wait for them.

My son loves to climb so he was delighted to see that there was a climbing wall that he could try. He handed over his kidzos and got kitted out in the safety harness. There was no keeping him on the ground as soon as he was ready he was off climbing up the city walls. He’s like a little spiderman.

DSC_2524_opt DSC_2520_optHe loved it!

After 4 hours of running around the city we was ready to make our way to immigration, where the airport team checked us out. The whole experience was fun and tiring.

Kidzania gives them a sense of how it would feel to work in an adult job and earn money. The design of kidzania is not just a simulation of the real world but it’s preparation for it.

We would definitely recommend a visit. The prices are the same as a theme park, but there are no thrill rides just fun adventures. Prices are a little more on weekends and adults pay a little less than a child. If your children are over 8 and have already been to Kidzania it is possible to leave them there without adult supervision but it is strongly advised that they are not alone and in a group of friends. Prices for a weekend visit are Child (4-14) £32  Adult (15+) £16.50 Early Years (1-3)  £10.00 Infants (under 1) Free

Please check the website for more prices http://london.kidzania.com/en-uk/

We received no payment for this post, pictures and words are my own. We was given a family entry for 4 into Kidzania for the purpose of this post. Thank you to The Communcations store for this experience