Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Top 5 Educational Toys for Preschoolers

With children in the house, toys are something you can't get away from. I know I have spent a small fortune on toys for my little one.  Over the years, through my observations at home and school, where I work as a teacher, I have found some really valuable toys that can be used educationally and in ways that the child will be stimulated well.
I have complied the best ones for pre-schoolers and listed them below in no particular order. And the best thing is the toys can be used with a variety of ages based on how you differentiate. 

1.       Lacing Beads

What is it?
Lacing bead toys have a selection of beads which children thread through a string. We have a Melissa & Doug one. 

Helps with:

  •  Fine motor skills  
  •  Hand-eye coordination 
  •  Sorting – lacing different colours, shapes etc
  • Patterns – making repetitive patterns
  • The Melissa & Doug one has number blocks so will help with number recognition too.

Melissa & Doug lacing beads

Z, my 2 year old has still not used this toy to its full potential as she needs support to lace the beads. She does however, choose various beads to create patterns and has fun sorting the beads too. She loves stacking them up which is enhancing her fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. I particularly love the number blocks, they have digits to recognise but also counting the dots which Z loves to count and show off. She will learn to see the connection with the dots and the number on the block and this can be used in little activities, such as asking your child to lace 3 beads and include the number 3 block.  
It is a really well made toy with vibrant colours to excite the children. The beads are easy to manipulate as they are a nice size for small hands. We keep it on the toy table for Z to play with as she pleases, as storing it away may be a nightmare as it doesn’t come with a lid.  

2.       Peg Puzzles 


What is it?
Peg board puzzles consist of a board in which fit different shaped pieces. There is a wide range available on the market and you can choose based on your child’s interest.

Helps with:
  • Fine motor skills
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Memory skills
  • Matching
Melissa & Doug alphabet peg puzzle

We choose this nicely made peg puzzle for our little ones. The alphabet pieces fit into their space which has a well-known picture on it. Z, can name all the pictures and with support can complete the puzzle. She talks to herself a lot while she’s doing it and I can see it is definitely working her memory skills. The pieces are easy to hold and fit into their spots perfectly. The puzzle is in lower case letters and we use sounds instead of names to read the letters. And during the day if were learning new words I’ll try and refer back to the puzzle, for example ‘A bird starts with a b , like ‘b’ in banana’

3.       Gears toy

What is it?
A number of gears need to be fitted into each other correctly to make them move. 

Helps with:
  • Fine motor skills
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Problem solving
  • Construction skills
  • Colour recognition
Melissa & Doug rainbow caterpillar
Z was instantly drawn to this colourful toy. She started playing with it at about 17 months and within 2 weeks was able to fit the correct colour gear on the board. Soon after she was able to say the colour names and would match it correctly almost every time. Even now, almost a year later, Z still loves this toy and plays with it endlessly. I found that it’s really durable too, as in our household its really been tested. 

4.       Shape sorter

What is it?
Different shaped pieces need to be put through their corresponding spaces

Helps with:
  • Fine motor skills
  • Hand-eye coordination 
  •  Problem solving
  • Construction skills
  • Shape recognition
  • Sorting
  • Counting
Melissa & Doug shape sorting cube
Aside from the fact that toy didn’t look as pretty as I’d expected, it functions pretty well. Now at just over 2 years old, Z can sort all the shapes in the correct space. The shapes that come with this toy are ones that she hasn’t come across but she relates them to the 2D ones she does know. B, my 7 year old, also uses it to learn the names of 3D shapes. At first it can be used as a stacking toy. It comes with 12 shapes, 3 in each colour, so it is lovely for sorting and colour recognition too.

5.       Geometric shape puzzle

What is it?
A variety of geometric shapes which can be used to make different designs. Lots of these designs can be found online too. 

Helps with:
  • Creativity
  • Imagination
  • Pattern making
  • Concentration 
  •  Matching
  • Problem solving
Toys of Wood Oxford Pattern blocks and puzzle

This is a newish toy for us, but one that is so loved and used already. Z started by using it to identify colours and shapes and also count. Now with the help of B she attempts to make the patterns which come on the sheet. When she plays on her own she likes to make repetitive patterns.  

Have you tried any of these toys? What do you think? Are there any more you’d add to the list?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Eczema Treatment for Baby: Aveeno moisturising cream

Recently DD who is almost 8 months came over with a red, angry rash all over her tummy, neck and back and seemed to be spreading. I used all the usual emollients like Vaseline and E45 with no luck. I was really worried so headed to the doctor. He diagnosed her with eczema and prescribed her a hydrocortisone cream and Aveeno. I was quite weary about using the hydrocortisone cream as it contains steroid and she is so small. But the Aveeno was something that looked promising.

I started using the Aveeno cream starightaway, and saw a difference within a day. The moisturising cream contains Collodial Oatmeal and is designed for sensitive and dry skin. I was so impressed with this cream as the difference was immense, see the pics below. After a chat with the doctor DD was also prescribed with the Aveeno bath oil which I am also currently using.  I will continue to use both these products and hope that the eczema doesn't reappear. 

These products worked fantastically for my DD but if you or your child do suffer from eczema be sure to talk to your doctor before using new products.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

New Products (Skin and Hair)

At the moment I'm all about trying new products for my skin and hair. 
For a few years now, since the birth of my son, my hair has just been in a poor state. It falls out, grows slowly and just generally worries me. I had for the longest time used a number of different herbal essences shampoos and conditioners but then switched to wells vosene on my mums advice. She has the best hair! But vosene is doing nothing for me, so while in Boots recently I picked up these Lee Stafford goodies

They were on a 3 for £12 offer and are:
The products claim to basically provide hair with the best chances by targeting the scalp and the hair follicles. I'm excited to try these products and see any difference. I'm looking for healthier hair which grows well and is less prone to falling out.

I also picked up some skincare products. My skincare routine has always been minimal. I take off any make up with wipes, wash my face and apply moisturiser in the night and wash and moisturise in the day. I feel as though I could and should be doing more for my skin and am starting with these soap and glory products 

They were on a buy 1 get one 1/2 price offer.

I have combination skin, that gets dry on the cheeks and a little oily around the T-zone. I occasionally break out and am on a look out for a spot treatment that works. I am looking forward to using these and having better skin.

Do you guys have any recommendations for stronger hair or glowier (that's a word, right) skin? 

Nutella and Oreo Cupcakes

One Sunday DS and I wanted to have cupcakes, so we got looking to see what there was in the cupboards and made these with what we found. Keep reading for the recipe.

Nutella and Oreo cupcakes (makes around 20 generous sized cupcakes)

200g self raising flour
200g caster sugar
200g margarine 
3 eggs
1tsp baking soda
4 Oreos
10tsp Nutella 

1. Set fan oven to 180C
2. Start my mixing the dry ingredients. Sift the flour and baking soda and add the sugar. Mix
3. Add the margarine and mix.
4. Add eggs and mix until smooth.
5. Crush the Oreos by putting them in a ziploc bag and 'bashing' with a rolling pin and stir in the Oreos 
6. Line cupcake tray with cupcake liners and Add 1/3 tbs of mixture to each liner 
7. Bake these in the oven for 5 minutes
8. Remove and add a dollop of 1/2tsp Nutella in the middle of each slightly baked cupcake. Then cover this with more of the cake mixture.
9. Put back in the oven for 15 minutes or when golden brown. Enjoy.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Ramadan Preparation: Countdown Calendar

For a while now, I have been interested in making a countdown calendar for when Ramadan starts but really haven't known where to start. There have been a lot of ideas floating about but I just didn't know which one would work best. It would almost be like an advent calendar but I didn't want DS to just get a treat I wanted him to also have something to think about. After much research I decided that each day as well as a treat DS would have to complete a good deed! After visiting the local mosque recently I came across some fantastic child friendly good deed cards, so I went on a search to find them online and found them here . 

I decided that I would put a good deed card and a treat in 30 mini envelopes and attach these to a string across the landing. Each evening DS can pick an envelope and we can discuss and think about the good deed he will have to do the next day. 

I sorted the good deed cards according to the difficulty level and put the mores difficult ones for the weekend and school holidays. Some of the treats put in we're sweets but I also put in little notes about things that he enjoys doing like: baking your favourite treat or spending time playing your favourite board game with mummy and daddy. 

The envelopes looked lovely across the landing and contain brilliant reminders of how more deeds can be earned during this Ramadan. I liked this idea as I can keep using the envelopes year after year and change up the cards as needed!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Ramadan Preparation: Kids Gift Baskets

DS has turned five this year, I really wanted him to try to understand and be interested in learning about Ramadan and for this he needed to be excited by the arrival of this holy month. So while surfing on Pinterest I came across Ramadan gift baskets by Aminah at She had come up with a fantastic concept of creating little gift baskets filled with Ramadan related and other activities to excite the children and give them something to do. Like Aminah I'd love to carry this tradition on so my children can look back on happy and excited memories that will remind them of this beautiful month. Here is my recreated basket:

I put in some Ramadan related activity books for him to be able to learn more. Both the workbooks were given as gifts by my sister. I also purchased the Ramadan Moon book written by Nai'mah Bint Robert, as it had such good reviews, and it truly is a special book that I can't wait to read with my son.

There were also other craft/activity items to keep him busy during times when I will be busy with prayers/Iftar etc. These included superhero activity books and some arty projects he'll love.

I then added a few extras like a cup and some PJ bottoms and also laid out his prayer mat in his room.

I intend to value every moment of this beautiful month and ensure that I also spend time teaching DS the importance of Ramadan.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Pretty Cupcakes

My maternity leave is coming to an end soon, but in the meantime I have found myself a new hobby for when the little one takes her naps. And that is baking and decorating cupcakes. I've always loved baking ever since I was a little girl, for one birthday I even received a mini kids oven that had the ability to make one cupcake at a time, my sister and I had so much fun with it. 
I feel very satisfied after I've decorated a batch of cakes and sharing them with everyone. Needless to say I blame Amazon for managing to spend a small fortune on baking equipment..oops. Here are some of my creations:

I made these chocolaty lovelies for my family recently.

These vintage looking cupcakes were made as a gift for my sons teachers, who loved them. 

I intend to keep up this hobby and you'll possibly be seeing my eid cupcakes in the coming weeks.