Category Archives: literacy and writing

posts about our home learning and DIY materials to support reading and writing

Writing with magnets

I have been decluttering recently and came across a big tub of mixed magnetic construction sets that are not being played much with nowadays. I watched them playing with it and realised why. While it seemed like a good idea to me to combine all magnetic sets into one box (MagMax, Geomag, Magnetix and other assorted bits of unknown origin) because the parts looked very much the same, it didn’t work because there were subtle differences (just a few mm) in ball, rod and inserts sizes which meant that the figures that girls were trying to build kept falling apart if a part of a different set was used. It was very frustrating for them, so they quit it altogether.

I will be getting read of the lesser quality ones and will keep the better ones of one brand only and will build up the collection overtime instead by combining sets from the same brand.

But, before I have passed unwanted ones to the charity shop – we have done this fun activity:

Not all the letters could be built, letters with angles are the most difficult ones as magnets don’t stay at an angle, they tend to snap back


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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in literacy and writing, Maths


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Pop the letter!

We really like Styrofoam! We save white and black underlays from pizza and trays from fruits, and this is what we do with them:

First, we write on them with chalks (if black) or markers (if white), then we take a cocktail stick or something pointy and we start popping small holes along the lines, or drawing over the lines with the sticks.

It works great for fine motor skill development! They like the popping sounds, and after they are done with drawing – they usually entertain themselves with breaking the trays. Each time it breaks with a loud pop they squeal and giggle and keep going until only small bits are left.

At some point we used those bits as well to make wind chimes / outside tree decorations/ bird scares on a veggie patch together with the cut-up bits of drinking straws that we made when doing straw cutting exercise . They make a soft bell-like sound or maybe a whisper if you listen carefully.


We tried cutting them with scissors for cutting practice – it works too!

Really want to try doing some Styrofoam etching with them next. Need a half decent roller for that and pigment ink. Anyone got some knocking about they don’t need?

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Posted by on September 27, 2017 in Crafts, literacy and writing, Maths



Hot days in the garden

Hot days in the garden are definitely over. It turning very blustery here, but we’ll remember the fun and will repeat it next summer.

I have prepared this one day in advance with my younger child. She enjoyed pouring water into ice lollies moulds, choosing food colouring and dropping the colours in, watching the colouring drop to the bottom (when we shortly talked about density) then stirring the colour to dissolve it in the water. We didn’t have many colours of food colouring, so we used some old dried-out markers (washable) to make the colours that we wanted by dipping the nibs into ice-lolly moulds. I was expecting them to draw on paper, so I thought it would be ok. Don’t use anything that cannot be ingested if your child still puts everything in the mouth. I didn’t tell her what it was for.


Then we put them in the freezer. Next day I taped a piece of paper on a cardboard in the garden brought the ice moulds out, warned girls that these were not for eating and demonstrated how to draw on paper. They were very involved to begin with. As ice started melting slightly we did a bit of Pollack – I showed them how to do splats.

It was very hot and they were running around with not much on (hence not many pictures in this post), so it didn’t take much time for them to try painting with ice lollies on themselves. They wrote ABC and numbers on themselves, taking turns to write on each others backs and guess the letter or a number, then just started crazy painting their feet and hands and doing prints. You should’ve heard them laughing!

Definitely something I recommend doing!

Some colours came out very dull, I seem to be very unlucky with my food colouring. Can anyone recommend a brand of food colouring that produces great bright results?


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Chalks in the garden

If your kids like drawing with chalks but apart from a chalk board you have no space for them to go wild and your garden is covered in grass like ours – pick up a large cardboard from a recycling centre – this will do the trick!


Extension on activities. Wing it!

What to do if all the spelling boards in the set has finished, but the child still wants to spell and there are letters left? Wing it!  🙂

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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in literacy and writing


Bribery learning. Yes or no?

I am still struggling with how to approach to pocket money and things that kids really want but it’s nowhere near their birthday or Christmas, which for my kids all comes pretty much at the same time, and then – whole year of  waiting for next Christmas. But kids interests change so often. And I don’t want them to get some presents just because they want them. I don’t want to give them rewards for doing chores – because things need to get done around the house by all family members without rewards. And I don’t want to give rewards for homework because this should be something of a habit and learning should be for the sake of learning and a feeling of getting better at something and not for rewards.

Mya wants a stunt scooter, and since I am at war with myself about how to get her one I thought of getting her collect rewards for extra learning that she normally struggles with – Russian and Maths. So in a space of two weeks she should do a bit of maths and a bit of Russian every day for 15-20 minutes. I know it might backfire, but I think if she struggles with these subjects and puts a bit more effort in with my help, of course it will get much easier for her in the future and she’ll feel less reluctant to do things that became easier to understand. This is my theory. Yesterday she asked me herself to do some Russian with her to get her stickers, and wanted to do few extra tasks in Mathletics which I didn’t ask her to do. She just got sucked in and started liking it! Same with Russian – we tried to follow a book with tasks to do, but then she deviated from the task and started to make her own words, which I didn’t mind, as long as she was doing it in Russian 🙂



She was making words with letter blocks (Zaitsev’s blocks) first and writing them down, then asked me for Russian script movable alphabet and started experimenting with it. After struggling to find all the letters for her name (in Russian type face letters are significantly different from script, also capital and lower case look very different, all that an the fact that some letters look like English letters but sound and mean completely different) she adapted some of the letters to write her name with them in English 🙂

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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in literacy and writing


Sunny spring day – and they are indoors!

We had a busy day today. It was bright and sunny, but for some reason – no one wanted to go outside today. Too busy doing other things.

There was a bit of playing with bubble dough made from dishwasher liquid and corn flour (if I remember it correctly it was from here Creative Playhouse Bubble Dough although ours was sticky and messy, more like Gak, but still soft and silky to the touch). I used red dishwasher liquid, which made the dough pink. We had this stored for ages – it’s still good. I do like food – safe slimes and goops, but these spoil very quickly and you have to store them in the fridge and most of them don’t last more than few weeks – this is when I remember that I still have them :-)So I just have to watch smaller person closely.

berry goop

Very Berry goop

Girls enjoyed playing with it: first tried to roll it with a rolling pin, then tried cookie cutters, all of which didn’t work, cutting with a knife was a success, then reptiles came to play with a random otter and a panda – they were leaving wonderful foot prints which we talked about and tried to make prints with other things. Meanwhile reptiles sunk in and we had a giggle trying to prise them out! Tidying after that was fun – a bit of water makes dough bubble, so everything was covered in soft fragrant foam. I think we’ll try this one next: Even better Bubble Dough

Then it was time for a bit of writing practice. Mya needs to work on her writing which is her weak point at the moment, and is unwilling to do any wipe-erase or other practise books I bought for her, not even this amazing one (Pencil Control, similar one here First Pencil Practice). So I have to be very creative with pencil control exersises and teaching the correct way of writing (she even rejects Colouring books!). Teacher from Mya’s school kindly printed and laminated some big cursive letters for her, so I layed them out for her to discover with a box of Wikki Stix – she couldn’t walk by!

Wikki Stix writing practice

Wikki Stix writing practice

As you can see though – she didn’t pactice for long (at least something, huh?) and started to create with them. For the smaller person I layed out shapes mats to trace (on the left) and she did a fairly reasonable triangle and a circle, then just started playing with stix. which was ok.

And some destruction of audio tapes (yes, I was holding on to them – just for this occasion) after an explanation about storage of music, files and videos and how it progressed over the years.

Then we made some muffins in Easter Shapes silicon mould, which I couldn’t get out of but they were still tasty (I cheated and used Madeira Cake mix)


Then I finally hearded everyone outside and we had a lovely afternoon climbing, sliding, trampolining, riding toys, making toys mucky, wahing toys and cloud-watching.

Hope your Easter break is going well.

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Posted by on April 2, 2016 in literacy and writing

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