Sounds Right Blog
The Discovery Centreā€¦.Meet the Gruffalo and all things Julia Donaldson.
By Sounds Right Phonics on 6 February 2018

The Discovery Centre….Meet the Gruffalo and all things Julia Donaldson.

Nestled more or less opposite Stratford Train station is a hidden gem of storybook fun. We visited the Discovery Centre on a Sunday and arrived at opening. We had prebooked admission (which is reasonable at £6.50 per person) as well as booking the much talked about Julia Donaldson exhibition. We started our trip there and found ourselves sat in Charlie Cook’s front room listening to a Julia Donaldson story being brought to life – Zog for us but I believe they read different stories each session. After the story we were whisked away to the world of Julia Donaldson books where her books are brought to life for the children to explore. Children can make spells in the Room on the Brooms cauldron as well as ride her broomstick, explore the jungle from the monkey puzzle, swim through the set of the Whale and the Snail (and even have a climb on the whale’s back), pretend to be the smartest giant in town and walk down his street, have a spot of tea in the Squash and a Squeeze house, meet and dress up as the Gruffalo – plus much more (spot Zog flying overhead, be the Highway Rat…the list goes on). The attention to detail is brilliant and there are so many photo opportunities as the stories are so wonderfully brought to life for the children. Grown-ups and adults will be enthralled.

The workshop is around 50 minutes and then we moved onto exploring the museum (or the Story World as it is known). Spread over two floors as well as an outside space (the story garden) there is plenty to do and areas to develop little ones’ imaginations. Upstairs children can slide down the indoor slide and explore Hootahs Observatron. The ground floor has an interactive floor to explore and many story book elements to make up your own story: a trip trap bridge, a boat, a river, a hill to climb, trees to hide behind. There was also an art and craft activity which was included – we create our own character using a wooden spoon and collage materials. The outside story garden was the favourite place for my two little ones... they explored a huge slide (or was it a dragon’s mouth?), made up stories on a giant pirate boat, explored sounds with various musical instruments dotted around the garden, rode a taxi to a magical land and clambered aboard a space ship. The outside space is a wonderful place to play and create stories with the children.

Our trip could not be complete without a trip to the shop to stock up on Julia Donaldson’s merchandise. We spent the morning at the Discover centre before hopping over to Westfields for a bite to eat and then walking to explore the parks at the Olympic park. We headed home around 6pm – a perfect, reasonably price (and educational) day out!

The Secret by Charlie Day
By Sounds Right Phonics on 16 January 2018

In 2015 over a glass of wine me and my sister dreamt up an idea, it was her idea if I’m honest (but I’d never admit that to her,) that we could run pre-school classes that prepare children for school, that teach letters and sounds and develop skills for early reading and writing and that, above anything else are FUN!!!! She could write a syllabus for our new business and I could and use my business expertise to advertise and market the classes. We chatted about it, laughed about it and then eventually ended our drink and that was that. Until the next day when she said to me, shall we do it? What’s the worst that could happen? And we’ve never looked back!

Our first ever class

It was a huge leap of faith, and I was totally nervous to trial our first ever class but the feedback we got was unbelievable. People were asking us if they could sign up then and there so we made a quick decision to launch classes officially and before we knew it all our classes were full. Facebook was going mad with people asking us to open up in various locations and we couldn’t believe it. We were just two mums trying to make a business that meant we could spend time with our own children whilst doing something that we loved!

One year down the line, we were running in ten different locations and we took a step back to see how we were going to grow this business and it was obvious from the beginning that franchising was the best way forward. So in January 2016 three pilot franchises of Sounds Right Phonics Launched and since that we have taken on a further 7 franchises across the UK and are looking forward to building our business even more in 2018!

 

When I look back over the past two years I can’t believe how much has changed! We are just two mums, working out of a room in my house (we’re next door but one neighbours too so it’s convenient for both of us!) getting to do a job that we love, and spending more time with our children! Even better than that is we are now spreading the word to other mums that they can join our team, and make sure they have the right work life balance too! But I honestly believe if you are passionate and determined you can achieve anything. 

How to make a Christingle Candle by Guest Blogger Kelly Monksfield
By Sounds Right Phonics on 24 December 2017

How to make a Christingle Candle

 

How to make a Christingle candle

 

 

To make your own Christingle you will need:
•oranges (I used clementines as I was making mini ones)
•candles (birthday candles were the perfect size)
•red ribbon
•two cocktail sticks (cut in half)
•selection of raisins/fruit/sweets

 

Christingle means 'Christ's Light' and it is a symbol of the Christian faith. Lots of churches hold Christingle services, usually either the Sunday before Christmas or on Christmas Eve.

The meaning of each part of the Christingle:

 

The orange represents the World
The ribbon represents Gods love wrapped around the world. It also stands for the blood Christ shed on the cross.

 

The 4 sticks with dried fruit represents God’s creations and the four seasons.

 

The candle represents Jesus the light of the world.

 

 

 

 

Life of a Football Mum by Guest Blogger Kelly Monksfield
By Sounds Right Phonics on 15 December 2017

Some people have to wait their entire lives to meet their favourite player…I raised mine.

For as long as I can remember my weekends have been lost to the beautiful game that is football. Being a mum of two footballing boys now aged 13 and 10 and the wife of a football mad husband there is no escaping it even if I wanted to! But luckily for them I actually enjoy it - as hard as it is sometimes to enjoy spectating in the great British weather.

I’m very use to being up and out early for school but something strange happens at the weekend – things go in slow motion, well when I say things I mean the kids….ok, I mostly mean ME!!!

 

A typical weekend for this time of year:

SATURDAY: Wake up the boys for breakfast with the compromise that if they are washed and dressed in their kits BEFORE coming downstairs then they may play on their computer. We have to leave for training at 8:45am. I prepare the training kits the night before, however, there is always that one sock or shin ad that disappears! I have baskets under the stairs that are clearly marked ‘shin pads.’ Although they tend not to use this system and would than play the exciting game of find the shin pad each week.

Terry helps out with Tom’s team (Galleywood Eagles Under 14s) while I take Joe to Raven’s Youth under 11s. Both boys train got 1 ½ hours and we are all back under one roof just before midday.

FOOTBALL MUM HIGHS:

Shin Pads have been placed in the basket and we arrive to training on time.

Finding a huge tin of biscuits in the car (a gift from a school mum) to munch on while waiting for training to finish

FOOTBALL MUM LOWS:

Finding the refreshment hut isn’t open!!

Forgetting son’s waterproof coat and its pouring down with rain (leaving me to feel like the worst parent in the world – guilty!)

SUNDAYS: Very rarely do Kick Off times for both games work out that Tel and I get to see both games. More often than not we are opposite sides of Chelmsford with a similar KO time! Although we do manage to keep in touch via WhatsApp for the scores.

FOOTBALL HIGHS:

Winning of course (although some would say it’s the taking part that counts)

The club house give access to hot tea, chocolate, biscuits, bacon sandwiches. Yummy

FOOTBALL LOWS:

Not wearing enough layers…extra socks is a must…and a coat with a hood is much easier to manage in the wind than an umbrella.

Losing! It is never fun to lose but I try and encourage the boys to do their best, have fun and if you lose you learn from it because tomorrow’s another day!

Countdown to Christmas
By Sounds Right Phonics on 5 December 2017

I LOVE Christmas so this week I thought I’d share with you my top 5 Christmas Traditions that really get me in the mood for Christmas:

 

1.       The Tree

We opt for a real tree and make a family occasion of it and head to the Christmas tree farm to choose our own. Then we all help to decorate it while the Christmas tunes are blaring. I am not super fussy about what it looks like so happy for the children to get stuck in putting decorations wherever they choose. We haven’t put ours up yet but the eldest asks every day if we can.

 

2.       The Christmas Clothing

 

Nothing shouts Christmas more than the clothing: the festive jumpers are worn in our house from 1st December along with Christmas PJs and my favourite item of all: The Christmas headband. Over the years, especially when I was a teacher, I collected quite a range which come out for the whole of December.  

 

3.       Christmas Food.

We love to bake and around Christmas time we enjoy baking our own Christmas cake, mince pies and cookies as well as decorating Gingerbread House. I even ‘Christmas’ up the kids’ lunch boxes.

 

4.       Theatre

I love a theatre trip around Christmas and is seems especially magical. This season I have watched the Nativity the Musical which was sooo good. A real festive treat. In previous years we have watched Raymond Brigg’s Father Christmas at Lyric Hammersmith. This is a delight and I’ve been lucky enough to watch it twice. Perfect for under 6 and tickets are a bargain at just £10 each. We always try and watch a pantomime or two although it seems to have become a tradition for the Grandparents to take the children to watch the panto. The children usually go the Civic, Chelmsford – this year they will be enjoying Jack and the Beanstalk as well as the pantomime at the Lyceum in Sheffield. We also went to see the panto at the Palladium last year which was sensational. This year we are going to watch The Gruffalo’s Child which I have heard great reviews about.

5.       The Nativity

Obviously an important part of the Christmas calendar but who doesn’t love watching their little one in a Nativity show? As a teacher putting a Nativity play on can be super stressful as Christmas isn’t always the calmest time of year. However, last year I got to experience a Nativity, with my child in it, for the first time and it was super lovely. Next week we will be watching him again and I know that will certainly get me totally in the mood for Christmas.

Fine Motor Skills ADVENT Challenge.
By Sounds Right Phonics on 28 November 2017

Fine Motor Skills ADVENT Challenge.

Last year we had such fun doing a different Christmas themed fine motor skills activity every day in December. This was a twist on the traditional Advent calendar but it went down brilliantly in our house, got us in the festive mood and improved the children’s fine motor skill in the process. This year we will be doing it again and we are hoping that you will join us too. So check out our Facebook and Instagram posts and tag us in your activities. To give you a flavour of some of the activities we did here is a roundup of my favourites:

SNOW – Melting Snowmen

I squirted whipped cream into a tray and the children attempted to make their own snowmen. We then added currants, sticks and pompoms for buttons and eyes.

THREADING – Button Tree

All you need for this is a cork, a cocktail stick and a variety of green buttons. Poke the cocktail stick into the cork (which is the trunk of the tree) then invite your child to thread the buttons on. We added a foam sticky star on top too.

CHRISTMAS BAKING – Cookies

We made our own cookies and the children enjoyed pouring the ingredients, mixing them together and then carefully rolling them out. We used Christmas cutters to make the biscuits and decorated them with icing and Christmas sweeties.

PEGS

We used Father Christmas pegs and simply pegged them onto cards and pipe cleaners. This one is great for finger strength and super easy if you don’t have that much time.

CLOVES AND ORANGES

I love this activity as the whole house is filled with wonderful Christmas smells. Simple poke the cloves into the orange. We then displayed them in a bowl in the centre of the dining room table.

CHRISTMAS BAKING – Christmas Cake

We love to make a Christmas cake in our house but aren’t organised enough to make it months before so we opt for a light sponge recipe that can be made in December. The children loved chopping the dried fruits using knives and mixing the cake mixture.

TWEEZERS, SCOOPS & SPOONS – Christmas Soup

Another simple one, I added a range of Christmas items into a large foil tray and added tweezers, scoops and spoons so the children can explore themselves. We included: jingle bells , sparkly stars and red and green pompoms but you could also add tinsel, Christmas novelty erasers or small baubles.

SALT DOUGH

We love to make our own decorations each year and salt dough is just perfect. The children helped make the mixture and then built their arm strength rolling and cutting the dough. Once dry we decorated them with paint and glitter.

 

CHRISTMAS TREE

We bought glittery pompoms on sticks and I printed an image of a Christmas tree which I stuck onto a shoe box. The children then poked the pompom sticks into the Christmas tree picture and decorated the tree. This really got those fingers working.

GINGERBREAD

One of our final activities we to decorate the gingerbread house. I must admit I bought a premade house but the children build their hand strength squeezing the icing and picking up the small sweeties to decorate it.

This year I will have a list of the activities – which I will post on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/phonicsstars1/)  and Instagram (@soundsrightkids) that we plan to do each day so join us having fun and building hand strength which is so important for writing.

Making A Book Advent Calendar by Guest Blogger Roz Ure
By Sounds Right Phonics on 21 November 2017

I first heard about book advent calendars last year in the middle of the Christmas period.  Too late last year so I thought I would do one this year and it would be easy…or not!

 

A book advent calendar is basically choosing either 12 or 24 books, wrapping them up and opening one on each day of advent – simple, or am I really over thinking this?

 

There are bits of advice out there if you google and even companies who will do it for you, but where is the fun in that! It can also work out to be pretty expensive if you are not careful.  There were plenty of pictures that showed me how wonderful it looked afterwards, but not much else.  Confused? Yes me too hence the reason for this blog.  Here are my top tips for creating a fun and relatively cheap book advent calendar.

 

1.       Why am I doing this?

For me it’s a lovely way to make reading and sharing books exciting. Discovering what book is on what day could lead to a treat for all the family and provide talking points.  If like us you have a reader who just wants to read his favourites books all the time then this is a great way to introduce new things.

 

2.       They don’t have to be new books.

Absolutely not.  You have probably have loads of books sitting on your shelf that your child hasn’t read for ages.  Wrap them up and it will be like rediscovering a forgotten book and perhaps become more special the second time around. If you have books from your own childhood why not wrap them up too.  Chances are they will provide a few giggles.

 

3.       They don’t all have to be Christmas themed.

It might be a good game to work out if the book is going to have a Christmas theme or not that day.  You might find that the book isn’t, but you would be amazed how far you can stretch the theme for instance so many books have snow in them or it might be a book about different types of tree or giving to others etc.

 

4.       Use your library.

Select a few books from your local library and wrap those up so you don’t have to buy a lot.  Do make sure though that you wrap these up and use in the first week incase you have to return them or forget to renew them.

 

5.       New books.

It is nice to have a few new books in there as a surprise.  Look out for deals online as there are lots of three for two offers or check out discount book stores.

 

6.       Wrapping.

Whether you use wrapping paper or not is up to you.  I quite like using brown parcel paper as it makes what’s inside seem more interesting and we can focus on the size and shape.  I am also going to use large tags with big numbers on so that we can practice those at the same time.

 

7.       Your own theme.

Your child might be developing an interest in a particular theme in their books.  For us at the moment it’s monsters, but will a certain Moz monster feature in our calendar? Well that remains to be seen! Have fun.

 

Toddler Time - by Guest Blogger Lauren Youles
By Sounds Right Phonics on 14 November 2017

With the dark nights rolling in, and a little less time to explore outdoors, I try to find activities that will get my little girl using her hands and exploring. She loves messy play, as do I, but this can take a little while to set up and tidy away so I’ve been trying to find activities that need little preparation time and don’t make too much mess.

Our first activity was a super simple one, I gave E two jugs. One filled with lids from all our Tupperware and an empty one. Really quick to prepare and she loved it. She spent ages taking them out and putting them back in again and transferring them between the jugs.

Our next activity were sensory bags. I got 4 zip lock bags and basically filled them with anything that I had to hand that looked quite interesting. In one bag I put water and cut up straws, in the second bag I put water and googly eyes, in the third bag I put rice and sequins and in the last bag I put some glittery pipe cleaners, glitter and some little snowflakes. I put each item in each bag and topped up with water/rice, I then made sure all the air was out of each bag before zipping them shut. I was going to use the tuff tray but decided it’d be great for them to be on the floor so just stuck it to the clear plastic mat we have under E’s high chair (to catch all the food!) with masking tape. She loved prodding them and seeing the different items move around, she then explored the bags with her feet and even got her mouse to ‘bounce’ on the bags. My top tips would be to make sure the bags are securely stuck down and use better zip lock bags than the ones I used as mine leaked! Apparently using sticky back plastic to stick them down is a great way of ensuring they don’t leak.

Our third activity was creating a leaf owl. We collected lots of different leaves (E loves collecting things on our walks-stones, acorns, leaves etc) so this was a great activity for her. We then used the plastic bit you get over cards when you buy them and filled them with the leaves. To create our owl, we made some eyes and a beak (out of card) and used some of the leftover leaves as its wings. So effective!

Thanks to social media (including of course this blog!) for the inspiration and ideas to do activities like this!

 

Halloween
By Sounds Right Phonics on 20 October 2017

My two are beside themselves when it comes to Halloween and we love to do craft activities in the lead up to the big day as well as enjoy festivities on the day itself.

Spider Crafts

My eldest has a fear for spiders (even the plastic ones) but loves to make spiders webs. We dribble glue by holding a loaded glue spreader high in the air over the paper and dribbling it. We then shake glitter or coloured sand on the top to create spidery webs. My daughter loves to use these to sing Incy Wincy Spider.

Turning Daddies into Mummies

The children love this game and the daddies dread it but nevertheless we always play it. All you need is two daddies, a roll of toilet paper and a timer. The children wrap the daddies up in a given time and then decide which daddy is the best mummy!!

Halloween Inspired lunchbox

Preschool and, this year, school falls on 31st October so I try and give the lunch box a Halloween flavour. Monster sandwiches with raisin eyes and marshmallow teeth, icing ghosts added to raisins and spiders hidden in witches eyes (AKA grapes). I also added orange ice cubes and drew little faces on to resemble pumpkins.

Halloween Playdough

A really simple activity – add a range of Halloween bits (I added mini pumpkins, plastic spiders and skeletons) as well as orange, yellow, white and black playdough and let them explore and use their imaginations to create.

 

 

TOP 5 Pumpkin Inspired Activities
By Sounds Right Phonics on 19 October 2017

With Halloween just around the corner here are our top five pumpkin activities:

1.       PRINTING

 We used orange and green paint as well as halved apples and potatoes to make pumpkin inspired pictures.

2.       SCRUBBING AND SCOOPING

Scrubbing muddy pumpkins with scrubbing brushes is good for fine motor skills plus everyone loves water play. We threw all our pumpkins in the kitchen sink and both kids enjoyed scrubbing them clean.Using tools like scoops and spoons is good practise for pre-schoolers and feeling the contents is both sensory but also develops rich language.

3.           PLAY DOUGH

Use orange playdough and pipe cleaners to make your own pumpkins. Great fine motor skills practise rolling and balling the dough as well as counting skills.

4.       BOWLING

Improve gross motor skills with some pumpkin bowling using the pumpkin instead of a ball. You can use a skittle set if you own one or some used plastic bottles do the trick too.

5.       HAMMERING

Saving the best until last…hammering tees into pumpkins to build hand strength and practise using one handed tools.