Botley the robot review!

We were thrilled to be sent the wonderful Botley from Learning Resources UK who are based in Norfolk. Initially we were asked to feedback to them how the boys got on, but we loved it so much I thought it would be helpful to our readers to have a more in depth review on here…so here it is!

WHO IS BOTLEY?!

Botley is our new family pet! Well, technically he is a robot, but he’s so cute and very loved, so from here on in, we are considering him a pet that won’t get us in trouble if we leave him in a box for a few days!
In reality, he is a coding robot who is clever, cute, educational, challenging, fun and captured the boys’ attention before we had even taken him out of the box. We loved how he was peeping out at us when we opened the front flap of the box – a lovely touch!

Botley peeking out of his box!

WHAT DOES BOTLEY DO?

Botley has two settings: ‘Code’ and ‘Line’.

Change the settings underneath Botley.

LINE MODE:
On line mode, Botley can follow a black line using a sensor underneath him. There are some puzzle type card squares in the box that are white with a black wiggly line on one side. Botley will follow this line until he gets to the end, when he turns around and follows it back again. The boys enjoy moving the pieces once Botley has travelled over them to see how long they can keep him going for. You can also make your own course for Botley with white card and a pen. This is something we are yet to do, so more fun is yet to be had on this mode!

Line mode.

CODE MODE:
On code mode, Botley will move anywhere you tell him to go. There are 4 directional buttons on the handy sized remote: forward, back, rotate right and rotate left. There is also a late transmit button for when you are ready to send the instructions to Botley.
This mode can be where children can be challenged at different levels.
Once confident with manoeuvring Botley, your child can set or be set certain challenges. There are some in the booklet that come with Botley, or you can come up with your own.
Botley also has OBJECT DETECTION, meaning children can start to learn the principle of ‘if/then’, so you can tell Botley to do something, but in the same piece of coding, you can tell him what to do if he sees an object. This is a bit more challenging for children and it was something that my eldest (age 6) was able to grasp, but at the moment is a little bit over my nearly 4 year old’s head.
Another feature in this mode is the LOOP button. For this feature you can tell Botley to follow the same instructions more than once.
You can go all out on CODE mode and use CODING, OBJECT DETECTION and LOOP all at the same time to further the challenge!

Botley’s remote is the perfect size for little hands!

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

As well as Botley, you receive a 77 piece accessory set including hands for Botley, balls for him to carry, flags for him to travel around and in and out of, a ‘goal’ hoop, double sided puzzle card type pieces for Botley to travel around on, code cards to remind you what instructions you have programmed, blocks and sticks to create courses and a really well written instruction booklet with lots of hints and tips.

Challenging Botley to score a goal!

HIDDEN FEATURES

If you look in the booklet and on the Learning Resources website, you will find a couple of sneaky Easter Eggs. For example, you can make Botley say his name, say hello and get super dizzy amongst other things. The boys LOVE these hidden features and already remember some of the coding for them!

WHAT WE LOVE

What’s not to love? We all really enjoy playing with Botley and seeing what we can do.
Personally I love the different levels of challenge that Botley can provide as the children grow and learn.
The children love how cute Botley is and challenging themselves to try new things and they really enjoy the hidden features.

ANY ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?

As a coding toy, we think Botley is pretty fantastic, however if we were to suggest anything it would be a cut back in the amount of plastic. Botley is obviously made of plastic, but also inside the cardboard box, he is housed in plastic which could maybe be reconsidered?

WOULD WE RECOMMEND BOTLEY TO YOU?

Absolutely!

I really hope this review has been helpful to anyone who may be considering a coding toy or even a Botley for their children. Please do get in touch if you have any questions that I have not covered in this review!

Lucy

Maths activities for the natural learner…

Most of the learning we do is in a really natural way. Through play, exploration, nature and every day life. I share a lot about this over on our Instagram page, but I thought I would compile a little list of a few ways we learn maths in a blog post!

MONEY

This is a really simple little set up for learning about money, as we try to involve the boys with money in age appropriate ways.
They get a little pocket money every week, which they save or spend and they are starting to understand the benefits of saving up for something. They also have real money in their play till and we try to use cash in shops to demonstrate change etc etc.
However, they both struggled with the idea that a single £1 coin was worth more than a handful of 1p coins. So, we had a quick trip to the bank to get one pound worth of each coin, to help them to understand the value of the coins.
We talked about the coins, played with them, made patterns with them, matched values (for example twenty 1p coins and one 20p coins) and their understanding grew.
It is the perfect little activity when you are stuck inside for the day!

TWO DIGIT NUMBERS

Rocco has a great understanding of numbers – what they look like and what they represet. He is now starting to learn some two digit numbers, so this little activity was perfect for a small world play loving boy! Cheeky old Jess the Cat muddled up all of Postman Pat’s letters and Rocco’s challenge was to read the house number on each letter to the corresponding house.
Rocco loved helping Pat to deliver all of the letters to the correct houses and did some great number recognition learning of numbers 11-20. You could change the numbers to 3 or 4 digit numbers, or even house names, depending on what you are focusing on with your child!

BINGO

This bingo game I picked up in a charity shop has been a complete hit with the boys! We have played it lots of times and it is another great game for number recognition right up to 100! Both of the boys have often read numbers backwards (so 85 would be 58 etc), so it’s a great way to get a bit of practice in whilst having fun!
I added these little blue cubes/sticks of 10 whilst we were playing and we represent the numbers with cubes each time to really consolidate what the number actually means. Archie has always had a real interest in number, so he was quite happy to include this into the game!

BAKING

Baking is a great activity for learning lots of mathematical concepts, so I will list a few here:
Weighing
Measuring
Estimating
Recognising and reading number
Time
Temperature
Money (buying ingredients with cash and looking at change)
Quantity
Size
Accuracy
Shape
This is not an exhaustive list and depending on what is being made, there is scope for even more maths learning.

SHUT THE BOX

Archie instantly fell in love with the game and it is perfect for solving addition and number bond problems! What a fun maths lesson hey! He screamed in delight when he rolled this double two to shut the box for the first time ever!
Initially I added the cubes to help him to work out some of the trickier number bonds or for when he needs to use 3 numbers, but he can play the game really independently now and never uses the cubes any more!
You can pick up a shut the box game relatively cheaply on the high street, so keep your eyes peeled for one!

CHILD LED

Children want to learn. They want to solve problems. They want to create. They want to discover. Our role is to provide the tools and facilitate. To support and to encourage.To have patience and be flexible.
I’ll be honest, after setting up such a lovely relaxing lavender play dough with lots of natural resources, I had to bite my tongue when Archie asked for the cutters we use when we just get the play dough box out. But he had a plan. He sat for a long time creating this pattern, working it out and checking for mistakes “small star, big star, circle, circle”. Not only was he consolidating his understanding of pattern, but he was learning patience, concentration, dedication, fine motor skills, completion of a task, properties of shape…all whilst discussing what he was doing, the play dough and the dry and fresh lavender. We talked about how lavender grows and about the scent.
If I hadn’t have given him the cutters, he probably would have sat there for another few minutes before going to do something else. This is what child led learning is all about.

There are so many opportunities to discuss and learn about maths in everyday life. In shops, in the home, in the car and even out and about in the natural world. It’s all about nurturing interests and natural curiosity and before you know it, your children will be understanding mathematical principles in a deeper way than if they were learning by rote.

How do you approach maths learning? I’d love to hear from you! Get in touch in the comments or over on Instagram @thelifeschoolers!

Lucy

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Painting the Rain

After nearly two long hot months of glorious sunshine, we have been so happy to see some rain to soak our parched garden! It did, however, leave me feeling a little bit stumped as to where to go today, after spending pretty much every day outside somewhere recently!

After deciding to stay at home, I thought I would make the most of the weather and set up an art provocation for the boys to explore. Rocco (aged 2) had genuinely forgotten what rain was, which was slightly hilarious yesterday when the heavens opened. He just kept staring at the sky and saying “What? What?” in between little squeals of delight!

So, just in case you have a rainy day at home, here is a now tried and tested art project for you to try with your kiddiewinks.

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Set Up

The set up itself is pretty simple. All you need is a shiny surface to catch the raindrops on, some blue watercolour paints, a paintbrush and some thick white paper or card. We had planned to use real rain water, but by this point, the rain had stopped, so I included a cup of water and a pipette in our set up, to create our own rain. We also used a mirror surface placed inside a tray for extra intrigue and sensory exploration.

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Catching Raindrops

The next step is to catch the rain on your shiny surface, until you have enough raindrops for your artwork. As it had stopped raining, we plopped our pretend raindrops out from our pipette. This is actually great for fine motor control and general self control when trying not to squeeze too much water out at once!

Once you are happy with your collection of raindrops, which should collect nicely onto the shiny surface, it’s time to add some colour. We recently found some brilliant watercolours in Aldi that you can take out individually, so we had all of the blues out and ready to go! You need to get plenty of blue watercolour paint onto your brush and then dip it into each individual raindrop to add the colour. Once the boys had got the hang of it, they started experimenting with mixing the different shades of blue together.

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Creating Your Art

Now you have created lots of lovely blue raindrops, it is time to create your artwork! Take your thick paper or card and lay it very gently on top of your blue raindrops for a couple of seconds. Lift it off and voila! Some lovely rain inspired artwork! Rocco enjoyed exploring the watercolours so much, that he decided to add extra raindrops to his artwork by painting them straight on with a paintbrush.

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The Finished Artwork

The possibilities to explore further are also there for this activity. We will definitely be trying it again with real raindrops and may even make some watercolour clouds this way too. This activity just came from a little idea I had this morning and I had no idea how it would work out, but I think it has turned out to be Rocco’s favourite way of painting ever!

If you give it a go at home, let me know how it goes! Get in touch on here, or over on @thelifeschoolers on Instagram. Tag us into any posts, so we can see your beautiful artwork too, it is really great to hear from you!

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Exploring Shades of Blue

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The Butterfly Bath

A few days ago, I was tagged in a post about a beautiful butterfly watering station. I’d really love to make one with the boys for our garden, as we have been seeing a few butterflies fluttering around whilst we have been out playing in the sunny weather.

I was telling Archie about it and trying to suggest that we make a ‘butterfly bath’ for our garden, but Archie got the wrong end of the stick and excitedly started talking about a butterfly bath that he was going to have… so we ran with it.

I remembered that I had popped some water beads away in the cupboard a while back, waiting for the perfect opportunity to use them, so I soaked them for a few hours, before adding a colander, slotted spoons, shiny beads, a magnifying glass and of course some foam butterflies.

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The boys love any messy, sensory or water play activities and I have mentioned before that 95% of the time they end up fully in the tray, generally naked, so bath play is a total winner!

The boys hopped straight in and started exploring the different items in the bath. Archie started to scoop water beads into the colander and soon discovered that he needed to lift it out of the water if he didn’t want the beads to float away again. When he lifted the colander out of the water, he noticed that he could make a brilliant shower as the water fell through the holes!

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Rocco spent some time picking up individual water beads and squishing them in between his thumb and fore finger…super fine motor development! He also discovered half way through the bath that the foam shape butterflies that I had popped into the bath would actually stick like stickers to the flat surface of the bath and tiles. This was a bit of a fluke on my part, but he spent a long time sticking them on, taking them off and sticking them on again somewhere else!

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We recently bought a colour changing light bulb, so I took the lamp into the bathroom (keep it away from the water folks!) This added something extra to the bath time, as I was able to change the colour of the bulb in order to show the boys which colour butterflies they should scoop and rescue next. This was great for consolidating Rocco’s colours, which he is pretty clued up on now, but they also loved the game regardless!

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The boys also enjoyed having the magnifying glass in the tub with them and explored the shiny stones, water beads and butterflies through it.

They discovered that the water beads were pretty bouncy and had lots of fun bouncing the beads off each other’s heads, whizzing them around in the colander before they all bounced out…all over the bathroom, throwing them at the side of the bath to make them bounce off and dropping them from a height to see if they could make them splash!

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All in all this was a great success and I would recommend the activity to anyone who has children that enjoy water play, but be warned…lots of water beads got squished in the bath, between fingers and under bottoms, so it was a pretty lengthy clean up with trying to scoop out the broken bits whilst not letting any down the drain!

What are your go to water play activities? I’d love to hear from you!

Lucy x

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