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

X

Are we making fair comparisons between our schools?

I’ve recently seen a local news website publish a list of the top 10 performing schools in Lincolnshire and the worst 10. While I am in absolutely no doubt that the staff at the schools in the top ten are working so hard to the point of exhaustion (it kinda comes with the job,right?!) I have a few things I feel I need to get off my chest in support of those who didn’t quite make the grade (or level?) this time.

Firstly, these lists are produced based on the percentage of children in this year’s cohort getting a certain level in their year 6 SATS, including a teacher assessment in reading, writing, maths and science.

Whilst I totally disagree with the SATS for various reasons, I also feel it is totally unfair to label certain schools as the ‘worst’ in the county for many, many reasons.

Having previously worked in the school that has achieved second place in the top schools list (well done everyone!), I have also worked in a wonderful school in an area of the city with a much higher percentage of families living in deprivation. In this second school some children couldn’t talk before starting school. Some couldn’t independently use a toilet. Others were rarely fed breakfast or got to school on time. Some children had to sleep in their beds that they had had an accident in for the rest of the night. One girl had to escape her house through a window with her mother, whilst another had to be gifted with her own towel, soap and toothpaste so that she could maintain a level of hygiene at school. Add to that the amount of children speaking English as a second or sometimes third language in some areas, this quickly becomes a far more complex issue.

Some of these children start school in a much more vulnerable state and are not at the same ‘level’ of children in other schools. They first and foremost need to be shown love, affection and protection. They need to learn that they are valued and worthy of time. They need to be fed and nurtured in a way that others take for granted. Some children need to learn a whole new language and culture.

These children may never achieve a level 6 in their year 6 SATS (although some might), but the PROGRESS that these children will make in a good school with hardworking, dedicated and brilliant teaching will be outstanding.

A child who can not speak at the start of primary school may not reach the highest level by year 6, but they might be able to express themselves well, communicate effectively with others, perform in the school play, show someone new around the school and sing in the choir. Things that noone would have expected of them when they first started.

A child who can’t dress themselves when they start school or whose uniform is always unclean, may be able to demonstrate personal hygiene through the nurture and care of the school. They may learn to pour themselves a bowl of cereal, wash up their pots and help younger children when they need to. The brilliant staff in the school will no doubt have worked alongside the family to help them in areas they are struggling in. Plans will have been put in place to make sure this child will thrive and grow.

It’s ALL about the progress.

Please, please don’t look at the bottom of this list and think these schools are failing. They aren’t necessarily and they may even be some of the most nurturing and creative schools in the county; I don’t know. The schools towards the bottom may not hit the same levels as the ones at the top, but who knows, the progress these children make may well be outstanding!

How about we stop measuring the success or failure of a school by the results of a stressful and pressurised testing system.

How about we stop thinking that these schools at the bottom of the list are failing their children and in turn creating more stressed and disheartened teachers.

How about we spend more time focusing on these beautiful children and helping them to be the best person they can be for the benefit of the future of our world. Nurturing them to be all they want to be. Planting the seeds of hopes and dreams for the future.

How about we start trusting out teachers more and show more support, encouragement and respect for an entirely demanding role with a huge amount of responsibility.

I am NOT trying to say the schools at the top of the list have the easy job. FAR from it. They are clearly very brilliant at what they do. I just want to encourage people to recognise that this is a far more complex issue than how many children get a certain level in their year 6 SATS.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please do get in touch through the comments on here, via @thelifeschoolers on Instagram or by emailing us at thelifeschoolers@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading.

Lucy x