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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This is Life Schooling…

A few weeks ago we went on a trip to CBeebies Land with some of our absolutely favourite people. Archie was sat in the back of the car with one of his besties who he has grown up with, who does go to school. P asked Archie if he could count in twos and his automatic response was “No”. P was a little surprised that he couldn’t, so she told us about it.

It wasn’t until I gave Archie an example of counting in twos, that he realised he could in fact do that and also he could count in tens, it’s just that he has learnt it so naturally, that he didn’t know that this skill had a particular name!

This happened a couple more times that day when they were having their little chats in the back of the car and their conversations were so sweet to hear!

Fast forward a couple of weeks to yesterday when we were sat at dinner and a conversation came up about numbers. I thought I would take the opportunity to ask Archie a couple of questions. I started with “Do you know what double 3 is Archie”, to which answered “yes, 6!” We went through many other doubles which he loved and answered all of them correctly, only having to use his fingers to work out one of them.

This may seem normal for a boy of 5, but the thing is, I have never…and I really mean NEVER sat him down and taught him how to double numbers, or what a double is. It has ALL come through play and natural learning opportunities that have arisen in our daily lives. I have a feeling that his recent love for the game Shut the Box has helped too!

Fast forward again to today and Rocco, our 2 year old turned to me and correctly told me “This is my right hand and this is my left hand!” He showed me his right and left hand as he said it. I thought it was a fluke, but every time I asked him which was his right or left hand throughout the day, he got it right. Now, I’m sure you will all know by now, that I have never sat him down to teach him about his left and right either, but again, he has learnt through practical application and every day experiences. This particular piece of knowledge, he picked up when he was feeling particularly grumpy in the woods and Rex was telling him which way we would need to go next. He told him ONCE which hand was which, to help him know which way to go and it stuck!

It amazes me daily how much knowledge and skill these boys soak up every day. They don’t even realise they are learning most of the time! One day, Archie may need to know that it is called ‘counting in twos’, or whatever else it is he needs to know, but at least then, he will already know what to do and it will just be a fancy name to give to all of his many different skills and pockets of knowledge!

This is life schooling. Learning through the every day. The mundane. The adventure. The daily problem solving. The play. And do you know what?…It’s working!

Thanks for reading, please do get in touch either in the comments on here, through our Instagram page (@thelifeschoolers) or drop us an email at thelifeschoolers@gmail.com!

Lucy

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Changes

The change in this kid in the last year is just phenomenal. From bright and bubbly, carefree and crazy, to withdrawn and unsure, emotional and unsettled. But wow, we are coming back fighting.

We have been out of school for over 7 months now. Longer than we were in school in fact and I could honestly burst with pride.

7 months ago, this warrior wouldn’t have asked for something he needed from anyone other than myself or Rex. He would spend days shouting at his little brother, out of sheer frustration, confusion and jealously. He would shy away from standing out in any way and would strive to blend in and not be noticed. He wasn’t eating, or sleeping and he just lost the Archieness of Archie.

But now…well let me tell you… He boldly and bravely talks to any of the many people we meet every day, asking questions and talking to them with such a genuineness. He picks his outfits, without fear of standing out (I had the pleasure of having dinner at the pub with Archie the elf a few days ago). He makes friends everywhere he goes, no matter what their age is. He learns from those who are older than him and helps those who are younger. He has shown such courage walking on to a pitch full of strangers when joining a hockey club, just occasionally giving me a wave or a smile, to make sure I’m still there, cheering him on. You bet I am. I always will be.

This kid will go far. The boldness, bravery, courage, inquisitiveness and kindness I see in his heart daily show me this.

We may be doing life a little different to the norm. But I love it. And so does he. And loving life is high up on our agenda! Sorry for the ramble, but it seems fitting to share, even a day late for mental health awareness. I hope, more than anything, that we have prevented any long term mental health issues that Archie could have suffered from, having stepped in when we did and listened to his cry for help. ♥️

(Originally posted on our Instagram on 11/10/18)

I’d love to hear from anyone on a similar journey to us, or anyone who feels their child is going through what Archie did. Do get in touch on here in the comments, on the @thelifeschoolers Instagram page, or by emailing thelifeschoolers@gmail.com. Lucy x

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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