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

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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Our favourite Minibeast activities so far…

If you are a follower of my Instagram page (@thelifeschoolers for anyone who isn’t yet, but would like to), you will have noticed that we have been doing lots of activities and play based learning around the theme of Minibeasts! We took a little break for some farm fun over Easter, but have picked it back up again, so I thought I would do a summary of some of our super simple bug activities so far. Funnily enough, the stomach bug Archie picked up did NOT make it onto the list!

I have been trying to set up a few invitations to play each evening before I go to bed, so there is something to capture the boys’ interests when they first come downstairs and we are caught up in the business of breakfast etc. This means that this list of activities so far is a real mix of independent play activities and ones that I have facilitated a bit more to extend the play further.

So here they are…Our favourite bug activities so far…

1. LADYBIRD SPOTS

Archie (age 4) really loves any activity involving number, so I set up this little number bond challenge for him. He successfully completed all of the ladybird number bonds to 10 and then decided to do his own sums too (40 + 65 for example!) In the photograph, there are a few which he did not draw the spots on. This is because he decided to use some mini counting cubes to place on the ladybirds instead.

Rocco (age 2) enjoyed exploring dots and spots and how to make them with his felt tip pens. He experimented with pressure and speed and noticed the difference between the spots that he had made on the ladybirds.

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2. INDOOR BUG HUNT

I have discovered that any little hunt lists are a really good way to encourage reluctant readers. Archie stopped reading to me a few months ago when he was still at school. I think he really felt the pressure to get it right, even though we never piled the pressure on him and I am sure school didn’t either. However, with reading, it can be very obvious to a child whether they are getting it right or not! We have been finding new ways to use words in our day to day lives to encourage him with his reading, but without the pressure that a book can bring. This list worked a treat, as I was able to differentiate the activity for both of the boys to enjoy.

Rocco had to hunt for the matching picture and Archie read the word, in order to work out which minibeast he had to hunt for. This was such a simple activity to set up and one that they both enjoyed together.

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3. CATERPILLAR/BUTTERFLY LIFE CYCLE

This is one of the few activities that we have sat down together to ‘learn’, but the boys, particularly Rocco, did enjoy creating their life cycles together. We looked the the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and watched a YouTube video showing a hyper lapse of the life of a caterpillar from egg to butterfly to learn more before completing this activity. We then discussed what we had noticed, learned the big word ‘metamorphosis’ and created some lovely life cycle pictures together during our discussion. The boys are really proud of the life cycles displayed on the wall in our Family Room!

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4. DESIGN A BUG

The boys both really love drawing and colouring at the moment, so I left this super simple activity on their drawing table, with some key vocabulary to encourage Archie’s reading and a book for inspiration. Archie absolutely loved this activity and had designed all of his bugs before I had even made it downstairs!

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5. BUTTERPLY COLLAGE

This was supposed to be an activity for the boys to complete together, but Rocco enjoyed it so much that he ended up doing lots of it with Daddy. Archie asked to do a black and red ladybird after, as he was a bit miffed about the butterfly. This is another simple activity, that kept Rocco focused for an extended period of time and encouraged lots of talk about colour, shape, position and butterflies. The finished result is so pretty and Rocco was really chuffed to see it up on the wall when he had finished.

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6. PLAY DOUGH BUGS

The scented play dough that I made at Easter was such a hit and was still going strong, so I set up a little bug making invitation to play. The boys loved making all sorts of bugs, including worms, spiders, caterpillars and some of their very own designs. We love play dough activities, as so much learning goes on and yet the boys are having so much fun together!

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7. THREADING CATERPILLARS

This lovely little fine motor activity was so quick to set up, but the boys loved it! Threading cheerios onto their caterpillars and then sneakily eating them all off again. This activity encouraged fine motor development, hand eye coordination and lots of discussion and talk around length and quantity.

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Of course we have spent lots of time outside finding lots of real minibeasts – particularly worms, centipedes, milipedes, bees and wasps, but this is a list of invitations to play that will hopefully be helpful to others! What are your favourite minibeast activities?

COMING SOON –

We will be designing and building a Minibeast Hotel (Watch this space!)

I will also be publishing a full list of minibeast inspired activities, songs and books on this blog after a poll on my Instagram received a 100% positive feedback saying you would love to see my lists of theme related activities!

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