* Disclaimer: The subscription featured has been gifted for the purpose of this review. *
* However all thoughts and opinions are our own. *
This year has completely changed how I view learning at home, We've homeschooled and seen a new online learning system for homework become the new normal. Now with Christmas and a New year on the horizon I have been looking into finding out apps and online sites that are good for educational games and learning content in a safe way. When I heard from Busy Things I was really interested to see how their whole system worked.
Busy Things is an online learning system that allows your household to access learning games and activities using their own logins without losing control of what children are accessing. The site is set up to allow children access to games and activities with independent login details, easy to navigate pages and the content available is based on their school curriculum. It's a perfect combination of safety and technology based learning at home.
When you first log in to Busy Things you open up a new window and your parent account is able to access a bar across the top with options including talk to us, my children's profile's and settings. In the my children's profiles section you will be able to add up to five different children. Each child profile lets you add a unique username and password for independent log in, their own name, age/learning level and a customisable icon for their profile.
In this children's profiles area you will also be able to edit which areas and activities are available for your child on their profile. This is perfect for if you want to ensure your child focuses on certain learning areas or if you need to remove anything for any other reasons. I like that this is a feature although I can't see it being one we make much use of.
Once everything has been set up your child or children can get in using their own login details (you can also access through the parent account too). Their screen is set up with easy access in mind, the home screen is designed with large square shapes that contain both an illustration and a category name, these can be subjects or a general idea of what activities will show up when you click it.
Throughout the whole Busy Things site there are hundreds of activities and games to play that cover the learning ranges from nursery (age 3-4) up to year 5-6 or Primary 6-7 here in NI (age 9-11). Depending on the age and learning level you will be able to choose and see different activities and games. Scarlet (nursery) sees a very different options than Dylan (Year 3-4) does. However some of the activities are very similar across the board, for example the current festive games and activities are the same across the board but are altered for each learning stage.
While there are many educational areas inside Busy Things you can also find activities that are just for fun, Scarlet in particular enjoys playing the games in this section. She is still exploring all of the areas and activities available on Busy Things but she has particularly liked the Personal, Social and Emotional development games like building a sandwich. Now that doesn't sound to you and me like something under that category but the pop up for opening the game gives you talking points that makes the game relative. I like that Busy Things has thought the games and activities through enough to provide points for conversations and engagement with children to add on to the learning.
Dylan so far is enjoying the maths based learning, he likes being able to use his strengths to make the games work. He has particularly enjoyed playing the newer Christmas themed game Santa's Sleigh Dash - Mental Maths. It encouraged him to get his sleigh to the end and advance more on his maths in a timely manner to finish the game. I actually think we'll use this games words version once he's got his goal of hitting 5 stars on the Maths game.
I am honestly surprised by how great the Busy Things site is. I feel secure knowing what the children can access and not having to doubt myself on if it is suitable for them. Scarlet is happy with the games she can access while many are similar enough to Dylan's games that they can both play at the same time without fighting, which is a huge plus for me!
Another great thing about Busy Things is that they offer the option to gift a subscription, with Christmas coming up I think this can be a great gift. It even comes with a printable certificate. This year both Dylan and Scarlet have asked Santa for a new tablet, being able to add on to that with a subscription to Busy Things adds on an excitement and an instant playability with minimal setting up.
I am delighted with Busy Things and I think it is something that will be able to work for every family, you can easily access and change the learning level of each child so even those who are more advanced in learning can still be involved and challenged to learn.
You can purchase a subscription to Busy Things for just £34.99 but over this Black Friday weekend they have a sale for just £24.99 what a bargain!
Taking time to read in the evening for our bedtime routine has always been a big thing for us as a family and it's a part of our daily lives now. I really love that having this regular reading time means all three children are often found with a book of their own through the day at some stage and it's these books that I like to think of as their favourites. Our favourites tend to change along with the book selection which I swap out at least once every month, from here on out I wanted to start regularly sharing what books are big hits and end up being read over and over again. Let's face it, we all have those books our children just can't get enough of!
The big favourite book this last month was The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & the Beast written by Abuse Longstaff and illustrated by Lauren Beard. It's actually one that has been in our collection for a while but has been recently rediscovered and enjoyed, particularly by Scarlet. She found it in the bookcase first and has been found almost every day sat at her little table looking through all the pages.
The book is from The Fairytale Hairdresser collection which currently has eight books published with the wonderful main character Kitty Lacey, a hairdresser who lives in Fairyland. Her clients are all familiar characters found inside our beloved children's fairytales. Each story has it's own little twist from the originals and I find we all enjoy the little differences. I think The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & the Beast is actually my personal favourite from the series too.
In The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & the Beast you follow the story of Bella, Kittie's friend who is a painter. There is a big ball coming up in Fairyland to celebrate the birthday of Cinderella and Prince Charming's son. It's as you can imagine a very busy time for Kittie Lacey getting everyone ready for the ball. While on a picnic break with Bella to test out hairstyles it begins raining. They escape to Beast's castle for shelter, well I'm sure you know most of the story from there. Although this version contains a few more twists and a whole lot more hair!
We see Beast's feelings coming out in The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & the Beast as he expresses his fears and confides in his friend Kittie Lacey. You can read all about who Beast was before the wicked curse was cast upon him and watch his transformation as Kittie Lacey works her hair magic just in time for the ball and his true transformation but will Beau be able to find his own perfect style once he is no longer a Beast?
I have so many favourite pieces to this story but one that I really enjoy seeing is that Bella is actually a person of colour, she has beautiful dark skin and her hair is a voluminous afro. Kittie Lacey can be seen to use the right combs and hairstyles for Bella's hair. It's refreshing to see a whole mix of characters and skin tones featured inside a story based on the fairytales we all know and love.
The story also touches several times on the various jobs people in Fairyland have, the jobs are vast with Bella herself being the official royal artist. How cool is that? There are many jobs in Fairyland which have wonderful characters with their own stories. Usually in fairytale style books the things like jobs are quickly rushed over or completely left behind. This aspect adds to the reality comparisons in The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & The Beast.
All in all I think it's a great book, it's diverse, full of great characters and has the whole fairytale experience but in a different way than the classics. The bright colourful illustrations bring the whole world to life on the pages of the book too. We would defiantly recommend this book to any fairytale style book fans. It makes a great addition to any collection and would even make for a good Christmas gift.
You can purchase your own copy of The Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & The Beast for just £5.94 on Amazon.
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We're starting another new week of homeschooling and I am starting to struggle with finding fun things to do that break up our day after...