Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Sensational Butterflies NHM In Review

So we recently took a trip to the Natural History Museum in London and visited their temporary butterfly house exhibit "Sensational Butterflies". Here are our thoughts...

Firstly WOW, what an experience!! There are very few butterfly houses left to visit in England and certainly not in the London area (The 'London Butterfly House' at Syon Park sadly closed in 2007). Whether or not your children take an interest in entomology, I personally think being surrounded by beautiful colourful exotic butterflies is a wonderful experience for boys and girls of all ages. And certainly something everyone should have the opportunity to experience at least once in their lifetime!

On an educational level (as would be expected of the NHM) the different species of butterflies and moths living inside the exhibit is clearly shown on an identification board, a few steps into the butterfly house itself...

As you can see from my picture, you really do get up close and personal with the butterflies, and they do with you! This curious little 'Hypolimnas bolina' came to photo bomb my picture...hehe.
Children are given little cards of the 'stages of a butterfly' which they are encouraged to stamp with pictures at stamping stations throughout the pathway around the butterfly house. Towards the end of the pathway there is also a large display of hanging caterpillar cocoons - which if you are lucky you may see butterflies emerging from. Once again adding to the educational value of the exhibit. And something that most school-age children are familiar with.

Considering that we visited during the busy summer school holidays, I would say that it was well managed, with a handful of knowledgeable staff dotted around to speak to/ask questions to and although crowded within the exhibit, people walked through the pathway at a reasonable pace - considering there are hundreds of butterflies to stop and look at, constantly fluttering all over the place, caterpillars to spot camouflaged in the fauna and resting butterflies to admire. We really enjoyed looking at the different patterns on resting butterflies once they spread their wings open as a pose to the pattern on the underside of their wings when closed. We also had several butterflies land on us! Which was of course what most people are hoping for, and quite a special moment for children :) (Top Tip for encouraging this - wear brightly coloured clothes!!!) 

Was it worth the price? It most certainly was! We spent almost half an hour in here and we paid £5.50 per adult & children over 4 (which includes a voluntary donation to NHM), children under 4 years are free. And family tickets (4 people) are available for £19. We loved it so much that we most definitely plan to visit again before the exhibit closes on 14th September. And if you do decide to visit, don't forget to take a trip into to the NHM, Science Museum or V&A Museum afterwards... all of which are free and no more than a 5 min walk from here.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Mythical Maze Summer Reading Challenge in review

Mythical Maze, Summer Reading Challenge 2014

So we signed up for this magically titled Summer Reading Challenge at our local library. They have taken my sons details in exchange for him reading 6 library books over the summer which we receive little prizes for (poster, stickers, bracelet, etc) each time we reach the end of a book. And what do I think?

Well ultimately I'm impressed, I'm impressed this scheme exists to inspire little heads and hearts to experience enjoyment in reading which is so paramount to establish during childhood. My 5 year old adores books already, but he is super excited about the incentive of a sticker in return for doing something he enjoys :) I also think that this is a fantastic incentive as its free, and relatively low-cost for the libraries themselves to put on as a summer reading incentive. Which makes it accessible to children from all backgrounds, ages 4-13+ and is of course equally devised to encouraged children whom are not so readily inclined to read as an activity to participate. The part which I especially love about the scheme is the complete and utter level of free-choice in book to read, there is no guidance at all (unless you want recommendations, you can speak to a library assistant or use a section on the "Mythical Maze" website. Which makes the scheme appeal to pretty much everyone. Second to that is that the scheme also incorporates audio books (should you so wish to use them) if your child wants to read a book beyond their current reading ability or even would prefer a certain book read to them by mummy or daddy. Making the focus on a love of books, without any pressure on scholarly reading.

But how well is it advertised? We were prompted by a general handout from my sons primary school to sign up (not sure if this is the case for all schools?) And I believe I have seen something in one of the "families" magazines, which you can pick up from local libraries, children's centers, schools etc. But not much else that I have personally come across to get the word out about this free inspiring summer scheme. However it would appear from the website that there is a whole host of celebrity status children's authors involved with this.

What's available? Well obviously the local libraries will vary greatly depending on areas, and I would imagine the best selection of materials would be in large city libraries. Our local library's children section is of a moderate size, however they rarely have multiple copies of books.... especially not with the reading books aimed at young readers (still learning to read). Which is certainly somewhat of an oversight in relation to this particular scheme. As those shelves were relatively empty today...just one day into the summer holidays. However this made way for a more interesting selection of books which we did borrow.

Expect both book reviews on these and how we get along with the reading scheme over the summer to follow....

And if you are also inspired to loose your children in "Mythical Maze" of library books... then please take a look at the website for more information!

The Summer Holidays are upon us.... THIS is our summer survival guide....

It seems I have been awaiting this glorious few weeks all year...no crazy morning school runs, no broken afternoon pick-ups, no uniform to get ready, no lunchbox to pack. Instead... actually getting to spend ALL day with my eldest son, free of time-restraints, connected relationship building time, shared meals, casually long walks outside, shared hobbies, family craft time, day trips, home learning, lots and lots and lots of cuddles... all my dreams and fantasies of being the stay-at-home-mummy I am!

So I'm sitting here waiting for this golden time of the summer to dawn, AND HERE IT IS! He had his first day off today, what are we doing? Where's my planner? Boy he talks a lot.... Its only 14:49 but feels like it should be 18:49 lol!! 

In all actuality we did do *something* today, we started on our local libraries summer reading challenge ...more about that later. And we ticked off everything on my summer daily-to-do list, which is what I want to share with you all now...

(excuse my haphazard version which I drew up shortly after waking this morning.) Please find an updated, printable one, which you can add to/change to suit your own needs here....

I plan to laminate this and stick it up on my fridge each day as my go-to Boredom Buster, because with SO many things that the three of us want to do each day, it will be easy to miss out on the things we would actually find satisfying to do, things that will feed both our imagination and intellect.

Furthermore we have also decided to theme each week of the holidays with a "topic" to learn about, craft on, theme food around (where possible), role-play and generally to focus on as an inspiration for the week. In all fairness I did not choose the topics for my two naturally creative children, rather we did a paper in jar lottery to choose these themes which will engage us all at different levels. I plan to blog post on these themes throughout the summer in hope to share our ideas/experiences and inspire creativity to crush out boredom for all of my readers along the way.