Monday, June 22, 2015

Picture book review - A Box of Socks by Amanda Brandon

I want to introduce you to the picture book that inspired my kids to help out with the laundry! Yes, it was an absolute miracle. We read A Box of Socks by Amanda Brandon and illustrated by Catalina Echeverri and then played a fun sock matching game called Go Sock!

Picture book review of A Box of Socks by Amanda Brandon and illustrated by Catalina Echeverri.


Granny Mutton has been busy knitting fabulously colourful socks for all of Little Lionel's friends. She fills the box full of socks and asks Little Lionel to deliver them for her. He managed to carry the box through a muddy field, over a rickety stile and through the gate to the farmyard. Then he runs into Rocky the Sheep-dog's cart and the socks go flying. They are all mixed up and poor Little Lionel doesn't know who they belong to. All the animals end up with the wrong socks. They were too big or too small or they had too many socks for their feet. Little Lionel suggests that they need to swap socks and it's not long before socks are being tossed all over the farm as the animals try to work out which socks belonged to them.


"Grab a sock, try it on, if it's wrong, pass it on."

A Box of Socks is sock-tastic story. A fabulous wooly adventure that is fun to read aloud and perfect for our winter weather right now. There is nothing better than a cosy pair of warm socks, is there? The illustrations by Catalina Echeverri are colourful and full of fun little details. My kids loved seeing all the animals antics after they received the wrong socks. 

A picture book that inspires my kids to help out with the laundry is pretty fabulous in my opinion. 

Book Details:
Title: A Box of Socks
Author: Amanda Brandon
Illustrator: Catalina Echeverri
Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 9781848861701

After reading A Box of Socks the kids really wanted to do a sock related craft activity, but knowing how many socks I needed matching in my laundry basket, I convinced them that a sock matching game would be way more fun. The only trouble was, I had no idea how to make sock matching fun.

That's when I began to think about the matching card games we have been playing lately, since we have been stuck indoors with all the rain, including the classic Go Fish! 

How to play Go Sock! The fun sock matching game that encourages kids to help with the laundry!

So we came up with our own sock matching game based on Go Fish! which we unimaginatively called Go Sock!

All you need to play Go Sock! is a crazy large pile of unmatched socks and two baskets or boxes.

How to play Go Sock:
Divide your pile of unmatched socks into two baskets. We put our baskets on the side, so players could not see each other's sock pile. Each player goes through their pile of socks, and makes any matches they already might have.  Once all matches are made then it's time to play the game. 


How to play Go Sock! The fun sock matching game that encourages kids to help with the laundry!

Each player takes it in turns to ask their opponent if they have a match to their sock ("Have you got a pink fluffy sock?") 


How to play Go Sock! The fun sock matching game that encourages kids to help with the laundry!

If the opponent has the match they hand it over. If they don't have a match they say "Go Sock!" and the player places the unmatched sock in the middle. They then have an opportunity to go through the pile of discarded socks in the middle to see if they create a match. 

The winner is the player with the most socks matched at the end of the game.


Lots of matched socks after playing Go Sock!

Look at all the matched socks! Hooray! Another job done and we had lots of fun doing it. The kids were in fits of laughter all through the game and socks were flying all over the place. We will definitely be playing Go Sock! again.

But what I want to know is how do we have so many odd socks? Looks like I need to go and do some more washing.

Unmatched socks

Let me know if you attempt a game of Go Sock! I would love to hear how it goes. 

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Disclosure: I was provided with review copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Magic Mess Free coloring in with Crayola Color Wonder

This Product Talk is brought to you by Nuffnang and Crayola

We are super excited to be taking a family holiday to New Zealand later in the year. Which means, along with planning our itinerary, I am currently on the look out for some travel activities for the kids. Activities that we can use to keep the kids occupied while we are waiting at the airport or on the aeroplane or for those quiet downtime moments in the hotel. Coloring in is always at the top of our list when travelling and I recently had the opportunity to try the Crayola Color Wonder Mess Free Coloring In. So I thought I would share our experiences with you.

Magic Mess Free Coloring In with Crayola Color Wonder

Crayola Color Wonder Mess Free Coloring Kits include 5 Markers and an 18 page coloring book. The Markers are mess-free and non-toxic. The ink will be clear on most surfaces but they magically show up as different colours on the special Color Wonder paper.

As much as we love coloring in, to be honest, we don't use markers very often. There is a reason and I think this photo explains it all:

Avoid Toddler "Marker Moments" with Crayola Color Wonder Mess Free Coloring In

Yep! When Em was a little younger she decided to jazz up her doll with a little colour, using her big brother's markers! You turn your back for a minute and this happens. Neither of my kids ever seemed interested in drawing on the walls, but as you can see, the dolls weren't so lucky. Don't worry, dolly was as good as new with a little help from some orange oil, but from then on markers are only used while I am in close proximity.

So, you can imagine how interested I was in checking out Crayola's Color Wonder Mess Free Markers.

Frozen Crayola Color Wonder Mess Free Coloring In Kit

Both kids were definitely excited to try them out too, especially Emily, because it was Frozen!!! 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Crayola Color Wonder Mess Free Coloring In Kit

I let them explore the packs themselves, and it didn't take them long to rip open the bags and start coloring. 

Frozen Crayola Color Wonder Mess Free Coloring In Kit

Watching their excitement as they discovered how the Markers worked and then the hidden images as they colored was wonderful. Emily kept saying "Mum, this really is magic!" 

Find the hidden pictures as you color in with Crayola Color Wonder

Since the kids did all the coloring in it's only fair that they tell you what they think of Crayola Color Wonder

James' Review (7yrs):
"I really liked the coloring in because I like Ninja Turtles and the pictures are cool. The markers are white but they actually come out different colors. There are hidden pictures on the page and that's really awesome!"

Emily's Review (4yrs):
"I like the markers because they are white and they change to colors. I like it because it is Frozen and I like the Frozen movie and the Frozen music and I really like Elsa and..." In the interests of keeping this brief, let's just say, Emily really likes Frozen.
Crayola Color Wonder Mess Free Coloring In Kit

I have to admit, we did a few tests with the Markers to see if they really were mess free. We drew on our hands, the table and different paper and yes, they lived up to their mess free claim. I even tested them on the hem of my white tablecloth and guess what, no marks! 

Needless to say, we will be buying a few more to pack in our bags for our upcoming trip to New Zealand. There will be no need to worry about getting marks on the hotel furniture.

You can see the full range of Color Wonder licensed titles on the Crayola website.

Have you had a marker moment with your kids? Did they draw on the walls or on their dolls? 

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Disclosure: I was provided with two Crayola Color Wonder Coloring In packs valued at $13.99 each in exchange for an honest review. My opinions, as always, are my own.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Picture Book Review and Craft: Peas in a Pod by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling have teamed up again to create an utterly adorable picture book called Peas in a Pod.

Peas in a Pod by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Pippa, Pia, Poppy, Polly and Peg are quintuplets, who always do everything the same. They look the same, they eat the same, they sleep the same and they even cry the same. They truly are five little peas in a pod. Then things begin to change. They soon began to realise being the same isn't all it's cracked up to be. They decided to do things a little differently. They started to make small changes at first, like changing their hair styles, then they began wearing different clothes and it wasn't long before their fabulous individual personalities were shining through.

Peas in a Pod is such a fun story about five little girls trying to discover their own identity and what makes them unique. We are all too often surrounded by pressures to be the same and conform but this picture book encourages us to explore our individuality and celebrate what makes us special and unique.

Tina Snerling's illustrations are absolutely adorable. They are full of bold and bright colours and fabulous little details. I just love the girls' rosy little cheeks. The endpapers are wonderful too (and you know just how much I adore beautiful endpapers). Tina's delightful illustrations perfectly match Tania's sweet story. 

Book Details:
Title: Peas in a Pod
Author: Tania McCartney
Illustrator: Tina Snerling
Publisher: EK Books
Publication Date: June 2015
ISBN: 9781921966712
RRP: $24.99

For more information about Peas in a Pod, including Teacher's notes, check out the website.

We have been making puppets a lot lately and the antics of Pippa, Pia, Poppy, Polly and Peg inspired us to make our own little quintuplet puppets.

Super easy craft stick dolls using washi tape and cupcake wrappers for clothing

I discovered some fabulous large craft sticks (just like the doctor's tongue depressors) at a local craft store and knew they would make perfect little dolly puppets. Using a sharpie marker I drew on little faces (as best I could) so that they all looked the same on five craft sticks.

We really wanted our girls to show their individuality too, so we raided the washi tape jar to create their clothing with different colours and patterns. We simply wrapped the tape around the stick and they now had shirts. We then used colourful cupcake papers, folded in half, for there tutu skirts. 

So let me introduce you to our versions of Pippa, Pia, Poppy, Polly and Peg:



Don't they look adorable? 

Storytime craft ideas - craft stick quintuplets for Peas in a Pod by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Emily loves her new little puppets and she had a wonderful time choosing the colour combinations for their clothing. They have made a great addition to her puppet collection and she has been using them to create adorable little stories and plays. She has even moved them into her doll house!

They would also make pretty fabulous bookmarks too I think.

You might also like to check out Tania & Tina's other books - An Aussie Year and Tottie and Dot.

Tottie and Dot by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling


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Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher. My opinions, as always, are my own.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Picture Book Review: Teacup by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley

As soon as I saw the cover of Teacup by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley, I knew this would be a special picture book. The cover artwork is simply stunning and I am the first to admit that I judge a book by it's cover.

Teacup by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley



Once there was a boy who had to leave home...and find another.


Teacup is the story of a young boy who has to leave his homeland on his own and find another. He leaves on a boat with only a book, a bottle, a blanket and a teacup full of earth from where he used to play. He sails away in his boat, in search of a new home. Some days the seas were kind, gently rocking his boat. Then other days the seas were not so kind. Soon he discovers that a plant has sprouted in his teacup and eventually grows into a fine apple tree. The tree provides him with shelter, shade and apples to eat during his long journey. Finally, one day he comes across land, where he can build his new life.

Teacup is a beautiful refugee story. It sensitively tells of the boy's loss, his immense courage, overcoming adversity and his hope for the future. It is a tender and poignant story.

Matt Ottley's stunning oil painting illustrations are subtle and full of emotion. The illustrations, combined with Rebecca Young's tender prose makes a truly extraordinary picture book.


Book Details:
Title: Teacup
Author: Rebecca Young
Illustrator: Matt Ottley
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 9781743623848
RRP: $24.99

After chatting with the kids about the story, they both really wanted to plant a tree in a teacup, just like the boy. So I took a trip to my local op-shop to find some teacups and even though the kids really wanted to plant trees, I thought herbs would be a little more suitable. My parents recently gave us some parsley plants, so we were all prepared.

planting parsley in a teacup

We filled our teacups with soil and planted our parsley seedlings.

planting herbs in a teacup

Gardening with kids: planting herbs in teacups

We now have some gorgeous parsley plants that fit perfectly on our kitchen window sill but at the moment, they take pride of place on the kids' bedside tables. 


Picture book review of Teacup by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley

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We are linking up to the Kidlit Blog Hop. Make sure you check out all the fabulous children's book reviews that have linked up.

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher. My opinions, as always, are my own.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Picture Book Review: A Hot Cup of Chocolate by Rose Stanley and Lisa Allen

The weather has become very wintry here in Canberra all of a sudden. The upside is that it's perfect weather for staying inside and reading together. This week we read A Hot Cup of Chocolate by Rose Stanley and illustrated by Lisa Allen.

Picture Book Review: A Hot Cup of Chocolate by Rose Stanley and Lisa Allen

Johan has a happy home with his Mum, Dad and little sister and he loves sharing a cup of hot chocolate with his family. Johan thinks that a cup of hot chocolate can solve just about any problem (and rightfully so). 
Creamy, milky chocolate... yum!
Was there anything better in the whole, wide world?
Hot chocolate is perfect for warming you up after school on a wet day, or to sip on from a thermos on a frosty morning at Rugby or even to encourage little sisters out of their painful moods. 

Whenever Johan's friend, Henry came over to visit, Johan would make him a hot chocolate. Henry doesn't seem to be in a good mood lately and has been quite angry at school. Henry had a lot going on in his family life with the separation of his parents. Johan tries to be as supportive as he can for his friend, and often that means making Henry a hot cup of chocolate.

A Hot Cup of Chocolate is a lovely story that sensitively deals with the challenging theme of family separation. This picture book would be ideal for a child who has a friend experiencing a family separation, as it helps them understand a little of difficulties their friend may be having. It also beautifully encourages them to be supportive and understanding of their friend during the good days and bad and sometimes, all they need is a cup of hot chocolate. As this is quite a lengthy picture book I would recommend it for older children ages 6 and up. 

Lisa Allen's illustrations are delightful and beautifully compliment the story. I love the little swirls of steam coming off the cups of hot chocolate. 


Book Details:
Title: A Hot Cup of Chocolate
Author: Rose Stanley
Illustrator: Lisa Allen
Publisher: Starfish Bay Publishing
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 9780994100283

With the cold wintry weather, we have started enjoying a delicious cup of hot chocolate in the afternoon after school and on a Friday we might even have a marshmallow or two! We sit together, drinking our hot chocolates and chatting about the day's adventures. Just perfect!


A delicious cup of hot chocolate can solve most problems

There's nothing fancy about our hot chocolates, just warm milk and drinking chocolate, they are utterly delicious.


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Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher. My opinions, as always, are my own.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Picture Book Review: Dear Mum I love You by Ed Allen and Simon Williams

Can you believe that it's May already? How did that happen? With Mother's Day here in Australia this Sunday we have been reading some lovely picture books about Mums, including the newly released Dear Mum, I Love You by Ed Allen and Simon Williams.

Picture book review of Dear Mum, I Love You by Ed Allen and Simon Williams

Dear Mum, I Love You is a delightful celebration of the special relationship between a mother and her child. Each double page spread includes a different animal child and a special letter for their Mum. They are real letters that are either in special envelopes or behind flaps. The letters are utterly adorable and are written from a loving child about how awesomely special their mum is. 
Dear Mum, my favourite place in the whole wide world has been anywhere you are.
Letters from Dear Mum, I Love You by Ed Allen and Simon Williams

The illustrations by Simon Williams are so vibrant and full of fun We loved finding the real letters and taking them out of their envelopes or lifting flaps to read them. So clever and a wonderful way to encourage the kids to engage with the book. It even includes a blank letter template so that you can write a letter to your Mum too.

Letter from Dear Mum, I Love You by Ed Allen and Simon Williams

This is definitely a lovely picture book for Mums to read with their children any time of the year.

Book Details:
Title: Dear Mum, I Love You
Author: Ed Allen
Illustrator: Simon Williams
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 9781743626320
RRP: $16.99

Invitation to Write Mother's Day Letters

I decided to set up a little invitation to write for the kids so that they could write me a letter for Mother's Day, just like those in the story. It was waiting for them after they finished school this afternoon. I even let them use my special letter writing paper!


I love using washi tape to decorate the letters and envelopes that I write, so I included some of my collection for the kids to use too. 

Of course you also need some fancy pens and pencils if you are going to write a special letter! I absolutely love our pencil holders, don't you? (Have you worked out yet that I am a tad obsessed with washi tape?)


We looked back at the letters in the book and noticed that they all started with Dear Mum and ended in From whoever was sending it. This gave the kids a starting point for their letters. 

At that point I was banished from the room. They both decided that their letters were going to be a BIG surprise for Mother's Day. I can't wait until Sunday to see their finished letters. On the up side I was able to catch up on some reading while enjoying a hot cup of tea while the kids were busy.

There is something so special about receiving a real letter isn't there? 

Writing letters is such a wonderful skill for children to develop and it can be fun too. Not only does it provide an opportunity to practise their hand writing skills, but it also helps to develop an understanding of how letters can be used as a form of communication and importantly how a letter is structured.

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Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher. My opinions, as always, are my own.
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