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Juliette (Bedfordshire)

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Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape
Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape
by Jay Griffiths
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force provided you get on with Griffiths' writing style, 22 Feb. 2016
I struggled to decide how to rate this book. I have to confess that I don't enjoy Jay Griffith's writing style and found myself skimming large sections towards the end of the book. I can see how her writing could be described as almost poetic but it reminds me too much of the sort of thing we were forced to read in English lessons at school. If you have a more refined appreciation of such a style of writing than I do, then you may love her prose and I can certainly imagine that many people would.

On the other hand, there are some interesting ideas in the book and I am glad that I read it. Many of the topics that she addresses have already been written about by other people - the importance of nature and free play to children, the hurriedness that often consumes childhood today, the defects with our current education system and the wrongness of corporal punishment. On the other hand she has interesting things to say about the importance of land and its exploration and knowledge and children, on the role of fairy tales, vision quests and carnivals and circuses. It is good to have a book that brings all of these ideas together is a polished way and Griffiths' experience of various primitive cultures gives the book a depth that wouldn't have been achievable with just desk research.

The book is a diagnosis rather than a prescription and as a parent this feels like the most frustrating aspect - it makes for a rather depressing read as you have limited power to change the society in which you live. How do you reconcile giving freedom to children with ready availability of television and sugar? What do you do when your breastfed, cosleeping baby does not sleep to the extent where it threatens your health or sanity? I also feel like the book did not stand up to scrutiny in places - primitive cultures are so different from ours that it is difficult to pinpoint which differences matter and which do not. Griffiths does not discuss the role of work for children in non-Western cultures, surveys of children's happiness across different cultures, mention Heidi Keller's studies of toddlers, or indeed the possible role of diet. It is also easy to paint an idealistic view of such primitive cultures and it seems quite possible to me that a childhood that prepares a child best for a happy and worthwhile life in our culture could look quite different.

Overall though, I think this book is certainly a worthwhile read if you enjoy Griffiths' style and are interested in parenting for all the ideas that it brings together in one place.


Grimm's Toys Rainbow Stacking Toy, xtra-large
Grimm's Toys Rainbow Stacking Toy, xtra-large
Offered by etailz UK
Price: £53.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice ornament, not so good as a toy as breaks easily, 21 Feb. 2016
This is pretty and it feels good quality - however, we have had two pieces break when they've been dropped from a bit under window ledge height. For a toy that costs so much, I'd expect it to be much more durable and I can see that I'm going to end up throwing it away if we lose too many more of the pieces. It also really hasn't been played with all that much by my two (aged 2 and 5 - we've had it for two years now so a decent span of ages) - a tiny bit but not a lot. If you want to get one as a nice ornament for a nursery (and keep your kids away from it or at least make sure they play at floor level!) then it might be a nice purchase, but I wouldn't get one with the expectation that it'll be a great toy.


OXO Tot Training Plate (Aqua)
OXO Tot Training Plate (Aqua)
Price: £6.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK but not sure I would buy again, 21 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I got these because I liked the OXO cutlery, and these are probably slightly better quality than many of the plates out there - and they are good in terms of having a decent rim which makes it easier to get food onto a spoon or fork. However, once you've bought a few of them which you will need to, they are very slightly on the pricy side, and the base does scratch and stain easily so they don't stain pristine for long. I also found them a bit on the small side - you couldn't fit a sandwich in it for example unless you cut it up and piled up the pieces, and my two year old really needs a larger plater now, so they haven't had as long a lifespan as I might have liked. The other thing I found a pain is that the coloured rim comes off - so you need to take it off and refix when you clean them as otherwise food gets trapped (and you have the issue of toddlers/kids thinking it is fun to take the rims off!). Overall, I guess they did the job I needed for a couple of years, but especially with the staining and size, not sure that I would recommend them.


Playgo Spiral Draw
Playgo Spiral Draw
Offered by EuropaDepot
Price: £23.05

1.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't work terribly well, 13 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Playgo Spiral Draw (Toy)
We got given one of these as a present and although it is a nice idea - a spirograph where you just turn a handle, it just does not work very well partly because the pens don't press hard enough andnpartly because the cogwheel set-up doesn't work very well.

It also only comes with six pieces of paper which feels very measly especially when the paper is a non-standard size. You can obviously up our own paper but that is a pain. Finally, you can only use pens that fit exactly so as soon as the included pens are used up, you will have to somehow find pens that fit.
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ThinkFun Robot Turtles Board Game
ThinkFun Robot Turtles Board Game
Price: £19.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure it lives up to the hype, 30 Oct. 2015
So my 4 year old son loves this game, which probably means I should rate it higher than 3 stars. However, I'm rather more ambivalent, though feel it has potential.

The idea is that each player has a turtle that they move through a maze of walls, sliding blocks etc. to get the jewels. They do this by playing cards that are essentially 'straight on', 'left' or 'right'. You can either play a version where they play one card a time or a version where they play up to a specified (or unlimited) number of cards at a time. As we currently only have one child of an appropriate age, we've never played it competitively as it'd be trivial for an adult - only in a solitaire type mode. It might be more fun as a competitive game. I should also add that I have the kickstarter version and I'm not sure how exactly it differs from this version.

I have a few issues with it:

- it really needs a book of interesting mazes to go with it. One of the cards that it introduces is a 'function frog' that lets you do a sequence by playing just one card, but it's non-trivial to construct non-boring mazes which benefit especially from this introduction, and in solitaire mode, it's a bit pointless. In terms of introducing programming, without this, I feel that what it teaches about programming is rather limited.
- there are a lot of different rulesets that you can play with, which gets a bit confusing as you have to agree which rules you are playing with before you start. I can see why it does this in terms of gradually making the game harder, but it still doesn't quite work for me.
- It could do with more guidance (and ideally a small board for each player maybe with a different side for two different rulesets) as to how to lay out cards during play. I find that the cards get chaotic very quickly and a 4 year old isn't brilliant at following instructions, especially when parents are inconsistent!
- Overall, I'm not sure I totally enjoy the job of moving the turtle - it does get a little bit boring
- And a very minor thing, it's a bit of pain sorting out the cards again after each game


Chess Is Child's Play: Teaching Techniques That Work
Chess Is Child's Play: Teaching Techniques That Work
by Laura Sherman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.13

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent walkthrough of how to teach chess to young children, 30 Oct. 2015
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I wish I'd bought this book before trying to teach my four year old to play chess. I thought because I knew how to play chess that it'd be easy, and I'd read various things about teaching pawns first, but it didn't really work. Going through this book has worked much better.

It starts with rooks, then bishops and the queen and the concepts of taking pieces and attacking and defending pieces, moving onto a mini-game where you each have those pieces and just try and take the opponents' pieces. It then moves on to the king, check and checkmate, which were concepts that I'd found it hard to explain, but which my son having worked through the book, didn't have any problem with (at this point I also introduced a mini-game, not in the book, where he had lots of pieces and I had just a king and he had to try and checkmate me, which worked quite well and which I would recommend). It then covers the knight, pawns, and rules such as castling.

It doesn't cover anything in terms of tactics or strategy, and for older children you could probably just explain the rules and then get on with it, but I found the way it ordered everything and the explanations it had for introducing the various aspects of the rules very well thought ought and obviously well tested on actual children. Definitely much better than trying to wing it!


Childrens Parties - The Ultimate Guide for Parents: How to Throw the Best Kids€™ Party, or Planning a Fun Birthday Party
Childrens Parties - The Ultimate Guide for Parents: How to Throw the Best Kids€™ Party, or Planning a Fun Birthday Party
Price: £1.19

2.0 out of 5 stars Very short and nothing more than common sense, 12 Oct. 2015
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Even for the price of just over a pound, this book is incredibly short - I find it hard to believe that the main content could have taken more than an evening to write - and it took me about ten or twenty minutes maybe to read. It's one possibly redeeming feature is the appendix with the party games in it (but come-on a book about children's parties without pass-the-parcel in the list of games?)

Content-wise, I was hoping for some tips on how to make a birthday party a bit special (or indeed how to handle a group of five year old boys!). If you've never been to a children's birthday party, then the content might be useful, but it's all things like what to include on the invitation, tips like having a table for presents, and suggestions of things like stickers and novelty toys for the party bags and cocktail sausages and crisps for food. Really if you have been to two or three children's birthday parties and are moderately practical then you are not going to learn anything. The author is a brownie guide leader and the games are quite focused on that type of age group as a result - the list did remind me of a few games from my own days as a girl guide leader that I had forgotten, but some are games that rely on having a moderate amount of space or number of participants to work and I'm sure there are better books/lists of games out there if that is what you are after. There is a checklist at the end of what to do when which might be the other thing possibly useful if you like help with that sort of thing - though I'm not sure I'd agree with her recommendation of sending invites out just two weeks in advance if you don't want to risk a best friend not being able to come or a clash with another friend's birthday party!


Original Invero® Google Asus / Samsung Nexus 4 / 7 / 10 Tablet Micro Usb Mains Wall Charger / Power Supply - With Charging Indicating Light - Mains Charger Micro Usb Pin Uk Ce Rohs Approved
Original Invero® Google Asus / Samsung Nexus 4 / 7 / 10 Tablet Micro Usb Mains Wall Charger / Power Supply - With Charging Indicating Light - Mains Charger Micro Usb Pin Uk Ce Rohs Approved
Offered by DNG Accessories UK
Price: £1.80

1.0 out of 5 stars Does not work on Google Nexus 4, 10 Oct. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For information, does not fit in the slot on a Google Nexus 4 properly - only recharges if you hold it carefully in place which is obviously useless (also took a very long time to arrive - which is information probably provided but which I failed to notice!).


The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance
The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance
by Josh Waitzkin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not life-changing, 7 Aug. 2015
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This book is pleasantly readable. It is part an autobiography of Josh Waitzkin's journeys playing chess and practising Tai Chi Push Hands and part his observations on learning that he has accrued along the way.

Many of his theories and ideas about learning are about performance psychology. He discusses ideas related to not being knocked off your game by your first mistake, making sure that you have periods of relaxation between periods of intense stress/concentration, how to harness your emotions and create triggers to put yourself in the zone. He also talks about using psychology against your opponent. These sections on psychology were for me the most interesting part of the book though much is only really applicable in a competitive context. The material on how to learn to be good at things in the first place was weaker in my opinion and essentially boils down to concentrating on the fundamentals (e.g. focus on really understanding endgames in chess rather than spending lots of time learning openings) and that if you spend time lots of time analysing and concentrating on details, your mind will gradually start to recognise patterns so that you can stop worrying about those details and then see things from a higher perspective.

Personally I quite enjoyed the autobiographical parts - I played enough chess in my youth to appreciate the sections on chess and also do Tai Chi and I imagine anybody who has played a reasonable amount of chess or done a martial art will enjoy the insider view of what it is like to train and perform at a high level in those. However there are quite lengthy descriptions of Tai Chi Pushing Hands matches and the like which I can imagine might start to bore somebody with less of an interest!


Learning Habit: A Grounbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting That Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life
Learning Habit: A Grounbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting That Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life
by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read - especially the section on homework, 18 May 2015
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This book gave me quite a bit of food for thought. There is quite a bit of overlap with other parenting books (validating emotions, praise for effort rather than achievement, allowing children to make their own choices and learn from the consequences as much as possible). However I found the sections that focused on habits related to media, homework, time-management and so on quite interesting - the book is informed by the Learning Habits Survey conducted in 2013 of 50000 students across the US and and it was nice to read a book attempting to be based on actual evidence.

Where it failed slightly for me was assuming that the goal of parenting was good educational results, assuming that correlation implied causation and looking at children's habits rather than parents' habits (the latter of which you actually have power over!). It also wasn't always clear which recommendations in the book came directly from the survey and which from the authors' personal experience. Oh and the authors seem to have an obsession with children making their own beds - don't they have duvets in the states?!

Despite being able to poke holes in some of the arguments, the book is a good guide for anybody trying to take an 'authoritative' approach to parenting. It complements Kazdin's 'The Everyday Parenting Toolkit', Faber and Mazlish's 'How to Talk to Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk' and Duhigg's 'The Power of Habit' pretty well. It does encourage the creation of household rules and consistency in terms of applying those rules, but is anti-punishment.

The book divides its recommendations into 'eight essential learning habits': media management, academic homework and reading, time management, goal-setting, effective communication, responsible decision-making, concentrated focus and self-reliance ('grit'). The sections on media and homework are pretty detailed and the book will definitely inform the approach that I take to homework with my children.

It concludes with '21 Family Challenges' which are one-day experiments such as a role swap between children and parents, a challenge to get everybody to use media to create something new (as opposed to using media for consumption), or getting each person in the family to do something adventurous which the haven't done before.

Overall, definitely a worthwhile read with ideas and suggestions that I hadn't seen elsewhere.


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