Archives for September 2015

Do we underestimate the impact of stories and role models on our children?

This is a guest post from Ben Cook, co-founder and creator of the Clever Tykes books, helping children ages 6-9 think more positively and be more enterprising.

Stories are so important to us. Our lives are made up of an intertwined series of stories involving different characters, plots and twists. Stories take many forms; fact, fiction, long and short, simple and complex. We use stories to educate, inform, inspire and entertain. They’re so powerful because they take us on a journey that changes the way we think about something.

Sometimes, I think we underestimate how important stories are. See if you agree.

We humans are complex and intelligent (at least we like to think we are!) but much of our learning processes remain instinctive. We learn from our experiences and the experiences of others. How quickly do even the most primitive of creatures learn not to touch something if it gives them an electric shock, for example? But more than that, if they see another creature suffer the same experience, they too will avoid the booby-trap. And it’s this that has meant stories have been used to pass on knowledge and wisdom of thousands of years.

Kids make a lot of mistakes – and that’s great.

It means they’re trying something new, not fearing failure and they’re going to learn valuable lessons. But we don’t want them to have to make every single mistake anyone has ever made – we help them to avoid some of them by passing on our own experiences and those of others. And that’s where stories come in. Rather than telling children what is right and wrong and why they should or shouldn’t do something, stories are a powerful way to convey these messages.

A myriad of life lessons are to be learned from fairy tales, fables and children’s stories with strong morals. So it shouldn’t be underestimated how important the stories to which we subject today’s children are. Who are their role models? Who are the heroes they aspire to be? Are they the characters you want them to learn from? Unfortunately we live in a society where sex sells and controversy commands, which means we see a lot of questionable role models in the media.

If we’ve been using storytelling for millennia to inspire and educate children, are we paying enough attention to what they’re seeing today? The world is so fast-paced, the skills and attitudes required to succeed in modern society are much changed from even only 20 years ago. Do today’s stories really match up to the values and traits we need to see in children?

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

– Alvin Toffler

Code_It_Cody_CleverTykesI think this is very apt with the developments in technology in today’s society.

That’s why we decided to develop the Clever Tykes books – to create role models and stories that are applicable both to today’s challenges and opportunities. Technology plays a role in the stories, particularly Code-it Cody (as you might imagine!) whilst focusing on those skills and traits that are universally important and always will be – creativity, resourcefulness and resilience.

Being mindful of the experiences children learn from in today’s fast-paced media and marketing-driven society is probably more vital than ever before.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, you can read my full PR and disclosure policy here.

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Making friends with the school monsters | From Mushroom’s mouth

Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve got to talk to you directly. I’ve been a bit busy, you see. Since I talked about being big and starting school in May, I’ve been hanging out with Mummy over the summer and getting ready to actually start Big School (you know, in Real Life).

Here are some of the words I’ve been using to describe school the past couple of weeks (I have learned some new words. Some are a bit big): Scary. Exciting. Weird. Confusing. Awesome. Wrong (they do some things all wrong!). Silver (I am on silver in my class because I am helpful and kind). Grown-up. Cool (I think I am cool now. I even carry my school backpack on one shoulder like the big kids. Mummy does not appreciate this).

So, what was my first day like? Well, I hitched a ride on Daddy and that was fun. I was so excited to be in my uniform and really starting… but when I got there I was scared. I wanted Mummy and Daddy to stay and keep me safe. They stayed a little while but then they had to go. I cried for my friend in another class, and all my nursery friends who I knew and missed. Everything was so new and big! I thought I could see monsters everywhere and I didn’t feel very big.

The day got better. I had a nice time but was so tired at the end of the day. I fell asleep on the sofa and Mummy woke me for dinner!  I Was. Not. Happy. But once I’d calmed down, I told Mummy about the monsters and we talked about making friends with them. I felt a bit better but I was still scared in the mornings for the next two days and cried a bit (big boys do cry, you know). However (do you like my big word?), by the end of the week I was getting used to my monsters and there were no tears. I was still nervous going in but there is just so much to look forward to each day!

Pencil sharpeners are awesome. And a bit weird.

Pencil sharpeners are awesome. And a bit weird.

Last week I started going to breakfast and teatime club some days and that was like starting all over again. I get a big breakfast if I want (spaghetti hoops on toast!) but mostly I had cereal as I find it hard to use my big voice to ask for things. Mummy asks for me sometimes. On the days I do both clubs I get so tired and want to nap! Sometimes I get a bit cross with Mummy or Daddy when they come to get me because all I want to do is sleep. I have made a good friend though, he’s bigger than me – 6, nearly 7! – so I listen very carefully to everything he tells me about school because he knows so much. He told me he used to be very quiet at school too, when he first started. He’s not quiet now! I like him a lot.

Remember those monsters I thought I saw on my first day..? Most of them have gone now. Mummy and I are getting used to the new routine (Friday is ‘treat day’ after school, that’s my favourite) and I’ve made some lovely friends. So, even if more monsters show up, I think me and my new friends can take them on together.

How about you? Are your kids getting used to school/being back at school? Are you? Do you have monsters you need to make friends with too..?


Rainy day solutions from Parragon Books – A review round-up

This summer we received two treats from Parragon Books, both of which were fantastic for surviving the rainy days (and waiting in restaurants, among other things!): The Massive Monster Activity Pack and Spot A Lot: Animals Jigsaw.

The Monster Activity Pack came in July and we are still making the most of it! It really is a monster of a pack, made up of four books: doodles, muddles (that’s monster-speak for puzzles!), a colouring book, and – Mushroom’s favourite by far – a sticker book with 500 STICKERS! The sticker book came on a few restaurant trips with us during the summer and diverted at least two potential meltdowns.

Both of the Monster Pack and the Spot A Lot book and jigsaw set come in lovely briefcase-style packaging, perfect for little hands to cart around when on trips although as the title of this post suggests, we made the most of these during some of the rainy days we had this summer.

The Spot A Lot: Animals Jigsaw  set came in August and Mushroom was excited because we already know the story as we received the large book last October (our first title from Parragon!) so he couldn’t wait to put the jigsaw together. I didn’t tell him about the reverse side until we’d finished and he looked at me like I was mad when I suggested we turn it over… His response? “WOW! Mummy that’s AWESOME!” Can I colour it? Really?”

We are colouring it a little at a time and still have much of the picture to complete but we’re not in a hurry. And we still have all those monsters to colour in too!

Both of these books would make great presents (and I highly recommend the Monster Pack as a travel companion), especially if you add a pack of colouring pencils or crayons – you could even pop them inside, so the happy recipient is good to get started right away!

Disclosure: Mushroom and I are Parragon Book Buddies and receive a new book to read and review each month. All views are our own. Read my full PR and disclosure policy here. Spot A Lot: Animals Jigsaw is available at Smyths Toys.

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School run

It’s been a week of firsts… But of course we have been most preoccupied with the First Day of Big School. We are only two days in so I won’t make any assumptions yet. Mushroom seems to be happy at the end of the day, and that’s what matters. Once he is really settled later this month, I’ll let him share his reflections in a new Mushroom’s mouth post, following on from his concerns earlier this year.

In the meantime, here are two alternative photos of the school run 😉

Hitching a ride

Hitching a ride

Letting off steam

Letting off steam

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Conversations with Mushroom #9: The End of the World


Mushroom and  are playing his favourite game: Superheroes. He decides we should both be villans and actually achieve our evil plan (blowing up the world), without the interference of Batman, Superman, Spiderman, pizza-eating Turtles or even the Ninjago Ninjas. I ask him if he’s sure he wants the bad guys to win. He says yes. I wonder whether I should say something, that this could be a learning moment, somehow… But then think I’m probably attaching too much meaning to it. As he would say. “It’s JUST A GAME, Mummy”.

So, we run around a lot defeating all the obstacles the imaginary good guys have put in our way (it’s surprising easy to cut through Spiderman’s webs and sidestep a spinjitsu spin when you’re on the other side of the good guy/bad guy party). Then we have the button that will Blow Up The World.

Me: Are u sure we should press this?

Mushroom: Yes, press it.

Me: You want me to? But then there will be no-one left in the whole world!

Mushroom: There will be, there will be us. Press it.

Me: You press it.

Mushroom: *rolls eyes and presses imaginary button*


Mushroom: *side eye* It’s not a noisy one.

Me: Well, ok. We blew up the world. Now what?

Mushroom: Don’t know. Have a cup of tea?

Me: A cup of tea?

Mushroom: Yes, I’ll make it.

Me: Mushroom, that is such a stereotypically British thing to do! *laughing*

Mushroom: …?

I know we are British but this just made me laugh so hard – it was like something from a movie parodying us… We just blew up the world? Time for tea!




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