26 March 2009

Blog Roll - Totsy's Place

Totsy's Place is the blog from the founders of Talking Tots, Tracey and Lisa. It has all the news from Talking Tots plus other speech, language and communication news, ideas and product reviews.

We think it's definitely worth a read - let us know what you think.

25 March 2009


I've been reading a lot of blogs recently and last week I read this post on Because Babies Grow Up which is about a shape song - found at CanTeach Shapes and this has inspired me to write a post here all about teaching shapes.
As Amber says, basic shapes are the foundation for so many things that little ones learn. Drawing shapes is a precursor to writing as children have to master moving the pencil deliberately to create something before they can fine tune that to make letters. Shapes are also a precursor to advanced drawing - if children can see how complex figures are made up of simple shapes, then they can draw them by combining basic shapes into something complex. Recognising shapes is a precursor to literacy and numeracy as letters and numbers are just more complicated shapes.
Shape Songs (from CanTeach Shapes)
In addition to the one that Amber posted here are some songs to help teach about shapes:

Shape Song - to the tune of: "The Farmers in the Den"
A circle's like a ball, A circle's like a ball,
Round and round It never stops.
A circle's like a ball!
A square is like a box, A square is like a box,
It has four sides, They are the same.
A square is like a box!

A triangle has 3 sides, A triangle has 3 sides,
Up the mountain, Down, and back.
A triangle has 3 sides!
A rectangle has 4 sides, A rectangle has 4 sides,
Two are long, and Two are short.
A rectangle has 4 sides!
Shapes - to the tune of: "Frere Jacques"
This is a square. This is a square.
How can you tell? How can you tell?
It has four sides, All the same size.
It's a square. It's a square.

This is a circle. This is circle.
How can you tell? How can you tell?
It goes round and round, No end can be found.
It's a circle. It's a circle.
This is a triangle. This is a triangle.
How can you tell? How can you tell?
It only has three sides, That join to make three points.
It's a triangle. It's a triangle.

This is a rectangle. This is a rectangle.
How can you tell? How can you tell?
It has two short sides, And it has two long sides.
It's a rectangle. It's a rectangle.
Make A Circle - to the tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel"
Round and round on the paper I go,
What fun to go around like so,
What have I made, do you know?
I made a circle!

Make A Square - to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"
From the bottom to the top,
Straight across and then you stop,
Straight down to the bottom again,
Across and stop where you began,
If the lines are the same size,
Then a square is you surprise.

Make a Triangle - to the tune of "Three Blind Mice"
One, two, three; one, two, three
Do you see? Do you see?
Up the hill and to the top,
Down the hill and then you stop,
Straight across;
tell me what have you got?
A triangle--a triangle!

Make A Rectangle - to the tune of "The Incey Wincey Spider"
A long line at the bottom,
A long line at the top,
A short line to connect each side,
A rectangle you've got!
A short line at the bottom
A short line at the top
A long line to connect each side
A rectangle you've got!

Resources for Teaching Shapes
At Littlesheep Learning we have a collection of resources for teaching shapes. These include:

Shape Bean Bags
The shape beanie bags are a set of 8 shaped bean bags (circle, square, rectangle, triangle, star, oval, pentagon and hexagon) with the name of each shape stitched onto one side and are ideal for early shape recognition. Each bean bag measures approximately 10cm and can be stored conveniently in the drawstring cloth bag.

Shape Flashcards
The shape flashcards are part of the Littlesheep Learning Resources collection and are small sized (67mmx98mm) laminated cards are ideal for teaching shape identification. The set comprises of 12 shape cards – circle, square, triangle, rectangle, diamond, oval, star, heart, moon, semicircle, hexagon, and pentagon.

These games all include shape identification and matching as part of their fun - a great way to teach shapes informally during play.

23 March 2009

Parents feel excluded by children

I was just reading this article on the BBC News website - Parents feel excluded by children and I thought I'd share...

Becta - the government's educational technology agency, have conducted a survey which suggests children do not like to be "hassled" by parental inquiries about their day and that many parents feel "excluded" by their children's reluctance to tell them anything about their time spent at school.

It found that 82% of parents wished they had more information about their children's school life.
Only 16% of children volunteered information about their day at school. The involvement of parents has been highlighted as an important element of children's achievement at school. But the survey suggests that parents struggle to find out how they might be able to help.

The technology agency asked television psychologist and government adviser Tanya Byron to investigate this communication gap. "Many parents anxiously question their kids at the end of the school day and this creates tension, conflict and a lack of essential communication," said Professor Byron. She suggests that there should be better links between schools, parents and children. The survey of 1,000 children aged 11 to 14 and their parents found that youngsters were reluctant to share their experiences with their families. More than a third of young people said they found it difficult to speak to their parents about school - and more than two in five parents found it hard to "extract information" about school from their children.

As a technology agency, Becta suggests that school websites and online resources for homework can help to make parent "feel much more a part of their child's learning". It says that when parents are able to see what their children are learning they are more confident in talking about school work - both with the children and teachers. Parents can also use e-mail to keep in touch with teachers, says the technology agency, and schools can alert parents of any attendance problems.

There is also a video clip of Tanya talking on BBC Breakfast with some tips on how to get your child to share about their day. The full report with more tips can be read here.

Do you feel you have enough information about your child's day? How does your child's school share the information with you? Let us know!

Worm Week

Did you know that this week (23rd-29th March 2009) is Worm Week?

Organised by the charity Buglife - The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, Worm Week is a great way to get children interested in nature. Most children could identify a ‘worm’ but would not necessarily know much about them – what they eat, how they live, how they produce young and why they are important to humans and other animals.

Earthworms play a crucial role in the production of our food. They live underground in the soil, feeding on decaying materials and turning them into fertile soil which is perfect for growing healthy crops and plants. Worms also play a vital role in the food chain providing food for lots of other animals such as birds and hedgehogs.
Buglife has produced a number of worm resources - check out worm craft activities, Teaching Resources - Worksheet 1- Body Parts of an Earthworm, Worksheet 2 - Life Cycle of an Earthworm, Worksheet 3 - Earthworm in a Food Chain, Worksheet 4 - Worm Charming Investigation Recording Sheet (plus a Earthworm Factsheet containing the answers!).

Do let us know about the fun you've had finding the worms in your garden!

21 March 2009

We’re Number 79 - British Mummy Bloggers Top 100 Revealed

Talking Tots has published the Tots100 index of top British Parent bloggers, and we're celebrating that Littlesheep Learning is included at number 79.

In 2008, for the first time, research revealed that women aged 24-35 now spend more time online than men. “Being a Mum can be isolating sometimes, but blogging provides the perfect way to reach out to other parents going through similar experiences,” says Tracey Park, co-founder of Talking Tots. “For many parents, blogs provide a safe, supportive place where they can have a laugh, support each other, and share ideas about raising their families.

”For some women, blogging has provided a stepping stone into a new career - Tots100 blogs such as Wife in the North and Petite Anglaise have been turned into best-selling novels. Other blogs publish product reviews, raise awareness of disabilities or just provide an insight into modern family life.

“The Tots100 is a real mixed bag, but what the index does show is that Mummy bloggers are growing in influence and number,” says Park.“We hope the index makes it easier for parents to discover great blogs, and perhaps inspires even more Mums and Dads to start blogging themselves.”

Top 10 British Mummy Blogs
1. Petite Anglaise
2. Wife in the North
3. Jo Beaufoix
4. Alpha Mummy
5. My Boyfriend is a Tw@t
6. Crystal Jigsaw
7. Babyccino
8. A Modern Mother
9. Single Parent Dad
10. Notes from Inside my Head

The complete Tots100 index is available online at the Talking Tots blog.

20 March 2009

Happy Birthday to The Very Hungry Caterpillar

In case you haven't heard, March 20th is the 40th birthday of Eric Carle's classic picture book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It's one of our favourite books and I'm sure it's one of yours too.

17 March 2009

Competition: What do you want to be when you grow up?

My son has a t-shirt that says "When I grow up I want to be a firefighter" and this gave me the inspiration for the latest competition at Littlesheep Learning to win a 'Firefighters' DVD.

The Childs Eye Firefighters DVD is part of an award-winning series explores the world of work through a childs eyes and offers an understanding of the people who help us. Designed especially for children aged 3-8 the documentaries include exciting live action footage plus role play games and songs. Highly entertaining as well as educational young children will want to watch again and again - a prize your child will love.

All your child needs to do to enter is to tell us what they want to be when they grow up - they can do this by drawing us a picture, writing a poem or story, dressing up - or in any other way. Just send the pictures / creative offerings to us (emailing entries with scanned documents / photographs as attachments is fine).
Please include your child's name, age and address and your email address. Entries need to be received by the 30th April to be in with a chance of winning.

PLEASE NOTE: By entering you are giving us consent to use your entries on this website, on this blog, in our newsletter, or in any other publicity surrounding this competition.

15 March 2009

Communication Matters Road Shows

I've just had an email about the Communication Matters Road Shows so I thought I would spread the word....

Communication Matters Road Shows provide an overview and an update of specialised communication aid technology for use by people with severe speech and communication impairment and writing difficulties. Road Shows are held throughout the year in UK and Ireland.

The Communication Matters Road Show is a valuable opportunity to learn about communication aid technology ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’. A number of the UK’s leading suppliers of adaptive devices, voice output communication aids and signing systems will demonstrate and provide ‘mini-master classes’ on their latest products and services. There will be opportunities for questions and hands-on trial of systems, and lots of valuable handouts and literature to pick up.

Each Road Show has a full day’s programme – delegates will attend five workshop sessions in which the companies will present and demonstrate devices such as:
  • Light Tech (e.g. Big Mack, Talking Buddy Buttons, Step-by-step communicators)
  • Mini speech output (e.g. Allora, adVOCate, GoTalk, LEO, PortaCom, VocaFlex)
  • Speech output (e.g. Dynamo, DynaVox V/V Max, DynaWrite, Liberator-14, FuturePad, LEO, Lightwriter, Say-it Sam, SM1, MightyMo, MiniMo, Motion Tablet, Pathfinder, Springboard, Tellus 3 & Mobi, Vanguard, Vantage)
  • Communication software (e.g. Boardmaker, Communicate series, Day Planner, Eurovocs suite, EZ Keys, Grid & Grid Mobile, Memory Message, Mind Express, PCS & Widgit symbol libraries)
  • Vocabularies (e.g. CALLtalk, ExpressTalk, Ingfield Express, Picture Wordpower, Wordpower)
  • Signing (e.g Signalong, Makaton)
  • Eye Gaze (e.g My Tobii)
  • Other devices (e.g. environmental controllers, switches, amplifiers) and more…

If you are interested in seeing a particular device, piece of software, vocabulary or signing system, please ring the telephone number below to make sure it will be presented on the day. You must book a place in advance online or by telephone and all Road Shows are free of charge, unless otherwise stated.

Who is the Road Show for?

  • People new to the field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication and voice output technology
  • Professionals specialising in this field who want to update their knowledge – technology changes fast!
  • Everyone with an interest in communication technology
    Anyone who works with children or adults with severe speech, language or communication difficulties and are in need of some special support with communication

Who will be presenting?
The presenters will be representatives from various companies that manufacture or supply voice output communication aids, including the following (attending all venues unless otherwise noted):

  • Chatting Independently (attending Oxford & Manchester only)
  • DynaVox Systems
  • Inclusive Technology (not attending Llanelli)
  • Liberator
  • Possum
  • QED
  • Signalong (not attending Belfast)
  • SmartBox / Sensory
  • Software International
  • Techcess
  • The Makaton Charity (not attending Belfast)
  • Toby Churchill
  • Widgit Software

All Road Shows will start at 9.25am and finish at 3.25pm (registration 9.00-9.25am), unless otherwise stated. There are 5 sessions during the day. In each session, all the companies present parallel workshops and participants can choose to attend any workshop. Each workshop is repeated in each session throughout the day.

How do I book a place?
To reserve a place, please complete the
online booking form. Alternatively, you can email Communication Matters or ring 0845 456 8211, giving your name, full address with postcode and contact telephone number. You will receive an acknowledgement of your booking.

14 March 2009

London Zoo's Fun Day for Children with Additional Needs

Children with disabilities and their families are invited to a London Zoo fun day with reduced admission costs on Saturday 13th June. The day is an annual event put on by London Zoo, enabling families with disabled children to enjoy all the zoo has to offer and more at a discount price.

Highlights include a major new exhibit for 2009, the Animal Adventure, which includes Aardvarks and Red Pandas. The Gorilla Kingdom, Rainforest Lookout and Reptile House & Aquarium continue to be popular, as well as the flying bird display.

Also available on the day will be British Sign Language interpretation for all talks and displays, face painting, live band and a separate entrance and welcome near the main car park.

Families with disabled children need to pre-book and prepay before 6th June to get the reduced rates.

For more details and a booking form, please contact Steve, Tel: 020 7449 6551 or email: steve.marriott@zsl.org. Check out the London Zoo website for more information about the zoo.

If you can't wait until then to start learning to name zoo animals - check out these sets of fabulous puppets (zoo animals and african animals) and these blog posts.

If you hear of any other special days please let us know and we will help publicise them.

13 March 2009

Red Nose Day - Do Something Funny for Money!

Today is Red Nose Day - and as you can see we've donated and given our sheepy a red nose... you can get one too from Digital Red Nose.
What are you doing for Comic Relief?
Here at Littlesheep Learning we are wearing pyjamas to school, wearing Red Nose Day Deeley Boppers to Messy Play at the Children's Centre and donating a £1 for every order placed today.

10 March 2009

Chatter Matters - Talking Tots

This is the second of two articles on language development from Lisa at Talking Tots with some ideas of what to expect at each stage of language development and ideas to get your children talking.

Being a parent to a newborn is a worrying business – there are so many things to worry about. Is my baby healthy? Is he too hot, too cold, too big, too small? Most of all – is he doing what he should be doing?

When it comes to your baby’s speech, it’s hard to say. Different children acquire language skills at vastly different rates - a child’s first word might happen before his first birthday, or not until his second. So how do you know if your child has a language delay – or is just choosing his words carefully?

“There really are no hard and fast rules about speech,” says Tracey Park, co-founder of Talking Tots, a pre-school activity group that focuses on developing communication skills and confidence. As an experienced paediatric speech and language therapist, Tracey knows that each child develops differently. “It’s rarely a cause for concern,” she says. “A child who talks late or uses fewer words than other children will almost always catch up within a few years.”

Providing your child meets some of the milestones provided below, they are probably developing at the expected rate. However, if your child doesn’t show any of the communication skills expected, Tracey advises parents to talk to their health visitor. “It may just be that your child is working on other things and will catch up later, but if there is a problem, getting support early is vital because your child is less likely to fall behind.”

Six Months-12 Months
At around this age, your baby may turn when they hear your voice, or smile if you talk to her. If you’re nearby, she’ll sometimes make eye contact and will probably begin ‘talking’ to you by ‘babbling’ and making a variety of sounds – she’s testing out what her voice can do!

12 Months – 18 Months
Some time around your first birthday, you may hear your baby’s first word – usually this will be a sort of food, a family member or a pet. However, your baby isn’t just communicating using words. You’ll probably also see her pointing to things she wants or using gestures like holding their hands up when she wants to be held. At this age, most babies understand more than they can express, so you might see your baby start to recognise her own name, or look at objects when you ask if she can see them, or even point to them.

18 – 24 Months
By two years of age, most children will have a handful of recognisable words (even if you’re the only one who understands them), and most of these will be words that are particularly close to his heart – up, milk, Mummy, Daddy. There may be some words he’s just learning, which you’ll recognise – it’s common for children to say “ba” for ball, for example, or “bic” for biscuit.

2-3 Years
Between the ages of two and three, your toddler’s favourite word may well be “NO!” This negativity is all part of your child’s desire to assert his independence, and at the same time, you might notice she’s beginning to refer to herself by name (many toddlers will call themselves by name long before using the “I” pronoun).

Around this time, your child will probably know around 50 words, and may be putting together simple two-word sentences, gradually moving on to more complicated language skills – including the ability to ask questions and to describe actions and objects.

3-4 Years
By the time your child turns three years of age, his vocabulary will have increased enormously – with an average toddler of this age knowing anywhere from 300 to 1,000 words (although more or less can still be normal).

Your toddler might start experimenting with longer sentences and begin testing out what are known as ‘narrative skills’ – which means she can describe a simple story or idea.

Around this age, toddlers will often begin using imaginative play and imitating the language they hear around them – so don’t be surprised if you find your three year old giving teddy a good telling off!

4-5 Years
All being well, by the time a child starts school, they will be using more sophisticated sentences, with different tenses and complex grammatical structures. You will understand almost everything your child says to you. A four-year-old has a much more powerful memory than a smaller child, so he will probably be able to follow instructions that have more than one part, like ‘take off your shoes and hang your coat up’ (although we can’t guarantee he’ll follow the instruction!)

Tips to Get Babies Talking!
In the first year, help your baby to associate what he sees with words. When he looks at a toy, say, “Oh, I see you’re looking at the duck. He’s yellow, isn’t he?” At bath time, name the body parts as you wash them. And don’t forget to leave space for him to answer back – those little giggles and noises are your baby’s way of talking to you!

In the second year, sing familiar songs with your child. Encourage her to join in with actions or make animal noises at the appropriate moment. Try to make new words and sounds lots of fun. Don’t correct her if she gets words wrong, just try to praise her efforts and use the right words yourself.

In the third year, help build your child’s vocabulary by introducing concepts like colours and numbers, through games. Count blocks when you build towers, or challenge your toddler to find all the yellow bricks while you find the red bricks.

In your child’s fourth year, get them involved in describing things and let them take over the bed time story sometimes. What do they think happens next? It’s also a good time to arrange play dates and let your child practice his sharing and turn-taking with some playmates!

05 March 2009

World Book Day 2009

Today, Thursday 5th March is World Book Day and many children (and teachers) will be dressing up as book characters and sharing their favourite books. You can find out more about World Book Day here.

Please comment here and tell us about your World Book Day activities and don't forget you can buy a range of books from
Littlesheep Learning.

03 March 2009

Look Who's Talking - Talking Tots

We've been networking again (this time on Twitter) and we bumped into Lisa from Talking Tots who has provided us this article with an overview of the company and some ideas to get your children talking.

Somewhere around your child’s first birthday, they’ll amaze you with their first word. Chances are that word will soon be followed by a second and a third word – and before you know it, your little one will be chattering away so much you can hardly get a word in edgeways!

However, new research shows that almost half of all children arriving at primary school don’t have the communication skills they need to learn effectively. Common problems include children who can’t speak clearly and audibly, or children who struggle to listen to instructions or take part in group conversations.

The good news is that it’s possible to boost your child’s communication skills and social confidence through the right combination of encouragement, play and practice.

Talking Tots is a new pre-school activity group that helps children to communicate with confidence. The company was created by Tracey Park and Lisa Houghton, two experienced paediatric speech and language therapists, who saw an increasing number of children in their clinics with communication problems.

At Talking Tots, children take part in fun, interactive games and activities that build important communication skills such as telling stories, taking turns in a group and listening to instructions. The classes also help children to become more aware of sounds and words, which will help when your child learns to read.

Toddlers learn best through play, and so our classes are based on songs, rhymes and brightly-coloured props that the children find really engaging. The key is not to put pressure on children, and allow them to develop at their own pace.

There is a great deal you can do at home to encourage your child’s communication. From a very early age, Lisa recommends that parents should be amateur commentators. When you’re making dinner, tell your baby about all the delicious ingredients you’re preparing. If you’re walking to the park, make a point of naming all the shops and places as you pass them by. But don’t overdo it, says Lisa: “Leave space for your baby to respond, even before they can talk. They’ll gradually begin making noises in response to your questions and one day they’ll surprise you with an answer!”

Another great way to get your baby talking is to ask questions with options and don’t anticipate their needs. If your baby points to the fridge, don’t simply give them the milk. “Instead, say ‘Oh, I see you need a drink. Would you like milk or juice?’ which encourages them to talk to you,” says Lisa.

Of course, learning a whole new language is hard work, and most toddlers will make a few mistakes along the way. It might seem like a good idea to correct your child when he says “bik” for “biscuit” or “buddy” instead of “buggy” but try to hold back. Pointing out mistakes could dent your little one’s confidence and discourage him from trying out new words. “It’s better to be a good role model,” advises Lisa. “If your toddler asks for a ‘bik’, you can respond, ‘Oh, you want a biscuit’. That way he hears the correct word and eventually he’ll pick up the difference between his word and yours.”

Making language fun means your child will want to learn new words and try them out. A great way to do this is by sharing books with your little one. Very young children will appreciate animal stories, and you can both have fun making the appropriate noises! As your child gets older, rhyming stories with colourful pictures will encourage your child to join in with the story and guess what’s coming next.

Helping your child to develop confident communication may well give them a head start in the classroom, but the benefits can be life-long, says Lisa. “Communication is the bedrock of almost everything we do, from making new friends to learning new skills,” she says. “Giving our children good communication skills means you’re giving them the best start in life.”

Top Tips

  • Chatter matters! From an early age, tell your baby what you’re doing, whether it’s changing his nappy or making his supper. But don’t forget to leave room for him to answer you, even if it’s just with a gurgle for now.
  • Read as much as you can. Books and stories help build your child’s vocabulary and if Mum and Dad can join in with silly voices and sound effects, it will encourage your little one to try out new sounds too.
  • Be descriptive. If your child points to a tree, talk about how big it is, what colour it is, what sound it’s making. Help your child to learn how to describe the world around them.
  • Don’t correct children’s speech. Don’t tell your child when she gets something wrong, but don’t use baby talk yourself. Instead, use the correct words and gradually she will begin to copy you.
  • Play games. Simple games such as “I spy” will help your child become aware of sounds, which will help him later on, when he learns to read.

02 March 2009

Don't forget to sign up for Littlesheep Learning's newsletter!

Don't forget to sign up to Littlesheep Learning's Newsletter - sign up box available on our blog page. We are sending one out today and then there will be another one just before the Easter Holidays with lots of ideas to keep your children entertained!

01 March 2009

March Special Offers

This month you can celebrate the arrival of Spring by saving 20% on the Today's Chart or 10% off the My First Calendar available at Littlesheep Learning.

These colourful calendars show the details of each day including the date and weather and are great for children learning about the days of the week.

The Today's Chart is a fabric wall hanging that includes Velcro attachable pieces, which can be placed within the boxes enabling children to make changes for each day, perfect for explaining the calendar. Size: 50 x 65 cm.

The My First Calendar has a printed board (39cm x 32cm) and contains magnetic Months, Days, Numbers to make te Date, Month, Season and Weather magnets, which can be placed within the boxes on the printed board , enabling children to make changes for each day, perfect for explaining the calendar.

Competition Winner

We are pleased to announce that the winner of ADHD: The Essential Guide by Diane Paul is Christina from Basildon in Essex.

The winning entry was chosen randomly from all of those who correctly answered "How many beads are on the Floopy?" Answer six.
Look out for the next competition coming soon at Littlesheep Learning.