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Three children (17, 15, 13)*** Two parents *** one dog *** Country loving *** Cottage dwelling in the South-West of the UK. That’s us!

We’ve been blogging since January 2010, about everyday happenings that bring us joy.

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“A moment spent in wonder is worth a lifetime spent in awe.”


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Brain Lab

Did you know that “a frog’s ear drum is located outside its body behind its eye”?

How about “the human eye weighs about 7.5g”?


I know I’m not the only one who loves facts like these ones. How many of us enjoy sharing newly found snippets of knowledge with our nearest and dearest? Me. Me. Whether they want to hear or not. Yep, me too. I know my children do. If they have a good book, full of facts, there will be a constant chorus of “Did you know….” I love it.

Many moons ago, I did a combined degree in Psychology. At an early age, the subject puzzled my children. They couldn’t quite grasp how I could spend three years studying the brain. They were used to the image of the brain as a wrinkly, pulsating blob, usually depicted in a tank, featuring in cartoons and mad scientist programmes. Or hidden, out of sight, in our skulls. It did the thinking.

As they grew and learnt more about science, they gradually understood. It is a strange concept. All your memories, ability to move, perception etc controlled by something that resembles an over large walnut.  A tendency to trick us.

(Plus we use our brain to understand the brain……. Mind blowing.)

With this thought, I was very excited to discover Brain Lab for Kids. It contains 52 experiments and activities for children to do, exploring the brain function. These are broken down into sub categories of the physical makeup of the brain, perception, movement and memory. Each designed to help understand a little bit more about how the brain works, with extra notes to expand understanding.

I tried out a few of the experiments with my 10 year old son. Setting up was easy for him to follow. We tried the eardrum model first. They suggest using a cookie tray to make a loud noise. We found using a cardboard tube made the rice grains jump more on our eardrum model. For the next stage, he really needed an adult. There are interesting facts and explanations, which we went through together. I think he would have skipped this stage, if I wasn’t there.

I can’t blame him. So many other enticing experiments and activities to do.

Next we moved on to the Stroop effect. He had fun with this one, as he tested both his sisters too. Basically two lists of colours. First list contains the words written in the corresponding colours. eg red in red ink. The second list uses any colour to write the words, eg the word blue written in green ink.

We timed how long it took to say each list. Not the word, but the colour of the ink used. He recorded each set of times in a table. It was fun and the explanation was clear.

We went on to look at some of the memory and touch experiments too. Also the blind spot experiment. He particularly liked the memory implanting experiment. He found all of it intriguing and I can see us doing more. He is curious.

Verdict: We had an enjoyable afternoon, having fun and learning a bit more about the brain. There is so much to do in this book that I can see us spending more afternoons having a go at some of the activities. So often with these books, only a fracture of the activities tempt you to try them. Not this one. I don’t think there is one dud in this book.

The experiments and activities were straight forward for my 10 year old to do. The explanations were clear, maybe too lengthy to be called bite-sized which is the format most information is delivered to this age group. An adult is definitely needed.

Age: I think this gives a brilliant introductory to psychology and neuroscience for children. It is targeted at 7 to 11 year olds, but I think this is wrong. Seven year olds will enjoy doing the experiments and models, but I think the explanations are aimed at an older age group. With encouragement my 10 year old took the time to understand. I know my 13 year old daughter would get even more out of this book. Her 15 year old sister is considering studying A level Psychology. I’ll be encouraging her to flick through it, especially for the explanations.

I’m sure the book would appeal to 7 to 14 year olds, with an interest in science. It doesn’t patronize or try to make jokes. It uses the scientific terms.

Price: £12.99

Hopefully, my youngest understands a little bit more about psychology and how the brain works. I’m looking forward to trying the Benham’s disk. Just need to find an old CD and a marble now. Oh, and paint. (edited: we did and it worked. Over on my Instagram grid.)

(*affiliate link included)

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Brain Labs for Kids from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I always give my true opinion of the product in reviews.

A different kind of tomato #OreoCookieQuest

If you have followed me on Instagram for a while, you might remember my optimistic son bringing back a science experiment, last summer. The class had planted tomato seeds and made sure they had the basics: water, food and light. At the end of the experiment, they proudly brought their plants home.

While the rest of his classmates labelled their precious seedlings as “tomato”, my son, decided to call his plant “Oreo”, because we grow enough tomatoes and he fancied growing Oreos instead. As I said, he was optimistic.

At the end of the summer, Oreo plant had produced a good crop, but there was not a single biscuit among the basket of red, juicy tomatoes. My darling son faced up to the fact that the name was not enough, and wandered off munching on a tomato.

This year

Now, he has totally bought into the idea of healthy eating, which tomatoes fit into perfectly, but there is still room in his day for a biscuit treat or two, so he tells me. His quest to secure a source of his favourite biscuits, Oreos, is ongoing. He came to me for advice. Of course, if he’d gone to his father, he would probably have been taken to the shops to buy a pack.

Instead he came to me. I can never resist the chance of a bit of fun.

At the moment, we are doing a lot of code cracking and logic games. With this in mind, I decided to suggest a brain exercising quest to find a source of Oreos. He thought this sounded good.

As is the way in our household, no-one wants to be left out, so his sisters wanted in on the quest too. That’s good. At the moment they could all do with something to distract them from other matters.

Everyone dug deep and joined in with spirit. They seized on the idea of dressing up for the quest. Cloaks, beards and furry leg warmers. What kind of a quest would it have been otherwise? Venturing out into the snow to retrieve the scroll from the bare branches of our fig tree. Plenty of laughter that would not have been amiss if you happened to pass a Hobbit’s hole when dwarves were being entertained.

(Thank you to both teens who joined in and humoured their 10 year old brother so wonderfully.)

The quest began. It involved solving puzzles, based on science, maths and general knowledge, making it a brilliant STEM activity. It really kept them entertained.

The first clue was a list of chemical elements. They translated this list into the chemical symbols (Oxygen = o, Nitrogen=n, etc) which spelt out the next clue – “on the shelves in kitchen cupboards“. With a swish of cloaks, they found their first word among the bowls and egg cups.

Then on to the next clue, involving missing words in film titles – “How to find stars at night time?” Beards floated as they spun off to the telescope for the next clue.

Third clue involved matching colours of birds to names and multiplying the numbers beside them, to find letters to rearrange. This may have been the most convoluted of my clues, but they figured it out. Along with the fourth one which used my code wheel.

Final part was to put the four retrieved words together – garment, vintage, rotate, dehydrated. Bit stumped by this one until I suggested a Thesaurus. The penny dropped. They retrieved their prize, a small bowl of Oreos, from the drum of the old tumble dryer. Well, they weren’t likely to look there, were they?

We had fun. At the end of a tough week, the children let their hair down, donned cloaks and beards, and enjoyed a quest and adventure together. I think they deserved their prize.

Although, truth be told, the youngest is still optimistic that he might find another source of his favourite Oreo biscuits soon. You never know. With a last swish of his cloak and a packet of tomato seeds in his pocket, he disappeared, to plan his next quest. He made quite a sight with his slightly crumpled wizard hat set on top of his head, as he disappeared over the snow clad hill. Accompanied, on either side, by two cloaked figures.

Did you know Oreo is celebrating The Great Oreo Cookie Quest, which seems like another fun, and interactive way, to win great prizes? Oreo fans also have the opportunity to win a once-in-a-lifetime wonder-filled trip to California and the Googleplex through an on-pack promotion.

This post is an entry for BritMums #OreoCookieQuest, sponsored by Oreo.

P.S. Thank you for your comments last week. You have no idea how much they meant to me.  I’ve added a Blue the hound update to my last post.


(snowdrops from above)

It’s been a week of added extras. Little extras. Nothing major. Nothing bad. All planned ahead. Some we’ve chosen and some imposed by others, but never the less, embraced. When something breaks you out of your routine, it can go one of two ways.  You can either welcome it with a smile or dig your heels in deep. I try the former.

To start with, youngest was offered a day away from school, attending a course at one of our local universities. Only one of his classmates was going. No teachers. He was excited, but also apprehensive of something new. Butterflies the night before, but he hopped off happily when the time came. Probably the best part was having this new experience more than the course itself. Opening his 10 year old eyes to the possibility of going to university.

We also had a next steps meeting for Eldest at school. I’m pretty sure that most of this could have been accomplished by a questionnaire, but a few interesting points came out of it, so maybe it was worth missing an hour at work.

Everything is focused on her exams this summer. She seems upbeat and keen to do well. Even accepting going in to school over the Easter holidays for extra classes that are being laid on.

I’ve bought the Corbett Maths revision cards to give her additional help. She already has two other online practise sites, but this one supplies the equivalent to flash cards, that she can carry around with her. They seem a good way to tackle the subject in bite size revision portions. I hadn’t realised they link to online practise questions (and answers and videos).  She’s started using them and finds them really helpful.

I love adding an activity for them all to do after school. Something that they probably wouldn’t do at school. Used to be art or crafting mostly when they were younger, giving them the chance to paint something of their choice rather than the focus of the art class at school.

One of my favourite activities is riddle solving. I pin riddles to the fridge for them to find, but it’s logic puzzles I love the most. I dug out one of my well thumbed code books from when I was their age and my old code wheel fell out.

After showing them how it could be used, I set up a series of clues. One clue leading to the next clue until they found their prize. The clues were written in code and the code changed in the middle of the trail, to keep them on their toes. I know they would have learnt it otherwise. They worked as a team to decipher the message.

They loved it and asked for more. Hope to get time this weekend to help them make their own code wheels so they can send messages between themselves. I’m also going to start showing them ways to crack simple codes, without a wheel next.

On the same theme, youngest and I had fun creating secret messages using lemon juice. This was fun, and I want to try some of the alternatives to lemon juice, with him.

The best kind of additional at this time of year is when you plant seeds (read old seeds) and more than three come up. That is my kind of additional. Won’t be long until after school activities will include helping me in the garden.

Hope you have a good weekend. Joining in with Jocelyn’s #wotw. What word sums up your week?


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