Posted in Education

Why kids should play with building blocks

Beautifully created, open-ended toys, like these building blocks from Pips & Moo have the ability to allow your child to use their imagination to create anything.
The blocks can be anything from people to the tallest building.
Benefits of building with blocks 
Open-ended play supports a child’s development, including social-emotional, cognitive, language, and large & fine motor skills.
More importantly, it also builds many essential skills during play
Skills such as:
  • problem-solving,
  • critical thinking,
  • risk-taking,
  • decision making
  • and teamwork
Building with blocks, like these from Pips and Moo, also encourages children to construct buildings or structures.
As a child constructs his building he also develops his creativity and expands his imagination as he creates his fantasy world.
This will prepare him to face real-world challenges and problems that require unique solutions as he grows.

About Pips & Moo wooden blocks

These Pips & Moo wooden blocks are beautifully finished to ensure that there are no sharp edges. The paints and varnish used are non-toxic, water-based, and solvent free.
They are stored in a stylish wooden storage box and come in :
  • Natural
  • Green
  • Grey
  • Blue
  • Dusty yellow
  • Lilac
  • Pink
  • Turquoise
  • White
  • Or a combination of colours


There are 10 blocks in a set and they measure 6.5cm x 6.5cm.x 6.5cm.
Other items you may like are the Pips & Moo connector blocks
Posted in Homeschooling

How to register your child for Homeschool

As a family, we had intended to send Hamish to school, but the pandemic invaded and we fell into a very comfortable pattern of Homeschooling. Mid-way in his learning when he was completing the Grade R work at 3 years and started doing multiplication at 5 years old we had him tested and he has scored among the gifted percentage in his IQ test. Knowing that he would be bored at school, and knowing that we could offer a more comprehensive and personalised learning experience at home, we have opted for homeschooling.

In fact, more and more parents are opting for homeschooling.
However, many who would like to opt for home education or e-learning are deterred by the thought of having to apply to the education department, for an exemption to have their children homeschooled. This is actually not such a complicated process. Parents who would like to homeschool their children only need to apply online to the head of the Provincial Education Department..

How to apply to homeschool

The application can be made electronically, and parents need to submit the following documentation:
  • Parent/s certified ID copy (In case of foreign nationals, certified copies of passport/ study permit/ work permit/ Asylum document is required )
  • Last copy of school report (if the child was in school before)
  • If the child is only starting school now, you must attach an immunisation card
  • Weekly timetable which includes contact time per day
  • Breakdown of terms per year (196 days per year)
  • Learning programme – the curriculum you are using
  • Certified copy of child’s birth certificate
The application process can take up to 30 days to be processed but learners are allowed to continue homeschooling during this period.
There is also no cost involved in registering your child with the Education Department.

Things to consider

In order to homeschool children, parents will need to ensure that they meet a number of requirements including that the lessons offered to the learners fall within the scope of the compulsory phases of education. (
These phases are
  • foundation phase for Grade 1-3,
  • intermediate phase for Grade 4-6
  • senior phase for Grade 7-9.


There is also a list of records that the parents need to keep as a portfolio of evidence which include:

  • record of attendance
  • portfolio of work, portfolio of the educational support given to the child
  • evidence of the continuous assessment of the child’s work
  • evidence of the assessment and/or examination at the end of each year
  • and evidence at the end of Grade 3, 6 and 9, showing whether your child has achieved the outcomes for these grades.”
Posted in preschool


It’s the school holidays and if you are enjoying a staycation like us your children may enjoy getting outside and playing in the mud. As a young girl, I loved cooking my own pretend mud cakes and flower stews. Over the years my children have all had their own version of a mud kitchen outside where they cook muddy foods and serve stones and stick meals.

Hamish had a wonderful wooden mud kitchen fully kitted for all types of Jamie Oliver pretend cooking play but you don’t need to invest in a costly wooden mud kitchen to help the kids enjoy the mud. Simply offer them a few pots and pans, plates, bowls, and cutlery. some plastic jars to hold flower petals, grass, stones, and sticks as the ingredients and a lot of imagination will keep them busy for ages.

Pretend or imaginative play is one of the best ways for kids to work on developing their ability to self-regulate.

To get started help your child make a mud stew in the garden
  • Bowl
  • Scissors
  • Wooden Spoon
Step One
Walk around your garden and collect things to use in a flower stew. you can take the time to discuss parts of a flower. Collect different rocks, leaves, grass, roots, bulbs, seeds, etc . Lay these all out once you are done and add in some scissors for older kids to snip and prune.
Step Two
Mix all the items together in the bowl. Have the kids use the wooden spoon to transport items needed from the table or floor into the bowl. this will encourage hand-strengthening and fine motor skill development.
Step Three
let kids mush the stew with their fingers for a wonderful sensory play element to this project.  Talk about the things you observe along the way to encourage vocabulary development and don’t forget to meet your child in their imaginative play by enjoying a  bowl of their delicious flower stew.
Some questions you can ask along the play process
  • What are some notable observations?
  • Different colors?
  • Different textures?
  • Can you feel the elements…maybe tear them to pieces?
  • Do they float in water?
Posted in Homeschooling

Homeschool options – Teneo online schooling

As homeschooling and online schooling become more popular in South Africa, Parents are faced with a wide array of schooling options. Let us explore them and help you to make an informed decision when choosing the best educational choices for your child.

Teneo has become a popular choice among the parents I personally know, but what do they offer and who are they?



What is Teneo?
 Teneo is South Africa’s top online-only school, delivering the South African and the
British International curriculums through qualified teachers to students across the
country and Africa.

Why does Teneo exist?
 Teneo is future-focused and equips students for the challenges of tomorrow in an
increasingly digital world.
 Teneo is democratising quality education in South Africa by making it easily
accessible and affordable.

What need does Teneo fulfil?
 Teneo provides the structure and class/teacher interactions of a physical school
through high-quality online school content and daily timetabled live lessons, from
the comfort of one’s own home – wherever that may be.
 The future looks entirely digital and Teneo students are well equipped in
navigating this digital world and taking ownership of their responsibilities from
start to finish.
 There is an increased interest in parents working from home where families are embracing the
work from anywhere approach, but their children’s schools have not (many are in
the hybrid model).
 With Teneo, students have more free time outside of their live-class schedules
and are able to pursue other areas of interest or extra-mural activities.
 With failing public transport infrastructure and high crime rates, safety when
traveling to and from school is of huge concern for students and parents in South
Africa and Teneo enables these students with an affordable alternative option.

Is Teneo accredited with the Department of Education?

 Homeschooling is a legally recognised alternative to traditional schooling. For
Grades 1 to 9, parents are required to register their children as homeschooled with
their Provincial Department of Education.
 Grades 10 – 12 are registered with SACAI, one of three examination boards
accredited with Umalusi. Teneo provide a portfolio of evidence to support the
student’s progress which is moderated by SACAI or the IEB. All students in these
grades are registered by Teneo School with one of these examination boards.
 Matriculants will receive a National Senior Certificate issued by Umalusi – the
governing body – as with all public school matriculants.

Are all learning materials digitised?
 Most of the textbooks are digitised however hard copy textbooks can be
purchased from academic booksellers and specific online suppliers such as

How do learners complete exams?
 All exams are done online except for the Matric Final exams which are done in an official physical examination centre. Matric Final exam venues are assigned by
SACAI, the IEB, or Pearson Edexcel.
 There are various solutions to completing practical exams, including video.

What does a Teneo student require?
 Access to a stable internet connection/data.
 Access to a laptop/desktop with at least:
– a processor of 2+ GHZ processor.
– 4+ Gigs of RAM.
– A working webcam and microphone are essential.
– A printer is recommended.
– A backup power source.
– An internet connection with 10 mbps+ download speed & 2 mbps upload speed.
– The latest version of Google Chrome is recommended.
 Scanners or printers are recommended.

What is the role of the parent/responsible adult?

 Strong parental involvement is extremely important to a child’s academic
success, parents encouraged to be active participants in their child’s education,
working in close partnership with teachers. In terms of the Department of Basic
Education’s requirement parents are responsible for the child’s education when
home schooling.
 Parents can get access to an observer login and can observe all student activity,
SBA task due dates, and monitor progress including lesson attendance through
an app on their smartphone.

How does Teneo manage online bullying?
 Teneo holds a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying, and perpetrators are dealt
with appropriately.
 Teachers monitor the interaction between learners during online lessons. Learners
are encouraged to approach teachers to report bullying.
About the industry
 Online schooling in South Africa has expanded significantly following the COVID-
19 pandemic, however many of the more recently established schools are still
navigating the administration and refining their systems and processes.

About Teneo:
Teneo is Africa’s No.1 School in the Cloud; a leading online-only school, providing the
same classroom experience and routine-building structure as a high-quality physical

Empowering students across South Africa and the continent, Teneo students
experience live, daily classes with dedicated, SACE-registered teachers at an affordable
price, from any location. Currently educating over 8000 students with 480 qualified
teachers, Teneo offers the South African National (CAPS) curriculum, Independent
Examinations Board (IEB) curriculum and British International curriculum through Pearson Edexcel.

Founded in 2018 with the intention of making quality education
accessible to all, Teneo was strategically established prior to the pandemic, rather in
response to it. Just like physical schools, Teneo
enables students to foster meaningful relationships with teachers and peers and offers
numerous extra-curricular activities. A degree of parental engagement is required,
particularly for Foundation Phase students, but this lessens as students become more

Teneo is registered with the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI),
the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) which are both overseen by Umalusi. In
addition, Teneo International School is accredited with Pearson Edexcel.
For more information about Teneo, visit


(Information supplied by Teneo Online School)

Posted in Education

Keen minds busy binder

The Preschool years are such formative years in a child’s life and if we look at the amount of information children have to process over the first 5 years of life, it’s no wonder parents look to experts to help guide them along the way.

Especially in a learning environment.  Many parents know a small child needs to learn to count and know their shapes but not always how to execute this learning.
So, how do you as a preschool parent find the right balance of play and learning for your child and how do you know what to teach them?
KeenMind have you covered.  Rochelle, an educator, has developed an amazing preschool binder that let’s your child learn important concepts and skills whilst playing.

Keen minds busy binder

The binder comes in 2 price options and each page is laminated and handmade with precision and dedication.
Beautifully presented in a gift box this would make a wonderful first day of school gift, fun holiday activity or an end of year gift for a little one entering Grade R or Grade 1
The pages are stored in a ring binder and each one has been laminated.
The puzzle / game pieces are also laminated and stick to the pages using velcro.
The pieces are sized just right for little hands to maneuver. After a few days of play, I notice how secure the velcro is as Hamish yanks at the pieces to get them off and the velcro bits are still stuck tight. So I would say this product could be used for children aged 3 without supervision
Because the pieces attach and come off your child is able to work on a skill until they master it and correct themselves along the way.

Looking at Hamish’s binder

Hamish’s binder came with the following pages :
🔹️Name practice sheet
🔹️Match the shapes
🔹️Match the colours
🔹️Sort by colour
🔹️Match the beginning sounds ( alphabet)
🔹️Count the creatures
🔹️Match the number 1- 10
🔹️Complete the puzzles
🔹️ Sort the objects into small, medium and large
🔹️Sort by size
🔹️Sort by shape
🔹️Sort from tallest to shortest
🔹️Complete the pattern
🔹️Match the other half of the picture
The binder also has a plastic envelope to store all the pieces in. This ensures everything stays neat and that you don’t lose any pieces.
You can see a video here

My thoughts

The binder is beautifully made and well thought out to cover essential preschool skills
I especially love learning through play and your child is not aware that they are learning just that they are having fun whilst playing the puzzles and games in the binder.
The pages being laminated makes them easy to clean, durable and reusable ..adding value for your money when you purchase a binder.
A great product giving you the peace of mind that your child is learning the much needed skills for future learning.
Posted in Education

How to improve your vocabulary

Working with words, I am always looking to expand my own vocabulary but you may find that as you learn new concepts or take on different employment roles your vocabulary may change or you may need to grow your vocabulary.
So, how do you do this?


Read whenever you have the opportunity to do so. If, like me, you are constantly busy or find yourself with no time to read a novel, choose an online magazine, article, or your favorite blog. It doesn’t matter whether it is a short story or a magazine, pay close attention to anything with writing on it. The more you are exposed to new words, the more you will learn and grow your own vocabulary. It is always helpful to read with a dictionary beside you that way if you don’t know what a word means, you can look it up and make a note of it.


In a notebook, write down any new words. Writing the new word alongside the definitions will help you remember to remember them and then use these new words in the correct context at a later stage.


It is also a good habit to practice saying, writing, or spelling new words. Pick a new word daily as your “word of the day”, and use this word correctly and in context, throughout the day. This helps you to both grow your vocabulary and practice how to use the words in context.


Writing down the words helps you to remember new words. Write the words on small sticky notes and add them to your fridge or desk space at eye level. If you are using these tips to build vocabulary for a second language you could start a scrapbook, cut out images and write the words beside the objects. This helps the brain to visualize the word next to an object.


Play word games online or invest in some crossword, word search, or word activity books, and look up the meanings of new words as you come across them. You could also play board games that encourage word building like Scrabble, which is a great game to play for this purpose.


Use the new words regularly so that you don’t forget them. You could use them in conversation, to write paragraphs or a short story, or to start a blog about something that is of interest to you.


As a kid, I had several pen pals and we learned a lot about each other. In grade 3 we had Afrikaans pen pals and my vocabulary, confidence in using a second language and Afrikaans language grew. The best way to gain confidence in speaking any language is by talking to a native speaker.
As with anything you get what effort you put in. Do the work, learn, and enjoy.
Posted in Education

Word games to play online

As a writer I love words.

Words play a huge role in every aspect of my life, from expressing myself to earning my living, I thrive on playing with words so it comes as no surprise that I would rather use words as well.
One way for me to use words to relax is to play word games.
Many Years ago I would buy big thick word search books, puzzle activity books, or grab the Sunday newspaper and my mother’s magazines in hopes to do a crossword or word search.
My favorite was always the games where I needed to try to place the words given into the empty shapes. I would spend hours figuring out the correct words and how they interconnected with each other to fit perfectly. Then armed with a dictionary I would find the words I didn’t know and learn their meaning, pronunciation, and how to use them. Often, I would end the puzzle with an armor of new words for my vocabulary.
Today, however, I work online and when I need a brain break I often choose an online game.
It seems the more sustainable option as we are not using an unlimited paper source to print on and it is more economical as once you find a safe and secure website to play games on, it is rewarding to have an endless supply of games and puzzles to keep you busy.
Playing word games is not only relaxing but it keeps your mind stimulated and grows your vocabulary. I can’t think of better reasons to spend my spare time doing a crossword.

Word games to play

With this in mind, I went in search of a good, safe website to find word games in that I would enjoy playing.
That is how I recently stumbled upon a really great online Game website
that has a host of games and in that selection is a list of word games for me to choose from.
Games like :
  • A daily crossword which has a new puzzle each day
  • A daily letter logic game that is a fun crossword without clues. You are given a letter randomly placed and need to fill the list of words in the empty spaces.
  • A daily Word search for you to complete new 12 x12, 14 x 14, or 16 x 16 puzzles each day
  • A daily wordoku which is similar to Sudoko only uses words. I struggle with this game, but it should be noted I’m not very good at Sodoko either. When the puzzle is completed your word is made diagonally.
  • A letter scramble. In this game, letters are scrambled and you have to make as many words as you can before the time is up.
 My favorites are the letter scramble, there’s something about a deadline that I enjoy and I love trying to beat the clock as I make as many words as I can.
I also really enjoy the daily word searches. The word search often has words I am not familiar with and learning these new words for me is half the challenge.
I would recommend these games to anyone who loves to play with words, wants to keep their mind busy, or who needs to improve their English, vocabulary, and spelling.
I play them on my Android mobile phone which I turn sideways, however, the word search is best played on the laptop as I find the screen bigger and the game easier to navigate.
Which is your favorite word game?
Posted in Education

As a family, we spend a lot of time outdoors and I would hope that over the years, I’ve instilled a love of nature in my children.

So, because we enjoy the natural world around us and knowing that there are so many lessons to be learned through nature I will often incorporate little lessons or snippets of information whilst we are outdoors. One of those is to teach your children how to tell how old a tree is.

Count the Rings

The easiest and oldest method to know the age of a tree is to count the rings on tree stumps. Each ring is equivalent to a year.
Each year, as the tree grows, it develops a new layer of wood below the bark, and this formula the rings you see on a tree stumps if the tree is cut down.
These Rings will vary in size as the tree’s growth depends on several factors including the availability of water and nutrients.
tree rings
tree rings showing growth

Measure the circumference

Another way to determine a tree’s age is to measure the circumference of the tree.
You can do this by using a piece of rope to tie around the trunk and then measuring the piece of rope.
Average growth of 2.5cm represents a year’s growth, however, this measurement does differ depending on the tree species.
trees can be measured around their circumference

Count the whorl

Trees like pines, spruce, and fir trees grow new rows of branches each year. These rows are called whorls. By counting the rows or whorls of branches you can determine the age of the tree.
Fir trees grow new whorls each year
These are easy fun ways to get the kids outdoors and learning. Let me know in the comments below if you have tried any of these tree measuring methods.
Posted in Education, Family Life, Parenting

Reward Charts – Do they work ?

There is a lot of controversy within the parenting communities about reward charts. Some parents swear by them and others think that they are a giant waste of time.

Now what would you say if I told you they can be both.
I will explain…

Pros and cons of reward charts

I love reward charts for Hamish. I think that being used in a consistent manner they can help a child reach a goal as they are able to see and track their progress.
I love that they motivate a child to perform better and that often they are just total fun.
There is always a danger in a larger group of children that a reward chart will in fact damage a child’s self-esteem as they compare their progress to that of their peers and instead of motivating them, the reward chart will demotivate and set your child up for failure.
So, do I personally believe that reward charts should be used for every child, in every situation ….no!

Personal experience

However,we have personally had great outcomes for potty training, school work goals, bed training, and reading with Hamish using reward charts.

He is the only small child we have in the house and has no one to compare his achievements with, allowing us to use the reward chart to build up his self-esteem, highlight his achievements and assist him to reach a personal goal.
When I had 6 little ones in the home, things were a lot different. I hated reward charts.
As a family, we weren’t consistent enough to stick to one. My younger children were not motivated to learn from their older siblings’ success and I found the reward charts brought about low self-worth and a multitude of sibling rivalry as the kids judged and compared themselves.
So. I think if you are going to use a reward chart …..
  • Be specific.
  • Consider if it is the right kind of motivation for your child or children.
  • Discuss how the chart does not measure who we are, what we are good at or our worth with your children.
  • Keep the goals short and reward quickly so that your child does not get demotivated.
  • Build self esteem daily through words of affirmation, praise and acknowledgement of good behaviour, kindness, etc so that the reward chart is not the sole check list of how well you feel they behave.
We use these Reward charts and stickers from Tower products avaliable in most retailers.
Posted in Education, Fine motor activities, preschool, preschool curriculum

Best sticker hack for little fingers

A really great fine motor activity is to let your child peel and stick stickers onto a book or paper.

Nowadays you get a wonderful assortment of learning activity books with stickers and they both engage and entertain your child.
We use many sticker books in our homeschool lessons and I often find that the stickers open an opportunity to develop vocabulary and learn more about a subject as your child will question the stickers that they are working with.
A good age to start working with stickers is from about 2 and a half to 3 years but many times little fingers just can not pull the stickers off the sheet, leaving them frustrated or mom/teacher doing most of the peeling.
When Hamish was about 3 years old, I taught him this easy hack to allow him the independence of being able to peel the stickers himself.
Teach your child to bend the page at the sticker and you will notice how the sticker automatically lifts making it easier for your child to peel off and giving them more confidence in their task.
Let us know if you tried this.