Young Driver Experience – A day to Remember

Could you imagine learning to drive before the age of 17?

At Young Driver, a center that gives children from the age of 10 an opportunity to get behind the wheel and experience driving with a qualified instructor. Children can learn to drive at one of the 60 UK centers where they are taught in a specially designed training area. The training area includes; sharp bends, mini round-about, parking spaces, traffic lights, and junctions.

Young Driver follow the Driving Standards Agency curriculum, which means that what 10 – 17s learn at YOUNG DRIVER is exactly the same as they will learn on the road at 17. The children are given a Drive Diary to record their progress and this is one of the most important parts of the programme – moving forward is the aim!

Their personalised Drive Diary charts individual progress and current level of driving and is completed by the instructor after each driving session. The instructor talks them through it and explains where they could do with some more help or whether they can progress to the next step. The Drive Diary can be given over to their driving instructor when they begin their official lessons at the age of 17 and the instructor will then know what their experience level is.

 

My son, who is 14 years old, was lucky enough to be invited along to the Bluewater Center to experience for himself what it is like to drive a car. The center itself, is situated within the blue car park at Bluewater shopping center. There is a section of car park outside that is specifically designed for a  beginners’ zone, that has a full road system with traffic signs, road markings, junctions and parking zones. In this way it encourages responsible driving.

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As soon as we had arrived, he was called up by his instructor and taken along to the car that he would be driving. Before he could turn the key he underwent a safety check and was taught how to use the mirrors, signal and when to manoeuvre. He had full control over the steering wheel and pedals, however the instructor had pedals that would over power his if an accident were to happen. He started off slowly, to get used to the feel of the steering and clutch. Not long on the road and he was soon snaking in-between cones and maneuvering the car into a figure of eight in the parking lot. Whilst, he was driving he was continuously given advise and constructive criticism from the instructor. He spent 60 minutes out on the road, building up his confidence and learning some important skills of control and responsibility. He now knows how to drive safely and properly, putting him leaps and bounds ahead of other 17 year olds.

His instructor was fantastic, professional and made him feel safe at all times.

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Since his experience, he has become more road aware and is definitely more confident and prepared for when he can hit the road.

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We made a video of his experience

My son certainly left with a big smile on his face and is now eager to get behind the wheel.

I would highly recommend the experience for any young child who wants to get ahead of their peers and become a much safer driver. A very valuable and worthwhile experience.

30 minute lesson – 10-17yrs – £34.95

60 minute lesson – 10-17yrs – £64.95

To find out more about the experience or to make a booking, head on over to their website www.youngdriver.com

We was given this experience for the purpose of this review.

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Learning Outdoors: Free Gruffalo Teacher’s Pack

Having my own children and especially working within a school has made me realise that keeping children on task at such a young age can be difficult, it is hard to keep children engaged especially those with a short attention span. Taking lessons outdoors can engage children keeping them motivated. The experience of an outdoor lesson becomes more memorable and at an early age children learn through play.

The Forestry commission have launched a free downloadable Gruffalo Pack for teachers, full of activities based around the popular Julia Donaldson story The Gruffalo. Aimed at Early Years, Foundation stage and Key Stage 1, the activities are designed to be taken outdoors, aiming to encourage children to explore the nature world in the forest. All the activities have been designed to be used outdoors, in your local woods, park or school grounds.

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“Following Forestry Commission, England’s research, 83% of teachers said they’d would like to participate in more outdoor learning if it was more accessible. FCE looked at what prohibited teachers from teaching in the woodlands/ forest and how they could overcome these barriers to increase the ability of schools to teach outdoors when they wish to do so. The result, The Gruffalo’s teachers pack”

The Gruffalo Teacher’s Pack aims to teach learners about forests and how they are looked after for the benefits of people and wildlife. It has 4 sections:

1. Introduction: Scene setting

• This section will enable learners to get to know the Gruffalo story, the characters and the forest environment.

2. Programme 1 – Explore and discover the forest

• EYFS – Understanding the world; Mathematics;
• Geography KS1 – geographical vocabulary; geographical skills; place knowledge

3. Programme 2 – Design, make and evaluate

• EYFS – Physical development; Expressive arts & design
• Design & technology KS1 – design, make, build, evaluate

4. Programme 3 – All about animals

• EYFS – Understanding the world; Communication and language
• Science Year 1 – animals, humans, senses

Each section is full of ideas and tips and set out as a lesson plan that you can follow. Each section has a conclusion at the end, what you have investigated and what you have learned about living things. Covering areas of EYFS, curriculum linked. In each programme there are ideas on what you can talk about and also hands on activities. They are easy to follow and full of information, you will also receive the activity sheets to go along with each activity.

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The benefits of outdoor learning

  • Taking lessons outdoors engages and motivates children
  • Makes the learning more real by putting the subject into a context that they can grasp
  • Nurtures creativity and the imagination
  • The experience becomes more memorable, it becomes a hands on lesson
  • All children benefit from the lesson regardless of language, SEN and level of learning
  • Aids personal and social development
  • Being outside, children become more aware of the environment around them.
  • Widens their vocabulary and becomes more confident
  • Engages children with a short attention span

After reading the story to children in school and my own children, we took to the outdoors to make a story map of the Gruffalo. We followed the hands on activity from programme 1, to explore and discover the forest. The curriculum links for this part are mathematics and understanding of the world and it covers KS1 geography. We had to find a flat area and by using 4 big sticks make a frame. Using natural materials that were found from within the surroundings, we recreated the map.

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The stone is the mouse. Turn left and you reach the Fox’s underground home, go straight up and you come to the Owl’s tree, turn right and then you at the Snake’s logpile house and then comeback down to the Gruffalos cave.

We used twigs that had fallen to the ground, moss from the floor, leaves, bark from the trees and stones.

The children loved running around and working together to create their map. They were engaged and worked as a team, discussing what they should look for and what should represent the items in the story. As they were creating the map they retold the story how they remembered it, becoming familiar with the scenes and the forest around them.

After we had made the map we then went on the look out for any signs of the gruffalo and the other characters.

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Learning about the forest and the environment becomes so much easier if you could explore it.

To get your paws on the Gruffalo Teacher’s Pack visit http://www.forestry.gov.uk/gruffaloteaching

We was sent a copy of the pack and the book for the purpose of this review.

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Unlocking phonic sounds with a padlock and key

My little one is 4 years old and currently learning his phonic sounds, he is doing really well and is beginning to master his individual sounds and blending them together to read simple cvc, cvcvv words. We are now moving on to learning digraphs and vowel digraphs, which are two letters that make one sound, eg. sh, ch, th, ph, ai, ow, ee.

Making a game out learning is fun and can really engage the child .

We have made  a simple little game up, using padlocks and keys.

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Place a picture on the padlock and then add the beginning sound onto the key. So it could be a picture of an ant and then add the initial sound on the key, which would be a. As my child is learning jolly phonics in school I used the pictures from the jolly phonics sound card. This way they can not only recognise the sound but also the picture. Using name tags I wrote the sound on and attached it to the key. The pictures need to be fairly small to fit onto the padlocks.

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This game is fun to play and easy to make. Children can play for hours unlocking the padlock, not only learning and recognising sounds but also working on their fine motor skills.

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You can use the padlock idea for number bonds, equations and words.

Hope you have found this post helpful 🙂

 

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Word building with Bricks, learning to read

Learning to read can be tricky, but making it fun can help children learn.

Phonics involves children learning the sounds of the letters and not just the name, how to segment and blend them together to make words, for example s – a – t blended together reads sat. Phonics consists of identifying sounds that are in spoken words and recognising the common spelling of each phoneme (the smallest unit of sound) Tricky isn’t it! And that is just the beginning of learning Phonics.

Learning the initial sounds and building cv, cvc words together is the beginning of learning to read.

I made up our own little word building game using different length duplo bricks.

You will need:

  • Duplo bricks, 2,4 and 6 pronged long
  • A marker pen
  • Sticky labels preferably white
  • Scissors

Use the smaller bricks for the individual sounds and the bigger bricks for the words that you want your child to learn to read and write. Following the Letters and Sounds phases, It’s always good to start with the sounds s,a,t,i,p,n and cv (consonant and vowel) words first. It will help the child to blend smaller words and once they have the hang of it add-on another letter.

Cut the sticky label to the size of the brick. Write on the individual sounds to the words that you want them to build and then on the longer bricks write down the words.

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As your child is building the word get them to sound out the letter, once they have recognised them and found the sounds that make up the word they then build the word. When the word is built they can then try to blend the sounds together and read out the word

DSC_2824_optGet your child to point to each sound when reading

DSC_2826_optOnce your child has mastered the cv words you can then go onto cvc words, like sat, pin, pat and sit. You can then add in the digraph (2 letters that make 1 sound), trigraph (3 letters that make 1 sound) and blends

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This is a fun activity that encourages children fine motor skills as well as letter recognition and blending words.

Thank you for reading 🙂

 

 

 

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Sensory Ziplock Bags

These sensory Ziplock bags are perfect for young children who are learning to write, they are easy to make and are fun to use. There are so many different types of sensory bags to make, you can add items to them such as letters and numbers for recognition, objects for counting or specific letters to make a sound bag.

We went for the plain option as Oliver is just learning his letter formations.

You will need:

  • Strong see through plastic ziplock bags (I used Tesco own brand)
  • Tub of hair gel (we used see through cheap hair gel, bought from the chemist)
  • Food dye
  • Glitter
  • Selotape to seal the bag

Empty half of the tub of gel into the bag, add in some food dye (i used the gel food colouring that comes in a tube) and the glitter. Close the bag up and squidge the mixture around with your fingers, the dye will eventually mix in and you will have an even glittery colour.
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If you feel that there is too much in the bag remove it now before you seal it with the selotape. Remove any air that is the the bag slowly trying not to lose any of the gel out of the bag. Once you are happy with the sensory bag, fold over the top and seal it with selotape.

Now they are ready to use
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You could also add objects into then before you seal the bags up eg: alphabet, numbers, fish, stars or objects that begin with a peticular sound for a sounds bag.

Not only has my youngest boy enjoyed doing his letters and shapes in the gel bag but my other two children who are aged 7 and 12 have equally enjoyed playing with it too.

Please be careful and use strong ziplock bags and also keep any child using it under supervision.

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Let Me Learn football maths games review

Times Tables Games

Help your child with their maths with Let Me Learn downloadable Football maths games.

Joseph is in year 3 at school and although it is at a national level for maths he struggles with learning his times tables. He gets there in the end but it does take him time, he still uses his fingers to count and he sometimes misses out one when recalling his times tables which results in him getting the rest wrong. In year 3 at school they are learning their 3,4 and 8 times tables, he is ok with times up to 5 but anything beyond that and he struggles. We have tried learning from memory and are always recalling them so that he can try to remember but Joseph is quite an active boy and he has low attention so his mind will then wonder and he loses interest pretty quickly.

Let Me Learn is an online learning resources website for teachers and parents. Sue Kerrigan the founder of Let Me Learn believes that for a child to ‘learn effectively is when they’re having fun. Education is essential for a fulfilled life and the process of gaining that education must be fun and enjoyable because that is the best and easiest way for anyone to learn.’ Repetition is so important for children with learning differences – they need to over learn essential skills for reading, writing and maths.  This is why are own products are all about ‘fun learning and repetition without boredom’.

We was sent a CD of Football maths games to review, The CD has 58 games in total, covering basic maths skills and facts:

Number Bonds, Odds & Evens, Doubling, Halving, Addition, Subtraction, Teen & Ty, Place Value, Bridge 10, Rounding, Times Tables, Division Tables, Fractions and Comparing Fractions, Decimals & Percentages.

You will need 10 counters, 1 playing piece per player and 1 dice (these are not included with the disc) Print on paper for instant play or print on card and laminate for durability if desired.

Who are these games for?

Avid football fans 7-14 years who are struggling with basic maths skills and facts and need lots of fun repetition to secure this knowledge.  Learn with the extra support provided with most of the games or practice without the support.

  • Motivational football gamesRepeated fun practice
  • Practice basic maths skills
  • Easy to learn – games follow similar rules
  • Follows curriculum learning objectives
  • Learn a memory technique
  • Supporting resources for learning
  • Ink saving low colour printing options

We first read through the memory technique, which is a way of remembering what you are learning. I asked Joseph a series of questions about what we had done the day before, whilst thinking he looked up to the sky to try to remember our day. When we practised the 3 and 4 times table, I told him to the look to the sky where his memory cloud is. This seemed to help to visualise the times table as he only got stuck once. It takes Joseph a while to remember things but given time he does answer and is normally correct.

We printed out a couple of board games to play in colour but you are given the option to print out in low colour so that your child can colour it in by themselves, this is so that if the game is personalised it will motivate the children to take ownership of the game. Each game comes along with a set of rules and visual prompts.

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Nearly a winner
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Board game with rules
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Board game with visual x table prompt

 

As Joseph is learning his 3 and 4 times table, I thought that this would be an ideal game to start with. The disc is easy to find your way around with everything clearly labeled to find. We practised his times table first and then started to play. he chose to be on the blue team which was the 3 x table side, which left me to be on the red team, the 4 x table side. Joseph was quick to point out that he would be Chelsea and I would be Manchester United, noting the colours of the teams. He rolled the dice and landed on 0x3 “easy” he said and placed a counter on the correct football. After an interesting 10 minute game, we had a very happy winner….Joseph. We did have moments where Joseph got stuck with persistence, encouragement and time he managed to remember the correct answer. I am sure with time and practise he will be able resite his times tables as quickly as I or his big brother can.

 

Before we played the game he was moaning about playing and saying that he didn’t enjoy maths, by the end of the game he was smiling and asking to play again. The games are simple but fun, Children don’t realise that whilst they are playing they are also learning aswell.

The football maths disc cost £14.99 and can be ordered online here Other games available are Hockey, Basketball, Rugby and Sports.

We was sent the disc for the purpose of this review

 

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Lauren Laverne narrates New Tee and Mo Games for Cbeebies

Lauren Laverne narrates new Tee and Mo games from BAFTA-winning production company

 

Negotiating with toddlers is not easy. Now a new series of animated games has launched on the CBeebies website, which help teach toddlers the benefits of team-work through interactive parent/child play.

Created by BAFTA-winning interactive production company, Plug-in Media, Tee and Mo, comprises 10 narrative-led desktop and mobile free games narrated by radio DJ and television presenter Lauren Laverne.

Each game is designed as a two-player interactive experience, encouraging pre-schooler and parent to enjoy together. They revolve around the daily adventures of an adorable and unstoppable baby monkey, Tee, and his mum, Mo. The aim is to explore everyday situations through the point of view of both child and parent, showing that whilst they may want to do different things, they can learn together by negotiating the challenges of daily life jointly.

Tee and Mo’s light-hearted approach to problem-solving and teamwork leads to care-giver and child bonding both on and off screen whilst inspiring them to pursue imaginative play opportunities off-line. After some thinking, they both have the same brilliant idea and take it in turns or work together.

The Tee and Mo desktop and mobile games can be played free online at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/tee-and-mo

There are 4 games on the Cbeebies website of which Oliver and I both played, his favourite one was the Jungle Trolley Dash, he laughed and giggled so much when we crashed into the obstacles that were in our way whilst out picking up food for dinner. To play the games you use the arrow buttons and space bar or the mouse. When playing the Jungle Trolley dash i told Oliver when to press the Space bar and i used the up and down arrow buttons to manouvre the trolley, it was fun and we laughed lots as he just kept pressing the space bar and made us crash lots, i think he liked to see Tee and Mos faces when it happened lol. Oliver was shouting up and down and Oh No when we crashed and Now when he saw some fruit to collect.

Oliver liked to point to the computer screen when he wanted me to do something

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Jungle Trolley Dash: Mo wants to do her shopping but Tee wants to play on his scooter so together they use the trolley and whizz through the jungle avoiding the boulders and shrubs that are in the way and picking up the food as they go.

Musical Garden: Its perfect weather for planting some flowers but Tee is more interested in his music box than helping Mo with the gardening. Turns out flowers love music as it helps them grow! So Tee & Mo see how many seeds they can plant in the time it takes Mo’s music box to play a tune!

Sandwich Stacker: It’s teatime in the jungle and Mo wants to make a sandwich, but Tee wants to carry on stacking his building blocks! They decide to create super-stacker sandwiches by piling their favourite fillings up as high as they can! Tee likes savoury food and Mo likes Sweet.

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Squirrel Flyer: Tee and his friend want to play but Mo wants to go out into the Jungle to fill up the fruit basket, so working together they Tee and Fly steer there way through the jungle and knock the fruit down for Mo to catch in her basket.

I really enjoyed playing these games with Oliver and he now has a new love of Monkeys, thanks to Tee and Mo. Each game has clear instructions spoken and worded, and gives you a result in the end.

Not only is there 4 games to play but you can also print out colour in sheets and watch short clips of Tee and Mo.

Dominic Minns, Creative Director, Plug-in Media said: “Unlike any other pre-school property Tee and Mo focuses as much on Mo the mum, as it does on Tee her boy – putting this most special of relationships at the heart of every adventure, to be enjoyed by a dual audience of parents and their children.  The games will create a positive space in the digital world that encourages caregiver/child relationships through purposeful and imaginative play.”

No money has been received for this post, i was provided with some information about the new games.

 

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Weekly Spellings

Joseph is 5 years old and in year 1 at school so every week he as part of his homework he is given a list of spellings to learn. There is normally about 10 words which will include 4 tricky words that can not be sounded out. He is given these on Monday and has to write them down every day until Friday when he takes a test in school on them.

Joseph struggles with his writing and spellings but with a bit of time and patience he is getting there with it, he spends about 15 minute a day on his writing and spellings. I have bought him a little notebook which he likes to write down a sentence every day on what he has done, a bit like a diary but he also draws a picture with his sentence too.

Along with writing down his spellings I also set up little games for him to play including the words that he has to learn just to try to make it a bit of fun for him. Joseph loses his concentration pretty quickly so keeping the games short and exiting is important.

The first game we do is WOW which is short for ‘Words On Wall’, This entails me writing down the words on a separate piece of paper, cutting them out and sticking them around the living room walls. I shout out the word and he has to run and find it, once he has found the correct word he then spells it out, we do it really quickly and he ends up getting really dizzy but he loves it!

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The second game is where we write the words down separate pieces of strips of paper and turn them over on the table so all the words are hidden, next we take it in turns to turn them over one at a time and then we have to act out the word that is written down. When the other person guesses correctly they have to spell out the word.

20130202-230238.jpgAfter each game if he has done really well then I reward him with a sticker, he loves these and tries really hard to get one.

These games seem to be working as he has starting to come home with his Super speller certificate, not every week but often than not he comes out of school with a big smile on his face at 3:10 on a Friday afternoon with s big smile on his face. Maybe its the time that I put into teaching Joseph his spellings or maybe it’s that he is concentrating more during classes in school, I just really hope the he continues to enjoy learning his spellings.

 

How do you get by with doing spellings with your little ones? Do they struggle like Joseph?

 

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#366/spellings

Today’s photo of the day has got to be of Joseph doing his homework spellings.
When I picked him up last week on Friday afternoon from school he was jumping for joy, he had practised all week long with his spellings and he had got them all right 🙂 he was beaming from ear to ear with the biggest ‘proud of himself’ grin. He was chuffed to pieces with his super speller certificate, which is now on show on the kitchen cupboard for us to see every day.

This week he has really tried hard too with his spellings and his hand writing, I can see a huge improvement in his writing and his spellings, he has become more interested in his homework and wants to learn how to do his spellings. At first he struggled to keep his writing in the small boxes on the grid but with practice he now fits them all in there.

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Swimming for the baby, Freds SWIMTRAINER CLASSIC Red Review

Swimming is a fun activity for the whole family but it can also play a huge part of a baby’s development. Being in the water gives the baby independence, they can learn balance and awareness, it gives them confidence and can help them with their social skills. Having fun in the water whilst swimming can help children develop a positive relationship with the water and can give them a sense of achievement.

As a family we have always been keen on swimming, the boys love to splash about all day long and enjoy the freedom they get when in the water, Daddy is a good swimmer too and has taught the two eldest to swim and both of them were confident swimmers by the time they were 4 years old. I am not too keen on swimming, i’m not very confident in the water but do still enjoy the sense freedom and like to play with the boys in the pool so i don’t want the boys to be like me I want them to have confidence and to be able to swim themselves to safety if they ever get into trouble in the water. Every year come May time we always get our pool, Daddy sets it up with the pump and heater, chlorinates it and cleans the filters, he puts a lot of work into the pool so that the boys can enjoy their swimming at any time of the day. This year is the first year that Oliver has been able to enjoy the pool too, he loves to splash his big brothers and likes to move about in the water. He has a baby ring that he sits in but he doesn’t like to feel restricted and is always trying to get out of it, he gets his little legs out of the seat within seconds so he isn’t very safe in it and as our pool is 4ft deep swimming with him isn’t very comfortable I am always worrying about him falling out.

The Swimtrainer Classic Red can be used with the baby from as early as 3 months old, it is designed to put the baby into the correct swimming position in the water by allowing the baby to lay forward instead of sitting upwards. The swimtrainer gives children the necessary sense of achievement and security in the water during every stage of their development. This forms the basis for being successful at learning how to swim. The specially designed swimtrainer aids are introduced according to the child’s age and learning ability (red, orange, yellow). The SWIMTRAINER “Classic” is used with babies to support their early development, it has inflatable straps and pads to prevent baby from slipping through and adjustable safety belt which also prevents the baby from tipping forward.

Classic Swim Trainer (Red)

We was sent a Swimtrainer classic from http://www,thethinkingbaby.com for Oliver to try out, it arrived a couple of days before we left for our holiday which was perfect and I couldn’t wait to see little Oliver in it. It took only a few minutes to blow up and was easy to get him in it, as i said before he doesn’t like to feel restricted and as soon as i put him in it he started to pull at it trying to get out of it. I adjusted the straps to fit him and clipped him in using the inflatable safety belt that is attached to the ring, the clip is extra safe as it has a safety piece of plastic that snaps on top of the clips ensuring that the clips do not come undone during use in the water. Once he stood up and started walking in it he started to become more comfortable and was getting used to having it around him, he could move around easily and the swimtrainer wasn’t stopping him.

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We walked to the pool and in he went, straight away he leaned forward and i instantly grabbed out to him to steady him but i didn’t need to as the swimtrainer was supporting him under his belly. He looked very comfortable and was soon laying forward and kicking his little feet. The inflatable belly panel was supporting and hugging him making him feel comfortable, I let go of him and let him go of on his own, he was having lots of fun and was even moving in the water on his own, he had his arms laying forward over the ring and was moving his hands about in the water and generally enjoying himself splashing around. I felt at ease that he was safe and secure in the trainer and i was starting to enjoy being in the water with him, normally after about 5 minutes he is trying to climb out if his support ring to get into the water but with Oliver sitting in his swimtrainer and enjoying himself he just stayed put and carried on kicking his legs feeling completely free he went in any direction he wanted to.

I am very impressed with the swimtrainer classic and would definitely recommend it to other parents. It folds up into a nice and neat flat pile and is lightweight which is ideal for your luggage when packing a suitcase for a holiday. Not only does it give the baby freedom and confidence in the water but it also puts parents at ease knowing that your child will not tip over or slip through the ring. The swimtrainer classic red is suitable for babies of 13-40lbs/6-18kg.

The swimtrainer classic is available in three colours red, yellow and orange depending on age/weight of the child and can be bought here for £19.50.

Follow The Thinking Baby on twitter @TheThinkingBaby

unfortunately i have no photographs of Oliver in the water wearing the Swimtrainer as i was not allowed to take photos of him in the pool

I was sent a swimtrainer classic red for the purpose of this review and have not received any payment. All words and thoughts are my own.

update from 6/8/12. Oliver had a swim in the pool today in our garden (the water looks a bit green but it’s just where it’s not been used for a while and the algae has settled on the floor, 15 minutes of swimming around and the chlorine was doing it’s work again)

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