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Since my daughter turned 3 in August and moved to pre-school I have found she has come along in leaps and bounds. She is a whole lot more outgoing and extreeeeeemely talkative (honestly, sometimes she gives me earache!) and I have been watching her development week in and week out. She is very creative and artistic and loves drawing, reading and writing etc. I got her for her birthday a Leapfrog Count and draw pad which proved very productive, but she somehow seems to have misplaced it between our house and her gran's where she goes during the day when I am at work. So, on my days off when we are at home together I wanted to get her some "workbook" type of activities to do to try and channel her focus and improve on her writing and drawing skills.
...About the book...
I was in WHSmith when I saw this book in the pre-school section for £5.99. It is a hardback book with a slight "wooden" feel in the sense of the really thick, rigid pages. The book is a wipe clean book, similar to the concept of a whiteboard, which comes already with a pen which slots in nicely at the top of the book. This allows little one's to draw to their hearts content and then the page can be wiped clean so as to create a clean slate and practice all over again.
There are 26 colourful, vibrant pages, with various activities and types of lines. The first page is explained as "simple lines" and has vertical and horizontal lines which have a large black dot to start and then a "dot to dot" type of method which explains to the children to draw the straight line going up, down and then from left to right and vice versa. There are also diagonal lines going down, then up and crosses and to do a tick.
Next up there are "curved lines" which encourage children to draw spirals, swirls and a continuous uuuuu (imagine the u's all joined up lol!) so they experience the different hand motions and directions. Moving through the book it is engaging as there are shapes, basic and more complex from a square to a hexagon and even an oval which I was amazed my daughter understood the different concepts in drawing in comparison to a circle.
There is a baby animals section where you have to guide baby animals to their mummies. This consists of baby animals e.g on the left hand side of the page is a puppy and then you draw over the dotted line following the trail and then it links to a picture on the right hand side of a dog. This is not only good for pen control but also teaching the different names for baby and mature animals e.g. kitten to cat.
Following through the book there is a "pets" page where my daughter can draw the outline of a fish, still using this dot to dot concept of drawing over the lines to create a picture. Towards the end of the book there are numbers to trace over the dots, from no.1 to no.12 and then on the last page there is the alphabet all in lower case. There are instructions at the top of the page which specify to "as you trace the letter, say the letter out loud." This is to encourage phonetics in speech, along with visual recognition of the letter and of course how to write it.
I am actually really glad I got this book as it is so easy to use, so engaging and colourful and so much cheaper than the technology I bought which does the same thing! With a real pen my daughter gets a grasp on how to hold the pen, controlling it over the contours for different lines, shapes, letters and pictures etc. Although I am 90% sure my daughter is a lefty, she still likes to alternate the pen between her hands, and by not having it attached to a piece of string to the book this gives her room for freedom and independence to hold the pen how she wishes without being restricted.
I love doing this book with my daughter as I feel it gives us some bonding time as we analyse the different shapes, animals and letters together and she as she is learning it doesn't feel too monotonous as I make it more fun. For example, when drawing the shape of a face of a cat I will ask her what sound a cat makes and she will say "miaow!" then we will both make miaow-ing sounds together lol. At the moment her alphabet is her weakest part as I think at 26 letters long by about halfway through the alphabet she just get's annoyed and starts scribbling all over the page! However, it is outlined in big bold lettering with a start point for each letter so she recognises where to start writing the letter and is gaining more independence in doing this without my supervision.
The only downside with this book is the pen is awful. It comes with the book and I presumed this would mean it was compatible to use with it, but although it is black even brand new it worked and looked more like a washed out grey colour that was quite faint on the page. To make matters worse, it is not so easy to wipe clean! The first time I tried to wipe the pages of the book so she could have another go, all it did was smudge everywhere creating large greyish streaks across the pages of the book. To do any kind of effective cleaning it involved me, a clean blue jay cloth and some surface spray and lot's of scrubbing! This is not what I expected. At 26 pages long I have to say my arm was aching by the time I was done!
However, overall I would have to say I am really happy with this book and think it is fantastic value. I would recommend it for any children (and parents wanting to help and encourage!) aged 3+ in their practising of pen control and drawing shapes, letters and numbers with some guidance. At £5.99 you can't really go wrong, just make sure you are well armed to scrub the pages after!