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Vera&Bob paperback now available (learning theory for kids)

*PLEASE SHARE* Vera&Bob Paperback now available on amazon (link below – also in kindle format)
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Do you want your child to be safer around animals? this book promotes observation of behaviour and positive interactions as well as introducing basic learning theory principles that are transferable between species (including humans) and can help understand the way we ourselves learn. Vera’s story encourages readers to follow their dreams and uniqueness.
‘Vera is a young bilingual girl who loves running barefoot around the garden and exploring nature. On her Seventh birthday her Mum (a behavioural scientist) surprises her with a pony called Bob, but there is a catch; he is a rescued wild pony who is not used to being close to people.
The story follows Vera learning about training techniques and behaviour, overcoming criticism and obstacles to train Bob using humane methods and compete and demonstrate what she has achieved, at equestrian shows.
The book contains a lot of moral life messages that are applicable and transferable to other scenarios. It introduces complex equestrian specific terms and psychological language with definitions and illustrations.
The book employs the well known mnemonic device of story telling to introduce a complicated subject. Ideal for horse mad children, young adults and those new to or interested in owning horses.’
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Our Favourite Children’s Books of Educational Value

davMy two year old loves books. We read a few every night and have done since she was a few months old (I used to read my books out loud when she was tiny until I realised she started paying attention and was bored by the content of my non fiction scripts.

I have always felt that learning to read and enjoying books was one of the key focuses for me to try to encourage and teach her as it opens up a wealth of learning opportunities and encourages imagination and abilities to communicate eloquently.

Below are our quick reviews with links to the books and why we loved them (not in any particular order):

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Listen Listen by Phillis Gershator This is a dual Russian and English Book and while I currently read it in English as he understanding of Russian language grows it will help expand her vocabulary in both languages. I am a big fan of dual language books on the whole but you do tend find the translation a bit iffy. It can be difficult to translate some words and meanings and we have found Spanish ones that are ‘directly translated’ but when read by a native Spanish speaker, they do not read how a native person would say it. This one however is good. It gets top marks from my two and a half year old who made me read it every night for at least a month until she was able to recite it end to end to me, using the previous sentence and images as prompts. Brilliant for learning the seasons and what changes during the year.

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If You Were My Baby by Fran Hodgkins I love this, my little one used to want me to read it every night (until I hid the book) she would name and count all the animals. It exposes them to different animals and suggests what the mother might teach the baby of that species and ends with humans.

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Who Ever You Are by Mem Fox I wasn’t sure about the illustrations when I bought this but my mini me selected it repeatedly for bedtime and the content message is wonderful. it artfully explains our similarities and differences with particular focus on uniting people from different backgrounds and ethnicity all around the world.

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Baby Loves Quarks by Ruth Spiro It is safe to say it was not just my baby that learnt something with this book. It perfectly explains what the world is made of starting with Quarks – my baby’s favourite bit is describing the quarks as ‘holding hands’.

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Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering by Ruth Spiro As above explains flight in a simple and easy way. Starting with ‘bird’ and ending with rockets. (Not quite as complicated as Quarks). Given how much we love the Ruth Spiro books we can not wait to read Baby Loves Thermo-dynamics and Baby Loves Quantum Physics new out since we purchased the previous two and currently on our Christmas list.

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Non-Euclidean Geometry for Babies Sounds complicated but the layered approach to explanation makes it easy. I didn’t think the graphics would be that stimulating but my baby loves them, it is just lines and dots but it makes it really easy for her to engage and she loves the way the book asks her questions. We have added words like ‘perpendicular’ and ‘parallel’ to our 2 1/2 year old’s vocabulary and I love that. Bring on the STEM fields.

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All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka Another delightful book using poetic descriptive words about the colour of skin and hair. Beauty comes in all variants.

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Vera&Bob by Elizabeth P Burakevic I couldn’t do a book list for educational story books without adding my own some where. Introducing the concept of the science of learning, conditioning and behaviour observation (Learning theory) through a young girls journey training her rescue pony. It also mentions equine management (food and housing) and welfare. I have not yet read it to my baby… it is a bit long, aimed more at children who are able to read themselves or are about 7yo and up. It should be a brilliant way to introduce pony mad kids to what it takes to care for and keep a horse and enjoy a safe and enjoyable relationship.

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Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty The rhyming in this is excellent. It is funny, clever and introduces historical architectural buildings and terms as well as a core message of following your dreams. We had to get it seeing as Daddy is an Architect and it did not disappoint.

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Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty Encouraging girls in STEM fields, perseverance and not being deterred by a failed first attempt. All with the same funny and clever rhymes as the previous title. I notice my little one dancing around pretending she has a cheese spray hat on to protect her head from snakes so she clearly remembers and is inspired by Rosie’s inventions. I hope and assume that Beaty will write a story for every child in the classroom and I am looking forward to reading  Ada Twist Scientist  the third book in the series.

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Peep inside the ZooPeep inside Animal Homes  & Peep inside the Garden by Anna Milbourne  are all lovely for children to lift the flaps and enjoy discovering animals, where they live, what they eat and more. Great for encouraging an investigative and exploratory approach to nature and life in general.

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Pass the Energy Please by Barbara Shaw McKinney and Chad Wallace Excellent is the best way to describe this title. A little too long for my two and a half year old but she still enjoys it. Very well thought out rhymes and layered approach to educating the reader on food chains. Starting with photosynthesis as a 1 link chain and I believe ending in a chain of 6.

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Owl Babies by Martin Waddell A classic and I know why. This has been one of my girls favourites since the day we got it, especially as it allows for different character voices. She expresses concern and empathises with the owlets sadness and rejoices with them when they ‘jump up and down on the branch’ at the return of their mother. Every one should have this book.

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The Otter who Loved to Hold Hands by Heidi and Daniel Howarth A story with a crucial message of independence and bravery. Explaining that it does not mean you are alone or that you can not ever cuddle and seek help. This was a crucial book for us given my little ones strong fear of one on one attention with people that are unfamiliar and when she was younger her reluctance to play on something new with out a parent.

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen A fun exploration of sounds in nature, great when read with energy to add emphasis to the content. Encourages family time outdoors, exploration and environment. It is quite cute to be walking along with a toddler who recites passages from the book and describes things she finds the forest using reference to the book. ‘a river, we cant go over it, we cant go under it, we have to go through it’ is a sentence you will get used to hearing a lot.

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Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aadema I love trying to find stories from different cultures and this one exposes your little one to a very different way of life and animals. Great for encouraging global acceptance and awareness.

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Izzy Gizmo by Pip Jones & Sarah Ogilvie Our latest purchase and impromptu discovery. It is much the same in principle as ‘Rosie Revere’ but it also introduces cross species compassion and relationships when Izzy takes home an injured crow and tries to give him a fulfilled life.

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Little Changes by Tiffany Taylor A story of evolution. Brilliantly explains what causes things to evolve using these funny little made up creatures. A little long and complex for my little one at 2 1/4 years but by 3 I fully expect her to be well into this from start to finish.

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Over in the Jungle , Over in the Ocean Over in the Arctic by Marianne Berkes These books have great educational benefit and content. With counting being the most obvious. Introducing lesser known animal species, a behaviour they might do and the environment they live in. The Rhyme is set to a tune which is noted in musical format in the back so you could use as lyrics to instrumental accompaniment. Each ends with a hide and seek type page to improve searching skills. The books also have facts in the back like ‘how many babies they actually have’ and a section that shows the illustrators process. Meaning there is plenty of longevity in these books to grow with the child. The Artic one also has several small animals for the children to look back and find. Needless to say I have been made to read them repeatedly.

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This list while it feels extensive really isn’t I feel like I have missed some but I have tried to include books that are of educational value either for knowledge, imagination or emotional growth. I am sure there will be others; post Christmas I expect a load more we want to share with you and I will be doing a short list of child friendly dvds with a good message so look out for that.

 

Child development record: tracing lines

She has tried this over the last couple of months but this week I notice a marked difference in the results. Her pen holding is good, sometimes she holds it at the end so I tell her to hold it near the tip for better control so she does and gets what I consider very accurate for a two and a half year old.

She occasionally uses either hand but at present favours the left and has marginally better control.

This is an activity that she asks to do and loves doing, especially when we applaud a good effort. I would never push this activity on her as research shows even many 4-5year olds do not have the fine motor skills to write and this is one of the concerns with the British education system.

What next?: continue allowing her access to practice as she wants, encourage her to realise what she is doing when she traces the square so that she might transfer the action to drawing a square for herself, without the lines. Work on the pressure as currently she tends to push down to hard reducing her control. Explain again that the red dots are a guide to where she should start.

Life Sentence – FIV

Meet Thor. Rescued from a river bank at about five weeks old, alone and vulnerable. A few weeks later he went to a new home and quickly became ill – lethargic and floppy. After little improvement, weeks in the vets on a drip and antibiotics, the vet suggested we test for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (the feline equivalent to HIV); this wasn’t a standard practice as kittens can give false readings if their mother was infected. The quick snap test was done which was positive so to confirm a full blood sample was sent for a titer test to confirm the level of infection and rule out a false positive. Sadly he was confirmed to have the virus which in an instant changed his future and world.

Many cats in rescue centres do end up getting put to sleep with this virus as they are harder to rehome; some people worrying that they can be infected (not the case – it is species specific and harder to spread than you might think), they have to be kept indoors as an only cat (unless the other cats are also infected). The main reason for them having to be kept separate is their own health – they pick up infections easily and can get very sick. There is also a social responsibility to keep them away from other cats to reduce the spread of the virus.

Spread by mixing body fluids like blood in fighting, mating and in some cases saliva. It can also be passed to unborn kittens by the queen.

In Thor’s case he was in a multi cat household, attempts to rehome him failed for various reasons but mainly due to his attachment to his owner. He spent the first few years having the bedroom and ensuite to himself and later moved to a pen in the garden where he had more stimuli by way of sight, sounds and smells. He also could see the other cats in the house but at a safe distance.

He is a very loving and cuddly cat (although due to not growing up with litter mates he doesn’t understand not to play rough) statistically cats have six years of a-symptomatic life after diagnosis, so at nearly seven we know he may start having problems soon but he is currently bright and happy.

Many years ago I researched the virus and found some countries had a vaccine to prevent infection but due to the rigorous tests and standards to pass a drug in the UK it wasn’t available here. This was so frustrating as he could have lived playing with the other cats. Although it wont help Thor I hope that the vaccine can make it to the UK as it could change the lives of many cats in the country.

When life tells you a joke

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I understand donkeys can not read (as we do) but this was one of those times I had to stop and have a good giggle to my self.

Reflecting on it now it raises the question of rules and regulations. Some people seem intent on defiance whilst others wouldn’t dream of the slightest little flexion in a rigid system.

For me following a moral compass is far more important than legislation (although many laws obviously are designed on the same grounds)

I hope to instill to my child core principles that mean doing ones best to avoid inflicting suffering on others (all species) both directly and indirectly. Be a considerate and contributing member of the world. Actively seek to protect and preserve the environment. Understand that all species should have freedom of choice and the right to exist without needing a human assigned purpose. Understand that you can only plant an idea in to someone’s thoughts; you can not force on them your ideas and beliefs, results are much longer lasting when the individual reaches the conclusion themselves.

Share if you agree.

Exploration: New forest photography hunt

If you follow us on social media you will know we take regular day trips around the New Forest; trying to capture beautiful shots of landscape and ponies and enjoying the scenery in general.

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This time of year is great for photos, the heather is on the turn and the bracken is flowering, baby animals roam and rest (usually precariously in the road) but they are old enough not to be too scared and the mares have relaxed their guard slightly (though don’t be fooled – I did witness a woman get kicked in the leg for trying to move a stubborn mare and foal from her path) you can usually get quite close for some nice angles and details.

Here is a selection from our travels: follow us on instagram or facebook for more regular imagery.

Barefoot like the donkeys

The cows are more cautious

Magic mule

Don’t be tempted to feed them, it makes some of them pushy with people, aggressive to each other trying to guard the resource but most of all it attracts them to cars and the road – this one was not rewarded for exploring my car so hopefully she wont bother again.

Cutie pie

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Looking to the other side.

Nature: a big lunch

I got in to my car to see this giant bug caught in my [pet wing mirror] spider’s web. Clearly already paralyzed or dead as it wasn’t struggling but it was a fascinating (all be it gruesome) opportunity to watch what the spider did with such a giant meal.

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As I drove it flapped in the wind and the spider ran down to attach more threads and drag it up to the corner away from the wind.

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When I stopped to record its activity, it initially ran to hide from the close proximity of my phone, but then, when it felt safe, the spider went about exploring and what looked like stripping layers off the bug as it started to discolour where the spider had been. I had thought it would wrap it up but it didn’t appear to be doing that or perhaps that is just my naivety of arachnid behaviour. Something to explore as my mini me gets older.

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Understanding animal behaviour to improve animal welfare and human/non-human interaction is of utmost importance to me and something I strive to pass on to my toddler and others. My first book: Vera&Bob is designed to hopefully do just that.