Topsy & Tim book review

This week we’ve been sent a new range of Topsy and Tim books to review and I hope that they will help O with the transition to “Big School. We have two “wipe clean” books – First Spellings and First Sums – and one sticker book –First Words -, both of which support Key Stage 1 learning. We’ve had a go with wipe clean books before and they’re great for helping pre-schoolers and new starters learn how to write.

“Topsy and Tim have all sorts of new experiences – just like you!

Jean and Gareth Adamson have sold over 21 million copies in fifty years of their iconic Topsy and Tim books, the most popular titles were re-issued in April 2008. Topsy and Tim help guide children through various ‘new experiences’, such as starting school in Topsy and Tim Start School, a new baby in Topsy and Tim: The New Baby and recycling in Topsy and Tim Go Green, with captivating storylines fun characters and engaging pictures.”

We’ll start with the First Spellings book:

The book is split into sections:

Fill in the gaps, where the child has to choose the correct vowel to complete the word. There are pictures to help and also a space for more advanced children to write the whole word again once they’ve filled in the gaps with the right letter

Family and People is, as the title suggests, a list of family members and types of people (boy, girl, baby, etc) with the words dotted for the child to trace.


Spelling patterns identifies words with letters occurring in the same places, such as “rain” and “paint”.

Numbers shows the child how to write numbers by tracing the word, and there is a space for them to write it again.

Question words shows each question word (Why, What, When, Where, Who, Which, How) in a box at the top of the page and then has a list of questions for the child to decide the correct prefix.

Colours is a page with a small box at the bottom with the name of each colour and a star in the corresponding colour to help the child identify it. There are 11 pictures of various objects (green tractor, red satchel, etc) with a space beside them to write the correct colour.

Shapes has large, colourful shapes in the middle of the page with the corresponding names in a box below. Once the child has identified which word is right for which shape, they can write them inside the shape.

Tricky words is a list of words that are hard to sound out with phonics such as “their” and “only” for the child to trace and then write again in the space at the side of each word.

Nouns and Verbs are laid out on facing pages with pictures to help and spaces to trace and rewrite each word.

At the end is a page for practising words, whether those are some of the trickier words in the book or spellings sent home from school.


I think O enjoyed what he was able to do of this book, but only having turned four in June he still has quite a short attention span for anything that feels a bit too much like hard work. He actually spent quite a long time on the Family page though, and we helped him to identify each word as he wrote it by saying things like “I am your-” and pointing to the word “mum”. We will definitely keep using this book to help him learn how words looks on the page, but also as a way of practising his handwriting. The words to trace are a reasonable size, but they are smaller than O is used to writing right now (like most four year-olds, he can fill a page just writing his name) and I think they will help him control his handwriting better as he gets more used to the letters.

The First Sums book was a real success with O. Unlike me, he seems to really enjoy and understand numbers. Like the First Spellings book, this one is also split into sections.

There are pages at the beginning for Adding up to 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. These consist of four simple sums for each number and there are pictures to help. For example, the sum is represented in a box above with cats and dogs (4 cats + 2 dogs = 6).

1 more and 1 less has shapes with numbers for the child to trace and asks them to write in a box below either 1 more or 1 less. There is a number line at the bottom of the page to help them identify the correct number.

2 more and 2 less is the same kind of thing, but with -2 sums and no numbers to trace, presumably as this is for children who are more familiar with subtraction.

Tidy up and take away represents the sums with toys that Topsy and Tim are tidying up. In order to find the correct answer to the sum, the child is asked to cross out the number of toys that have been tidied away and count the remaining toys to find the answer to the sums.

Seaside subtractions uses things like sandcastles and seagulls to represent numbers, so there are questions like “Draw 5 sandcastles. 3 get knocked over. How many are left?” The pictures can be drawn on the page and then rubbed out, which also encourages a little creative flair to keep things interesting.

Sums to 10 shows all the ways to make 10 in the form of sums to complete with the reverse subtractions. It’s quite tricky for a child just getting used to numbers, but the print on these pages is large and there are numbers to trace to help the child commit them to memory.


O had so much fun with this book, although we used toy blocks to help him with the sums so he had something physically in front of him to help him. Once we introduced the blocks he got really into this and we spent quite a lot of time on it and I think it will really help him to understand simple sums and hopefully make it easier for him to grasp the concept of basic math when he starts learning it at school.

We also recorded the First Words sticker activity book, which helps children learn every day words, such as mum, dad, cat, mug, boat, etc. O really enjoyed this because he loves sticker books and he already knew all of the words, so he found it really easy to identify which stickers he needed. Each of the spaces for stickers has a “shadow” of the correct sticker to make it easier for the child to find the right one if they don’t yet know the words by sight.


Overall, we had lots of fun with these books. There were parts of them that were beyond O at the moment, but he has a real thirst for knowledge, so I imagine if we get them out again in a few weeks he will probably surprise me with how much he knows! I think they’re both great books for introducing pre-school children and new starters to spelling and maths, and they are challenging enough that they could quite easily be useful learning aids throughout the first and probably even second year of primary school.

All of these books are available from the Penguin website and there is also an App available for iOS. You can also find Laybird on Twitter @Ladybirdbooks.

Disclaimer: These books were sent to me by Penguin in return for this review. The above review is a true and honest reflection of my experience (and O’s) of these products and all opinions expressed herein are my own.

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