Book reviews - early learning

Young children are really keen to learn and as adults, we want to make the most of that enthusiasm. There are so many books available  for this age group that we have reviewed a selection of the best to help you make your choices. The most important thing is to be sure that children find learning fun - let them work at their own pace, and be guided by them as to what they can achieve.

First Learning Colours Play Set from Priddy Books

This clever book/shape sorting toy combination will really enourage toddlers to explore colour and shape. Inside the chunky velcro-fastened box, you will discover a box full of brightly coloured and labelled shapes, including a duck, fish, drum, tracror, dinosaur and many more. On one side is a colourful photo; the reverse is a single bright colour with the name. The second element is a board book in which alternate pages feature cut-outs into which to slot the shapes. This will encourage children's curiosity and develop fine motor skills as they manipulate the shapes. There are plenty of pportunities to develop discussion and recognition too. A very nicely produced set.

Learn to Write ABC: Just Follow the Dots by Nancy Meyers

Learn to write should never be boring, and this lovely book really make writing fun for young ones. It starts off with lines and shapes to draw, and then moves on to tackle the alphabet. ABC encourages children to follow the dots to form letters, it's as simple as A, B, C. The dot-to-dot pictures will guide pre-schoolers into holding a pen correctly while familiarizing them with the letters of the alphabet. As well as simply drawing over the letters, there are lots of engaging activities. For example, give the sheep woolly coats and give the jellyfish shiny tentacles; all these activities realy develop pencil control skills. There are also short words to complete and say on each page. Young doodlers will enjoy transforming the quirky illustrations by following the dots and filling in the letters, making learning really fun

PAW Patrol: Ready, Steady, Count! by Scholastic

Popular characters Chase, Marshall, Rubble and the rest of the team are here to take your child on a PAWsome maths adventure. The colourful pages help with numbers from 1 to 20, with a page for each number, followed by pages which group the numbers together so children can see how they fit together. They are shown how to write each number, plus drawing and tracing activities.There are plenty of number puzzles to enjoy too, and the colourful and appealing activities really make early learning fun. Shapes and number lines are also introduced. A well thought-out book with lots to engage children, showing them that learning about numbers is really enjoyable. Two pages of bright stickers add to the fun.

PAW Patrol: Ready, Steady, Write! by Scholastic

Upper and lower case letters are included in the book, with dotted lines to draw over, showing the direction to write, followed by spaces for independent writing. There is also an engaging activity for each letter, to reinforce learning; these use a range of skills including drawing, writing and observation to help children remember how to write the letters. The colourful stickers add an extra ekement of fun as well as helping fine motor skills. With a total of 48 pages, these books are excellent value, with a good selection of activities.

Arty Words Flash Cards (Arty Mouse Write on Wipe Off Flash Cards) by Mandy Stanley

The box contains 40 double-sided wipe-off cards plus a pen and a cloth (a nice touch, this). The colourful cards depict familiar objects and common words that children will easily recognise, as well as colours and numbers. Arty Mouse and his lovable friends encourage young learners to write over the names and enjoy the early pen control activities such as drawing a handle on a cup, drawing leaves and completing the picture of a cat. Wipe-clean cards are perfect for early learners, as they can practise over and over again, getting their learning off to a great start. The colourful and appealing pictures are a great incentive. All Arty Mouse early learning titles help to develop hand-eye coordination and expand children's knowledge of key first concepts and their understanding of the wider world through art-based activities.

Let's Learn Animals, Colours, Counting, First Words, with Stickers (Let's Learn Sticker Books) by Steph Hinton

The early stages of learning need to be fun for children, and this colourful book, packed with a range of enjoyable activities, will really get learning off to a good and positive start. It's ideal for children aged 3+, and the stickers are well-sized for this age group. Key first concepts are covered, in four separate sections - colours, counting, first words and animals. Each page includes interesting text, so children can enjoy hearing adults read aloud - each section of the book features all the Reception high frequency words, so children will soon be starting to read this for themselves. There are hundreds of stickers included to complete the educational activities, this is a perfect activity book to give your child a headstart before starting school, or to support school learning in the home. The range of activities is excellent, with plenty of variety to keep children's attention. The collage-style illustrations are really attractive and are a real bonus in a book of this kind, making it full of appeal; the high quality shiny paper is another attractive feature of this really excellent book.

Pull-the-Tab Counting with Flash Cards from Top That

This colourful book cleverly links counting with learning the Reception high-frequency words. Pretty illustrations and lovely colours are found throughout the book; the first part consists of sums to do, with pull-down tabs to reveal the answers. Counting phrases are found at the top of each page, to introduce the words while learning to count and add up to 10. At the end of the book, a series of 40 double-sided flash cards is discovered, neatly slotted in, and all ready to give children even more counting practice, with objects to count up to 20 and word questions to answer alongside the pictures. It's a great way to encourage children to explore numbers for themselves, and Steph Hinton's gorgeous illustrations make for a really attractive book. It's durable, too, being board-based. An unusual approach and one which is highly effective

Adding and Taking Away (Skills for Starting School) from DK

There is so much parents can do to help their children make a happy, secure start at school. Giving them a grounding in basic number skills is one of them, and that's where this book will help. Of course, the most important thing at this age is making learning fun and this book which teaches the basic concepts of adding and subtracting up to 10 is certainly fun. The friendly characters, Bip, Bop and Boo, use familiar situations, such as building a tower and tidying up to help children understand simple maths; and parents can build on this at home in similar situations. There are a range of activities to enjoy, all with a narrative theme to engage children - and there are colourful stickers to help counting. A perfect start to learning to count, and one that children will really enjoy.

ABC Games (Skills for Starting School) from DK

Give your child a head start with with this pre-reading skills package which takes them through a progressive learning experience from recognising and identifying letters, to learning phonics, to understanding how letters form words. Play along with the friendly characters Bip, Bop and Boo with this box containing 26 letter cards plus 26 colourful picture cards.(one picture for each letter). The accompanying book has three activities for adult and child to enjoy together, helping them learn letter sounds. The accompanying sheet  gives tips on learning letter sounds using the cards, plus a variety of games at different levels of learning. These include alphabetical order, matching the letters and pictures, memory games, phonics game and ABC treasure hunt; the colourful cards offer plenty more opportunities to devise your own games too. By enjoying this pack with your child, they will be helped with the social skills necessary for starting school, inspiring confident, curious and capable children who are ready to forge ahead with their learning.

Read Write Inc.: My Reading and Writing Kit: Early sounds and blending by Ruth Miskin

This comprehensive kit has been specially developed with parents in mind, to help them introduce their child to phonics and support their first steps in learning to read and write. It's ideal to use before a child starts school, to give a solid foundation on which to build; early experience will also give children greater confidence for when they start school. The kit includes all that parents will need for this good grounding - Phonics flashcards introduce and give practice in learning alphabet sounds; Handwriting book develops letter formation and writing skills; Wipe-clean sheet and pen gives practice writing the sounds (wipe-clean is always a good option as it means children can have as much practice as they need); Bedroom frieze shows picture prompts to remember the sounds (it's amazing how much children will absorb simply from seeing the sounds); Parent handbook provides practical advice for giving your child a head start. The parent handbook is well written and explains exactly how parents can best help their child; phonics can be a tricky area, so do take heed of this importance guidance. "Read Write Inc., developed by Ruth Miskin, provides a structured and systematic approach to teaching literacy. It is used by more than a quarter of the UK's primary schools and is designed to create fluent readers, confident speakers and willing writers." This is an excellent pack, well presented and designed, perfect to give your child a head start.

My First Writing Book Dinosaurs from Bloomsbury

Wipe-clean books are the perfect format for early writing practice books - children can practise over and over again, giving them as much opportunity as they need to refine their writing skills. These are board books, meaning that children have a good firm surface for their writing - although, of course, children should always be encouraged to sit at a table when practising writing so they have the correct posture and pen grip. Each page has a colourful dinosaur picture with an accompanying word - these usefully include colours. A really attractive first writing book.

My First Writing Book Animals from Bloomsbury

This wipe-clean board book comes complete with pen - just trace over the word, starting at the dot and then following the dotted line so children learn the correct letter formation right from the start - this is so important. Each page has a simple animal picture with the word underneath - use the colourful pictures as opportunities for discussion.  Also available are Things That Go!, and Farm, so you can choose a title (or titles) that best reflects your child's interest - that way, you will keep their enthusiasm going.