How to go on a bear hunt – creating our own version of the classic children’s story book


Stumble trip, stumble trip! are you even a parent if you haven’t re-enacted these famous words in the woods? I can’t even begin to work out how many times I’ve encouraged Arlo’s tired little legs to finish a hike in the woods by convincing him there’s a bear around the next corner.

Thanks to Google you can now capture a bear using augmented reality – which is basically a bit of clever tech which superimposes a realistic image of a bear in to the space in front of your camera. This is enough to convince Arlo and to my delight there are dozens of other animals this works with too…. I won’t spoil the fun…. just type bear in to Google and tap “meet a life sized brown bear up close”

Of course the logical thing to do with this is to convince your child that there are animals in your home and following you on walks and they have to be super quiet/go to bed on time / eat all of their dinner to maybe get a chance at glimpsing one of these creatures.

All through the first lockdown period of 2020 the only thing to do was spend time in outdoor spaces for our daily exercise. We managed to explore lots of local places and like most parents took way too many pictures, as winter faded away and spring turned in to summer we watched as the muddy fields turned in to green meadows and the trees blossomed and bloomed. I have something ridiculous like 40,000 picture on my phone and I rarely print them off.

We had so many pictures that it was easy to go through my camera roll and find some perfect matches for the pages within the beautifully illustrated book by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. I then used some editing apps to give the photographs an illustrated feel and then add the text…. replicating each page exactly as it appears.

I told my mum the plans and she painted the perfect cover for our book – capturing the essence of Helen Oxenburys illustrations and Arlo’s cheeky little personality in her own unique style and I was able to scan this in to my computer and add in the title page text later on to create the cover.

I edited all of the pages together and sent them off to a photo printing service who also create photo books – and in a few days our very own hardback copy of the book landed on the doorstep, and Arlo was absolutely delighted to see himself as the main character in the story.

The only thing we had to do differently was create an alternative for the snow storm and it seemed apt to send Arlo off through a rainbow instead of a snow storm – the perfect way to commemorate 2020 and the year of the lockdown for us. It was so much fun trying to capture the last few images and pop the Google bear in to the front garden.

I think Arlo truly believed that the bear payed us a visit and it was no trouble trying to convince him to get in to bed for a week or two. This book remains one of our most reached for stories and I hope it’s one which is treasured forever even though story ends with a promise to never go on a bear hunt again, we’re gluttons for punishment.

Here’s a video slide show of all of the pages in our book so that you can’t see exactly what it looks like from start to finish.

Reading Eggs – App Review

This blog contains a review of an app which I was granted free access to.

Follow this link to get 30 days access free to try it yourself

I have begun to introduce Arlo to limited interactive technology during this lockdown as part of our home schooling activities, because let’s face it we can’t have PVA glue and poster paint out 24/7.

Reading eggs came highly recommended and I have been granted free access to the app for the purposes of this review. I have also been given a link to share to give my followers 30 days free access to try it out for themselves free of charge (click here).

So where do I start….. the sign up process is very simple, just like most apps it requires an email/password which gives you access to a parent dashboard to follow your child’s learning journey. Then you get going with a really simple user interface.

Arlo is almost three and so we have explored between the 2-4 and 3-7 age categories, and have really taken our time to get to know different features within the app.

The junior category for the youngest age takes you through to a menu where you can choose to read a book, participate in activities, watch videos or explore the lands.

Each of these options opens a multitude of different options for you – and the sheer amount of resources available is impressive. The videos are extremely child friendly and include educational content. The books feature common toddler friendly themes such as animals and vehicles – and a simple swipe interaction. The sheer number of titles available is worth the subscription fee, plus there books available in multiple languages.

The shining star in this app however is the activities. With fourteen different options to choose from, each focuses on different topics such as matching, sorting, colours and the alphabet , whilst also providing children with the skills they need to interact with technology.

Each activity has a pathway with clear levels, and once you complete an activity your child gets the chance to participate in sensory rewarding tasks and games such as colouring in and balloon popping, and then in turn you earn an egg, which you tap open to reveal a sticker.

The constant audio and visual feedback from the app when your child completes every single action is extremely rewarding and positive for Arlo, and I noticed that when we were going through the alphabet that alliteration was used to correspond to the letter we were working with – Amazing, Brilliant etc. That’s a subtle touch but shows the attention to detail within the design

Another thing I like about this app is that words are sounded out using phonics. This is something I do not know much about, but it’s the way kids are taught these days and so it’s fabulous to have the app teach me so that I can then work on this with Arlo outside of the app – for example sounding out “cuh” “ah” “tuh” when we see a cat.

Once your child completes a task/level this is logged in the parent menu and so you can track progress easily. After enjoying playing with the junior menus we decided to explore the 3-7 menus together.

The first time we accessed this section I noticed the difference in style but the menu layout and pathways idea was very familiar. Arlo instinctively knew where to press and how to interact with the screen to play the more complex games.

The first thing we encountered was a little pop up “quiz” – this is designed to check your child’s ability to guide you where might be best to start your journey. Please don’t worry this isn’t a test and obviously Arlo being not quite three was guided to start at the very beginning.

We began with lesson one which was all about the letter m. The same kind of interactions, (swipes and taps) as learned in the junior menus are required but this time the letters of the alphabet take centre stage and here the repetition of the phonics is even more apparent.

We have alphabet magnets on our fridge and a couple of days after using the app Arlo decided to point out the letter m to me on his own accord and this shows to me that through using this app to play he is learning not only about the sound of letters but their visual appearance in a way which is helping his memory recall.

There is a lot more to this app, we have only just scraped the surface with its features, because I limit screen time. For people who also do the same I have to say I really appreciate the menu design – activities are taking us about 5-10 minutes to complete before earning a sticker, and returning you a menu rather than automatically sending you to the next activity. This provides a natural pause for you to end the screen time if you wish.

Follow this link to get 30 days access free to try it yourself

beans&sparks book review

This book was gifted for the purposes of the review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

“Do you think we’ll live in space one day?” The homesick astronaut asked

This beans&sparks book was kindly sent to us to review – and what a delight. First things first you use the website to create an avatar with your child’s likeness. This is a fairly simple process with options for hair, eye and skin colour as well as adding in glasses and freckles in you need them. Then you place your order and a personalised book comes in the post soon after.

This is a subscription service and you receive a different personalised story every month for £14.99. Each month there is a new theme which is structured around the EASY framework – Emotions, Adventure, Science and CreativitY – inspiring conversations and introducing new concepts in a fabulous manner.

The book itself paper back, a lovely size and excellent print quality, with popping colours and beautiful illustrations throughout. The thing I like best however is that Arlo’s name appears on every single page and as well as seeing his avatar and understanding the likeness immediately and being excited that the story is all about him, he can also recognise his name in the text too and has begun to point it out.

This months story had a space theme which fits in with all of the different activities we have been doing at home – and Arlo loved seeing things which are familiar to him throughout the story – including his scooter! We are signed up now to the subscription service and you can join too and get 50% off your first book.

Ook book and app review

#gifted via the @officialemmasdiary #parentsquad – we were kindly offered the opportunity to review the @ookshq personalised story books. I shared an Instagram post as requested but I have so much to say (no surprises there) that I thought I’d write a blog post all about our Ook Book too.

Last week I downloaded the app via the App Store which was a simple process – I chose to explore it myself before sharing with Arlo. I was pleasantly surprised at how child friendly and simple it is to navigate, and found the concept to be entirely bonkers which Arlo went crazy for.

We created our little avatar or “ook” character and then took him on a little adventure – I don’t quite understand how we ended up going from a restaurant to a doctors surgery via a volcano however based on the choices Arlo made as we used the app our story was written. We also had to do some drawing challenges whilst using the app too.

Once we completed our adventure within the app I was invited to add a parental pin code to order our book which I think is a fab little added feature for security to prevent any unexpected purchases.

A couple of days later our book arrived via the post and I let Arlo open it up – check out his response in the video!

To be quite honest I was expecting a generic story with the main characters name replaced with his name however both Arlo and I were amazed to find that the entire book was based on our in app activity and so it was entirely personal to us…. including the drawings he had created too! He sat flicking through the pages because he couldn’t quite believe that the app had been bought to life and then we went back to the beginning to explore each page more closely.

He remembered things like the volcano and the belly button fluff he had chosen as the meal in the restaurant – I’m sure there were some more appetising options but I let him choose the whole way through and that’s what he went for!

The book itself is a paper backed book with lots of pages and printed to the highest quality which is was unexpected based on the speed it arrived.

The illustrations are detailed and colourful with plenty of talking points to engage Arlo – lots of small details in the backgrounds of pictures and opportunities to discuss colours, shapes, animals, foods and also count – which is something I look for in books at this stage – his “ook” has already become a book shelf favourite.

I can highly recommend this new immersive experience – it’s entirely unique and another fabulous way to introduce technology to children in an educational way whilst still reinforcing the value of books which is very important to our family.

To apply to join the Emma’s diary parent squad for the opportunity to review products like this then head to the website now