Make Own ROTA Roman Board Game

A game that we love to play in our house is a game the Roman soldiers used to take with them on their travels called ROTA. 

It’s design is based on the shape of a cart wheel. Ours is drawn on a circle of leather with a draw string so it can be carried easily but you can scratch it in the sand or draw it on paper just as easily.

It is a game of strategy for 2 players. It’s very easy to learn but can be more complicated than it first seems.

To make this game you will need:

Paper ( coloured paper can be nice)

A piece of card to stick your paper design to 



Colouring pencils/pencils/crayons

A bowl to draw around

A 2p to draw around

6 tokens, (2 sets of 3) such as coins, pebbles, shells, bottle tops, buttons, lego blocks etc

The first thing to do is to make your paper into a square shape about 20cms x 20cms is a good size but you can make it bigger or smaller as you choose.

Next place your bowl centrally on your square and draw around it.

Now draw a line cutting your circle in half and then in quarters. 

I find it helpful to turn my page to draw 2 more lines through the cross you’ve made to divide the circle into eights.

Use your small circle such as a 2p to make a circle in the centre and at each pointthat the lines meet the outside edge (circumference).  

Now you should have 8 circles around the edge and 1 in the middle. You can decorate the spokes of the board and the circles any way you choose and then you’re ready to play!

How to play

The object of the game is to make 3 in a row in a straight line across the circle.

Each player has 3 tokens.

It doesn’t matter if they are identical as long as you can tell who’s whose!

Decide who is going to go first, but then the winner chooses if they would like to go first from then on.

Each player in turn can put their tokens on any of the circles around the edge or in the middle.

Players can choose if they would like to place down or move. 

You may only move your tokens along a direct path around the edge of the circle or into the middle of the circle.

You can not land on a circle that is already occupied or jump over another token.

Continue to move tokens in turn until either a player gets 3 in a row or the other player can no longer make a move.

That’s it! Simple!  

Why not give it a try?

If you like board games there are lots to choose from or you could have a go at coming up with your own idea.

De-Coder Wheel

Here’s another way to create your own secret codes using a de-coder wheel.

You will need some pencils, markers and a rubber, card and something round to draw around or 2 paper plates, split pins or if you don’t have those you can use pipe cleaners or paper clips. Remember if you want to play this with a friend they will need a de-coder wheel exactly the same as yours so you can exchange secret messages.

Things you’ll need to make a decoder wheel

Ok, first you need to make two circles one smaller than the other ( it needs enough room for you to write your code around the outside edge.) Try to make the circles quite neat so that the turn smoothly.

Next work out where the center points of the two circles are – this doesn’t have to be exact but the more central you can make your holes the easier it will work. Carefully make a hole in the center points – you can use a pencil and press into something soft like the rubber or some play dough.

Push the split pin through both circles of card and fasten on the back – don’t make it too tight or you will have difficultly turning your decoder wheel. If you don’t have a split pin, bend apart a paper clip and slide the card into the middle of the two loop, then push the paper clip flat again trapping the two pieces of card in the middle. Or, use a pipe cleaner, make a flat spiral then thread the card onto the pipe cleaner and make another flat spiral as tightly against the card as you can.

Next mark out even spaces around the edge of the wheel – remember you will need 26 spaces for the alphabet, you can include numbers as well if you like. Then carefully write out your alphabet as clearly as you can. If you’d like to create more than 1 code on the wheel add some different coloured lines on each wheel, that way if your code is written in a different coloured pen you will know which line to match up to crack the code.

When you come to write in the letters on the inner wheel you can either start your alphabet at a different point or randomly distribute them around the circle.

You’re ready to code! Line the wheel up as you’d like and using the top row of letters to match your words look down to the letter or number below write that down and you’ll soon have a very secret message that only someone with the de-coder wheel will be able to crack!

Zig Zag Codes!

If your young spies, ninjas, secret agents or superheroes are reluctant to write, how about sneaking some reading, writing, spelling and decoding in with a bit of fun?

Making zig zag codes

Code breaking is fun and gets our brains working. There are all kinds of codes and ciphers and this is just one idea, I’ll post some more as we make them – here goes!

You’ll need, some paper, pencils and coloured pens or pencils and someone to send your code to!

First mark out a zig zag line in pencil, it doesn’t have to be super neat but make sure you have enough space to write your letters next to each point.

Marking out a zig zag line
Use pencil to mark out a zig zag

Decide what your secret message will be and write it out clearly. Don’t make it too long or complex to start with. I like to count how many letters there are so I can check I’ve got them all later!

Writing out your code sentence

Now carefully copy your code onto each point of the zig zag. Start by putting the first letter on the first point at the bottom. Then the next letter at the next point along the zig zag line at the top, then the next at the bottom, then the top and you get the idea!

Starting at the bottom add your letters to each point

Now you should have a string of what look like random letters across the top and bottom. Carefully copy out your new jumbled sentence onto a separate piece of paper. I like to put a hash mark to show where the top line finishes but you could choose a different marker if you like.

Your new code

Your secret contact will also need a strip of paper with a zig zag to decode your message. They need to carefully copy the letters from the 1st sentence to the top of the zig zag and then the 2nd half to the bottom being careful to make the first letter on the bottom line follow the letter on the top line – make sense? You might need a couple of trys to get the hang of it but once you do it’s great fun to send your coded messages to your friends!

Decoding your message

If you get the hang of it you can start to decode your message without using the zig zag by taking 1 letter from the second line then 1 from the first and so on. The message should start to appear. Then all you have to do is spot the words and mark the spaces. ecdn# gtoig!!!

DIY Board Games – ideal for rainy days

I recently did a Teddy Bears Picnic themed workshop and we made these cute and quick board games which I thought I’d share with you. You can make up your own theme.

The game is based on an old African game, I believe but I can’t find its name. The idea is that the players draw concentric circles in the sand or dirt and have pebbles or seashells for counters.  There can be quite a number of players and the rules are quite simple. One player hides a token in one hand behind their backs and then holds out their hands for the next player to guess which hand the token is in. If they guess correctly they move their counter on to the next line in the circle. The first one to the middle is the winner. You can alter how difficult or long the game is by adding more concentric circles and by either missing a go if you guess incorrectly or whether you go back a step.

As we had the Teddy Bears Picnic theme we drew concentric squares on stiff card for the picnic blanket.


The kids decorated the ‘blankets’ and drew a sandwich or cake in the center as the prize.


We used bottle caps as our counters and token. We washed them out and filled them with hot glue to add a little weight but you could fill them with cardboard or quick-drying clay etc.

We used stickers to draw our two teddies for counters and chose a design to use to make the token.


And there you have it a super simple but surprisingly fun board game. You can come up with your own themes, older kids can invent more complex rules if they like such as, if they guess correctly X number of times they get an extra move or they could move forward 1 line but back 2, maybe have a line that if you land on it you go back to the start – its up to your own ingenuity!

There are many traditional games like this one that you can find on the internet such as Merrills, Nyout and Rota check them out and create great games of your own!



Delicious Handmade Pizza in the Park

That’s Leazers Park in Newcastle. If you fancy a break from frantic shopping spree’s, hectic work days or even appointments at the nearby RVI then the Tower Cafe is a little haven of hospitality. Great food at reasonable prices with something on the wide range of menu choices to suit virtually any diet, it’s well worth a walk through the park to get there. All the food is freshly made to order so there’s a short wait but we sat on the terrace and watched the world go by. We had the handmade pizza’s which were delicious – we had too much so the staff gave us a take home box. They suggested trying 4OKOLA a locally made fizzy cola drink which was really good and faintly reminiscent of bygone days. All in all we can recommend this hidden gem of a restaurant to anyone.

William Turner Garden Morpeth, a Hidden Gem.

We cut through the William Turner garden today on our way to Carlisle Park play area and were struck by how tranquil and pretty it was even though only a few plants had begun to grow.

We noticed things we hadn’t spotted before such as the carvings by the seating area and the sculpture over the water trough.

We also liked the added information boards which either we hadn’t noticed or were new and that all the beautiful trees had been identified. There were some unusual trees and shrubs you don’t often get to see such as Quince. All in all it was a happy few minutes spent in a peaceful little garden and well worth a look. We’ll been going again to have a look at all the different varieties of herbs they have growing later in the season.

Multi-Sensory Maths Facts: Division

Homework this weekend was \nto explore times tables division facts. Having recently decided to abandon trying to use standard methods to help Shorty, we threw ourselves into a more hands-on approach.

First of all, we negotiated how many sums we’d look at – 10 was the agreed amount. Then she picked out and wrote down the sums she would like to work with, from any of the tables she had learned, along with the answers. Next, we worked out the sums with some help from some random toys that were on hand, using cereal ‘ohs’.





Then we took a break while we made some playdough (we did a bit of measuring & ordering sneakily!)








Once we had our dough, we made a centipede and gave him the same number of legs as some of our sums. Then we cut him up, dividing him up in the inverse of the times tables we’d previously worked out.

We also made ‘pizzas’ with toppings made from bottle tops and a cool octopus and divided those up too.

After we’d played around for a while making models that represented the sums and then dividing them up accordingly we stopped doing maths and Shorty carried on playing with the playdough for a while. Big sis even joined in for a while. Shorty seemed to have taken in the division concepts and we had some fun.

Helpful Everyday Classroom Interventions for Dyslexic Kids

I’ve been at various conferences etc where staff in other schools have said they don’t have funds, resources or training to support kids with dyslexia so I thought I’d put a list here of the things that have been put in place in our school over the last few years that have made it possible for my daughter to be achieving the way she is now.  Even in Nursery she was clearly struggling and saying things like “Why can’t I read like my friend does ?” and “Am I stupid?”. She would throw herself around the bed/sofa/floor when we tried to practice reading or spellings. But as the school began to put help in place her learning started to become easier.

Staff training for dyslexia awareness – this must have had some cost implication but once received it was applicable to EVERY child with literacy difficulties.

Assessment from Local Education Authority – our school was in a scheme that allowed some help, not a full dyslexia assessment yet but we’re working on that. They followed recommended advice for my child but used these techniques for a whole group of children who have benefited from them.

A classroom culture where all different learning styles are embraced equally and there is little tolerance for any bullying type of behaviours about this – FREE

Yellow background setting on the class whiteboard – FREE

Phonics reminders printed on cards by Shorty’s desk – Pennies

A small white board for her to organise her thoughts and change spellings BEFORE she writes in her book – pennies

white boards

Spellings presented in groups of similar phonic rules – FREE

Spellings practised in lots of different multisensory ways at school – FREE

An adult able to read out information, questions etc in non-literacy lessons if Shorty is struggling with accessing the information she needs to participate in the lesson – FREE

Additional small group work for Maths – this requires a TA to be available

READ WRITE INC scheme in a small group– this must have had some cost but is also used by lots of kids throughout school, again a TA was used

Action Words scheme – again this must have had some cost to buy into but is being used by a growing number of children, plus of course the TA.

action words

Making sure Shorty’s other skills and alibies are equally valued  as well as her academic progress – FREE

All in all, I don’t think the school has made a huge outlay or a massive change to their daily organisation but it has made a massive amount of difference in my child’s education, self-esteem and resilience. In addition to that, it has benefited a number of other children in school at the moment as well as children who will be following behind her with similar difficulties.

If you are having trouble getting the help you need at your child’s school, I hope that some of these suggestions could be of use.


Funny Flip Animation Books


These quick and easy flip books are fun to make and are a great little activity if you’re interested in film, animation and storytelling.

To make them you will need:

2 Sheets of stiff paper or soft card

Access to a paper guillotine if you have it or a craft knife/ Scissors

Pens & Pencils

A Rubberband or bulldog clip

Some small sticky dots or an ink pad


First you need to divide your page up into even sections – it’s best if you can do this without folding as that makes it tricky for the flip book to ‘flip’ smoothly when you’re finished.  (I’m not the most accurate measurer in the world so I made a template by folding a sheet and then marked the folds onto the sheet that I cut up – the sharper you can make the cuts the better it works!)


You need to divide the paper so that you get strips lengthwise, which you then should cut again so that you have 2 sections on a strip. Fold these pieces carefully in half along your marked line.20180914_092124

You should have 16 folded leaves. Gather them together, folded edge to one side, tap them on a flat surface to make sure the edges are together and then wrap the band tightly around them (or clip together) to hold them in place. Now you should have a little book ready to decorate.


I find it’s best to start at the back of the flip book but if your book’s narrative isn’t vital then you can start at the front if it’s easier.  You can draw all kinds of amazing things in a flip book but for these ones, we kept it simple. We stuck a sticky dot on each page ( or an inky fingerprint). You need to check with the page before to decide where your next dot should be stuck – a tiny difference in locate creates a smooth transition and a larger gap makes the dot jump around jerkily. When we had the dots on each page we decorated them – mines a jumping frog but you could make it into a person, fish, monster etc or a football being kicked around, flowers growing, the sun coming up; the only limit is your imagination.

The kids I was working with came up with some great ideas – exploding zombie heads was my favourite! There are some incredible flip books people have made if you look online. See what ideas you can come up with.

And for those who are interested ‘ Persistence of Vision’ is the concept that explains why your eye thinks the pictures are moving and is how all film and animation works – lots of still pictures with a small movement being viewed at high speed fooling your eyes/brain into thinking they are actually moving.


(I made a little video of it in action – here’s the link… )

Pirate Quest @ Tynemouth Park

20180731_105901If you’d read any of our previous posts you’ll know that pirates are a bit of a favourite in our house, so when we saw that there was a Pirate Quest at Tynemouth Park we decided we better check it out.

It was really good value for money and great fun although I have to say that my two ran around so quickly that it only took us half an hour. You have a choice of the less scary route but the ‘scary’ one was ok really unless your kids are very nervous.  We paid £1 extra for a ‘map’ and as you run around the maze there are various stamps to collect on your map. There are obstacles and things to see as you go around and we laughed a lot at the cheesy gags.

Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting wet as you get squirted with water if you’re not quick enough. You get to walk the plank and then at the end there is a Pirate Shipwreck and a chest of gold coins. For each completed map handed in the kids get a handful of chocolate coins.


There is a nice coffee shop in the park that does great food and yummy cream scones. It also has a takeaway fish & chip counter with kids options available. There are picnic benches and plenty of room to put down a picnic blanket.  There are two unisex loos and a disabled access loo they are a bit worn but clean and there’s sometimes a bit of a queue.

The Park also has a boating lake with swans and often remote controlled yachts,  kids play area with some great fun and unusual play equipment; a dinosaur themed mini golf course and a bouncy play area.

The parking is limited, on-street and pay and display but the park is within walking distance of Tyne Mouth and the beach. It’s definitely a great day out for all the family with plenty to do for the whole day.

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