Tuesday 31 July 2018

Getting closer to nature with My Living World (review)

Last month, the Wildlife Trusts ran a 30 Days Wild campaign, challenging people to do something wild every day in June. They challenged everyone to go on nature walks, look for insects and wild flowers, feed wild birds and make insect hotels, amongst many other things. Vice President for the Wildlife Trusts, Nick Baker has worked closely with Interplay to create a range of My Living World sets and we've been putting some of them through their paces.

We started off with Ant World (RRP £14.99), which provides hours of fun as well as being educational. In fact, the Ant World kit supports National Curriculum KS1 and KS2. Pierre had absolutely no idea that he was learning though - if you'd asked him, he would have just said that he was having great fun !

The first thing to do was fill up the ant housing with the enclosed sand. I rolled a piece of paper into a cone shape to act as a make-shift funnel. The kit also includes scene stickers, but Pierre was in such a rush to get started that he totally bypassed them !

Each side of the ant house can be attached to a tube leading to a magnifier bowl. Once you disconnect it, don't forget to put the little cap back on though or you'll have ants all over your dining room table ! (I was worried about losing these, but should the worst happen, you can buy replacemants for 20p on the Interplay website.)

As well as being a great way of observing your ants feeding, the bowl can be used to prevent having rotting food in the ant housing. We put pieces of fruit in the bowl and the ants crawl down the tube then back up into the housing, much to Pierre's delight.

The kit doesn't include ants, so you have to go and catch your own. This was easier said than done, but it did keep Pierre busy all afternoon ! I helped him out by putting some small pieces of fruit and a chopped up sweets in a little dish and leaving it outside. Once the ants had found it and crawled on to it, this could be transferred to the bowl attached to the ant housing, then they were happy enough to crawl up the tubes to explore.

Pierre has been utterly fascinated watching them crawling around, interacting and, above all, creating tunnels. The enclosed 24-page activity guide, written by naturalist Nick Baker, gives you a fascinating insight into the world of ants, covering everything from how to look after your ants and the different species to chemo-communication and ant morse code. The best entertainment for a young naturalist!

Even as a grown up, I keep peering inside every time I walk past to see what's going on !

Ants aren't the only things to discover in the garden though, so Pierre was equally excited by the Pocket Microscope (RRP £12.99), which magnifies things to 30 times their actual size. It is really simple to use and, as the official blurb says, it is small enough to fit in your pocket, but powerful enough to make an ant look the size of an antelope!

It comes with sample slides and all you need to make your own slides, but specimens do not even need to be mounted onto slides so Pierre was off on a mission to see what he could find in the way of creepy-crawlies in the Madhouse grandparents' garden.

I don't think I've ever heard so many "Look Mums" in rapid succession ! He kept running back inside to show off his finds, and we were all impressed with the number and variety of different species that he managed to find in a short space of time.

After having a good look at them through the microscope, he carefully set them free back in the same spots that he had found them and went looking for more.

Even if you don't have much luck looking for insects, you can always have a closer look at simple things like blades of grass, leaves, petals and bark. The 16-page, colour illustrated instruction booklet, written by naturalist Nick Baker, gives helpful hints about how to get a close-up view of just about anything, and suggests some fascinating subject matter. Guaranteed to get your kids away from their screens and into the great outdoors !

Finally, we moved on to Triop World (RRP £12.99). Inside the box, you get everything that you need to (hopefully) hatch living creatures from the age of the dinosaurs and see how your Triops double in size each day.

If you're unfamiliar with Triops, they hatch in 24 hours, can grow up to 4cm long and have an incredible life cycle. (You may also end up hatching other creatures such as Clam Shrimp, Fairy Shrimp and Daphnia, if they're mixed in with the triops.)

The only thing you need to add to the kit is water - but it's easier said than done in the current climate. You can't use tap water, or bottled water that is purified or has chlorine added to it. The booklet explains that rain water is best and cheapest - but rainwater is a pretty rare commodity at the moment !

After filling up the tank, you need to sprinkle in half of the contents of the Triops Eggs packet and give it all a stir with the pipette. You can see how seriously Pierre was taking this responsibility !

The sachet contains Triop Eggs mixed in with detritus (they live in temporary pools that dry up - you can find out all about them in the instruction booklet, which can also be downloaded on the Interplay website). They are guaranteed to hatch and there is a troubleshooting section at the back of the book. We didn't have much success but I think I know why - our bottled water didn't have added chlorine but it did have natural chlorure way down on the list. We still have no access to rainwater but we're going to visit a friend later in the week who has a pond in her garden, so I'll bring back a bottle of pondwater and try again with the rest of the pack of eggs. Alternatively, they are there, but they were still too small to see them when we looked yesterday. Time will tell !

My Living World is a totally absorbing and enriching range and we'll definitely be exploring the rest of the products for future birthday and Christmas presents. You can also buy Worm World, Bug Safari, Bird Feeder, Spider World, Ladybird World and Snail World. I just know that Pierre would love every single one of them.

Disclosure : We received the products in order to write an honest review.


  1. Super educational sets. Pierre looks so happy, exploring the world of insects. The ant house is probably my favourite. And they all keep the kids away from the gadgety things. :)

  2. My nephew would love this - he's a little bit bug crazy.

  3. What a great set of kits! You can't beat the right mix of fun and education.

    1. LOL I must admit I always feel a bit smug when the kids are learning and think they're just having fun !!


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