Fun ways to teach your child where their food comes from

World Food Day is celebrated on 16th October every year, even in these unprecedented times. The aim is to raise awareness that everybody – food producers and consumers alike – have an important role to play to ensure nutritious food is available to everyone across the world.

As consumers we can influence what food is produced by making healthy, sustainable choices. To learn about how our daily choices can have a positive impact visit the United Nation’s World Food Day website.

For children, the first step in making the best choices is understanding where their food comes from. Advances in technology mean that with every generation we become further and further removed from the source of our food.

Here we share some enjoyable ways to teach your child how food gets from farm to fork.

Grow your own fruit and vegetables

Children love sowing seeds, looking after plants and eating what they have grown themselves.

To begin with choose food that is quick and easy to grow such as herbs see ‘How to make a herb garden’. Once interest is sparked your child could grow courgettes (these are very easy to grow), tomatoes, mange tout, green beans, butternut squash, strawberries and raspberries. Even in autumn and winter there is plenty to grow!

Involve your child in picking and preparing their fruit and vegetables. They could make a pizza from home grown tomatoes and basil, or pies and smoothies from strawberries and raspberries. Your child might eat some of their produce straight from the plant or in a salad.

Pick your own

This is an activity to save until late summer. Pick blackberries – remembering not to pick blackberries from near roadsides or near to the ground. Apart from blackberry crumbles and pies your child could make summer pudding, ice cream, jelly and sorbet or eat blackberries as they are. There are lots of recipes online.

Pick-your-own farms are a fun and cheap day out. You can pick strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, redcurrants and more – depending upon your closest farm. Type ‘nearest pick your own fruit’ into Google.

Read food books

There are some fantastic books that spark children’s interest in the connection between nature and food, and the importance of healthy eating.  These are our favourites:

How Did That Get in My Lunchbox: The Story of Food by Chris Butterworth

Looking at all the food in a child’s lunchbox and how it got there. Where did the chocolate in the biscuit come from? Who made the bread for the sandwich? This book looks at the steps involved in producing some foods e.g. planting wheat and mixing flour into dough to make bread. There are also healthy eating tips and an introduction to food groups is included.

I don’t Like Salad! by Tony Ross

The Little Princess does not like salad, especially tomatoes. She changes her mind when she is given some tomato seeds to grow and sees the first shoots appear.

Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle

Jack wakes up very hungry – he wants a pancake! But first his mother needs flour from the mill, an egg from the hen, milk from the cow, butter churned from cream and firewood for the stove. Will Jack help his mother and get his pancake?

See Inside: Where Food Comes From by Emily Bone and Peter Allen

Children lift flaps to find out what food is produced in greenhouses, on farms and in the sea. There is a map with flaps showing where chocolate, tea and other things we enjoy come from. Children discover the importance of corn, rice and wheat around the world.

Encourage your child to look at the labels on the food they eat to see where is has come from. They could find places on a world map and use the internet to research the journey their food has had from source to plate.

Visit farm shops or markets with your child to find out what is seasonal and talk to them about what ‘seasonal’ and ‘sustainable’ mean.  The World Food Day website is a great source of information.

Visit a Farm

Whether you visit a city farm or a farm in the country this is a great way to show your child where their food comes from. Some farms allow children to feed lambs, collect eggs, stroke sheep and even to see cows being milked and cheese being made.

There are farms that offer overnight stays so children can really experience life on a working farm. It is also worth keeping an eye out for farm open days near you.

One-to-one science tuition

Is your child interested in science and nature? Our experienced science tutors build on children’s enthusiasm introducing them to many areas of science in an engaging, hands-on and creative way, motivating them to pursue sciences throughout school and beyond.

If your child isn’t enthusiastic about science at school and finds a particular area challenging we can also help. Our tutors tailor their teaching to individual children’s needs, making sure learning is both fun and relevant to them.

To find out more please contact us on: 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Can apps really help children learn to read?

There are many different reading apps on the market today, but are they an effective and safe way for children to learn to read?

In today’s blog we look at the pros and cons of reading apps and share our pick of the best.

Advantages of reading apps

  • In a study of children aged 4-5 years Flewitt et al (2015) reported that: ‘children’s motivation to succeed in iPad activities sometimes led them to display more advanced literacy skills than staff had previously given them credit for. For example, the reception class teacher was ‘blown away’ by the quality of some children’s iPad work… iPad-based literacy activities stimulated children’s motivation and concentration.’
  • Reading apps encourage children to engage with texts through games, puzzles, treasure hunts and other activities. Children have fun and are therefore motivated to learn.
  • Children can choose from a variety of fiction and non-fiction at the tap of a button. They might read classic fairytales, twists on classic fairytales, fables, short stories, travel logs, joke books, books on science and nature – it is all at their fingertips. Children can choose genres that match their interests.
  • Reading apps are convenient. They help to ensure that children read every day no matter how busy the family schedule.

Disadvantages of reading apps

Reading apps should not replace human interaction. Oral language skills are the foundation for young children’s reading and language comprehension. Parents should still read with their children and to their children daily if they possibly can and not consider apps as a replacement. In this way parents can help their children to understand what they are reading, answer their questions and extend their vocabulary.

Too much screen time can cause eyestrain (possibly even near-sightedness), dry eyes (we blink less when reading from a screen), neck pain and poor posture. Eyes become more tired than when reading print books because digital text and images are made from ‘pixels’ – tiny pieces that make our eyes work harder.

Reducing the brightness on screens can help to reduce eyestrain. E-readers (such as the Kindle) have a display that is more like ink on printed paper and this reduces eyestrain, but children’s reading apps are often used on smartphones and tablets rather than e-readers.

Both children and adults should not spend time in front of any screen for hours on end without a break.

Our pick of the best reading apps

When used as a complement to print books and not for extended lengths of time, reading apps are a valuable way of motivating children to read. However, there are so many apps available that it can be difficult to choose, so here is our pick of the best.

  1. Reading Eggs

Suitable for children aged 2-13 years, Reading Eggs supports children through guided reading tasks, activities and e-books. The app starts with phonics and tricky words moving on to building vocabulary and developing reading comprehension skills. Over 2,500 e-books are included.

2. Teach Your Monster to Read

Children create a monster and then take it on a series of adventure games that covers phonic phase two to phonics phase 5 (roughly children aged 3-6 years). There are short e-books for children to enjoy too. This app was nominated for a BAFTA.

3. Reading Raven

Children read, recognise and trace letters in order to build words and sentences. Reading Raven is a multi-sensory approach to reading that also develops listening skills and hand-eye coordination. The app is aimed at children aged 3-7 years.

4. Montessori Preschool

Although this isn’t just a reading app we’ve decided to include it here because it is brilliant for young children who might miss out on education this year due to lockdown. The app teaches children everything from phonics and maths to music and early coding skills.

5. Epic!

This is a digital library containing over 25,000 books including bestselling titles and National Geographic non-fiction books. You can create a profile for your child inputting their age and the categories of books they like (pets, sport, adventure etc). Children collect badges as rewards for progress and they can review titles for others when they’ve finished reading. Suitable for young children up to teens.

Does your child need extra reading support?

TutorMyKids’ English tutors have helped many children to overcome difficulties with reading. It is our aim to boost children’s confidence and to instil a love of reading that will last a lifetime. We provide engaging one-to-one tuition that is sensitive to every child’s needs.

Whether your child just needs a little bit of extra help or you are concerned that they have fallen significantly behind their peers, please get in touch with us today: 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

How parents can support children with dyslexia returning to school post-lockdown

For many children with dyslexia being away from school for a long period of time was a dream come true. For those children school represents struggle and at home they felt more relaxed being able to learn at their own pace. They may have felt a weight off their shoulders away from the daily pressure to produce quick results whilst sitting at a desk in a noisy classroom.

Other children may have found learning alone very difficult without the support of their teacher. Lockdown may have exacerbated the challenges they face with reading, writing, memorising and organising information.

If your child is anxious about returning to school you may be wondering how to help them. Here we share some suggestions and signpost you towards any further help you may need.

  1. Contact friends

Arrange for your child to regularly see one or two friends from their class after school. Friendships help children to feel a sense of belonging. Knowing that others care for them raises their self-esteem and helps to reduce feelings of anxiety.

To avoid seeing too many different people at this time your child could contact friends over video call. Video calling doesn’t work quite as well with small children but you could set up a game to encourage social interaction.

2. Talk to your child about their worries

It’s not always easy to talk to a child or young person about their worries. Pick a time when they are calm such as when you are out for a walk together rather than when they are in an emotional state. Be clear that their worries are not silly and that you won’t take any steps to tackle their worry that they are not happy with. 

You might start by asking your child how they are feeling about returning to school and normalize their feelings: “You’re right, the first day back is always nerve-wracking – I feel like that too when…”

3. Give children time to express their feelings

Activities can help children to express their feelings as they are more relaxed. Small children might enjoy sensory activities such as playing with homemade playdough scented with herbs and spices, making chocolate cake, or engaging in messy play with flour and water or paint.

Older children might like hands-on activities such as cooking, painting, crafting, and planting (see our blog post Summer science fun: Growing monster plants!)

4. Support your child how to manage anxiety

See our 10 stress-busting tips for students for some tips to help older children. Childline also has some advice on managing anxiety and on the coronavirus.

If your child has an ongoing struggle with anxiety you can also talk to your family GP who can put you in touch with a specialist service. Remember anxiety is treatable and it is possible to help your child to manage it so that it doesn’t impact the quality of their life.

NHS England lists some signs of anxiety for parents to be aware of. These include changes in mood, difficulty eating and sleeping and noticeably struggling to manage their emotions.

5. Talk to your child’s teacher

If your child has enjoyed learning at home and is feeling anxious about returning to a classroom environment, talk to your child’s teacher together with the school SENCO. They may need to put additional strategies in place to support your child. For example, they might give your child lesson materials such as Powerpoint slides to view in advance of a lesson, take a more multisensory approach to their learning or consider assistive technologies.

6. Plan fun things to do

Having interesting things to look forward to on the weekends and in the evenings reminds children that school is only part of their lives. It might be as simple as a film and takeaway night or a weekend visit to see a family friend.

Support for children with dyslexia

TutorMyKids can match your child with a specialist dyslexia tutor who can work in partnership with you to support their individual needs and raise their self-esteem.

To find out more please visit our parents page or get in touch: 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Going to university? 10 top tips for managing your finances

Going to university or college will probably be the first time you’ve had to manage your own living costs.

On average the maintenance loan is just £540 a month so many students rely on additional funds from parents, a part-time job or a savings account.

Whatever funds you have available to you, we share our best financial strategies to help you get the most from university life without running into difficulties.

  1. Write a budget

Work out your monthly income including student finance, money from parents or a part-time job and any savings you are planning to use.

Next calculate all your essential monthly outgoings – rent, utility bills, phone bills, transport costs, food, course materials etc. You may need your parent’s help to do this in the beginning and there will probably be some guessing.

Then work out how much money is left for non-essentials such as nights out, gym membership, new clothes or any of the usual things you spend money on.

Make sure you give yourself a bit of a buffer. Don’t budget down to the very last pound. Remember unexpected expenses are likely to occur such as repair to a phone or an extra trip home. There are student budgeting calculators you can use to help you calculate a budget.

2. Make sure you aren’t missing out on money

You may be entitled to a grant or bursary you didn’t know about – check the UCAS guide to student finance in England.

3. Have two separate bank accounts

The best way to stick to a budget is to have two separate accounts. You might have a current account and a savings account – consider opening a student bank account (see below).

When you receive your student finance and any other income place it in one account. Have a separate account for your weekly expenses. Transfer money each week by direct debit from your income account to your weekly account.

4. Pay for essentials straightaway

Make sure direct debits for rent, utilities etc. come out of your account at the very start of the term or month.

5. Plan your meals

Before you go out shopping for food plan your meals (Monday – lasagne, Tuesday – chili con carni etc) as this is the best way to make sure you don’t overspend. Never go shopping on an empty stomach.

If you have freezer space it’s cheaper to cook big meals and separate them into dated containers. Read 24 supermarket saving tips for more advice.

6. Resist sales and non-essentials

A bargain is only a bargain if you really need it so avoid Black Friday. Remember that takeaways, gig tickets, new shoes etc. are non-essential expenses. If you pay now with an overdraft, that’s less money you will have next week.

Never impulse buy – sleep on purchase decisions – you may feel differently in the morning.

7. Keep track of your spending

Check your online bank account weekly or use your bank’s mobile app to manage your finances. You can set up alerts to tell you when your balance drops below a certain amount.

8. Be aware of student bank account benefits

Student bank accounts offer all sorts of extras such as free travelcards and discounted cinema tickets. Before you open an account consider which benefits are most financially worthwhile to you.

9. Remember student discounts

When you go out to a museum, theatre, clothes shop, cinema or restaurant you may be able to save money if you take student identification with you as many places offer student discounts. It’s always worth asking if you’re not sure.

10. If you find yourself in financial trouble seek help

Speak to your university or college’s student welfare service as soon as you find yourself struggling. They can give you tailored, confidential advice about any emergency funding available. They can also put you in touch with job services if you need them.

Never be afraid to ask for help. Whatever the situation you find yourself in they will have seen it before and they are there to help.

TutorMyKids would like to say…

We are incredibly proud of all our GCSE and A level students in what has been a strange and challenging year. For those about to leave home for the very first time, we wish you a happy and successful future!

Best children’s books and stories about the slave trade

The 23rd August is International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  Over a period of 400 years there were over 15 million victims of the transatlantic slave trade including millions of children. This day is about remembering those who suffered in unimaginable ways, and crucially it is about raising awareness of the dangers of racism today.

Here we share our pick of books that educate children about slavery and apartheid in an age appropriate way. Many of these are ‘torch under the duvet’ stories that are truly hard to put down with compelling characters who transport the reader to another world.

Every story is one of courage and hope showing the best in human nature as well as the worst, and every protagonist is an inspiration.

Books for 6-7 year olds

Harriet Tubman (Little People, Big Dreams)

By Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Pili Aguado

Frances Lincoln, 2018

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery on a plantation in Maryland, USA in the 1820s. Despite incredible hardship she helped her family to escape to the north of the country. Although she reached safety herself she still made the dangerous journey back to the south many, many times in order to bring others to freedom. Thanks to her bravery and strength hundreds of slaves were saved through a secret movement called the Underground Railroad.

The book is written and presented sensitively for young children and includes real historic photos at the back. If you would like to find out more about Harriet Tubman for your own interest there are many short documentaries on YouTube and you could also watch the 2009 film, Harriet.

Hammering for Freedom

By Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by John Holyfield

Lee & Low, 2018

This is the true story of an enslaved man called William “Bill” Lewis. As a young boy William became a skilled blacksmith and was able to earn enough money to buy his own freedom but he could not afford to buy the freedom of his family. William worked tirelessly to try to earn enough money to buy their freedom, opening his own shop and saving for many years. Eventually, one by one, he succeeded in purchasing the freedom of every member of his family.

William never lost hope and his perseverance and love for his family is inspirational.


Books for children aged 7+

Freedom

By Catherine Johnson

Scholastic, 2019

This is the fast-paced, fictional story of Nathaniel (or ‘Nat’) who is a slave living on a plantation in Jamaica with his family. His master forces him to leave his family and move to England with him. Nat is distraught but there is one silver lining – he has heard that in England slaves are freed and he hopes that as a free person he can earn enough money to buy his family’s freedom. However, when he sets foot on English soil he discovers this rumour isn’t true and so he decides to run.

It’s a story of friendship, kindness and humour but at the same time there are heart thumping scenes of close shaves and narrow escapes. This is a very exciting book and it is educational too with real historical characters and events woven into the plot.

Freedom won the 2019 Little Rebels Award.

Unheard Voices: An Anthology of Stories and Poems

Edited by Malorie Blackman

Random House, 2007

The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 made the slave trade illegal in Britain. Although it was a huge step towards emancipation, in reality it was many years before slavery in this form ended. Even today the government is still working to end Modern Slavery.

Malorie Blackman has compiled an anthology of short stories and poems from renowned writers alongside personal accounts from freed slaves. Her book ensures that we continue to remember those who suffered brutality and misery for many, many years at the hands of other human beings and it also celebrates the work of great black writers.

Journey to Jo’burg

By Beverley Naidoo

HarperCollins, 2008

This is the story of thirteen-year-old Naledi and her little brother Tiro who live with their grandmother in a small, impoverished village. Frightened that their baby sister Dineo will die of starvation and sickness the two children decide to run away to Johannesburg to find their mother who works there as a maid.

Set against the background of apartheid, Naledi and Tiro’s journey illustrates the grim realities of the system. The rich, privileged life of their mother’s mistress contrasts with the miseries of the children’s existence – the poverty of the segregated ‘bantustans’, the pass laws, and the breakup of black families.

This is a sobering read but it is written in a sensitive way that is suitable for children aged 9 upwards.

The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano

By Ann Cameron

Yearling Books, 2000

Ann Cameron has adapted the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, a freed slave. His autobiography was originally published in 1789 and was a bestseller at the time.

At the age of eleven, Olaudah was kidnapped from his home in Benin, Western Africa. He spent eleven years as a slave in the West Indies, the USA and England. In vivid scenes, Olaudah describes the horror of his capture, the savage conditions on board the slave ship and his auction and enforced labour. Eventually Olaudah was able to buy his own freedom by trading on the side.

Cameron has made the original story accessible for young readers and at the same time maintained the spirit of the original. It is a detailed and compelling read that draws children into Olaudah’s world establishing a deep sense of empathy.

Discover more about the slave trade

Although many museums are currently closed, here’s a list for future reference. Note that the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool has a 3D virtual tour on their website.

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

Museum of London, Docklands

Reading tuition with TutorMyKids

TutorMyKids offers specialist reading support to children of all ages, from Key Stage 1 to A Level. 

All our tutors are fully-qualified teachers who are experienced in providing individually tailored support and boosting children’s confidence.

During the coronavirus pandemic all tutoring sessions take place one-to-one online. To talk about how we can support your child contact us at hello@tutormykids.co.uk or 01223 858 421.

Summer Science Fun: Growing Monster Plants!

Growing plants at home is a brilliant opportunity to explore science with your child. What do plants need to grow? What makes leaves green? Do all plants grow in the same conditions or do they need different amounts of water and sunshine? Nurturing plants from seeds also teaches children responsibility as most plants needs plenty of care and attention to thrive.

Here are some truly weird and wonderful monster plants that will inspire your child to roll up their sleeves and hopefully develop a life-long love of planting.

Make a light box

To grow many of these monster plants successfully you need a light box.

You will need:

Cardboard box large enough to sit three or four medium-sized flowerpots side-by-side

Tin foil

Clear bin liner

Tape

Scissors

Instructions:

  1. Cut away the top and front of the cardboard box so you are left with the back, two sides and a bottom only. If you sat three plant pots side-by-side in the box you would be able to see them from the open front (like looking at a television screen) and from the top looking down.
  2. Line the sides and bottom of the box with pieces of polythene (the clear bin liner). Affix with tape as necessary.
  3. Cover the lined sides and bottom completely with tin foil.
  4. Cut a square or rectangle of polythene (from the clear bin liner) large enough to drape over the entire front and top of the box tent-style to keep your plant pots covered and warm at night.

Squirting cucumber

What’s special about it?

The Squirting Cucumber squirts seeds at up to 60mph! First it grows horrible, hairy stems and leaves then cucumber-shaped fruits that swell up with seeds and water. As these fruits become heavy they snap away from the stems and the seeds shoot out. They are hardy plants that can survive in most weather conditions.

You will need:

Squirting Cucumber seeds (available online)

2 small plant pots or yoghurt pots

Gritty compost (make this by mixing 1 part multipurpose compost with 1 part sharp sand – all available from a garden centre)

Lightbox

Instructions

  1. Fill the pots to the top with gritty compost.
  2. Sow one seed in each pot and cover them with compost (you should cover with twice as much compost as the seed is long).
  3. Put the plants in the lightbox on a sunny windowsill. Face the open side of the lightbox towards the sun. Squirting Cucumbers are from the Mediterranean so cover them with polythene at night to keep them warm.
  4. Water the plants as often as needed to keep the compost moist. It shouldn’t be too wet or bone dry either.  Seedlings should appear within three weeks.
  5. When the plants have three or more green leaves plant them outside. Only plant them outside in summer and when the weather is summery!  It doesn’t matter whereabouts outside you plant them. If the weather is cold put the plants in a greenhouse if you have one (if not, you can make a mini greenhouse).

Abyssinian Banana

What’s special about it?

This plant doesn’t grow edible bananas but it can grow into a 3-metre tall monster with giant, floppy leaves. Although it’s a tropical plant it will grow here in the summer.

You will need:

Abyssinian Banana seeds (available online)

Medium and large flower pots

Compost

Plant food (from a garden centre)

Polythene sandwich bags

Clothes pegs

Instructions:

  1. Fill the pots with compost and sow one banana seed in each pot (remembering to cover the seed with twice as much compost as the seed is tall).
  2. Water well.
  3. Sit each pot inside a polythene sandwich bag and seal the top using a clothes peg or a plastic clip.
  4. Put the pots in a warm, dark place like an airing cupboard.
  5. Each day check the compost to make sure it is still moist and water if needed.
  6. When shoots appear remove the pots from the sandwich bags and place in a light box on a sunny, warm windowsill making sure the plants are facing the sun.
  7. Keep the soil moist by watering the plants regularly and feed them with plant food every week.
  8. When roots begin to appear through holes in the bottom of the pots replant into large pots and put outside. If the summer weather is more wintry than summery bring your banana plants indoors until it improves.

Venus Fly Trap

What’s special about it?

No monster plant guide would be complete without this famous terror! The Venus Fly Trap’s meaty, redness tempts flies with a promise of a meal but then a trap snaps shut. The plant digests the fly and absorbs it within itself. The Venus Fly Trap is a bog plant so it needs plenty of wet and light.

You will need:

A small Venus Fly Trap plant (you can plant a Venus Fly Trap from seed if you like but it takes a lot of patience as the seedlings are tiny for the first year and become easily overgrown with moss unless they are tended carefully)

Rainwater or de-ionised water (they don’t drink tap water)

A shallow container in which to stand the pot.

Instructions

  1. Stand the potted Venus Fly Trap in the shallow container and fill the container with water. The container needs to hold 1cm of water. Keep this water topped up at all times – you don’t need to water the plant itself.
  2. Place the Venus Fly Trap in a sunny spot outside in summer where there will be plenty of flies for it to catch. Venus Fly Traps don’t need warmth or light in the winter months but they do need to be kept out of wind and rain and protected from frost.
  3. In about two years you will need to re-plant your Venus Fly Trap in a bigger pot or carefully split it across two medium pots. When the time comes, use moss peat as they won’t grow in any other kind of peat and re-pot in early spring.

Does your child need extra help with science?

Whether your child is at primary school or studying for exams, TutorMyKids can put you in touch with a fully-qualified, specialist science tutor.

All our tutors are up-to-date with the current curriculum and they are passionate about firing children’s enthusiasm for their subject.

During the coronavirus pandemic all tutoring sessions take place one-to-one online. Talk to us today at hello@tutormykids.co.uk/01223 858 421.

Summer Projects: Exciting Engineering

After months of homeschooling the summer holidays may be a welcome break for both you and your family, but if you are wondering how to keep your child occupied over the next few weeks we have some ideas to help.

The projects below are designed for children aged 8 upwards and they have one simple aim – to be lots of fun! We talk about how you can extend your child’s scientific knowledge and understanding as they engage in the activities if you wish to do so.

Ultimately, it’s about your child experiencing the joy of making discoveries for themselves and spending time with you.

Balloon-powered vehicles

Challenge: Choose and make a balloon-powered vehicle from 3 Simple Science Experiments from Balloons.

You will need:

Balloons

Masking tape

Additional materials depend upon what your child chooses to make. Think about ways you can substitute materials used in the video for things you already have at home. For example, if you don’t have a sheet of polystyrene to make a boat you could fashion a boat by cutting up a plastic bottle or modify a bath boat.

For your information:

Newton’s third law of physics explains how balloon-powered vehicles work – for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As the air is expelled from the balloon in one direction, the balloon itself moves in the opposite direction.

Helping your child:

After your child has made and played with their vehicle you could introduce them to Newton’s third law of physics by watching The Dyson Foundation’s Balloon Car Race film.  Can they now explain why their balloon vehicle goes?

Marble run

Challenge: Build the fastest, and best marble run you can.

You will need:

Cardboard tubes (toilet rolls/kitchen rolls)

Tape

Bowl to catch the marbles

Felt tips or paint to decorate the marble run if your child wishes

For your information:

For instructions to make a marble run read Tinkerlab’s How to Make a Marble Run. Also watch The Dyson Foundation’s Marble Run Challenge which explains how a successful marble run depends upon gravity and friction.

Helping your child

Encourage your child to experiment with different angles as they arrange the marble run chutes – what angles work best?

To discover that friction and gravity make a difference to the success of the marble run they could try lining their chutes with rough or shiny materials and then sending a marble down the run. They might also drop different objects down the chutes instead of marbles in order to make further comparisons.

Marshmallow bridge

Challenge: Build a bridge from mini marshmallows and cocktail sticks.

You will need:

Mini marshmallows

Cocktail sticks

Pictures of different types of bridges (which you could print from the internet).

For your information:

Type ‘bridge mini marshmallows toothpicks’ into Google Images to see some examples of marshmallow bridges made by others.

Helping your child:

Together look at pictures of real bridges. Ask your child what shapes they can see in each bridge and whether they could use any of these shapes in their own bridge construction.

If the activity is too tricky, your child could build a tower from marshmallows and cocktail sticks rather than a bridge.

Paper table

Challenge: Make a table that is strong enough to hold a heavy book.

You will need:

Sheets of newspaper

Masking tape

Corrugated cardboard rectangle approximately 20cm x 30cm

Masking tape

Heavy book

For your information:

Start by watching Paper Table from iPhysics. You will see that table legs and supports are made from rolled up newspaper and the table top is a rectangle of corrugated cardboard. 

Helping your child:

Show your child how to make a strong tube from a sheet of newspaper as demonstrated in the iPhysics film. Start at one corner and roll diagonally towards the other corner, rolling the tube as tightly as possible and securing with tape.

Before your child begins, look together at tables and other furniture you have in the house. Do table legs and table tops have any support? Can your child apply what they see to their own designs?

As your child builds their table, support them to solve any problems that occur as independently as possible. Wobbly legs can be supported with extra newspaper tubes, and if their table tips it might help if they make the legs shorter.  The more triangular supports that are in place the stronger the table will be.

Would your child benefit from tailored science tuition?

At TutorMyKids all our tutors are passionate about firing children’s enthusiasm for their subject. We believe children gain a deeper understanding of science by making discoveries for themselves and solving problems.

Whether your child is at primary school or studying for exams, TutorMyKids can put you in touch with a fully-qualified, specialist science tutor who is up-to-date with the current curriculum.

During the coronavirus pandemic all tutoring sessions take place one-to-one online. Talk to us today at hello@tutormykids.co.uk/01223 858 421.

Homeschool activities: Children’s Art Week and maths

Children’s Art Week which is organised by Engage, the National Association for Gallery Education, runs from 29th June to 29th July.

The aim of Children’s Art Week is to inspire children to explore different kinds of art and to experiment with a range of media. Families can participate in online workshops led by artists and try their hand at everything from architecture to snow globe making.

Here we share art activities that also develop children’s maths skills. You can try these at home as part of Children’s Art Week or at any time as a way to engage your child with maths. Art and maths are closely related with both subjects requiring the ability to recognise patterns, to understand shapes, symmetry, proportion and measurement and spatial reasoning.

All the activities need very few resources. We hope you and your child have fun!

Tessellation art

Tessellation is a pattern made with polygons (shapes with three or more sides) that completely fills a space with no gaps at all. Tessellations can be seen everywhere from the brickwork of your house to the tiles on your bathroom floor!

You will need A4 card, a glue stick, and a selection of pre-cut squares, rectangles and triangles of different colours. Challenge your child to choose shapes and arrange them on their piece of paper without leaving any spaces in between. Once they are happy they glue their shapes in place. See Art Inspired by Klee for photographs and further instructions.

Older children can try more challenging patterns – their imagination is the limit!

Pi cityscape

Children don’t need to understand the concept of pi to enjoy this activity, so it’s suitable for all ages. For young children it is a good way to help them to remember that pi = 3.14 when they need to know later. Children in Key Stage 2 might benefit from watching Pi for Kids and carrying out measuring activities to develop their mathematical understanding as a supplement to this activity.

Start by printing out the single page pi poster from 10 MinuteMath. Children will also need a piece of graph paper and felt tipped pens. They create a line of skyscrapers by colouring in blocks of squares to match each number in pi – the finished result looks a bit like a bar chart. So they colour 3 blocks, then 1 block, then 4 blocks and so on (3.14…). For instructions accompanied by pictures, visit What do we do all day?

Aboriginal repeating patterns

We love this activity on Nic Hahn’s blogspot. It’s very easy to follow and the effects are beautiful. Young children will learn about repeating patterns, and older children can adapt the activity by making up more complex repeating patterns.

All you need is paper, paint and cotton wool buds. If you don’t have cotton wool buds then finger prints are fine.

Weaving patterns

This therapeutic activity utilizes children’s measuring and pattern making skills.

You will need a paper plate, either paint or felt tipped pens, scissors, and balls of different coloured wool. Children start by decorating the paper plate however they wish. They then turn the plate into a loom by cutting slits around the rim and weaving wool in and out, before weaving their design between these strands.

Cassie Stephen’s blog spot has some beautiful photographs of finished designs which will fire children’s enthusiasm. However, her instructions are difficult to follow so we recommend watching Paper Plate Weaving before you begin.

Geometric paint by number

Here children think about shapes, use a ruler and show that they know the difference between odd and even numbers.

You will need A4 paper, a pencil, a ruler and paint.  Prepare by setting out 10 different paint pots each containing a different colour – or different shades of the same colour. Number the pots 1-10.

Children draw a grid on their paper with each square roughly 4cm x 5cm (4cm across the width of the paper, and 5cm down the length). They then need to draw a large shape right in the middle of the grid – taking up most of the squares. It doesn’t matter if they turn the grid portrait or landscape. On the inside of the shape, in each grid square, they write a different even number to 10.  On the outside of the shape, in every grid square, they write a different odd number to 10. Children then paint their designs by matching the numbers on their grid to the numbers on the paint pots.

Clear instructions for this activity and examples can be found on Nic Hahn’s blogspot.

Mandala maths

This is a lovely activity for children of all ages. Not only does it takes maths and art outdoors, but children can create designs that are as simple or complex as they like. It is an opportunity for children to practise counting, comparing, matching and sorting, and to learn about symmetry and geometry.

If you’ve just been to the beach and have a collection of seashells then have a look at Nurturestore’s website for instructions and inspiration.  Don’t worry if you haven’t been to the beach lately – you can create mandalas from all sorts of natural or household materials or even toys and craft materials. Type ‘mandalas from nature’ into Google Images and you will get the idea!

Does your child need extra help with maths?

If your child is finding particular mathematical concepts challenging or is generally unenthusiastic about the subject, a one-to-one maths tutor can make a real difference to them.

Our highly-qualified tutors are passionate about maths and they want to help children to learn and to enjoy maths just as they do. They take the time to assess children’s mathematical knowledge and to identify where there are gaps so that they can tailor their teaching accordingly.

During the coronavirus pandemic all tutoring sessions take place one-to-one online. Talk to us today at hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Homeschooling Project: World Oceans Day

Monday 8th June is World Oceans Day. The aim of World Oceans Day is to inspire everybody – young and old –  to understand why oceans are important and to take action to protect them.

Oceans:

  • Are the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe.
  • Are home to a diverse range of marine life which is vital for a healthy ecosystem supporting all life on Earth.
  • Regulate our climate and weather patterns by transporting heat from the Equator to the poles.
  • Are a major food source giving us not just fish but ingredients for other products too – even peanut butter!
  • Provide ingredients for medicines including those that fight cancer, heart disease and Alzheimers.

Here are some practical activities you can do at home to educate your child about our oceans, encourage them to care and to understand that the choices they make really can make a difference.

Why do we need oceans?

Watch National Geographic’s short film, How to Care for the Ocean.

After watching, ask your child:

  • What do oceans provide us?
  • What are the problems?
  • What could happen if we don’t make changes?
  • Can you think of one thing we can do as a family to help care for our oceans?

Know where your food comes from Together search the internet to find out what surprising foods come from the ocean. The National Ocean Service film, What does peanut butter have to do with the ocean? is a great place to start.

Discover what kinds of seafood come from the ocean and ask your child which they have already tried and which they liked best.

Ask your child to make a ‘Delicious Ocean’ poster by drawing and labelling all the things they have eaten that come from the ocean.

Eat sustainable fish

Watch What is sustainable fishing?

After the film check your child’s understanding by asking them what sustainable fishing is and why it’s important. Together visit the Marine Conservation Society’s website to find out what fish is currently sustainable in the UK.  

You could buy a sustainable fish and experiment with a new recipe. To find a recipe type ‘recipe with…’ followed by your fish of choice into a search engine. For example, ‘recipe with coley’.

At the current time it is tricky to buy specific food so this might be an activity to research now and carry out later! Having said that, some local fishmongers will deliver.

Reduce plastic waste

Plastic waste has recently increased due to Covid-19. We are all having to prioritise immediate safety which can mean having shopping delivered in carrier bags and buying long-life food which is often packaged in single-use plastic.

However, even during the pandemic there are steps we can all take to reduce the amount of waste that will end up in landfill. The World Economic Forum’s article Single use plastic in a pandemic: how to stay safe and sustainable is a positive article to share with your child.

To prepare for the end of lockdown your child could make a reusable shopping bag from an old t-shirt – no sewing required. Bags can be decorated with fabric pens or other random craft supplies such as pom-poms, feathers and sequins. Your child’s imagination is the limit!

Care about endangered species

Together look on the Marine Conservation Society’s website to find out which UK marine species are endangered or under threat.

Ask your child to choose an animal they would like to find out more about. Watch a film on YouTube about your child’s chosen animal – we recommend National Geographic Kids’ films. If possible, read books about the animal or discover facts about it online. Your child could make a book or write a short fact file about their animal to teach others about it.  They could also make themed crafts.

For example, if your child chose to find out more about the bottlenose dolphin they could:

  • Watch National Geographic Kids’ Bottlenose Dolphin.
  • Find out more about bottlenose dolphins from National Geographic Kids and write a fact file or make a book to teach others to love them too.
  • Make a dolphin craft – there are plenty on Pinterest and inspiration can also be found on Google Images by typing in ‘Bottlenose dolphin craft’.

Do you need a homeschooling tutor?

At TutorMyKids we believe that enjoyment is the key to successful learning. All of our tutors are qualified, creative teachers who tailor their teaching to suit your child’s needs.

Our tutors can teach your child one-to-one online or set work for them to complete with you. Whatever support your child needs, we are here to help. Contact us today at hello@tutormykids.co.uk.

Space Day Homeschool Topic: Mission to the Moon!

To celebrate Space Day on 1st May we share some Moon-themed activities that you can do at home with children from primary age upwards.

These activities develop a range of cross-curricular skills including English, maths, science, design and technology and art.

Children are fascinated by the night sky, so there’s no better topic to fire their enthusiasm for learning.

Mission 1: Find out about the Moon

Ask your child what they would like to find out about the Moon. You could write down their questions so that they can refer back to them. They might ask: “Is there water on the Moon?” “What is the surface like?” “How hot or cold is it?” “What is the weather like?”

Together research the answers to their particular questions using books and/or the internet. Here are some possible websites and books:

Moon Facts for Kids, Cool Kids

Moon Facts for Kids, Science Kids

If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty

One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh

Mission 2: Design an exercise routine for astronauts

Find out how long it takes to travel to the Moon. Discuss with your child why astronauts need to exercise during this time and how they might do so inside a rocket with limited space.

Ask your child to plan and write a 60 minute exercise programme for astronauts, dividing the time into 5 or 10 minute blocks of exercise (5 minutes of star jumps, 5 minutes jogging on the spot and so on). Your child could use a toy clock to help them to plan exercise intervals that add up to 60 minutes.

For exercise ideas watch Joe Wicks and other exercise instructors on YouTube.

Mission 3: Write a menu for astronauts

Look online to find out how astronauts eat in space. In order to write a menu for astronauts your child will need to consider that food must be non-perishable, not crumbly and so on. Your child could test a few different foods for crumbliness before they begin.

Mission 4: Make a food tray for astronauts

Due to lack of space on a rocket a food tray must be designed to fit as much food on as possible as well as taking into account weak gravity.

Provide your child with plenty of resources to choose from in order to make their tray – old cereal boxes, cellotape, glue, elastic bands, foil and recycled plastic containers such as yoghurt pots and spreadable butter containers.

Your child might decide to make a cardboard tray and create compartments by gluing on different containers or they may do something entirely different.

Mission 5: Gravity experiment

This experiment needs to be performed outside or over a container. Ask your child to put a hole in the side of a disposable cup near the bottom. They cover the hole with their thumb as you fill the cup with water. Ask them to hold the cup up high and uncover the hole observing what’s happening.

Repeat the experiment, this time dropping the cup onto the ground. Your child will notice that when they drop the cup the second time water doesn’t leak through the hole.

To see the experiment in action view the Sci Guys: Science at Home – Gravity Water Cup Drop

Mission 6: Design a Moon colony

Ask your child to tell you what they think people would need to be able to survive on the Moon (food, water, air, stronger gravity, protection from the weather and so on). Look at some artists’ drawings of Moon colonies by typing ‘moon colony’ into Google Images and ask your child what they notice about the people, buildings and other features of the environment.

Ask your child to design a Moon colony on paper labelling the different features. Before they start, they could talk to you about their ideas because this will help them to clarify their thoughts.

If your child is feeling adventurous, they might want to create their finished design in 3D. To do this they could make a paper mache lunar landscape (type ‘paper mache lunar landscape’ into a search engine for ideas) and they could make their Moon colony by taping and gluing recycled materials such as cardboard tubes, plastic containers, cereal boxes, tin foil and paper plates onto the landscape and painting them.

Would you like help to supplement your homeschooling?

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Perhaps there are classmates of your child or you have a friend whose children who would also benefit from online tuition? We also offer group tuition sessions to help keep children motivated and on track.

Whatever your needs we are here to help, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today at hello@tutormykids.co.uk.