Engineering Week projects children can do at home

Engineering Week in February celebrates the different ways that engineering is part of our everyday lives, from our washing machines and cars to our mobile phones and toys.

Here we share some engineering projects your child might like to try at home. Challenge your mini Brunel to build these fantastic bridges and towers. How tall/wide/strong can they make their structure?

As well as being great fun, building towers and bridges can develop your child’s problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, hand-eye co-ordination, and social skills too!

Engineering Week Projects

Box towers

For this activity you will need to raid your recycling for boxes of all sizes – Amazon boxes, cereal boxes, shoe boxes, orange juice cartons, tissue boxes – anything and everything. You could make thinner boxes more stable by stuffing them with crumpled scrap paper and taping them up.

Challenge your child to stack the boxes to build the tallest and most stable tower they possibly can.

Pebble towers

You will need a selection of flat pebbles. If you are not planning a trip to the beach, you can buy pebbles cheaply online or from garden centres. The challenge is to build a tall and stable tower from the pebbles. This activity is best done on a flat surface.

There is a lovely picture book called Bring Me a Rock! which is all about a bossy grasshopper king who insists the other animals build him a high throne from pebbles. The tower is about to topple when someone wedges a tiny pebble between the rocks. You could share this story with your child as inspiration if you like. Free readings are available on YouTube.

Pyramid!

Can your child make a pyramid from paper cups?

They could start by placing seven cups upside down in a row, then balancing six upside-down cups on top of those, five on top of those and so on.

Can your child build a taller or a wider pyramid?

This activity could be a great introduction to the Egyptians – those incredible engineers of the ancient world!

Clothes peg and lolly stick bridges

We love this fantastic bridge building project. You need clothes pegs, craft lolly sticks (available online) and bulldog clips. Books could be a replacement for blocks in this project.

Your child can have fun building different types of bridges and testing their strength by placing weights such as toys and books on top.

Index card bridges

To build index card bridges, you need a packet of index cards (or ‘record cards’) which you can buy online or in stationary shop. You also need some small stones (like gravel).

With this project your child might build a beam bridge, an arch bridge and an accordion beam bridge. The challenge is to find out which type of bridge can hold the most stones without collapsing.

Can your child say why they think a particular type of bridge is the strongest?  

Paper bridge

You will need two heavy books, paper, cellotape and some coins.

Make a bridge by placing the two books a distance apart and then putting a piece of paper on top to make a bridge. Put a coin in the middle of the paper bridge and see what happens. Your child will probably notice that the paper sags.

The challenge is for your child to think of a way to stop the bridge sagging in the middle. For instance, could they fold the paper to make the bridge stronger? Could they make a support for the bridge from scrap paper and tape?

Can they make a bridge that is strong enough to hold many coins without sagging?

Would your child benefit from science tuition?

Does your child love engineering and science? Whether they have are fascinated by science or they need support to understand tricky concepts, TutorMyKids can help.

Our science tutors are passionate about their subject, and they want to share their enthusiasm with children. When children are engaged with their learning and enjoy what they are doing they are more likely to reach high standards of achievement.

To find out more about one-to-one science tuition please contact 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Fantastic children’s activities to celebrate Chinese New Year 2022

Find out about Chinese New Year and join in the 2022 celebrations with these super-easy, super-fun children’s activities, recipes and games.

What is Chinese New Year all about?

There are a few legends surrounding the origins of the Chinese New Year.

According to one such legend thousands of years ago a monster called Nian always attacked villagers at the beginning of every new year. The monster was afraid of the colour red as well as bright lights and noises, so the people used this to scare it away. That is why Chinese celebrations are full of red, gold, vibrant decorations, lights, and a cacophony of sound.

You could help your child to learn about Chinese New Year with the following books and films.

Children’s information books and stories

These books introduce children to Chinese New Year and are a little bit of fun too!

Celebrate Chinese New Year by National Geographic is full of engaging photographs of people celebrating Chinese New Year. The photos might spark discussion and raise lots of questions.

Chinese New Year: We Love Festivals by Saviour Pirotta. With full colour photos and accessible text, this is a great introduction to the ways people celebrate Chinese New Year.

Mr Men: Chinese New Year by Adam Hargreaves and Roger Hargreaves. The Mr Men are having a party with a dragon dance to celebrate Chinese New Year. What could possibly go wrong?

The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine is a delightful picture book for young children about a wok that escapes from a rich man’s home. It’s a book about generosity which is the true spirit of the Chinese New Year.

Films to bring Chinese New Year 2022 alive

For a young child, you could share CBeebie’s Preparing for Chinese New Year – Let’s Celebrate. This short film shows how families prepare for and celebrate New Year.

An older child might enjoy, How is Chinese New Year Celebrated? It is the story of Nian the monster and the origins of the Chinese New Year.

Finally, you could really bring Chinese New Year to life by watching festivities in China.

Children’s craft activities for Chinese New Year

These easy arts and crafts are suitable for children of all ages.

Moving Tiger

The year 2022 is the Chinese year of the tiger. Your child might like to make this fantastic moving tiger. All you need is cardboard, paint, scissors and split pins.

Panda rock

We love this panda rock painting idea. You will need pebbles and pebble painting pens.

Your child doesn’t have to paint a panda – they can paint anything. How about a tiger to celebrate 2022 or a dragon instead? You could find pictures online or in books for ideas.

Spicy, red playdough

Make some spicy red playdough by mixing 2 cups of flour, ½ cup of salt, 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar, 2 tablespoons of oil, a few drops of red food colouring and some Chinese spices (such as cinnamon and cloves) in a saucepan over a medium heat.  Continue to stir the mixture until it forms a ball.

Once the playdough is cool your child could decorate it with red and gold craft materials such as bottle tops, craft pipe cleaners, gold stars and chocolate coin wrappers – anything you can find at home.

Older children could sculpt dragons from the playdough and craft bits. Imagination is the limit!

Traditional Chinese cooking

Sticky rice is traditionally thought to be good luck at Chinese New Year. The stickiness of the rice is also a symbol of family togetherness. 

Why not have a go at cooking this sweet, coconut-based dessert? It’ delicious and the perfect way to celebrate Chinese New Year.

You will need:

1 x 400ml can coconut milk

2 cups of jasmine rice

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

Instructions:

  1. Wash the rice in a sieve and keep rinsing it until the water runs clear.
  2. Put the rice and all the other ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  3. When the mixture is boiling turn the heat down.
  4. Cover the saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Taste the rice to see if it is cooked. If cooked, serve immediately.

The great family chopstick race

We love the chopstick race. It’s a great game for the whole family, plus good practise with using chopsticks.

To play, give each person a pair of chopsticks, an empty bowl and a bowl filled with an equal number of sweets (like mini marshmallows). You will also need a one-minute timer – an oven timer will do.

The players have one minute to transfer as many sweets into their empty bowl as they can using their chopsticks. Whoever transfers the most sweets is the winner!

To learn to use chopsticks before you play watch Teach your child to use chopsticks. For young children, or anyone who is struggling, try this fantastic chopstick hack.

Does your child love learning?

Whether your child has a passion for a certain subject, or they need help with a specific area of learning, TutorMyKids can help.

Our tutors build on children’s interests and passions and boost their confidence so they develop a ‘can do’ attitude. When children are enthusiastic, motivated and determined we know they are more likely to reach the highest standards of achievement.

We offer tuition in English, maths, humanities and languages to children in Cambridge, Ely, Huntingdon, Newmarket and the surrounding areas.

To find out more about one-to-one tuition please contact 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Guide to the best FREE online educational resources

Here is our guide to the best free online education resources. We have included resources suitable for children from primary school up to A level, as well as resources for university students and adult learners.

Whether you are a parent who wants to support their child’s learning or a student studying for exams, this guide is for you!

  1. TED-ed

On TED-ed you will find a wealth of lessons created by teachers and turned into animated films. These short films are useful for children of any age and those revising for exams.

You can sort the videos by age range and subject to find what you need. For example, if your child is interested in engineering and they are at primary school they can browse this selection of fabulous engineering films. Films are perfect for building on children’s existing interests or igniting enjoyment in a new subject.

2. It’s Okay To Be Smart

It’s Okay To Be Smart is a science channel on YouTube created by knowledgeable scientist, Joe Hanson. Joe is keen to inspire children to share his passion for exploring science and nature.

Children will find everything here from short documentaries on ‘butt-tickling ants’ and ‘death-eating scavengers’ to films showing elephants living in communities and caring for their young just like people.

There are films that answer children’s big questions such as, ‘Why do we dream?’ and ‘What is nothing?’ We think Joe successfully builds on children’s natural curiosity.

3. National Geographic Kids

We love the National Geographic Kids website. Although it is a paid magazine there are fabulous, free resources on the website that support children’s learning in geography, science and nature. There are quizzes, fact files, films, competitions and games galore.  Check out these bitesize facts about the Great Fire of London and this quiz about comets and meteors as examples.

The website is also brilliant for supporting primary-aged children with learning at home. Under the primary resources tab on the menu bar there are activities and films to help children with every subject from science and maths to phonics and history.

This is an engaging resource which brings learning to life for children – and adults – of all ages. The whole family can learn and discover together.

4. Primary Homework Help

Whatever subject or topic your child is studying at school, they are likely to find support on Primary Homework Help. This is not a fancy website, instead it simply provides key information. Information is clearly written for children to understand and is presented in bite-sized chunks.

Sometimes all a child needs is a straightforward answer to a burning question and they will be able to find it here. Have a look at Why do we have night and day? as an example.

5. National Numeracy Challenge

The National Numeracy Challenge is a website for adults who want to improve their maths. Whether you would like to become better at managing your finances or you want to be able to help your child with their homework – this is the resource for you!

We recommend the National Numeracy Challenge for students who are studying subjects other than maths, but who need to improve their maths skills to support the subject they are studying. The website is also brilliant for teachers and tutors whose specialist subject is not maths – especially those teaching at primary school level.

This resource makes acquiring essential skills enjoyable and can bring a real sense of achievement.

6. Get Revising and Revision World

Get Revising contains a wealth of revision materials and tools across a range of subjects from GCSE to university level. The website aims to make revising fun and we think it succeeds. Using the interactive tools to make notes and plan revision helps students to feel in control of their learning schedule which fosters a positive ‘can do’ attitude. Students can also share resources with others on the site.

Revision World is another revision tool suitable for GCSE and A Level students. The materials here are high-quality and written by a team of education experts.

We recommend checking both websites and choosing the one that suits you best.

Would your child benefit from private tuition?

TutorMyKids offers private tuition across Cambridgeshire including Cambridge, Ely, Huntingdon, Newmarket and the surrounding areas.

We have tutors who specialise in English, maths, humanities and languages and we teach children from primary age up to and including A Level.  

If you are looking for local private tuition, please contact us today on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Big Energy Saving Week 2022 – get children involved!

Big Energy Saving Week runs from 17th to 23rd January 2022. Here we share some fun ways you can teach your child about the importance of saving energy and what they can do to help. By saving energy they are looking after our planet and also lowering your household bills.

What is energy?

You could kick off Big energy Saving Week 2022 by drawing your child’s attention to the ingenuity behind energy production. This may help them to appreciate the energy we all take for granted and to be more committed to saving it.

You might share books about how renewable energy is produced, such as:

Renewable Energy Sources – Wind, Solar and Hydro Energy Edition by Baby Professor

How Does it Work? Solar Energy by Baby IQ Builder Books

Wind, Rain, Hydro and Renewable Energy by Baby IQ Builder Books

Renewable Energy Sources – Wind, Solar and Hydro Energy Revised Edition by Baby Professor

If you type ‘how energy is made’ into YouTube you will find a wealth of free films on everything from nuclear power to how energy reaches our homes. Always watch films all the way through yourself before sharing them with your child.

On E.ON’s Energise Anything website you will find lots of activities you can do with children aged 5-18. They can even make their very own lightning storm!

Life without electricity

Show your child how much we rely on power by turning off electronic devices for a couple of hours (or a day if they would really like a challenge).

Ask your child to help you carry out household jobs by hand instead of using the washing machine or dishwasher. This helps them to appreciate how much we rely on energy and they may think twice before putting clothes they have worn just once into the washing basket.

Your child could watch A day in the life of a regency servant from BBC Teach shows which shows what life was like for people before electricity.

Save energy in the house

Each day you could play a game where your child races around the house turning off lights in empty rooms and devices nobody is using. It is important not to leave machines on ‘standby’ as it is a potential fire hazard.

You could turn this race into a family competition to see who can turn off the most unused equipment. If you have a smart meter at home, you could use this to show your child how their efforts are really saving energy.

For an overview of how saving energy protects the environment and what we can all do to help, we recommend watching Protecting our environment by conserving energy from BBC Teach.

Go outside

Playing games outside in the garden or in the park is a great way to save power in the house. Show children how they can warm up outside by running around or cool down in hot weather by sitting in the shade and enjoying the breeze rather than switching on a fan.

Stuck for games to play outside? Read our blog post 10 equipment free outdoor games for ideas.

Save water

A major part of saving energy is using less water. To find out why it is vital to save water you could read Why we should all be saving water from the Energy Trust. Water is a scarce resource and supply in the UK is already struggling to meet demand. People often think our rainy climate means water supply here is not a problem, but this is far from the case.

There is plenty we can do at home to save water. Showers are the biggest water users in the home, and we also use lots of energy heating them up.

You could turn water saving into a game for your child by keeping a tally. Each time your child saves water they could give themselves a point on the tally.

Here are some easy, water-saving ideas:

  • Take showers instead of baths and keep showers short.
  • When brushing your teeth turn off the tap.
  • Use cold water instead of warm water when possible. According to Unicef cold water and warm water are equally effective at killing viruses such as Covid-19 as long as you wash your hands for 20 seconds, use soap and dry your hands completely afterwards.
  • Only use washing machines and dishwashers when they are full.

Did your child enjoy Big Energy Saving Week 2022?

Our specialist science tutors at TutorMyKids can build on your child’s interest in the environment to extend their science skills and knowledge.

All our tutors are science enthusiasts who have a strong academic background and proven track record in teaching. They will adapt their teaching to your child’s learning style, boosting their confidence, which in turn drives achievement.

To find the right science tutor for your child today, please contact us on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Best children’s Christmas books to bring festive magic

Nothing brings the magic of Christmas alive more than a brilliant festive story.

The children’s Christmas books we share here have compelling characters, beautiful illustrations, and exciting plots. The books also contain meaningful messages that embody the spirit of Christmas, providing food for thought.

Reviews of the best children’s Christmas books

We think every Christmas book here is a real page-turner that will delight children from aged 2 to 12. Happy Christmas!

A Boy Called Christmas

By Matt Haig

Canongate Books, 2016

This is the story of how Father Christmas came to be Father Christmas. He wasn’t always an old man with a long white beard, once he was a little boy.

The plot is like Dicken’s Oliver Twist in that the main character, Nikolas, runs away from a cruel adult and is eventually rescued. Instead of being rescued by his uncle like Oliver Twist, Nikolas is rescued by Santa’s elves. Like a Dickens tale Matt Haig’s story is full of fantastical, quirky characters and the plot twists, turns and surprises which makes it a difficult book to put down!

Bursting with Christmas wonder, yet touching on some tricky subjects including abuse, death, grief and trust, this is a must-read book for children aged 8 years plus.

Little Robin Red Breast

Jan Fearnley

Nosy Crow, 2019

This magical story for young children embodies the Christmas spirit as it is about generosity and kindness. The plot is similar to Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Smartest Giant in Town except that a robin instead of a giant gives away his best clothes to help animals in need. 

By Christmas Eve Little Robin has given away all his warm, woolly vests to keep other animals warm and he has nothing left to wear himself. Shivering with cold he’s rescued by Father Christmas who says how proud he is of him and gives him a hand-knitted red vest that will keep him ‘warm forever’ and make other people ‘feel warm too’.

Mouse’s Night Before Christmas

By Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini

Nosy Crow, 2019

It is Christmas Eve and everybody is asleep.  Mouse, who lives inside a grandfather clock, pops his head out and sees a star on top of the family Christmas tree.  He scrambles to the top of the star and makes a wish. As he makes his wish, he hears a commotion outside.  It’s Santa and he’s lost!  Mouse climbs aboard Santa’s sleigh and shows him the way to go.  Mouse helps Santa to fill the stockings, so all the children receive their presents before daybreak. 

When it is time for Santa to leave Mouse is sad.  He’s been feeling lonely and has enjoyed having some company for a change.  As Santa leaves, he tells Mouse he heard the wish he made on the star.  He gives Mouse a present – it’s two pairs of ice-skates.  Full of hope Mouse follows a map Santa has given him which leads him to a lonely bird who is also in need of a friend. They ice skate hand-in-hand across a frozen pond, skating the words The End.

This is a wonderful story about thinking of others and the value of friendship which captures the Christmas spirit.

Pip and Posy: The Christmas Tree

Axel Scheffler

Nosy Crow, 2019

Pip and Posy are busy decorating their Christmas tree with home-made biscuits and candy canes. The strange thing is that each time Posy goes into the kitchen to fetch something, a decoration vanishes from the tree. ‘When Posy came back, she noticed that one of the candy canes was missing. “There were four candy canes,” she said. “But now there are only three.”’ 

Soon there are no decorations left and Pip is feeling strangely sick.  He confesses that he has eaten all the decorations and apologises to Posy. Together they go out for some fresh air to make Pip feel better.  Then they return to make more decorations for the tree – this time, paper ones!

We love this story of friendship and forgiveness, and it also helps young children with their maths skills.

Santa Clause Vs the Easter Bunny

By Fred Blunt

Andersen Press, 2019

The Easter Bunny lives next door to Santa, and he is fed up. Every Christmas children say thank you to Santa by leaving him treats – rice pudding in Denmark, mince pies and sherry in England, milk and cookies in America. On top of that, Santa is helped by a team of elves. The Easter Bunny receives no treats and no help and he’s feeling jealous, so he hatches a plan to punish Santa and the children.

In the dead of night, the Easter Bunny sneaks into Santa’s workshop and fills the toy machines with chocolate. On Christmas Day, the Easter Bunny gleefully switches on the television to enjoy the upset he has caused. However, things don’t go to plan because the children are delighted with their chocolate aeroplanes and bicycles!

The Easter Bunny shuts up shop and prepares to leave home, but at that moment Santa knocks on the door. Santa makes him an offer he can’t refuse – they will be a team!  The Easter Bunny is given full access to Santa’s machines and elf power, and he is rewarded with all the carrots he can eat (thanks to the reindeer who are sick of carrots anyway). 

This is a delightfully funny story with an important message. Although what the Easter Bunny did was wrong, Santa understood why he felt jealous and helped him rather than punishing him.

Does your child need help with reading?

The ability to read is fundamental – it makes nearly all other learning possible. That is why TutorMyKids only recruit reading tutors who are experienced, qualified teachers.

Reading difficulties can include issues with decoding, lack of comprehension skills or difficulty tracking texts. Some children just need a short-term boost from a tutor and others require longer term support.

Whatever your child needs, we will match them with a tutor who has the right experience. Your child’s tutor will tailor their teaching to ensure your child reaches their full potential and discovers the joy of reading.

To find out how we can help, talk to us today on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

How do tutors teach children with different learning styles?

There are many ways that people learn, but the three main styles are auditory, kinesthetic and visual.

A person who learns best when information is presented in an auditory format might say things out loud when trying to remember them. For visual learners, pictures, charts, graphs and diagrams are an effective way to absorb information. Kinesthetic learners learn through hands-on activities, for example, by learning to count in tens by clapping their hands together.

Most people learn through a mixture of auditory, kinesthetic and visual styles, but may lean a bit more towards one style than another. At TutorMyKids our tutors understand that every student is unique, and they tailor their lessons to maximize a student’s success and build their confidence.

So, how do our tutors teach children with different learning styles? Here we share some of the ways we help children to achieve to the best of their abilities.

Auditory learning style

Auditory learners learn best through listening. They usually understand information better when it is spoken to them. These students usually have a clear verbal memory, and they are able to retain the information they hear.

To support a student with an auditory learning style our tutors might:

  • Have conversations with them about the subject matter.
  • Verbally question them to extend their understanding.
  • Ask them to summarise their understanding verbally.
  • Advise them to read revision material aloud and record it so they can play it back to themselves.
  • Read material aloud to them.
  • Ask them to put material to a song or a rhyme and keep rehearsing it.

Kinesthetic learning style

Kinesthetic learners tend to be active and involved with their learning. They process information primarily by touching, feeling, holding, moving around and ‘doing’. These learners tend to skip written instructions and get on with the making process, learning through trial and error.

Kinesthetic learners can be helped by being asked to:

  • Trace words and diagrams with a finger or a pencil.
  • Use role play or dance to bring a concept alive.
  • Act out a character (if it is an English or history lesson, for example) to deepen their understanding.
  • Take notes about a subject while they are reading or listening.
  • Move real objects around to help them to understand something such as a new maths or science concept.
  • Use tools such as a magnifying glass, a telescope or a camera as part of their learning.
  • Make models from plasticine, playdough or clay. For example, a model of an animal cell for biology.
  • Physically move around by jumping, clapping, walking or throwing and catching a ball to help them to understand something. For example, if they are learning to spell a word, they could shout out a letter every time they catch a ball.

Visual learning style

For visual learners, images can be a very effective way to convey information. The use of photographs and illustrations can help learners to see, understand and remember a concept being taught. For example, when discussing the digestive system in biology, they could be shown an image of the stomach or the intestines. In history lessons the student could be shown photographs of historical events to discuss.

We support visual learners by using:

  • Flow charts or mind maps to organise information.
  • Flashcards to review material.
  • Drawing or writing on chalkboards and whiteboards.
  • Different font styles, text colours and images on a computer.
  • Slide shows.
  • Film and TV.

When reading text students can be encouraged to highlight key information with a highlighter pen and to colour code different sections of material. They could also draw pictures and cartoons to illustrate concepts to help embed their understanding.

Would your child benefit from one-to-one tuition?

Whatever your child’s learning styles, we can help them to succeed. Our tutors take the time to get to know individual children and to find the most effective strategies to support them.

We offer tuition in English, maths, humanities and languages to children in Cambridge, Ely, Huntingdon, Newmarket and the surrounding areas.

To discuss your child’s needs please contact us today on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Climate change activities for children: 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties 2021

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is taking place in Glasgow from 31st October to 12th November 2021. This is the 26th meeting that will be attended by the countries that signed the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1994.

In today’s blog we share some activities you can do with your child at home to teach them about climate change. These activities aim to inspire children to learn more about climate change and to help them to discover that we can all be proactive and make a difference.

What is the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties?

The Paris Agreement is at the heart of discussions at the UN Climate Change Conference 2021. By signing the Paris Agreement nations pledged to reduce greenhouse gases, keep the global temperature increase well below 2C and to spend $100 billion to help poorer countries reduce emissions.

At the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Glasgow world leaders will meet to report back on their climate targets in relation to the Paris Agreement and to set new targets going forward.

Find out more by visiting the BBC Newsround website with your child and discussing the conference with them.

Climate change activities for children

Here are our favourite activities, crafts, games and storybooks to help children to find out more about climate change in a positive and fun way!

Arts and crafts

These five craft activities are suitable for children of all ages with different levels of support. We have chosen these because we think you might have most of the resources you need in your home already.

Earth toast

In this Earth toast experiment from Left Brain Craft Brain children find out how too much heat affects the Earth. You will need white bread, milk, a biscuit cutter, red and green food colouring, a pastry brush, sugar and butter.

Eco-friendly beads…and more

Make eco-friendly beads and create your own jewellery from old magazines by following this lively video from National Geographic Kids. You will find more videos here for other child-friendly projects including how to make your own re-useable sandwich wrap.

Flower art

Make a flower collage from scraps of paper and old magazines. Instructions and pictures can be found on We Are Teachers website.

Greenhouse gases

Help children to understand the chemistry of greenhouse gases by making edible models from Jelly Tots and cocktail sticks by following these instructions from Science Sparks.

Lunch box

Make your own lunchbox from an old pair of jeans. You will need an old pair of jeans; a hot glue gun; decorations like buttons, craft pom-poms and ribbons (whatever you have in the house); scissors and a ruler. Instructions are on the National Geographic website.

Family games

The Scouts have a wealth of fantastic environmental games you can play with two or more people. Most of these games can be played with resources you have at home.

Downloadable activities

On the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust website you will find quizzes, activities, crafts and fun stuff – including origami! The aim is to raise awareness of the importance of wetlands to animals and people, and the threats from pollution and climate change.

Online games

BBC’s Blue Peter has lots of environmental games and quizzes for children to choose from. We like ‘Spot the eco fails’ where children have to click on eco fails (such as a tap left running and a light left on) in a real family kitchen.

With Nasa’s Climate Kids interactive games children discover how temperature and pollution levels affect conditions under the sea. They can also travel in a time machine to find out how climate change has impacted the Earth over the last 100 years and how rising sea levels will affect coastal regions all over the world in the future.

The US Department of Commerce’s Recycle City game is an online quiz. Children answer multiple choice questions and win tokens. Questions include, ‘What’s the best way to travel?’ and ‘How can we reduce greenhouse gases in our community?’

Children’s stories about climate change

There are many children’s stories about climate change, but we particularly love The Last Seaweed Pie by Wenda Shurety and Paddy Donnelly and Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker and Zoe Persico.

The Last Seaweed Pie is a wonderful picture book that transports children into the magical forest world of the Treeples and the underwater land of the Seaples. The Treeples like to make things, but unfortunately this means they throw a lot of waste into the sea which is destroying the Seaple’s underwater world.

The Seaple are forced out into the forest where the meet the Treeple who are very sad about what they’ve done, but they don’t know how to solve the problem. Then one bright little Treeple suggests that they continue to make things, but from now on they make them by reusing and repurposing the items they already have.

Greta and the Giants is the story of Greta Thunberg, fictionalized for very young readers. Greta lives in a beautiful forest threatened by Giants. When Giants first came to the forest, they chopped down trees to make houses. Then they chopped down more trees and made even bigger homes. The houses grew into towns and the towns grew into cities, until there was hardly any forest left.

Alone, Greta stands up for the animals and she doesn’t give up even when it feels as though nobody is listening. Eventually she is joined by one person who feels the same way, and soon a whole crowd stand beside her. The message is that with determination and courage everyone can make a difference.

For more children’s stories about climate change read Pan Macmillan’s blog post: The best children’s books about the environment. Fantastic books for older children are reviewed in The Guardian article, What are the best eco books for children and teens?

Is your child interested in climate change and the environment?

Our specialist science tutors at TutorMyKids can build on your child’s interest in climate change and the environment to extend their science skills and knowledge.

All our tutors are science enthusiasts who have a strong academic background and proven track record in teaching. They will adapt their teaching to your child’s learning style, boosting their confidence, which in turn drives achievement. To find the right science tutor for your child today, please contact us on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Diwali children’s activities

Diwali is the Hindu ‘festival of lights’. In 2021 it is celebrated on Thursday 4th November – the date changes each year because the Hindu calendar is based on the Moon. Find out all about Diwali and then have lots of fun joining in with these children’s activities and crafts.

Happy Diwali!

What is Diwali?

BBC Bitesize is the best place to start if you don’t know anything about Diwali yet. It gives a wonderful overview of the festival and how it is celebrated.  We also like 5 days of Diwali Celebration in 5 minutes.

After sharing these videos help your child to find India on the map, then watch some real-life celebrations showing the festival of lights in full colour. We like this National Geographic film: Diwali – The Festival of Lights.

The Diwali story for children

The Diwali story is the story of Rama and Sita. Diwali is the day Lord Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother Lakshmana returned home after defeating the evil demon king, Ravana. 

There are plenty of videos online of the story of Rama and Sita for children, but we also recommend sharing Rama and Sita: The Story of Diwali by Malachy Doyle and Christopher Corr. The vibrant illustrations really draw children into the story so they are always wondering what will happen next!

Diwali children’s activities

Rangoli patterns

Rangoli patterns are intricate, colourful patterns made on the ground outside people’s houses to welcome in the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi on Diwali. The Goddess Lakshmi is said to bring good luck.

Your child could colour ready-drawn Rangoli patterns (there are plenty available online) or they could design their own patterns. If they would like to create their own Rangolis, it is a good idea to spend some time looking at examples online for inspiration. They could draw their own patterns on paper, paper plates or black paper, and then colour them with paints, pens or chalk.

Diya (or ‘diva’) lamps

On Diwali people light lots of small diya lamps around and outside their home to welcome in the Goddess Lakshmi. Diyas are also lit to remember how Rama and Sita were welcomed home by the villagers in the story. The light symbolizes the triumph of good over evil – a symbol that is shared across religions.

Diyas can be made from air drying clay or salt dough. Fashion the clay into a small holder for a tea light. When the clay is dry decorate it with paints and eco-friendly glitter, and stars and sequins if you like. For ideas type ‘diva lamps children’ into Google Images.

Place a tealight in the diya lamp and light it after dark. You can buy child-friendly tealights for a reasonable price online.

Fireworks

People set off fireworks to celebrate the festival of lights, so your child could make a firework painting. We like fork paintings because they are easy and effective.

You need a fork, paper, and ready-mix paint in red, blue, yellow, white and black (your child can mix all colours and shades from just these).

Type ‘firework craft with fork’ into Google Images to see examples. Your child could sprinkle the wet paint with eco-friendly glitter for a sparkling finish.

As your child paints ask them why they think Hindu’s celebrate Diwali with fireworks. Can your child talk about their experiences of firework displays? How do they feel when they watch a firework display?

Diwali sweets

Just like Christmas, Diwali means treats! Here’s a really simple recipe for Diwali sweets.

You will need ½ can condensed milk, 500g dried dates, 125g ground almonds and 25g desiccated coconut.

Put all the ingredients – except the desiccated coconut – into a saucepan. Stir continuously on a low heat until the mixture forms a soft ball (this could take some time, so patience is needed!). Leave the mixture in the pan to cool.

Once cool, roll the mixture into sweet-sized balls (like gobstoppers). Roll each ball around on a plate sprinkled with desiccated coconut until it is completely covered.

Put the sweets on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and leave in the fridge to set.

TutorMyKids bring life to learning

At TutorMyKids we believe children learn best through real-world experiences like these Diwali activities. By making Diwali sweets, for example, children weigh, measure and divide ingredients (maths), read and follow instructions (English), and observe how substances change when heated and cooled (science).

Whenever they can, our tutors bring real life into their teaching. They know that when learning is relevant children are motivated and their understanding is greater which leads to further achievement.

Our tutors offer maths, English, science, humanities and language tuition to children in Cambridgeshire. To find out more please contact us today on 01223 858421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk.

The Big Draw: how to encourage your child to draw

The Big Draw is a festival that lasts the whole of October. The aim is to encourage people of all ages to draw! The Big Draw comprises thousands of events, workshops and activities across the country and the world.

Drawing is communication. It is the way we explore and expand upon our ideas and express those ideas to others. In this blog we talk about why drawing is important for children, and how you can encourage your child to draw.

Why is drawing important?

Drawing is where writing begins. Using a crayon or a paint brush helps children to develop the fine motor skills and muscle strength they need to be able to write letters with a pencil (although this is not the only way for them to develop those skills – more about this further down the page).

More importantly, drawing supports children’s ability to visualise and explore their ideas. Before children write words and letters, drawing is one way they communicate their thoughts.

When children draw, they don’t always know what they are going to create before they start. Drawing for them is a journey of discovery. Great artists similarly explore their ideas and find their voice before they paint a masterpiece. Picasso famously made 45 sketches before he painted Guernica. In each sketch he unlocked a new idea and gradually worked out what he wanted to communicate (Howard Gardner, Creating Minds, BasicBooks, New York, 1993, p. 175).

Drawing, and in fact any type of art or craft activity, is beneficial for mental health. Children and adults alike can lose themselves in art which has a calming, stress-relieving effect. People suffering from stress and anxiety have benefitted from art therapy which is built on the premise that difficult feelings can often be better expressed through art than through words.

What can you do if your child doesn’t want to draw?

First – don’t worry! My own son was not interested in picking up crayons or pencils until the middle of Year 1 at school. He just wanted to play with cars, trains and construction toys. He is now eight years old with beautiful handwriting and a great love of drawing. Just this morning he drew a very detailed picture inspired by the beautiful illustrations in a book called The Last Seaweed Pie by Wenda Shurety and Paddy Donnelly, and he was nearly late for school!

What did I do to encourage his love of drawing?

Nothing at all. He started drawing when he was ready.

However, as a mum I understand what it is like when your child never brings any pictures home from nursery or school and other children have arms full. I also know that being told not to worry doesn’t always mean that you won’t worry. So, if you would like to give your child some gentle encouragement to start drawing, here are some activities you could try.

Make opportunities for drawing

Provide different resources on different days and leave your child to it. Do not pressure them into drawing or stand over them. You could sit down and create some artwork yourself – they might decide to join you if it looks fun!

Here are some drawing resources to try:

  • Pastels
  • Crayons
  • Wet chalk
  • Water colour paints
  • Ready mix paints
  • Glitter pens
  • Felt tipped pens
  • Coloured pencils
  • Fine black writing pens
  • Watercolour pencils
  • Scented crayons or coloured pencils
  • Coloured dry-wipe markers (with whiteboard)
  • White chalk (with black paper)
  • Rainbow swirl pencils
  • Pencils with novelty toppers
  • Twig pencils (have a look online).

These are some things children could draw on:

  • Coloured paper of different sizes, shapes and colours
  • Notepads
  • Plain, lined, squared and graph paper
  • Envelopes
  • Index cards
  • Old diaries
  • Notelets and special notepaper
  • Paper with printed borders. For example, if they like dragons you could print paper with a dragon border
  • Postcards
  • Tracing paper
  • Black paper or card
  • Whiteboard
  • Clipboard with paper and pencil
  • Giant cardboard box
  • Very long piece of paper (wallpaper lining or pieces of paper taped together)
  • Tin foil
  • Balloons

You could include these items as drawing stimulus:

  • A favourite picture book
  • Photographs of things that interest your child
  • Rulers and geometry tools
  • Stickers
  • Stencils – you could buy dinosaur stencils, stencils of vehicles, fairy stencils – there are many types available
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Appeal to the senses

Create sensory drawing experiences both indoors and outdoors.

  • Leave out crayons and paper for leaf or bark rubbing.
  • Give your child water and a paint brush to paint the walls, patio or fence.
  • Fill a tray with child-friendly foaming soap (look online). Your child can make marks in the foam with their finger, a paintbrush, a stick – or anything. You could leave out pictures of patterns for them to copy (zig-zags, wavy lines etc).
  • Sprinkle the bottom of a tray with autumn spices. Your child could draw in the tray, as above.
  • Make scented playdough. Go for a walk with your child and collect natural objects like pinecones and twigs which they could then use to make marks in the playdough.

Think life-sized!

Activities that involve moving the whole body especially appeal to children who don’t like sitting at a table.

  • Draw a giant maze together on the patio with chalk.
  • Make then paint and decorate giant vehicles from cardboard boxes.
  • Draw around each other on huge pieces of paper and add in features.
  • Put a large piece of paper under a swing. Show your child how to lie on the swing on their front and draw on the paper as they glide over it.

Draw on their interests

If they are interested in playing cars, for example, leave cardboard and pens out next to the cars. They might draw a car park, a racing track or other landscape features.

You could leave drawing materials next to construction toys such as Lego and blocks, or tape felt tipped pens onto toy cars or dinosaurs and see what happens!

Make drawing meaningful

Your child could:

  • Draw a picture for a family member or a friend and post it.
  • Paint a picture on a postcard and send it to somebody.
  • Draw little pictures of what they would like for Christmas.
  • Make a sign for their bedroom door.
  • Create a sheet of wrapping paper for a present.

Together you could make a book. Make up a story about something – a day out, your child’s favourite toy – anything your child wants. You write the words, and your child draws the illustrations.

Show your child that you love to draw!

Get involved in the Big Draw yourself. If your child sees you enjoying art, then they might want to join in too.

What if my child still won’t draw?

Young children learn about the world and develop their social and communication skills through all kinds of play. They also practise fine motor skills through a variety of activities, most of which do not involve pencils or crayons.

Manipulative activities like threading, using scissors, using cutters in playdough, building with Lego, screwing and unscrewing lids, using peg boards and hammers, doing puzzles – and so many more activities all help children to hone these essential skills.

Are you concerned about your child’s writing?

If your child is at school and they are reluctant to write, please speak to us. Our tutors are skilled in finding enjoyable ways to develop children’s writing as well as their reading, speaking and listening. 

We provide one-to-one tuition for:

  • Reading and phonics
  • Handwriting
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • Special educational needs development
  • Dyslexia assistance
  • GCSE, A Level and AS Level English Language & English Literature.

Contact us today on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Astronomy Day: 10 best children’s space activities

Saturday 9th October is Astronomy Day! It’s a day for astronomists to share their knowledge of outer space with us all.

To celebrate, we share 10 activities to fire children’s passion for outer space and to ignite their interest in science. With each activity we have suggested books to extend children’s knowledge. For age specific space books see National Space Day: 6 best space books for children. Local libraries also have a huge range of books about space.

  1. Solar system in a box

You will need a cardboard box (a shoe box is perfect), paint, white card, a pencil and glue.

To make this craft, follow Vihaan’s instructions on YouTube.

Afterwards explore the solar system in 3D by sharing Solar System by Ian Graham.

2. Play planets

Find out about the planets in our solar system by singing The Planet Song.

Once your child has learnt the song, you can play the planet guessing game. To set up the game you need eight sticky labels. Write the name of a planet (and draw a picture of it) on each label.

Put a planet sticker on each player’s back. They mustn’t see what planet they are. The players need to find out what planet they are by asking each other questions. For example, ‘Am I a red planet?’ ‘Am I the closest planet to the sun?’

Players take turns to ask the other players a question. The first player to guess their planet correctly wins the game.

If there are less than eight players, the game could be repeated until all the planets have been played. The person who wins the most planets is the overall winner.

3. Fruit solar system

Ask your child to arrange sliced fruit on a plate to look like the solar system. Type ‘fruit solar system’ into Google Images for ideas.

Encourage your child to think about the positioning of the planets and their relative sizes. Can they name the planets in the right order? Do they know which planet is the smallest and which is the largest?

4. How planets orbit the Sun

Follow this link for an activity that will help your child discover how planets orbit the Sun. You will need a round pie dish, orange play dough and a ball to represent the Earth (preferably blue).

Extend your child’s knowledge further by watching Inspire Education’s video.

5. Edible Moon phases

This is a brilliant way to teach children about the different phases of the Moon. You need a packet of Oreos, a knife and a print-out of the phases of the Moon. See the instructions on ScienceBob.

Learn more by sharing The Usborne Book of the Moon by Laura Cowan.

6. Geoboard constellations

Print out a picture of the constellations from Google Images. Then make different constellations by stretching elastic bands over geoboards.

You can buy geoboards with elastic bands very reasonably online, or you can make your own (type ‘how to make a geoboard’ into a search engine).

Find out more about constellations from Kelsey Johnson’s Constellations for Kids.

7. Space rocket launch

We love this space rocket launch activity! You only need pipettes (which can be bought online), paper straws, thin card, cellotape, scissors and felt tipped pens.

Find out how rockets really work by reading Rocket Science by Andrew Rader and Galen Frazer, or visit Space.com.

8. Why are there craters on the Moon?

In this experiment your child will find out why there are craters on the Moon. To prepare, mix 4 cups of flour with ½ cup of oil. Press the mixture into the bottom of a cake tin. Put the cake tin down on the ground outside.

Ask your child to collect small stones and drop them into the cake tin from standing height. They will see craters form as stones hit the mixture.

Find out why the Moon has so many craters and the Earth doesn’t, by visiting NASA’s website for children.

9. Design and make a space lander

See this NASA challenge for older children.

In the challenge children are asked to design a space lander that will keep two aliens (marshmallows) inside when dropped. The activity involves problem solving skills and patience as there is a lot of trial and error involved!

10. Join the NASA Kids’ Club

NASA Kids’ Club is an interactive resource where children can find out about NASA’s missions, see the best photographs from space, find out the latest from the International Space Station, learn to build a Mars helicopter and lots more!

Any child who has enjoyed these space activities for Astronomy Day will love this website!

Does your child need extra help with science?

TutorMyKids can put you in touch with an experienced and enthusiastic science tutor who can spark your child’s curiosity and interest in the subject and help them to understand tricky concepts. 

To talk about your child’s requirements, please contact us on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk