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

At home activities for World First Aid Day 2021

It’s World First Aid Day on 11th September. The purpose of this day is to highlight the importance of first aid training for people of all ages to prevent injuries and save lives.

Here we share some simple life-saving activities you can do with your child at home so they stay calm and take the right steps in an emergency.

Can your child make an emergency call?

Two five-year old children, Kyran Duff and April Walsh, both saved their mum’s lives by knowing what to do in an emergency. The children knew how to dial 999, they were able to unlock doors and could tell the operator where they lived. Thanks to these children both women made a full recovery.

  • One of the most important things we can teach our children is how to use the phone to dial 999 in an emergency. Does your child know how use your phone and what buttons to press on the keypad if the phone is locked?
  • Help your child to memorise their home address. Perhaps you could turn your address into a song to the tune of a familiar nursery rhyme?
  • Help your child to learn their phone number as the ambulance operator will ask for it in case they get cut off during the call. Again, you could put the numbers to a tune to help your child remember them.
  • Does your child know how to open the door in an emergency? Teach them how.

Make sure your child understands that dialling 999 is for emergencies only and explain the reasons.

When teaching your child how to unlock a door you also need to teach them to respect a locked door. Be mindful that your child does not leave the house unattended or let other people in without your knowledge.

Can your child reach a first-aid kit?

Put together a child-friendly first aid kit without scissors, tweezers and anything else that might be dangerous.  Make sure the first aid kit is easily accessible to them.

Show your child how to apply plasters and use a bandage and let them practice. See if they can tell you in which type of emergency would they use a plaster or a bandage.

First Aid skills to learn

Stopping bleeding

The ability to stop bleeding quickly can prevent someone going into shock – so it’s a valuable skill!

  • Show your child how to apply direct pressure onto a bleed until it stops and let them practice on you.
  • Explain that a towel or a piece of clothing can be used if they are not near a first aid kit. Cleaner material is preferable.
  • Say that if the bleeding soaks through the bandage or material they need to apply another layer over the top.

For more about how to stop bleeding and the correct steps to take, please see the St John’s Ambulance website. Learn as much as you can about stopping bleeding before you teach your child.

Treating a nosebleed

Watch this St John’s Ambulance video about how to treat a nosebleed and then practice with your child. Help them to know what to do if they have a nosebleed themselves or somebody else has a nosebleed and there isn’t an adult nearby.

If a nosebleed lasts for more than 30 minutes it’s time to call an ambulance.

Treating a burn or scald

Make your child aware of hazards by walking around the house and asking them to point out and explain potential hazards (eg. don’t touch the oven or the end of a hot hairdryer because you will get burnt).

Have a look at the St John’s Ambulance website to find out how to treat burns and scalds and then ask your child to practice on a doll. The priority is to cool the affected area and, if they are alone, to then dial 999.

First Aid courses for children

One of the most likely accidents to happen is choking. The most important skill a child can learn is how to recognise when somebody is choking and what to do. If an adult is out of the room and a younger sibling chokes, every second counts.

On the St John’s Ambulance website there is a video showing what to do when somebody chokes. You could learn yourself and then teach your child. Nothing, however, can replace attending a first-aid course and practising the skills learnt to keep them fresh. Mini First Aid run classes for children and St John’s Ambulance run activity clubs for the over-7s that incorporate first aid.

More first aid activities you can do at home

See First Aid learning for young people from the British Red Cross. Here you will find activities and films for children aged 5-18 to help them develop essential first aid skills to keep themselves and others safe.

Science tutors in Cambridge

Does your child have a passion for science or they would benefit from extra support?

Our experienced, qualified science tutors in Cambridge provide one-to-one science tuition for children from primary school to A Level. They believe that learning about science ignites children’s curiosity about the world and opens doors to a variety of fields including medicine, design, technology and business.

Find out more by contacting us today: 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Celebrating National Coding Week: Ada Lovelace and women who shook the world

National Coding Week is the week beginning 13th September. Many of us think of computer programming as a male dominated arena, but did you know that the first computer programmer was a woman? 

Ada Lovelace invented the first computer code 100 years before computers were even invented!

Here we review our favourite books about influential women who shaped our world, starting with Ada Lovelace. Every one of our choices is beautifully written and is a real inspiration to girls and boys everywhere.

Ada Lovelace: Little People, Big Dreams

By Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Zafuko Yamamoto

Lincoln Children’s Books 2018

Whether you are reading this review on a laptop, tablet or a smartphone you have Ada Lovelace to thank! Ada was introduced to Charles Babbage at the time he was developing a machine that could solve maths problems faster than people. Ada thought she could improve the machine even more and she invented a computer code that told machines what to do. We still use this code today.

Ada, the daughter of poet Lord Byron, was a visionary and she was also determined. Although she suffered from illness and the limitations of being a woman in the 19th century she achieved greatness through perseverance and hard work.

This book is perfect for children from the age of seven upwards. There is enough information, but not too much, making it an easy and engaging read. The illustrations have a childlike quality which give the book a friendly, warm feel.

Also in the Little People Big Dreams series are books about Marie Curie, Michelle Obama, Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, Kamla Harris and more!

The Diary of Anne Frank (Abridged for young readers)

By Anne Frank. Adapted by Miriam Pressler

Puffin, 2015

When the Nazis took over Holland Anne Frank and her family, as persecuted Jews, went into hiding in an attic apartment in Amsterdam. The family hid for two years and Anne kept a diary during that time.

In the diary Anne shares her constant terror of being discovered, her arguments with her mother and her hopes for the future. In August 1944 the diary suddenly stops as Anne and her family are discovered by the Nazis and taken to concentration camps.

This version of the diary is sensitively edited for young readers with a commentary alongside. The diary is accompanied with photographs of Anne and her family and there is an Afterword explaining what happened next.

The Diary of Anne Frank is a harrowing but important read for children aged 9+ who are learning about the Second World War so they can relate to what happened on a human level. Anne holds onto her dreams of a brighter future even under the worst imaginable conditions and she never gives up hope.

Greta and the Giants

By Zoe Tucker and Zoe Persico

Frances Lincoln, 2019

This is the story of Greta Thunberg, fictionalised 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 story has a happy ending as the Giants do listen and great changes are made. Greta’s real story is told separately at the back of the book.

Greta and the Giants is a positive way to teach children about climate change and to help them understand that their voices do matter. Nobody is too small to make a difference. Greta stands up for what she believes in with bravery and determination against fierce obstacles – there is no better role model for children today.

Her Story: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook the World

By Katherine Halligan and Sarah Walsh

Nosy Crow Ltd, 2015

History is dominated by the stories of men, but this book celebrates the achievements of 50 incredible women who shaped our world today.

Some of these women and girls faced imprisonment and death but they followed their dreams and did what was right whatever the cost to themselves. The book is divided into five sections, Believe and Lead, Imagine and Create, Help and Heal, Think and Solve, Hope and Overcome. There are a range of careers including astronauts, activists, musicians and mathematicians – so there will be somebody that every reader can relate to.

This is an inspiring and uplifting book about determination and never giving up hope because following your dreams really can shake the world!

Love reading with TutorMyKids

Are you concerned about your child’s reading? Sometimes parents worry their child is getting left behind when they hear other children are reading well. It is important to know that reading is not a race and children get there at different speeds.

However, if you think your child is struggling in class because they are finding reading difficult, please get in touch. Our specialist tutors are experienced in helping reluctant readers and those who may have literacy difficulties.

If you are looking for a reading tutor in Cambridgeshire, please talk to us today on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

10 equipment free outdoor games for summer family fun

This list of equipment free outdoor games is intended as an ideas prompt to help you over the long summer break. None of these games are new and some might bring back childhood memories.

Going outside to play games boosts our energy levels and gets children away from screens. It’s brilliant for children’s social skills and it improves their concentration spans. Playing games also fosters creativity especially when children make up their own versions and adapt the rules.

Most games here can be easily adapted for two players, so you can still have fun if there is just you and one child at home.

Hot Chocolate

One person (‘Person A’) faces a wall or fence so they have their back to the other players. The other players stand some distance away from them on a designated start line.

The object of the game is for the players to sneak up to Person A, tap them on the shoulder and shout ‘Hot Chocolate’, without being seen.

As the players creep up, Person A turns around at intervals and if he/she sees a player moving then that player must go back to the start. The person who successfully makes it to Person A and shouts ‘Hot Chocolate!’ is the winner and becomes Person A in the next game.

What’s the Time Mr Wolf?

This is similar to Hot Chocolate. One person – Mr Wolf – stands facing a wall and stays facing the wall for the duration of the game.

The other players stand a few metres away from Mr Wolf on an agreed start line. The players call out together, ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’ and the Mr Wolf gives a time e.g. ‘1 o’clock’ and the players take that many steps towards Mr Wolf.

When Mr Wolf thinks the players are getting close to him, he shouts ‘Dinner time!’ He then tries to catch one of the players before they get back to safety. ‘Safety’ is the start line. If a player is caught, they become Mr Wolf in the next game.

Hopscotch

Draw a Hopscotch grid on a patio/pavement/driveway with chalk if you have it or scratch the grid out with a stone. Type ‘Hopscotch grid’ into Google Images to see an example.

For instructions to play, see this Hopscotch video.

Ring Toss

We have cheated a little bit by including this game on the list as you do need some equipment, but you can improvise with what you have at home.

One idea is to make a ring toss set from 12 empty glass or plastic bottles, a length of rope and some masking tape. Bottles with narrow necks work best.

Fill the bottles with water (or a dried ingredient like flour or rice) to weigh them down so they don’t easily fall over. Use a funnel or a measuring jug to help you fill the bottles. Make 6 rings from rope. To make a rope ring simply join two ends of a length of rope securely with masking tape.

To play, arrange the bottles (now ‘skittles’) closely together. The first player stands a few metres from the bottles. The player takes the 6 rings and tosses them one at a time, trying to get them over the necks of the bottles. The winner is the person who gets the most rings on bottles.

If you don’t have bottles and rope look at what you’ve got in the recycle bin or toybox. Could you make skittles from empty kitchen roll tubes and rings from an old cardboard box? See what your children suggest.

Tag

One person is ‘it’. They chase the other people and when they catch somebody that person becomes ‘it’. You might need some ground rules, depending upon how children play (light touches only, no tagging on the head etc.)

You can adapt the game to make it even more fun especially if you have a few players:

  • Torch Tag. The person who is ‘it’ tags someone with the light of a torch. This is a brilliant game to play at night!
  • Freeze Tag. The person who is caught freezes on the spot instead of becoming ‘it’. Play carries on until only one person is left unfrozen.

Hide and Seek

This is great for children’s counting skills, observation skills and patience. One child counts to a reasonable number (say, 50) while the others hide. The last person to be found is the winner.

Make sure children hide in safe places where they cannot get stuck or trapped and that they only hide within a designated area.

Sardines

This is an adaptation of Hide and Seek that works if you have a group of players. In this game one person hides (‘the hider’) while all the others count. When the players have finished counting, they go off in their own directions to find the hider.

When someone finds the hider they quietly join them. Everybody hides together until just one person is left. The person left becomes the hider in the next game.

Simon Says

One person is Simon. Simon gives the other players one instruction at a time to follow. However, the players only have to follow the instruction if Simon says ‘Simon says’ first. For example, ‘Simon says pat your head’. If Simon doesn’t say ‘Simon says’ then the other players should not follow the instruction, eg. ‘Pat your head!’

If anybody accidentally follows an instruction when they shouldn’t or fails to follow an instruction when they should, they are out. The last person in becomes Simon on the next game.

Here are some Simon Says ideas:

  • Jump as high as you can
  • Twirl around
  • Play air guitar
  • Do five star jumps
  • Roar like a dinosaur
  • Waddle like a duck
  • Clap your hands
  • Act like a monkey
  • Put your hands on your knees
  • Shake like a jelly
  • Stand on one leg
  • Sing in a silly voice
  • Skip around the garden
  • Do a forward roll.

How many ideas can your children suggest?

Follow the leader

One child is the leader and the others follow them in a line. Whatever the leader does, the others must copy. They might march, spin around, crawl, move up and down, flap their arms. Ask your children to think of as many ideas as they can before they play.

Olympic challenge

Hold events in the garden or park using any equipment available – or no equipment at all. Encourage children to think of ideas perhaps inspired by school sports days past. How about:

  • Throwing and catching a ball
  • Jumping on the trampoline
  • Skipping with a rope
  • Going down the slide
  • Doing star jumps, rolly-pollies, forward rolls (see Simon Says for ideas)
  • Balancing a ball on a spoon
  • Creeping like a cat.

Award 10 points for each event. Make a chart of events on paper and record each person’s points next to each event. Children could add up total scores at the end to find a winner.

One-to-one summer tuition in Cambridgeshire

For children, the summer holidays are a time to relax and to spend quality time with friends and family. However, you might be concerned that the length of the break will lead to what’s sometimes called ‘summer learning loss’. This is when children start the autumn term with lower achievement levels than at the beginning of the holiday.

We offer short, one-to-one tuition in English and maths during the summer holiday to keep children’s learning fresh. If you think your child could benefit, please contact us on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Summer learning at home with Brer Rabbit and friends!

Did you know that the stories of Brer Rabbit are part of the traditions of African people who were forced into slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries? These people worked on plantations in the southern United States and brought their stories with them. As time went on, they adapted the stories to include the animals they saw on the plantations. That is how Brer Rabbit and his friends Brer Bear, Bear Fox and Brer Wolf came to be.

The action-packed stories of Brer Rabbit and his cheeky antics delight and amuse children to this day. If your child hasn’t yet discovered the lovable trickster then they are in for a treat. The stories are a way to start conversations about the slave trade and they might also spark an interest in animals.

Here we share our recommended versions of the stories and some fun activities to keep children thinking and learning at home over the summer break.

Our favourite Brer Rabbit books

The stories of Brer Rabbit were first collected by Joel Chandler Harris who retold them in the original dialect.

  • Brer Rabbit and Friends retold by Karmina Amin is best for children aged 8+ as it retains the original dialect. This version also gives the background to the Brer Rabbit stories.
  • Brer Rabbit’s a Rascal by Enid Blyton is perfect for children aged 6+. Stories are not told in the original dialect and are funny, short and engaging. This is the version many of us grew up with!
  • Ten Tales of Brer Rabbit by Lynne Garner published by Mad Media in 2018 is not told in the original dialect and is a wonderful, more up-to-date version of Enid Blyton’s work.

Brer Rabbit themed activities

Here are some Brer Rabbit activities for children who love the cunning rabbit and his tricky plans!

Remember to check video links before you share them with your child to make sure they are appropriate (for instance, the YouTube video of bears shows bears eating). We also recommend skipping past the adverts for the same reason.

Brer Rabbit

Brer Fox

  • Although our British red fox isn’t the same as the American fox that is Brer Fox it is more interesting for children to discover wildlife on their doorstep. Discover some red fox facts from the Woodland Trust.  
  • Go out and search for signs of foxes. Before you go, Google ‘fox scat’ and have a look at the Discover Wildlife website to see what fox holes look like. Fox holes tend to be more evident in woodland and we have seen them near to Waresley and Gransden Woods.
  • Watch a video of a red fox.
  • Go and see a red fox at Shepreth Wildlife Park.
  • Make some fox crafts.

Brer Bear

  • There are some fascinating facts about bears on the National Geographic website.
  • Watch a video of the American black bear in its natural habitat.
  • Go and see brown bears at Hamerton Zoo or North American black bears at Woburn Safari Park.
  • Gather all your teddies and have a teddy bears’ picnic. Children could make delicious food for the picnic. As American black bears love to eat berries, how about making some Pink Lemonade with Fresh Berry Ice Cubes?

How to make Pink Lemonade with Fresh Berry Ice Cubes

You will need: a handful of fresh berries, a large bottle of fizzy water, 4 lemons, the juice from a packet of beetroot (but not pickled), 6 tablespoons of runny honey.

Take an ice-cube tray and put one or two berries in each compartment. Fill the ice-cube tray with water and freeze.

When the berry ice-cubes are frozen pour the fizzy water into a jug. Squeeze in the juice of 4 lemons, and then stir in the beetroot juice, honey and ice-cubes.

Brer Wolf

Learning about the slave trade

Here are some fantastic websites for children learning about the slave trade:

  • At least four million people enslaved in the USA were freed at the beginning of the American Civil War. Twenty-six audio recordings of their personal experiences have survived. Listening to their real voices is an incredible and moving experience. We recommend you listen first before sharing with your child.
  • For younger children, the Ducksters website gives an overview of the slave trade across the world.
  • Older children can see real photographs and diary excerpts on the Bristol and Transatlantic Slavery website.
  • Did you know that the British taxpayer was still paying compensation to slave owners until 2015? BBC Culture shares some staggering and lesser-known facts about the slave trade.

One-to-one summer tuition in Cambridgeshire

For children, the summer holidays are a time to relax and to spend quality time with friends and family. However, you might be concerned that the length of the break will lead to what’s sometimes called ‘summer learning loss’. This is when children start the autumn term with lower achievement levels than at the beginning of the holiday.

We offer short, one-to-one tuition in English and maths during the summer holiday to keep children’s learning fresh. If you think your child could benefit, please contact us on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Top 10 ‘Secret’ walks in and around Ely

Are you looking for quiet walks in and around Ely? Do you need free things to do in Cambridgeshire in the school holidays?

With everybody holidaying at home this year everywhere is bound to get busy. To help you stay away from the crowds, we share some of our favourite, lesser-known walks close to home.

Are your children reluctant walkers? Try motivating them with geocaching. This is a free treasure hunt using GPS to find hidden containers of treasure along the way.

Bullrush Walk and Kingfisher Walk

These two circular walks around the Ely countryside take in Roswell Pit (see below) and Ely Common. Ely Common is a beautiful wildflower meadow where you might spot rare species like orchids and adders-tongue fern as well as grasshoppers, redwings, barn owls and bats.

Fen Rivers Way

The Fen Rivers Way is a walk along the River Ouse and the River Cam linking Ely to Cambridge. As you get nearer to Ely the walk tends to be quieter especially on weekdays and takes you past Denny Abbey and Farmland Museum in Waterbeach, Wicken Fen nature reserve and Stretham Engine. Stretham Engine is the oldest surviving engine that was used to pump away water to make agricultural land.

The riverbank and lush meadows are home to the fen skater and a huge variety of insects, mammals, birds and wildflowers.

Kingfisher’s Bridge

This stunning nature reserve is a wetland habitat for 210 bird species and is a sanctuary for endangered species. There are a rich variety of butterflies, invertebrates, flora and fauna. Situated near Stretham, just south of Ely, Kingfisher’s Bridge is a hidden gem.

Little Downham

Little Downham nature reserve covers nearly 7 hectares of land including Pingle Wood (see below), Myles Meadow and Holts Meadow. You will pass by grazing cattle and you might see dragonflies and damselflies, including scarce chaser dragonflies.

Reach Myles Meadow and Pingle Wood from Hurst Lane, and Holts Meadow from Clayway Lane.

Ouse Fen Trail

Walk along the banks of the River Ouse through quarry landscapes of farmland, woods, lakes and meadows. There are two trails to choose from: the Barleycroft trail and the Reedbed trail. Look out for herons, skylarks and great crested grebes.

Ouse Valley Way (Earith)

The Ouse Valley Way is an 150-mile footpath that follows the River Ouse from Northamptonshire to King’s Lynn.

This stretch of the walk takes you from Earith to the Lazy Otter pub which is just off the A10. Watch out for nightingales and cormorants as you follow the river and stroll through peaceful woodlands and meadows. You could stop for a cream tea at the Twentypence garden centre on your way to the pub.

Pingle Cutting

A former railway track, the grassy slopes of Pingle Cutting are now a wildlife haven. These stunning meadows and grasslands are next to an ancient woodland where you can see bluebells, dog’s mercury and purple orchids at the right time of the year.

See Little Downham nature reserve above.

Roswell Pits

Roswell disused claypits is now a nature reserve with vast lakes and reedbeds. Here you might see kingfishers, red warblers, emperor dragonflies and wild orchids. Archaeologists have found dinosaur fossils and the fossils of turtles and crocodiles here.

Stilton to Denton

Did you know that the village of Stilton gave Stilton cheese its name? You can walk from Stilton to the small hamlet of Denton through beautiful rolling countryside. If you visit on May Day next year you might see the World Cheese Rolling Championship – all being well!

Swavesey to Overcote loop

The Swavesey to Overcote loop is a walk that takes you along the guided bus way, through farmlands and meadows and past lakes which are home to a variety of birds. For families feeling energetic, the entire walk is just over 9 kilometers.

One-to-one summer tuition in Cambridgeshire

For children, the summer holiday is a time to relax and to spend quality time with friends and family. However, you might be concerned that the length of the break will lead to what’s sometimes called ‘summer learning loss’. This is when children start the autumn term with lower achievement levels than at the beginning of the holiday.

We offer short, one-to-one tuition sessions in English and maths during the summer holiday to keep children’s learning fresh. If you think your child could benefit, please contact us on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

End-of-term teacher gift ideas for classes clubbing together

It’s almost the end of the school year and time for children to say goodbye to their teacher and teaching assistants. Some classes decide to club together to buy a gift for the teacher and teaching assistants to thank them for their hard work and to show them they’re appreciated.

Has your class decided to club together to buy gifts this year? One parent (perhaps you) might be organizing a joint collection, possibly via your class parents’ WhatsApp group, so the teacher and assistants receive one lovely present rather than lots of smaller ones destined for the drawer.

Here we share some aspects to consider before you go ahead, as well as some fabulous gift ideas!

Do teachers want a present?

Mumsnet carried out a survey of 1,200 teachers and teaching assistants and discovered that nearly 70% would like a heartfelt note from the children they have taught. Many (47%) said any present is valued.

A huge 77% of teachers and teaching assistants worried that parents could feel pressured into contributing to a whole class present, and 68% were concerned that children whose parents cannot afford to contribute would feel left out.

Last year 31% of children in the UK lived in poverty, and that’s a figure that will only have risen this year.

Considerations if your class is clubbing together to buy a present for the teacher

If you are the parent kindly organizing an end-of-term present collection there needs to be consideration about family budgets and how people feel, particularly in the current climate. You could suggest parents donate up to but not over a certain amount (say £3).

On the card accompanying the present consider writing ‘From Class 2’ rather than naming all the children whose parents have contributed. That way no child is excluded if their parent has not contributed for any reason (because it’s not within the child’s control).

What if parents want to know what the gift is before I collect the money?

Conservatively estimate how much money you are likely to receive and choose something that is not too expensive. You can always add flowers or chocolates to the gift if you receive more money than you expected.

If you don’t collect as much as you predicted, you can always buy something else instead and explain to parents why the gift has changed. Obviously, the former situation is preferable to the latter!

Gift ideas for teachers

Photo book

Create a book of photos of every child in the class with a message from each of them. This takes a lot of organizing and does depend upon every parent contributing, so you need to know the parents in your class very well and be sure that they will. If you have the time and patience to manage it, this is a winner!

Framed, personalised picture

You can order beautifully framed pictures decorated with children’s names. Have a look at this rainbow print teacher gift available on Etsy. The advantage of this gift over the photobook is that it is easier to organise and doesn’t depend on every parent providing a photograph of their child.

Handmade gift

Is there a parent in your class who has a talent for crafts? They might bake special cakes, make jewellery or pottery, paint watercolours or sew bags? Something made by a class parent can be even more special to a teacher.

Jewellery

If you know the kind of jewellery your teacher or teaching assistants wear, then this could be a winner!

Vouchers

You could buy a voucher for a major store like Amazon, Cineworld, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis or Waterstones. There might be beauty salon, café or restaurants in your local area that offer vouchers for things like meals, afternoon tea and spa treatments.

The advantage of vouchers is that you can almost match the amount of money you collect to the cost of the gift. This is also a great idea if you’re not sure what the teacher or teaching assistant would like.

Alcohol/chocolates/flowers

These are usually a winner especially if you know what alcoholic drink the recipient enjoys and if they’re not on a special diet!

Summer learning booster for kids

The long summer holiday is a welcome break from school life and early starts. However, you might be concerned that the length of the break will lead to what’s sometimes called ‘summer learning loss’. This is when children start the autumn term with lower achievement levels than at the beginning of the holiday.

If you think your child would benefit from short one-to-one tutoring sessions during the holiday, please talk to us. We offer maths, English, science, humanities and language tuition.

Please contact us on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Children’s picture books for Pride Month 2021

Pride Month, which takes place each June, is about people being proud of who they are no matter who they love. Picture books are a great way to raise young children’s awareness of different types of families which sews the seeds for tolerance, understanding and kindness.

The picture books we have chosen here celebrate diversity and they are perfect for children up to the age of seven. They have vibrant illustrations, gentle and engaging storylines, and fabulous characters to keep children hooked!

And Tango Makes Three

Justin Richardson, Simon & Schuster Children’s Books 2007

This charming picture book is about two male penguins called Roy and Silo who live in New York Zoo. Roy and Silo do everything together; they bow at each other, sing and swim together and wind their necks around each other. Their keeper, Mr Ramsay, realises they are in love.

Roy and Silo make a nest together like the male and female penguins, but one day they notice the other penguin couples can do something they can’t – hatch eggs. Mr Ramsay sees their sadness and he finds an egg that needs looking after.

Roy and Silo are as dedicated as the other penguin couples in caring for their egg. One day the egg hatches and Tango is born. They treasure Tango, taking turns to feed her from their beaks and leading her to the water to swim.

At the end of the day, they snuggle together in their nest and fall asleep like all animals and people everywhere. The message of the story is that we all thrive on love.

The Family Book

Todd Parr, Little Brown Young Readers, 2010

This bright, fun picture book is a celebration of families. Some families have one parent, and some have two. Some families are the same colour, and some are different colours. Some families have two mums, and some have two dads… and so on.

The book is a lighthearted introduction to different types of families (some even look like their pets!) It ends with a heartfelt message from the author: “There are lots of different ways to be a family. Your family is special no matter what kind it is. Love Todd.”

The Girl With Two Dads

Mel Elliot, Egmont, 2019

Pearl is so excited she goes to bed early. A new girl is starting school tomorrow and her name is Matilda. When Pearl meets Matilda she discovers they have plenty in common – they both like to get muddy, to climb and to run.

One day Pearl notices something is different; Matilda is picked up from school by two different dads. Pearl is excited when Matilda invites her to tea because she’s never been to a house with no mum. She thinks there will be pop and sweets and cakes and definitely no strict rules. When she visits Matilda she finds she’s wrong. They have vegetables for tea and they’re not allowed to jump on the bed but have to read instead!

Told in rhyme, this is beautifully illustrated picture book about two lively little girls conveys the message that families have a lot in common no matter how different they seem.

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding

Sarah Brannen and Lucia Sotto, Hodder Children’s Books, 2021

Bobby is Chloe’s favourite uncle. They always have lots of fun together. They climb the lighthouse to look at the stars, fly kites and go on picnics. One day Chloe’s world is turned upside down when Bobby announces that he’s getting married. Chloe doesn’t want to share Uncle Bobby with anyone else and she doesn’t understand why people get married.

Sitting on the swings in the park, Bobby helps Chloe to understand why he wants to get married. He explains that they’ll always have fun together and she’ll always be his “sweet pea”.

Chloe soon gets to know and like Jamie, Bobby’s boyfriend, as the three of them spend lots of quality time together. They go to the theatre, swim in the lake and light a campfire. Chloe tells Jamie she wishes he was her uncle too, and her wish comes true!

Who’s Your Real Mum?

Bernadette Green and Anna Zobel, Scribble UK, 2020

Elvi has two mums, but her friend Nicholas wants to know which one is her real mum. Elvi says they are both her real mum and Nicholas argues that this isn’t true because her real mum is the one who had her in her tummy.

Elvi gives Nicholas a series of clues so he can guess her ‘real mum’. At first the clues are too similar because both mums both wear jeans, both have dark hair and so on. Then the clues get outrageous: “She’s the one who can pull a car with her teeth!”

As Nicholas probes further the clues become truthful as Elvi says her real mum is the one who holds her when she’s scared, tucks her in bed and kisses her goodnight. Nicholas asks, “Don’t all mums do that?” and Elvi replies: “Exactly.”

Ignite a love of reading with TutorMyKids

Are you concerned about your child’s reading? Sometimes parents worry their child is getting left behind when they hear other children are reading well. It is important to know that reading is not a race and children get there at different speeds.

However, if you think your child is struggling in class because they are finding reading difficult, please get in touch. Our specialist reading tutors are experienced in helping reluctant readers and those who may have literacy difficulties.

Please talk to us today on 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Why hire an A Level or GCSE science tutor?

If you are concerned that your child is struggling with their exam course you may be considering whether to hire an A level or GCSE science tutor.

With large class sizes and stretched resources many children fall through the gaps at school and lockdowns have exacerbated difficulties. With complex science subjects falling behind can be disastrous as teachers move quickly between topics to cover the syllabus.

Here we talk about the benefits of hiring a one-to-one science tutor to support your child.

A tutor will pinpoint areas where your child is struggling

The science subjects – biology, chemistry and physics – link together. Within those subjects there are links between topics.

A lack of understanding in one topic area can affect your child’s understanding of topics that follow. For instance, in biology life depends on biological molecules such as lipids, nucleic acids (DNA), proteins and sugars. A child who has not understood the function of these molecules to begin with will struggle with later topics that focus upon each of these molecules in more depth.

An experienced science tutor will find the gaps and focus on them with your child helping them to move forward.

Your child’s understanding of science will deepen

GCSE and A level science exam papers require children to make links between the topics and modules they have studied. Linking questions are part of the GCSE. For example, ‘Compare the transport systems in animals and plants’.

TutorMyKids’ science tutors believe that children benefit from making links between topics because it deepens their understanding. Our tutors encourage children to look back at earlier topics and to make links with what they are currently studying. The benefit of doing this is that it helps children to understand the subject as a whole and to keep earlier learning fresh in their minds.

Children who can link topics and concepts are able to provide more perceptive answers to exam questions because they understand the bigger picture. In school there is pressure to get through syllabus modules and there is not always adequate time to develop this fundamental skill.

Misunderstandings are corrected immediately

It is vital to correct a child’s misunderstanding of any concept at once for the reasons we have discussed above. If a misunderstanding persists it will hinder their grasp of new areas.

Teachers have thirty or more children in a class and it’s impossible for them to correct every child’s misunderstanding on the spot.

A one-to-one tutor is just focused on one child – your child – and therefore they will spot mistakes at once. They make sure your child doesn’t go down the wrong path and have to unlearn whatever they have remembered incorrectly.

A one-to-one science tutor provides detailed feedback

When children provide written answers to questions in class most teachers do not have time to give detailed feedback to every child.

It is not enough for a child to know an answer is incorrect. There are times when they need to be walked through their answers in depth. This is so they understand where they went wrong and the changes they need to make.

A one-to-one science tutor has the time to give your child the attention they require, and their learning will accelerate as a result.

Your child’s concentration will improve

Some aspects of science are laborious; for example, learning the periodic table. In a busy classroom, surrounded by friends it is easy for your child’s brain to wander.

With a one-to-one science tutor by their side, it is not so easy for a child to lose focus – they have got to learn. They are also in their comfortable, informal home environment which helps to improve concentration.

A science tutor will do their best to make any topic as fun as possible with games and hands-on learning, so your child may begin to enjoy themselves too!

Confidence is boosted

Once your child sees their marks improve their confidence will rise leading to a ‘can do’ attitude. Success breeds success!

Hire an A level or GCSE tutor with TutorMyKids

If your child is having difficulty with any science subject do not leave it any longer.

All our science tutors are fully qualified teachers with the knowledge and experience to tailor their teaching exactly to your child’s needs.

To hire an A level or GCSE science tutor, please talk to us today on 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk