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

How to start preparing your child for secondary school

Starting secondary school can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking time for a child. They might be leaving a small, cheerfully decorated primary school to go to a large, intimidating secondary school with a maze of grey buildings.

The good news is that most children settle into their new school life happily. Here we share some ideas that may help you to make your child’s transition easier. However, it is important not to overdo preparation as this can be counterproductive. If you make too much of the move, you could give your child the idea that they have got something to worry about when they would otherwise have taken it in their stride.

Every child is different. As a parent you know best how to support your child, so please take our ideas as suggestions only.

Find out whether your child has concerns about starting secondary school

As you engage in everyday conversation with your child they may bring up things they are concerned about. If not, ask them how they are feeling about starting secondary school in a neutral manner. Reassure your child that they can come to you with any worries they have and that you are there to help them.

If your child has any questions you cannot answer talk to your child’s current teacher (or other parents) to find out the answers for them unless your child is happy to ask their teacher themselves.

Find an older child for reassurance

Do you know any older children who attend your child’s new secondary school? If so, they might be able to help by answering your child’s questions and sharing their experiences.

Choose a child who will offer your child reassurance and not the opposite. You could talk to the child first to find out about their experiences first. The child might also look out for your child and say hello to them when they see them around the school.  

Some schools already operate a buddy scheme whereby an older child looks after a younger child for the first few weeks. You could find out whether your child’s secondary school does this. If not, they might take on board your suggestion!

Attend induction days

Most secondary schools have at least one induction day where children tour the school and meet their teachers. If these days are scheduled in the school holidays do not be tempted to miss them.

As well as a chance to become familiar with the layout of the school and to get to know the teachers, transition days are an opportunity for your child to meet new children and start to build friendships.

Induction days are the best way to prepare your child for their first day at secondary school, so make the most of them.

Look at the school’s website together

Familiarity brings reassurance. The school’s website could be a great way to help your child become more comfortable with their new school.

Depending upon the website, your child might see photos of different classrooms and even lessons in action. The website might also answer some questions they have such as how to get a locker key or where to go to buy a prepaid swipe card for the canteen.

Practice the route to school

Is your child concerned about getting to school on their first day at secondary school? They might have to take the school bus, travel by car, or walk a strange route. Many children worry about being late, especially on their first day.

If this is a worry for your child, practise the route together so your child knows exactly what to do in advance.

Go shopping

Many children love shopping for new stationary and a brand new school uniform. A shopping trip helps put a positive and exciting spin on the experience of starting a new school. Your child may feel grown up and confident when they see themselves in their smart, new uniform. 

Shop for uniform and supplies in advance, with a list to hand. That way if anything doesn’t fit your child or you have forgotten something there is plenty of time to sort it out without stress.

Relax in the summer holiday

A few weeks before your child starts their new school, give them the time and space to gather their thoughts and to do the things they enjoy most. This might involve planning fun activities with your child, having friends around to play or just going out for walks and bike rides together.

Your child will be okay

Children are more resilient and adaptable than we think. If your child is not happy after the first few weeks of starting secondary school, don’t worry. It can take time to make new friends and adjust when starting a new school – reassure them about this and that they will be fine.

Build your child’s confidence with TutorMyKids

Would your child benefit from a confidence boost in English or Maths before they start secondary school?

Our experienced, qualified tutors build children’s self-esteem through individual attention and personalised teaching. They are dedicated to helping children become self-confident learners who thrive both inside and outside school.

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

National Space Day: 6 best space books for children

National Space Day is on 7th May. The day aims to encourage everybody – adults and children alike – to find out more about space and space exploration.

Most of us are fascinated by the night sky and what lies beyond our planet. Fascination with space has recently been fuelled by Perseverance rover landing on Mars and NASA’s successful Mars helicopter flight.

Here we share 6 books that will spark your child’s curiosity about space and at the same time encourage their love of learning through books.

Best space books for early years and key stage 1

Astronaut

Lucy M George and Ando Twin, QED Publishing, 2016

This is a wonderful glimpse into the life of astronauts. Children join astronauts Jenny, Chen and Kim as they blast off into space and board the space station. The book is likely to provoke interesting questions, such as why a space shuttle releases its rockets when it reaches deep, dark space. Children discover the jobs astronauts do on board the space station and the difficulties they face and overcome each day.

At the end of the book there are labelled pictures of Jenny’s equipment. There are also short, illustrated paragraphs about the other people who work with astronauts and the jobs they do.

Peep Inside Space

Anna Milbourne and Simona Dimitri, Usborne, 2016

This interactive lift-the-flap book is a brilliant introduction to space exploration. Children explore the ‘dusty’, ‘quiet’ Moon and the space around our planet with a friendly astronaut.

They lift the flaps of the space station to see what’s going on inside. They find out how astronauts keep safe in space and what stops them floating away. They discover that the Sun is a ‘fiery ball’ and that the Earth travels around it in circles.

Children are introduced to a range of space vocabulary: ‘craters’, ‘air tank’, ‘space station’, ‘Jupiter’ and more!

Best space books for key stage 1, key stage 2 and beyond…

Little Kids First Big Book of Space

Catherine D Hughes and David A Aguilar, National Geographic Kids, 2012

If you want to teach your child about our solar system, then this is the book! Although it’s aimed at young children, it’s actually suitable for children of all ages (and adults too) because it’s packed with incredible information.

Real photographs and clear, attractive diagrams make this book engaging for everyone. Explanations are succinct and accompanied by quick fact boxes. As well as learning about our neighbouring planets, children will find out about the asteroid belt, lesser-known dwarf planets such as Ceres and Haumea, what galaxies, nebulas and black holes are, how space rockets work – and that’s just a sample!

Solar System: 3D Explorer

Ian Graham, Sebastian Quigley and Nicholas Forders, Baker and Taylor (UK) Ltd, 2018

This book is most suitable for older children as it’s packed with detailed information and complex vocabulary (‘nuclear fusion’ for example).

Our solar system is brought to life in 3D with real life photographs and graphic illustrations. Children learn what rocky worlds are made of, why satellites are important, how our Earth is structured and why we have different seasons. They find out about gas giants, comet strikes on Jupiter – a whole wealth of facts.

Stars Before Bedtime

Claire Grace and Dr Jessamy Hibberd, Quarto Publishing, 2020

Is your child interested in the constellations? If so, they will enjoy this book. Although it is primarily intended to help children get to sleep through mindfulness exercises linked to the shapes of the constellations, it is also a great for identifying the constellations.

Your child might follow the constellations in the book with their finger and identify some of the patterns in the night sky. Each constellation has inspired mythology and the book tells some of these stories. Draco the Dragon, for instance, is a constellation with lots of tales associated with him. One is the story of Hercules, a great hero who fought Draco as part of twelve tasks he had to perform.

The Darkest Dark

Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion, Macmillan, 2016

This picture book is the real-life story of astronaut, Chris Hadfield. The story starts in 1969, when Chris is a little boy playing inside a huge cardboard rocket. All day Chris plays space games and dreams of a life in space. However, at bedtime he can’t sleep because he’s afraid of the dark. One day Chris’ parents tell him if he doesn’t sleep he will be too tired to watch the Moon landing at his neighbour’s house the next day. That night Chris sleeps well and dreams of exploring the Moon.

After watching Neil Armstrong land on the Moon Chris is no longer afraid of the dark. He realises for the first time ‘the power and mystery and velvety black of the dark’ and because we have our dreams we’re ‘never really alone there’.

One day Chris’ dreams come true. The book ends with a full-page illustration of Chris as a real-life astronaut floating above our beautiful Earth.

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

8 ways to celebrate Shakespeare Day

Shakespeare Day is celebrated on 23rd April to mark William Shakespeare’s birthday. Although we don’t know the exact date of Shakespeare’s birthday, we do know he was born around this time in 1564.

To this day we use expressions invented by Shakespeare in our everyday language, often without realising it! Children can learn plenty about human nature and life in Tutor England from Shakespeare’s compelling characters and exciting plots.

You can introduce children as young as seven to the world of Shakespeare through engaging activities and interactive experiences.

Invent Shakespearean language

Bernard Levin, author and broadcaster, famously wrote:

“If you cannot understand my argument, and declare “It’s Greek to me“, you are quoting Shakespeare;… if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle…insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches…you are quoting Shakespeare.”

Explore more of Shakespeare’s invented idioms. Have fun putting Shakespeare’s idioms into sentences, or make up your own idioms inspired by the Bard (‘bard’ means poet).

Share enthralling Shakespearean stories

Read children’s Shakespeare books and listen to audio versions together. Here are our favourites and all are suitable for children of seven and above.

Shakespeare Stories by Andrew Matthews and Tony Ross, Orchard Books, 2014

Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by E Nesbitt, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018. An audio version of the stories is also available.

Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare by Lesley Sims, Usborne Publishing, 2010

Shakespeare Retold, BBC Teach. These stories are spins on Shakespeare’s plays told by well-known authors.

Watch Shakespeare animated tales

Animated versions of Shakespeare’s stories are available on BBC Teach and BBC 2: Shakespeare the animated tales.

Enjoy Shakespeare comics for children

We recommend Marcia William’s books: Bravo, Mr William Shakespeare! and Mr William Shakespeare’s Plays. Both books feature classic Shakespeare plays presented in comic strip format which are fun for upper Key Stage 2 children to read.

Classic Comics publish graphic novels of Shakespeare’s plays that are suitable for older children.

Immerse yourself in Shakespeare’s world

The Royal Shakespeare Company is planning performances of Shakespeare’s plays including The Winter’s Tale, so it is worth keeping an eye on their website.

On Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre ‘playground’ website there are games, puzzles, animations, and interactive guided tours of the theatre. Children can go behind the scenes to see how costumes and sets are created at the famous Globe.

Folger Shakespeare Library and the CBBC Shakespeare Day websites offer activities, funny clips, facts and puzzles that truly immerse children in Shakespeare’s world.

Another way to engage young children with Shakespeare is through images. The What on Earth? Wallbook of Shakespeare: A Timeline Illustrating the Complete Plays of William Shakespeare is a fold-out timeline of all Shakespeare’s plays. The timeline is truly immersive and so detailed it will keep children exploring for hours.

Visit Shakespeare’s birthplace (when you can)

We can’t do this at the moment, but once lockdown has lifted a visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon is the very best way to bring Shakespeare to life.

See The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust website to find out about all the activities and family events they run. You can visit Shakespeare’s family homes and his school: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Hall’s Croft, Harvard House and Mary Arden’s Farm.

Understand Shakespeare’s language

Shakespeare’s plays were written 400 years ago and so it’s not surprising we have difficulty understanding the language.

Spark Notes’ No Fear Shakespeare provides the full text of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets with modern translations side-by-side.

Write Shakespearean tales

Create Shakespeare-inspired stories with a little bit of help from Deborah Patterson’s My Book of Stories: Write Your Own Shakespearean Tales.

Deborah provides stories starters, magical songs and bewitching lines from Shakespeare’s stories to inspire children to create their own characters and spin-off tales.

Would your child benefit from English Literature tuition?

Across the curriculum from Key Stage 2 to GCSE and A Level, children study both modern and classic plays, poetry and prose including the works of William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s works were written to be performed and watched rather than studied and our tutors know this. Every tutor is a highly qualified, creative teacher who can bring Shakespeare’s stories and poems to life for every child.

Our tutors also support children to develop English Literature skills including the ability to analyse and critically compare texts and be able to support a point of view with evidence.

To find out how one-to-one English Literature tuition can benefit your child, talk to us today: hello@tutormykids.co.uk 01223 858 421

How can I improve my 2021 teacher assessed grades?

The government has confirmed that students will receive teacher assessed grades this year. GCSE and A level exams will not go ahead in summer 2021 due to the disruption caused by Covid-19.

For those who find exams stressful teacher assessed grades may be welcome, but others might worry that their teachers could award them lower grades than they might have achieved in final exams.

In this post we talk about what steps you can take now to ensure you receive the teacher assessed grades you need and deserve.

What evidence will teachers use to award final grades?

The government has stated that teachers can use evidence of students’ work from any stage in the course to inform their judgement. They must draw upon a broad range of evidence which could include mock exam results, written coursework and test results – the evidence will depend upon the nature of the course. Exam boards will set optional questions that teachers can also use to help them to determine grades.

Teachers do not have to submit grades to exam boards until 18th June. This is so they can gather evidence over as long a period of time as possible to ensure grades are fair and accurate.

For more information about the evidence teachers can use read Ofqual’s, Decisions on how GCSE, AS and A level grades will be determined in summer 2021.

How can I improve my teacher assessed grades now?

From today you need to put as much effort as you can into every online lesson, essay, test and mock exam your teacher sets for you. Make sure you attend every lesson unless you have a very good reason not to do so.

When grades are based on a final exam result it is possible for students to compensate for any weaker assignments they may have submitted by revising extra hard towards the end of the course. In 2021, however, effort must be sustained over a longer time, which takes far greater dedication and focus.

You need to be able to:

  • Manage your time effectively. Create a study routine for yourself and stick to it. Make sure your timetable is realistic and remember that work often takes longer than you think when you’re planning. For tips on time management, see our blog post, Ways to teach children time management skills.
  • Choose the best place to study. Everyone is different – some people like a bit of background music and other people need total silence. If you live in a noisy house it might be worth investing in some noise-cancelling headphones. Find somewhere where you are less likely to get distracted.
  • Balance your time. It is important to get enough sleep, to eat healthily, to spend some time exercising (even a 20 minute walk twice a day makes a difference) and doing the things you love. Spending all day in a bedroom is not good for your mental health and can be counterproductive. See our blog post, 10 stress-busting tips for students.
  • Revise effectively for mocks and tests. In our blog post, Exam resits: your guide to a fresh start we share tried-and-tested revision techniques that really do work.

When will I receive my exam results?

A level and AS level students will receive their results on 10th August and GCSE students will receive their results on 12th August.

Can I appeal if I’m unhappy with my teacher assessed grades?

The government has stated that ‘all students have the opportunity to appeal their grade’.

If you are unhappy with your grade the first step is to talk to your school or college to find out whether an administrative error has been made. Should the school or college find a mistake they can submit a revised grade to the exam board. If the exam board agrees with their decision you will be awarded a new grade.

If your school or college stands by the grade they have awarded you then you can ask them to appeal to the exam board on your behalf. Your school or college will submit evidence for the exam board’s judgement and the exam board will decide whether your grade should change.

In the event that you don’t agree with the exam board’s decision, you can appeal to Ofqual’s Exams Procedures Review Service.

It is important to remember that when you appeal your grade it can go down as well as up.

Will I have the option to resit my GCSE or A level exams in the autumn?

The government has not yet announced whether resits will take place in autumn 2021 for those who are unhappy with their teacher assessed grades. However, it is widely expected that they will do so. For more information see, Ofqual’s Decisions on how GCSE, AS and A level grades will be determined in summer 2021, p. 11-12.

In 2020 60% of students who resat GCSE subjects (excluding English and maths) in the autumn term improved upon their grade.

Would you like support to improve your teacher assessed grades?

Your dedication and hard work over the next few months will ensure you achieve the teacher-assessed grade you deserve.

Our highly qualified, experienced tutors support students to study effectively and efficiently. They ensure students understand tricky subject areas and tailor their teaching styles to each individual.

We offer specialist one-to-one tuition in English, maths, science, humanities and languages. To find out how we can help you, talk to us today: 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk