Activities for World Calligraphy Day

It’s World Calligraphy Day on Wednesday 16th August. The aim of this day is to get more people interested in the ancient and beautiful art of calligraphy!

Calligraphy dates back thousands of years, and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where it started. In ancient Egypt, hieroglyphics were a form of early calligraphy, dating back to around 3000 BC. China and the Middle East also have evidence of skilled brushwork dating back centuries.

Here in the UK, calligraphy gained prominence in the Middle Ages when scribes and monks skillfully adorned manuscripts and religious texts.  It’s a form of artistic expression and communication that continues to be popular today.

So, why might your children want to learn calligraphy? Let’s talk about the skills calligraphy develops and how you can encourage your child to get started.

Why learn calligraphy?

There are lots of reasons to learn calligraphy. Here are just a few:

Artistic expression

Calligraphy is a way for children to express themselves creatively. With a wide range of styles and techniques, they can develop a unique writing style and create visually stunning pieces.

Mindfulness and relaxation

Practising calligraphy can be a meditative and calming activity. Focusing on precise strokes and letterforms can help children clear their minds, and it reduces stress and promotes relaxation.

Handwriting and fine motor skills

Careful attention to forming letters and making consistent brush strokes can improve handwriting and develop fine motor skills. Having good fine motor skills is fundamental for performing everyday tasks. Plus, it’s important for playing musical instruments, drawing, painting and more

Attention to detail

Calligraphy demands precision and attention to detail. These are life skills that people need to succeed in most careers, whether it’s manufacturing, engineering, healthcare or another profession. In many roles, even small errors can lead to significant consequences.

Patience and discipline

Achieving mastery in calligraphy takes time and patience, which develops discipline, persistence, and the ability to stay with a task even when it’s difficult.

Creative expression

In a digital age, hand-lettered calligraphy brings a unique touch and makes gifts, cards and invitations more meaningful. With calligraphy skills children can create personalised journals, beautiful, handcrafted gifts and bring an artistic touch to their projects.

Career opportunities

Calligraphy skills can open up opportunities in various fields such as graphic design, typography, wedding and event planning and freelance artistry.

Cultural and historical appreciation

Learning calligraphy makes children part of an ancient tradition. They can look into the history of different writing systems and gain insight into diverse cultures and artistic heritages.

What materials do you need to get started?

You don’t need any special calligraphy tools to celebrate World Calligraphy Day.

Your child can use pencils and ballpoint pens for faux calligraphy, brush pens and Crayola markers for modern calligraphy, pointed pens and broad-edge pens for traditional calligraphy, or even an Apple pencil for digital lettering.

There’s no need to buy special inks and nibs unless you want to!

Activities for World Calligraphy Day

Here are some easy activities for beginners:

  • Practise hand lettering

Technically hand lettering isn’t calligraphy, but it is about creating beautiful letters. All your child needs is paper and a pen or pencil. Watch this tutorial for instructions.

  • Try a free online class

Here’s a free one-week calligraphy course from Teachable with easy-to-follow instructions. If your child is more interested in Ipad calligraphy, this beginner’s course is perfect!

  • Create embossed lettering

This activity does require special tools, and it’s only suitable for older children with adult supervision. The effects children can create are stunning though. Here’s how to get started with basic embossing.

  • Have a go at ribbon lettering

Ribbon lettering is great fun and all you’ll need is a marker and a ballpoint pen. Check out this ribbon lettering tutorial.

  • Create stretchy letters

This is a fun activity involving stretching parts of letters to create artistic effects. All your child needs is a pen!

Here’s how they can create their own stretchy letters.

Take it further by experimenting with different types of calligraphy

If your child enjoys these activities, they may want to take their interest further.

There are three different types of calligraphy they can explore – Western, Eastern and Arabic or Islamic. Each one has distinct characteristics and uses different tools.

Western calligraphy is the mysterious, dark writing you see on treasure maps. Eastern calligraphy is the beautiful strokes that make up Chinese writing, and Arabic calligraphy brings to mind the Arabian Nights.

Every style of calligraphy conjures its own magic. Your child can experiment with calligraphy that captures their imagination to create their own unique artwork.

TutorMyKids – dedicated to inspiring your child

We hope these activities for World Calligraphy Day keep your child busy, especially on wet days during the long school holiday. For more ideas to keep your child occupied, see 10 equipment free outdoor games for summer family fun.

At TutorMyKids we are committed to teaching children knowledge and skills through immersive, enjoyable activities. We offer tutoring in English, maths, science and humanities to children in Cambridgeshire.

Would you like to find out more? Please contact hello@tutormykids.co.uk

How to prepare a child for transition

September is a time of change for children, whether they are transitioning to a new class or preparing to start a new school. For many children and parents, transitions cause worry and stress. Here we talk about how to prepare a child for transition. There is plenty you can do at home to help your child survive and thrive.

How is your child feeling?

Every child is different, and so is the way they react to change. Personality, age, and prior experience all affect how children feel about transitions.

Children may feel nervous particularly if they are starting a new school. They might worry about making new friends, finding their way around or meeting academic expectations.

Nervousness manifests itself in different ways. Your child might be more irritable or sensitive than usual. They might have difficulty sleeping, cling to you more or just seem restless and distracted.

It is important to reassure your child that being nervous about change is normal. Everybody worries about change to a greater or lesser extent. However, there’s a big difference between stress caused by normal life events and anxiety.

If you are concerned your child is suffering from anxiety, it is important to ask for support from your child’s GP or school.

Is your school mixing classes next year?

If your child has a solid friendship group and you have been told classes will be split and mixed next year, you may be feeling understandably apprehensive.  As a parent you want your child to be happy at school. Be reassured that your child’s headteacher also wants your child to be happy because they know happy children learn best!

These are some reasons why your child’s school may have decided to mix classes:

  • Rebalancing gender. By mixing classes schools can work towards creating a more balanced learning environment in terms of gender representation. This helps break down gender stereotypes and promotes gender equality.
  • Rebalancing ability. Mixing classes can provide opportunities for children with varying abilities to learn from each other and support each other. For example, a child who exceeds expectations in all academic subjects might benefit from collaborating with children who have advanced social, artistic or sports skills.
  • Rebalancing personalities. Changing the mix of personalities in a class can mean children can concentrate better and there is less disruption in class.
  • Broadening social interaction. Mixing classes provides an invaluable opportunity for children to make new friends which is beneficial for their personal growth and future interactions in a diverse society. It’s especially beneficial if they will soon move on to secondary school.
  • Increased choice of friends. Children can be reassured that they will still see their existing friends, even if they are in a different class. Classes usually mix during playtimes, and other times during the school day such as PE. As well as maintaining existing friendships, children will have the opportunity to explore friendships with other like-minded people they would not otherwise have met.

How can you prepare your child if their class is going to be mixed?

Although the rationale behind mixing classes is sound, it can lead to feelings of isolation and sadness for some children as they take time to adjust to new social dynamics.

To prepare your child over the summer, you could arrange playdates with old friends and perhaps one or two children who will be in their new class next year. Summer camps and extracurricular activities are also brilliant for giving children the confidence that they have the skills to make new friends.

You could reassure your child that they have made new friends before by asking them to recall a time they successfully met and played with someone new.

If you are very concerned about your child, speak to their teacher who can take extra steps to support them. For example, your child may be able to spend one-to-one time with their new teacher or extra time visiting their new classroom.

How to prepare a child for transition – top tips

Here are some tried and tested tips for supporting your child through transition:

Start a conversation

Choose an appropriate time and setting to talk to your child. Find a quiet, comfortable space where you can have a focussed conversation. Pick a time when you are both relaxed, not rushed and won’t be interrupted.

Ask open-ended questions to start a conversation. Encourage your child to express their thoughts. For example, ‘How do you feel about starting a new school?’ or ‘What are some things you are excited about?’

Listen carefully to your child. Let them know that it’s normal to feel a mix of emotions about transition. Acknowledge any worries or anxieties they have and assure them their feelings are understood. Reassure them you are there to support them through any challenges they face.

Share information

Children (and adults) often fear change because they don’t know what to expect – it’s a fear of the unknown. So, address this fear through information.

If your child is starting a new school, you could look at the school website together to find out about the facilities, teachers, and activities. Answer your child’s questions honestly and provide positive reassurance about the transition.

Read books or watch films about transitions. This can help normalise the experience and provide your child with relatable stories or characters going through similar transitions.

For younger children we recommend, Topsy and Tim Start School. Children starting secondary school can benefit from reading No Worries: Your Guide to Starting Secondary School by Jenny Alexander. For more ideas, simply Google, ‘books about transition for x year olds’.

Share your own personal stories about coping with transitions to help your child feel understood and less alone. Talk about how you overcame challenges and adapted to new environments.

Involve your child in preparations

Engage your child in age-appropriate tasks related to the transition. This can include shopping for school supplies like a new backpack. By involving them in the process, they will feel a sense of control and ownership over the transition.

Be positive

Children often take cues from parents’ attitudes. Maintain a positive, optimistic outlook about the transition, highlighting the exciting opportunities and adventures that lie ahead. Talk about the potential for making new friends, exploring different subjects or activities, and experiencing new adventures.

Your positive attitude can help alleviate your child’s worries and set a supportive tone.

Let your child know they can always come to you with questions or concerns. Reassure them that the conversation is ongoing and that you are available to support them all the way through.

Back to school with TutorMyKids

Our tutors can give your child a confident, flying start to the new school year. If you start tutoring sessions now, they will become part of your child’s accepted, weekly routine.

All our tutors are qualified and experienced teachers who understand how to motivate individual children. We offer one-to-one tuition in English, maths, science and humanities in Cambridgeshire.

To discuss how we can support your child, please contact hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Dinosaur Day activities for all the family

The 1st of June is Dinosaur Day, which is a great opportunity for everyone to build their knowledge of the prehistoric creatures that capture all our imaginations.

We’re excited to share this list of fantastic (and local) dino days out, plus the best dinosaur-themed books, films, and activities to keep children busy not just on Dinosaur Day but all summer, whatever the weather brings!

Local days out with dinosaurs

Ely Museum

Discover prehistoric creatures that lived in Ely during the Jurassic period when the entire region was under the sea. You’ll find plesiosaurs, ammonites and much, much more.

During the school holidays, the museum sometimes runs themed activity days.

Fossils Galore!

This museum is a treasure trove of local fossils and ancient secrets. Here you will find an iguanodon, a giant Jurassic fish, and a woolly rhino skull – to name but a few!

https://www.fossilsgalore.com/

Ipswich Museum

If you haven’t been to Ipswich Museum, it’s worth a trip. You will find the complete fossil of an Ichthyosaur – a species of marine dinosaur that’s been extinct for over 112 million years.

https://www.ipswichmuseum.co.uk/

Natural History Museum

A relatively short train journey away, the Natural History Museum in London is the place that comes to mind when we think of dinosaurs. If you want to see Dippy, the famous diplodocus, he’s currently on tour around the country, so you’ll need to do a quick Google search.

Dippy or no Dippy, you’ll still find one of the most extensive collections of dinosaur fossils in the world here.

https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/dinosaurs.html

ROARRR!

This is a dinosaur theme park just outside Norwich which is set in acres of stunning, natural woodland. There are more than 25 dinosaur themed attractions for children of all ages including a dinosaur walk, splash park, and indoor and outdoor play areas.

Sedgewick Museum of Earth Sciences

There’s an exciting collection of dinosaurs and other ancient fossils to discover here, including a Tyrannosaurus rex who is nicknamed ‘Stan’.

Although this isn’t dinosaur-related, it’s worth knowing that you can see Charles Darwin’s original species collections here too!

http://www.sedgwickmuseum.org/

Dinosaur events this summer

Camping with Dinosaurs

14-20th August, Jimmy’s Farm, Norfolk

https://jimmysfarm.com/event/camping-with-dinosaurs/

Would you like to be woken up in the morning by a dinosaur? Camp at Jimmy’s Farm and be greeted by a dinosaur every morning before exploring the farm.

Summer Saturday – Dinosaur Day

12th August, Newmarket Racecourse

Immerse yourself in the world of dinosaurs. Come face to face with some dinosaurs and join in with dinosaur-themed activities.

https://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/newmarket/events-tickets/afternoon-racing-august-2/

Books for Dinosaur Day and beyond

Under 8s

Dinosaur Roar!

Paul Stickland

This delightful picture book introduces young readers to different types of dinosaurs through fun, engaging rhymes. From the gentle Brontosaurus to the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex, each dinosaur is brought to life with colourful illustrations that capture their distinct characteristics.

The Plesiosaur’s Neck

Dr Adam Smith and Jonathan Emmett

Why do Plesiosaurs have long necks? Perhaps you’ll find out in this wonderful picture book that encourages critical thinking. The underwater scenes are beautiful and capture children’s imaginations as they learn about this unique marine reptile.

8–12-year-olds

Dinosaur Cove series

Rex Stone

The Dinosaur Cove series is an exciting collection of adventure books that transport readers back to a time where dinosaurs roamed.

The series follows the adventures of two young boys, Jamie and Tom, who discover a hidden portal that takes them to a prehistoric world. Each book explores a different dinosaur species and the challenges the boys face as they navigate their way through a dangerous and thrilling world.

The Secret Dinosaur series

N.S. Blackman

Marlin Maxton is a boy who discovers a secret, forgotten room in a museum that’s filled with metallic dinosaur models.

The dinosaur models, called Dinoteks, come to life, taking Marlin on a series of incredible adventures. The Dinoteks are being hunted down by their enemies – can Marlin save them?

Non-fiction

Dinosaur Questions and Answers

Katie Daynes and Marie-Eve Tremblay

This colourful, lift-the-flap, questions and answers book is perfect for children of all ages. Most adults will also learn lots of facts about dinosaurs as they share this book!

The engaging style of presentation makes it easy for children to find the answers to their burning dinosaur-related questions. Information covers dinosaurs’ physical characteristics, behaviour, habitat, diet and other key information.

Answers are concise and clear, keeping children engaged so they want to find out more.

Teenagers and adults

If you’re looking for dinosaur-related fiction and non-fiction for teenagers and adults have a look at these reviews on BBC Science Focus.

Dinosaur Day films

Fiction

Jurassic Park

A wealthy entrepreneur called John Hammond has genetically recreated dinosaurs and built a theme park on a remote island. To make sure the park is safe and profitable a group of visitors including a paleontologist, a paleobotanist, a mathematician and an accountant, are invited to inspect. John Hammond’s two grandchildren have also been invited to see the theme park for the first time.

When the park’s security systems fail and the dinosaurs break free, a thrilling and dangerous battle for survival begins. John Williams’ iconic and powerful musical score together with the awe-inspiring visuals transport us into this incredible world.

One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing!

The story is set in the Natural History Museum in the 1920s. A microfilm containing top-secret information is hidden inside a dinosaur skeleton which goes missing from the museum. A group of intrepid nannies, led by Miss Witherspoon, must retrieve the dinosaur and recover the microfilm before the evil Dr Hu gets hold of it.

This is a delightful, charming family film that combines comedy, adventure and fantasy.

Non-fiction

Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures

Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures is a children’s television series that combines nonfiction with storytelling. The series follows Andy as he travels back in time to learn about different dinosaurs. Each episode focuses on a different dinosaur species.

Children are immersed in the world of dinosaurs by Andy’s lively presenting style and the element of danger. As Andy encounters obstacles, he must find creative solutions which encourages children to think critically and solve problems.

This is an excellent series to develop children’s interest in paleontology and the wonders of prehistoric life.

Dinosaurs: The Final Day

Presented by David Attenborough, this is about the day the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs hit Earth. There’s an astonishing amount of detail which is based on recent research.

Prehistoric Planet

Released in 2022, this documentary series from David Attenborough challenges many things we thought we knew about dinosaurs. Drawing on the very latest research, this is a must-watch for anyone who wants to know all they can about dinosaurs.

Walking with Dinosaurs/Planet Dinosaur

An older documentary series, Walking with Dinosaurs uses 3D animation to bring the world of dinosaurs to life. Take a look at some clips on the BBC website.

Planet Dinosaurs, which was broadcast in 2011, is another BBC documentary series which combines high-tech graphics with factual research to bring dinosaurs to life. Here are some fantastic clips.

Both documentary series are no longer available on IPlayer, but you can access them through other channels, or buy original DVDs.

Rainy day dinosaur activities

If you’re looking for dinosaur-themed arts and crafts to keep children of all ages entertained, these websites are packed with ideas:

Dinosaur Activites for Families (Natural History Museum)

23 Dinosaur Activities for Kids

45 Amazing Dinosaur Activities for Kids

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

We hope you have enjoyed our Dinosaur Day suggestions. At TutorMyKids we are dedicated to supporting children and families in any way we can.

Whether your child is already fascinated by science, or they need help with tricky concepts, our friendly and highly qualified tutors can help them to reach their full potential.

To find out more, please contact our friendly team: hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Cricket games to play at home

Cricket is a great game for children to play in the garden or the local park. As well as developing their physical fitness, balance and hand-eye co-ordination it can improve social skills because it’s a team sport.

Another reason to encourage children to play cricket is because of the positive role models like James Anderson and Heather Knight. We all know that good role models for children are not always easy to find in the sporting world!

Being outside in the fresh air with a bat and ball is what summer holidays were made for. So, read on for some cricket games to play at home with family and friends.

What equipment do you need?

All you need is a garden cricket set with a soft ball (not a hard cricket ball), which you can buy for a few pounds online or in a shop like Home Bargains.

Cricket games to play at home

  1. French cricket

French cricket is very easy, and any child can play once they have learnt to throw and catch a small ball.

All players stand in a semicircle around the batsman (the person with the bat). The batsman holds the bat in front of their legs and uses it as a kind of shield. The other players take turns to have a go at getting the batsman ‘out’.

To get the batsman out a player must throw the ball at the batsman and either hit them with the ball beneath their knees or catch the ball. The player who gets the batsman out is the next batsman.

2. Fielding game

One person is the batsman, one person is the bowler and everyone else is a fielder.

All players make a semicircle around the batsman (the bowler stands in the semicircle opposite the batsman). The bowler throws the ball to the batsman who must hit it so one of the fielders catches it. The batsman must try to hit the ball so that every fielder has a turn catching it.

Once all the fielders have caught the ball, change players.

3. Roll and stop

This is a game that can be played with only two players – a batsman and a bowler. The batsman stands with their legs apart and holds the bat between their legs.

The bowler rolls the ball along the ground to the batsman who must try to stop it with the bat (without moving their legs). It’s a great game for developing hand-eye coordination.

4. Caterpillar catch

Divide players into two teams. The teams stand in parallel lines facing each other. The teams need to stand a good throwing and catching distance apart.

Team A (it doesn’t matter which team this is) starts with the ball. A player standing on one end of the line in Team A throws the ball to the Team B player standing opposite them. As soon as they’ve thrown the ball, they run to the other end of the Team A line. They must run on the outside of the line rather than the inside, so they don’t get hit by the ball.

As the Team A player runs to the end of their line, the player in Team B who caught the ball throws it to the next player in Team A (who is standing almost opposite them in a diagonal). The Team B player now runs to the other end of the Team B line.

The game continues until the Team A and Team B players who started the game are at the front of their lines again.

5. Cricket rounders

Play rounders but with a cricket set!

6. Garden cricket

For garden cricket you need a cricket bat, ball and stumps. You can use a jumper or a coat for the ‘base’ that the batsman runs to.

For clear instructions, watch this YouTube video, How to play cricket.

Is your child interested in cricket?

If your child wants to learn to play cricket, here are some local clubs you could check out:

City of Cambridge Cricket Club, City of Ely Cricket Club and Newmarket Cricket Club. All three clubs offer coaching to children of school age and the emphasis is on socializing, having fun and learning new skills.

All Stars Cricket. This is for children aged 5-8 years old. All Stars run clubs across Cambridgeshire during cricket season. We recommend looking at their parent’s page where they share lots of games and tips.

Dynamos Cricket. This is like All Stars Cricket, but it’s for 8-11-year-olds. Dynamos play countdown cricket which is a simplified and fast-paced version of ordinary cricket.

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

How to keep teenagers busy on lockdown weekends

Lockdown weekends can be boring for teenagers who are used to going out and about seeing their friends. Many parents worry that their children are miserable and spending too much time playing computer games.

Here we share some ideas to keep teenagers busy on lockdown weekends – hopefully one or two activities will really spark their interest.

Create an anime

An anime is a hand-drawn computer animation that comes from Japan. Creating an anime involves weaving stories and then building and illustrating a story world. Teenagers who are interested in art and design can acquire valuable new skills making these computer animations.

Escape Room challenge

Escape room games are fun for the whole family and teenagers can play with their friends. These games can be played virtually during the pandemic. See Durham Escape Rooms and Escape Live online challenges.

Go cycling

If your teenager needs an incentive to go cycling, try the Strava app. The app encourages cyclists to improve their distance over time.

Join a stage school

The Stage Academy provide online classes in singing, dancing and acting for children and teenagers. The classes are taught by industry professionals and students receive one-to-one feedback. Even before lockdown these classes were popular as they are interactive, engaging and excellent value for money.

Just Dance

The Just Dance computer game is a fun way for teenagers to exercise to the latest tracks. The game can be played on most platforms.

Learn a new language

Learning a new language is something you might enjoy doing as a whole family – see Duolingo.

If your child is learning a language for GCSE or A Level, TutorMyKids offers one-to-one language tuition online with fully qualified, expert tutors.

Learn coding for beginners

With a Code Academy online course, teenagers will learn to code computers and then apply their knowledge to real life scenarios. Coding skills are well sought after by employers and are worth the time investment for those interested.

Learn juggling

This can become quite competitive for the whole family. There are lots of instructional videos online. We like CBBC’s Learn to juggle with three balls.

Learn photography

Photography is a great incentive to go outside. If your teenager has an Iphone or Android they could take a course in smartphone photography to learn how to compose photographs by framing the subject and how to use the app to improve colour, contrast and brightness.

Alternatively, if they (or you) own a DSLR camera they could take an online course with The Institute of Photography.

Learn to sew

For free sewing classes to inspire your teenager, see the Crazy Little Projects website. If your teenager is really interested in sewing and wants to make their own clothes have a look at Bobbin and Ink’s nine week sewing lessons.

They could even make scrubs for the NHS!

Learn touch typing for kids

Touchtyping is an invaluable skill in the digital age. Learning to touchtype rather than jabbing keys with two fingers can prevent repetitive strain injury and speed up schoolwork.

Make a photobook

Most of us have got photos on our phones and computers that have been there for ages, but how often do we look at them? Your teenager could spend time usefully designing a photobook of treasured memories.

Make a podcast

Does your teenager enjoy listening to podcasts? If so, they could create their own. It’s very easy to start a podcast and many podcast hosting platforms have comprehensive, easy-to-follow guides for beginners.

Listen to podcasts

If your child is looking for something new to listen to here is a list of 20 of the best podcasts for teenagers.

Play Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons is a world of stories, board games and digital games. If your child enjoys fantasy adventure then this immersive world could be for them!

Solve a Rubik’s Cube

Rubik’s Cubes are back. These fantastic puzzles develop problem solving skills and encourage perseverance. Have a look at the official Rubik’s website for tips and tricks.

Take piano our ukulele lessons

Get your earplugs ready – your teenager could learn to play the piano or the ukulele online! In fact, a quick Google search will reveal that your child can learn to play just about any musical instrument they like.

Love learning with TutorMyKids one-to-one tuition

If your child’s enthusiasm for learning has waned since lockdown, they may benefit from tailored one-to-one tuition to get them back on track.

Our tutors are highly qualified and experienced. They know how to motivate teenagers and re-ignite their spark.

To find out more, email or phone us today: hello@tutormykids.co.uk/01223 858 421

Best children’s books and stories about the slave trade

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

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

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

Books for 6-7 year olds

Harriet Tubman (Little People, Big Dreams)

By Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Pili Aguado

Frances Lincoln, 2018

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

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

Hammering for Freedom

By Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by John Holyfield

Lee & Low, 2018

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

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


Books for children aged 7+

Freedom

By Catherine Johnson

Scholastic, 2019

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

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

Freedom won the 2019 Little Rebels Award.

Unheard Voices: An Anthology of Stories and Poems

Edited by Malorie Blackman

Random House, 2007

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

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

Journey to Jo’burg

By Beverley Naidoo

HarperCollins, 2008

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

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

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

The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano

By Ann Cameron

Yearling Books, 2000

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

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

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

Discover more about the slave trade

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

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

Museum of London, Docklands

Reading tuition with TutorMyKids

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

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

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

Summer Science Fun: Growing Monster Plants!

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

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

Make a light box

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

You will need:

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

Tin foil

Clear bin liner

Tape

Scissors

Instructions:

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

Squirting cucumber

What’s special about it?

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

You will need:

Squirting Cucumber seeds (available online)

2 small plant pots or yoghurt pots

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

Lightbox

Instructions

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

Abyssinian Banana

What’s special about it?

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

You will need:

Abyssinian Banana seeds (available online)

Medium and large flower pots

Compost

Plant food (from a garden centre)

Polythene sandwich bags

Clothes pegs

Instructions:

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

Venus Fly Trap

What’s special about it?

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

You will need:

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

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

A shallow container in which to stand the pot.

Instructions

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

Does your child need extra help with science?

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

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

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