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.

Summer Projects: Exciting Engineering

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

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

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

Balloon-powered vehicles

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

You will need:

Balloons

Masking tape

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

For your information:

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

Helping your child:

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

Marble run

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

You will need:

Cardboard tubes (toilet rolls/kitchen rolls)

Tape

Bowl to catch the marbles

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

For your information:

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

Helping your child

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

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

Marshmallow bridge

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

You will need:

Mini marshmallows

Cocktail sticks

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

For your information:

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

Helping your child:

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

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

Paper table

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

You will need:

Sheets of newspaper

Masking tape

Corrugated cardboard rectangle approximately 20cm x 30cm

Masking tape

Heavy book

For your information:

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

Helping your child:

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

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

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

Would your child benefit from tailored science tuition?

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

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

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

Homeschool activities: Children’s Art Week and maths

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

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

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

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

Tessellation art

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

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

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

Pi cityscape

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

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

Aboriginal repeating patterns

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

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

Weaving patterns

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

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

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

Geometric paint by number

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

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

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

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

Mandala maths

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

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

Does your child need extra help with maths?

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

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

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

Homeschooling Project: World Oceans Day

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

Oceans:

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

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

Why do we need oceans?

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

After watching, ask your child:

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

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

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

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

Eat sustainable fish

Watch What is sustainable fishing?

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

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

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

Reduce plastic waste

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

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

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

Care about endangered species

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

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

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

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

Do you need a homeschooling tutor?

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

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

Why should my child learn grammar?

Grammar is the way in which words are ordered to make sentences. Using grammar correctly allows us to be clearly understood by others. Grammar is also about how the meanings of words can change when they are used in different contexts: Did you feel afraid when you were watching the Blair Witch Project? No, I’m afraid I didn’t. Strong grammar skills aid both verbal and written communication and enable children to expand their vocabulary by discovering new and interesting ways to present information and communicate their ideas.  Here we share some other reasons why learning grammar is worthwhile.

Foreign languages

Learning English grammar helps children to learn other languages.  According to Richard Hudson and John Walmsley in their article, The English Patient: English Grammar Teaching in the Twentieth Century: ‘…to support foreign-language learning explicit instruction is an important part of grammar teaching and is easier if pupils already have some understanding of how their first language works’.[1]

In order to be able to progress in a foreign language beyond primary level it helps if children understand English grammar. For instance, if a child knows what a preposition, a verb or a conjunction is in English they will easily identify the foreign equivalent.  If they understand the structure of simple and compound English sentences, then that skill can be applied to a foreign language too.  

Speaking a foreign language is an invaluable skill and it is now a compulsory part of the Key Stage 2 curriculum. Proficiency in another language opens the door to understanding other cultures and appreciating their literature and their art. It also considerably enhances career prospects.

GSCEs

Poor grammar, spelling and punctuation will lose a student marks not only in their GCSE English examinations but also in other subjects too including geography and history. The earlier children get to grips with grammar the better their chances later.

Career prospects

If you have ever been in a position to open job application letters then you will know that English grammar is important.  How many letters composed by well qualified, talented people have been thrown in the bin because they were poorly written?  It may be unjust, but it is a fact. The job market is competitive and we need to give children every chance we can, and one way we can do this is by ensuring that their writing doesn’t undersell them.  First impressions count.

Creativity

Grammar supports creativity.  Whilst writing the first draft of a poem or story children write freely and spontaneously.  Afterwards, if they have some grammar knowledge they can return to their work and polish it.  They will know how to successfully convey their ideas to others, portraying the effects and evoking the emotions that they wish.   They will be able to add style, variety and individuality to their work because they can sculpt their raw material – words and sentences.  Grammar is a valuable writer’s tool.

Thinking skills

Grammar develops children’s thinking and investigative skills.  In order to understand it, children need to make logical connections such as classification, causation and time.  When grammar is taught through investigation of children’s existing knowledge it is a good foundation for scientific method.  Moreover, if taught in this way, grammar is interesting and enjoyable.  Children will develop a critical response to some of the ways that language is used every day.

Supporting your child

Anybody who went to school in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s received very little, if any, grammar instruction so it can be helpful to brush up so we can support our children. The best grammar books for clear, concise explanations are children’s books!  Junior Illustrated: Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Bingham and Alex Latimeris a fantastic starting point and very cheap to order on the Internet. 

Useful websites to explore are:

English Grammar Lessons, https://english-grammar-lessons.com/

Grammar Reference, The British Council: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference

If you feel you would benefit more from direct teaching, Cactus TEFL offers an online grammar course designed for those wishing to teach English as a foreign language, but it is beneficial for everybody: http://www.cactustefl.com/ela/

Making grammar exciting for children

Learning grammar should always be fun. Children learn best when they are excited and enjoying what they are doing.  We recommend:

Crickweb, http://www.crickweb.co.uk/ks2literacy.html

Education.com, https://www.education.com/games/grammar/

FunEnglishGames.com, http://www.funenglishgames.com/grammargames.html

Topmarks, https://www.topmarks.co.uk/english-games/7-11-years/spelling-and-grammar

How TutorMyKids can help

Grammar is confusing – the rules don’t always seem to make sense. Our specialist English Language tutors are experienced in helping children to understand this complicated area, raising the quality of their oral and written communication.  To find out more, contact us today: 01223 858 421, hello@tutormykids.co.uk


[1] The English Patient: English grammar and teaching in the twentieth century, Journal of Linguistics, Cambridge University Press, https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-linguistics/article/english-patient-english-grammar-and-teaching-in-the-twentieth-century/97B51A21E50FD0960400C42C65CBF1A2