Stop summer learning loss

How to keep children learning over the summer

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I know that after months of trying to do school work at home with your children the sense of relief when the summer holidays arrived was most likely incredible.

And I don’t blame you if you never want to look at another workbook or try and coerce your child into practising their times tables ever again.

The thing is, for my family at least, the return to school in September will be a huge shock to the system if we abandon learning altogether over the summer.  So if you want to keep your children ticking over with their learning then here are some things you can try doing with them (and lots of them basically involve learning through play).

 

Take on a summer reading challenge

The last few years we’ve signed up for the summer reading challenge at our local library and it’s been a great way to encourage the children to keep reading over the holidays.

If your local library is still closed at the moment, like ours is, then you can still sign up for the summer reading challenge online.

Another idea that would be fun for avid readers is to set up a family book club.  Decide together which books you’ll read, then sit down together each week to chat about them.

 

Dig out the board games, card games and chess boards

These kinds of games are a great way to sneak some learning into the summer holidays.

Things like chess teach them how to think strategically, as well as boosting their memory, spatial awareness and problem solving skills.

If you want to work on their spelling and language skills then games like scrabble (or junior scrabble for younger children) and boggle will get them thinking while also having fun.

We’re big fans of Orchard games for games that are simple and fun to play while still being quite educational.  They cover all sorts of things from times tables to telling the time in a way that makes learning just feel like playing.

 

Keep a bit of structure

If having a bit of a routine works best for your family then you might want to pick up, or carry on with, some of the structure of doing home schooling.

There are loads of workbooks you can buy that cover all sorts of subjects for children of all ages, that they can work through at their own pace.

You could also look at using Twinkl resources to find worksheets to print off for them to do.

If you’re happy with them working on the computer then you could use the resources from BBC bitesize, there’s loads on there from when the schools were closed, covering various topics.

We’ve also been using The Maths Factor for a few months now to support the maths work the children were given from school to do at home.  Rhys and Nerys both really enjoy doing their daily sessions and I’m a huge fan of the way Carol Vorderman uses all sorts of tips and tricks to help them understand different maths problems.  I signed the children up for it when it was free during the school closures, but they were getting so much out of it I’ve paid for subscriptions for them now and can see us sticking with it for quite a while.

 

Make the most of screen time

If your children would happily spend hours on end in front of the computer or iPad then try using that to your advantage.

There are all sorts of things they can do on tablets or computers that are really fun but also educational.

A great place to start is with games that teach them the basics of coding.  Rhys was asked to do some Disney hour of code activities as part of his school work that we did at home last term, and it was so much fun Nerys ended up doing it too.

 

Get creative

One of the skills that I’m really aware that my children don’t practice much over the summer holidays is handwriting.

So any activity that gets them writing, while still having fun, is a win.

Writing postcards to send to friends and family is a great place to start.  Even if you don’t go away anywhere, you should be able to find postcards in your own town to send.  Or you could make your own.  The beauty of postcards is there’s only a small amount of space to fill with writing so it doesn’t feel overwhelming for the children.

Another idea is to make a scrapbook of the things you get up to over the summer, with the children writing down memories and stories by hand to stick in with photos and drawings.

 

Have fun in the kitchen

Baking is a great way to practice all sorts of skills.

Following the recipe helps with reading and comprehension skills.  Measuring out the ingredients involves maths skills.  And watching how the ingredients work together to create something delicious teaches them about science.

So let them pick out a recipe and take the lead in cooking up something yummy.  We use this 2-4-4-4 fairy cake recipe a lot, and have down since the children were really little because it’s so easy but makes really tasty cakes every time.

 

Have a foreign holiday at home

If your children are learning a foreign language at school then help them practice during the holidays by pretending you’re visiting another country for the day.

You can pop to the supermarket and get foods from the country to try, and then have conversations in the language they’re learning as you sit and eat.  You could also go on a virtual tour of the foreign country and look at their famous landmarks and see what they’re called in their native language.

To really immerse yourselves in the language you could try listening to a radio station from the foreign country or even watch a foreign-language film in the evening.

 

Give some STEM activities a go

There are so many fun things you can do that sneakily introduce children to the basics of science, technology, engineering and maths.

One thing we’ve had a lot of fun with is making flipbooks, which also happen to be a great way to introduce children to the idea of animation.  Once you’ve got the hang of flipbooks you can try making stop motion videos too.

I use the stop motion studio app on my phone to make these with my children and it’s really easy to do and so satisfying to watch the end result.

 

Things are definitely going to be strange when the children go back to school in September, and it’ll take us all a while to readjust to the routine of it all.

But hopefully these tips and ideas will help keep your children in the habit of learning, even if they don’t quite realise they’re doing it, over the summer break.

help your child practice brave thinking

How to help your child practice brave thinking

The children and I have been talking a lot about our thoughts lately.

Mostly about how powerful they are.

About how easy it is to create self-fulfilling prophecies.

We’ve talked about the fact that if, for example, you decide before you’ve even tried to do something that it will be too hard, then chances are you’ll be right and you’ll struggle to do it.  But if you try it with a positive attitude then you’ll be far more likely to persevere and succeed.

 

The problem is, it’s not always as easy as it sounds to just ‘think positively’.

Our brains are wired to see the worst case scenario, because this is what keeps us safe.  We’ve evolved to spot danger and potential problems so this is what we notice and focus on a lot of the time.

Which is great, in a way.

It’s amazing that we have this natural instinct to protect ourselves and avoid danger.

The problem is that this instinct is sometimes too strong.

Our brains keep us too safe.

They make us worry about everything, imagining how badly things could go, so that we stay still and safe, instead of taking action.

And each time we think a negative thought we make the neural pathways in our brains for those kinds of thoughts stronger, so they become our default way of thinking.  Our brains don’t just want to protect us, they also want to make things easier for us so they’ll take these shortcuts whenever they can.

We’ll see a choice or a new experience and our brains will jump straight to the negative consequences because that’s the path we’ve taken most in the past.

 

So how can we help our children to fight these natural instincts and wire their brains for brave, positive thinking instead of negative thinking?

 

The first thing to keep in mind is that it’s not as easy as just telling them to stop thinking negatively, or to just not think about the thing that’s bothering them at all.

If they’re worried about starting a new club at school, for example, telling them not to worry about it won’t help.

See our brains do this weird thing when we try not to think about something.  They sort of check in now and then, to make sure we’re not thinking about it.  Which means we think about it.

What we need to do instead is practice replacing any thoughts of worry or negativity with thoughts that are positive and brave.

The more we tell ourselves that we’re strong and capable and resilient, the more we’ll create and use the pathways in our brains for those kinds of thoughts.

Do it enough and those pathways will become the default for our brains.

 

For the child that’s worrying about the new club at school, sit with them and talk about what in particular it is that they’re concerned about.

If it’s that they won’t be able to do the new activity very well, remind them of all the times in the past they’ve worked hard to learn a new skill.  Encourage them to write down positive statements about themselves that relate to their worries.

This could be things like, “I work hard”, “I can learn to do hard things”, or “I keep on trying”.

A lot of this comes down to helping them switch to a growth mindset.

So you’re helping them replace thoughts of “I’ll never be able to do this”, with “I can learn to do this if I keep trying”.

Depending on how old your child is you can encourage them to write these kinds of positive things about themselves in a notebook everyday.

Or you can write a few key, positive mantras out and stick them up in their bedroom where they’ll see them everyday.

 

The key to this is repetition.

The more your child can think and say and write down these positive, brave thoughts about themselves and their ability to cope with whatever life has to throw at them, the more they’ll start to naturally think these thoughts.

And the more they think it, the more they’ll believe it.

Once they think they can handle something, and not only think it but know it in their mind to be true, then there’ll be no stopping them.

Help your anxious child uncertain times

How to help your anxious child in uncertain times

As a general rule I think it’s best to be open and honest with our children about life and the world around us.

The problem with this is that, during uncertain times like this, I have to admit that I don’t know all the answers.  That no one knows the answers.  I can’t tell my children when the parks and swimming pools will be open again.  I can’t reassure them that they’ll be back at school and hugging their friends by a set date.

For anxious children this level of uncertainty can be really hard to cope with.  It’s hard for all of us to deal with I think.

The main thing to remember, for me as a parent, is that we’ve never been in this situation before, so no one really knows how to handle it or what the best steps to take are.

We’re all just doing our best, trying to reassure our children as best we can while keeping them safe as best we can.

There are some things we can try along the way though, that might help our anxious children in these kinds of uncertain times.

 

Practice mindfulness together

Mindfulness is a great tool for people of all ages to help with anxiety.

It’s all about slowing down and paying close attention to the world around you and to how you’re feeling.

A great way to practice this with your child is to go on a mindful walk together.  This is actually something that Rhys was asked to do as part of his school work recently and it was such a lovely thing to do together.

When you go out on a walk, stop now and then and just be still and quiet.

Ask your child to pay attention to all their senses and notice the different things they can hear, smell and feel.   You can get them to sit and put their hands on the ground, or take their shoes and socks off and stand barefoot for a few minutes.

This is great for helping us feeling more grounded and connected with nature, which has a really calming affect on our bodies and minds.

 

Keep to a simple daily routine

All of our normal routines have been completely turned upside down since the schools closed and we all started working from home.

Some children will have adjusted to this really easily, but for anxious children it will be really unsettling.

So try and create, and keep to, a new simple daily routine for them to bring back a sense of predictability to their days.

This doesn’t mean have a packed schedule each day, but keep a few things that are consistent and predictable each day, like going for a walk after lunch and having a bath and then reading together at bedtime.

 

Do kind things together for other people

When we’re feeling anxious it can be really hard to stop the worrying thoughts running through our heads.

So try and help your anxious child break this cycle by taking the focus off themselves and their thoughts by doing something kind and helpful for someone else.

Get them to make a card and then write a thoughtful message inside to send to a friend of relative.

Let them paint another rainbow to stick in the window to make passers-by smile.

Help them record a video message to their grandparents about what they’ve been up to during this time apart.

When we do kind things for other people it makes both them and us feel good, and it’s a great way to feel like you have a bit of control in uncertain times.

 

Focus on the things you can do

When everything feels out of our control it can be really scary.  So really try to focus on the things your child can do and can control.

Things like choosing to do something kind or helpful for someone else is a great place to start.

You can also talk to them about how, in the current situation with coronavirus, they can help protect themselves and other people by washing their hands properly, coughing into their elbows and limiting their contact with other people for a while.

 

Acknowledge and normalise their feelings

It’s so important to reassure your child that whatever they’re feeling at the moment is completely fine, valid and normal.

Let them express to you how they’re feeling, and encourage them to sit with those emotions for a bit instead of brushing them aside.

They might be feeling scared, angry, sad, hopeful, helpless, happy, nervous, and all sorts of other emotions, possibly all in one day, and that is just fine.

 

Add in positives

Once you’ve acknowledged what your child is feeling you can help them again by ‘adding in’ a positive to go alongside it.

So if they’re feeling scared and anxious about the current situation you can encourage them to add courage or strength to that emotion.

If they’re sad about not seeing their friends, help them to also be happy and grateful that we have the technology now to be able to video chat with them.

It’s not about taking away from what they’re feeling, but adding in more positive, helpful emotions to guide them through.

 

 

When the whole world feels strange and everything feels uncertain, we’re all going to feel more anxious than usual.

But hopefully some of these ideas and strategies will help if your child, or you, are finding it all particularly hard.

Do you have any other tips for things that help you or your child when you’re feeling anxious?  I’d love to hear them in the comments if you do.

Encouraging curiosity in your child

Encouraging curiosity within your child

Children are naturally curious because they have a lot to learn about the world around them.

Curiosity is important at any age because, without it, we would cease to learn anything new. That’s why it’s important for parents to encourage the inquisitive side of their child, as explored below by a private school in Hampshire.

 

First of all, make sure that when your child is asking you questions, you don’t shut them down.

Obviously, when you are busy and your child is nagging, it can be easy to shrug them off but if you do, they will be reluctant to ask you again. Instead, try and answer their questions or tell them that you will do some research and come back to them later when you’re not as busy.

If you don’t know the answer, be honest, and help your child find the answer by looking it up online or in a book.

 

Another way to stimulate your child’s curiosity is to ensure they are experiencing new things on a regular basis.

This doesn’t mean you have to take them on a fancy holiday to a foreign country, it could be something simple like trying a new recipe or playing a new board game. Just try and mix up the routine from time to time so that your child has the opportunity to learn about things outside of their little bubble.

 

As a parent, you should always try and model the behaviour you’d like to see in your child.

So, if you want them to be curious, you should be curious too. For example, on a rainy day you could ask “do you know where the rain comes from?” or if you’re trying a new recipe you could say “I wonder how long this needs to go in the oven”. Show your child that it’s perfectly normal to ask questions, experience new things and learn about the world around us.

Let them see you embarking on a new hobby and encourage them to do the same.

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Things you learn when you become a parent

Things you find out when you become a parent

Becoming a parent is an exciting and scary time in your life, no matter what age you are when you find out you’re having a child, it can be quite overwhelming initially. However, this is often because becoming a parent is delving into the unknown and the unknown is what scares a lot of people. Even if you’re a grown adult who thinks they’ve got their life together, you still need to prepare yourself for life as a parent. 

Below we have listed some of the things you will find out when you become a parent, we hope that this list prepares you for what’s to come, both the good and the bad things included. Remember, no one is perfect so you’re going to have days when you don’t feel good enough.

It’s OK though, you can be strong for your new little one and be the best parent you can. Ultimately, no one is scoring points and they’re not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do when your baby arrives. For now, just prepare yourself for the future. 

 

 

Things aren’t always easy

 

Have you ever seen those TV shows that depict parenting as a breeze? Even just the adverts sometimes aren’t realistic at all. In reality, things aren’t always going to be easy. Even if you have a baby who is relatively calm and quiet most of the time, there will be times they cry and whine. Despite this, it’s the beauty of parenting. The sooner you get used to your new reality, the better. After all, when you’re a parent, you’re a parent forever so it might be time to get used to how things are.

Also, take advice from people who have been there before, things that aren’t easy will end soon, there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re struggling with parenthood now, it’s not going to last forever. Keep this in mind, even during the more difficult days. 

 

 

Choosing clothes and accessories is difficult

 

Let’s be honest here, every parent wants their children to have the latest clothes and most beautiful accessories. Yet, this isn’t how it will work. There are hundreds of beautiful baby clothes out there and it’s difficult to choose something both you and the child love. Plus, when you enter any good pram shop, you will be overwhelmed with surprise at how great everything is. You will definitely want it all. This is especially true for new parents who have never experienced buying for their own baby before. You will want to buy the whole baby store as soon as you enter, but your bank balance simply won’t let you!

 

 

Your cooking skills don’t matter

 

Despite what people say, your cooking skills don’t have to be of a certain calibre, why? Babies and little ones will practically eat anything. You may spend your entire pregancy trying to read up on the best ways to boil or poach or cook an egg, but ultimately, if your child is going to eat it, they will eat it. The taste most likely doesn’t matter, if they’re hungry they will eat. However, it is key to remember that during the early stages of their life, you may find that your baby is very opposed to a certain food or drink, this may be because of an allergy, if this is the case, you may want to take them to the doctors/hospital to be assessed! 

 

 

Everyone will judge you

 

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but some people will definitely display this opinion more than others. Whether you breast or bottle feed will be judged along with many other things.

It’s for this reason that you need to realise, what other people think and say doesn’t matter.

As long as you’re doing what you think is right by your child, then you will be fine. Simply do your own parenting style and just take every day as it comes because everyone has their own way of parenting and if you don’t do things the way they do, they will most likely judge you. 

 

 

It is possible to function on 4 hours sleep

 

This is something every parent is capable of! When you’re a new parent and only have a little baby, you will need to learn to function on as little sleep as possible. Those long 10 or 8 hours of sleep everyday will soon become a distant memory because your little one will most likely be awake for a lot of it.

However, despite the lack of sleep – you will still love them unconditionally and becoming a parent is just the start of your new life, it’s all very interesting and exciting!

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

I hope my children are kind

I just hope my children are kind

What hopes do you have for your children?

I know some people want particular things for their children; they want them to grow up to be doctors or high flyers in a particular career.  I always thought I just want my children to be happy, but as they go out more and more into the world on their own I’m realising that, actually, I just hope for them to be kind.

 

I want them to be happy too, of course I do, but really that will most likely come as part and parcel of them being kind.

There’s a Roald Dahl quote that I really love that says, “I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being.  I’ll put it before any of the things like courage or bravery or generosity or anything else …  Kindness – that simple word.  To be kind – it covers everything, to my mind.  If you’re kind that’s it”

 

If you’re kind that’s it.

 

It says it all really.  If you’re kind, all those other positive traits will most likely follow.  It just all starts with kindness.

I think that we’re all born with a natural instinct to be kind.  A recent study at the University of Washington actually found that even at 19 months old children will give a tasty snack to a stranger they think needs it.  Even when they’re hungry themselves.

So as adults, we just need to nurture these instincts in our children.

We need to show them kindness.

They need to see us being kind to our friends and just as kind to strangers.

We need to talk to them, often, about how important it is to be kind and point out all the opportunities we have each day to show kindness to other people.

 

I definitely believe that kindness has a ripple effect.

When you do something kind for someone else, chances are they’ll carry that with them through their day.  And they’ll be more likely to pay it forward, to do something nice for someone else.  And it goes on and on.  A gentle wave of kindness.

And that would make anyone feel happy wouldn’t it?

make mornings easier by planning ahead

Plan ahead to make your mornings easier

If your family life is anything like mine, then you’ll know that mornings can be stressful at times.

It can be a rush and a race to get everyone up, fed, dressed and out the door on time to get to school and work.  The main thing I’ve learnt over the last few years is that taking a bit of time the night before to plan ahead for the next day can make the mornings so much easier.

 

Here are my ideas for some of the things you can do to plan ahead and get sorted the night before so that your mornings run that little bit more smoothly.

 

  • Get lunch ready.  If you and/or your children take packed lunches to work/school, then get these made in the evening and pop them in the fridge to keep them fresh.  If you make sandwiches for lunches then you could even go one step further and make a whole week’s worth on a Sunday and stash them in the freezer.  Nyomi has a great post on freezing sandwiches over on Nomipalony.

 

  • Make breakfast easier by prepping the night before.  This could be as simple as putting out bowls and cereal where your children can reach them so they can start sorting themselves out in the morning.  Or you could make something like overnight oats so you have a nutritious breakfast ready to go when you wake up.

 

  • Check your calendar to make sure you know what’s planned for the next day.  If you or your children need anything specific (like homework, cash for charity events, PE kit/gym kit) then get those things packed and ready by the front door so you’re not scrabbling round to find them in the morning.  Making sure school backpacks are packed and ready with everything your children need for school, and get your own bag packed too.  If you have a baby to get to nursery, then pack up their change bag.

 

  • Get clothes out and ready.  For the children this will probably  just be a case of setting out school uniform and clean underwear, but it’s also worth checking the weather forecast to see if they’ll need wellies or warm hats/gloves in the winter or a sunhat in the summer.  It’s also worth checking the forecast so you can plan and put out your own clothes for the next day so you’re not wasting time in the morning trying to decide what to wear.

 

  • Leave things you absolutely have to remember to take with you right by the front door.  This way you’ll have to get past them to leave the house, so hopefully there’ll be no chance you’ll leave without them.

 

  • Set alarms.  A lot of people swear by setting their alarms for a time before their children wake up in the mornings, so they can have a cuppa in peace first thing.  I’ve not mastered this one myself yet but can definitely see the appeal of it.  The one thing I do do is set alarms on my phone to remind me of things we need to grab and another to prompt me and the children when it’s time to go and brush teeth, get shoes on and head out the door.

 

You don’t have to do all of these things, although mornings would be so much easier if you do, but even just one or two of them will make a difference in how your mornings go.

Do you tend to get things ready for the morning the night before?

Are there any other things you do to make mornings easier that I’ve not mentioned?