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As it sinks in that schools probably won’t re-open until September, parents of young children are finding it difficult to keep-up with home schooling and trying to work out the best way to cope.
If your children are at home with you and you’re concerned that they keep up with their school work, education expert and former primary school teacher Becky Cranham of PlanBee has some top tips to embed learning in fun and free activities.
In addition to PlanBee’s daily free lessons on YouTube, (last week these lessons had over 5000 views) there are lots more online to help kids keep busy, active and learning.
Baking provides a wealth of learning opportunities – and produces delicious results! Working through a simple recipe with your child will help develop measuring skills (Maths), following instructions (English) and can help them understand reversible and irreversible changes (Science).
Top tip: Ask your child questions as you work through the recipe, such as ‘What do we need to do next?’, ‘How does our mixture look different now to before we added the flour/butter/sugar?’.
Planting seeds and watching them sprout and grow is always rewarding. And you don’t need a garden. Pop some multi-purpose compost in a plant pot, plastic cup or old yogurt pot, sprinkle the seeds in and cover with compost. Encourage your child to take responsibility for making sure the plant has enough water and sunlight, and challenge them to record what happens to the seed each day.
Top tip: Fast growers include mung beans (2-5 days), cress (3-7 days), lima beans (4-7), sprouting seeds (4-12), radishes (7-14), pumpkin (7-21), nasturtium (14-21). Lettuce, basil, chives, mint and parsley are also relatively easy to grow.
Make them an expert
Are they crazy about Lego? Challenge them to find out when it was invented, by who and how it became so popular. Do they love singing and dancing? Challenge them to write and perform their own songs, or even create a music video. Crazy about science? Challenge them to put together a demonstration or presentation about their favourite scientist.
Top tip: Give your child the role of the ‘teacher’. If they feel like experts in a particular field showing off their knowledge to others, it’s more likely to keep them on track.
Keep them moving
YouTube is an endless source of great exercise and dance videos for young children, if you’re looking for something additional to Joe Wicks, there’s…
Dance ‘n Beats for fun dance routines
Just Dance: more challenging videos for older children.
Cosmic Kids Yoga: tie them in knots!
Jump Start Jonny: free high-energy workouts
Top tip: Make sure children warm up and warm down before and after each workout session.
Code with confidence
This is much easier than it may sound. One of our favourites is Scratch. Children can program their own interactive stories, games and animations while learning a bunch of key skills along the way.
Top tip: The main Scratch site is designed for children aged 8-16, but there is also an easier version called ScratchJr for 5-to-7s.
Telling a story
Ask children to pick a main character, a setting and a special object and let their imaginations run riot! To present them to the world too, they could stick with the good old traditional pen and paper or try creating an eBook. Book Creator is a great free app.
Top tip: Encourage your child to use this handy formula for story writing: SOMEBODY (a space ranger) WANTED (to save the world from an evil alien lord) BUT (their space ship broke down) SO (they hitched a ride with a friendly alien) THEN (they made it just in time to destroy the evil alien lord).
Check out Epic, which has access to 35,000 children’s books, learning videos, quizzes and more. You can try it free for 30 days. Encourage your child to act out the finished story or create a puppet show.
Top tip: Ask them about what they have read. Use a free Reading Question Matrix .
Use playdough or modelling clay to make a model of the solar system or to show the animals and plants in a habitat or food chain. Or use recycled objects, such as boxes, food packaging, bubble wrap, newspaper to make a medieval castle, a space ship, a dinosaur or a Tudor galleon.
Top tip: Get your child to test ways of joining materials before they begin. Glue or masking tape, staples or glue?
Here are our top fuss-free art activities that don’t require too much equipment (or mess!).
Rock painting: grab some small rocks or pebbles next time you go out for a walk and paint them as animals to create pet rocks!
Photo cut-outs: Print off any picture and cut it in half using zigzag lines. Stick one onto a plain sheet of paper and challenge your child to complete the picture.
Copy the old masters – or ‘modern’ ones such as Piet Mondrian or Kandinsky.
Still life: plop an apple, a vase, a glass or a flower in front of them and ask your child to draw what they see.
Squiggle art: use curvy or straight lines. Challenge your child to turn it into a drawing.
Top tip: For additional arty inspiration, Pinterest is an excellent port of call.
Treasure hunts: Hide challenges or calculations around your home which have to be found and solved to get a prize.
Sorting objects: Gather household objects and challenge your child to sort them into groups. How many ways can you sort them? What criteria can you use?
Create a board game: get your child to make their own version of snakes and ladders, or a quiz game.
Create puzzles: can your child devise a Maths puzzle or secret code to email to a friend?
Turn the tables: Invite your child to be the teacher and teach you something you don’t know!
Visit PlanBee for great free resources and lesson plans to use at home.