Tasked with coming up with some interesting crafts and things to do with three children during the half term, I thought we’d start our week by making some egg and cress heads. I thought it would be interesting to watch them grow over the week. They’re easy to put together and all three had great fun making them and watching them grow over the week.
This activity is perfect for my 7 year old who is in Year 2. Cress grows incredibly quickly, and almost before your eyes. This fast growing crop was really exciting for the children to watch growing. Each day they found a new thing to be excited about. The best day was when they got to try eating the peppery cress, it’s a rare sight watching three children delightedly eating their greens!
Growing egg and cress heads is a great opportunity for children to talk about their observations about how the seed grows into a plant and guessing what will happen next. It can also help to promote scientific thinking and helps with linking science to real life experiences.
Growing Egg and Cress Heads
You will need:
A hard boiled egg each
Felt tips to decorate your egg
How to make your egg and cress heads:
Hard boil your eggs and get a grown up to carefully take the top off and scoop out the egg inside.
Gently decorate your egg however you want. We drew pictures of cats and dogs on ours, but you could do almost anything.
Fluff up some cotton wool and put it inside the egg. Then pour some water over the cotton wool. Sprinkle some cress seeds on the top of the cotton wool and put on a windowsill in an egg cup.
Check the progress of your seeds every day, sprinkle more water on the seeds every so often. Within a week all of your seeds should have sprouted and your egg head should have a thick crop of cress hair!
Lego play is well known for having all kinds of great developmental benefits, these include –
Promoting fine motor skills
Encouraging team work
Developing problem solving and mathematical thinking
Improving communication skills
Developing lateral thinking and planning skills
Developing STEM (Science, technology, Engineering and Maths) skills and encouraging an interest in these areas is so important for all children. I’m lucky that my son is very keen on science and engineering; not so much maths, but we’re working on that. He absolutely loves playing with Lego too, so these Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards were absolutely perfect for him.
We printed out the Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards and gathered a few boxes of Lego together. We each chose a challenge and got to work. I made the heart, the present and spelled out the word LOVE. He did an arrow, a heart and he also wrote the word LOVE in Lego.
It was really interesting for us to do something a bit different with our Lego and nice to build something which wasn’t a Lego City or Ninjago set. I can see how it worked his problem solving muscles, trying to find the right piece to go in the right place, picking and choosing colours and carefully following the visual instructions on the cards.
I think it’s also helped to show him that he doesn’t just have to build the sets, that he can be a little more creative with his Lego. He especially enjoyed writing with it and went on the write his name and mine. This is definitely something we can build on together at home.
This was most definitely a fun thing to do together and the learning is obvious to me, but it’s just fun for him!
The Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards are available to download on the Mrs Mactivity website. You can also find a good selection of other activity sheets there – all designed to be fun and educational too!
Some children take to school and learning like a duck to water, while other children need a bit of gentle encouragement and motivation. Premier League Primary Stars have been visiting and supporting my son’s school since they launched earlier this year. The Premier League Primary Stars scheme uses the appeal of the Premier League and links with local professional football clubs to inspire children to learn, be active and develop important life skills.
Premier League Primary Stars is available to every primary school in England and Wales, and is open to boys and girls aged 5-11. All teachers need to do is register on the Primary Stars website and they can instantly access a wealth of free teaching materials covering English, maths, PE and Sport as well as PSHE.
There are free to download lesson plans all linked to the National Curriculum. The lesson plans help to underpin a range of key values including equality and diversity; self-esteem; resilience; teamwork and fair play. Being part of Primary Stars means schools can also access extra resources such as videos, free football kit and sports equipment as well as free book boxes for school libraries.
The free resources have been created in partnership with industry experts Edcoms and the PSHE Association; National Literacy Trust and other key stakeholders. Children’s authors Cressida Cowell (‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series) and Dan Freedman (‘Jamie Johnson’ series) helped create the programme’s English resources, while Rachel Riley the Sky Sports presenter and mathematician is a consultant in the development of Maths teaching resources.
Schools can work with a local Premier League football club who will come in and work with the children. The teams help to inspire their learning, as well as teaching them a few footballing skills along the way. The kids really benefit from having their local football club coming in. My son’s school is linked to Manchester City FC and last term they had players coming in to work with the kids, which was great!
Launched in March 2017, Premier League Primary Stars is already in 10,000 schools across England and Wales. The scheme is having a positive impact on the learning and outcomes for so many primary school aged children.
Premier League values underpin everything on offer, encouraging children to:
Be ambitious – work hard and never give up on their goals
Be inspiring – set a great example to others
Be connected –work well with others and in a team
Be fair – treat people equally and think of others
Is your school part of Premier League Primary Stars? If you’re not sure, ask your class teacher. They might not yet be aware of this brilliant scheme to inspire and encourage kids all over the country to learn and develop a whole range of life skills.
This month I’ve been finding out more about the Premier League Primary Stars programme which is currently being used in over 10,000 primary schools across England and Wales. Primary Stars helps to develop literacy, numeracy, PE and PSHE skills in the schools, with all participating being linked up to and supported by their local football teams. My son’s school has had several exciting visits from Manchester City FC players to help motivate and encourage pupils.
Primary Stars has recently launched a fantastic kids poetry competition, with winning entries being published in a book. Other prizes include author-led writing workshops and Premier League Trophy school visits, as well as poems being read aloud by football stars.
Premier League Writing Stars is open to all primary schools in England and Wales and aims to get pupils writing poetry in different creative forms, whether it be in a rap, song lyrics or haiku.
The great news is, the first 1,000 schools to enter the competition will also receive a bespoke “Book Bag” of poetry which is great for expanding school libraries and encouraging a love of poetry.
The Writing Stars competition invites schoolchildren aged 5-11 to write around the theme of resilience; what does it mean to you to try and try again? Have a look at this brilliant advert from the Premier League Primary Stars campaign, where footballers and children recite the William Hickson poem “Try, Try Again”.
A few famous faces have had a go at writing a poem on the try, try again theme and they’re brilliant. Take a look at the poetry of Alan Shearer,Ben Shephard and Alex Scott (female footballer who has played for England and Arsenal).
All Writing Stars entries will be read by a panel of judges including former Chelsea midfielder and children’s author Frank Lampard; Lauren Child, the author-illustrator of the Charlie and Lola series and Waterstones Children’s Laureate; Yannick Bolasie, the Everton winger and lyricist; and Young People’s Laureate for London, Caleb Femi.
The closing date is 22nd December.
How can you get involved?
Primary Stars is a fantastic scheme for primary schools to get involved in. They have a huge range of free resources for teachers to use, so it is worth checking with your child’s teacher to see if they are using Primary Stars already.
Get writing! I’ll be showing my son the advert and talking to him about resilience and how try, try and trying again is the secret to success in all things. We will also be having a go at writing a little poem at home.
Reading and writing poetry at home is a great way to encourage a love of the written word. Poetry doesn’t have to be hard work. You can write a limerick, haiku, sonnet or song. You can even write a rap. It doesn’t matter what you do, the goal is to enthuse children and encourage them to love learning!
I think most parents are keen to help, push, coax and encourage their children to try their best to do well at school. Part of that is sitting with them while they do their reading, helping them with homework, doing educational activities with them and working with their teacher to encourage them to be the best that they can be.
Yesterday was parents evening. Whilst my boy is as bright as a button, he’s not always first with his hand up in class. He needs lots of encouragement to be the best that he can be. We already do lots of reading and educational activities at home with him, but we are working with his teacher to try and develop his motivation and to push him along a little bit.
This week we’ve been trying to find new ways at home to make him feel that learning is exciting. We logged on to Education Quizzes, clicked on KS1 and got quizzing. He loves playing games, so if he feels like whatever he’s doing is part of a game then he’s all over it.
The idea behind Education Quizzes is to help children to be more successful at school. By quizzing them on areas of the curriculum, the website helps learning seem more enjoyable. What’s more, it’s easy and we found it to be a great way to go over what he’s already learned at school; helping to build his confidence and show him how far he has come.
The quizzes are written by teachers and the quizzes are based on the National Curriculum. They are split into sections – KS1, KS2, 11-Plus, KS3 and GCSE quizzes and cover all the core subject areas. We had a good look at the KS1 options, as that’s where he is right now. KS1 is split up into different curriculum areas. We started working our way through the KS1 Maths quizzes. He loves maths, so this seemed a really good place to start.
He needed a little bit of help reading some of the questions, but he really enjoyed working through the quizzes with me. It really did help to show him how far he has come and just how much he knows. Confidence is everything for him I feel.
He has enjoyed doing the KS1 Education Quizzes so much he keeps asking for me to put them on the iPad for him. I’m very happy to oblige. I think it’s a useful website, especially for revision purposes. Our kids are tested every step of the way throughout their educational careers. Being used to taking quizzes and tests is a useful discipline.
Subscription is monthly, costs £9.95 and it can be cancelled at any time. Education Quizzes go from KS1 right up to GCSE. So wherever you are there will be a quiz every step of the way. Looking back, I wish I’d had access to something like this when I was doing my GCSE’s. It’s an excellent revision tool.
With the release of Disney’s The BFG on digital download, DVD and Blu-ray this month, Disney have released six brilliant BFG activity sheets which are available for you to download for free here.Two of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl and Steven Spielberg – unite this year to bring Dahl’s classic to life. Based on the beloved novel by the iconic British children’s novelist, Disney’s The BFG tells the exciting tale of a young girl named Sophie and the mysterious Big Friendly Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. Steven Spielberg’s The BFG is released this month – making the DVD or Blu-ray the perfect Christmas present for young and old Dahl fans alike!
Disney’s The BFG is available on Digital Download, Blu-Ray™and DVD. Order your own copy today on Amazon.
On Saturday we set off an an out of this world adventure at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (known locally as MSI). We were part of a small audience with astronaut Tim Peake – something the small boy was beside himself with excitement about.
Tim was there for a very special event, a trailblazer for the Manchester Science Festival. He was there to talk about his adventures on board the International Space Station.
Aspiring astronauts hoping to follow in Tim’s footsteps were able to hear him speak about his experiences in orbit and quiz the spaceman on what life is really like on board a space station.
Tim returned from the six month long Principia mission in June this year. During the mission Tim carried out a spacewalk and ran the London Marathon in space. His mission has inspired thousands of British schoolchildren to learn more about space – the small boy and his class grew some “space seeds” at school which had been sent from the International Space Station, and for several months we keenly followed Tim’s adventures in space.
As you can imagine, the room was filled with school children excited to see their astro-hero, the interviewers did a fine job of asking him about his adventures in space, illustrated for the most part by photographs which Tim had taken.
After the fascinating interview (which was live streamed if you want to watch it for yourself) the audience of children were given the chance to ask Tim questions. There were some really good questions, but the one about space toilets really stuck with me. Apparently 90% of the urine is recycled into drinking water, with the remaining 10% being bagged up and disposed of in the trash.
As an adult I was incredibly excited to be in the same room as Tim Peake, but the small boy, who is just 5 years old has now met someone who is a real hero. He will remember this day for the rest of his life, and I hope he will be inspired, if not to go into space, but at least shoot for the stars. As Tim says, there’s no direct route to being an astronaut, but working hard and having fun are a big part of the journey.
The small boy had managed to bag himself a front row seat for this audience with British Astronaut Tim. You can watch a short video of our morning below –
Tim Peake’s appearance in Manchester was part of a seven-date UK tour organised by the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency and was the trailblazer event for the Manchester Science Festival 2016.
Manchester Science Festival 2016 marks the end of the city’s year-long role as European City of Science, and runs throughout half-term from Monday 20 October – Sunday 30 October.
You can read my preview of the Manchester Science Festival here.
For more information and full event listings for the Manchester Science Festival 2016 visit their website.
I like to think of us as a family in touch with our creative side. We often spend an afternoon painting, drawing or crafting together and I’ve always encouraged a love of creative pursuits in the small boy. We were sent the new BIC Drawy Book to test out and it unleashed a new and exciting creative adventure for the boy and me.
All three of us had spent the week snuffling, wheezing and coughing, the small boy getting the worst of it with yet another ear infection. Friday was an inset day so I decided we needed a day of rest and some gentle crafting, so out came our new bag of BIC Drawy goodies and we set to work.
We were sent a BIC Drawy Book pack to play with, it contained a special colouring in book and a set of felt tips. The book is linked to the app, so you scan in the page to unlock a virtual experience. It is priced at £9.99 and you get the drawing and activity book , a packet of good quality BIC felt tips and access to the App. We didn’t get as far as trying that out, but what we did do left the small boy in wide-eyed awe.
First off, I should have read the instructions before we unpacked everything. I needed to download a free app (available from the Apple Store and Google Play) which did take a few minutes. Once the app was downloaded we opened it and followed the easy instructions.
We created a profile for the small boy and turned the volume up. There is only one story available at the moment, ‘Marty and the Alien’ which is suitable for ages 5+ and suited us down to the ground. There were three difficulty settings, but we chose the easy option to begin with.
The story opens with the engaging tale of Marty, a boy who wants to go into space, an alien lands in his garden and before you know it he’s in a rocket and zooming off to Planet X. Along the way the app has various activities which you need to complete, they’re all explained and my 5 year old soon got the idea and wanted to do them without my help.
Throughout the story the app pauses and asks you to draw certain objects, photograph them with your tablet or phone and then it uses the images you’ve drawn in an animation. You can add stickers and embellishments to your drawings too.
They suggest that you draw the outline of your picture in black felt tip on white paper and then colour it in as you wish. The small boy could hardly contain himself as he saw the rocket he’d just drawn fly through space dodging asteroids and space debris, and he virtually rolled around laughing when the alien ate the cheese he’d drawn and did a cheeky burp afterwards. He was genuinely upset when we’d finished the story and we had to do it all over again from the start.
Despite being skeptical at first – I had to draw the first drawing for him and show him how it worked – he loved this BIC Drawy Book set. I loved it too, it was very well thought out, the story was engaging and it’s a great way to encourage creativity in kids. It can often be a little bit more difficult to encourage boys in particular to pick up a pen and get creative, but once he understood how it worked there was no stopping him.
I feel like we’ve only touched the surface of BIC Drawy and the app, there are several more levels of Marty and the Alien to explore, and we’ve not even really looked at the accompanying book yet. There’s a good deal of learning to be had from this too, for those interested in space there’s a part of the app where you can find out more about the planets in our solar system and there’s a quiz to test your space knowledge. On top of that it also develops their fine motor skills, concentration and creativity.
We were very impressed with BIC Drawy, we think it’s got so much potential. The boy is very happy with the existing story, but if they could develop a range of these then he’d be very happy indeed. I can’t wait for him to go to bed so I can have a go by myself – always the hallmark of a great product!
You can find out more about BIC Drawy by visiting their website.
Note: We were sent the BIC Drawy Book for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.
Since the advent of mobile phones and text messages people have been taking things the wrong way, reading tones of voice and attitudes into even the most innocuous communications. The written word is ripe for misunderstanding. These days many text messages and social media updates are filled with emoijis which are causing communication confusion across the board.
This month University of Minnesota has published a study which explored how emojis look on different devices, from Android to iOS and whether the differences in emoji styling can lead to different interpretations. They looked in particular at the “grinning face” emoji which on some platforms looks like a genuine smile, on others an awkward grimace.
Emoji usage has always fascinated me and I can spend ages examining the nuances of each smiley face to make sure I’m selecting the right one (sad but true), but the smiley face I send from my Apple iOS device may appear very differently on my friends Android phone.
Earlier this week there was a murder in a town a couple of miles away from where I live. I was watching the tragic story unfold in a Facebook group and one commenter simply added three of these emojis to the post…I was naturally shocked at the Facebook users comment, which to me appeared that she’s found the fact that someone had just been stabbed to death in their own home amusing. It irks me that so many people use this emoji during sad circumstances and according to the University of Minnesota study, this is one of the most misunderstood emojis. I’ve looked at the chart showing all of the different versions of this emoji and it is clear on each device that this is a happy person crying with laughter. But maybe people can’t see beyond the tears.
Just to double check that it wasn’t just me who saw this as a crying with laughter emoji, I threw the question out to the crowd with a Twitter Poll.
I’m not sure how well my results would stack up against the University of Minnesota study, it was a Twitter Poll and I suspect Twitter users are slightly more emoji savvy than Facebook users, and have perfected the art of brevity in their tweets, with tweets being limited to just 140 characters.
Just 32 people responded with 94% agreeing with me that it means “haha so funny I’m crying” and the other 6% saying “Other” with suggestions including happy to be chopping onions and tears of mirth. It is clear from my less than scientific sample that 100% of respondents didn’t think it was the correct emoji to use as a response to a murder.
If a picture can say a thousand words, an emoji can be a handy shorthand to explain an emotion, a reaction or a feeling. If you’re using emojis it’s worth bearing in mind how they may be seen differently by others and and how getting the emoji wrong could make you look. Sometimes it’s easier just to type “that’s so sad”.
I hope you’ll forgive the indulgence, but today marked a bit of a milestone for my boy. He’s in Reception at school and every week he brings a bedtime book home for us to read together. The more able children have been bringing home reading books since September, each week more and more of his classmates were taking home reading books and we wondered when he would be considered ready enough to start reading with us at home (although we’ve been reading to him and with him since before he was born). Today he brought home his first reading books and we couldn’t be more excited for him.
The first thing he wanted to do when he got home from school was to get his books out and read with us, I’m sure this level of enthusiasm won’t last but I love it. He has always enjoyed books and together we devour two, three, four books a night and I’m so pleased for him that he’s taking his first steps towards learning to read with school.
Reading is such a wonderful gift, being able to lose yourself in a good book does wonders for the soul. By learning to read the boy can visit different universes, different times, different lands. He can travel the world without ever leaving his room.
When he was Christened we asked that if people wanted to give him a present, that they gave him a copy of their own favourite childhood book, so he’s got a shelf of Roald Dahl books, Harry Potter , Alan Garner books, as well as Rupert Bear to tackle. I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but today was half a pixie step towards being an independent reader and I’m glad that he is as excited as I am about that.
As an aside, I know I should probably have been worried about him falling behind his peers, but I knew that he’d get it at some point. My brother didn’t read until he was older than Ben and he’s got a PhD now. They all develop at their own pace, but they usually get there in the end.