5 ways to keep the kids learning over the holidays

 5 ways to keep the kids learning over the holidays parenting school holidays boredom buster activities

5 ways to keep the kids learning over the holidays

So the school holidays are fast approaching and you’re asking yourself how to keep the kids’ brains active and keep them learning over the hols.

Here are 5 tried and tested ways to do just that:

Let them get bored!

Yes, ditch the structure and don’t plan anything.  Let them get bored occasionally and I’ll bet that their imaginations will start doing the work to keep their brains active the scenes!  While we certainly son’t be banning electronics, turning them off and letting our 8yo ‘be’ will be quite a regular occurrence this Summer.


That said, boredom busters definitely have their place…

We all know those days when bedtime can’t come fast enough (ours not necessarily theirs!).  So keep a few easy ideas up your sleeve for the “I’m boooored” moments.  Check the local activities for the summer.  Many school children receive a kind of activites directory and many of the sessions are drop-ins.  Meaning happy kids and peace and quiet for you… for now.


Give them a challenge

From riding a bike to swimming, from reading to tying their shoe laces; being active doesn’t have to mean be physical activity all the time.  Maybe they could learn to do some of these challenges, giving them a sense of achievement, building confidence and keeping their brain switched on.


Get them up!

I’m all for lazy mornings in the hols (trust me!) but there are times that the sleeping until lunchtime habit needs to be broken for older children.  So give the older children jobs to do with the condition that they’re done in the morning, and maybe even pay them or give them a non-monetary incentive.  It’s a really good idea to do this in the last week or so before ‘back to school’ because it gets them used to the idea of getting up and getting going after a long break, and also gets them tired if they’re up ‘early’!


Have a tidy up

This works well for younger children.  A good tidy up reveals long-forgotten toys that refresh the imagination and gives you some breathing space in a less cluttered living space.  And what do you do with all those toys, you all get out of the 4 walls and take them to the charity shop!

5 ways to keep the kids learning over the holidays parenting school holidays boredom buster activities


I asked some other bloggers for their thoughts and here are some of their fantastic suggestions:

Jen from Just Average Jen says: My son has always loved to make his own newspaper or guidebook full of things he has found out or enjoyed. He then sells it to people like Grandma and gets extra money to spend!


I love this idea and will definitely be using it, from Victoria at Lylia Rose: My daughter loves the learning workbooks they sell in our local office supplies store. They are for each key state and they have spelling and maths books. She has a word search one at the moment which she finds fun, but it’s aimed at helping with spellings. They’re only a couple of pounds each and she thinks they’re something fun rather than ‘work’!


Rebecca from You Me Raising 3 suggests: Limit screen time as I find this can reduce their motivation to get outside and explore. My kids love experimenting and making things so anything science based is a hit! Ice eggs with dinosaurs in for them to dig out is one activity we will try. wipe clean books to practice letters and numbers are also great (preschool age), taking them out on walks to explore nature and recording what we find.


Finally, Kelly from School Run Shop says let them be: Let them explore – nature, their surroundings, new places. There’s no better learning than letting them just ‘be’.

What would you add?  I’d love to know!  Comment below or tweet me @AllSortsHere .


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The benefits to children of learning music ~ #IfShesHappyImHappy

The Benefits of Children Learning Music

The benefits to children of learning music

When I was a child, I learnt the guitar and violin.  And I remember that I enjoyed them both.  Nowadays, my guitar sometimes gets an ‘airing’.  I’d like for it be more often but at least it’s not collecting dust.

Since our 8 year old took up the violin, I’ve been tempted to learn again – with her.  It’s so nice to see her with the violin – she suits it very well and has taken to it very well too.  Quite apart from the fact that she enjoys playing, it’s good to know the benefits of learning music too, particularly for our children.


The Benefits of Children Learning Music

From an early age, our daughter has been stimulated; she’s creative and is thriving at school.  But hubby and I were keen to get her on to learning an instrument.  The first time she took the bow to the strings, I stopped in my tracks and it took my breath away.  Yes, I’m her Mum and biased by default but she really does suit it: her composure when she holds it, her control of the bow, how she gets right into ‘the zone’.  And what a lovely zone to get into.

When we find a second hand violin at the right price, I see no reason not to join her on her musical journey.

We’ve got a violin, a guitar and a piano in our home.  Out of al of these, my personal preference is the violin and it seems that’s our daughter’s too.  That’s fine by me because…


Does your child play an instrument?  Please tell us in the comments below or tweet me @AllSortsHere



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Book review ~ One Third Stories

Book Review One Third Stories Help Your Child to Learn A New Language

Book Review ~ One Third Stories

When I heard about One Third Stories – ‘a story that starts in English and ends in another language’, I was intrigued.
Book Review One Third Stories Full Help Your Child to Learn A New Language 2
The people at Boolino asked which language I would like to review and I chose the Spanish because I thought it would be a good starting point.  Those episodes of Dora the Explorer must have given our 7 year old a good grounding for Spanish surely?…


Seriously though, not being a language expert, I also thought Spanish might be one of the more straight-forward languages.
So that’s what I thought, but I was also interested to see how our daughter would approach it and how she would react.
She loves reading and happily reads fluently alone.  And so I had little doubt of her capabilities.  As I said, she’s also seen her fair share of Dora so I thought she would already have a feel for the intonations of Spanish as a language!  A logical conclusion to draw perhaps?!


The unboxing

What made me smile on reading this book was her realisation that some of the book was in a different language!
When we opened the parcel, she read the cover and I explained what it was.
Curious, she began to read and by page 4  she came across a Spanish word which was very cleverly woven into the text.  Having been through phonics, sounding out and blending with her, it was fascinating to hear her do the same with the Spanish word.
Book Review One Third Stories Full Help Your Child to Learn A New Language Reading
I did have to jump in and tell her how to pronounce ‘si’.  But due to the accompanying pictures, the word meaning was pretty self-explanatory within the context of the story.


Does the concept work?

Having the Spanish slotted into the text didn’t slow the story down at all, which I thought may have been the case.
A very clever concept that works brilliantly with competent, engaged readers (or at least a 7 year old and her mum!).  I can see how this book (and no doubt others in the series) would aide in actually introducing a different language and therefore learning new, basic words.


My thoughts

Based on our experience and our daughter’s reaction, I would highly recommend this book.
Not only for the general concept of ending in a different language but also for the sheets of ‘flash cards’ that come with it.  On one side you have the Spanish and the other is the English.  A great idea to enhance visual learning.  What also impressed me about this book visually was at the start, the numbers were introduced alongside clear drawings of the number of the relevant item, so the child can count them and work out what the Spanish word is for themselves.  The package also came with a free audio book download which is a great idea for the pronunciations and also a cute Spanish fact file that you can see here.
Book Review One Third Stories Full Help Your Child to Learn A New Language With Fact File

One Third Stories came with a cute Spanish Fact File


With an RRP of £14.99, there is value for money because you do get a fair amount for your money – a good quality, sturdy story book with flash cards.  My initial thoughts were that it’s a little bit pricey, but when I considered the concept a little more; that this series could engage with your child and ease your child into a new language, I do think it’s worth it.


What language would you consider buying for your child?  Tell me in the comments below or tweet me @AllSortsHere 🙂

*I was sent this book for the purposes of this review but all words and opinions are my own (and my daughter’s!)


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Getting prepared for ‘Back to School ‘

A few weeks ago I realised that I ought to go through my checklist of things we need to go back to school.

I’d say it’s a pretty ‘uniform’ list (pun intended – sorry!), so feel free to follow this list yourself (although it’s not unisex so please consider that!..)

If I’ve forgotten anything glaringly obvious, please give me a nudge by commenting …thanks!

back to school uniform list prepared parenting


Pinafore dresses/skirts/trousers/polo shirts




P.E. kit

School coloured hair accessories

School bag for holding lunch box

Name tags!

Lunch box

Drink bottle


So please tell, have I missed something?

Now to label everything up!… I may be some time.  Although I have done some already and not a needle and thread in sight😉

We’re raring to go again and our little girl is in Back to School mode, chomping at the bit to get back into it 🙂


Are you prepared?  Have you got anything to add to my list?  I’d love to know!  Please comment below or tweet me @AllSortsHere



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How to make starting school easier

It’s an exciting time when your little one starts school isn’t it?  But it’s also one of trepidation.  So, to help other parents, I’ve put together this short guide to help make starting school a little less daunting for you and your child:

  • Encourage your child to talk about school and draw their school (like our little girl’s pre-school did – see the below work of art which she did back in the heady days before she started Reception!)  Initially I thought they were sets of traffic lights because our daughter’s school was near to traffic lights (before we settled her into a new school due to a house move) but when I asked her, I was told they were ‘tables in the classroom’…!)
  • how to make starting school easier parenting back to schoolUse positive language within your child’s earshot when talking to anyone about school.  If they hear ‘negative’ words such as ‘scared’ or ‘worried’, they will soon pick on this and any excitement may easily be turned into anxiety.
  • Make use of free pre-school or nursery sessions.  At the time of writing, the government fund free hours.  Walk into any reception class and you’re likely to see that it’s like a pre-school setting.  The only noticeable difference at our daughter’s school was the uniform.
  • Talking of which, get the uniform sorted out as soon as you can.  Then wash it to make it smell like your own washing.  A very good reason for doing this is because some pre-schools have ‘uniform days’ for the leavers before they break up for summer holidays.  Even if they don’t have a ‘uniform day’, still get the uniform to give your child a chance to try it and get used to changing themselves.  (They’ll need to be able to change for P.E.)  Get them to ‘show it off’ to friends and family.  You should consider buying the next size up to allow for growth between now and the school term.  If you do all of this early on, you’re likely to have more stock to choose from (there will likely be offers on and the stock will deplete!) and that first day of school will be so much easier for everyone!…
  • Make use of  ‘new starter’ welcome days/sessions and ‘New Parent’s Evening’ sessions.  If your child’s school invites you in for a welcome session, go!  Book time off work, arrange childcare for younger siblings if necessary.  Make this a time for your child.  It really will help with those first days for you and your child.  You will have peace of mind and be able to visualise the classroom, school hall, toilets etc.  Your child will have less (if any) reservations about stepping foot into their school on the first day – and beyond.
  • If you feel your child has needs that the school should be aware of, make an appointment with the Head Teacher and/or include a note with the registration paperwork.  For example, your child may have had issues with toilet training/be not long toilet trained.  Tell the school in a way that is official but discreet.   Just not in front of your child or other parents.
  • Finally… Relax!  Enjoy this next milestone.  If you’re relaxed and excited about it, your child is much more likely to be as well!


Go forth and conquer !


How did you/are you making starting school easier for you and your child?  I’d love to know!  Please comment below or tweet me @AllSortsHere



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How to get your child into ‘Back to School’ mode

This year the school summer holidays have just flown by!

And somehow, we’ve got away with very few “I’m boooored” moments… until today.How to get your child into back to school mode motivation learning education parenting

We’ve had too much screen-time today, I fully admit that (the weather’s not great either – no need for suncream though!)

And when I switched the TV off and suggested:

playing a game – Uno, My Little Pony Top Trumps

doing a jigsaw

doing a silly dance to her favourite music

reading a book




…nothing would do.

So I had a lightbulb moment and just let her be.  And I got on with some blogmin/writing organisation ready for September and beyond.

Sure enough, after 5 minutes or so, our little girl fetched her notepad, and her favourite retractable pencil from her desk and declared that she’s used to learning and would like to learn again!

She practiced her hand-writing (which hasn’t really slipped to be honest – and is even part joined-up now!  What happened to my baby?!)

And she did some adding up, times table and division.

The answer to boredom in my case was to let her be, get on with some writing and bits and pieces myself, and it inspired our little girl !

In my view, boredom is a good thing.  Our daughter was ‘exceeding’ in her year 1 report and is definitely ready to go back to school now.  Everything’s been ticked off the list.  I’m just not sure how the final week’s countdown will go!


Have you found a subtle way to get your child’s (and yours!) brain back into gear?  I’d love to know!  Please comment below or tweet me @AllSortsHere



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How do you introduce children to the news in a positive way?

Our Little Girl was asking her Daddy what he was watching on the ipad.  He was watching the news and said, “It’s for grown-ups, let’s watch something else.”

And she did.

She watched a sugar-coated episode of Sofia the First.

PositiveThinking how to introduce our children to the news current affairs knowledge learning parenting information kids

But it got me to thinking abut child-friendly news.  I enjoyed watching programmes like Newsround when I was younger.  For the benefit of the International readers and the younger (!) readers, this was a great programme presented by John Craven in a very simplistic way that made it very easy to understand and digest.  Our Dad used to like watching it with us too.  I think it took the jargon out for adults too!

This was on at 5 pm or thereabouts – always just before we had our tea.  I loved it.  Granted, I was a fair bit older than Our little girl, who is currently 6.

Yes, the news is usually full of depressing stuff BUT it’s important to keep astride of world events, I think.  Even from a fairly young age.

But what are the best ways of introducing a young child to the news, without tainting their innocence?

I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below or tweet me @AllSortsHere

Thanks 🙂

I’d love to hear from you. Tweet me @AllSortsHere using the hashtag #PositiveThinking.

Let’s create a virtual wave of positivity!

#PositiveThinking is my monthly blog linky and twitter party.

Link up any blog post with a positive and happy theme (and it’d be great if you could copy my badge below into your post).  Perhaps your positive thought could be connected to a goal you have in mind, something funny you’ve heard or something funny you’ve seen.  If it’s got a PositiveThinking theme, it works for this linky.  Old or new posts, it doesn’t matter – link up as many as you like.  

The linky door is always open.


Also join me on twitter.  Tweet anything positive and/or promote your positive blogpost (the one you link up!) with #PositiveThinking and include a direct tweet to me @AllSortsHere… I’ll share by retweeting.

Let’s get the positive vibrations going good and strong

And join me tomorrow for #TheZenZing, putting the zing back into your life


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How do you approach homework?

Before our little girl started school, we were of the opinion that a little homework never hurt anyone.  It seemed like a good idea to get her ready for what would be a daily occurrence in secondary school (albeit a few years away…)

How do you approach homework education learning learn teaching inspire grow organise parenting schedule write read

Much like any other UK primary school, homework didn’t start in earnest until after the Christmas of her Reception year (that’s the first year for non-UK readers).  At the start we had a bit of phonics.  And it was fun and quite exciting to see what was in her homework book at the end of the week.  We’ve enjoyed Alternative Goldilocks, a lesson in Fairtrade, we’ve made paper and we’ve made a papery goat for Chinese New Year.  Yes, we’ve had oodles of fun!

We never really had a problem with completing homework in Reception.  We chose our moments of course and fitted it in around work and ‘tired times’.

We used to do it straight after school on a Friday.  Then it was done and dusted for the weekend… 2 whole days without having to learn.  Our little girl enjoys learning but equally, it’s vital to have a break from it.  You don’t have to be a psychologist to work that out!  Sponges can become saturated, no matter how much stimulation they need.

Along came Year 1 and a new school.  It was clear from a few weeks in that homework was being stepped a gear… and so it should be.  It was still enjoyable.

We’ve tried to do homework in the week but with work commitments and after school club, the days get busy and quickly get filled up.  And so it tends to fall to the weekends now.

We’ve got a bright little girl (yes, I’m biased!) and her teacher has confirmed this at parents’ evenings and at workshops.

Towards the end of terms, homework does get to be more of a chore.  Couple that with her need to learn and be stimulated due to her growing brain, homework is an ironic balancing act between necessity and burnout…

What are your thoughts?  How do you approach homework?  How much does it differ between siblings and/or your own experiences (however many years ago?!)

 I’d love to hear in the comments below or tweet me @AllSortsHere

Thanks 🙂


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The ingredients for a healthy learning environment

On the way home from school one day, our little girl asked if we had the following :

  • an empty bottle
  • water
  • vegetable oil
  • milk
  • ‘fizzy things for your tummy’

ingredients for healthy perfect learning environment learning teaching school #THISislearning inspire learn learning teach

We had everything except the ‘fizzy things’ but she said we could use sweets instead … that was when I knew she meant business because she was prepared to use her sweets!

So, when we got home, she bypassed her usual after school snack and instead we headed out into the garden.  Lovely 🙂

And this is what we did:

  • Filled the bottle 1/4 full with water
  • Poured 1/4 of the amount of water to vegetable oil (maths was never my strong point for ratios!)
  • Poured the same amount of milk to oil into the bottle

Then we let the mixture settle, marvelling at how the mixture separated from the milk/water and how the oil stayed on top.

I tried to use scientific terminology appropriate for a 6 year old to explain why this happened…!

Then came the really exciting part!

Our little girl dropped her sweets in the mixture one by one.  It seemed that after an initial air bubble, the reaction made another big-ish bubble rise to the surface… which you can sort of hardly see here:

ingredients for healthy perfect learning environment learning teaching school #THISislearning inspire learn learning teach 2

Ideally, we would have had those ‘fizzy tummy things’ but even the mad scientist had to start somewhere!

Lately, our little girl has been showing more and more interest in science and the human body.

She has an Usborne ‘Little Encyclopaedia of the Human Body’ which she loves and hubby and I have learnt a few things from this fab little book too!

A lot of this is undoubtedly down to her teacher, whom our little girl adores (which is a massive relief, given our house move and her subsequent change of school).  She’s always drawing her little pictures to later turn into cards that often say, “To my favourite teacher”, or words to that effect.

I suppose the point that I’m making here is this:

A great deal of the inspiration, the thirst for learning and the opportunity for growing through exploring that our little girl has, comes from her teacher.

And her teacher (and therefore her fantastic school) have such a vital role to play in this tender, vulnerable part of her learning journey; a journey which needs nurturing, encouragement and guidance, whilst also allowing for room to step back as a grown-up and letting her find her own results from her own experiments, her own answers to her ever-growing questions.

In light of the recent #THISislearning campaign which was steered mainly by Maddy Bennet and Sophie Lovett, these learning through play sessions have really highlighted the importance of the following ingredients for a healthy learning environment:

  • a thirst for learning in way appropriate to the age and learning method of a child
  • a passionate teacher able to inspire and nurture a child, while being given the freedom to recognise when to step back and give a child the opportunity to grow through their learning
  • stepping back and recognising that there are different methods of learning ~ children learn at different rates and in different ways


Unfortunately, seemingly more and more of our wonderful teachers are led by stats and not the individual child’s needs.  Perhaps one way of achieving this learning environment is to home school.  For us, this was never something we considered at any length. Like the majority of parents, we are at the ‘mercy’ of State education  but it doesn’t mean that we can’t attempt to influence the way our education system is structured.  Or at least compliment our childrens’ school learning through following their lead at home.

What are your thoughts and observations on complimenting school learning at home?  What do you think makes for a healthy learning environment?

 I’d love to hear in the comments below or tweet me @AllSortsHere

Thanks 🙂

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The Minimum Stress Practical Guide to settling your child into a new school

Welcome to my ‘Minimum Stress Practical Guide to…’ series of blog posts. After a complete rollercoaster of a few months when we had the stuffing knocked out of us, I decided to turn my journey into something positive.  Last week I addressed the subject of how to move house with minimum stress.  This week I’m looking at how to settle your child into a new school.

minimum stress practical guide to settling your child into a new school stress trauma settling in survive friendship moving handover friends teachers learning



When you’re going through a family bereavement, the last thing you want to be doing is thinking about moving your child (who is experiencing grief for the first time ever) from all their friends. But that is what we had to do.  And this is what I would advise you to do:

As soon as you know your child will be going to a new school, make contact with the school (or schools).  Speak direct with the Head if at all possible, introduce yourself and arrange a short tour WITH your child.

Explain to your child’s current school that you need to take them out of school.  We took our daughter to school for morning registration, took her out immediately afterwards and returned her for lunchtime registration, meaning that she was there for afternoon registration and wasn’t marked ‘absent’.  We weren’t aware we could do this but the friendly receptionist advised us this could be done.

We were extremely fortunate in many ways.  For one, the only school in our new home-town had 2 places in our little girl’s year group.  This was a massive relief because I know of people who have been on waiting lists for months.

So, a quick call to the Head teacher and we had arranged an appointment to look around the school.  Even though we knew we wanted our daughter to go there – it was a mere formality for us but for our little girl, it was a vital step in the moving school process.

We wanted her to walk the corridors, see the playground, see where she would be eating her lunch, see her new friends ‘in situ’, to feel a part of her new learning environment and to breathe the air.

That same evening as the tour, we applied for a place at the school, submitted the application and waited with baited breath.  It seems all local authorities have different processes and our old City Council were quite vague on the whole process.  The new Head advised us to apply online through our new District Council, the new school would get an email, which they would then confirm a place was available with the Council and agree a mutual start date with us.  Therefore, ensure you know the Local Authority’s process, particularly if you’re moving out of county.

Thankfully, our new Council replied quickly to our submission stating that they needed proof of our new residency.  Hmmm, tricky because we weren’t due to move for another week…  Luckily, amid the chaos of an imminent house move, we had confirmation from a utility company of our contract.  The only issue was that me and our printer/scanner do not get on!  It was down to hubby to scan the paperwork in… which he did that same night. ‘Submit’ was pressed again and we waited with baited breath.

Thank goodness we did it there and then because that was the night that hubby fell foul to acute appendicitis.  Had we not submitted when we did, it might have been a different story and a much longer wait for our little girl to start at her new school.  As it was, we got an email at start of business the very next day with the magical confirmation that our daughter had a place.  Next was a phone call to the new Head and confirmation to start straight after half term.  That was another relief – both local authorities aligned with term dates, so our little girl would get a desperately needed week’s break at half term.  Essential for her given that she was grieving, given that she needed a break from learning and also from a psychological viewpoint; being able to say that she would no longer be needing her old uniform, having a week off and then starting in a new uniform would help her immensely, we decided. And in the main we were right.

Before she would start proper though, we arranged a half day’s settling in.  Although we were advised that she could wear her own clothes, we (with the help of Grandma!) sorted out her new uniform so that she would feel ‘normal’ and not stand out.

On her first full day, we were lucky that hubby was on a late shift and so we could all walk to her school together.  After we re-introduced ourselves to her new teacher, we swiftly left her to make new friends.  Important to let them get on with it, with minimum fuss.

Yes, she had a ‘wobble’ for a few weeks while she missed her familiar environment, she missed her old friends and got used to her new teacher getting up to speed with where she was at with her learning versus where her new class was at.  But on the whole she coped exceedingly well.  A few months down the line and she is mentioning the same names daily and it is clear that new friendships are being formed.  And it’s just lovely to see her skipping her way into school (I’ve even joined her in skipping once – with her permission so as not to embarrass her!) and it’s wonderful to see her confidence continuing to grow, along with her learning 🙂

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been on a right rollercoaster ride… I need a breather…

How have you handled situations involving new starts with your little one?

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