The Duchess of Cambridge has unveiled the findings of the biggest ever UK study on the early years, in a milestone moment for her work on the importance of early childhood in shaping the rest of our lives and broader societal outcomes. The Royal Foundation commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct the research, aiming to discover what the UK thinks about the early years. It also explores how COVID-19 has impacted the perceptions and experiences of parents and carers of the under-fives. Ofsted has also conducted research in to the impact of COVID-19 on children’s learning and welfare that can be found in briefings here and here.Read More »
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Inspiring Scotland has produced these three wonderful short films about outdoor Early Learning and Childcare (ELC):
Outdoor ELC for practitioners: what’s it like to work in a fully outdoor nursery? https://youtu.be/FmLrG5DuZwE
Outdoor ELC for parents: why do parents choose an outdoor nursery experience for their child? https://youtu.be/b01cgoM-RKA
Outdoor ELC for children: what do children think of their outdoor nursery? https://youtu.be/KkpEajokuII
Recently I had a discussion with a practitioner who was observing displays of new, highly emotional behaviour in a 3 year old he works with. After a quick review of general development (in particular, her recent development of expressive language – she had recently begun talking) and interactions (between the child and practitioner, the child and others and self-talk during solo play), I identified a key element to these new outbursts of explosive anger and sadness.
***Here is a collection of the resources originally collated on a Facebook post offering support to parents supporting their children’s learning at home due to the COVID-19 schools closure in the UK. It will be added to and updated every 2 days (with requests or new finds), so please subscribe to get updates.***
I have organised the links as they were, by subject, rather than by age or Key Stage (though it is noted where relevant, e.g. GCSE AQA material) as you know your child best and the purpose of these Learning Sparks isn’t to replace school, but rather to encourage learning!
As always, if you manage to do just one thing a day during the schools closure, let it be reading! Read far and wide, travel by page and explore new lands! Language and literacy are the trunk of the tree of learning and knowledge – without it, no new branches can grow.
- BBC Bitesize (EYFS, primary KS1 up to secondary KS4)
- BBC Live Lessons (BBC Teach)
- Norfolk Library Service resources
- BBC televised lessons
- Home learning resources (Norfolk County Council, for younger children) includes suggestions such as:
- painting, water play and slime making is a great way to get creative with messy play
- get children involved in planting seeds, bug hunts
- get children to write a diary each day – history in the making!
- get children involved in the kitchen, helping to make dinner or doing some baking is a super way to develop maths skills such as weighing and measuring
- 60 Second Recap
- What to Expect When is a super booklet about 0-5 year old’s learning. Each age range has a “ How can you help me with my learning?” section with ideas for activities!
- Channel4 Education has a page full of links to useful sites, games and careers advice (for those older children preparing for the world of work)
- The School Run is offering a free 14 day trial of its printable and interactive resources for primary school-age
- SEN Teacher is offering access to its resources (all subjects)
- Twinkl are offering a month’s free access to their premium site, including worksheets, activities and crafts for pre-school and primary aged children, as well as older children (KS3-4)
- Encyclopedia Britannica is offering a free 7 day trial of its ‘Encyclopedia Britannica Kids’ site
- General resources and games from TeachingIdeas
- Free home learning packs from TTS for early years and primary (EYFS – KS2)
- Lessons and videos from the powerhouse that is TEDEd: everything from ethical conundrums, to the physics of ballet’s hardest move (fouetté), life cycles of recycled materials and more irreverent topics such as ‘Why are cats so weird?’
- Games and videos on all subjects for pre-schoolers (EYFS) from Sesame Street
- General knowledge from TED Talks (please note, individual speakers are not selected but apply to speak – so exercise caution, further research and critical thinking when listening to their ideas!)
- SchoolHouse is offering resources on a range of topics including:
- Art, Craft & Design
- Environment, Ecology, Nature
- “The Great Indoors”: general activities from the Scouts
- Bewilderwood suggestions for activities to do at home (one per week)
- A big list of free subscriptions for home learning during social distancing (please note: I have not checked and verified all of these as it is not my list!)
Literacy (and communication skills)
I have included links to a range of different reading schemes, please let me know if your child’s school uses a different scheme so I can add resources to support you further.
- Bookstart: interactive stories, games and reading ideas for 0-5s from the Book Trust
- Cbeebies’ Storytime app (also available on Android)
- U.K. Gov’s Hungry Little Minds site lists activities and approved apps for young children – covering speaking, listening, phonics and reading skills
- Cbeebies Bedtime Stories: books read by different celebrities (some with fabulous voices!)
- Explore More brings you engaging education resources, suitable for children of all ages. With a new story each week, take your children on a captivating adventure for learning. The first story is Troll Hunters!
- Teach Your Monster to Read app is a phonics and reading game that’s helped children learn to read. The app covers the first two years of learning to read, from matching letters and sounds to enjoying small books.
- Free audio books from Audible!
- Mr. Thorne Does Phonics videos
- Jolly Phonics: letter sound songs in alphabetic order
- Read, Write, Inc.
- Letters and Sounds framework: an oldie but a goodie – there are activities for ages 2+ as strong awareness of sounds and talking is the foundation of excellent reading and writing!
- Examples of some games in practice (Aspect 4: Rhythm and Rhyme)
- Silly Soup (Kate version) activity: my favourite of the Phase 1 activities is Silly Soup. I use it for onset rhymes, alliteration (same starting letter – especially good if focusing on learning to listen to and discriminate between different letter sounds) and rhyming.
Collect up a variety of items that meet your aim (e.g. rhymes), a big spoon and a bowl. Get everyone who is playing to sit in a circle so they can see the selection of rhyming objects (e.g. rat, hat, toy cat, Lego sports bat) placed on the floor. Use the bowl and spoon as props to act out the song. Invite the children, in turn, to choose an object to put into the soup and place it in the bowl. Name the item and use its name frequently – e.g. “yes, it’s an orange cat. It’s a small cat.”
After each turn, let the choosing child stir the soup (or if a small group pass it round so everyone stirs on each turn, start with the choosing child) and sing the following song to recite the growing list of things that end up in the soup.
Sing the first part of the song to the tune of ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’:
“I am making silly soup
I’m making soup that’s silly
I’m going to pop it in the fridge
To make it nice and chilly…
In goes… a fox… a box… some socks…”
- Letterland resources (some videos) – let me know if your child’s school uses a different scheme.
- Penguin provides tips and tricks on helping children learn to read
- PhonicsPlay is offering free access during March 2020 (may be extended)
- Response to a parent’s request to teach their child to read (in comments of post):
- A few other tips if the aim is to prepare to read:
– when you’re reading, keep a steady pace and use your finger to point to the words as you read (the first step in reading is learning that all those funny squiggles have meaning – not just the special ones that make up names!)
– make up pretend stories together; whether that’s getting her to make up a narrative with some small world toys or dolls, or getting together a pile of toys and taking turns to pull out a different toy and add to your story (like the old paper folding “write a line and pass it on” thing we did as kids!)
– talk, talk, talk: the bigger a vocabulary a child has, the easier it is to learn to read. Try giving her some really interesting alternatives for words she knows as she plays – a bit of a fancy commentary if you will! So give her some lovely describing words “what an ENORMOUS jump!”, “what a MAGNIFICENT drawing” etc. Children love a big word!
– Let her choose a book and tell you the story. You can encourage this when you are reading by drawing her attention to the illustrations, sequences (“what do you think might happen next?”) and motivations (“how do you think the tiger feels?”) of the characters. Also, the understanding that illustrations can provide clues is very useful for early reading!
– You could also try this ^ with drawings – get a really big sheet of paper and tell the story together as you draw. My cousin’s son loves this when we do it on his chalkboard – he’s told me stories about monsters getting locked up for eating pies off windows and brave girls who fight tigers.
– talk about books you like, make talking about likes and dislikes part of the chat after finishing a story
– role model reading/writing; for example, can she help you make a shopping list? Or write a letter to grandparents? Use big, spaced letters and sound out the letters as you write.
– ^Similar to above, you could make a story book together. Children are often fascinated by adults scribing for them – and might ask “what’s that word?”
– hunting for special letters, can she find the letter “P” around the house, in books, on DVD boxes, etc.
- – songs and rhymes are also really important (you can’t read a word if you can’t say a word!), they’re ideal for having fun with words and sometimes older children delight in changing the words (e.g. the classic “Twinkle Twinkle chocolate bar, my dad drives a rusty car!”) to songs they know really well.
– I Spy is a cracker of a game, when children are starting to recognise and differentiate between the different starting (onset) sounds of words. Try to always choose a word with a clear first letter – no silent “k”s or “ph” sounds!
- A few other tips if the aim is to prepare to read:
- Emotional well-being conversations: visual boards to help talk about Coronavirus
- Postcards of Kindness is a lovely group which promotes the sending of postcards, letters, drawings, etc. to care home residents across the UK.
Talk about meaningful writing! This is also an opportunity to talk to children about life and ageing, as they may have questions (if their own grandparents do not access residential care or they do not see their grandparents for whatever reason). (Also covers citizenship).
- Sir Linkalot is offering free access codes to all during the COVID-19 schools closure. Also available on Android.
- Stay-at-home play ideas and free resources from World Book Day
- David Walliams is doing “Audio Elevenses” – a free short audio book – every day!
- StoryLine Online – celebrities reading children’s books, everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Rami Malek!
- The Kaligo app is a digital handwriting exercise book (age 3-5+): designed to teach children how to write using a stylus and tablet, built on an AI machine learning platform. A self-paced approach enables children to progress at their own speed according to their own ability, whilst AI Machine learning provides real-time corrective feedback.
- The Science Museum (UK) has a range of games and apps to access for free! Lots of brain-teasing puzzles and scientific concepts explained in an easy, engaging way.
- Science, politics, engineering – Kurzgesagt covers all sorts of fascinating topics, with brilliantly animated videos which are all thoroughly researched and fact-checked!
- The Children’s University of Manchester has a brilliant variety of topics, with quizzes and videos.
- Live webcams of zoos and aquariums around the world
- WowScience: videos, games and interactive elements (e.g. explore surface of Mars)
- Khan Academy is providing daily schedules for students ages 4-18 to keep them learning through pandemic.
- Easy Science for Kids(needs close supervision as site has external ads)
- Digger and the Gang presents challenges and games for KS1 and KS2 (also English and Maths)
- Learning Spark #2: Big Hero 6 (EYFS-KS3)
- Online space lessons for both primary and secondary school age, organised via the Royal Astronomical Society.
- Glasgow Science Centre is bringing a bit of science to your home every day at 10am!
- Venus is particularly visible from Earth at this time of year. See if you can spot it in the night sky and find out more about Venus with the Natural History Museum.
Geography and Natural History
- National Geographic Kids – games and fun facts about the world (also covers Science)
- BBC Earth
- Learning Spark #1: ocean and sea themed learning for 3-11 year olds.
- Watch the northern lights live: a spectacle for all ages (also covers Science)
- What causes the aurora? (also covers Science)
- Curious Kids: what causes the northern lights? (also covers Science)
- The Royal Geographical Society has a huge amount of wonderful resources, video lectures, activities and entire lessons (KS1, KS2, KS3, KS4).
- With Google Earth you can explore the world digitally from the comfort of home (#selfisolationtravel); also available as a stand-alone app!
- TinyBop ‘The Earth” app: I love this app by TinyBop. It is highly interactive and encourages children to explore coastal erosion, earth’s composition (from crust to core), green energy, make volcanoes EXPLODE, and look at how the earth has changed over time.
- It also offers a FREE handbook (printable) and information here.
- Google has a feature where you can invite VR animals in to your home!
- The RNLI has a range of free activities to help inspire and encourage children to discover a world of lifeboats, volunteers, action and courage.
- Ospreys, puffins, peregrines, owls and more! Watch wildlife on webcams provided by Wildlife Trusts across the British Isles. Webcams allow an unrivaled view of intriguing behaviours: from courtship, nesting, and hatching to a peep into the first few weeks of a chick’s life. Be warned – it’s addictive viewing!
- Visit the Natural History Museum in London, from your sofa. This VR tour (recommend using a tablet or laptop rather than telephone to see the detail) lets you stand next to Dippy (the Diplodocus) and examine key exhibits without needing to leave the house!
- First News Education (who promote learning through global news) is offering free, current issues of First News newspaper (PDF), activity sheets, and an extended 6-week trial of their iHub.
- White Rose Maths is offering free video maths lessons from EYFS children right up to Year 8! Just follow these four easy steps…
- Click on the set of lessons for your child’s year group
- Watch the video (either on your own or with your child)
- Find a calm space where your child can work for about 20-30 minutes.
- Use the video guidance to support your child as they work through a lesson
- Sumdog provides maths games for 5-14 year olds
- Power Maths: schemes of work, links to buy workbooks (Amazon!) and resources.
- Try the matchbox challenge: find a matchbox or a very small container. Challenge yourselves to fit as many things they can find, from the garden if you can or around the house if you don’t have a garden or outdoor space! This is a super activity to about size, shape (rotating to make more fit!), number, textures, colours, numbers, etc.!
- Girls Who Code Clubs are FREE programs intended to get girls ages 11-18 excited about coding and computer science.
- Learning Spark #2: Big Hero 6 (EYFS-KS3)
- Minecraft is making its educational worlds free to access until the end of June (12 lessons). They include tours of the International Space Station and the inside of a human eye. The worlds offer creative writing and puzzles as well as build challenges. For example:
- puzzle games to teach students how to code and think like programmers
- a tour of Washington DC’s most historic sites, including the White House, the Pentagon and the Lincoln Memorial
- a game about generating power from alternative energy sources, such as wind and nuclear.
Home economics (essential life skills!)
- Children love to help around the house – here are some ideas of different things to do at different ages. From a young age, children will relish the responsibility and sense of ‘helping’ – even if it is just helping to wipe their high chair tray!
- Live and recorded baking tutorials from Bread Ahead bakery in London – including some delicious doughnuts!
- Real-life cooking videos set to music from Mob Kitchen, showing a range of recipes including hearty meals for a group to store cupboard hacks.
- Gordon Ramsey delivers a lesson on how to cook the perfect scrambled eggs.
- BBC Good Food has thousands of recipes and their YouTube channel makes them highly accessible for children, especially useful when demonstrating techniques such as folding in flour.
- An essential life skill depending on the availability of bread in your local shop currently – baking bread! The simplest recipe has just 4 ingredients: flour, yeast, water, salt. Lots of lovely physical skills required to knead and fold the bread – perfect for developing muscles for writing AND keeping children busy!
- Jamie Oliver has launched a Keep Cooking and Carry On series which focuses on recipes and dishes for these unique times! His easy-to-follow, super-flexible recipes include lots of useful swaps. “Let’s celebrate freezer faves, big up the store cupboard and get creative with whatever we have to hand.”
- Pop to Italy and learn to make pasta with Nonna Nerina live!
Art and history
- Virtual museum and gallery tours
- The British Museum has a variety of virtual tours of its galleries. For example, you can explore its Egyptian artefacts from your sofa!
- The British Museum also shares resources (including photographs and links to virtual artefacts) and whole lesson plans for a range of ages.
- For the dinosaur-obsessed, Netflix is offering the classic docuseries‘Walking with Dinosaurs’
- Netflix is also offering classic documentaries Planet Earth II and Blue Planet I and Blue Planet II – both cover a wide range of topics, such as geography, ecosystems, science, natural history and biology. Perfect conversation starters to talk about the environment and conservation – as well as showing us the wonders of the world and why they are worth protecting.
- DigVentures is delivering digital archaeological fun online! Communicate with real archaeologists and see real artefacts and dig sites.
- What people throughout history thought the aurora was
- Aurora folklore from the European Aurora Service. This a great starting point for children to think about any stories they know about the night sky, or to make up their own. For MARVEL fans, this has excellent links to Norse mythology – including the mighty Thor, wise Odin and tricksy Loki!
- Google’s Cultural Institute portal gives access to world’s museums and galleries, through virtual tours, videos (including ones narrated by celebrities) and photographs. Lots of interesting ideas and perspectives from cultures around the world. For example, you can find out which Kenyan superhero you are, take a look around (and stand on the stage of) the most prestigious opera houses in the world, learn about the Big Bang with Tilda Swinton, explore Japanese temples or even visit the British Museum from your sofa.
Physical activity and education
- NHS 10 Minute Shake Up (Change4Life) – Disney themed
- PE with Joe Wicks (The Body Coach)
- Cosmic Kids Yoga:
- NHS Eat Well promotes staying healthy – through good diet and appropriate exercise
- Cbeebies’ Waybuloo demonstrates yoga for the youngest children (more episodes on YouTube)
- Get outside in the garden! Have you got chalks to make marks? A tree to climb? A magnifying glass or binoculars for examining insects and spotting wildlife? Can you learn the names of leaves or practice cartwheels?
- Lots (150) of sensory learning activities to challenge children’s senses, muscles, balance, spatial awareness, proprioception (where your body finishes and the rest of the world begins) and more!
Drama, music and dance (also PE)
- Get The Globe’s plays here! For authenticity, you can watch while standing up and throw snacks at your screen if you don’t like the performance.
- English National Ballet is doing live streams of company ballet classes.
- Fender are offering three months’ worth of free guitar lessons via their ‘Fender Play’ service.
- National Theatre Live is broadcasting shows online on Thursdays (available on demand for 7 days after). Shows will include: One Man, Two Guvnors, Jane Eyre, Twelfth Night and Treasure Island.
Languages (including English)
- Duolingo has over 32 languages to explore through games and quick revision tasks
- Memrise also has a range of languages (and other topics) to learn
- The British Council is offering a range of English learning and some general topics
Support for parents and carers
Supporting children’s learning at home is tricky at a time like this. These websites aim to help:
- The NHS’s Every Mind Matters website covers “Mental wellbeing while staying at home”
- Child Mind Institute: “We know parents are struggling to balance work, child care and self-care while keeping worries — both your children’s and your own — under control. You don’t have to do it alone.”
- British Council‘s “COVID-19 support for parents” page has practical tips
- Twinkl parent pages
- For parents wanting some reassurance – or to take home education very seriously the Open University is offering a course ‘Parents and toddlers: Teaching and learning at home’
- Screen time: you can find more information on how to support your child’s learning through apps and get advice on screen time. Currently, the World Health Organisation recommends that children under 2 ‘should not spend any time passively watching screens’.
- A note on educational apps (from gov website):
Choosing an app for your child – the FEED test. There are lots of apps that say they are ‘educational’, but you’ll want to reassure yourself that’s the case and that they are right for your child. The FEED check may help.
Fun – Will your child enjoy the app? Will it keep their attention?
Educational – Is there a clear educational aim? Do you know what your child will learn? Will it keep them learning and allow them to progress?
Engaging – Will it help your child if they get stuck? Will it give them feedback and let them know when they’ve got challenges right?
Design – Is it attractive and easy to use? Is it inclusive and does it avoid gender and racial stereotypes? Can an adult change the settings? Is it safe, with links to the internet and adverts protected behind a parental gate?
A-Level/University Level (or very keen secondary students!)
- Academic Earth: free courses from top universities around the world
- Open University:discover topics such as ’60 second adventures in thought’, ‘project management’ and ‘bon départ: beginner’s French’
- Kialo Edu, the tool used by educators world-wide to teach critical thinking and facilitate thoughtful classroom debate. Kialo Edu is a free version of Kialo, the world’s most popular argument mapping site.
Today’s spark (24/03/2020, by popular demand for “robots”!) is Disney’s film Big Hero 6. It is a 3D computer animated film, loosely based on the superhero team of the same name by Marvel Comics. The film tells the story of Hiro Hamada, a young robotics prodigy who forms a superhero team to combat a masked villain.
The idea is to provide a film and linked learning materials for use at home. Several parents have noted they have played the film at a quiet time (after lunch) to help them get some things done and give children a break, before launching into the activities and conversations after.